Monday, April 25, 2011

an empty grave ... and not the one you think

We just returned home from a whirlwind Spring Break visit to Washington, D.C. and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It was our first (and likely our last) trip to either place, so we packed our days full of adventure.  We visited:

The White House (pictured)
The Supreme Court
The Capitol Building
The Cannon Office Building
The Library of Congress
The National Archives
The Lincoln Memorial
The WWII Memorial

The Washington Monument (Danny and Eliana went up)
Arlington National Cemetery
The Museum of Natural History
The Museum of American History
The Washington National Zoo
A Palm Sunday service at The National Cathedral
The Pentagon Memorial

After leaving Washington, D.C., we drove through Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. We rode two ferries (a total of 3 hours) and drove much of the Outer Banks.We saw the Bodie Island and Ocracoke Lighthouses from a distance. We stopped at Cape Hattaras Lighthouse (Danny and the girls climbed to the top), the beach, and the Wright Brothers memorial.

Are you tired yet?  I am.
In case your jaw has dropped, I should mention that everything we did in Washington, D.C. was free.  All we paid for was a hotel room outside the city and subway passes.  We packed a picnic lunch every day, and our biggest purchase was a Christmas ornament of the White House.  So now that the air is clear, I just have to tell you about the strangest and most disappointing thing we saw in Washington.

The Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
Photo: C Imes
It was inside the Capitol Building.

This building, connected by tunnels to the major office buildings that surround it, is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate.  We were given a tour by an intern of the Representative from our district, Sue Myrick.  Her intern took us underground from her office into the Capitol building and then up into the two most fascinating rooms of all: the crypt and the rotunda.  Yes, you read that right.  We went into a crypt.  Beneath the dome of the Capitol (where several presidents have laid 'in state') and one floor down is a room encircled by statues of famous legislators.  In the center of the room is a stone, carefully placed, indicating the center of Washington, D.C.  We were told that the main streets of the city radiate from that sun-shaped stone.  Underneath it is an empty grave.  Huh?  That's right.  The builders had hoped that George Washington would be buried there, but he died before the building was ready.  Just above the crypt is the rotunda. This round room is also encircled by statues of famous people who have shaped our nation: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony and other champions of women's sufferage.  Over our heads was a fresco painted on the ceiling.  It was (gulp) the "Apotheosis of George Washington." Perhaps that's a new word for you.  I only learned it a few weeks ago when studying early church history.  "Apotheosis" refers to the "deification" of the emperor, the moment after his death when he becomes God.  George Washington was depicted there, draped with white linen like a Roman Emperor, hovering in the clouds and surrounded by 13 virgins. I shudder at the thought.

Is the United States a Christian nation?  Our founding fathers may have been guided by their faith in the Almighty, and evidence of Christian principles can certainly be seen in their writings, but I am wary of calling any government "Christian" that can tolerate a painting like this one at its very center.  I doubt that George Washington would have approved of it.  I hope that he would be as disgusted as I am by it.

Until today, the grave beneath that Rotunda stands empty ... but not because George Washington has been elevated to Deity.  No, his body is buried at Mt. Vernon beside his dear wife, Martha.  When all is said and done, his knee will bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to the Name above all Names, Jesus.  Jesus' grave is also empty, but not because of some architect's miscalculation or building crew's sluggishness.  Jesus truly has ascended to the clouds in glory, not to become God (he already was!), but to reign eternally.  I am so grateful to have my citizenship in His kingdom.  It is not built around a lie or wishful thinking.  His kingdom is rock solid and will never be shaken.

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