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Religion in the Oval OfficeThe Religious Lives of American Presidents$
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Gary Scott Smith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199391394

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391394.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Religion in the Oval Office
Author(s):

Gary Scott Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391394.003.0001

Since George Washington, faith has played a very important and often controversial role in the lives of American presidents. Nevertheless, few scholars have carefully analyzed how chief executives’ religious convictions affected their lives, policies, or decisions. Substantial evidence contradicts the frequent claim that a president’s faith matters little in how he governs. Throughout American history many citizens have viewed strong faith as an asset, if not a requirement, for politicians, especially presidents. Most Americans have expected the president to uphold the nation’s highest values and to serve as its moral leader. Many argue that the presidents’ character is as or more significant than their intellect, administrative abilities, or speaking talents. While paying close attention to historical contexts and shifting social and moral values, the book explores the lives, beliefs, character, use of religious rhetoric, policies, elections, and relationships with religious constituencies of eleven of America’s more colorful, charismatic, and complex leaders.

Keywords:   faith, religious convictions, moral values, character, religious rhetoric, religious constituencies, elections, policies

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