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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eleanor Roosevelt: What religion meant to her


Roosevelt (Whtie House Portrait)
Although the public associated Eleanor Roosevelt much more with social justice than with religion, for her these two grand traditions overlapped greatly.

In her 1932 speech titled What Religion Means to Me, Roosevelt defined religion in this way:  To me religion has nothing to do with any specific creed or dogma.  It means that belief and that faith in the heart of a man which makes him try to live his life according to the
highest standard which he is able to visualize…  in all cases the thing which counts is the striving of the human soul to achieve spiritually the best that it is capable of and to care unselfishly not only for
personal good but for the good of all those who toil with them upon the earth.

According to Rev. Bruce Clear, Roosevelt “was raised and remained an Episcopalian her whole life.”  However, within the aforementioned 1932 speech, Roosevelt also declared that the “highest standard” for Christians is “the life of Christ, and it matters very little whether our creed is Catholic or Protestant.”  In his 2007 sermon, The Religion of Eleanor Roosevelt, Clear also points out
that “she was respectful of, and appreciated, diverse religious traditions.”

Nevertheless, when she felt impelled to take a very public stand against “proposals for federal funding of
certain nonreligious activities at parochial schools,” she was accused by the then-Archbishop of New York City, Francis Joseph Spellman, of being anti-Catholic.   Roosevelt defenders have denied this, and have cited such instances as Roosevelt’s support of Al Smith, a Catholic, in the 1928 presidential campaign.  Although she at first supported Adlai Stevenson, she later “worked hard to promote the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in 1960.”

Towards the end of her 1932 speech, Roosevelt again linked social justice with religion by concluding:  People in trouble need just what little children need – a sense of security, a sense of something greater than their own powers to turn to and depend on.

Resources

http://www.allsoulsuuindy.org/ser20071021.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Roosevelt
http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/documents/articles/whatreligionmeans.cfm


Copyright October 11, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


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