Ron Reagan, one of President Reagan's sons, in a recent television interview, insisted that his father only referred to God in "proper setting(s)," such as churches or "whatever": "The way he practiced his religion, the way I saw it, anyway, in terms of his presidency and his public life, was that he was unabashed about it in the proper setting, in a church or whatever. He would be quite open about his feelings. But he didn't use it in a way, I mean, it was a very personal thing to him, and it wasn't . . . a political chip that he was going to sort of use all the time, and you see that, I think, now. A lot of politicians will use their faith, let's say, such as it is, to gain political advantage, to appeal to a certain demographic in a narrow sense. . . . I think there's a lot of false piety floating around Washington."
"Whatever"? When one serves as president of the United States, are there any public "whatevers"?
At the Ronald Reagan interment, which I was privileged to attend, Ron criticized politicians who wear "faith on (their) sleeve(s)": "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."
Let's go to the videotape.
At the 1984 annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters, Reagan not only spoke about religion, but about Jesus Christ: "He promised there will never be a dark night that does not end," Reagan said. "And by dying for us, Jesus showed how far our love should be ready to go: all the way."
At Kansas State University in 1982, Reagan spoke of the "admonition of the Man from Galilee to do unto others as you would have them do unto you," a line Reagan himself personally inserted into the speech.
In editing his own speeches, Reagan often made such changes, according to his speechwriter Ben Elliott.
"He didn't make a big deal about it," said Elliott. "He would want a change like that and he would just write it in." On one speech draft by Elliott and speechwriter Peggy Noonan, they called Christmas "the day that marks the birth on Earth of the Son of God." Reagan added a line: "the birthday of the promised Messiah , the Son of God (emphasis added)."
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