COLUMN: One Nation Under God
Religious freedom is at the very core of our constitutional republic. It is one of the primary reasons that brave men and women of faith crossed the ocean to found our country. Last Thursday, May 5, we marked the National Day of Prayer, acknowledging that prayer has been a critical part of the fabric of American history.
Recently, I had the opportunity to address a group of pastors visiting the nation’s capital, including pastors from Central Washington. I am appreciative of these pastors and all who pray for their representatives in government. America has been blessed with leaders who depend on God. In 1783, George Washington wrote to governors at the close of the Revolutionary War, showing how he entrusted God with care for our new nation:
I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.
From George Washington’s time to today, as Americans we ask God for his divine protection for the country we love and serve. Most Americans would be surprised to know that on any given day, congressmen will have joined together in prayer with other members four or five times a day. We pray together at the opening of the House for legislative businesses, before committee hearings and meetings, and during prayer breakfasts. In fact, the opening the House with prayer given by a chaplain has been a tradition for more than 200 years, since 1789.
Signs of our religious heritage stand throughout the U.S. Capitol building and testify to the spiritual foundations of America. The two statues provided by Washington State in the Capitol have special significance. There is the statue of Mother Joseph, who in 1856 led a group of five missionaries to what were then the Pacific Northwest Territories of the U.S. In Statuary Hall in the Capitol, you can see the statue of Dr. Marcus Whitman. Dr. Whitman was a missionary, physician, and instrumental figure in the settling of the Pacific Northwest in the 19th Century.
These are just a few of the reminders of the faithful witnesses whose goodwill, compassion, and charity to fellow Americans built our country. They encourage us to revive our understanding of our country’s reliance on prayer and trust in God.