Revising St. George

My wife and I just came back from a weekend in Philadelphia.  Not only was the city dressed up for Christmas there was a very visible acknowledgment of the Hanukkah holidays.  Nearly as many Menorahs were displayed as there were wreaths and trees, which should not be surprising considering Philadelphia’s Quaker roots and their reputation for religious tolerance.

Just outside of Philly can be found the Valley Forge National Historic Park, commemorating the place where the Continental Army spent the dismal winter of 1777 – 1778. Everyone knows this story of courage and fortitude and it has become not only a significant part of our historical memory it has also worked its way into the American mythos.

What follows are some of the most famous iconic pictures that America has to offer: different views of Washington praying at Valley Forge.  Unfortunately they depict something that probably never took place. At the very least, no one has ever admitted to witnessing this event.

Even a cursory look at history plainly shows that Washington was not a Christian.  Along with most of our nation’s founders he was a Stoic and a Deist.  Deists are not known to pray for divine intercession (it dismayed some of his friends and family that Washington never uttered a prayer on his death bed) so these paintings more than likely represent a fiction

Not too long ago these depictions of Washington were correctly removed from school text books, the act of which had many social and religious  conservatives up in arms.  It was referred to as an excess of revisionist history yet it is obvious this was a corrective measure. The ‘re-visioning’ was originally and inaccurately done quite some time ago.

Why do so many Christians feel that it is necessary to push for the Christianity of men like Washington?  If you have Christ, who else do you need?

“Every American considers it his sacred duty to have a likeness of Washington in his house, just as we have the image of God’s saints” – an anonymous European visitor to America in 1815 (reported by Marcus Cunliffe)

George Washington Praying at Valley Forge

Stained Glass Window Congressional Chapel


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  1. #1 by rogueminister on January 3, 2009 - 2:17 pm

    I am currently reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and it is strengthening my belief that many of the Nation’s founding father’s werent even particularly good people, let alone the saints we make them out to be.

  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on January 3, 2009 - 7:04 pm

    Yeah, I’m going to have to read that. I’ve been holding off for years because Zinn goes against my patriotic grain. Which is all the more reason to hear him out.

  3. #3 by rogueminister on January 4, 2009 - 12:36 am

    I dont have to worry about that since no one would accuse me of being very patriotic. Zinn is worth reading though because he is an excellent scholar and fantastic writer. I also list him as a person I aspire to be like, at least in many regards.

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