Author archives: Hayden Sledge

The Washington Monument: A Tribute to Leadership and Religious Heritage

by Laura Grossberndt , Hayden Sledge

September 21, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Joan of Arc Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial, the Japanese American Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Titanic Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

The Washington Monument serves as a memorial to the life of George Washington, particularly his leadership as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and as the first president of the United States. It also stands as a reminder of America’s rich religious heritage.

Washington was so pivotal to America’s founding that he has been called the “father of his country.” He was a member of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and then was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in 1775. As a general, he is especially remembered for his stalwart leadership during the winter encampment at Valley Forge in 1777-78. After leading America to victory and independence on the battlefield, Washington presided over the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, he was unanimously elected the nation’s first president.

President Washington and his administration laid a strong foundation for the United States of America. Some notable events during Washington’s presidency include the celebration of the first federally-recognized Thanksgiving, the putting down of the Whiskey Rebellion, the induction of new states (North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee), and the approval of the Bill of Rights. Washington also oversaw the signing of the Jay Treaty (normalizing trade relations with Great Britain), Pinckney’s Treaty (friendship with Spain), and the Treaty of Tripoli (access to Mediterranean shipping routes). Washington also set the presidential precedent of selecting a cabinet of advisors and stepping down after two terms.

Even before Washington became president, members of Congress wanted to create a statue of him to honor his wartime accomplishments. However, because the young country was lacking in funds, the project was scrapped.

Pierre L’Enfant, the designer of the federal capital (which was officially named after the first president in 1791), envisioned a monument honoring President Washington and even designated a special spot for an equestrian statue of Washington in his initial layout of the city.

The Washington National Monument Society, a private organization started by President James Madison and Chief Justice John Marshall, raised funds for the monument’s construction. First Lady Dolley Madison and Elizabeth Hamilton, widow of Alexander Hamilton, were also instrumental in raising funds. In 1833, the Society facilitated a contest to design the monument. The contest’s winner, Robert Mills, also designed the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Patent Office. The latter building now holds the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

On July 4, 1848, a cornerstone-laying ceremony was held. President James K. Polk and future presidents James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson were in attendance. Embedded in the cornerstone is a box of artifacts, including a portrait of Washington.

By 1854, Mills had built 156 feet of the monument. His design was incredibly daunting, and he encountered many obstacles during its construction. For example, when Pope Pius IX donated a stone from the Roman Temple of Concord, the gift sparked an outcry from the “Know Nothing” Party that opposed Catholicism and Catholic immigrants.

Unfortunately, Mills died in 1855 before the monument could be completed. The unfinished monument stood untouched for two decades.

In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant approved funding to finish the monument, and work resumed in 1879. When Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army of Engineers could not find the original rock quarry, they were forced to use different stone. As a result, three different shades of stone from three different quarries were used in the monument’s construction.

In 1885, 36 years after the cornerstone had been laid, the monument was finished. On February 21, 1885, the day before Washington’s birthday, the monument was dedicated. At the time, the 555-foot-tall Egyptian-style obelisk was the tallest building in the world.

The Washington Monument has been the location of a few notable events. In 1982, veteran and anti-nuclear weapons activist Norman Mayer drove to the bottom of the monument and threatened that he would blow it up with 1,000 pounds of dynamite. Thousands of people were evacuated, but some were held hostage with Mayer. After ten hours, he let the hostages leave and was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police. Authorities later carefully inspected Mayer’s van and did not find the explosives he had claimed to have.

On August 23, 2011, the monument endured a severe earthquake. Although people were inside the monument at the time, no one was injured. It cost $15 million to repair the damage incurred by the earthquake.

It is worth noting that the Washington Monument represents more than the nation’s first president. The monument itself honors and reflects the Judeo-Christian values America was founded upon.

Many people and institutions contributed stones for the Washington Monument. Many of these stones are inscribed with names and short messages. One such stone donated by Sabbath School Children of the Methodist E. Church in Philadelphia is engraved with John 5:39 (“Search the Scriptures”), Luke 18:16 (“Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of God.”) and Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”) An image of the stone can be found here.

