WASHINGTON’S GOD by Michael Novak


Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country
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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).

Pub Date: March 6th, 2006
ISBN: 0-465-05126-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2006


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