Vigliotti: Of Bibles, faith, and the American president

Religious faith, particularly that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, was central to the founding of the United States of America, and religious faith remains critical to our identity, our character, and our lives to this day. Though some on the Left deny the importance of religion in American life, one need only look at the recent controversy surrounding President Trump’s signing of Bibles to be reminded otherwise.

While there is no state-established religion in the United States, Judeo-Christianity has always been established in the hearts and minds of Americans in some form or another.


John Adams believed that only a Biblically-based people could ever understand or live by the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson believed that man had a natural morality that only made sense, and was only truly expressed, through the lens of Christianity. George Washington, in his first presidential address, sought God’s intervention and blessings in the affairs and lives of Americans and the nation. Benjamin Franklin, whom many argue to be deistic, nevertheless believed God’s intervention and assistance was possible in the midst of stalemate at the Constitutional Convention.

Even often overlooked founders, from the Jewish Haym Salomon to the Catholic Charles Carroll, believed the United States of America was a land under God where their faiths could be practiced in pursuit of their own American destinies. They understood that America was an idea in becoming, one conceived in principles rooted in the faith of Judeo-Christianity.

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The U.S. Constitution serves as the legal bulwark of our natural rights as American citizens. The philosophy which the Constitution practices is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which transcribes our Judeo-Christian understanding of man as having natural rights gifted to us from God. When we talk about God, we are not talking about man’s laws or political balances. Instead, we are talking about moral truths.

Many argue that we cannot legislate morality, but what American law does not have some fundamental moral motivation at its core? If all our laws across this nation, from the most local to the federal level, can be traced back to, or are measured as being consistent with the Constitution, and the Constitution owes its existence to the principles defined in the Declaration, how can we say that there are no morally-founded laws in America?

And yet, there are still many who deny history and the evidence of our national documents to say that religion does not and cannot matter. The reasons are many, but all are somehow political, and many are self-conflicting. We have seen the debate play out sharply as sociocultural issues, with abortion and euthanasia most recently, but the president’s visit to tornado-torn Alabama has ignited a theological debate so fierce that one might mistake it for an eschatological fight over the end times.

Instead, the president signed some Bibles.

And suddenly, many of those same liberals who had once mocked and criticized small town Americans for “clinging” to their irrelevant Bibles became the champions of Biblical integrity.

The president’s decision to sign some Bibles was considered sacrilegious. It was labeled a political ploy. It was considered an affront to God and Christianity. The criticism went on.

In certain respects, it was an attempt by some on the Left to regain moral ground after the catastrophe of abortion expansion and the embrace of euthanasia.

Abortion and euthanasia aside, antisemitism is growing on the far Left. Calls for ideological war within and beyond the Democratic Party, inaugurated by so-called Democratic Socialists and Justice Democrats against moderates and liberals not far left enough, are gaining a growing number of supporters. Violent rhetoric is fast-outpacing calls for calmness.

And yet, the president signing some Bibles is the great moral scandal of the day.

I would pray that in a similar situation, any normal American of good faith in a leadership position would have signed essentially anything a victim of any tragedy asked of him or her — a shoe, a hat, a hand, a flyer, a book, or The Book. Even if not theologically correct, a simple gesture, meant to bring comfort to one in grief, a gesture done in good faith and not reprehensible or ethically questionable, certainly cannot be faulted.

I would imagine the president did not anticipate signing Bibles on his visit. If the president had refused the request, it can easily be predicted how the Left would have reacted. President Trump would be criticized for not signing the Bibles. Can one honestly imagine instead a New York Times headline that reads Trump Right to Not Sign Bibles of Disaster Victims?

And lost in the debate are the Alabamians — our fellow Americans — themselves. Those Alabamians who had suffered were suddenly not worthy of prayer or compassion, they were only political fuel. In one breath, the moral lessons of the Bible about generosity and charity for those in need were thrown out in favor of whether the president could sign a Bible.


The president was not asking for campaign contributions in exchange for autographs. He was not seated in the Oval Office for an elaborate, prime time-televised signing ceremony. He was on the ground, in person, seeing those people face to face, offering hope and simple compassion.

To be sure, there has been some honest debate on whether it is proper to add one’s name to the Bible in the manner of a signature or an autograph. And what the entire situation does prove beyond a shadow of a doubt is the central place that Judeo-Christianity retains in the American consciousness.

So if we are serious about Judeo-Christian faith in our daily lives (including our friends on the Left), then we should first try to understand and act on genuine moral motivation. After all, the president was only doing what John Adam’s Biblically-based American should.