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Faith & the American Presidency

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Faith & the American Presidency

Throughout the ongoing 2008 presidential campaigns, the religious beliefs and associations of presidential candidates have been at the forefront of public discussion. The importance that Americans place on the faith of their leaders is nothing new in American history, as this issue of Christian History & Biography shows.

For issue 99: Faith & the American Presidency, we selected six representative moments in American history-speeches, foreign policy decisions, and in one case an election-when the religious perspective of the president intersected with national/political issues in a significant and influential way. These events are windows. They reveal something about the personal faith of each of these presidents, and how each understood the relationship between that faith and their presidential duties. They also reveal the important, complex role religion has played in the American political scene since the earliest days of the republic.

Feature Articles:

  • The American Moses - In his 1796 Farewell Address, George Washington argued that religion and morality were essential pillars of the new republic. Gary Scott Smith
  • The Wall of Separation - The rancorous presidential election of 1800 brought religion to the forefront of public debate and had lasting repercussions for the relationship between church and state. Daniel L. Dreisbach
  • War and the Will of God - Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address pointed a grieving nation to the mystery of divine providence. Ronald C. White Jr.
  • Also: "This Mighty Scourge"
  • A Nation on a Mission - William McKinley saw America's unexpected opportunity in the Philippines as a sign from God-and set the U.S. on a new course of global influence.Richard V. Pierard
  • "The Most Democratic Book in the World" - Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were champions of both the Bible and progressive reform. Mark Noll
  • Also: America: Read the Bible
  • "I Am Cyrus" - Harry Truman's support for the creation of the State of Israel was rooted in his interpretation of Scripture. Paul C. Merkley
  • Hot Words in the Cold War - In his controversial "Evil E mpire" speech, Ronald Reagan sought to re-moralize America's conflict with the Soviet Union. Paul Kengor
  • God and the White House - Presidential addresses and religious affiliations
Issue 99 * Summer 2008
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