This great prayerful tradition : American presidents preaching public theology at the National Prayer Breakfast
This study presents a comprehensive analysis of the speeches delivered by American presidents at the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) from its inception in 1953 until 2016, as well as the rhetorical context of the NPB. Taking a dual-disciplinary approach that combines public theology and presidential studies, this study delineates a generic pattern in the presidential prayer breakfast address built around five narratives. In their speeches at the NPB, presidents construct narratives of faith, connecting divine and human stories in ways that move beyond personal piety, civil religion, or a politicized use of religious language. Presidents serve as public theologians through their prayer breakfast speeches, engaging in transformative rhetoric to communicate their messages. The annual NPB creates a unique liminal space for the president to experiment with speaking theologically.
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