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CBN.com Centuries ago our forefathers founded this nation on Christian principles. Today those same Christian principles have fallen by the wayside -- either to be resisted, ignored, or simply forgotten. As the old saying goes, in order for you to know where you’re going, you’ve gotta know where you came from. The 700 Club recruited one of the top American historians to tell us more about our Christian heritage in this very nation.
David Barton is the founder and president of WallBuilders, a national organization dedicated to spreading the truth about America’s Christian heritage. On a chilly March morning, David gave Kristi Watts a walking and jogging tour of our nation’s capital.
David: [The Lincoln Memorial] is great... It was thought of right after he was killed in 1865. Two years later Congress said, 'Let’s do a memorial to the president.' Well, that was a good plan in 1867 but they didn’t get it done until 1922. When they finally did the memorial, they did it to commemorate the 16th president for two things: they called him 'the great emancipator' and 'the man who saved the union', and that’s what the memorial really shows.
It was interesting that when they did the memorial, Abraham Lincoln’s son was there to dedicate it.
Lincoln is known for using Bible verses throughout his speeches. But it’s an interesting thing that he did not become a Christian until the middle of his presidency.
What happened was, at Gettysburg, when he walked out among all the graves of the 30,000 soldiers who died, that’s when he gave his life to Christ.
Kristi (reporting): The Jefferson Memorial is a memorial to the third president of the United States. Structurally this was done in the late 1930s. It was not dedicated until 1943 during World War II.
David: Now a lot of folks say, 'He wasn’t religious. He’s the most secular of the founding fathers. He’s the guy who gave us separation of church and state. It’s because of Jefferson that we don’t say 'under God' in the pledge.'
This is where history is so much fun. You walk inside the memorial of Jefferson, who clearly is one of the least religious founding fathers...
Kristi: And everything says God!
David: That’s right. Around the top there’s a huge quote from Jefferson and there’s four tableaus of Jefferson quotes. Four out of the five are absolutely God-centered. So when 80 percent of political quotes by your least religious founding father's is God-centered, that kinda tells you something about him.
The other interesting thing about him that nobody knows is he’s the first man to introduce a proposal to end slavery nationally in the United States. In 1783 he introduced that abolition law. Talk about [how every vote makes] a difference – it failed to pass by one vote.
Kristi: Show me what’s next.
David: Let’s go to the U.S. Capitol.
We recognize that as the Capitol -- greatest government building in the world; easy to recognize. It was also, for over a 100 years, the largest church in the United States. By 1867 there were 2,000 people a week that went to church inside that building.
Kristi: No way!
David: Matter of fact, there were four churches that met inside the Capitol every Sunday for service. One of them was an interdenominational service.
When you walk inside it’s a huge art museum. In the rotunda, there are eight massive paintings. On one side is what we call the age of exploration and discovery. You got the baptism of Pocahontas; the pilgrims leaving from Holland coming to America with a big Bible in a prayer meeting; Columbus landing in the new world having a prayer meeting; and this is a government building! All this religious artwork...
There’s also statues inside. Off to the right of the Capitol you see a statue out there but there’s a hundred of them inside. They’re the greatest people from American history -- the people that had a great impact. Of those statues, nearly a fourth of them are ministers of the gospel.
Kristi: We’ve learned so much in these three miles but what is the one thing that you would have Christians to know about our nation’s capital that we just don’t know?
David: We have foundations. George Washington, who laid the cornerstone up there, said that the two things that made our politics prosper were religion and morality -- the two things we should never separate. So when we think of government we ought to think about our foundations. Psalms 11:3 says if the foundations are destroyed what’ll the righteous do.
The other thing we ought to think of is the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1 and 2 that the first thing we’re to pray for [is our] leaders and those in authority. Doesn’t tell us to pray first for our family, our church, or our kids. It says first to pray for our leaders and those in authority. God puts a high emphasis on what goes on in government, and we as Christians ought to put the same emphasis.
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