Spiritual Heritage and Government MonumentsQUESTION: Spiritual Heritage – Government Monuments, Buildings, and LandmarksANSWER:
Some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks in Washington, D.C., include religious words, symbols, and imagery. In the United States Capitol the declaration “In God We Trust” is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers.
Around the top of the walls in the House Chamber appear images of 23 great lawgivers from across the centuries, but Moses (the lawgiver, who– according to the Bible – originally received the law of God,) is the only lawgiver honored with a full face view, looking down on the proceedings of the House.
Religious artwork is found throughout the United States Capitol, including in the Rotunda where the prayer service of Christopher Columbus, the Baptism of Pocahontas, and the prayer and Bible study of the Pilgrims are all prominently displayed; in the Cox Corridor of the Capitol where the words “America! God shed His grace on thee” are inscribed; at the east Senate entrance with the words “Annuit Coeptis” – Latin for “God has favored our undertakings”; and in numerous other locations.
Images of the Ten Commandments are found in many federal buildings across Washington, D. C., including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U. S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating.Spiritual Heritage – The Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial
In the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgements carved on memorial blocks in the walls, including the phrases: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:26, 30:30, Isaiah 23:18, Zechariah 14:20), “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39), “The memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7), “May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence,” and “In God We Trust”, but the Latin inscription Laus Deo – “Praise be to God” – is engraved on the monument’s capstone.
Of the five areas inside the Jefferson Memorial into which Jefferson’s words have been carved, four are God-centered, including Jefferson’s declaration that “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
The Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that “we here highly resolve that . . . this nation under God . . . shall not perish from the earth”; “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh’ (Matthew 18:7)”; “as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ (Psalms 19:9)”; “one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it together” (Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, based on Isaiah 40:4-5).
In the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on the walls are Bible verses, including “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (John 1:5); “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7); “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8); and “The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).1
The spiritual heritage of the United States of America is obvious. Numerous other of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues. Such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the state and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such acknowledgments exist.NOTES1
Library of Congress, “The Thomas Jefferson Building: A Virtual tour of the Library of Congress” (http://www.loc.gov/jefftour/firstfloor.html ), Library of Congress, “On These Walls” (http://www.loc.gov/loc/walls/jeff1.html, http://www.loc.gov/loc/walls/jeff2.html).