'Billy Graham And The Lives God Touched'
SCOTT SIMON, host:
The Reverend Billy Graham turned 90 years old this week. And although he's not able to continue his role as a religious adviser to presidents, he says he's praying for President-elect Obama and hopes to meet him. Over the decades, Billy Graham has packed stadiums around the world, yet each one of those millions has been drawn to Billy Graham's ministry one by one.
(Soundbite of vintage recording)
Reverend BILLY GRAHAM (Evangelist): Think of it. In one night, by television, by radio, I'm able to preach to more people than all the Christians in the first century put together. Fantastic! Jesus said there would come a time in history. And if you had said that 500 years ago, they would have laughed. And yet it's happening today.
SIMON: That's the Reverend Billy Graham speaking in Los Angeles back in 1963. Now, Reverend Graham hasn't preached in front of an audience since 2005, but there are countless people around the world with countless stories of how they've come to find God through his words. Now, some of those stories have been collected by Billy Graham's grandsons, Basyle and Aram Tchividjian, in a new book called "Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched." Basyle and Aram join us now from the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.
Professor BASYLE TCHIVIDJIAN (Law, Liberty University School of Law; Co-Author, "Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched"): Great to be here, Scott.
Mr. ARAM TCHIVIDJIAN (Proprietor, Loudmouth Creative; Co-Author, "Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched"): Hi, Scott. Thanks.
SIMON: And I read in this book that your grandfather, the Reverend Graham, used to preach to squirrels and rabbits.
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: He did, as he was preparing to become a preacher and having a difficult time to find a crowd to preach to. I don't think that's an issue anymore, though.
SIMON: Was that Aram or was that Boz?
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: It's Basyle. Yes, Boz.
SIMON: OK, Boz. Aram, your grandfather once referred to religion as hogwash.
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: He did. Obviously, that was early on. And his heart and mind have since been changed.
SIMON: He turned 90 this week.
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: Yes, he did.
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: Yep.
SIMON: That's quite a mile - how's he doing?
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: He's doing well. He's - you know, I tell people that he's like a 50-year-old in a 90-year-old body. His mind is great. He's very alert. But his body has had many miles on it, and it's tired. So he doesn't travel as much. Usually, when we want to see him, we travel over to North Carolina to the log cabin and spend time with him there and are just trying to enjoy every moment that God gives us with him.
SIMON: I want to get you both to talk about what you refer to in this book as the unnameable ache that has brought so many people to hear your grandfather.
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: Scott, so many people go through life understanding and realizing that something's missing. And that's what we call the unnameable ache. And many people, after going to a Billy Graham crusade, have realized what that missing piece was, and that was a relationship with God.
SIMON: How - may I ask, what's it like to be Billy Graham's grandsons? Are you expected to be more pious than anybody else, for example, or more well-behaved than a couple of young kids should be?
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: We get asked this a lot. Boz and I and my siblings, I think, are a little bit lucky in that our last name is Tchividjian. So people don't immediately associate us as being grandchildren of Billy Graham.
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: But I think the reality of it is we've always known him as Daddy Bill and not Billy Graham. He's one of the most everyday normal persons you would ever meet. And so, you know, our families - our parents did a great job of not putting that incredible expectation upon our shoulders. And so there were times in college, I would be doing things. And friends would say, man, if your grandfather could only see you now. And...
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Doing what kind of things, if I may?
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: Well, how far is this program broadcast?
SIMON: We reach quite a few people, nothing by the standards of a Billy Graham crusade, but...
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: Well, as an attorney, I'm going to counsel myself to assert my Fifth Amendment right. But, you know, what was amazing in those circumstances is it would often shock me when they would say that. But what would even be more impression - would have a greater impression upon me was that God is always watching me. And that's who we are to live our lives for, not for Billy Graham, but the God who saved us and who saved Billy Graham.
SIMON: Your grandfather very famously never permitted segregated meetings, did he?
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: No, he didn't. You don't hear about that probably often enough. To him, all people are created equal. And he wouldn't speak to segregated crowds. And there's a story in the book about a guy who remembers his dad was a part of taking down the ropes that separated the blacks and the whites. And he talks about, you know, what courage it took to do that, and that his dad suffered in the community because of that. People shunned him. But he knew that something bigger was at work.
SIMON: Have either of you ever asked your grandfather one of those quirkier questions like, if there's a God, why do little children suffer and die?
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: I know I have. And, you know, it's funny. You know, we'd think Billy Graham, he would have all the answers. But I know, at least to me, there have been several times where he's able to look at me in the eye and say, I don't know. But he knows that God is good, that God is in control, and that he loves us, and that there must be a reason.
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: Well, he often talks about when he believed God was calling him to become an evangelist. He says, you know, God, I don't know and don't understand everything in this book, but I'm placing my faith in it. And that has been the truth of his entire life. Like Aram said, he is so honest, when he doesn't understand, he tells us, but also telling us that there's only one who completely understands all things, and that is our creator, and that we must put our faith in that creator when we understand him and when we don't.
SIMON: Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.
Professor TCHIVIDJIAN: Scott, my pleasure. Thank you.
Mr. TCHIVIDJIAN: Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: Boz and Aram Tchividjian joining us from the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta. Their new book is called "Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched." The Reverend Graham turned 90 years old this week.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.