In God We Still Trust: A Call for Righteousness and Boldness
by Dale Reeves
Forty-five years ago as a junior at Colerain High School I wrote a paper for a composition class entitled, “The Religious Beliefs of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. Constitution.” Yes, forty-five years ago! And yes, I still have the original in my files, double-spaced on that erasable bond typing paper. In case you’re curious, I got an A- on the paper. (Spellcheck didn’t exist then!) In that paper, I discussed the founding fathers of our nation, their individual beliefs, and how those beliefs set the framework for the religious freedom that exists in our nation.
Our second president, John Adams, penned these words to his wife in 1775: “Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.” Another time, Adams stated, “My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offences; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as the necessity of supporting with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can.” Sounds like some pretty sage advice for the times in which we are living in 2020.
Righteousness Exalts a Nation
Samuel Adams was the second cousin of John Adams. His parents urged him to become a minister but he was not very interested in pursuing this path, but rather decided to enter into law and politics. As governor of Massachusetts, Samuel proclaimed days of prayer, fasting, and public thanksgiving for all people to worship God as they pleased, believing that “Revelation assures us that ‘Righteousness exalteth a Nation’—Communities are dealt with in this World by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe.”
Adams was quoting Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (KJV). The NLT translates that verse, “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
Webster’s dictionary defines “righteousness” in these terms: “conduct that conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong; faithfulness to high moral standards.” We think of terms like honesty, honor, integrity, and uprightness when we think of righteousness. And, we who claim to take our marching orders from God and Jesus Christ know that the “accepted standard of right and wrong” comes from God alone and his Word, the Bible.
There has been much in the news lately regarding the removal of statues and monuments all across our country, from various stages of the history of the United States. My purpose today is not to opine on these statues and whether or not we should erase certain parts of our heritage, for good or bad. Rather, I want to focus on the biblical truth that exists in many of America’s monuments, and remind us of how crucial it is for us as a nation to continue to proclaim, “In God We Trust.”
In the Washington Monument numerous Bible verses are carved on memorial blocks in the walls, including the phrases: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36; 39:30; Zechariah 14:20), “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39); and “The memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7). Additionally, the phrases “In God We Trust” and the Latin inscription Laus Deo (“Praise be to God”) are engraved on the monument’s capstone.
The Lincoln Memorial was erected in honor of the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who promoted the Thirteenth Amendment that outlawed slavery in America. The memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that “This nation under God . . . shall not perish from the earth”; “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’” (Psalm 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” (from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, based on Isaiah 40:4, 5).
Completed in 1897, etched on the walls in the Library of Congress are these Bible verses: “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).
A Lion’s Boldness
These are but a few of the many Bible verses and spiritual references that are displayed on many of our national monuments. The spiritual heritage of the United States of America is obvious for all to see. God’s desire for his followers to live righteous lives, lives that are based on the accepted standard of right and wrong—his Word—has not changed.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was opened in 1984 and is situated in Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C., which is the location of five American courts. The memorial contains the names of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, currently standing at more than 21,000 officers. One of the quotations inscribed on the monument is Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
May God give us in these days the boldness of a lion, as we strive to share with our neighbors the love, grace, and truth of our loving Father. And, may we continue to seek to live righteous lives in a world in desperate need of righteousness. Righteousness exalts a nation. So, help us, God!