Friday, January 2, 2009

Laus Deo

The following is an email (forward) I received from a friend. I am sure that you all have seen similar forwards, which try to depict our nation's founding in a 21st century religious/patriotic tone. I chose to post it here to illustrate just how prevalent the "Christian nation" argument really is. We're not simply arguing semantics here at this blog, but issues that many Americans take very seriously.



A very interesting piece of history. Please take a minute and read on.
Do you know what it means?


One detail that is never mentioned is that in Washington , D.C. . there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument .

With all the uproar about removing the ten commandments, etc., this is worth a moment or two of your time. I was not aware of this amazing historical information.

On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington , D.C. , are displayed two words: Laus Deo.

No one can see these words. In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn't care less.

Once you know Laus Deo's history , you will want to share this with everyone you know. These words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia , capital of the United States of America

Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point ov er what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.

So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say ' Praise be to God!'

Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States , it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty-five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, Laus Deo 'Praise be to God!'

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments. From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l'Enfant ..a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

A cross you ask? Why a cross? What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution. So, read on. How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who bother to notice.

Praise be to God! Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message.

On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore ;
on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians;
on the 24th a presentation
made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6. Praise be to God!

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy 'One Nation, Under God.'

I am awed by Washington 's prayer for America. Have you ever read it? Well, now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Laus Deo!

When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation's capitol, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look. You may forget the width and height of 'Laus Deo ', its location, or the architects but no one who reads this will be able to forget its meaning, or these words: 'Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.' (Psalm 127: 1)


Now, it is always nice to see the "Washington prayer journal" turn up from time to time. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people still believe in its authenticity. What did surprise me, however, was that, which is known for debunking email myths, etc. actually asserts this email's authenticity.

The other point I enjoy is the author's apparent insistence that the inscriptions on the monument were done because it is what the founders would have wanted. We should keep in mind that the Washington Monument was finished almost 100 years after the man's death. As a result, any inscriptions should be taken with a grain of salt. They are more representative of the 19th century's surge in religious fundamentalism than they are of Washington's actual beliefs.


Jonathan Rowe said...


That's not the Daily Sacrifice Prayer Book. But it IS a spurious prayer. It takes part of Washington's Circular to the States and adds to it explicitly Christian language that is not part of the original record.

Anonymous said...

What is further interesting about the assertions related to the geography of Washington is what David Martin argues to the contrary in his book On Secularization. There he argues that Washington, in comparison with other cities, was designed with a firm distinction between the religious establishment and the civil establishment in mind. The Mall is a symbol of enlightened rational social structures with religious imagery intentionally kept to a minimum. If religion was to be as central as the assertion claims, why are there no churches in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol as would be expected from how towns across America were built?

Phil Johnson said...

So, how was the Washington Monument funded?
I've just begun reading new book A quotation is included by the author to make a point about the roots of secularism. From the book:
"One day during my last term at school I walked out alone in the evening and heard the birds singing in that full chorus of song, which can only be heard at that time of the year at dawn or at sunset. I remember how the shock of surprise with which the sound beroke on my ears. It seemed to me that I had never heard the birds singing before and I wondered whether they sang like this all year round and I had never noticed it. As I walked I came upopn some hawthorn threes in full bloom and again I thought that I had never seen such a sight or experienced such sweetness before. If I had been brought suddenly among the trees of the Garden of Paradise and heard a choir of angewls singing I could not have been more suprised. I came then to where the sun was setting over the playing fields. A lark rose suddenly from the ground beside the tree where I was standing and poured out its song above my head, and then sank still singing to nest. Everything then grew still as the sunset faded and the veil of dusk began to cover the earth. I remember now the feeling of awe which came over me. I felt inclined to knkeel on the ground, as though I had been stading in the presence of an angel; and I hardly dared to look on the face of the sky, because it seemed as though it was but a veil before the face of God." --Bede Griffiths, The Golden String (London: Fount, 1979)
What I see here is the significant difference between what it means to be a Christian Nation as compared to one free of religious authority. A Christian society puts all power outside its own existence and in the hands of God Almighty; whereas, in a non-religious society, the power to control its destiny lies in the will of the rulers. In America's democratic society, that means the people have the power to control their destiny.
That seems to be the point where our focus should be made.
America was founded as a society in which the people are in the position of authority. Read the Preamble which sets the Foundation for the Supreme Law of The Land:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Tom Van Dyke said...

A Christian society puts all power outside its own existence and in the hands of God Almighty;

Not so. God is not outside man's existence, he pervades it. And keep in mind that the idea of Providence dictates that man be righteous before Providence smiles on him. The Founders' God is just, not willful and capricious.

whereas, in a non-religious society, the power to control its destiny lies in the will of the rulers.

Well, that's pretty true. However, that's what was wrong with the French Revolution. As the Rights of Man asserts, law is an expression of the "general will," as opposed to the Anglo-American concept that the only legitimate law is that which comports with the natural law that is authored by God.

You actually further the argument that America is a religious country.

Phil Johnson said...

