A Brief History of the Bible’s Use at Presidential Inaugurations

Jan. 22 2021

In his inaugural speech on Wednesday, the new president alluded to the book of Exodus, and quoted a verse from Psalm 30: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” This psalm—read in full in the traditional Jewish morning liturgy—is one Joe Biden has cited in other speeches as well. Tevi Troy and Stuart Halpern commend such use of the Bible as “part of a welcome, long-running trend toward more religious language in public life”:

[All told], 27 out of 45 presidents have cited the Bible in their inaugural addresses, making a total of 64 biblical references. Forty-four came from the Hebrew Bible and twenty from the New Testament. . . . The tradition of biblical allusions in inaugural addresses dates back to the beginning of the republic, when George Washington made an argument for them. In his first inaugural, Washington referred to Psalm 82. “It would be peculiarly improper,” he said, “to omit in this official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of the nations.”

Although the U.S. has grown increasingly secular and religiously diverse, biblical references were less common earlier in American history. . . . The increased tone of religiosity may reflect a greater comfort with religion in the public square, as Americans have become less concerned over the prospect of state-established religions the likes of which the Pilgrims and other migrants fled.

In citing the Bible in his inaugural address, President Biden has continued a venerable and valuable presidential tradition, one that shaped the country’s cultural vocabulary for more than two centuries. Even in an ever more secular world, there’s still value in referencing such timeless words.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: American politics, American Religion, Civil religion, Hebrew Bible, Joseph Biden

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy