- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

The events of a Presidential inauguration are historic. And, given the thousands of cameras all pointed in the same direction, even small details of pageantry and formality are noted and recorded for history. Comparisons with past inaugurations are inevitable, and deviations from the norm are either celebrated or scoffed—depending on the eye of the beholder.

For example, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas became the first African-American to administer the oath of office to a Vice President. One has to wonder if his doing so will help the newly opened National Museum of African American History to correct itself in its recent snubbing of Justice Thomas.

The Bible that Justice Thomas held while administering the oath to Vice President Mike Pence was the same Bible that Ronald Reagan used for his two inaugurations. The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California loaned it for use by Mr. Pence after he saw it in the display case during a visit to the museum while on the campaign. 

John Heubusch, Executive Director of the Reagan Library and Foundation, told The Hill: “No one’s ever had the courage, I guess, until this point to make an ask for it. …It’s not one we loan out like a library book, to be sure, it’s never left the Reagan museum.”

If you looked closely at the swearing in, you may have noticed that the Bible wasn’t closed, as is normally the case. Rather, it was open. Why? Because the Vice President wanted the Bible to lay open to a certain passage of Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7:14, just as it lays open to that page while under bulletproof glass in the Museum. 

The verse was special for President Reagan, as it is for many Christians. For example, the late Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee and twice the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, loved to preach on this text. Rogers, first elected to the lead the Convention in 1979 as the theological Conservatives began to turn the denomination in a new direction, was part of an immense wave of interest that Christians had for getting into the public arena and making a difference. Rogers knew that you can’t equate the United States with the ancient nation of Israel. Nevertheless, Rogers preached these words:

Second Chronicles 7 and verse 14—here is an ancient promise. Obviously, it was given to Israel, but the Bible says of Israel, “All these things happened unto them for examples [to us]” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Here’s what God says: “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” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This wonderful nation, born in 1776, must be born again, or it will join the graveyard of the nations. God says in Jeremiah 10, verse 10: “at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation” (Jeremiah 10:10).”

To get a bit more historical information on the Reagan Bible in general, and on the 2 Chronicles 7:14 text in particular, here is a quote from historian Paul Kengor’s bestselling book, God and Ronald Reagan:

“On January 20, 1981, a drab day in the nation’s capital, Ronald Wilson Reagan took the oath of office and became the fortieth president of the United States. As Reagan was sworn in, Nancy stood aglow by his, her eyes as wide and fixed as those of Amy Goodrich in That Printer of Udell’s as Dick Walker prepared to head to Washington to save the world. For the swearing-in, Reagan had chosen to use Nelle Reagan’s old, wrinkled Bible, opened to II Chronicles 7:14, her favorite verse and one her son treasured equally:

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.

If was a verse in which Reagan had invested special meaning. He often quoted Scripture verses off the top of his head, especially those related to nations turning to prayer, and he recited II Chronicles 7:14 by heart in a number of proclamations and speeches over the years, major and minor. It is engraved on the inside cover of his personal Bible, provided by the Cowboy Chapter Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

‘When you go out across the country and meet the people,’ he had said in a failed presidential bid four years earlier, ‘you can’t help but pray and remind them of II Chronicles 7:14.’ The Bible Reagan used at the inauguration bore an annotation next to the verse, in Nelle’s hand: “A most wonderful verse for the healing of a nation.”

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