Other stones are engraved with phrases including “The memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7), “Holiness to the Lord,” “In God We Trust,” “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” (“He who transplanted sustains”), and “May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence.” At the top of the monument is an aluminum cap engraved with the Latin phrase “Laus Deo” (“Praise be to God”). A list of memorial stones and their inscriptions can be found here. A gallery of photos of some of the stones can be found here.

In 2007, a controversy arose involving the monument’s cap. While the monument was being renovated, a replica cap in the monument’s museum was removed and later put back in such a way that the “Laus Deo” inscription was not visible. Also, the accompanying plaque omitted the meaning of “Laus Deo.” After public outcry, the National Park Service later apologized and included the meaning of “Laus Deo” on the new plaque.

The Washington Monument isn’t just a soaring memorial to “the father of his country.” The verses and religious phrases inscribed on its stones serve as reminders of the Judeo-Christian values and religious freedom that played an important role in America’s founding.

Pro-Life Until Natural Death

by Hayden Sledge

August 21, 2020

As medical technology evolves, doctors have been able to utilize new medicines that help to prolong life. At the same time, however, there has been an increase in the desire to end life in a more “peaceful” or “dignified” manner. Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has grown in popularity due to an ideological shift and the personal experiences of numerous individuals. According to The Hastings Center, “Dying patients who see their lives being destroyed by illness sometimes come to view death as the only way to escape their suffering, and therefore view it as a means of self-preservation—the opposite of suicide.”

The original intent of PAS was to alleviate prolonged suffering for individuals with a terminal disease or sickness. Unfortunately, peoples’ ideas of what warrants PAS has become more ambiguous and subjective. It has become clear that there are those who would like PAS to become more accessible to everyone and not just those who are terminally ill. This would imply that individuals who are disabled, handicapped, or have poor quality of life could legally end their lives through PAS.

In The Oregonian, Erin Hoover Barnett tells the story of 85-year-old Kate Cheney with dementia. Cheney’s daughter, Erika, wanted her mother to choose PAS. However, before Cheney was permitted to choose PAS, she saw two psychologists. One found her unequipped to make such a difficult decision. The other found that her decision was heavily influenced by her daughter Erika. Despite these concerns, Cheney was able to choose PAS and died only a week after her last psych evaluation.

There are more stories like Cheney’s, but it can be challenging to learn and analyze the consequences of PAS. Dr. Katrina Hedberg from the Oregon Department of Human Services explains why there is not enough substantial research about PAS: “We are not given the resources to investigate [assisted-suicide cases] and not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves.” Researchers have been unable to gather in-depth information about PAS due to the harsh law restrictions. It is evident that there are several loopholes in the PAS process.

For example, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund says that someone who has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder should be deemed incompetent to make the decision to end his or her life through PAS. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act Annual Reports found that between 2011-2014, “only 3% of patients (or fewer) were referred for psychological evaluation or counseling before receiving their prescriptions for lethal drugs.” This shows that people are not mandated to have a psych evaluation before the prescription of lethal drugs that end their life. Numerous Oregon psychologists have shared that they cannot diagnose someone with major depressive disorder after just one visit. A single appointment cannot determine the mental stability of an individual, especially in regard to that patient choosing PAS.

To ask psychologists to deem a patient mentally competent enough to choose PAS in just one visit is requiring those psychologists to neglect their responsibility to their patients. Psychologists recognize that mental health takes time to diagnose and time to heal. Even the most renowned psychologist cannot make a clear and accurate assessment of a patient in one session. 

Death with Dignity, a pro-PAS activist organization, claims that one should end their life, “when the quality of life has decreased to an unacceptable or intolerable level, and all that is left are days of suffering.” This creates a convoluted standard of what it means to have “quality of life.” It is impossible to predict someone’s death. PAS could lead to an unnecessarily premature death. Advocates of PAS are suggesting that quality of life is decided by each individual, with no set standard of quality of life. This means that people can end their lives based on relative standards, decreasing the cultural value on human life and dignity, which creates more issues.

