By Michael J. Brooks
The recent tornado in Lee County, Alabama, was devastating with 23 lives lost—several in a single family. How sad that things changed for these residents in such a short time.
U.S. presidents are expected to make appearances following disasters in order to boost morale. We remember President Obama touring Tuscaloosa with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in 2011. Likewise, President and Mrs. Trump visited the Auburn area to survey damage and offer encouragement.
The president received criticism for autographing a few Bibles on his visit. He didn’t choose to but was requested to do so by attendees at Providence Baptist Church. According to the AP a young person thrust a Bible into the president’s hands and asked him to sign, and others followed suit. The same story reported a few religious leaders outraged that someone other than the author would sign and claiming the president was “courting” his evangelical base in this way.
Theologians call the original biblical manuscripts “the autographs”—the documents written and “signed” by Peter, Paul, Moses and others. Evangelicals usually don’t believe it’s disrespecting the original writers to sign Bibles; rather we see it as a way to encourage one another.
One of my boyhood heroes was the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, Bob Harrington. He was a dynamic Christian preacher who was recognized for his ministry in the French Quarter while a student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I loved to hear Harrington preach, and probably knew his testimony from memory. He often signed Bibles, as he did for me, with the inscription, “Gratefully saved.”
I have a Bible signed by the prince of Southern Baptist preachers, W.A. Criswell. Criswell served First Baptist Dallas, Texas for 40 years. He loved young preachers and often took a moment to sign a word of encouragement in our Bibles.
The Bible I most often use in the pulpit was given by a friend in 1980, and his dedication signature is in the foreword.
My ordination Bible is also signed by my pastor at the time.
The Carter Political Items Collectors group I’m a member of has an annual convention in Plains, Ga. We often have Jimmy Carter-signed items in our auctions, including Bibles and other Bible study materials. The auction benefits the Maranatha Baptist Church where the Carters attend.
Another church I served gave a music minister a Bible when he went away to school. He passed it around and asked us to sign our names by our favorite scripture passage as a memento.
The president himself owns a Bible inscribed by Billy Graham.
I think we shouldn’t criticize Bible signing, unless perhaps at a political event. Mr. Trump simply gave his time to encourage hurting people.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.