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Was George Washington a Christian?
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8 Facts about George Washington and Religion
As noted above, some of his contemporaries called him a deist. Debate continues to this day regarding whether he is best categorized as a deist or as a Christian, and some writers have introduced other terms to describe a blending of the two. Deism was an influential worldview during his lifetime. One document he signed but did not write did say to the Delaware Indian chiefs that learning the "religion of Jesus Christ" is the most important thing they can do. In actuality Washington used "God" times in his personal and public writings. Some instances are serious expressions about God and especially His Providence, a common theme among Deists.
Washington used words such as "Grand Architect" and "Providence" that were popular among deists. Historian Fred Anderson says that Washington's Providence was, "a generally benevolent, as well as an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being, but He was hardly the kind of warm and loving God embraced by the evangelical Protestants.
Paul F. Boller, Jr. Washington had an unquestioning faith in Providence and, as we have seen, he voiced this faith publicly on numerous occasions. That this was no mere rhetorical flourish on his part, designed for public consumption, is apparent from his constant allusions to Providence in his personal letters.
There is every reason to believe, from a careful analysis of religious references in his private correspondence, that Washington's reliance upon a Grand Designer along Deist lines was as deep-seated and meaningful for his life as, say, Ralph Waldo Emerson's serene confidence in a Universal Spirit permeating the ever shifting appearances of the everyday world. David L. Holmes , author of The Faiths of the Founding Fathers , in a sidebar article for Britannica categorizes Washington as a Christian deist.
Holmes also distinguishes between strict deists and orthodox Christians by their church attendance , participation in religious rites such as baptism, Holy Communion, and confirmation , the use of religious language, and opinions of contemporary family, friends, clergy, and acquaintances.
Regarding these specific parameters, Holmes describes Washington as a Christian deist due to his religious behavior falling somewhere between that of an orthodox Christian and a strict deist. Although Washington was clearly not a communicant, was infrequent in his Church attendance, and did not deem it necessary to participate in religious rites, Holmes labels him as a Christian deist due to his references of God, which resemble strict deistic terminology yet add a Christian dimension of mercy and divine nature.
Additionally, Holmes states that Washington's "dedication to Christianity was clear in his own mind" as to imply that Washington's own religious self-analysis should be deemed at least as noteworthy as that of critics who claim he was unorthodox. Historian and Washington specialist Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. The qualities attributed to Providence by Washington reveal that he conceived of Providence as an "Omnipotent," "benign," and "beneficent" Being that by "invisible workings" in "Infinite Wisdom" dispensed justice in the affairs of mankind.
2. Washington intended religious freedom in the United States to apply to all religions.
In Peter Lillback , the president of Westminster Theological Seminary , published a lengthy book through his own non-profit organization on the subject of Washington's religious beliefs. The book, George Washington's Sacred Fire , proposed that Washington was an orthodox Christian within the framework of his time; it gained attention through promotion on Glenn Beck 's show.
Washington referred to himself frequently using the words "ardent," "fervent," "pious," and "devout. Although he never once used the word "Deist" in his voluminous writings, he often mentioned religion, Christianity, and the Gospel Historians ought no longer be permitted to do the legerdemain of turning Washington into a Deist even if they found it necessary and acceptable to do so in the past. Simply put, it is time to let the words and writings of Washington's faith speak for themselves.
Biographer Barry Schwartz has stated that Washington's "practice of Christianity was limited and superficial, because he was not himself a Christian. In the enlightened tradition of his day, he was a devout Deist—just as many of the clergymen who knew him suspected. Two books exploring Washington's religious beliefs— Realistic Visionary by Peter Henriques, and Faith and the Presidency by Gary Scott Smith—both categorize Washington as a theistic rationalist which is described as a hybrid belief system somewhere between strict deism and orthodox Christianity, with rationalism as the predominant element.
The Catholic historian and philosopher Michael Novak maintains that Washington could not have been strictly a Deist, but was a Christian:. What we did prove, and quite conclusively, is that Washington cannot be called a Deist—at least, not in a sense that excludes his being Christian. Although he did most often address God in the proper names a Deist might use—such as "Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be" and "Disposer of all human events"—the actions that Washington expected God to perform, as expressed both in his official public prayers whether as general or as president and in his private prayers as recorded, are the sorts of actions only the God of the Bible performs: interposing his actions in human events, forgiving sins, enlightening minds, bringing good harvests, intervening on behalf of one party in a struggle between good and evil in this case, between liberty and the deprivation of liberty , etc.
Many persons at the end of the 18th century were both Christians and Deists. But it cannot be said, in the simpleminded sense in which historians have become accustomed to putting it, that Washington was merely a Deist, or even that the God to whom he prayed was expected to behave like a Deist God at all.
There has been a huge controversy, to put it mildly, about Washington's religious beliefs. So, he was clearly Christian He was quite intensely religious, because even though he uses the word Providence, he constantly sees Providence as an active force in life, particularly in American life. I mean, every single victory in war he credits to Providence. The miracle of the Constitutional Convention he credits to Providence. The creation of the federal government and the prosperity of the early republic, he credits to Providence I was struck at how frequently in his letters he's referring to Providence, and it's Providence where there's a sense of design and purpose, which sounds to me very much like religion Unfortunately, this particular issue has become very very politicized.
In , historian Gregg Frazer argued that Washington was not a deist but a "theistic rationalist.
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However, unlike the deists, the theological rationalists believed in the efficacy of prayer to God. It has been taught in some Jewish schools that George Washington was inspired by a Jewish soldier who lit a Chanukah Menorah during the revolutionary war. On his death bed, Washington did not summon a minister or priest. Thomas Davis, rector of Christ Church, Alexandria , officiating.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Washington , Daniel M'Carty [ Johnson, William J. Lossing, Benson J. II, p. Thompson, Mary V. XII, pp. Richardson, editor Published by the Authority of Congress, , Vol. I, pp. Annals of the American Pulpit. January 2, NY Times. The event is purported to be during the time of Washington's inauguration. September 26, Retrieved November 12, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. Retrieved December 17, George Washington the Christian. Abingdon Press. Retrieved December 21, The Methodist Review. Soule and T.
A Personal History of Ulysses S. Grant: And Sketch of Schuyler Colfax. American Publishing Company. Martin's Press. University of Virginia Press. XV, p. Fitzpatrick, ed. USA Today. Meyerson Yale University Press. III, p. Sparks edited Washington's writings to conform to his own standards in spelling, punctuation, and at times phrasing, so such references should always be checked in more recent editions. Chicago: Ivan R. Brent Morris.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry. Anderson, a Calvinist minister, may have taken the term from John Calvin who, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion published in , repeatedly calls the Christian god "the Architect of the Universe," also referring to his works as "Architecture of the Universe," and in his commentary on Psalm 19 refers to the Christian god as the "Great Architect" or "Architect of the Universe. Retrieved October 20, Archived from the original on July 22, Retrieved February 12, November The Forward.
Paul L. Putnam's Sons, May 22, Granite Freeman. Concord, New Hampshire. Retrieved August 27, The Liberator. June Chase Boller Jr. Random House. Retrieved March 22, The Claremont Institute. January Retrieved April 12, Guest Speaker.
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