It is important to recognize that there are individuals who are experiencing intense terminal suffering. There is no doubt that many people contemplating PAS are in deep agony and desire relief from that pain. However, physician-assisted suicide should be illegal because the standards for qualifying are vague and are not adequately supervised. Further, even death is not the answer to life’s worst sufferings. The intentional premature killing of those who are terminally ill devalues human life and robs relatives of precious time they could have spent with their dying loved one.

Scripture continually speaks of the inherent value of human life, whether that is of an unborn child or an elderly person. God’s hand is evident in every stage of life. Instead of ending lives, God calls us to celebrate life and trust Him during times of suffering. As Christians, we know that “suffering produces character” (James 1:2-4), and we can hold fast to God’s promise and spread the good news to nonbelievers that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even in our most desperate times, He is sovereign. In our greatest sufferings, He is with us.

Hayden Sledge is a Coalitions intern at Family Research Council.

The Japanese American Memorial: A Monument to Reconciliation

by Hayden Sledge

August 18, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Joan of Arc Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial.

Many visitors to our nation’s capital are unfamiliar with the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II, a monument recognizing the oppression that hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans experienced during World War II.

Around 120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps after Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 that permitted the secretary of war to remove any resident aliens from parts of the western United States identified as military areas. This executive order disproportionately affected Japanese Americans, mainly because the United States was deeply distressed after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

We now know as a nation that the United States’ treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II was anything but decent. Former President Ford acknowledged the United States’ wrongdoing in 1976. Then in 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act and said, “Here we admit a wrong. Here we affirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.” Later, in 1992, President Bush signed a law to start the building of the memorial. The Japanese American Memorial symbolizes the United States’ desire and commitment to never again commit such an act of injustice.

In 1988, after the country realized it had wronged the Japanese American people, internees were granted $20,000. This reparation could never bring complete healing to all those hurt by the executive order, but it was nevertheless an intentional action the government took to show remorse in addition to simply apologizing.

Many of the internees selflessly donated their reparations to the building of a memorial in 1999. On November 9, 2000, Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon and United States Attorney General Janet Reno spoke at the dedication of the Japanese American Memorial.

The memorial is comprised of a wall and a sculpture of two cranes. Davis Buckley and Nina Akamu designed the memorial. Nina Akamu, a third-generation Japanese American, dutifully sculpted the two cranes. Since Akamu’s grandfather had been in one of the internment camps, crafting the sculpture was especially personal for her. Akamu’s grandfather was of Japanese heritage and had been arrested in Hawaii. He later died of a heart attack while in the internment camp due to his diabetes.

With her grandfather’s story in mind, Akamu designed the two red-crowned cranes to be entangled in barbed wire. The cranes’ ability to persevere amidst the wires represents their commitment to patriotism. They remained loyal to the United States, even though they were experiencing unnecessary hardship. The cranes symbolize the body and spirit of these Japanese Americans. The cranes are also pressed up against each other, representing Japanese Americans’ need for each other during such a difficult time. The birds’ wings are sculpted to look like a torch symbolizing freedom, as well as the 442nd freedom torch, which symbolized the 442nd regiment, a regiment comprised of Japanese Americans.

The memorial “Honor Wall” honors more than 800 soldiers that died fighting for the United States. Norman Y. Mineta’s and Akemi Dawn Matsumoto Ehrlich’s poem “The Legacy” are both featured. The 10 concentration camps and the number of internees at each camp are listed on the wall.

The memorial wall also honors Mike M. Masaoka, a civil rights activist and a staff sergeant of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Robert T. Matsui, an internee at Tule Lake, and Daniel K. Inouye, a U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, and captain of the 442nd Regional Combat Team, are also remembered on the wall. Finally, U.S. presidents Reagan and Truman are quoted.

