A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – The Capitol Part 2

We enter the rotunda of the Capitol. One of the great moments in American History paintings is of Reverend John Robinson’s prayer meeting aboard the Mayflower before the ship sailed for America. Another is De Soto and the discovery of the Mississippi River with a monk beside him in prayer placing a crucifix in the ground. And there are others such as Columbus and the baptism of Pocahontas. In the chapel is a stained glass window depicting George Washington in prayer with the inscription of in God We Trust above it. The Christian influences are all about. Our Founders were certain about their Divine Guidance and the need for it.

So when the President stands in the Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address, above and just behind the President are the words, In God We Trust. They are there as a reminder to every Senator, Representative, and all the others present. Above the gallery door is a relief statue of Moses. The east entrance to the Senate Chamber has the Latin inscription meaning, God has favored our understanding. And you will find more times when we reiterate In God We Trust.

As we exit the grand edifice that graces the east end of the capital mall, we stop a moment on the steps.  And it is here the President places a hand on the Bible, the Christian Bible, the Bible of our God in whom we place our trust, and pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to serve this nation.

We are what we are: we are a nation that was founded to attain religious freedom. a nation that recognized the role of Divine Guidance in its creation, and the need to trust in that Divine Guidance.

We walk toward the White House, where we started our walk together. When we reach the White House, the people’s house, our footprints will have made a Christian cross.

A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – The Capitol Part 1

We leave the magic of the Tidal Basin in cherry blossom time and head for the Capitol. The significance of the three “greats” we have just visited in our walk, Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, will be even greater as we see the home of the Legislative Branch of our government. This branch was created to make certain that we remained “We the People.”  I thought about the arguments that were present as our Founders struggled and argued passionately about creating a government that would ensure a legacy of freedom. What was needed to insure the continuation of this great experiment in self-government?

They had no pattern; this was not a cookie-cutter government. They had no former path to follow. They knew that power had to always rest with the people; they knew that they had to have checks and balances. They also had to have a branch that adjudicated when differences could be settle no other way. They created our republic. They created this “shining city on a hill.”

They fought; they struggled; they died to create a new birth of freedom under God with justice for all, with the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They declared their independence from tyranny and abused power. They created this government where the Executive Branch, the president, is one leg, but only one leg of three. The Capitol building we see ahead houses another one of the legs.  The arguments about this branch were vigorous and passionate. Some wanted a strong central government and others wanted the power to be decentralized.

The Founders finally decided on having two groups: to create equality between the small and large states, each state would have two senators; the second group would be based on the population of the state, the representatives.

Our next part of the walk is to explore the art in the Capitol that depicts our Christian heritage.

A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – Jefferson Memorial

The stark reality of the Lincoln years do not fade away; the statue of the man decreases with the distance as we walk away. But the magnitude of his contributions to our nation do not. We approach the Jefferson Memorial.

Again our conversation moves to how we honor the past and recognize the lessons the past holds for us in the fast-moving-digital present, let alone the future.

When the cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are in bloom, it is a magnificent sight. The Jefferson Memorial rests on the south bank of the Basin. The neo-classical structure of the Memorial adds to the  beauty of the place.  As we climb the broad steps to the portico, we turn to marvel again at the reflections of the cherry blossoms on the water. We enter the dome of the monument to find ourselves surrounded by the words of Thomas Jefferson, the president, the architect, inventor, musician, and writer.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So avows our Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he authored this document.

We read on. Though there has been much effort to minimize the Christian beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, we see much evidence to the contrary. He was a strong advocate for religious freedom. He took great pride in authorship of The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom passed in January, 1786. The Memorial reminds us: Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to…

As we stand in the memorial, the words of the third President are etched in the marble. Jefferson’s words need to ring out again in our nation each year the cherry blossoms return to adorn the Tidal Basin and add extraordinary elegance to the beautiful edifice, the Jefferson Memorial.

May the return of the cherry blossoms each spring be a visible reminder of Jefferson’s words: we hold these truths to be self evident…

We descend the wide steps from the portico and breathe in the beauty of the cherry-blossom-lined Tidal Basin. Jefferson would approve of the site. His home, his beloved Monticello, was a beautiful result of his architectural skills. But his real passion was to give shape, substance, and essence to freedom for all in the new nation he was helping to bring into existence–this one-of-a-kind experiment known as our United States of America.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – Lincoln Memorial

The Washington D.C. sky is blue and as we leave the Washington Monument the monuments of the mall stand in relief against their background. The Washington Monument sends its tall, grand shadow across the water of the reflection pool. As you take a peek back to make certain that this obelisk is as significant as its reflection indicates, you are struck again with the majesty of the structure.

We turn our eyes toward our next stop–The Lincoln Memorial. Even from the distance the figure of Abraham Lincoln is as imposing in marble as it was in life. This tall man is seated in the sculpture, but remains large and impressive. As you approach the scene, the serenity of the place is in sharp contrast to memories of the horrible sights and sounds of the strife and struggles during Lincoln’s Presidency. We climb the expansive steps to the man and his words. The man sits surrounded by many of his most memorable words–statements and expressions of his fanatic search for justice and guidance.

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, was given when he was facing the secession of the South and the mammoth divide in the nation he loved. Inscribed is: Intelligence, patience, Christianity, and firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are yet competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficultiesIn God we Trust is all around us in the Capitol. Lincoln’s statement confirms his trust.

As we feel the solemnity of this place, we read on. The Gettysburg Address carved in the wall speaks; one cannot read the words without remembering the images of the battle and the terrible toll, the field of dead bodies. Lincoln’s words are not only etched in the walls, they ring in our ears and the tears sting our eyes…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…  Yes, under God. This same God that our Founders knew provided the Divine Guidance for their deliberations. And it’s the same God we know from our Bible, the Book that has guided our Christian Heritage since its founding. It is the God in our national anthem and our Pledge of Allegiance. Its the God in our national DNA.

When anyone proclaims that we are no longer a Christian nation, they are saying what we see and know of our Christian Heritage is gone, fading away, a myth, or replaced. Has our tolerance for other religions and our unshakable belief in religious freedom made it easy to take our strength, our tolerance, and use it to erase our founding, our Christian beginnings?”

We finish reading the inscriptions on the walls; we stand beside the mammoth statue of Lincoln. The words of this great President fill the air of the chamber; they are carved in stone but they are alive in this place. The Emancipation President knew this nation could only survive the tidal wave of secession and the Civil War that followed with the help of continuing Divine Guidance.

We leave the sculpture of the giant behind us as we walk down the many steps, but we can never leave the teachings and the influence on us and our country of this man. It was during his Presidency that In God we Trust was placed on our currency. How many times a day do we touch a coin or bill that reminds us of that motto?

We take one look back at the enormity and significance of this American President as he looks out across the Capitol. We turn our eyes to the next stop in our journey and conversation about who we are. We make our way toward the Jefferson Memorial. Silence exists for most of the way; the Lincoln Memorial has that effect on its visitors.