Thursday, September 08, 2016

Baptist presidents

Four men affiliated with Baptist churches have become President of the United States. Three were Democrats and one was a Republican. Two were northerners* and two were southerners.
  1. Warren G. Harding (Republican from Ohio, 1921–23), 29th president. He was a member and trustee of the Trinity Baptist Church, Marion, Ohio. He joined the church on May 6, 1883, when he was 17 years old and it was stilled called the Free Baptist Church. Historians have generally ranked Harding as one of the worst Presidents. This is based on the idea that he accomplished little while in office, and for corruption during his administration -- several of his appointees went to prison for various scandals. I'm not certain, but I don't think he was accused of improprieties beyond allowing it to go on.
  2. Harry S. Truman (Democrat from Missouri, 1945-1953), 33rd president. Truman is probably best known for following Roosevelt, being plain-spoken, and authorizing dropping the bombs on Japan. I know little about his presidency otherwise, or of his Baptist beliefs. At the age of 18, Truman was baptized at the Benton Boulevard Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was living at the time. He later became a member of the First Baptist Church of Grandview, Missouri, (then called the Grandview Baptist Church) in 1916. In 1945 Truman wrote, “I am a Baptist because I think that sect gives the common man the shortest and most direct approach to God.” (Source: Michael Devine, director of Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)
  3. James Earl "Jimmy" Carter (Democrat from Georgia, 1977-1981). Carter is often remembered for speaking of being born-again (and by some for giving away the Panama Canal). His presidency is by many thought of as ineffective, and after one term the American people replaced him with Ronald Reagan. At the time of his presidency he was a Southern Baptist, but he and his church are now also affiliated with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is a popular Sunday School teacher at Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia. As a Baptist he would be considered on the liberal end of the spectrum. No questionable moral dealings or improprieties are associated with his presidency.
  4. William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (Democrat from Arkansas, 1993-2001). He was baptized by Park Place Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. One of the most remembered acts of this Southern Baptist president is the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Though a Baptist, the president and his family attended the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. while he was president.
Abraham Lincoln was raised by Baptist parents, but he was never a member of any church. George Washington was purportedly baptized by John Gano during the Revolutionary War. Regardless of the truth of it -- two of Gano's grandchildren claimed in an affidavit that their aunt, John Gano's oldest daughter, told them that her father had baptized Washington -- Washington remained outwardly affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

* Missouri may best be considered a "border state" rather than "Northeners".

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