A DOSE OF TRUTH
A current popular trend is to revise the stories of American heroes. Certainly, historical revisions are appropriate when facts provide new information. However, not all revisions are accurate.
Numerous contemporary scholars suggest our founding father, George Washington, was not a Christian, but merely a deist. They suggest he believed in moral behavior but did not believe God makes a difference in the world.
Several years ago, my mother and father-in-law gave me the book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire. It is a nearly 1,200-page scholarly volume which examines our first president’s faith in great detail. The author, Peter Lillback, spent 15 years studying Washington’s writings, journals, letters and what his closest friends and family wrote about his faith.
Princeton professor, Robert George, summarized the book this way, “…Dr. Lillback buries the myth that Washington was an unbeliever – at most a ‘deist’ – under an avalanche of facts…”
Other scholars have come to the same conclusion. Noted historian and future president of Harvard, Jared Sparks, compiled a 12-volume set on Washington’s writings in which he wrote, “To say that he [George Washington] was not a Christian would be to impeach his sincerity and honesty… It is neither credible nor possible.”
While these two scholarly author’s perspectives about Washington’s faith are persuasive, a brief statement from someone who knew him much better is actually more convincing. Martha Custis was a widow with two children, John and Patsy, when she married George Washington. Together they raised her children. John grew up, married and had four children before he tragically died. All four children were under the age of seven. Since his widow was unable to raise all four, the two younger ones, Nelly and George, were raised by their famous grandparents. Nelly lived with them for 20 years.
While compiling his 12 volumes, Sparks sent a letter to Nelly asking if she was sure her stepfather was a Christian. She replied, “…doubting his Christian faith was as absurd as doubting his patriotism.”
What prompted Nelly to make such a statement? I suspect it comes from a principle taught in the Old Testament. God told his people that when it came to his commandments they were to, “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NLT)
Those with strong faith do their best to live out their beliefs every day, not just once a week. God changes us as we demonstrate consistent faith which makes a powerful impact on those closest to us. May each of us live in such a way that if someone questions our faith, our children and grandchildren will be as indignant as Nelly was when George Washington’s faith was questioned.