As this year’s 4th of July draws near, I sit here on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in the home of our daughter and family. Our capital city has always inspired me, and when I’m here my hope is deepened for our country and our way of life. Yes, my hope.
The problem is that when the only “view of Washington” we have is through the reports of the news media, we get drawn into the ugly realm of partisan politics, divisive rhetoric, and hopeless negative pessimism. For these reasons my wife and I no longer watch any news media. None. And we are so much better off for it. Might I suggest the same for you.
The good news is that when I visit Washington D.C., I’m drawn into the wonderful, freedom-giving, and hope-filled vision which our founding fathers had for us. A vision of hope, I believe, that is still alive and well and living in the hearts of most Americans today.
The physical reality of Washington, D.C., for me, inspires hope, brotherhood, unity, clarity, and awe for the sacrifices made by so many who have gone before us, which afford us the privilege of living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
When I stand at the base of the Washington Monument, I see not only the engineering feat of the structure, but I am drawn into the enormity of the strength and character of General George Washington and President George Washington. What a man of faith, whose faith gave rise to his fortitude and courage. Many of his writings about his faith have been preserved and are available for us to read and ponder.
As with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and many others, it is often argued by “modern historians” that Washington and the other founding fathers were not great men of Christian faith and that their ideals for this new nation were not founded on the Judeo/Christian religion.
But I, for one, believe whole-heartedly that indeed these founding fathers and most all of the early leaders of our country were indeed people of Christian faith and that the ideals, principles, and statutes of our nation are directly and firmly connected to Biblical truths, including the Ten Commandments.
Also, please note, I do not believe in “Christian Nationalism,” in which only Christians should be granted leadership and privileges. Maybe the best way to say it is that all leaders and citizens of any faith do their best when they acknowledge these great Biblical principles and agree that they serve as the founding basis of our union.
In Washington, D.C., at the opposite end of the great mall from the Washington Monument stands the Lincoln Memorial. Again, what an impressive structure. What a man of faith. Abraham Lincoln’s Bible reading and Bible study and his prayer life informed everything he did, including setting all the slaves in America free with the Emancipation Proclamation. Again, his writings reflecting his faith have been preserved for us.
Slavery was, indeed, the worst sin of our early nation. The worst sin of man’s inhumanity to man. We grapple with anguish why it was not repented and eradicated even centuries before the founding of America. However, early founding fathers, not all, realized the awful reality of slavery, and a march toward a solution unfolded, until Lincoln’s bold emancipation of slaves set in motion a way forward without slavery in our united nation. And a horrific bloody civil war was fought and won to preserve the Union and keep the slaves freed.
Decades of racial prejudice and injustices followed, and racial tensions and racial problems still currently raise their ugly head. But when we look up at the larger-than-life statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, we celebrate that progress has been made, freedoms have been extended to most, and we hopefully now “judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” as Dr. Martin Luther King taught us.
As a white male I have no clue what it has been and is now like to be a black person in America. I cannot “apologize” for that. However, my Christian faith strengthens me in the knowledge that God is the One God of all humanity, and that we humans, of all races, are all brothers and sisters, all creations of our One Divine Creator, our Father in heaven. And all saved by the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, let us love one another. Amen!
Subsequently, my observation, and my fervent prayer is that we are “forming a more perfect union,” moving forward together toward equal opportunity for all for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And I will always agree with Dr. King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” I have great hope for our future together.
All of this brings me to the impressive and inspiring statue and memorial of Dr. King not too far from the Lincoln Memorial. His towering presence there reminds me that, although he had the worries and burdens of his noble cause squarely on his shoulders, he had great hope in the future of America for his little children. I share that same hope for my little grandchildren.
In the beauty and majesty of Washington, D.C., there are so many other memorials and so much more “sacred ground.” I will need to reflect on them in further articles.
“God bless America! Land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her,
Through the night with the light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America! My home sweet home.”
Have a happy and safe 4th of July!
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]