After navigating a successful career in corporate America, saving a restaurant chain from bankruptcy, chairing a Federal Reserve Bank, and defeating two-to-one odds against surviving stage-4 colorectal cancer, 65-year-old Herman Cain is certain that God has bigger challenges ahead.
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, recently set aside his Atlanta-based talk radio program and became the first Republican to set up an exploratory committee to take soundings for a possible run at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He plans to make a final decision on his candidacy sometime in the next six weeks. While speaking with Christianity Today, he said he could see a golf course from where he was sitting: "That grass is turning green, and people are going to be out there playing," he said. "But God didn't keep me here to go play golf, and relax, and take life easy. I believe that my life was spared because God had something really big that he wanted me to do. And that's unfolding."
So what gives this political newcomer—whose previous campaign experience begins and ends with a failed 2004 Senate run, and about whom The Daily Show's Jon Stewart has only ever said three words ("love his pizza")—the confidence to think he can stand out in a crowded primary field?
Christianity Today spoke with the Rev. Cain—he's also an associate minister at Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta—about his thoughts on hearing a call, beating cancer, and (maybe) running for President.
How long have you been involved in active ministry?
I was licensed in 2002. Like most ministers, I felt called to preach the word of God and minister to the least, the last, and the lost, and minister to His people. In addition to delivering sermons, I'm very involved with the scholarship ministry. I believe, as you know, education is the key, and one of the reasons that I got involved with the scholarship ministry is that we need to encourage kids as well as assist them in getting off to a good educational start, and even going on to college.
You've talked about surviving stage-4 cancer and you've said that God sustained your life because he had more work for you to do. Looking back now, did going through what you did increase your ability to depend on God in your day-to-day life?
Yes. When you look death right between the eyes, the faith that you had increases. I only had a 30 percent chance of survival, and that was nearly five years ago. I have been totally cancer free now for five years. And I am absolutely convinced that it is because of the will of God that I am still here today. That is why I am also absolutely convinced that I was not supposed to use this extension of life for purposes of personal pleasure, such as playing golf three times a week.
In a recent speech at a church in Milner, Georgia, you talked about feeling a Jeremiah-like burden on your heart to run for President. Can you tell me more about that?
Jeremiah for a while refused to speak on God's behalf. But as he watched the condition of his people, and he felt the burden that they needed to hear a word from God, he couldn't stand not doing what he could do. That's the burden of Jeremiah. That's also the burden of Herman Cain.
I cannot sit still and watch the direction of this country towards radical socialism and not do what I can do. Is there somebody else who might be better at being President of the United States than Herman Cain? There might be. But the people are going to determine that. But I couldn't sit back and hope that a great leader emerges, or hope that someone becomes President that would tackle the issues the way I would tackle them.