Guest-Post by Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC (which worships in Teddy Roosevelt’s church).
It is amazing how quickly we forget that the confusion of Christianity with politics has happened on both sides of the political spectrum.
Theodore Roosevelt broke from the Republican Party in 1912 to form a third, Progressive Party for his presidential run — the so-called “Bull Moose Party,” so named because Roosevelt said he felt like a “bull moose” after bolting the Republicans. Sporting red bandanas (symbolizing the rise of the proletariat) and viewed as radicals by establishment Democrats and Republicans, the Progressives gathered for their nominating convention in Chicago in August 1912.
The convention was a historic event in American politics, marking the first time a candidate appeared at his own nominating convention. But perhaps most remarkable was its religious fervor, well detailed in Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt. The New York Times reporter wrote, “It was not a convention at all; it was an assemblage of religious enthusiasts.”
As Roosevelt mounted the stage preparing to speak, he led the assembly in the singing of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Roosevelt’s address was entitled, “A Confession of Faith,” and it closed with a motto he had already invoked at the Republican convention weeks earlier, “We stand at Armaggedon, and we battle for the Lord.” As Morris notes, “If Progressivism was, as more and more critics were suggesting, a religion, it needed its mantras.” A tumult ensued — “enthusiasm turned to ecstasy” — and ten thousand voices sang Roosevelt’s name to the tune of “Maryland, my Maryland.”
The convention closed with the singing of the Doxology.