We find ourselves, gentle readers, in a rapidly heating cultural cold war, and one of the primary battlefields is the sacred versus the secular. However, not the secular as it is traditionally understood–a sort of benign not-of-God declination to participate in faith. We battle over faith, particularly Christianity, and the political faith of socialists and their intersectional allies. Trump Derangement Syndrome is a primary contemporary socialist article of faith, as Fox news reports:
President Donald Trump was just doing what he could to raise spirits when he signed Bibles at an Alabama church for survivors of a deadly tornado outbreak, many religious leaders say, though some are offended and others say he could have handled it differently.
Hershael York, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology in Louisville, Ky., said he didn’t have a problem with Trump signing Bibles, like former presidents have, because he was asked and because it was important to the people who were asking.
‘Though we don’t have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it’s not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles,’ he said. ‘Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too.
Unlike Islam, where one may be put to death for slighting the faith, Christianity has no such mandate. A Bible, properly produced, contains the Word of God, but the media format, whether book, DVD, CD or otherwise, is not thought holy. One commits no sacrilege by writing in or on it. Churches and normal Americans hold Bible studies across the nation, and the participants in those sessions heavily annotate their Bibles. Beloved ministers are often asked to sign their parishioner’s Bibles. Friends often sign, and write messages in, the Bibles of friends.
But the Rev. Donnie Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said she was offended by the way Trump scrawled his signature Friday as he autographed Bibles and other things, including hats, and posed for photos. She viewed it, she said, as a ‘calculated political move’ by the Republican president to court his evangelical voting base.
Hmmm. Why would the good minister say something like that? Here’s the Rhode Island State Council of Churches’ mission statement:
The Rhode Island Council of Churches, grounded in the Christian message and seeking to be followers of Jesus, gathers denominations, congregations, organizations, faith leaders, and individuals to serve as a catalyst for ecumenical, cultural, and interfaith dialogue; offer resources to and with each other; advocate for peace and social justice.
Yes of course. The Bible is all about social justice. Actually, it’s not, but this organization surely is, and as such, one can safely think them purveyors of a secularized, political faith, a faith not prone to tolerance toward perceived political enemies. For such “faiths,” the only true evil is failure to embrace their political/social dogma.
It would have been different, Anderson said, if Trump had signed a Bible out of the limelight for someone with whom he had a close connection.
‘For me, the Bible is a very important part of my faith, and I don’t think it should be used as a political ploy,’ she said. ‘I saw it being used just as something out there to symbolize his support for the evangelical community, and it shouldn’t be used in that way. People should have more respect for Scripture.
Not quite. People present asked Mr. Trump to sign their Bibles. He did not bring Bibles with him. He did not ask to sign Bibles. He was asked to sign by people for whom his signature would be meaningful. The Washington Post reported:
After Trump added his unique, frenetic signature to a 12-year-old boy’s Good Book, the crowd of onlookers erupted in applause, a pool report noted. One church volunteer, Ada Ingram, told the reporters that Trump’s visit was a blessing. Hopefully, it brings the community together, she said.
‘I enjoyed him coming,’ Ingram said. ‘I think it’s a godsend.’
Another volunteer, Emily Pike, said the president and first lady Melania Trump signed her 10-year-old daughter’s Bible, which was already decorated with pink camouflage.
‘She just reached out there and said, ‘Mr. President, would you sign this?’ Pike recounted, according to the Associated Press.
Surprising for the Wapo was this passage:
But Peter Manseau, the Smithsonian’s curator of religion, said past presidents have signed Bibles, including George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan. President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts reportedly signed a Bible owned by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the request of his family.
‘If this was an organized effort where the president was giving out stacks of signed Bibles, that would strike me as odd, to say the least, but from what I can tell the event today wasn’t outside the norm,’ Manseau said. ‘Presidents seem to sign a lot of random things put in front of them.’
Trump actually has some personal experience with signed Bibles. Charismatic televangelist Paula White recounted a request Trump made in 2005 for a Bible signed by the late evangelist Billy Graham, one of the most popular American spiritual leaders of the last century. White managed to procure it for Trump’s 60th birthday. The inscription read: ‘To Donald Trump, God Bless you always. Billy Graham.
Billy Graham signed Bibles? Who coulda thunk it? Any Christian not debilitated by Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Many families have several kinds of Bibles: those used for daily reading and study, and others, usually larger and more expensive Bibles to be used for special occasions, and to be passed down to each new generation. Family heirloom Bibles are often inscribed with personal messages, or used to record significant events in people’s lives–their faith sojourns. Many Christians give Bibles as gifts, and usually inscribe them with their signatures and a variety of personal messages.
As one might expect, The Wapo provided predictable TDS sniping:
The “vicious and inhumane border policy” that amounts to enforcing federal law, the same policy enforced by Barack Obama? Daou, by the way–not that it matters–is “a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.” Here’s a criticism of the President’s signature:
The president’s signature, by its appearance alone, may be an admittedly odd adornment to any sacred text. It’s been described as resembling ‘the EKG of a tachycardia patient’ or ‘a failed polygraph test.’ One handwriting analyst who has been following Trump’s writing style since the 1990s told The Boston Globe that Trump’s signature portrayed ‘power and control and rigidity.
Oh dear. I often explain my signature by telling people I stayed in medical school only long enough to take penmanship. I suspect that would describe a great many Americans, and would say nothing whatever about their character. But of course, TDS, like this:
There’s absolutely no softness in his signature; it’s just mean and tough and rigid, and there is no room for anybody else,’ said the analyst, Sheila Lowe. ‘He’s not interested in anyone else’s opinion.
I shudder to think what such people would think of my signature, particularly after discovering I am not a socialist.
As usual, Mr. Trump can’t win. Were he seen walking on the waters, the headline would read “Trump Can’t Swim,” or “Trump Snubs Aquatic-Americans.” If Mr. Trump declined to sign the Bibles, he would have been attacked for that. Signing a Bible is entirely unremarkable. This is only fake news because Christians! and Trump!
It might be useful to remember that the very people attacking Mr. Trump for this are, for the most part, the same people that viciously attack all people of faith, even screaming that Christians are dangerous zealots trying to force everyone to accept their doctrine. Such attacks on Mr. Trump are thinly veiled attacks on the Americans, and the America, they hate. These are the people that think Christians deplorable God and gun clingers, benighted denizens of Flyover Country, uneducated, unsophisticated sub humans missing teeth, stinking up WalMarts–who would ever go into a WalMart in the first place?!–having sex with close relatives, driving pickup trucks, and voting for–gasp!–Donald Trump. Their concern for the sanctity of Christian symbols is, to put it mildly, suspect.
Please return on Friday, gentle readers, when I’ll post another article on our contemporary culture war against faith, this time, within faith communities.