Symbolism and meaning of Obama’s choice of the King and Lincoln Bibles

Symbolism and meaning of Obama’s choice of the King and Lincoln Bibles
By Rev. C. K. Ekeke, Ph.D.


Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston.                                                       n

For the first time in the history of presidential inauguration ceremony in the U.S., the first African-American president of the United States of America, President Barack H. Obama demanded to be sworn-in with two respected personal Bibles owed by two revered and iconic figures — the first Bible belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, the father of the American nation, who did not only abolish slave trade through the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, but was courageous enough to unite a nation and preserved the Union through a policy of reconciliation despite the apposition from his party.

During his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, as the crowd listened in profound silence, President Lincoln gave a short speech saying the following memorable statement:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Within weeks after those memorable words, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who listened to the speech on the Capitol steps, not far from where Lincoln spoke. The nation was thrown into mourning and panic.
Abraham Lincoln was a pragmatic politician and a man of faith, who was inspired by God and Sacred Scriptures, which gave him strength and courage to condemn slavery and abolished it during his presidency.
Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr., a prophet and human rights leader, widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.  Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith—as a theologian and prophetic preacher and from the wise teachings of Jesus Christ and peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi of India, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and 60’s to achieve legal  equality for African Americans in the United States.  While other civil rights organizations were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly impossible goals.
Dr. King prophetically and courageously inspired the United States of America and the world to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.  His non-violent civil right activities and the famous “I have a Dream” speech, electrified the entire nation to rethink of its segregation and enslavement laws.  His powerful oratory and wise leadership freed an entire nation from hate, bigotry and self-destruction and gave millions freedom and hope around the world.  Nigeria needs such a person today.
Three years after Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, he was abruptly and tragically assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, in the morning of April 4th, 1968, by James Earl Ray. Again, the nation was thrown into mourning and uncertainties—especially for African-Americans, who at that point had not achieved much in terms of equality and justice.  James Earl Ray and his accomplices shot and killed Dr. King who spent a lifetime engaged in non-violent struggle for critical human and social issues such as poverty, racism, inequality, injustice, and war.
And so, like the political pragmatist, Abraham Lincoln, and the prophetic leader, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, a community organizer, a pragmatic and brilliant politician, who comes shattering centuries-old barriers for African-Americans by being elected the first African-American president of the United States of America in November 2008 and then four years later, was re-elected in an election many pundits and his opponents on the right wrote him off, demands to be sworn-in in his second term with two personal Bibles of his idols.  The first presidential election of Barack Obama was in itself historic, but his second term and the special request to be sworn-in with President Lincoln’s Bible and Dr. King’s personal Bible makes it even more symbolic.  There is no doubt that President Barack Obama will go down in history not only as the first African-American to occupy the White House, a power house built by his ancestors, but his identification with the two great American iconic leaders of all time.
In his speech, which has been rated as powerful and comparable to that of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address on March 4, 1865,President Barack Obama said,
“We reject that Americans must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future,”
President Obama told the crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators who descended on the National Mall Monday morning, saying, “The commitments we make to each other–through Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security–these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Many conservative commentators have said that the president’s speech focused mainly on social programs for the poor, climate change and regrettably on same-sex marriage rights.
The issue of gay rights is a policy that moral and public policy watchers like us are struggling to make this famous comparison between these three great men—President Lincoln, Prophet King and President Obama.
There is no doubt that the three men existed during three different and radical periods of human history—Lincoln during the 19th century, King in 20th century, and Obama in 21st century, nevertheless, if Lincoln and King were alive today, would they promote gay rights and push people to stay on government handout?
In recognition of Martin Luther King Day, Linkage’s Institute for Leading Diversity & Inclusion faculty member and thought leader, Dr. Mary-Frances Winters, was confronted with similar feeling when she asked this question: “If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, what he would think about the progress we’ve made towards equality and inclusion?
