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The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama (George H. Shriver Lecture Series in Religion in American History Ser.) Hardcover – April 25, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

[Holmes] is politically and confessionally nonpartisan, which allows him to write impressively balanced accounts of such matters as Nixon’s betrayal of Billy Graham’s trust and Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright, who, on the evidence, was an excellent pastor who’d never been 'controversial' before the media started sound-biting his sermons. Only Kennedy emerges from Holmes’ presentation as less sympathetic than current opinion considers him. Another interesting take on the presidency.

(Ray Olson Booklist)

Holmes, professor of religious studies at the College of William and Mary (The Faiths of the Founding Fathers) examines the backgrounds of our presidents since WWII by delving into their families, the people who influenced their religious beliefs, and their patterns of attending Sunday worship. . . . [I]t is well-researched reading for the reader who wants to know about the presidency.

(Publishers Weekly)

This is an admirable and colorful yet balanced look at our recent Presidents and their religious beliefs. It will have wide appeal for all readers and particularly for those interested in presidential history.

(Nancy Richey Library Journal)

Holmes provides us with a broad personal and historical narrative that brings into the conversation family, social, cultural, and political dynamics. What we learn about some figures might surprise us, especially those whose presidencies have faded into the recesses of our memories. . . . Holmes's book is a fascinating read. It's insightful, authoritative, and revealing of the spiritual dimensions of American political life.

(Robert Cornwall Ponderings on a Faith Journey)

[Holmes] provides a lively, engaging, interesting appraisal of the influences upon and nature of the faith of the twelve men who have served as America's chief executive since the end of World War II. . . . His book is especially helpful in explaining the religious background and commitments of the grandparents, parents, and wives of these presidents. . . . Readers will profit from Holmes's judicious, balanced, insightful, and illuminating assessment of our most recent presidents. His book is timely in light of the current presidential campaign where once again religion has been a signficant factor.

(Gary Scott Smith University Bookman)

A distinctive element of American politics is its unofficial yet vital link with religion. . . . Holmes shows the personal side of this dynamic by examining the faith lives and patterns of the 12 American presidents who served after WW II, from Truman to Obama. . . . It offers a number of illuminating insights into the private lives of these very public leaders.

(M. A. Granquist Choice )

A distinguished and long-tenured professor at the College of William and Mary, Holmes has crafted an excellent narrative of post-World War II presidents and how religion or faith may have influenced their devotional, social, and political lives, as well as the nation's. . . . The Faith of the Postwar Presidents is easy, informative, interesting, and a balanced presentation of each president.

(Worth E. Norman Jr. Living Church)

David Holmes . . . makes a meaningful contribution with this timely book, examining the role that religion played in the lives of America's most-recent presidents. . . . [He] devotes equal attention to the spiritual journeys of presidents that other authors have frequently overlooked. . . . Holmes has written a valuable reference for scholars working on a variety of topics relating to both religion and the presidency.

(David O'Connell Political Science Quarterly)

About the Author

David L. Holmes is Walter G. Mason Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at the College of William and Mary. His books include the The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, A Nation Mourns, and The Life of the Rev. Devereux Jarratt.
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Product Details

