No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion. . . . I doubt if there is any problem-social, political, or economic-that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening."
Name the optimistic president of the past 80 years who said that and added, "We guard ourselves against all evils-spiritual as well as material-which may beset us. We guard against the forces of anti-Christian aggression, which may attack us from without, and the forces of ignorance and fear which may corrupt us from within."
Jimmy Carter? But he wouldn't use divisive language like this: "Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom-between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal." Wow, would that start the ACLU hollering!
No, maybe the answer is Ronald Reagan. He faced down an evil empire, so he might have said, "We face one of the great choices of history . . . the continuation of civilization as we know it versus the ultimate destruction of all that we have held dear-religion against godlessness . . ."
You're telling me it wasn't Reagan? Who, then? Maybe our current president would say things like, "There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. . . . [Some say] the United States might just as well throw its influence into the scale of a dictated peace, and get the best out of it we can. They call it a 'negotiated peace.' Nonsense! Is it a negotiated peace if a gang of outlaws surrounds your community . . . ?"
No, that's not the Bush style, and it's certainly not the content or tone of a Clinton pronouncement. Maybe Ford or Nixon? Johnson or Kennedy? Eisenhower or Truman? Wait a minute-could this defender of Christian ideals be Franklin Roosevelt? Roosevelt, who thrust conservatives into apoplexy?
Yes, according to a book published last year and edited by William J. Federer, The Faith of FDR (Amerisearch). Next Tuesday, Jan. 30, is the anniversary of Roosevelt's birth 125 years ago. To those of us who have grown up in secularism, it's astounding to see how FDR did not merely mention God in a closing soundbite, but maintained a Christian emphasis throughout many of his speeches.
What president today would quote in a national address not merely a verse but a big chunk of the Sermon on the Mount, as Roosevelt did on Washington's birthday in 1943? What president today would write a foreword to a special edition of the New Testament and Psalms produced for the armed forces, and say, "As commander-in-chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States"?
Roosevelt's actions often contradicted his words. He enlarged governmental programs even though he proclaimed, "No governmental organization in all history has been able to keep the human touch to the same extent as church and private effort." He birthed an anti-poverty bureaucracy even though he told charity workers that "success in this kind of personal work in which you are engaged depends on personal contact between neighbor and neighbor."
But FDR was as forthright as George W. Bush about the need to fight terror. He offered messages like this one: "We Americans are now face to face not with abstract theories but with cruel, relentless facts. . . . There has now come a time when you and I must see the cold, inexorable necessity of saying to these inhumane, unrestrained seekers of world conquest and permanent world domination by the sword: 'You seek to throw our children and our children's children into your form of terrorism and slavery. You have now attacked our own safety. You shall go no further.'"
The Democratic Party opposed both fascists and communists for several decades, but now it tries to win elections by offering to appease a variety of inhumane, unrestrained seekers of world conquest. To gain a big chunk of the evangelical vote, Democrats will need to show Roosevelt's appreciation for Christianity, and our cover story displays some of their efforts. If they succeed there, the nation just may turn its lonely eyes to Democrats, if they recognize the need to be strong abroad and creative in fighting poverty at home.