While some will debate if the United States was really founded on Christian principles, there can be no denying the faith of many of our presidents. Here are 10 examples:
1. George Washington
The phrase “so help me God” is something most Americans take for granted when taking oaths in court, but it was our very first president who added the four words when he took the oath as president on April 30, 1789. Washington was also known for encouraging his troops to put their faith in God while in battle saying, “Let us therefore rely on the goodness of the cause and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions.”
2. Andrew Jackson
Though President Jackson was brought up in a Presbyterian family, he had little interest in the church early, but became more interested later on through his term as president. He believed in a rule of separation of church and state, but had no problem with slavery or the forcible relocation of Native Americans. Perhaps he would have felt differently if he had lived longer. On his deathbed he said: “Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy… The Bible is true… Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
3. Abraham Lincoln
While it’s well-known that Abraham Lincoln was a man of faith, Lincoln never officially joined any one church. This is because he would never settle for all the creeds and rituals of the denominational churches of his time. On July 31, 1846 he said: “That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.” It can be argued that Lincoln was one the first presidents to consider a relationship with God greater than a relationship with a church.
4. James Garfield
Many are unaware of the faith of President Garfield, who before becoming president was known for preaching sermons often. In 1853 it is said that he compared material and the spiritual realm. “Men are tending to materialism. Houses, lands, and worldly goods attract their attention, and as a mirage lure them on to death. Christianity, on the other hand leads only the natural body to death, and for the spirit, it points out a house not built with hands, eternal in the heavens… Let me urge you to follow Him, not as the Nazarene, the Man of Galilee, the carpenter’s son, but as the ever living spiritual person, full of love and compassion, who will stand by you in life and death and eternity.”
5. Benjamin Harrison
President Harrison is remembered for his integrity when it came to leadership. He had a deep concern for others and put his biblical values in their proper place. While in the White House, his daily routine included a Bible study and prayer time. In 1900, Harrison gave the opening speech at an eleven-day mission conference in New York. “Christ in the heart and his gospel of love and ministry in all the activities of life are the only cure” to strife, he said. He insisted that missions were the most enduring work being done in the world.
6. Harry Truman
President Truman once told his wife Bess, “I had a Presbyterian bringing up, a Baptist education, and Episcopal leanings, so I reckon I ought to get to heaven somehow, don’t you think so?” Truman was a religious man but not overly so. As president, he had a hard time attending church services because the pastors would raise a lot of hoopla over the event. That is until he started attending the First Baptist Church in D.C. In 1948 he said, “I go for a walk and go to church. The preacher always treats me as a church member and not as the head of a circus. That’s the reason I go.” He is also known for saying, “I am a Baptist because I think that sect gives the common man the shortest and most direct approach to God.” While not a theologian, his faith did shape who he was as a leader. In 1949 President Truman stated, “We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God. From this faith we will not be moved.”
7. Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Eisenhower was responsible for adding the phrase “under God” into the pledge of allegiance in 1954 stating, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” In 1956, he declared that the phrase, “In God We Trust” be the nation’s motto. The phrase had already been printed on U.S. coins, but had yet to be included on paper currency.
8. Jimmy Carter
President Carter’s faith was a personal one and he fully committed to the idea of a separation of church and state. He didn’t permit worship services in the White House as those before him did, and he didn’t try to “promote” Christianity as superior to other religions because he felt that all religious believers needed to be treated well. With that said, Carter didn’t separate his faith from his duties as the president. He had a commitment for peace and for basic human rights which he felt was an aspect of his Christian faith and he made it well-known that he would never lie.
9. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Regan penned, “Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can” in his diary 12 days after he was shot during the assassination attempt in March of 1981. In a later entry he added, “…I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children and therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.”
10. George W. Bush
George W. Bush may go down as one of America’s most controversial presidents as well as one the most religious and bold in his faith. He formed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) on Jan. 29, 2001. The initiative was written to help strengthen faith-based and community organizations by allowing them to provide federally funded social services. During war time, he prayed openly: “As we continue to fight against terror, we ask the Almighty to protect all those who battle for freedom throughout the world and our brave men and women in uniform, and we ask Him to shield innocents from harm. We recognize the sacrifice of our military families and ask God to grant them peace and strength. We will not forget the men and women who have fallen in service to America and to the cause of freedom. We pray that their loved ones will receive God’s comfort and grace.”