By Pat Centner, AFAJ staff writer
August 2003 – The immensity of its size and the beauty of its ornate architecture and magnificent artwork can stop you dead in your tracks, causing you to gaze upward in absolute awe. For anyone who wonders whether God was truly significant in the formation of our nation’s government, a visit to the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is an excellent place to begin your investigation.
Indeed, in these days when government legislators, judges, and misguided citizens give their all to demean God’s role in American history, and cry loudly for the separation of church and state, all one need do is visit our capital city’s landmarks, monuments, and government buildings. Gracing their halls, doorways and walls are numerous paintings, inscriptions, and plaques that overtly honor and reverence God.
The Rotunda is a beautiful example. At the heart of our government, it is called the "Sanctum Sanctorum" or "Holy of Holies," and refers to that most sacred part of the Jewish temple in the Old Testament – the place where God was present. The enormous frescoes along the Rotunda’s walls depict, among other things, Pilgrims in prayer, the baptism of Pocahontas and George Washington in prayer at Valley Forge.
A visit to the House of Representatives and Senate – the other two main capitol buildings – reveals noteworthy inscriptions. Above the flag in the House chamber is the inscription In God We Trust, our national motto. This same inscription also graces the south entrance to the Senate chamber. Yet another inscription, Annuit coeptis (God has favored our undertakings), is inscribed above the east door of the Senate chamber, as well as in the legislators’ private prayer room. Also in that room is an exquisite stained glass window that proclaims Psalm 16:1: "Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust." It’s fairly apparent that across the years, those working in government felt the need to call upon God for His wisdom and guidance.
A lesser known plaque hangs outside the old Supreme Court room in the Capitol. It reads "What Hath God Wrought!" and recognizes Samuel F. B. Morse for his invention of the telegraph. On May 24, 1844, that Scripture – Numbers 23:23 – was transmitted by Morse from the old Supreme Court room to his assistant in Baltimore. Morse was obviously giving God the glory for his new invention.
Most of us, even if we haven’t actually visited them, are familiar with Washington’s national monuments. Most contain inscriptions and quotations revering God.
The tall, slender Washington Monument, standing sentinel above the city, has the Latin phrase Laus Deo ("Praise be to God"), inscribed on the capstone at its highest point. A unique feature of the monument is the 193 memorial stones given by every state and numerous foreign countries to honor George Washington and placed along the stairway. Some boast scripture references, such as "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28), and "The Memory of the just is blessed" (Proverbs 10:7).
On the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial is the Gettysburg Address. In it our sixteenth president declares "that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…." The Jefferson Memorial also contains quotations that declare homage to God.
Yet another clear reverence for God is displayed in the National Archives, where the Ten Commandments are embedded in the building’s entryway.
The Great Seal of the United States, housed in the Department of State building, is one more symbol of America’s allegiance to God. The "obverse," or front side of the seal, is emblazoned with the bald eagle holding an olive branch and 13 arrows that we’re all familiar with. The reverse side of the Great Seal is a pyramid with an eye and the words Annuit coeptis – "He has favored our undertakings."
Our nation’s capital city is a veritable treasure trove of acknowledgments of and veneration to God. Let us stand firm and strong on this truth when we’re challenged by those who would denounce Him.