But Ford based his decision on his core values. And, although Ford didn’t flaunt his Christian faith, he did rely on it while in office.
- He had no pretensions. Ford’s spiritual adviser sent him a devotional memo every Monday morning called “God’s Got a Better Idea.” And on his first Sunday as U.S. president, Ford and wife Betty attended services at the same Virginia church they’d gone to for more than 20 years.
- He had a keen sense of fair play. Mercy and healing weighed heavily on Ford’s mind as he considered amnesty for Vietnam draft evaders. At the same time and in the same vein, he mulled over Nixon’s fate, calling evangelist Billy Graham for advice.
- He believed in forgiveness. Explaining his decision to grant Nixon an unconditional pardon, Ford said that only the laws of God trumped the U.S. Constitution.
“I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit,” he said, “that I, not as president but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.”
- He refused to use his faith to his advantage. Unlike his 1976 presidential opponent, Jimmy Carter, Ford considered it inappropriate to publicize his “born again” religious beliefs, even though they probably would’ve helped him at the polls. Ford refused to put out a book about his faith and wouldn’t use his spiritual adviser to intercede with preachers’ committees.
- He was a good sport. Ford’s son, knowing how hard it was for his father to lose the presidency, said: “If you can’t lose as graciously as you plan to win, then you shouldn’t have been in the thing in the first place.”
To which Ford replied: “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
—Adapted from “The Other Born-Again President,” Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy, Time.