Monday, March 10, 2008

America Must Pray: Theodore Roosevelt

No one promoted the virtues of the spiritual life and of physical vigor more than President Theodore Roosevelt. As a boy Theodore had been sickly with terrible bouts of asthma. To overcome it he went on a regimen of strenuous exercise. By this he seemed to have won out against this terrible disease. Because of his physical victory, he became an active outdoorsman. He wrote in his autobiography that he did not want to see young Christian men with "shoulders that slope like a champagne bottle."

Born to a Dutch Reformed father and a Presbyterian mother in 1858, Theodore grew up in a strong Christian household. The family attended Sunday school regularly and they co-hosted an ongoing weekly prayer meeting with their friends and neighbors. The favorite song for the family was "Shall We Gather at the River?" Roosevelt's father and a wealthy and close family friend, William Dodge, helped start the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in New York City.

To help promote the spiritual growth of the country Roosevelt's father hosted a series of prayer breakfasts for the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Many believe that Moody's style of preaching was watched closely by the younger Roosevelt who imitated it in his political speeches. There is no doubt about the salvation and spiritual life of President Roosevelt but he did some things that may have blunted the truth of the Bible in American society. While he often called for days of prayer for the nation, he did not want the saying "In God We Trust" put on the country's coins. However he was overruled by Congress who wanted this motto on all coinage.