Last week, the first openly bisexual senator was sworn in...and she refused to be sworn in on the Holy Bible, as is customary. She instead opted for a law book with the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, because, she says, of her "love for the Constitution."
Senator Kyrsten Sinema has a first name that ironically means, in Latin, "Follower of Christ." In addition to being openly bisexual, she is also listed, according to the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life, as the "only member of the Senate who does not identify as a member of a religion."
Why do we have this system of swearing in public officials in the first place? And swearing in on the Bible? And saying, "So help me, God." — which, by the way she did (indirectly, at least)? Who cares about such "antiquated" customs? Do these symbols matter? Well, Senator Sinema has a role in our government, thanks in part to the Bible for the creation of that government.
I wrote a whole book about how the Bible played a pivotal role in the founding of America. And the more I study the subject, the more convinced I become of it.
Historically, taking oaths is a way to seal one's commitment — but to do it with God as a witness. Just as marital vows are oaths before God.
George Washington noted in his Farewell Address (1796) that if we undermine religion (in his day, he was speaking to a largely Christian audience), we undermine oaths and fidelity.
Said Washington, "Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?" If there is no God to Whom we shall give an account, we can do whatever we want.
When George Washington was sworn in as our first president under the Constitution, he used the Holy Bible. After being sworn in with his hand on the Bible, Washington even bent down and kissed the holy book. Dr. D. James Kennedy once remarked of that action: "Why, that's enough to give the ACLU apoplexy!"
I've seen documentary footage where President Truman, our 33rd president, also deferentially kissed the Holy Bible as he was being sworn in.
But some people today don't even want to be sworn in on the holy book. Meanwhile, some recent Muslim elected officials expressed an interest in swearing in on Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Qur'an — but, as Bill Federer points out, the reason Jefferson got a copy of the Muslim holy book was to try and figure out why Muslims were, without provocation, attacking U.S. ships in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Early 19th century jihad ultimately led to our Marines being sent "to the shores of Tripoli" to get Islamic attackers to stop stealing our men on the sea and selling them into slavery.
One of the key points about America's heritage that is often overlooked is that the Biblical concept of covenant gave rise ultimately to our two key founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
They are written agreements, under God, signed by the participants. More importantly, our founding documents are the culmination of about a hundred or so compacts and frames of government created by the Puritans and other Christians, using a Biblical covenant as the model.
I once interviewed Dr. Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston, who has been studying constitutions for decades. He told our viewers, "Without a belief in the Bible, we would not have the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution as we have it."