Ronald Reagan is hailed today for a presidency that restored optimism to America, engendered years of economic prosperity, and helped bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet until now little attention has been paid to the role Reagan's personal spirituality played in his political career, shaping his ideas, bolstering his resolve, and ultimately compelling him to confront the brutal -- and, not coincidentally, atheistic -- Soviet empire.
In this groundbreaking book, political historian Paul Kengor draws upon Reagan's legacy of speeches and correspondence, and the memories of those who knew him well, to reveal a man whose Christian faith remained deep and consistent throughout his more than six decades in public life. Raised in the Disciples of Christ Church by a devout mother with a passionate missionary streak, Reagan embraced the church after reading a Christian novel at the age of eleven. A devoted Sunday-school teacher, he absorbed the church's model of "practical Christianity" and strived to achieve it in every stage of his life.
But it was in his lifelong battle against communism -- first in Hollywood, then on the political stage -- that Reagan's Christian beliefs had their most profound effect. Appalled by the religious repression and state-mandated atheism of Bolshevik Marxism, Reagan felt called by a sense of personal mission to confront the USSR. Inspired by influences as diverse as C.S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, he waged an openly spiritual campaign against communism, insisting that religious freedom was the bedrock of personal liberty. "The source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual," he said in his Evil Empire address. "And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man."
From a church classroom in 1920s Dixon, Illinois, to his triumphant mission to Moscow in 1988, Ronald Reagan was both political leader and spiritual crusader. God and Ronald Reagan deepens immeasurably our understanding of how these twin missions shaped his presidency -- and changed the world.
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“He who introduces into public office the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.”
—Ronald Reagan, 1967, quoting Benjamin Franklin
Long before George W. Bush’s efforts to bring faith-based initiatives—and the identification of evil in the world—to the modern presidency, Ronald Reagan was using his own brand of Christianity to influence the course of world events in a conscious and consistent manner. In this bestselling, definitive spiritual biography of our fortieth president, God and Ronald Reagan, politician historian Paul Kengor presents a meticulously researched, fascinating account of Reagan’s life as seen through the lens of his relationship to God, and traces this relationship to its culmination: America’s battle against the atheistic Soviet Union.
An intensely private man, Reagan kept his personal religious beliefs relatively quiet over the years. But as Kengor shows, Reagan’s own words demonstrate that his religious orientation was shaped in his childhood—and was retained with extraordinary consistency throughout his life. Schooled as a young man in the simple religious ideas of his Protestant mother, Reagan embraced Christianity with the fervor of a lonely boy who had found his first friend. Reagan’s earthly father was a distant man who drank heavily and offered little in the way of comfort, so Reagan turned toward a heavenly father, a dependent and accessible God. Eventually, Kengor argues, Reagan’s religious framework became a presidential one—and one that ran head-on into an anti-religious war in Moscow. Nothing more strongly clashed with Reagan’s belief system than Soviet communism; he saw the victims of Soviet oppression as weary soldiers in the great struggle for faith in the 20th century. To Reagan, the United States was a divinely ordained beacon of freedom—a Shining City on a Hill—and as Kengor conclusively demonstrates, it was this conviction that compelled him to a series of challenges that would eventually bring down Communism once and for all.
Blending groundbreaking research and fascinating storytelling, God and Ronald Reagan, has forever changed our understanding of one of our most influential presidents.
Paul Kengor is the author of the New York Times extended-list bestseller God and Ronald Reagan as well as God and George W. Bush and The Crusader. He is a professor of political science and director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. He lives with his wife and children in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
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