Why Washington is "the Father of our
By Charles Colson
of us will probably celebrate the holiday this week as part of a generic
"Presidents' Day"—and we probably did so in the all-American way:
We headed for the malls to shop the sales.
But pause a moment and think of the impression that makes on our
kids: Should we really be celebrating the birth of the Father of our Country by
rushing out to buy half-price toasters and lawn mowers?
If we want to instill
in our children a deeper reverence for the ideals upon which our nation was founded,
let's use occasions like this to teach them about the character of our Founders.
In the case of Washington, we ought to understand that our first President was
not only the Father of our Country, but also a man of profound Christian piety.
Journey back with me 222 years to the terrible winter of 1777 at Valley
Forge. The British had just captured Philadelphia, and the Continental Army was
struggling to keep itself alive. Lacking food and clothing, the men were dying
of exposure and starvation. Certain political leaders—many of them jealous
of Washington—began to whisper that the general's cause was hopeless.
the men who served under Washington felt differently. As William Bennett writes
in his book, Our Sacred Honor, "The brutal conditions of Valley Forge could not
suppress a spirit of comity that arose among the officers and their men."
men were inspired to go on because of the moral example Washington provided. His
ability to inspire through his character is illustrated by a story told by a Quaker
farmer. Walking in the woods near Washington's headquarters, this farmer heard
a human voice. The farmer happened upon General Washington, alone and on his knees
in the snow. He was praying to God while tears ran down his cheeks.
witnessing this humble act of faith, the farmer returned home in great excitement.
He told his wife that Washington would not only prevail, but would "work out a
great salvation for America."
This respect for Washington was a direct
result of Washington's personal virtue, which was cultivated his entire life.
As Bennett points out, "Washington wasn't born good. Only practice and habit made
him so." The general was keenly aware of his faults, especially his temper, and
from an early age, he worked at controlling this and other shortcomings.
today's "anything goes" culture, this intense striving after moral excellence
is rare. But it's the reason Washington's men were willing to sacrifice for him—even
when their cause appeared hopeless. And it's the reason he was later chosen as
our first president.
Washington's stature, you see, is of the biblical
kind. When the Old Testament writers judged a leader, it was always in moral,
not political, terms. Rulers might conquer a vast empire—but if they neglected
their spiritual duties, they were dismissed as men who "did what was evil in the
sight of the Lord."
Let's make a resolution. Next year for Washington's
birthday, instead of rushing out to the malls, let's teach our kids that Washington
was not just our first president, but a man of moral excellence. Teach them that
they should seek after the kind of moral excellence in their lives that Washington
personified: the kind that arises, not only from accomplishment, but from character.
Otherwise, we may forget why Washington is remembered as "the Father of
our Country"—and that would be a terrible loss.
From BreakPoint with Chuck Colson -- Radio Transcript No.
90222. Copyright 1999 Prison Fellowship Ministries, All Rights Reserved. "BreakPoint with Chuck
Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with
permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
"BreakPoint with Chuck Colson"
is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on
more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information on the ministry
of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their web site at http://www.breakpoint.org/
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