Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama to Use Lincoln Inauguration Bible

The Politico reports that Barack Obama will take his oath of office with President Lincoln's Bible, the same Bible the 16th president used at his inauguration in 1861:

On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.
Here's an interesting historical tidbit about Lincoln's Bible:

The Bible was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln's swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. The Lincoln family Bible, which is also in the Library of Congress's collection, was unavailable for the ceremony because it was packed away with the First Family's belongings, still en route from Springfield, IL, to their new home at the White House.

The Bible itself is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers. All its edges are heavily gilded. In the center of the top cover is a shield of gold wash over white metal with the words 'Holy Bible' chased into it. The book is 15 cm long, 10 cm wide, and 4.5 cm deep when closed. The 1,280-page Bible was published in 1853 by the Oxford University Press.
This is a grand gesture. Obama's decision to use the Lincoln Bible is a strong affirmation that the President-Elect seeks to confirm the American religious heritage, and by using the Lincoln Bible, Obama also hopes to convey some kind of parallel between the historical circumstances of 1861 and 2009.

Perhaps the shared Illinois background was key to Obama's decision on the Lincoln Bible, but historically, the economic situation today - and the demands for governmental action - have much more relevant analogies in the circumstances surrounding Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inauguration in 1933. Roosevelt would lead a nation that had reached the depths of the Great Depression.
In his inaugural address, the 32nd president is most powerfully remembered for these words:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
There's always a supreme majesty in the words of a president's inaugural address. By choosing to launch his administration so closely aligned to Abraham Lincoln, Obama will inevitably invite comparisons of historical greatness. This is especially so as Obama's rise to the office rests largely with the power of his oratory. But Lincoln's an incomparable act to follow, as seen for example in the words from his second inaugural address, March 4, 1865:

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it - all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war - seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and others would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came ....

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare ask a just God s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we will be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting piece, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Reading this one is struck by the Biblical grandeur inspiring Lincoln's gift to historical memory. Indeed, reading Lincoln seems to preview Obama's historical insignificance in comparison. Obama's moment seems diminished, moreover, by the intraparty rancor seen in the United States today, in his decision to select a controversial pastor to deliver a spiritual invocation on January 20. Not only does the battle for gay marriage seem almost trivial in light of the defining war to free the slaves, there's an anti-American, anti-religious component to current recriminations on the left that would have made Lincoln and his contemporaries shudder. In his recent comments on the debate over Warren, Steve Benen went beyond the gay controversy to attack religion directly:

The real problem isn't with who will give the invocation, but rather, the fact that there's going to be an invocation in the first place.
Such sentiment perhaps illustrates two things: One, the tremendous importance and promise of Obama's gesture to reach back into the American past to lay his hand on the Holy Book on which Lincoln swore his oath of office, but two, Obama's gesture, this act, with a great unfortunateness, may not be recognized to be as large a consecration of our profound Judeo-Christian inheritance as it is. Should Obama, in his coming address, go on to invoke explicit passages from the Bible, he may well be excoriated by the hard-left Democratic Party base for capitulating to the "Christianism" that's allegedly seeking to marginalize those of a homosexual orientation. If so, the epochal majesty of the moment of this new dawn - our new birth of American civilization - could very well be frittered away in the modern cancer of politically-correct polarization.

8 comments:

Philippe Ohlund said...

It pleases my heart that President-elect Barack Obama has a cultivated Bible culture. :-)

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Philippe.

What are you doing for Christmas?

Philippe Ohlund said...

Well, today I'm celebrating my 49th birthday! :-)

I have had some very nice phone calls from Sweden; it is always great to be remembered by old friends.

Tomorrow I will sign an ending contract with my old workplace, so that I can end working there before I start my new job on the 5th of January.

I have been negotiating since last Friday to end my work with them, because they want to keep me longer, and for other projects, but I want change. :-)

My old workplace is also losing their biggest client, Canon, by the end of January, which I have worked for as a support tecnician, primarily for Scandinavia, since March 2004.

Now I have been hired by another Japanese giant, and I will work with sales for them. :-)

I love the sales business! And especially when coupled with technology.

I have also been in contact with my lawyer today concerning my divorce. All the usual hassle you know, except the bills are the double now since it's Christmas...

Changing job and my divorce keeps me busy.

The deadline for buying my house is due in a week, the 30th of December, and I have some very interested buyers.

I have to arrange that and push the price up yet a little more if possible, and I also need a new place to live, but at least now I know where I will be working.

I'm actually not traveling anywhere this Christmas, as I often used to do, so I will be around.

Yesterday evening, I sneaked in at McDonald's in Mons to eat something. I like their menu's, but I'm tired of listening to their Arab music.

Well, I'm getting used to that too as a matter of fact! :-)

Nevertheless, I will go to the Italians in Mons center this evening, now soon.

My daughter is with her mother in France, so I will have time to check around for a new place to move to in Brussels the coming days.

Despite officially being on holiday I am constantly overloaded with all kinds of things I must do.

Anyway, I'm getting hungry and I feel I need a large glass of Jack Daniel's right now. :-)

What will you do for Christmas yourself?

Donald Douglas said...

Well, happy birthday, Philippe. I hope all the other stuff works out well, and congratualtions on your new job.

TRUTH 101 said...

In keeping with the season I hope Santa brings you time to get some sleep Mr. Ohlund.

Philippe Ohlund said...

Thanks, Donald! :-)

Yes, the new job was actually a surprise for me too! :-)

Truth 101: Thanks.

You know, when I was younger, I used to sleep a lot. Today I'm often still up until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.

Then I go to sleep, and at 5h30 I'm up again.

I wonder if that is healthy?

Angelina said...

I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at
http://couponredeemer.com/federalgrants/

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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