Today, 279 years ago, George Washington was born. Over the course of the past year, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about Washington for my book on Christianity and the founding of the American republic. In that text, I explore his religious beliefs and wonder whether or not we can truly call him a Christian.

Today, Washington’s faith has become a minor battlefield in America’s ongoing culture wars. Tim LaHaye, an evangelical minister and the co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels, has called Washington “a devout believer in Jesus Christ” who, in good evangelical fashion, “had accepted Him as His Lord and Savior.”

In contrast, Joseph Ellis, a historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for his writing about the American founders, has described Washington as a “lukewarm Episcopalian.” Writer Brooke Allen recently concluded that “there are very real doubts as to whether Washington was a Christian or even whether he was a believer at all.”

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