By George A. Bowers Sr.
On Monday we celebrated Presidents' Day here in the United States. It was an opportunity to honor the 43 men who have held this highest office and recognize them for their service. It is a sad but true observation that over recent years, the faith of these great men has been intentionally buried and ignored in order to advance current social agendas. As we remember these leaders, I encourage us to revisit their lives to see what spiritual characteristics empowered them to lead our nation well.
In his famous farewell address, George Washington stated, "of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports...It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." Anyone who questions his deep love for God and his honor of Jesus need only but glance at Washington's personal prayer book penned in his own hand to find such prayers as, "Pardon my sins and accept me for the merits of thy son Jesus Christ."
Even a passing glimpse at Washington's life and example will quickly explain why a Bible was included in the cornerstone of the Washington Monument and why the words, "laus Deo" (praise be to God) are etched on its aluminum cap 555 feet above our nation's capital. I'm sure such overt references to God would never be permitted in our "advanced" nation today.
Our country's second president, John Adams, wrote, "The Bible is the best book in the world," and mused about the utopia that would exist if the Bible was our only law book and if every citizen lived by it. He especially favored the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As one who helped to shape our Constitution, Adams declared in 1798 that "Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." It is so sad today to see immorality destroying our nation through crime, dishonesty, and entitlement and our Constitution being contorted into meanings that our founders never intended.
Adams' presidential son, John Quincy Adams, wrote to his own son that, "My custom is to read four to five chapters (of the Bible) every morning immediately after rising from my bed...The Bible contains the revelation of the will of God. It contains the history of the creation of the world, and of mankind." It was, in fact, Adams' faith that motivated his lifelong unrealized goal of eliminating slavery which his protégé, Abraham Lincoln, eventually accomplished.
Speaking of Lincoln, this most beloved president once said, "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man. All the good saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for this book, we could not know right from wrong." He also stated, "I decided long ago that it was less difficult to believe that the Bible was what it claimed to be than to disbelieve it." Lincoln looked to God and his holy word to help him lead our nation well through some of our most turbulent times.
Another president, about whom we know little, James Garfield, was actually a minister of the Gospel. Yes, you read that right. We had a preacher for our president. In a handwritten letter, he tells of preaching 19 times in a revival with 34 people coming to faith in Christ and 31 being baptized. Today, the press and political establishments ridicule such "radicals" into mockery. How far we have sadly drifted from our nation's original moorings.
Even though Virginia's Thomas Jefferson is famously quoted for his "wall of separation between church and state," it is clear he never intended it to be taken to today's ridiculous extremes. Jefferson himself not only recommended that the Great Seal of the United States depict a Bible story and include the word "God" in our national motto, but he also directed federal funding to pay for Christian ministers to work with Indians to help build them a church.
This is only a sampling of our nation's greatest leaders. None of these were ignorant or unlearned men, but each was highly educated, well informed, and widely read. They were men of great integrity and character who knew the supreme authority had delegated to them their own authority and that they would have to answer to Him one day for how they administered it. Oh for godly presidents and leaders today who would unashamedly acknowledge God the father, Christ his only son, and the blessed Holy Spirit. I pray that God would rise up such leaders who will steer this great people back to her strength. Will you pray with me?
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, "Wit and Wisdom of the Woods." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.