Why Washington is "The Father of our
By Charles Colson
CBN.com - Did you remember
Washington's birthday? Most of us will probably celebrate the holiday
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
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.
But 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
These 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.
After 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.
In 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.
Spirit behind '76
Washington's Prayer Journal
Looks at U.S. History and Asks: 'What If?'
More Church History on the Spiritual Life Channel
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."
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
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