NEW YORK – Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani says God is a very important part of his life.
"I believe in God. I pray to God, and I pray to Jesus for guidance, help," Giuliani said in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network. "I have very, very strong views on religion that come about from having wanted to be a priest when I was younger, having studied theology for four years in college."
The former New York mayor said he feels God's help when "in crisis and under pressure like Sept. 11, when I was dealing with prostate cancer, or I'm trying to explain death to people, which unfortunately I've had to do so often."
In a series of video interviews posted Friday on the CBN website, Giuliani also discussed other topics with CBN news correspondent David Brody, including his view on religion, how he feels about the public's take on his personal life, and why he took a cell phone call from his wife in the middle of his speech to the National Rifle Association.
When asked about his family, the presidential hopeful said, "I love my family very, very much. I think there are some people that are very judgmental."
Giuliani has been married three times and divorced twice. He was first married to his second cousin for 14 years. He later divorced her and sought an annulment from the Roman Catholic Church on grounds that they did not have the Church dispensation needed since she was his second cousin instead of his third cousin which he originally thought. During his second marriage, Giuliani was reportedly involved in adulterous relationships with at least two women, one of whom is his current wife. According to the New York Times, Giuliani was also estranged from his two children with his second wife.
"I'm guided very, very often about, `Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani said in the CBN interview. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared. It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test.
"And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."
Giuliani said that he tries to put the emphasis on his public life in order to prevent his family from being exploited.
However, his personal life has often crept into his public life as evidenced by a much publicized incident at the National Rifle Association. In the middle of making a speech at the recent conference, Giuliani answered a call from his wife on his cell phone. He told her where he was and expressed his love for her.
"Quite honestly since Sept. 11 most of the time when we get on a plane we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other," Giuliani explained. "Sometimes if I'm in the middle of a very, very sensitive meeting, I don't take the call right then. I wait. But I thought it would be kind of nice if I took it at that point, and I'd done that before in engagements, and I didn't realize it would create any kind of controversy."
While the series of CBN interviews portray Giuliani in a somewhat redemptive light, with Brody calling his family response "heartfelt," one critic was quick to point out the irony in Giuliani's explanations.
"It's interesting that Giuliani makes this reaffirmation with his third wife before air travel 'since Sept. 11,' given that on Sept. 11, Giuliani was married to someone else," wrote Steve Benen on his blog The Carpet Bagger Report.
Benen also pointed out that Jesus didn't "put the stones down" since he never picked the stones up.
While nearly all Americans would agree that faith is playing a prominent role in the current presidential race, evangelical leaders have contended that Christians should be more concerned about where the candidates stand on issues, than the amount of "God Talk" from each presidential hopeful.
"I appreciate that the candidates are taking a risk when they talk about their faith," said Prison Fellowship Ministries President Mark Earley in a commentary last month.
"The problem is that all of this 'God Talk' misses the point: what Christians want – or should want – is a candidate who shares their moral and culture concerns, not just their religious vocabulary."
In addition to his divorces, Giuliani has created distance between many conservatives Christians and himself with his support of abortion and gay rights.
Despite criticisms, Giuliani currently leads the race for the 2008 GOP nomination, followed closely by actor and former senator Fred Thompson, who joined the race near the start of this month.
Republican delegates will elect the GOP candidate at the Republican National Convention to be held in Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota on Sept. 1-4, 2008.