Friday, April 21, 2006

Eisenhower’s Jehovah’s Witness Background

This is an interesting article on President Eisenhower’s Jehovah’s Witness background and why he tried to hid it. I will admit that I didn’t know about Eisenhower’s religious background.

Article Abstract (from the site):

It is commonly reported even in authoritative works about President Eisenhower that he was raised as a River Brethren by parents that were active in the River Brethren church. In fact, Dwight D. Eisenhower was raised a Jehovah's Witness, a sect commonly called Russellites or Bible Students until 1931. His mother was active in the sect from 1895, when Dwight was five years old, until she died. Eisenhower's father was also an active member, although after 1915 he eventually no longer considered himself a Witness.

All of the Eisenhower boys left the Jehovah's Witness religion when adults and openly opposed major aspects of Watchtower teaching, although some of the values they learned from their Bible studies probably influenced them throughout their lives. Some Watchtower values may even have been reflected in Dwight's statements against war made in his latter life. Nonetheless, the Eisenhower's endeavored to hide the full extent of their mother's and family's Watchtower involvement although they did at times admit their affiliation with them. The reasons why the Eisenhower boys took great pains to hide their early Watchtower associations are discussed.

Some of the reasons that the article cites are (from the site):

Other reasons for the press' and the Eisenhower boys' lack of honesty about their Watchtower background include embarrassment over the Watchtower's opposition to the flag salute and all patriotic activities, vaccinations and medicine in general, the germ theory and their advocating many ineffectual medical "cures" including phrenology, radio solar pads, radiesthesia, radionics, iridiagnosis, the grape cure, and their staunch opposition to the use of aluminum cooking utensils and Fluoridation of drinking water. Dwight Eisenhower had good reasons to hide his Watchtower background when he ran for president. Roy noted that Eisenhower's religious background was used by some to argue that he was not fit to become president: “Both Eisenhower and Stevenson were vigorously challenged by some Protestant[s]...for their religious ties. The association of Eisenhower's mother with the Jehovah's Witnesses was exploited to make the GOP candidate appear as an "anti-Christian cultist" and a "foe of patriotism" (Roy, 1953).

I think we can all understand why this background would not be something that Eisenhower – who had a long and distinguished military career before being President – would want widely known. While even in his era this was something that was brought up slightly, it is interesting to consider if a modern presidential candidate could keep something like this from the populace. The press has always been a presence in elections, but even more so today when every little background folly is investigated (slander campaigns are not unknown – the Jackson. And how the public would respond to a president from a “fanatical” religious background? The US public had concerns about JFK’s Catholicism – how would they react to something even more “radical?” How would the US public react to an atheist?

1 comment:

Joshua Sissell said...

I personally don't think very many people would vote for an atheist president. At least when someone is religious it shows they uphold a power greater than themselves.