Bush: Religion Is Not a Course in Self-Improvement

( [email protected] ) Dec 15, 2010 04:21 AM EST

Former president George W. Bush admitted in a recent interview that he was drunk when he met evangelist Billy Graham.

"I was listening to Billy through the haze of alcohol," he told Focus on the Family president Jim Daly.

The interview, which took place in Dallas last week, was broadcast on the ministry's daily radio program on Monday and Tuesday. It was one of many interviews the former president has been granting to promote his memoir Decision Points. But in the Focus on the Family interview, Bush opened up more about his faith and his family.

It was in Maine where former president George H. W. Bush invited the entire Bush family to meet Graham. The evangelist was answering questions, the younger Bush recalled, adding that he had drunk possibly four beers and five wines before the meeting.

"The next day, Billy and I are walking in mother and dad's beautiful yard there in Maine and we start talking about religion," Bush said in the interview. "And I was obviously looking, yearning for something different with my life. Billy sent me a Bible and I started reading the Bible.

"But it took me a while to understand that religion is not a course in self-improvement. Religion is a surrender – that you allow a living God into your life by surrendering to that living God. And then you improve to please God, not please yourself."

Today, Bush – who has not had a sip of alcohol since 1986 – credits Graham for "plant[ing] the seed" in his life.

"I used to joke ... that I was a product of a faith-based program – in my case, a one-man faith-based program," he said.

Bush, who has remained out of the limelight since leaving the White House two years ago, offered some advice to politicians when it comes to religion.

The best Bible verse for someone in a political office, he said, is Matthew 7:3 (ESV) – "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

"I think it's very important for politicians to understand the true nature of religion," he told Daly. "I worry about people who basically say 'I'm better than you because I'm religious.'

"Christianity says 'I'm not better than anybody. I'm a sinner and I accept that and therefore accept Christ to help me grow.'"

During the hour-long interview, Bush also touched on 9/11, the culture of life, civility, and raising teens in the White House.

He noted that the White House experience for the Bush family was joyous and not as traumatic for his twin daughters as they expected.

"The West Wing was a joyous place," he said. "In spite of the trauma and all the pressure, we were joyous. And I can only ascribe that to prayer. It's a remarkable gift the American people give to the president and his family – and that is prayer."

Regarding his legacy, Bush acknowledged that his has already been shaped by the decisions he made during his eight-year term and that history will ultimately judge.

But he mentioned, "I would hope people would say he's a good father, good husband, he honored the Lord, and he's an honest guy."

"I am content with telling your listener and the reader of my book that I gave it my all and I didn't sacrifice principle in order to be a popular guy."

Decision Points is currently No. 1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It was released last month.