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God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life
Author: Paul Kengor
Length: 334 pages
When reading a non-fiction book, one must take into account the scope for which the artist strives. Is it a book about all of world history, or is it concentrating only on the 20th century? Is it focusing on 20th century world history or just U.S. History during that period? Is it a biography of someone's complete life, or is the author just focusing on one aspect of the person's life? In this book, Paul Kengor seeks to examine the spiritual life of Ronald Reagan. It means that only people, places, or events that impacted his spiritual life--or were impacted by it--are explored. If something else is not in the book, then it is by the author's design and desire to focus solely on Reagan's spiritual life. Kengor focuses on Reagan's life through his time in the White House, then skipping ahead to Reagan's bout with Alzheimer's and his views on death and dying.
One of the good aspects of this book is the fact that Kengor does not shy away from those parts of Reagan's spiritual life that were a bit controversial. The most notable examples include Nancy's reliance on astrology and the fact that the Reagans did not attend church while in the White House. These subjects could make or break people's opinions on the book, based on how they were handled and what the reader thought of Reagan. Kengor does a good job explaining both in order that the reader can better understand these controversies. Those who liked Reagan will come to a greater understanding of these aspects of the former president, but those who did not will just see more excuses and half-truths.
Kengor points out that one of the biggest influences on Reagan's faith was the faith of his mother. She often taught Sunday school and was outgoing in her faith, seeking to be a good example to her children. Her example shows throughout the former president's life.
One of the biggest areas where Reagan's faith played into what he did was how his faith impacted what he thought of communism and the USSR. What the former president thought and his responses, as a result, form a large part of this book. As a man of faith, Reagan had no problem pointing out the evil things in the world, including the USSR. The author describes the events around the former president's "evil empire" speech even explaining various views on it in the U.S. and in the USSR. Reagan thought of communism as evil and thus something that was against God that must be defeated. Liberals at home denounced him for this speech, but now when many Russian people look back they remember the speech as eye-opening and helping to push communism further along towards destruction.
Another notable aspect of Reagan that the book shows is how fearless the former president was in sharing his faith and his God even while he was visiting the USSR. The author highlights a visit to Russia that Reagan had and how he frequently mentioned God even while on Russian national television or visiting with Gorbachev.
As the nation mourns the death of former President Ronald Reagan, many people everywhere will want to learn more about this man and who he was. His faith was a huge part of his life, and this book is a fine way to learn more about the faith of this recently parted former president.
Burton Wray <Bjwray139@aol.com> July 31, 2004