Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country

Overview

In Washington’s God Michael Novak-one of America’s leading neoconservative pundits-and his daughter, Jana, uncover George Washington’s religious life. Finally the record is set straight on the most thoroughly misunderstood aspect of Washington’s life. The Novaks focus on Washington’s strong trust in divine Providence and see this belief as providing the unifying narrative to his monumental life.

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Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country

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Overview

In Washington’s God Michael Novak-one of America’s leading neoconservative pundits-and his daughter, Jana, uncover George Washington’s religious life. Finally the record is set straight on the most thoroughly misunderstood aspect of Washington’s life. The Novaks focus on Washington’s strong trust in divine Providence and see this belief as providing the unifying narrative to his monumental life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Most modern historians have made three basic assumptions about the religious views of our nation's first president: he was a deist; he was only a marginal Christian who kept up appearances but had no depth of conviction; and he believed only in an impersonal force or destiny that he called "Providence." Michael Novak, the well-known conservative thinker and author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, teams up with his daughter Jana to attempt to debunk all three of these notions about Washington's religious views. Written at the specific request of Mount Vernon and with the assistance of their archives, this book is carefully researched. It is most persuasive when the Novaks show that despite his natural reserve, a depth of religious feeling ran through Washington's public and private speeches and correspondence, disproving the portrait of a tepid, perfunctory Anglicanism. However, they don't succeed as well in disproving Washington's deist sensibility; the Novaks adopt the modern assumption that being a Christian and being a deist were mutually exclusive-a conclusion that few in the late 18th century would have shared. At times, the Novaks' starry-eyed admiration of the man pushes this book over the bounds of biography into hagiography. (Mar. 6) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Other historians are wrong: George Washington was no deist or secular humanist or atheist, he was an Anglican who kept Jesus in his heart but, for political reasons, out of virtually all of his public utterances. The authors (father and daughter) rest their argument on their belief that Washington was not a hypocrite; he meant what he wrote and said. The Novaks adore their subject. The beneficiary of several miraculous interventions, he looked like a Roman warrior and had a brow like Caesar's. "He was," they write, "like a rock." Washington loved his wife, his stepchildren, his army, his country, his God-and surely Jesus, too, though he never really said so, even on his deathbed. He believed the Supreme Being answered the prayers of his soldiers. (The Novaks do not much ponder the issue of why God neglected to answer the prayers of the Redcoats, many of whom were also Anglican.) The authors begin with a biographical sketch, then examine Washington's religious beliefs. They cull from his letters and papers just about everything he ever said about God, discuss in great detail what he meant by "Providence" and argue that most other historians have erred. The elder Novak, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has written frequently on religious topics (The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1993, etc.) and has published previously with his daughter (Tell Me Why, 1998, not reviewed). Their prose ranges from high dudgeon to just-plain-folks: Washington was "no dummy," they tell us, and he and Martha were "soulmates."A tendentious effort to keep our founding father firmly in the fold of Our Father (and His Son).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465051274
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/12/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,425,977
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Novak, a former U.S. ambassador, has served under Democratic and Republican administrations. He is the author of Belief and Unbelief, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, and many other books. His essays and reviews have been published in the New York Times Magazine, National Review, and many others. He presently holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Novak lives with his family in Washington, D.C. Jana Novak is a writer and poet and is the co-author of Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter’s Questions About God. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Preface : an October invitation from Mount Vernon
Pt. 1 The man
George Washington, the man 3
His life in outline 21
The protection of Providence : heroism on the Monongahela 47
1776 : a year of providential interpositions 63
His beloved army 81
Pt. 2 The faith
What's a Deist? : the Deist tendency 95
Not Deist, but Judeo-Christian 119
Washington's public prayers 143
A very private Christian 161
Pt. 3 The fruit
The smiles of heaven and the work of Providence 175
To die like a Christian 197
A Christian? : pro and con 211
App. 1 Selected writings of George Washington 229
App. II Washington's names for Providence 243
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