Consistency is something of an American tradition–at least as far as our presidents are concerned.
Forty-three individuals have served as Commander-in-Chief (Grover Cleveland held two non-consecutive terms). Based on birth and residence, they hail from only 18 of the 50 states. All have been male and, with the exception of Barack Obama, all have been white. And almost all claimed to be Protestant Christians. Only three were religiously unaffiliated–Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Johnson–though these men were spiritual in their own right.
British writer G.K Chesteron referred to America as “a nation with the soul of a church” and our country has always expected our president to be something of a moral guide. As the 20th Century journalist Theodore White noted, “The Presidency hovers over the popular American imagination almost as a sacerdotal office, a priestly role for which normal political standards are invalid.”
But which U.S. presidents were the most religious?
It’s an admittedly difficult question given the high religiosity among presidents in general. So for this, I reached out to Randall Balmer, a historian of American religion at Dartmouth College and author of God in the White House and Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter. In his opinion, the following five commander-in-chiefs must be considered among the most religious.
Jimmy Carter: Famous for being a baptist Sunday School teacher (even after his term), Jimmy Carter is recognized as the first “born again” president. Prior to serving, Carter took a missionary journey in which he knocked on strangers doors and said, “I’m Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” He read his Bible and prayed daily throughout his time in office, yet Carter was ultimately rejected by the emerging evangelical right.