Tom sez, "Not so. God is not outside man's existence, he pervades it."
I was afraid I wasn't making my point as clearly as is necessary.
God, to the Christian, is on the outside of the human's being. The quotation from Griffith was all about that.
The power to make things happen, to the Deist/Secular believer, is within the individual. The power to makes things happen, to the Christian, is "out there" in God's being however true it may be that Christians claim God is over everything like mud on a stick. God is still a supernatural being apart from humanity.

I think this is the area where the argument about America being founded as a Christian nation is settled.
There is NOTHING in the Founding Documents that call America to be obedient to the Biblical God's will.
If America were meant to be a Christian Nation, that form of obedience would be on top of everything else.
Read the Preamble again.

Tom Van Dyke said...

America is more than the sum of its laws. Moreover, federalism left all the stuff you're talking about to the states. It's in the state laws you'll see murder, theft, whatever, how man should live day-to-day. Not everything is a federal case.

I find an irony in those who hate Biblical fundamentalism get equally literal and fundamentalist when it comes to the constitution, as if all there is to America is a single contract, with no context except itself.

Constitutiones solis? [My Latin's rusty.]

...the Anglo-American concept that the only legitimate law is that which comports with the natural law that is authored by God.

You skipped that part of my rebuttal, Phil. We're not conversing. Further, see James Wilson's remarks on law and the will of God, which were previously posted.

Charles T. Wolverton said...

"[T]hose who hate Biblical fundamentalism get equally literal and fundamentalist when it comes to the constitution, as if all there is to America is a single contract, with no context except itself."

These two positions are at best loosely related, and I suspect there are many more people who reject Biblical literalism than have an informed opinion about constitutional interpretation. So the implication of significant overlap between those holding the positions seems quite likely to be wrong.

In any event, coming from a fan of textualism the disparaging tone of the second description is surprising since it arguably fits that interpretive approach as well as whichever approach you have in mind (depending on what "context" is applied how in each approach).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Two different arguments, one that the constitution should be taken at its original meaning in legal cases, the other being that a "nation" is more than the sum of its legalisms.

barry said...

Brad Hart posted "What did surprise me, however, was that, which is known for debunking email myths, etc. actually asserts this email's authenticity."

not according to what i just read! she debunks most of it. see .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Which Christian told you that "God, to the Christian, is on the outside of the human's being" I would suggest to you that whoever said that, does not have Christian ideals at heart or is sadly misinformed... It is common knowledge in almost all Spiritual circles of ANY religion that this is not so...

Phil Johnson said...

Anonymous' comment points up that there is no single belief about God within the boundaries of what we call Christianity.
That's probably true about most beliefs about God whether Christian or some other brand.
Like "they" say, "Different strokes for different folks."

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

555 feet = 6660 inches

MamaG said...

To Drew Tatusko: You obviously haven't been to DC. There are churches of all denominations about every 2 blocks completely surrounding the Capitol! If you walk those block (which I do nearly every day), it's quite startling how many churches are in the area.

Anonymous said...

The original city plans for DC designed by Peter L'Enfant and approved by Thomas Jefferson and President George Washington had plans to construct a National Church between the White House and US Capitol Bldg. But because they were so against large-centrally controlled governments (hence one of the reasons for the American Revolutionary War), they could not raise federal taxes and had to rely on land sales to raise money for the contruction of buildings with highest priority to the Congress and the Executives Mansion/Office by the 1800 deadline. Land sales were so slow that they barely completed the White House and parts of the US Capitol in time to meet the transition of the government from Philadelphia in 1800. Had they failed, the govt most likely would have remained in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, church service (both denominational and non-denominational) was regularly held in the US Capitol for the first 60 years, including the old Supreme Court Room in the basement. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both frequently attended church service at the US Capitol. By the 1820s churches had sprung up all over DC, including St. Johns which is right next to the White House and was frequently referred to as "the Church of State" and attended by all US Presidents...Religion in America was integrated and inseperable from governing, like breathing air. It would have been silly for the founding fathers to add a clause to the Constitution specifying how one was to breath air...specially at the Federal level...when the Constitution was designed to empower the individual and states, not the federal bureacracy of one size fits all...

...Whatever one believes about the religous founding and foundation of our nation, it would seem one should at least be consistent and within the boundary of factually accurate history...

Anonymous said...

The Washington monument is an obelisk! do you not understand this is a symbol of sun worship. LAUS DEO (praise be to god) is facing the east...(sunrise). there is nothing Christian about it.

Anonymous said...

Charlton said

I think there must be two persons identifying themselves as "Anonymous." Their messages are inconsistent. I don't see what about "Praise be to God" is not Christian, or that the D.C. Monument is not Christian. It is not a traditional obelisk in that, for one thing, its height is not the proper proportion to its base. And what about, for example, the Vatican Obelisk? Is it unChristian?

mtman2 said...

Because for the first 100-yes church services were held in Congress; and ALL public meetings were opened and closed with Christian prayer at ALL level of government.

mtman2 said...

Because for the first 100-yes church services were held in Congress; and ALL public meetings were opened and closed with Christian prayer at ALL level of government.

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