Franklin D. Roosevelt was born 134 years ago today in Hyde Park, New York. Elected as president of the United States four times, FDR’s legacy continues to divide Americans along partisan lines.
He is remembered in large part for greatly enlarging the size and scope of the federal government. Yet FDR placed his hope for America in something more powerful than bureaucracy or restrictive regulations. The life-long Episcopalian repeatedly described America’s Judeo-Christian heritage as what made our country great.
This serves as an important reminder for students of politics and history. Just because two people disagree over public policy doesn’t mean that either one has a more or less sincere faith. Indeed, many Christians probably hold reasonably similar views to FDR when it comes to religion in America, even if they disagree with his New Deal.
This should encourage us to continue dialoguing and seeking common ground with our political opponents. If politically conservative Christians can find commonalities with FDR, they can probably find ways to build bridges with a surprisingly broad range of their contemporaries.
Here are ten quotes from FDR that demonstrate his high regard for the role of religion, especially Christianity, in American democracy and global freedom:
- “No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion—a revival that would sweep through the homes of the Nation and stir the hearts of men and women of all faiths to a reassertion of their belief in God and their dedication to His will for themselves and for their world. I doubt if there is any problem—social, political or economic—that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening.” (Radio Address on Brotherhood Day; February 23, 1936)
- “In teaching this democratic faith to American children, we need the sustaining, buttressing aid of those great ethical religious teachings which are the heritage of our modern civilization. For ‘not upon strength nor upon power, but upon the spirit of God’ shall our democracy be founded.” (Letter on Religion in Democracy; December 16, 1940)
- “The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world. So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly—to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men—to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.” (Fourth Inaugural Address; January 20, 1945)
- “Those forces [Communism and Naziism] hate democracy and Christianity as two phases of the same civilization. They oppose democracy because it is Christian. They oppose Christianity because it preaches democracy.” (Campaign Address at Brooklyn, New York; November 1, 1940)
- “We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. … Its refining and elevating influence is indispensable to our most cherished hopes and ideals.” (Statement on the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Printing of the English Bible; October 6, 1935)
- “With every passing year I become more confident that humanity is moving forward to the practical application of the teachings of Christianity as they affect the individual lives of men and women everywhere.” (Address to the National Conference of Catholic Charities; October 4, 1933)
- “As an expression of man’s highest aspirations, religion has been universal among people throughout all history. Worship has played a fundamental role in all social evolution.” (Greeting to the Y.M.C.A.; August 19, 1936)
- “We call what we have been doing ‘human security’ and ‘social justice.’ In the last analysis all of those terms can be described by one word; and that is ‘Christianity.'” (Remarks to Visiting Protestant Ministers; January 31, 1938)
- “I heartily deprecated the banishment of religion—though I knew that some day Russia would return to religion for the simple reason that four or five thousand years of recorded history have proven that mankind has always believed in God in spite of many abortive attempts to exile God.” (Address to the Delegates of the American Youth Congress; February 10, 1940)
- “Even in time of war those Nations which still hold to the old ideals of Christianity and democracy are carrying on services to humanity which have little or no relationship to torpedoes or guns or bombs. That means very definitely that we have an abiding faith in the future—a definite expectancy that we are going to win through to a peace that will bring with it continuing progress and substantial success in our efforts for the security and not for the destruction of humanity.” (Radio Address on the President’s Sixtieth Birthday; January 30, 1942)