Monday, May 21, 2007

Two Items of Evidence for Our's Once Being a Christian Nation

Among my mother's things, she left a pocket New Testament that my dad carried during WW II when he was in the Navy. My mother said that the government gave one of these to each service man and woman. The first page of this little book has the heading "The White House - Washington" and this message:

As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspirition. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest inspirations of the human soul.

This page bears the facsimile signature of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At the back of the New Testament, the little book contains the Ten Commandments, and "Psalms, Prayers, and Hymns", including Psalms 19, 23, 24, 27, 46, 51, 91, and 121, The Lord's Prayer, A Prayer on Going into Battle, A Prayer for Loved Ones, A Prayer for a Pure Heart, A Prayer of Thanksgiving, Washington's Prayer for the Nation, A Prayer of Penitence, and hymns, Our God, Our Help; Lead On, O King Eternal; Onward Christian Solders; Faith of Our Fathers; Eternal Father, Strong to Save; How Firm a Foundation; Rock of Ages; Abide with Me; Now the Day is Over; America the Beautiful; My Country, 'Tis of Thee; the National Anthem. Finally there are two pages entitled "Where to Look" with scriptures. For example, If you are facing a crisis, read the 46th Psalm, page iv.

(As I leafed through this book, looking for notes, I found only one, a little piece of paper at Romans 10 with the citation "Romans 10: 1-10" in my dad's handwriting.)

Looking at this New Testament reminded me of the Bible that I received when I graduated from Duke University in 1968. It is a leather bound, gilt-edged RSV that each graduating senior received on the platform, just before being handed his or her diploma and shaking the president's hand. The first page of the Bible has a copy of the old Duke official seal at the top. The seal is circular with a cross prominent in the middle. The base of the cross appears to be the top of a mountain, perhaps Calvary, and the sun's rays blaze from behind. Along the circumference are the words Universitas Dukiana and Eruditio et Religio.

Below the seal are the words "presented to __________________ upon graduation from Duke University [class of] 1968. Below that inscription is the following:

THE AIMS of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the son of God; to advance learning in all lines of truth; to defend scholarship against all false notions and ideals; to develop a Christian love of freedom and truth; to promote a sincere spirit of tolerance; to discourage all partisan and sectarian strife; and to render the largest permanent service to the individual, the state, the nation, and the church. Unto these ends shall the affairs of this University always be administered.

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