Posts Tagged FDR

Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography. Harold Ivan Smith.

Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography. Harold Ivan Smith. Westminster John Knox Press. ©2017

My review is also on

This is truly an outstanding look into the spirituality of a remarkable player on the international stage. Eleanor Roosevelt discovered early that her narrow Episcopal faith could not contain her growing acceptance of the many faith traditions that she encountered. She believed that since we were all created by the same God that we should treat each other as brothers and sisters. She believed as did St. Paul, “That we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The one glaring flaw in her spirituality was perhaps due to her strict Protestant upbringing and the aristocratic family circles in which she moved. She had a strain of anti-Semitic misgivings. She overcame them to a large extent later in life. She always regretted not doing more for the Jews.

Eleanor had a truly miserable childhood. She was forced to become her own person. She had the saying from Saint Francis of Assisi posted above her desk and she carried another copy in her purse, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”  Eleanor’s brand of personal Christianity won her unfaltering condemnation from the religious fundamentalists who were certain that she had not been “born again.”   According to Smith, “Eleanor took the Bible too seriously to take it literally.” Although FDR’s unfaithfulness hurt her deeply, they came to an understanding that allowed them to become the world’s most influential couple ever. Louis Howe is the one who saw Eleanor’s potential and helped her hone her skills as a leader. He was also a major player in FDR’s success.

Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography, may get a little wordy at times; however, it is an outstanding work.

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My Fellow Americans

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45 (RSV)

When Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated president for the first time in March of 1933 the country was even more divided than it is today. There was so such unrest that machine guns were trained on the crowds that gathered to hear him speak. He was able to calm the fears as he spoke his first words. The goodness of his heart poured out on the crowds and through the country. “My fellow Americans,” seemed to melt frozen spirits. Thus began the most amazing twenty minutes in American history. He went on to quote more Scripture than any modern politician would dare do today.

According to Christine Wicker, religion writer, “Franklin Roosevelt’s powerful biblical imagery brought hope to a nation in the depths of an economic and social crisis, and instilled support for his progressive social vision.”  His most potent weapon against the nation’s despair was the Bible.

Of course the Bible has been used since the founding of our country for good and evil. It was used to defend slavery and spousal and child abuse. It is used today to defeat programs for the poor or to encourage programs for the poor. Many uses of Scripture by politicians today are simply not understood by their younger audiences. Unlike the older generation, they have not grown up steeped in Scriptural references. References to sport heroes or rock stars gain far more attention.

We need heroes who inspire us. Mine has always been FDR. Ms. Wicker is writing a book on the faith of FDR. I am looking forward to reading it.


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