Our take: President Obama will be inaugurated as the fifty-seventh president of the United States on Jan. 21. He will take the oath of office with Bibles once owned by Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
President Obama will publicly take the oath of office with Bibles once owned by his political heroes, Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. One Bible was well read, but cited cautiously. The other granted scriptural sanction to the civil rights movement.
When Obama lifts his hand from the Bibles and delivers the inaugural address on Monday, his own approach to scripture will come into view. Characteristically, it sits somewhere between the former president and famous preacher.
His faith forged in the black church, Obama draws deeply on its blending of biblical narratives with contemporary issues such as racism and poverty. But like Lincoln, Obama also acknowledges that Americans sometimes invoke the Bible to argue past each other, and that scripture itself counsels against sanctimony.
Obama articulated this view most clearly in a 2006 speech, saying that secularists shouldn’t bar believers from the public square, but neither should people of faith expect America to be one vast amen corner.
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