Why Teddy Roosevelt Went to Church

Some people attend church regularly. Some attend church sparingly. Some do not attend church at all. As a minister, I have observed a variety of motives that lead individuals into active church participation. What are your reasons for going or not going to church?

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, believed in attending and participating in church. In 1917, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, Roosevelt offered at least 10 reasons for going to church:

1. In the actual world, a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.

2. Church work and church attendance mean the cultivation of the habit of feeling some responsibility for others and the sense of braced moral strength which prevents a relaxation of one's own moral fiber.

3. There are enough holidays for most of us which can quite properly be devoted to pure holiday making. … Sundays differ from other holidays—among other ways—in the fact that there are fifty-two of them every year. … On Sunday, go to church.

4. 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 church. But I also know as a matter of cold fact the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he strays away from church he does not spend his time in good works or lofty meditation. He looks over the colored supplement of the newspaper.

5. 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, humdrum and important tasks for making hard lives a little easier.

6. 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 …

7. He will probably take part in singing some good hymns.

8. He will meet and nod to, or speak to, good quiet, neighbors. … He will come away feeling a little more charitably toward all the world, even toward those excessively foolish young men who regard churchgoing as rather a soft performance.

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

10. The man who does not in some way, active or not, connect himself with some active, working church misses many opportunities for helping his neighbors, and therefore, incidentally, for helping himself.

Eighty-five years have passed since that historic interview with President Roosevelt, and church attendance is still vitally important to faith development and Christian service.

It is no wonder that the Bible encourages us "not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, even more as you see the day of the Lord approaching" (Heb 10:25).

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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