Donald Trump has raised some eyebrows these past few days after photos and video emerged of him signing Bibles for volunteers and victims of a recent tornado outbreak in Alabama. But it's not all that unusual for a president, or other politicians, to sign Bibles, says Slate writer Daniel Politi, nor is the event all that shocking when viewed within its context.
As you are probably aware by now, on Friday, Trump visited tornado-ravaged Alabama to visit with victims and rescue workers, and in the process got plenty of peoples' ire up by signing some of their Bibles. Even Jamie Aten, a professor at the evangelical Christian Wheaton College, called the signing "blasphemous."
"I've never seen anything like it."However, Trump signing Bibles may not have been such a big deal.
For starters, says Politi, Trump didn't exactly come to Alabama intending to sign Bibles. Instead, he found himself at an Opelika church when a 12-year-old boy presented the president with his own Bible and asked him to sign in. Then a 10-year-old girl asked Trump to sign her pink camouflaged Bible.
"She just reached out there and said, 'Mr. President, would you sign this?'"That got the ball rolling, so to speak, and soon other volunteers and victims alike were asking the president to sign their books.
What's more, says Politi, when presidents are out among the general public, they often find things thrust in front of them to sign, and in general, they do so without giving it a second thought.Peter Manseau, the Smithsonian's curator of religion, tells The Washington Post that other presidents have signed Bibles, too. Specifically, says Manseau, Barack Obama signed one or more Bibles during his time in office, as did George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Manseau did not, however, say when or where those Bible signings took place.
"From what I can tell the event [Friday] wasn't outside the norm," Manseau said.
Also known to have signed a Bible in his career is Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
And though at least one evangelical was appalled by the signing of Bibles, it seems that others in the evangelical community are less put off by signing Bibles. Tim Tebow has been known to sign them, for example, and late evangelist Billy Graham signed a Bible in 2005 for a very special friend of his: that friend was Donald Trump.
"To Donald Trump, God Bless you always. Billy Graham."