February 22 is the birthday of the father of the United States of America, George Washington. It seemed appropriate to reflect a little on Washington’s faith. (For those who object to any reflection on Washington’s faith due to his sins and shortcomings, read this article and this one).
The exact nature of Washington’s faith is a matter of some debate. We know he was a lifelong Anglican (later Episcopalian, thanks to the American Revolution). And we know he was also a Freemason. He was irregular in taking Communion and (at certain seasons in his life) irregular in church attendance as well (though he seems to have been faithful in church for most of his life).
While I wouldn’t regard Washington as an “evangelical” per se and certainly not as a Baptist (although there is a disputed family tradition that alleges otherwise), the evidence is clear that our first Commander-in-Chief believed in God and in prayer — and advocated for Judeo-Christian moral values.
And I personally believe the evidence for his genuine salvation in Christ outweighs the evidence to the contrary, but only God ultimately knows a person’s heart.
Notwithstanding the dispute over the specifics of Washington’s faith, I offer up seven quotes from George Washington for your consideration as we observe his birthday this week:
- “The General most earnestly requires and expects due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires and expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance on Divine service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.” (From an order issued to the Continental Army, July 4, 1775)
- “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man will endeavor so to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” (From an order issued to the Continental Army, July 9, 1776)
- “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in [the Revolutionary War], that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” (From a letter to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778)
- “I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.” (From a letter to Marquis de Lafayette, August 15, 1787)
- “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” (From his Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789)
- “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” (From his Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789)
- “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (From his Farewell Address, September 19, 1796)
Some of you may not be comfortable with the term “religion.” I’ve often heard – and even myself have said – that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. This is mostly true. Ultimately, God desires a relationship with us and not simply that we observe a set of rituals or practices. But there are religious aspects to our faith. And even James, in his New Testament epistle, uses the term “religion” when he writes:
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27, KJV)
George Washington’s Prayer for His Country
This prayer is read aloud each day at Mount Vernon’s public wreath laying ceremony.
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States 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 their 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 Characteristicks of the Devine 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. Amen
The PROPHETIC Vision of George Washington at Valley Forge ★ Jon McNaughton
This July 4, today’s youth are unprepared to win a Revolutionary War
Independence Day is a time to ask a hard question.
Could Americans today have won the Revolutionary War — and would they even have wanted to fight it?
Our leaders have plenty to say about freedom, though none say it as well as Thomas Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence.
Yet no words, not even Jefferson’s, could persuade the British to set us free.
That was the task of arms.
Having a country means being ready to fight for it.
But Americans had taken up their muskets for many reasons — some of them economic, some local, some religious or ideological.
What the Continental Congress did, in authorizing the words that Jefferson wrote, was to subsume all particular grievances and arguments into a single moral case, expressed in the strongest legal and philosophical language of the day.
The head follows the heart — but when the head doubts, the heart wavers too.
The Declaration of Independence dispelled any doubt in the patriot’s soul.
Americans knew how to shoot, they could organize themselves on the battlefield and were prepared for the privations of war.
Body and spirit, they were ready to fight until they won.
Few Americans of military age are ready today.
A Wall Street Journal report notes that, per the Defense Department, 77% of American youth are “disqualified from military service due to a lack of physical fitness, low test scores, criminal records including drug use or other problems.”
In any generation there are young men and women whose individual character flaws are their own fault.
But when an entire generation is as poorly prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship as today’s young people are — including the ultimate responsibility of defending the nation — the blame falls heaviest on their elders.
Our institutions shaped this youth cohort, and the leaders at the top of our institutions utterly failed them.
The message from our schools and universities, media and political organizations, and even a startling number of hospitals and churches, is that life is mostly about feeling good in the quickest and easiest way possible.
If there are personal consequences from living like this — obesity, for example, or drug addiction and a criminal record — the task of society is to alleviate such self-inflicted harm, through body-positive propaganda, “safe” injection sites and criminal-justice reform.
If Americans are lonely or sad, there’s a pill or a porn site for them. Nobody will judge.
Hedonism is a peril every successful society runs.
What’s unusual about American society in the 21st-century isn’t our short-term living so much as the fury aimed at anyone or anything that rebukes it.
That includes fury at our own past — even at statues of men who put country and honor above personal gratification.
Ben Franklin was nobody’s idea of a puritan.
And if George Washington was a man of impeccable discipline, he was also a psychological realist.
In letters to Congress, Washington took pains to remind legislators to pay their army — for as powerful as patriotism was, self-interest, too, had to be enlisted in the service of America’s military needs.
The heroes of independence and the framers of our Constitution understood human nature in full: pleasure and duty, self-interest and patriotism.
They weren’t counting on perfection, and neither can we.
But they struck a balance between individuals as they are, with their inevitable flaws, and the needs of the nation, particularly in war.
Such a balance is repugnant to the liberal leadership of our institutions today: It’s too judgmental. It suggests some people lead better lives than others.
So a generation has been raised to prefer comfort to glory, and now it’s unsuited for service.
Instead of looking up to the heroes of independence, this generation has been taught to feel remote from or even hostile to them.
And this historical, and emotional, revisionism hasn’t made our young people happier; it’s only made them worse citizens.
Moral habits make a people fit to fight — and the ideas we teach shape those habits.
England’s new king, Charles III, isn’t about to pick up where George III left off.
But we wouldn’t have won our independence some 240 years ago with a citizenry molded by the ideas that govern our culture today.
And in the wars of the future, an enemy may find that we have defeated ourselves long before we reach the battlefield.
Our military recruitment problem is only a symptom of a deadlier disease — the loss of what made us a free people in the first place.