“Everywhere he went, Lincoln carried a book with him. He thumbed through page after page while his horse rested at the end of a long row of planting. Whenever he could escape work, he would like with his head against a tree and read. Though he acquired only a handful of volumes, they were seminal works of the English language. Reading the Bible and Shakespeare over and over implanted rhythms and poetry that would come to fruition in those works of his maturity that made Abraham Lincoln our only poet-president. With remarkable energy and tenacity he quarried the thoughts and ideas that he wanted to remember. ‘When he came across a passage that Struck him, ‘ his stepmother recalled, ‘he would write it down on boards if he had no paper,’ and ‘when the board would get too black he would shave it off with a drawing knife and go on again.’ Then once he obtained paper, he would rewrite it and keep it in a scrapbook so that it could be memorized. Word thus became precious to him, never, as with Seward, to be lightly or indiscriminately used.”
(Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006, p 52.)
One of the great interests of my life is seeing how Americans interpret Scripture in very… well… American ways—especially our leaders.
Gary Bauer has written an interesting article (“Does Obama Use God’s Name in Vain?”) regarding how Obama’s use of ‘God’ and the Scriptures in rather interesting places. Keep in mind, Bauer served with Ronald Reagan during his presidency and is a die-hard Republican. That being said and understood at the beginning, this particular quote caught me by surprise:
Whereas Bush was excoriated by the left whenever he cited God, Obama’s religious imagery receives silence from both sides of the aisle. The left won’t criticize him, while the right ignores any politician invoking the Almighty. But it’s how he invokes the Lord’s name, so to speak, that’s unprecedented.
“…the right ignores any politician invoking the Almighty”?!? Bauer says that he does not question Obama’s faith, just the language. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1009/27901.html#ixzz0T6anpucE
Recently, President Obama engaged in a phone conversation with some rabbis over health care reform. In the process, the President strongly invoked moral and biblical language in order to make the case for support of this reform. He keyed in that many were “bearing false witness” about the plan. He goes on to the key paragraph from Obama’s call:
“These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. And that is that we look out for one another, that I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper, and that the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
The point of this blog is not to debate the finer points, but to see how administrations past and present use biblical language to push forward their agenda. What about this? From George Washington to our current president, this has been a common practice. What do you think about Obama’s use of this rhetoric?