Russian press puzzles over religious influence on Trump


RIA Novosti, 9 March 2019


Moscow was visited this week by Franklin Graham—one of the most famous and influential preachers in the world. In addition, he is one of the advisors of President Trump and the active participants in his election campaign. American news media argue hard about his influence on the master of the White House, and Franklin's father, Pastor Billy Graham, was a spiritual advisor to seven American presidents, for which he received the nickname "conscience of the nation." In an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti, Franklin Graham discussed with whom he consulted before his trip to Russia, whether he considers himself a spiritual advisor of the current president, and whether Donald Trump actually believes in God sincerely. Anton Skripunov conducted the interview.


--Mr. Graham, when your father decided in 1982 to travel to the Soviet Union, American authorities strongly discouraged him from this undertaking (the 37th American president, Richard Nixon, wrote about this in his memoirs). Now you have come to Moscow in a very difficult period in relations between our countries. Were you discouraged from travel to Russia?


--Absolutely not. Moreover, before I left home, I got in touch by phone with Vice President Mike Pence in order to inform him that I was traveling to Moscow. He was very glad to hear that news. And he acknowledged that he supported my decision with all his heart.


--In meetings with representatives of the Russian government and Christian communities of Russia, you mentioned the gospel many times and its importance today, in the 21st century. But can one regard it as an instrument of diplomacy?


--Of course.




--Because God addresses the gospel—the good news—to all people. He calls for loving enemies and forgiving a brother his sins; you don't need diplomacy. The gospel calls us to love one another, to respect one another, despite all disagreements. Therefore I consider that Christians are the best diplomats.


--American news media have named you "Trump's shadow," as if you are his personal spiritual advisor and the president listens to you more than to members of his team. Is that so?


--No, it is not so.


--Nevertheless, you know him well. President Trump often mentions God in his speeches. But is he guided by faith while making important government decisions?


--That is a very difficult question. (laughs) I know that the president has a desire to know God much better. In his circle are very many Christians and they pray, with him and for him. He himself invites them into his office in order to pray together. But I would not want to maintain that they pray with him before making each decision. However in those moments when I am with him, he wants me to pray. And he wants people to pray for him. He understands that to be president is a very difficult job; he cannot make everybody happy and he angers many. (laughs) Although he wishes good not only for America, but also for the whole world.


--But can one call him a profoundly believing person?


--He surely believes in God. It is true that in his youth, God was not in his life, and he was a playboy. But everybody changes. And he has changed a lot. While I think that changes in his soul began somewhere around ten years ago. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 March 2019)


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