Symbols are powerful things. It becomes ever more apparent when someone suggests removing a symbol (or replacing it with another). As soon as that happens, we begin the process of rethinking what may have become a presumption, a given, a taken-for-granted gesture that has lost its meaning (or at least a misplaced meaning).
I read an article yesterday that questioned whether the President of the U.S. should be sworn into office by placing his (or her? maybe one day) hand on the Christian Bible. Since we are a nation that believes in the separation of church and state--that is, we have no state-sponsored religion--then why do we require this symbolic gesture? In light of the subject of the presidential oath, the article suggested that the President should place his hand on the U.S. constitution since that is what he is swearing to "uphold, defend, protect."
I think that is a good idea. Here's why.
Let's not pretend that the President is swearing an oath to God by placing his hand on the Bible. If he were, he would be in a heap of trouble. For it says in the book that he's supposed to love his enemies, turn the other cheek, and give sole allegiance to Jesus Christ. That automatically compromises our American leader. Imagine what would happen if he actually kept such an oath? How could the U.S. protect our national interests by loving our enemies? Instead, we kill our enemies to protect our rights, our freedom, our way of life. By swearing an oath to God by placing his hand on the Word of God, the President would automatically place the priority of the Bible over the U.S. consitution. And, I suspect, the great majority of U.S. citizens wouldn't like that one bit.
Now, I get the objection by those who say such a move (substituting the constitution in place of the Bible) is another sign of the creeping secularization of our country. But, like most symbols, it takes time for the gesture to catch up with the reality. We are already (and have been for quite some time) a secular nation. Is there any doubt that American ideals trump the way of Jesus in our government, among our citizenry, in our every-day lives?
So, I say, let's make it official. I don't want our President to pretend like he's swearing an oath to God. In fact, he's swearing an oath to us. And, we believe we are the ones to decide whether he's kept his promise.