Monday, February 6, 2012

George Washington

There is fabulous new, Pulitzer Prize winning biography of George Washington titled Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press, 2010). The book includes a brilliant chapter, "Providence", on Washington's devout commitment to the Anglican Church and reflection on his theological perspectives. This one sentence from Washington himself certainly still rings true today:

"Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconciliable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause." (Chernow, page 132).

And here is an insightful description of Washington's personal attitude toward religion:

"Some of Washington's religious style probably reflected an Enlightenment discomfort with religious dogma, but it also reflected his low-key personal style. He was sober and temperate in all things, distrusted zealotry, and would never have talked of hellfire or damnation. He would have shunned anything, such as communion, that might flaunt his religiosity. He never wanted to make a spectacle of his faith or trade on it as a politician. Simply as a matter of personal style, he would have refrained from the emotional language associated with evangelical Christianity. This cooler, more austere religious manner was commonplace among well-heeled Anglicans in eithteenth century Virginia."

It seems to me that a low-key, sober, temperate, austere personal style is not a bad thing. It describes a quiet, persevering faithfulness which reminds me of many Presbyterian saints I have known.