Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church (denomination),
like his Roosevelt ancestors. His mother was a Presbyterian, another
Calvinist denomination like the Reformed. His parents often attended
Presbyterian churches in New York City and Oyster Bay. Alice Lee Roosevelt
was a Unitarian.
Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt was a devout Episcopalian.
In Oyster Bay there is no Reformed church, and so TR went to Christ
Church (Episcopal) with Edith and the kids from 1887 onward. But in Albany
TR attended a Dutch Reformed church while Edith went to an Episcopal church.
In Washington Edith as First Lady attended St. John's Church, Lafayette
Square (Episcopal), the "church of the presidents," across from the White
House, while TR attended Grace Reformed Church, also nearby. Grace was a
German Reformed church, but TR thought this was fine, close to Dutch. The
German reformed denomination later merged with the Congregational Church,
forming the present United Church of Christ. And Grace Reformed Church
today is United Church of Christ.
TR's religious views were basically mainline Protestant, and he did
receive communion in the Reformed churches he went to and at Christ Church,
Oyster Bay. He took part in the ritual, loudly singing the hymns. Doctrine
or abstract theology did not interest him. This is perhaps not surprising
since formal philosophy as such also did not interest him in the least. He
was ecumenical in his views. He thought churches should not fight with each
other, and he was quite content to attend services in any church. He was
four square against religious prejudice or persecution, and he counted Roman
Catholics (including priests, bishops, and nuns) and Jews among his friends.
He had many friends in the clergy-- and supporters-- Lyman Abbot, and
Washington Gladden, to name two.
Relative to other subjects, little has been written on TR's
religion.However, there is a hard-to-find book, ROOSEVELT'S RELIGION by
Christian Reisner, which collects recollections from TR friends and others
on the subject. Edward Wagenknecht's fine book, The Seven Worlds of
Theodore Roosevelt, has a section on religion, and you can find this book
in most libraries.
In TR's works, you could look at volume 13 in the NATIONAL EDITION of
TR's works, and that's volume 15 in MEMORIAL EDITION, for REALIZABLE IDEALS,
a little book consisting of lectures TR gave at a theological seminary in
California in 1911. Chapter/lecture titles include "The Bible and the Life
of the People," and ""The Public Servant and the Eighth Commandment."
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, January 31, 2003 3:48 PM
Subject: [tr-m] In need of some help
> I promised to present a paper on the religious inclinations of TR.
> I know he was born into a Dutch Reformed family, but was buried as
> an Episcopalian. Also know that Edith was an Episcopalian, and that
> TR hoped his children would participate in his mother's church. Can
> anyone help me beyond that? Thanks!
> GC Stoppel
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