I try to stay informed about what is happening in the news without dwelling on it to the point of becoming frustrated or depressed. Media coverage anymore tends to be woefully unbalanced, but I will not dwell on that at this time. What I find especially depressing is politicians’ inconsistent actions in regard to their faith. This usually comes in two forms. First, those who claim to have true faith ignore it in making decisions because it isn’t politically expedient. They don’t want constituents angry with them because they acted in a way that doesn’t follow the current “flavor of the day” of societal preferences. Second, those who claim to have faith sometimes adjust their understanding of God’s instruction in Scripture to make it conform to current societal preferences.
This past Saturday I visited a historical site that has been relatively nearby throughout my lifetime, but I had never visited. I visited the McKinley Memorial and tomb in Canton. After my visit I was motivated to do some research. He was born in Niles Ohio, and while he was growing up his family lived there before moving to the town of Poland. As with many leaders his parents were a huge influence on his faith. They were devoted believers and were founding members of the Methodist church they attended in Niles. They went to church at every opportunity, and William developed a strong faith. At 16 he decided to devote himself to God with formal acceptance of Christ, and was immersed in a creek outside of Poland. His mother hoped he would become a minister, but he chose to study law.
He eventually became involved in politics, which led to serving in Congress. He lived much of his adult life in Canton, which he considered his home. He was a member of the Church of Our Savior Methodist Church, and served as the Sunday School superintendent and as a trustee. He devoted daily time to prayer and Bible study, before and during his presidency. He became a member of the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington. It has been noted that he liked to invite friends to the White House on Sunday evenings for hymn sings. He was known to make declarations about how following God’s rules guided him in the decisions he made while President. Even in his time these statements made many other politicians uncomfortable, especially those who didn’t share in his belief in God. In his first inaugural address, he made the following declaration:
“I assume the arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps” — First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1897.
He was guided by his beliefs as he made many decisions, notably helping to fight to overthrow the rule of Spain from both Cuba and the Philippines. Not long after his second term as President began he was shot by an anarchist, and died about a week later. His last words were, “Good-bye, good-bye all. It’s God’s way. His will, not ours, be done. Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee” — September 14, 1901.
David speaks to the attitude that I believe William McKinley used as a pattern for his life, and it is my prayer that all of our leaders would read and pay heed to it:
“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:7-11).
It is often easier to see negative qualities in our leaders regarding fidelity to God and His teachings. Today current popular opinion usually carries the utmost importance in determining the best course to follow. William McKinley was a leader who didn’t necessarily choose the most popular action, as demonstrated by his choices in dealing with Cuba and the Philippines. He honestly tried to make the decisions he believed God wanted him to make.
I am glad I became more acquainted with President McKinley and his history. Learning about one of our leaders who wasn’t afraid to be led by his faith gives me hope for the future, that there may once again be someone dedicated to God’s law above the law of popular opinion. I hope that becoming acquainted with him strengthens you also.
Take heart and be encouraged!