When the sun rises over Washington, D.C. each morning, its rays fall on the eastern side of the city’s tallest structure, the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument. The first part of that monument to reflect the rising sun is the eastern side of its aluminum capstone, on which the words “Laus Deo” are inscribed. That’s Latin for “Praise be to God.” This prayer of praise, visible to the eyes of heaven alone, is tacit recognition of our nation’s unique acknowledgment of the place of God in its founding and its continuance.
Were these words a grandiose but empty claim to national piety, or do they reflect a true reality? In The Light and the Glory, Peter Marshall and David Manuel ask a profound question: “What if Columbus’ discovering of America had not been accidental at all? What if it were merely the opening curtain of an extraordinary drama? Did God have a special plan for America? What if in particular, He had a plan for those He would bring to America, a plan which saw this continent as a stage for a new era in the drama of mankind’s redemption?”
President Ronald Reagan believed God had a plan for our nation. He wrote, “I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.”
America and the Sovereignty of God
It seems clear that God does have a plan for America. It is true that we have no direct reference to that plan in the Old or New Testaments, but that does not discount the fact that God has a sovereign purpose for America in his redemptive plan.
As Marshall and Manuel suggest, God’s hand on America began with its discoverer. In the rotunda of the Capitol Building is a great painting titled The Landing of Columbus, depicting his arrival on the shores of America. As Marshall asserts, when Columbus discovered the New World, God had his hand on the wheel of the ship and brought it here.
Looking back at our nation’s history, we can see America’s leaders turning to God for guidance. We see Washington kneeling in the snow of Valley Forge. We see our founding fathers on their knees at the first Continental Congress. We see Lincoln praying in the hour of national crisis. We see Woodrow Wilson reading his Bible at night by the White House lights. Washington summarized this national dependence on God when he said, “No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”
Clearly, America did not become the land of the free and the home of the brave by blind fate or a set of coincidences. A benevolent God has been hovering over this nation from its very conception.
Why has God blessed this nation above all other lands? Why has America in her short history outstripped the wealth, power, and influence of all ancient and modern civilizations?
America as a Free Nation
One of the reasons I believe this to be the case is because of America’s commitment to the freedom of the individual.
In my study of Scripture, I have observed that the principles of freedom are united with the tenets of Christianity. America today is the laboratory where those blended principles can develop and become an example to all the world. The Bible says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Freedom can never be taken for granted in our world. As an independent watchdog organization, Freedom House studies the challenges to democracy and freedom around the world. In 2018, Freedom House’s annual report indicated that only 45 percent of the world’s population lives in nations categorized as “free”—meaning, nations that guarantee free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law. In fact, the tendency in a fallen world is always away from freedom and toward despotism and tyranny.
America has learned what our repressive and terrorist adversaries do not understand: liberty without law is anarchy, liberty to defy law is rebellion, but liberty limited by law is the cornerstone of civilization. We Americans have tried to share what we have learned by exporting freedom wherever we have gone in the world. We have tried to help people understand that freedom is what creates the life God intended us to have from the beginning.
America has become the paradise of human liberty—a great oasis in a global desert of trouble, suffering, repression, and tyranny. Our nation is a dramatic exclamation point to the assertion that freedom works.
This is an adaptation from Dr. Jeremiah’s latest book The Book of Signs.
Dr. David Jeremiah is among the best known Christian leaders in the world. He serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. Turning Point’s 30-minute radio program is heard on more than 2,200 radio stations daily. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books.