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By 1917 Theodore Roosevelt had been out of the White House for eight years. The Great War (now called World War I) was raging in Europe. President Woodrow Wilson refused to allow Colonel Roosevelt to lead a group of Rough Riders into battle, as he had during the Spanish-American War, but all four of his sons served during the war.

In her book, My Brother Theodore Roosevelt, his sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson wrote:

In the midst of thoughts of war . . . Theodore Roosevelt still had time to speak and write on certain subjects close in another way than war to the hearts and minds of the people.

Mrs. Robinson then quoted from her brother’s October 1917 article for Ladies’ Home Journal, “Shall We Do Away with the Church?” Mrs. Robinson believed the article contained “certain things of permanent import to the nation.”

In the pioneer days of the West, we found it an unfailing rule that after a community had existed for a certain length of time, either a church was built or else the community began to go downhill. In these old communities of the Eastern States which have gone backward, it is noticeable that the retrogression has been both marked and accentuated by a rapid decline in church membership and work, the two facts being so interrelated that each stands to the other partly as a cause and partly as an effect . . . .

I doubt whether the frank protest of nothing but amusement has really brought as much happiness as if it had been alloyed with and supplemented by some minimum meeting of obligation toward others. Therefore, on Sunday go to church. Yes,—I know all the excuses; I know that one can worship the Creator and dedicate oneself to good living in a grove of trees or by a running brook or in one’s own house just as well as in a church, but I also know that as a matter of cold fact, the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he stays away from church he does not spend his time in good works or in lofty meditation . . . .

He may not hear a good sermon at church but unless he is very unfortunate he will hear a sermon by a good man who, with his good wife, is engaged all the week long in a series of wearing and hum-drum and important tasks for making hard lives a little easier; and both this man and this wife are, in the vast majority of cases, showing much self-denial, and doing much for humble folks of whom few others think, and they are keeping up a brave show on narrow means.

Surely, the average man ought to sympathize with the work done by such a couple and ought to help them, and he cannot help them unless he is a reasonably regular church attendant. Besides, even if he does not hear a good sermon, the probabilities are that he will listen to and take part in reading some beautiful passages from the Bible, and if he is not familiar with the Bible, he has suffered a loss which he had better make all possible haste to correct.

He will meet and nod to or speak to good, quiet neighbors. If he doesn’t think about himself too much, he will benefit himself very much, especially as he begins to think chiefly of others . . . .

I advocate a man’s joining in church work for the sake of showing his faith by his works . . . .

I am encouraged when I learn about the faith of famous people. The Roosevelts were a devout family. Last night I read a portion of a letter Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his other sister, Anna, in 1891. He wrote of the Bible lessons his wife Edith was giving to their children, Alice and Ted. Theodore told Anna about the questions little Ted asked his daddy about God one night when he leaned down to kiss him good night in his crib.

Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and their children. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Let’s pray for that kind of leaders for America.

I urge, then, first of all,
that petitions, prayers,
intercession and thanksgiving
be made for all people—
for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness.
I Timothy 2:1-2


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