Bruce Feiler notes that Moses is depicted in a number of locations in our nation’s capital, is invoked by almost all Presidents, and has been drawn upon in America at nearly every point in its history:

Moses is the patron saint of Washington—and a potent spiritual force in nearly every great transformation in American history, from the nation’s founding to the Civil War to the civil rights movement.

Why did a 3,000-year-old prophet, played down by Jews and Christians for centuries and portrayed in the Bible as a reluctant leader, become such a presence in American public life?

Because, more than any other figure in the ancient world, Moses embodies the American story. He is the champion of oppressed people; he transforms disparate tribes in a forbidding wilderness into a nation of laws; he is the original proponent of freedom and justice for all.

As Gene Veith adds, this goes beyond the formation of America’s civil religion: “It has to do with the way the Bible has not just been influential in this point or that point, but how the Bible has shaped the ‘deep structure’ of our imagination and our thinking.”

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