The quote by Harry S. Truman, “I’ve always believed that religion is something to live by and not to talk about,” is not applicable in this setting.
Expanding upon their original 2012 piece, Dr. Darrin Grinder (an associate professor of American literature at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa) and Dr. Steve Shaw (a professor of political science at NNU) have updated their fascinating and insightful look inside the spiritual lives of our nation’s leaders. “The Presidents & Their Faith: From George Washington to Barack Obama” explores the religious background of each of our presidents and whether or not it had any impact on his governing. From the country’s Presbyterian beginnings to today’s intense and highly scrutinized religious tests, our leaders have had to tackle the world’s biggest issues while still answering to a highly diverse religious nation.
In a time where the mixing of politics and religion has created tension in American society, Grinder and Shaw reveal a thoroughly researched analysis of the history and impact religion has played in the country’s top office. By scouring through our presidents’ personal papers, diaries and speeches, the authors have pieced together an objective narrative that seeks not to judge but to understand how religion may have shaped our presidents’ reactions to war, economic crises and other domestic issues.
Each president, from controversial figures like Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton to openly spiritual figures like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, is examined equally under the same criteria. Each chapter seeks to reveal the truth, instead of reveling in subjective messages. This is what makes this collection of research a joy to read, no matter what your faith or personal opinions may be.
This work explores the tension between church and state and how each president has had to prove to be “acceptably religious” for the presidency. Written to enlighten the reader on the connection of faith and presidential leadership, this work does that and more. As you read, you will not only revel in the stories and struggles of America’s leaders, but you may even find yourself studying your own beliefs and its connection to your own voice at the ballot box.
Arthur Aguilera is an administrative assistant for Albertsons Library at Boise State University.