The Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington To Barack Obama by Darrin GrinderThe Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington To Barack Obama by Darrin Grinder

The Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington To Barack Obama

byDarrin Grinder, Steve Shaw

Paperback | March 21, 2012

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The old adage, "never discuss religion and politics," is roundly rejected in this incisive exploration of presidential history and religious faith. The Presidents & Their Faith is a fascinating and informative look at how every U.S. president exercised their personal faith, exerted presidential power, and led a religiously diverse nation. Has there ever been a stranger prayer than Truman's, offered upon America's successful development of the atom bomb: "We pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes"? At the nation's founding, Northeast Presbyterians demanded explicit mention of Jesus in the Constitution. George Washington refuted them, saying that religious piety "was a matter best left between an individual and his God; religious instruction was the responsibility of religious societies, not the civil state." What drove Washington to make that argument, and what if he had lost? Who wouldn't feel like the exasperated FDR when he said, "I can do almost everything in the 'Goldfish Bowl' of the President's life, but I'll be hanged if I can say my prayers in it. It bothers me to feel like something in the zoo being looked at by all the tourists in Washington when I go to church...No privacy in that kind of going to church, and by the time I have gotten into that pew and settled down with everybody looking at me, I don't feel like saying my prayers at all." But even more importantly, what's real, what's a show, and why does it matter when it comes to faith and politics? > These questions and more are unpacked and examined, leading to a whole new understanding of how religion and politics interfaced through America's history, and how they will play out in our future. In this climate of religious and political tensions, The Presidents & Their Faith casts a civil, yet entertaining, and insightful spotlight on the unique mix (and frequent mix-ups) of politics and religion in America.

Heather's Review

It’s been almost a decade since Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote the incredibly influential A Team of Rivals. Now she’s given us The Bully Pulpit, the story of Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the chaotic, dynamic America they led one hundred years ago. Her timing could not have been better. A polarized country, pit-bull reporter...

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Title:The Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington To Barack ObamaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:March 21, 2012Publisher:Elevate PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1937498980

ISBN - 13:9781937498986

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Bully Pulpit Dense, of course, but fascinating.
Date published: 2014-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A riveting, entertaining story! It’s been almost a decade since Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote the incredibly influential A Team of Rivals. Now she’s given us The Bully Pulpit, the story of Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the chaotic, dynamic America they led one hundred years ago. Her timing could not have been better. A polarized country, pit-bull reporters, greedy Wall-streeters, and corrupt politicians. Change the names and dates and this would be a book about modern politics – every page is relevant to our challenges, issues, and frustrations today. And more than that, The Bully Pulpit is packed with larger than life personalities; from reporters, publishers, and tycoons to Roosevelt himself. In Goodwin’s hands these characters explode off the page and turn a political profile into a riveting, entertaining story, as much a thrilling read as a definitive work of history. It should absolutely be a cornerstone for your history shelf.
Date published: 2013-12-02

Read from the Book

At the center of the political system of the United States is the office that the United States Constitution refers to simply as "President of the United States of America." During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, delegates such as George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, and others struggled for over six weeks to construct this office that today is seen alternately as the nation's Chaplain-in-Chief or the nation's fire hydrant. As one leading contemporary scholar of the American presidency contends, "Familiar as it is, the American presidency has never been easy to understand. The institution has a protean character that defies fixed descriptions or settled explanations. Its history is riddled with eminence and embarrassment, proficiency and paralysis."We have had forty-four presidencies and forty-three presidents. The oddity, of course, is caused by Grover Cleveland, the only president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms in U.S. history. All have been white, save for President Barack Obama, males, and all have been Protestant (more or less), save for President John Kennedy, our country's first and to this point only Catholic president. In the words of Howard Fineman of Newsweek, "Every president invokes God and asks His blessing. Every president promises, though not always in so many words, to lead according to moral principles rooted in Biblical tradition."All of our presidents have spoken of (and most claimed to have spoken to) a higher power of some sort, from Supreme Being or Divine Legislator to a more personal Lord or Savior. Almost all quoted from or claimed to have read the Bible (either regularly or when Congress perhaps was in session). Some presidents were religiously devout; others, apparently not. Some presidents attended church services with utmost consistency; others, seldom, if at all. Some presidents were convincingly orthodox in their religious thought and practice; others were held either in high suspicion or low esteem because of questions or misperceptions or downright unfounded conclusions about their faith. Almost all of our presidents have viewed the United States as having some kind of special (they may or may not use covenantal language) relationship with God and yet few were deep or disciplined students of religion and theology, or perhaps even our own national history. In short, most presidents reflect what Alexis de Tocqueville concluded about Americans in the early nineteenth century during his brief but highly consequential trek across the young Republic: we embrace religion and try to keep theology at arm's length.In his masterful account of the presidential election of 1960, in which the Catholicism of Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts figured prominently, Theodore White concluded, "The Presidency hovers over the popular American imagination almost as a sacerdotal office, a priestly role for which normal political standards are invalid." Similarly, Michael Novak argues, "Every four years Americans elect a king-but not only a king, also a high priest and prophet." Novak adds that the election "of a president is an almost religious task; it intimately affects the life of the spirit, our identity." The Constitution prohibits, as we all know, any religious test for holding political office in the United States; however, it clearly is (or at the least appears to be) the case that no serious candidate for the White House can even run the risk of violating our religious/political norm that one be (or to the cynic, at least appear to be) religious. And moreover, the candidate should be not just religious, but acceptably religious, for it does appear to be the case that we do have a religious litmus test concerning the American presidency.The last Unitarian president was William Howard Taft, who faced allegations of heresy during the 1908 campaign. Reverend Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University, warned Americans, "If Jefferson is elected, the Bible will be burned, the French 'Marseillaise' will be sung in Christian churches, and we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution; soberly dishonored; speciously polluted." Some in the American electorate still question the religious bona fides of President Obama, in spite of his numerous and public statements about his Christian beliefs and religious journey. And the presidential election of 2012 already has engendered at least a conversation about the prospects of the country having as president a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history and student of the American presidency, cautions against seeing the election of any candidate (especially our own) as a harbinger of the Second Coming. "The introduction of religious language and faith claims into presidential politics," Balmer argues, "raises an important question: So what? Does a candidate's faith or even his moral character make any substantive difference in how he governs?" Does ethical earnestness translate into an effective presidency? Do spiritual disciplines make one a great president? According to Balmer, "If we persist in vetting the faith of our presidential candidates, we must find a way to reinvest both religion and the political process with a profundity befitting the importance of both."That is the challenge facing us as authors of this brief and so we hope (and pray?) informative book on presidents and their religious faiths. And we think it is the challenge facing you, the reader, especially if you vote, or are thinking about voting in the race for the White House. On the eve of another presidential election, we find ourselves once again confronting questions about our national identity and national purpose. We hope this book persuades you to think carefully about the connection between faith and presidential leadership.