Saturday, February 23, 2013

George Washington and Religion at the Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA

Yesterday I spent the day in Alexandria, Virginia participating in a symposium on religion and George Washington hosted by The George Washington Masonic Memorial.  Mary Thompson, who was honored last night with the George Washington Memorial Award, organized the session. Mark Tabbert, the Director of Museum and Library Collections at the Memorial, hosted the event.

I was privileged to join two leading scholars of George Washington's religion.  The first speaker was Jeffry Morrison, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Government at Regent University.  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home may know Morrison from two of his books: The Political Philosophy of George Washington and John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic.  Morrison gave a great lecture on the place of the Bible in Washington's intellectual development.

I was asked to talk on religion, Washington, and the American Revolution.  Much of what I had to say was drawn, as you might expect, from Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction, but I also added a few thoughts connecting Washington's moral mandates for the Continental Army with his belief in divine providence and classical republicanism.

Mary Thompson was up next.  She is a research historian at Mount Vernon and the author of "In the Hands of a Good Providence": Religion in the Life of George Washington.  Mary spoke on the way Washington handled church and state issues during his presidency.

The symposium ended with a lively Q&A sessionWhen the crowd cleared the auditorium, Mark Tabbert gave us a private tour of this amazing monument.  (I also learned that one of the opening scenes from the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets was filmed in the lecture hall where the symposium took place).

Here are some pics:

View from the top of the Memorial--facing east toward the Potomac River  



Replica of the original masonic lodge in Alexandria, VA








Elevator to the library opens up to a locked gate




Random shot of library shelf

The space where the Washington family Bible belongs.  It is currently on loan to the Arkansas Historical Society

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