Saturday, February 5, 2011

Faith and leadership

February 6, 2011 is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth date of Ronald Reagan. It reminded me that several years ago I read on the website a very short bio about President Reagan. If I remember correctly it was about 250 words (in comparison, the page for President Clinton was about 6 or 7 times as long - although I checked again and Reagan's is much longer now) but what galled me most was that it ended by saying something like 'his accomplishments are questionable and it remains to be seen what his legacy will be' (I'm going by memory here).

Now lots of Republicans label themselves "Reagan Republicans" and candidates on both sides claim to espouse his ideals. I even heard recently that President Obama made comments trying to draw favorable comparisons to their respective political philosophies. The "mantle of Reagan" has become a valuable political commodity in these difficult economic times. And I’ve seen bumper stickers that say something like "I miss Reagan."

The Faith of Ronald ReaganBut what was it about Reagan that made him great? According to Mary Beth Brown it was his faith in God. In her book The Faith of Ronald Reagan she says that it was a foundation of religious values instilled by his mother that gave him his direction in life, and those values guided his decisions and shaped the kind of president he later became. Everything from his abhorrence of communism to his optimism after the assassination attempt was an effort to do what he thought was right and make the most of the opportunity he felt had been given him by God.

This isn't a straightforward or scholarly biography of Reagan but rather a look at the views he expressed publicly and privately about religion. It's very uplifting and inspirational but it's also filled with scriptures and quotes by various religious writers which often don't have a specific connection to things Reagan actually said. And frequently it felt like the author's views were being offered as Reagan's views even though no clear link was made in the text. As such it sometimes seemed like the author was trying to claim the "mantle of Reagan" just like the numerous politicians. Those points aside, however, it's still an inspirational book and it seems obvious that Reagan was a sincerely religious man. And Reagan's own words illustrate the sincerity of his beliefs and his familiarity with scriptures make the author's conclusions fairly convincing.  (I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through their Booksneeze blogger program.)


  1. This sounds like something my dad would enjoy. Too bad he's not a reader.

    I've frequently wondered how the country would be different if Reagan were around. I don't remember much about him-- his funeral is my most vivid memory-- but he seems so alive in politics today. As you said, everyone wants to call themselves a Reagan Republican.

  2. I didn't realize your dad's not a reader - he's so smart but he must come by it naturally, huh? It's a pretty good book and not very long, although I think I'd have preferred something more in depth and scholarly - although including the emphasis on his spiritual side. The tone was a bit 'evangelical' but still inspiring.