Ronald Reagan's spiritual pilgrimage has been a topic of great interest, and sometimes heated debate, among evangelicals.

In his conscientiously researched "spiritual life" of the 20th century's "patron saint" of small-government conservatism, Grove City College political science professor Paul Kengor has added a relatively new dimension to the Reagan biography: the President as a man of deeply-rooted faith in a providential God.

Kengor's sweeping examination of the spiritual quest of the man he calls a "practical Christian" should quiet the controversy about whether Reagan had an entrenched faith. Reagan's faith was not only sincere and vocalized throughout his life, Kengor asserts, it also provided fuel for the fire of his single-minded determination to bring down communism.

It is both fitting and revealing that Kengor dedicates his volume to Reagan's mother Nelle. There is little doubt that she was the anchor of the family, a woman of optimism, leadership abilities, and great piety.

The young Reagan boys, Ronald (nicknamed Dutch) and Neil (called Moon) probably turned to Nelle often for spiritual help and comfort. Jack Reagan, their father, was a shoe salesman who moved the family from one Illinois town to another. Kengor reports that before they finally settled in Dixon, the young boy who one day would be President had lived in five different towns and 12 rented apartments, leaving him lonely and introspective.

A Catholic, Jack Reagan left the children's religious upbringing mostly in the hands of his extraordinary wife. It was Nelle who introduced Ronald to an evangelical novel that would have a lasting effect on his life. Written by Harold Bell Wright at the beginning of the 20th century, That Printer of Udell's is the ...

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