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Friday, February 4, 2011

Reagan and Religion

In our chapter on American civic culture, we discuss how religion has shaped American public lie. At the Religion News Service, Paul Kengor of Grove City College writes:

Retrospectives on Ronald Reagan as the nation marks the centennial of his birth will touch upon every imaginable aspect of the man. I suspect, however, that the thing most integral to the man, and most consistent throughout his life -- his religious faith -- might get pushed aside.

That was something I learned quite unintentionally, in the summer of 2001, when I was at the Reagan library researching what I thought would be a fairly conventional biography. I scoured a fascinating cache of documents called the Handwriting File. There, I glimpsed Reagan's literal input -- in speeches, proclamations, you name it.

And it was there, in marked-up drafts of speeches such as the "Evil Empire" address, that I also encountered an intensely religious Reagan.

He was making constant, seamless references to God. I found eye-opening private letters, including one where Reagan employed C.S. Lewis' classic "liar, Lord, or lunatic" argument to, essentially, evangelize the Christian message.

More here.

The "Evil Empire" speech, which drew its name from the term that President Reagan applied to the Soviet Union, was a 1983 address to the National Association of Evangelicals: