Did you know that, of all our 44 presidents, only one of them didn’t swear his oath of office on the “Word of God?” That was Teddy Fucking Roosevelt, our best president, who didn’t use the old book when he was sworn into office after President McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
Okay, so the ceremony was super-rushed, on account of the fact that the previous president had been kidnapped and then drawn and quartered by a band of Rebelling Boxers who had swam here from China.
But still – no Bible. Calvin Coolidge used a Bible. When Franklin Roosevelt died, Truman described the “scurrying about” to find a Bible to swear him in on. Lyndon Johnson couldn’t find a Bible, so he used a prayer book.
But Teddy was like, “no. That’s stupid.”
I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be sworn in with a Bible if I ever became president, but my propensity for making statements like that on the Internet is but one of the myriad reasons why I’ll never become president. But I digress.
Yes, he used a Bible at his second inauguration in 1905. But he put his hand on James 1:22-23, and I think that choice is significant (quoted from the King James version):
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass.
That’s a progressive passage right there — it certainly fits within Roosevelt’s overall philosophy that the good we do is more important than the values we espouse. Let’s contrast that with Isaiah 40:30, the Old Testament passage that George W. Bush used a century later at his second swearing-in ceremony:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Bush’s sentiment echoed that of Ronald Reagan, who used 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
So Roosevelt said, “do good deeds. Make the world a better place,” while the men who inherited his party said, “fear a big man in the sky and ask him to tell you what to do.”
And actually it’s kind of funny to think about that in the context of the progression of the Republican Party itself. Roosevelt was quoting from the New Testament, while those later assholes were using the Old Testament… And in a way, doesn’t what James says pretty much lay the previous passages to waste?
I mean — “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” is basically the opposite of “wait(ing) upon the Lord.” And Reagan’s passage isn’t about doing anything… it’s about not doing stuff (“turn from… wicked ways”). What a loser!
So, in conclusion, Teddy Roosevelt was awesome and Bush and Reagan sucked.