82: Kevin Sorbo

82: Kevin Sorbo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 82 •

Actor, producer and director; star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; spokesman for A World Fit For Kids!

In a movie called The Persecuted, I played a Billy Graham-type character. The movie takes a dim view of governments that restrict religious freedom. There’s a senator who is trying to pass a bill for a one-religion state, and I’m the biggest thorn in his side. My character says, “You can’t dumb down my religion, and you must allow everybody — Buddhists, Muslims, Lutherans, whatever — let them have the speech they want to have within their own religion. That’s part of freedom of speech.” He won’t budge, and he won’t back down, and he has the great power that speaking the truth gives him. Like Billy Graham, whose convictions gave him an incredible intensity that I first experienced in real life when I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals back in 1973.

It was in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m from the Minneapolis area, and I went with a big church group, including my friend Jeff. I was about thirteen years old. I had always considered myself a Christian, but I was absolutely blown away by what Billy Graham was saying. It was a hot, humid August night, the sky was so dark, and the stars were so bright. That evening is something that has stuck with me all my life.

There were 60,000-70,000 people there. Billy Graham asked people to come up at the end if they wanted to give their lives over to Christ. Jeff and I walked up and met one of Billy Graham’s associates. We sat and prayed and talked for a really long time. That was a very special night for me.

Before I went to that revival, the only preacher I’d heard was our pastor. He was a Bible-banger, spouting horrible warnings about hellfire and damnation; even breathing seemed to be a sin. I was already starting to get rebellious about church, but it wasn’t like I was barking against God; I just didn’t like the way my pastor was preaching.

I remember saying to my mom, driving home one day, “You know, I don’t think God’s that angry at us.” I think inherently we all know what’s right and what’s wrong. If we do something wrong, we know it.

That night in St. Paul, I discovered what an amazing orator Billy Graham is. I remember looking around at the faces, watching the tens of thousands of people listening with rapt attention to what this man had to say.

That was during the Vietnam War, and I remember that at dinner we would watch the war and all the protests on TV. There was so much hate and anger. And yet to hear this man Billy Graham speak, with tens of thousands of people around, and see people be so positive, showed me what a great speaker could offer the world.

I still remember Billy Graham that night, saying, in effect, “Look in the mirror, and push yourself past whatever you think are the problems out there, and stop blaming the world.” His message was a strong one for parents, schools and communities about responsibility. It was very inspiring.

A World Fit For Kids! is an after-school program I’ve been the spokesperson for over the last fifteen years. We serve 12,000 children in poor communities, from first grade to twelfth. We teach them healthy choices and job preparedness, but most importantly, we teach them personal responsibility. I tell these kids not to start blaming everybody else but to learn to make a better life for themselves, to “look in the mirror,” as Graham would say, and believe in themselves.

Billy Graham played a big part in making me who I am today. It began on that one night in 1973 when there was something in me, even at such a young age, that was ready to accept his words.

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