President Trump is in the news for autographing Bibles for some of the survivors at a funeral for the recent victims of the tornados in Alabama. I am not longer surprised by what passes, as “news,” in the minds of “journalists,” what does surprise me is it has become a matter of theological debate.
Some Bible scholars did not see Trump’s signing a Bible as all that sinful. James Coffin, the executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, said, “Too much is being made out of something that doesn’t deserve that kind of attention.” That seems sensible to me.
Pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fargo, North Dakota, Cassidy-Maloney, disagreed and remarked, “It almost felt like a desecration of the holy book to put his signature on the front writ large, literally.” There is this idea that had the president signed the Bibles less ostensibly on the inside it would not have been as egregious.
Donnie Anderson is the executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and as one who can see inside the hearts of men, judged it as a “calculated political move.” She went on to say, “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.” Of course, these attacks are based on that famous lex non scripta commandment, “Thou shalt not autograph Bibles.”
Since the Bible does not really say anything about autographs, I have always admired what basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell said, “In the middle of my playing career, I decided to stop signing autographs. In part, my feelings about autographs is based upon my belief that I’d rather meet someone who approaches me respectfully, talk to them for a minute and look them in the eye, rather than participate in the momentary ritual of signing something, never looking at the person I’m signing something for, never getting to know them, and then moving on.” Russell’s point, autographs are meaningless; I think he is right.
I do agree with Donnie Anderson when she said, “People should have more respect for Scripture.” But not because of who did or didn’t autograph it. I don’t care if your Bible has been signed by Donald Trump, Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, we show our respect for the Word of God when we read it, study it and with the help of God’s Spirit we live it.
We show our respect for God’s Word by respecting what He respects such as the sanctity of life and marriage. Don’t think it is being respectful by not letting someone scrawl their name on your Bible while thinking it is alright to butcher babies, and two men or two women constitute a marriage. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15. That’s how you respect the Bible.