This memorial showcases the diligence of the Japanese Americans and honors their sacrifice, but this memorial is also a reminder of humanity’s inherent brokenness. It is a reminder that our sin never just affects us, but those around us as well. When we recognize sin, we are called to turn from our wicked ways. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

By God’s grace, He calls us to become more like Him by fleeing from evil, and He, in turn, blesses us. Matthew 3:8 says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” When we turn from evil, God calls us to seek justice and glorify Him with our lives. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” By God’s grace, we can learn from our mistakes and chart a course that is more honoring to Him.

With Scripture in mind and an understanding of the memorial’s history, we can live with a commitment to seek healing and restoration. The Japanese American Memorial serves both as a reminder of our country’s past sins against the Japanese American people and a symbol of progress, revealing just how far the United States has come as a nation.

Hayden Sledge is a Coalitions intern at Family Research Council.

All 9 Months and Beyond: Let’s Be Truly Pro-Life

by Hayden Sledge

July 8, 2020

I am a woman. I am also pro-life. Unfortunately, many people today see these identities as contradictory and antithetical. Over the past few decades, society has tried to force many women into a box: If you are a woman who is proud of your womanhood, you should support and advocate for abortion. If not, how can you be a true advocate for women? Supporting women has become synonymous with supporting abortion.

But truth be told, abortion is devastating to women. Abortion can cause physical and psychological complications to the woman obtaining the abortion and affect her ability to successfully carry future pregnancies to term. Not only that, but many of abortion’s unborn victims are female.

These considerations lead to an important question: What does it truly mean to advocate for women?

A true advocate for women supports God’s design for women

God specially designed women with the capacity of bringing life into the world. In the creation mandate given in Genesis 1:28, the first human couple was charged to fill the earth and exercise dominion. While both the husband and wife play a role in conceiving life, the woman has the privilege and responsibility of bringing the new life into the world. Thus, while not all women will be mothers, many will, and motherhood should be seen as a high calling worthy of respect, rather than an impediment needing to be overcome.

Unfortunately, the abortion industry presents a narrative that women can only assert control over their lives if they have the option to abort their children. However, God is ultimately sovereign over all aspects of our lives, including the pregnancy journey, the mother’s life experiences, and the development of unborn children. God’s hand is entirely evident throughout the process.      

Thus, as Christians we should support women in the unique callings God has given each of them, whether that calling includes a career, motherhood, or both. We should appreciate the variety of ways God works in and through each woman.

A true advocate for women helps women facing hardship

God is active during times of celebration and suffering. He reminds us that we will all experience suffering during our time on earth. In fact, Romans 8:22 tells us that the all of creation “groans” due to the curse of sin.  

We all experience various forms of hardship, which can include familial loss, illness, financial stress, mental illness, infertility, miscarriage, or unexpected pregnancy. The church ought to come alongside and help people in their most vulnerable stages of life. This includes actively loving and protecting mothers who have made the brave and courageous decision to keep their babies despite pressure to abort.

Many women experience confusion, shame, and difficulty throughout their pregnancies, especially if those pregnancies are unexpected or unwanted. Although pregnancy is ideally a time of celebration and rejoicing in a new God-given life, it is important to remember that many mothers need care and comfort during and after their pregnancy. It is not an easy journey and is even more difficult for single mothers who are already lacking support.

A true advocate for women supports mothers before and after pregnancy

The church should love and care for women in one of the most life-altering and vulnerable stages of life: the time during and after pregnancy. We should continuously remind mothers of Jesus’ steadfast love as we walk alongside them.

Too often, churches encourage mothers in the early stages of pregnancy but neglect to stand with them after birth. Although pregnancy can be a difficult time, there are a host of challenges that can arise after birth as well. So, it is important that we seek to encourage and help the mother and baby after birth.

In honoring the Lord, we are to care for all mothers and their unborn children, reminding them of God’s truth that they are—or by faith can become—the beloved daughters of a loving heavenly Father.

Here are some resources that seek to help mothers during their pregnancy and beyond. Although an online resource cannot address all the complexities and possible difficulties surrounding pregnancy, these are helpful places to start.

Hayden Sledge is a Coalitions intern at Family Research Council.

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