“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are a gift of God?” –Thomas Jefferson
Global Peace Foundation USA hosted faith leaders and community leaders at the nation’s capital on September 19, 2014 to address deepening social divisions and waning role of faith in public at the 2014 Global Leadership Conference, “America at a Crossroads: Leading Our Nation to Live Up to Its Founding Ideals,” in Arlington, Virginia.
In a welcoming message, GPFUSA President Alan Inman urged the leaders to focus on the spiritual heritage of America, rooted in a tradition that values human dignity, rights, freedoms, and responsibilities. “America is ripe for a spiritual great awakening,” he said, “that draws on that heritage to build a just, ethical, yet pluralistic society.”
At welcoming dinner, keynote speaker Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, Associate Professor, Applied Theology and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at the Howard University School of Divinity, gave a spirited call for national renewal, citing the example of the biblical Ezekiel, who was called by God to prophesy to dry bones to restore them to life and vigor.
Ezekiel was being held in captivity in Babylon with leading classes of Israelites, and the prophesy “related to restoration, of something lost, and the result of two things” Dr. Trulear said. “First they have forgotten where they came from, they forgotten their religious roots, they forgot that they were a nation formed and chosen uniquely the bring morality to the rest of the world. The second reason is that they have become a nation of blood, who loved killing, who loved violence.”
“To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” –George Washington
Dr. Trulear suggested that the work of the Global Peace Foundation and of the conference was also the work of renewal and restoration of the faith and values that gave birth to the nation.
America’s Legacy of Faith
Earlier in the day, conference participants joined a Capitol Hill Spiritual Legacy tour, highlighting the often overlooked faith heritage of America’s founding and colonial history. Scenes depicted in the Capitol Rotunda included the baptism of the Indian princess Pocahontas, with the Geneva Bible represented; and the Embarkation of the Pilgrims, with the words “God with Us” and representations of the Bible and Pilgrim leaders in prayer. The tour also highlighted the prominent role of faith during the Founding era, specifically the guarantee of religious freedom in the Bill of Rights in the new Constitution, and the inclusive appreciation of diverse faiths among the Founding Fathers.
Less well known is that the Capitol dome itself was fashioned as a temple of liberty, after the example of other domed structures which were exclusively houses of worship, such as London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Capitol itself also served as a church in its early years, as the new city of Washington lacked other centers for worship.
“Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs his Providence. That He ought to be worshiped.” –Benjamin Franklin
Following World War II, a number of bills were passed by Congress reaffirming the importance of faith in the nation’s founding and later growth. These included the opening of sessions of Congress with a prayer; the adoption of In God We Trust as the national motto; the addition of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; and the establishment of a National Day of Prayer.
The Global Peace Leadership Conference will highlight the need for voices of faith to participate in discourse and decision making on public policy and examine the role of the family and public service as important to the social fabric of the nation.