President Obama used the Lincoln Bible at his inauguration; the first president to do so in 147 years.
Barack Obama has chosen to be sworn in on the Holy Bible, and he will invoke God. He is not obliged to do either; he has chosen to. And (unlike Bishop Gene Robinson) he apparently does not care about those he may offend by doing so.
It is heartening to see politicians fearlessly treading where clerics have ceased to.
The US Constitution does not require a Bible, but it has become tradition.
There have been a few lawsuits attempting to oblige the Chief Justice – who will administer the Oath of Office– from adding ‘so help me God’ to the constitutionally prescribed presidential oath (Art. II, Sec. 1). They have also sought to declare unconstitutional the use of clergy to deliver an invocation and benediction.
But all this is trivia and tittle-tattle.
Barack Obama is not being sworn in on just any old Bible, like most of his predecessors. He is to use the very tome used by Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration of 1861. He will be the first incoming president in 147 years to use the Lincoln Bible, and he has chosen to do so because he intends pursuing Lincoln’s themes of national unity, arguing that the US Constitution was created ‘to form a more perfect Union’.
Bizarrely, Mr Obama will travel to his inauguration via the same route that Lincoln took, and will also eat lunch off replicas of the Lincolns' White House china.
The spirit of Lincoln will be as immanent as the Spirit of God.
Most presidents have sworn the Oath of Office upon a Bible which had personal or political significance – usually the family Bible. Theodore Roosevelt exceptionally swore on nothing, and John Quincy Adams, although a Christian, took his presidential oath upon a "Volume of Laws", declaring that he was elected to preserve, protect and defend the US Constitution.
Adams’ choice of ‘unholy’ writ was unique, since those who were not sworn in on the Bible (however hastily) all laid their hands on something which they considered ‘holy’. Lyndon B. Johnson took his oath aboard Air Force 1 upon a Missal – the Roman Catholic liturgical book – because it was all that was found in President Kennedy’s airplane bedroom.
Harding was sworn in on the Bible used by George Washington in 1789. Eisenhower, Carter and Bush Snr all doubled up, using the Washington Bible along with their family bibles. Clinton used his grandmother’s Bible, and Coolidge, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan all used bibles from the maternal sides of their families.
The Bible has now become intrinsic to the inauguration ceremony, so much so that more questions would be asked about a presidential candidate who purposely eschewed it than would ever be asked of a candidate who deploys it. History still notes that Franklin Pierce broke with precedent in 1853 when he chose not to kiss the Bible.
1 Timothy Chapter 2
First of all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men, For kings and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that outwardly we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life and inwardly a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way. For such praying is good and right, and it is pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior, who wishes all men to be saved and increasingly to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the divine Truth. For there is only one God, and only one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people, a fact that was attested to at the right and proper time. And of this matter I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (special messenger)--I am speaking the truth in Christ, I do not falsify when I say this--a teacher of the Gentiles in the realm of faith and truth.