Late in 2004, I moved from Dallas, Texas to the Washington, D.C. area settling on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. In the spring of 2004, I finished a work contract. I was a skilled technologist for a software product that was not in demand in the Dallas, Texas in 2004. I had been consistently (and constantly) employed as a software contractor/consultant for the previous decade. For the first time, I found myself without a job and no opportunities in Dallas. As I prayed, I began to understand that I would be moving away from Dallas. I began to send my resume further and wider looking for employment. Almost immediately after I said “amen” to the Lord about leaving Dallas, I had a short term contract in Cleveland, Ohio. While on this contract, I received a job offer in Washington, D.C. I knew this is where I was headed. As the offer was made, I heard the “still, small voice” of the Lord say to me, “I am sending you there”. Many times, I have heard the Lord’s “still, small voice” and have learned to follow Him in this way. I had also learned not to have quite as many questions in response to His guidance. I look for confirmation in several ways (depending on the situation), but in this case, I knew I needed to move to Washington, D.C. first and then ask the Lord, “why did you send me to Washington, D.C.”?
Shortly after moving, I asked the Lord, “why did you send me here?”. The Lord’s answer was immediate. Two words… George Washington. I thought, “huh?!?” As I prayed about it, I began to understand that the Lord wanted me to learn more about George Washington and the Federal City of Washington, D.C. Over the next few years, I read and observed more about George Washington. I was no longer in school being fed by teachers. This was an exploration with the Lord to understand why He wanted me to learn about Washington. In the 14-15 years leading up to my move to Washington D.C. God had been teaching me little by little how to look at things more from His point of view. I had learned when to dig into the Word of God to understand His character, His likes, His dislikes and the things that matched His point of view versus those that didn’t.
Using this toolbox, I began to have a new view of George Washington and his influence on the foundation of the United States government. As this progressed, a “conceptual idol” began to emerge.
- conceptual idol – something that we relate to in our hearts and minds more strongly than we relate to God in our lives. This includes things which may seem good, but they are not according to God’s point of view and His guidance for our lives.
I have come to call this “conceptual idol” the Idol of Federalism. This may not make sense at first. I will share a few thoughts on what it is. In the United States, Federalism relates to the level of power of the central government versus the level of power of state governments. In political discussion of that day, Federalism became something that emphasized a stronger Central government than the Articles of Confederation supported. This was a key issue in the foundation of United States government of 1789. The Articles of Confederation were established in 1781, but within a few years they were considered insufficient for the future of the United States. In truth, a somewhat illegitimate Constitutional Convention was convened in 1787. The Articles of Confederation required unanimous consent to change them. All states needed to attend for full validity, but there were 12 of the 13 states in attendance. Rhode Island did not send delegates (Click here to see why). Later, Rhode Island did ratify the new constitution, but note that Rhode Island did not ratify until after the new United States government was formed in April 1789. The Articles of Confederation only required 9 out of 13 states to enact a new law, but unanimous consent was required to change the Articles of Confederation themselves. Both North Carolina and Rhode Island did not ratify the new Constitution until after new United States government was formed around the new document.
There were two very challenging issues addressed during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
- The power of the Central government versus the power of State governments – this difference of view produced the two main political parties of that time. The Federalists versus the Anti-Federalists.
- Slavery – abolishing slavery was actually a topic that was a non-starter. Key southern states resisted this being part of the discussion or they would not participate in the convention.
Now, let us get to the main point. Why is Federalism the source of a “conceptual idol”. In simple terms it has to do with who you (and I) depend upon and trust for our safety, security and prosperity. According to scripture, we are to put our trust in God and have our needs met by Him. Over time, the management of security and prosperity has switched (at least in part) from God to the United States Government in the hearts and minds of many christians. Yes, I know this is a powerful statement. I also know that it may be objectionable to most when you first read it. Sorry. I am sharing what I have seen and been shown and what I am witness to.
Whether you agree with me or not, I believe there has been a steady progression over the past several centuries where the trust of christians in America has shifted subtly and slowly from God himself to America as a “Christian Nation”. In our current time, I believe He is testing the hearts and minds of every believer:
- Do you trust in Me? Is your life in My hands?
- Or, are you mixing your trust and belief in America as a nation as a substitute at any level for Me (God)?
I will emphasize this with one further point. If you were born in another country whose government was not democratic, would you be able to fully mature as a believer in Jesus Christ? Yes, you would. In fact, the environmental challenges would likely position you to be able to grow more readily if you were seeking to follow the Lord. You would also be more likely to remain dependent on God in your walk because you would not see your government as benevolent towards you and your faith. There would be less to compete with your attention on God.
Old Testament Israel did the same thing over time. They were given an amazing new nation, but over time other things entered in. In time, God made clear accusations against them for their idolatry which related to the same fundamental issues of security and prosperity. God is clear, trust and depend on Him. Follow Him. Worship Him. To mix in something else is a form of idolatry and this idol was established in the founding period of time of the United States government with George Washington as a primary leader and influencer towards the Federalist view of a strong central government.
To visualize the connection of this Idol of Federalism to George Washington, here are a few pictures from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial which was completed in 1932. There is a quote by George Washington that was added in front of this memorial in 1982 along with a bust of George Washington which expresses a key viewpoint of the Masons about George Washington and his role in the founding of the nation.
“Let prejudices and local interests yield to reason. Let us look to our national character and to things beyond the present period.”George Washington
Next to this memorial is a dedication plaque that reads:
This classic sculpture commemorates the 50th anniversary of this George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The bronze bas-relief is a gift from Eastman Kodak company and was first commissioned as part of America’s bicentennial observance. It is the work of Isabel Giampietro Knoll. Dedication – August 1982
So, the United States has a more benevolent form of government whose intent is to behave better towards each individual. I have experienced the benefits of being born into this country, but I have also come to realize the dangers for me as a believer in God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, I encourage you not to let this nation compete as an idol that would distract you from the first and second commandments:
- I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me
- You shall not make any idols unto yourself
I am very aware of the implications of what I am saying and how offensive it could be to some. So, in closing, I ask you to pray a simple prayer: “Lord if my concepts and the condition of my heart towards my country is affecting my relationship with You, please help me to see and to walk in a new way with You that will be pleasing to You.”
— A. Layman