The Corner

TR’s Faith

Following up on this and this, an observant reader comments on Theodore Roosevelt, the historic sites in New York dedicated to him, and his faith:

As a result of your comments, I visited both TR’s birthplace in Gramercy and also his home at Sagamore Hill.  I went in search of evidence that TR was the Christian you and I believe him to have been.  At his birthplace, in the “masculine” (NPS tour guide’s characterization as opposed to the feminine living room) library, there was a print of The Transfiguration above the mantle.  It was a room in which TR spent much time reading so I expect he had been told of its meaning and significance.  In the museum in the basement, I saw a small Bible and Hymnal, which both fit into a leather carrying case; the write up said TR used them as a teenager.  My wife and I asked the NPS guide about TR’s faith and were taken to a floor not open to the public and shown and allowed to sit in the pew his family used in the church they attended.  At Sagamore Hill, every bedroom contains at least one Crucifix.  Some of the rooms were used by family servants; however, even the rooms that were clearly rooms of TR and his childrens, Crucifixes were on prominent display beside or above the bed.  In TR’s bedroom, there was a Crucifix and a Bible on the nightstand, as well as a pamphlet titled “Family Prayers for Every Home.”  We asked the NPS tour guide about TR’s faith and he responded that he was very religious; in fact, he reported, he taught Sunday School while he was at Harvard, which I knew but was happy to see that he knew and reported forthrightly.  I asked about the whereabouts of the “family Bible.”  He did not know.  I asked if TR had a Bible in Greek and whether he read the Bible in Greek.  For someone trained in the classical languages like TR, reading the Bible in Greek would be the acid test for me as to the depth of his faith.  I know all of my preachers and some of my fellow Bible study students read the Bible in Greek.  At the museum, the write up on TR’s commitment to “social justice,” may have had a religious origin; however, if it did, that was not mentioned.  One quote from his Bull Moose days provoked interest for me, “We stand at Armageddon and fight for the Lord.”  I want to learn more about his views on writing that.  Thanks again for your posting on this subject, which started me on this journey.

For a discussion of great books about T.R., go here.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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