Some other PCA pastors and I have been meeting monthly for fellowship, prayer, and to discuss a book. This habit of reading a book helps keep me accountable to read books I normally wouldn’t choose myself (though I have recommended 2 out of 3 so far!). Our last book was George Grant’s biography The Courage and Character of Theodore Roosevelt.
I really didn’t know too much about Teddy so I was grateful for the information. A fascinating man that somehow had more hours in his day than any of us. In fact I flew through the strictly biographical part and moved on to the “Courage” and “Character” parts quite quickly. The book is really divided up into Life, Character, and Legacy and doesn’t read like normal biographies from beginning of his life to the end.
While the information was fascinating, and this was a unique way of presenting and providing commentary on his life, I found it a bit too choppy. And though I really did enjoy the information and writing style, my main complaint had less to do with structure and more to do with the ethos of the writer.
George Grant presents Roosevelt as a man without warts. And we all have warts. We all have issues, sins, and struggles. And this was a biography of a wartless man; it fell into the category of a hagiography or in laymen’s terms, a “holi-ography.”
Roosevelt appeared by all accounts to be a wonderful husband, father, scholar, leader, statesman, churchman, scientist, biographer, and writer worthy of emulation. And I believe he was. Yet Grant presents him so highly that if there were ever a vacancy in the Trinity, he might get the nod.
By the end of the book, one is left wondering if the lad ever did anything wrong. If he ever believed anything wrong. Roosevelt taught Sunday School, but I wonder what he actually taught. I mean Presbyterianism in Northeast in the early 20th Century was about as liberal as Sports Authority’s return policy, denying denying miracles and the virgin birth.
I don’t know what Teddy really believed and that’s just it. I don’t know how Teddy failed or that he even did fail.
And in order for most of us to follow a leader, we need to be aware of their weaknesses. We have to see them repent and admit failure before us. Otherwise we’re really not following a real person, but simply a “presentation” of a person. And that’s what I feel like I was left with: a presentation and not a real person.
I did enjoy the book because I knew so little about this fascinating man. But I feel Grant in the end, ought to have revealed a few warts if he truly desired to inspire the reader to emulate the “courage” and “character” of Teddy Roosevelt.