Rev. Mark H. Creech
Billy Graham’s statue in the Capitol: What does it mean for the country?
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By Rev. Mark H. Creech
May 20, 2024

For Christians who believe America’s religious heritage is the cornerstone of the nation’s identity and maintaining this heritage is essential for the country’s moral and spiritual health, Thursday, May 16, was a day for much rejoicing. On this day, a day that should perpetually shine in our nation’s history, a statue of the incomparable evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham was unveiled in the Statuary Hall of the Capitol Building. The statue will likely remain in place for decades to come.

Speaker Mike Johnson hosted the unveiling ceremony. The Speaker lauded Graham, emphasizing his Christian humility, authenticity, and profound impact on both America and the world. He thanked the North Carolina delegation and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for their efforts in making the statue possible. Johnson, a devout evangelical Christian himself, praised Graham’s consistent message of salvation, while also underscoring the respect and admiration Graham received from U.S. presidents and other dignitaries. He concluded by encouraging everyone to reflect on the renowned evangelist’s legacy and the scriptures that were engraved on the statue – scriptures that were at the heart of Graham’s message to millions.

What Scriptures are on the seven-foot statue featuring Graham standing with an open Bible in his hand?

Emblazed on the Bible in Graham’s hand is Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” At the base of the statue is inscribed John 14:6, which reads: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.’” On the other side of the base is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Speaker Johnson observed that it seemed providential for the statue to be prominently placed near the entrance of the Capitol, ensuring that millions of people would encounter the Bible verses and Graham’s testimony of faith. David Bruce, Billy Graham’s longtime executive assistant and vice president of the Billy Graham Library and Archive and Research Center, echoed the Speaker’s sentiments, emphasizing the scriptures on the statue would resonate in the Congressional halls, with Graham symbolically preaching from an open Bible for generations. Bruce expressed excitement about the potential impact on the countless visitors who would pass by the statue every year, adding, “I believe there’s still hope for this country!”

As expected, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) reacted strongly to the statue’s placement, wrongly smearing Graham as a white Christian nationalist. They particularly objected to the inclusion of Bible verses on the statue’s pedestal.

The FFRF advocates for a strictly secular government and the removal of any religious symbols in public spaces, essentially promoting a nation devoid of religious influence – a government of practical atheism. Their stance demonstrates a significant departure from an understanding of America’s historical foundations, which was profoundly influenced by Christianity.

Perhaps the FFRF, as well as other Americans, were unaware that other religious leaders are immortalized in the Capital Building.

Representing the Great State of Pennsylvania is a statue of Peter Muhlenberg in Statuary Hall. Muhlenberg was a significant figure in American history and was particularly known for his dual roles as a clergyman and a military leader during the American Revolutionary War.

Muhlenberg is famously known for his dramatic sermon in January of 1776 when he revealed his military uniform beneath his clerical robes and called for volunteers to join the Continental Army. That day he passionately proclaimed from the pulpit of his parish, “There is a time to preach and a time to fight, and now is the time to fight.”

Muhlenberg’s blend of religious faith and patriotic fervor symbolizes the commitment of many clergymen during that era of American history who were critical to the cause of our nation’s independence. We would not be a free people today were it not for tremendous men of God such as Peter Muhlenberg.

Representing the great state of Hawaii in Statuary Hall is a statue of Father Damien, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium who was canonized as a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2009.

Father Damien is widely recognized for his selfless work with leprosy patients on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. At the time, leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease) was incurable, and those afflicted were isolated from society.

Father Damien dedicated his life to caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of leprosy patients. He built churches, houses, and hospitals, personally tended to the sick, and provided comfort and hope. He advocated for better living conditions and medical care, raising awareness about the plight of lepers and becoming a beloved figure to the Hawaiian people.

Representing the Great State of Utah in Statuary Hall is Brigham Young. Young served as the first governor of the Utah Territory from 1851 to 1858, appointed by President Millard Fillmore. During his tenure, he worked to establish a stable government and promoted infrastructure development, including roads, schools, and irrigation projects.

Young’s national significance lies in his leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), his pivotal role in the westward migration and settlement of the American West, and his influence on the development of the Utah Territory. His efforts helped to shape the religious, cultural, and geographical landscape of the United States during a critical period of the nation’s expansion.

Finally, the Great State of Rhode Island has a statue of Roger Williams in Statuary Hall. Williams was a Puritan minister. Williams’ ideas laid the groundwork for the development of religious liberty in the United States, influencing future generations and contributing to the nation’s core values.

Williams founded the state of Rhode Island as a refuge for religious dissenters. He was a pioneer for the separation of church and state. Although Williams supported institutional separation, he did not define separation as secularists do today. He didn’t argue that religion should not influence government decisions or policies. He recognized religious beliefs naturally influence individuals, including those in positions of power. He believed personal faith and morality could and must inform the actions of individuals, including public officials, but this should happen organically rather than through institutional enforcement.

In other words, Williams supported, what was indeed a novel idea at the time – the idea that personal religious values could influence public life and legislation naturally, but without institutional enforcement of any specific church’s dogma. This nation owes much to the Puritan minister, Roger Williams.

Now, thank God, there is a statue in the Capital of Rev. Billy Graham.

Each one of these religious figures represents something that made America great and something we desperately need today.

We very much need to believe and commit to what Graham preached so simply – the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word of God, the Bible. Christ is the Great Emancipator. Jesus said, “If the Son shall make you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Pastors and churches across the country urgently need faithful preachers like Muhlenberg, who will step into the public arena, engage our struggling and dying culture, and defend it from the pulpit and beyond with patriotic fervor.

While there is no American gospel, the American way was undeniably founded on Judeo-Christian values. The greatest threat to this nation comes not from the outside, but from within. The more Judeo-Christian values are ignored, removed, and neglected, the closer this nation moves toward its complete demise.

Just as Father Damien demonstrated exceptional compassion and care for the poor, the sick, and the needy. America must aspire to be a global leader in showing compassion and support for these groups, particularly those marginalized due to characteristics that cannot be changed, such as race, disability, or ethnicity.

Like Brigham Young, who was instrumental in this nation’s expansion Westward, our nation must have individuals who will demonstrate courage, embrace innovation, take decisive action in the face of adversity, and show resilience and leadership to build a better future for everyone.

And, just as Roger Williams was earnest in the preservation of religious freedom, religious liberty must earnestly be preserved today. The significance of losing religious liberty, which is profoundly under assault in the U.S. and around the world, is that it limits personal and communal expression, and will ultimately lead to a broader erosion of civil liberties. The loss of religious expression stifles diversity of thought and belief, weakening the moral and ethical framework that guides societal values, and fostering intolerance and social division. Losing religious freedom threatens the God-given rights essential for a just and pluralistic society.

So much of America’s principal tenets are represented in the five statues of the religious leaders in Statuary Hall.

Billy Graham solemnly warned us, “There is no doubt that nations come to an end when they have ceased to fulfill the function God meant for them.”

© Rev. Mark H. Creech

 

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Rev. Mark H. Creech

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

Rev. Creech is a prolific speaker and writer, and has served as a radio commentator for Christians In Action, a daily program featuring Rev. Creech's commentary on social issues from a Christian worldview.

In addition to RenewAmerica.com, his weekly editorials are featured on the Christian Action League website and Agape Press, a national Christian newswire.

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