A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt | John F. Woolverton and James D. Bratt

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2019: Book #27

“…Roosevelt could be a ruthless politician…utterly cynical, worldly, and illusionless; yet…Roosevelt’s religious faith was the strongest and most mysterious force that was in him.”

“FDR enjoyed the worship of the church, sang hymns lustily, and in fact wanted to preach sermons.”

“But polio did not make a saint out of FDR. If it increased his sympathy for the poor, he could be ruthless when it came to dealing with other politicians, as he demonstrated when he ran against Wendell Willkie during the election of 1940.”

To the 1933 graduating class of the Naval Academy, FDR said the following:

“I ask you to avoid an exclusive relationship to your own clan – to your clan of the Navy or to some other special Government service or to the clan of your profession in civil life. Remember to cultivate the friendships of people, not alone of your own class or profession, but the average run of folks, the same folks you would have known and liked and affiliated with had you not been chosen to enter and graduate from a highly specialized institution of higher education.”

Frances Perkins once told Mrs. Roosevelt, “You know Franklin is really a very simple Christian.” There was silence for a moment, and then “with a quizzical lift of her eyebrows,” the First Lady replied, “Yes, a VERY SIMPLE Christian.”

These are all quotes from Woolverton and Bratt’s book, A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This is an excellent read and so very well written. For me, this was fascinating.

FDR saw the New Deal, unemployment benefits, social security, and so on as a living out of his faith. He saw it as loving his neighbor as himself.

The president struggled to understand the evil of Hitler and Nazism. He hosted theologians to the White House. As someone who viewed humanity as basically good, it was shocking for him to even consider that humanity was born depraved.

This may be unfair, but FDR’s faith is clearly seen in his public policy, but noticeably absent in his personal life. He had numerous affairs and a lack of personal integrity. But this is the story of all of us. We present our best to the world while privately feeding addictions and struggles. Roosevelt was no different from the rest of us. We’re all torn between two worlds.

I highly recommend the book, especially for those interested in presidential history.

Five out of five stars for me.

That’s book #27 for 2019.
25 more to go

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.
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