  • Series: George H. Shriver Lecture Series in Religion in American History Ser. (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (April 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820338621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820338620
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,418,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this volume, David L. Holmes, author of The Faiths of the Founding Fathers and other highly regarded books, has given us a first-rate history and analysis, with much telling detail. He writes as a scholar--that is, his judgment is well informed by years of careful study--but he also knows how to craft a sentence, organize an effective paragraph, and thus compose a lively and thoroughly readable chapter. His style is vigorous and accessible. And there are surprises in store: Lyndon Johnson's relations with the liturgical traditions--both Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism (the Episcopal Church in the United States)--make for fascinating reading because much is revealed here not commonly known. And there is thorough, judicious coverage of Obama's connections to his Chicago pastor. The saddest chapter focuses on John F. Kennedy, who managed to combine chronic illness with chronic adultery. At various times, too, Holmes provides appropriate, thought-provoking insights into the connections between a president's beliefs and his policies and actions. Highly recommended for both academic and general readers.
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Format: Hardcover
Not only is this a thorough and impressively researched book, but it's a quickly paced read as well. Those who are new to the subject will get as much from Holmes as readers well versed in religious history. It's an exciting mix of religious history, American history, and biography; all three threads weaving together into a compelling narrative. As other reviewers continue to stress, Holmes has constructed an account that is unbiased and apolitical as it concerns our contemporary, reactive, agenda-riddled landscape, and this scholarly approach only serves to make the story of presidential faith more readable.
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Format: Hardcover
The last time I succumbed to reading "comments" to an article on President Obama, I was struck by the venom of so many writers (which, when it comes to Presidents knows no left or right, no east or west) and by how many of them castigated the President as a "Muslim." Well, these commentators--and many others--would surely benefit from reading the carefully nuanced and informative chapter on Obama in this enjoyable book--as well as the 11 other chapters of post-war Presidents. Each chapter tells a "story," none of them alike, and in each case, except, unsurprisingly for Gerald Ford, there are challenging questions for each subject, as well as affirming revelations. There are also some surprises here, such as the common denominator linking the religious beliefs of Kennedy and Nixon, the President whose religious practices resemble those of Obama, and the religious beliefs of Eisenhower's mother. Apart from the expert writing and the insights into the twelve lives, the book is notable because the author is a respected church historian--and rarely, if ever, has a church historian peered into the lives of Presidents. This volume follows an earlier one examining the faiths of the founding fathers, among, of course, are them several Presidents; that leaves the author with the future task of unveiling the faiths of about 30 more Presidents. It cannot occur soon enough.
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Format: Hardcover
I was greatly privileged to speak with Dr. Holmes at length when he came to my hometown for a reading and came away most impressed with his insights into the spiritual lives of men who have shaped the America in which we live today. This book is a definite must-read for those interested in learning how leaders often rely on the power of faith to sustain them. And this is often inevitable. In times of adversity, leaders' aides may jockey for favor, caring only for their egos, while the leader knows that he or she alone is the one who history will judge. The buck, as President Truman made clear, stops with them. It does not, for example, matter that much of the Vietnam debacle was due to the advice given to President Johnson by the so-called "best and brightest" - President Johnson is the one that history primarily blames. This example shows why leaders may not even be able to tell even their closest advisors what is on their mind - Dean Acheson, for example, advised President Kennedy to contemplate the circumstances where use of nuclear weapons would be appropriate and then tell no one at all. Who or what is a leader to turn to in such lonely circumstances?

It's not fashionable in academia or what many might call "elite intellectual circles" today to talk about faith, except perhaps to denigrate it. Dr. Holmes, for a change, offers the more nuanced and accurate view, showing how faith can influence a leader for the best and, maybe, for the worst. Moreover, he proves the folly of reading too much into express declarations of faith and lack thereof at a time when so many who go into politics are pressed into openly sharing religion's role in their lives.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. David L. Holmes, the distinguished and long-tenured professor at the College of William and Mary has written a good book here. The amount of research needed to put together such an interesting book had to be an enormous effort. The result is excellent. Not one particular format is used to describe the presidents' faiths because, as you will read, those presidents were different in their approaches to life and to religion. There are some surprises in book, but possibly the most interesting write up by Holmes is that of President Obama. Certainly the longest of the book's chapters, the Obama section addresses the touchy situation(s) with the Rev'd. Jeremiah Wright during the then-Senator's race for the presidency. Holmes's depiction of Jeremiah's presentation at the National Press Club examines Wrights's mood swing when questioned by reporters. The book is well-written and interesting set of analyses. Reviewed by WOODY NORMAN, author of James Solomon Russell biography.James Solomon Russell: Former Slave, Pioneering Educator and Episcopal Evangelist
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