Visitors to the Nation’s capital can’t help notice the Washington Monument. It’s an imposing 555-foot obelisk towering above the skyline. Observant visitors will also notice that the monument is two different colors. That’s because the construction was interrupted by the Civil War, and when they resumed, they used marble from a different quarry that was a slightly darker shade of white. Although accidental, it is symbolic of the two most critical periods in our history. The bottom of the monument represents the American Revolution, during which our Founding Fathers laid the foundation of our Nation, and the top represents the Civil War, the conflict from which we emerged a just and rightful Nation.
Open any US History book and you’ll notice that the text is organized around the Revolution and the Civil War. That’s because these two events established and defined the United States. They are pivotal chapters in our national narrative, and our on-going story to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence. It’s a promise based on the divine and Christian revelation that all men are created equal. This promise is the essence of America, and is what makes our Nation so unique and exceptional.
Understanding history is like playing connect-the-dots. You need to know what came before and after an event in order to see the big picture. In trying to explain why the United States is such an exceptional nation; you need to understand the circumstances and events that surround its birth. Just like connect-the-dots it wasn’t just one, but a series of events that precipitated the American Revolution. The Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party and Massacre, and the Intolerable Acts are all possible answers you might have seen on your high school history final, but they are only part of the big picture. What actually helped the Colonists realize that they “ought to be free and independent States,” was according to John Adams, The Great Awakening.
The First Great Awakening was a Christian revitalization movement that swept across the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. It emphasized introspection and a commitment to moral living. It encouraged individuals to seek out and establish a personal relationship with God. The Great Awakening helped the Colonist understand that the authority to rule did not go from God, to the king, to the people; it went from God, to the people, to the king. It sowed the seeds that would blossom in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, when our Founding Fathers bypassed the authority of King George III, and appealed directly to the “Supreme Judge of the World,” in our struggle for independence.
The Second Great Awakening occurred between 1800 and 1840. It reached out to the non-religious, and fueled the growth of Christianity in America. Like the First Great Awakening, it emphasized the individual’s relationship with the creator. However, believing was not enough; salvation required that one actually live the gospels of Jesus Christ, and exercise their free-will to change society for the better. It gave rise to numerous moral reforms, including the abolitionist and anti-slavery movements that helped spark the Civil War.
It is not a coincidence that the two most critical periods in our history were preceded by religious revivals. These movements forced America to take a long hard look at itself, and make some difficult decisions about our national identity. In both instances, we decided to be a Christian nation, willing to live out the divine truth and promise that “all men are created equal.”
It seems our nation only advances when it returns to the source of our greatness. We witnessed it again in the twentieth-century, when the Christian revival movement of the forties and fifties, highlighted by the Billy Graham crusades, helped to usher in the civil rights and women’s rights movements of the sixties and seventies. America moves forward when it returns to God.
In 1831, the French Political Philosopher and Historian Alexis de Tocqueville came to the United States trying to understand why the American Revolution had succeeded, while the French Revolution had failed. He noted in his book Democracy in America, “In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other. But in America, I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.” In other words, the American Revolution succeeded because it was a religious event, while the French Revolution failed because it was an anti-religious event.
America is an exceptional nation because America is a religious nation. We are a nation founded upon a divine truth, and dedicated to the Judeo-Christian principals of the Bible. As de Tocqueville concluded, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”
Today, the secular-progressives are steering America into perilous waters. They arrogantly view God as an obstacle to implementing their agenda, and mistakenly believe that they can move our nation forward without God. However, they willfully blind themselves to the truth of history. The lesson of the twentieth-century is clear; any nation that abandons God places itself at the mercy of the king, or as several atheist nations learned, at the mercy of a Stalin, Mao, or Hitler. One hundred million people perished during the twentieth-century because their societies vainly believed that they didn’t need God.
On December 6, 1884 the capstone was placed upon the Washington Monument. It’s a cast aluminum pyramid; 9 inches high, 6 ½ inches wide, and weighs 6 ½ pounds. Its main purpose is to function as a lightning rod, but on its east side facing the Capital is the inscription “Laus Deo” (Praise be to God). Let us hope that it also functions as a constant reminder to all the law givers who assemble in the Capital, of the one true law giver, and true source of our Nation’s exceptionalism.