Christian Art and Culture

Why Your Family is More Awesome Than the Roosevelts

Why Your Family is More Awesome Than the Roosevelts

I got somewhat addicted to Ken Burns' fascinating series The Roosevelts on PBS recently. It chronicles the life and times of the famous family, focusing on the irascible 26th President, Theodore, and his niece Eleanor and cousin Franklin, the 32nd President, as well as their children. I find it inspiring that a family had such an effect on our country and the world.

The documentary piqued my interest in Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the Presidents first born, who like his father had a political and military career.  It must have been difficult to be the namesake of one of the most famous and powerful people of that era. Theodore Jr. said that his father had high expectations of him when he was young, making life so stressful that he nearly had a nervous breakdown. But at some point he was able to reconcile the expectations of his name with who he really was as an individual and create a life and legacy that allowed him to affect the world in his own way.

What may have been Theodore Jr.’s greatest contribution to the world came on D-Day 1941. He’d reached the rank of Brigadier General in the army and petitioned his commander to let him lead the landing at Utah beach in France. After two rejections he was finally given the job and--even though he needed a cane to walk because of arthritis--was one of the first off the boat and onto the beach. When it was discovered that the landing parties had drifted a mile off course and were at the wrong spot, General Roosevelt simply rewrote the invasion saying, "We’ll start the war from right here!"  He created a new pathway inland and personally directed the details, moving up and down the beach with his cane, inspiring the troops and giving orders, all while under constant enemy fire.  His actions contributed greatly to the success of the D-Day invasion and General Omar Bradley later called what Roosevelt did the single most heroic act of the war.

Theodore Jr. not only lived up to a lofty family name but brought it honor, and became the right man for a moment in history. Learning about his life made me think about my place in my family’s history. In fact, as a Christian, I’m part of two families; one with natural ties and one with supernatural ties. While the former is important, the latter is where my lasting identity lies. I want to fully embrace my identity as a son of God (a not the), placed on this earth by the wisdom of my Father for such a time as this.

Theodore Jr. lived with echoes of the Roosevelt legacy in his ears. He would always be known as the son of the great Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, war hero and President. His name reminded him daily of his family history.

What if the children of God reminded each other daily of our family affiliation? Yes, we call ourselves Christians, but the term has lost much of its meaning. What if we referred to each other as a son of God or a daughter of God? If that became common, when a Christian brother or sister did something that fit with the family legacy of love, creativity, or compassion you might hear someone make the comment, “Of course you would expect her to do something like that; she’s a daughter of God.”  I think it could catch on!

Of course, besides verbally affirming each other, daily meditation on Bible scripture is one of the best ways to remind ourselves of who are family is. In fact, there is a promise that the Holy Spirit (a relative, if you will) will bring the truth of our identity and much more to light, especially when we engage with the Bible (Jn. 14:26). The Spirit may remind us that our Father has more political (Prv. 21:1) and economic clout (Eccl. 5:19) than anyone in history. In fact He is the richest (Ps. 50:10), smartest (Job 37:14-24), most famous (Ps. 19:1) being in the universe, and anything he wants to get done, will happen; nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37).  He may remind us that we are part of a great cloud of witnesses, family members who have gone before us, who cheer us on (Heb. 12:1). That our brother is the greatest hero who ever lived (Heb. 12: 2), yet the closest friend to the weakest of us (Ps. 34:18). That angels minister to us (Heb. 1:14), and fight for us (Dan.10:13). That when we are weak, the Father’s joy is our strength (Neh. 8:10), and that he will work everything out for our good (Rom. 8:28).   

You and I are part of that family.

Which is considerably better than just being a Roosevelt.

Do you have a way of reminding yourself of that you are a beloved son or daughter of the Father and part of the family of God?  Would you share it below?

*J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration (Destiny Image) and The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation (IVP, April 2015). He directs The New Renaissance Arts Movement and blogs at

**Published 11/10/2014