She was of the opinion that some monumental progress of historic proportions has been made for the election of the first Black president, Barack Hussein Obama, in 2008 and his re-election in 2012. However, she also felt that little progress has been in economic and political power for Blacks and Latinos. Humongous problems such as health care, unemployment, racial profiling, hate crimes, moral values, school dropout for black, acts of terrorism and catastrophic violence is commonplace today’s America, she writes.
The former UN Ambassador, legislator and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young—one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest aides, in his interview with Newsmax on gun massacres, said, “I’m mindful of the way that Martin Luther King dealt with the gun issue,”  “When people showed up at his home with guns after his house had been bombed, he said, ‘No, take your guns home. We have got to find a better way to deal with this problem.’ In fact, he used the Biblical term ‘a more excellent way.’
In reacting to President Barack Obama second inauguration ceremony that coincided with the 2013 and 45th annual Commemorative Service of Martin Luther King Jr. 84th birthday, Rev. Andrew Young told Newsmax, that it’s particularly appropriate for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration to fall on the day honoring the slain civil rights icon—Obama owes his “very existence” to the man whose life and death broke down centuries-old barriers for African-Americans, he said.
Star Parker, the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), in her piece to honor Dr. King birthday and President Obama second inauguration asked, “Could Dr. King have given the Inaugural benediction.” Her question was poignant on the issue of religion, faith and morality in America.  This in lieu of the fact that Rev. Louie Giglio, pastor of the evangelical Passion City Church in Atlanta, who was designated to give the benediction at this year’s presidential inauguration, was pushed aside and he withdrew, under apparent pressure, after the surfacing of remarks he made, some 25 years ago, about the sinfulness of homosexuality.
Ms. Parker, a social conservative and leading voice in the Tea Party Movement asked an appropriate question when she wrote the following statements,
“Could Dr. King have given the Inaugural benediction?” “Let’s recall that freedom of religion appears in the First Amendment of our constitution, alongside the protection of freedom of speech. So what kind of irony do we have before us that two key aspects of American life, protected by our constitution, are up in smoke and the venue is inauguration of an American president, who will put his hand on a Bible and swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”? Adding more bitter irony, Rick Warren, who gave the benediction at the 2009 inauguration of this same president, America’s first black president, recently said that “the battle to preserve religious liberty for all, in all areas of life, will likely become the civil rights movement of this decade.”
And so, when President Barack Obama stood on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol—on national television and before a mammoth crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators who descended on the National Mall on Monday morning, Obama staunchly reiterated his belief that gay people should be allowed to marry. He said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”  He also compared the gay rights Stonewall Riots of the 1960s in the same breath as the Selma civil rights marches.
Despite my admiration for him as the first Black President of this great United States of America and the most powerful man in the world today, I do humbly and respectfully disagree with our beloved president on the issue of religion, faith, and morality.  President Obama is highly educated and he claims to be a Christian, however, it baffles me how he does not see the difference between gay rights and civil rights.  Gay right is a sexual and moral issue whereas civil right is a human and freedom issue.  The gays have the freedom—especially in America to live with their partners but they do not have the moral authority—neither the government to redefine the institution of family and marriage—a divine institution that is as old as mankind and impose their homosexual agenda on young people.
About two weeks after the president publicly endorsing same-sex marriage in a television interview on ABC, a 12-year old boy posted a YouTube video advocating for same-sex rights. Since then the President has continued to speak at a campaign fund-raiser for gay rights supporters.  This week, the president of the lesbian group in Atlanta announced there will be the biggest lesbian party in Atlanta next month.  Today, young black kids as old as 12-years are lured into homosexual acts and lifestyle.  This is dangerous, especially when a black man in the Oval office endorses such group.
Even though I know deep down in my heart that homosexual lifestyle is sinful and immoral, yet my curiosity on the issue of gay rights is this: If Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, what would he say about gay rights? Would he have supported President Obama in his quest and fight for gay rights?  Would Dr. King agree with President Obama that gay rights are the same as civil rights? Would Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have allowed his personal Bible to be used by President Barack Obama in the swearing-in ceremony?
While pondering those questions, a colleague of mine sent me the message of Rev. Jonathan Walton, Harvard’s Pusey Minister of Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School.  During his Boston’s 43rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast speech on Monday morning of January 21, Rev. Walton contrasted what he called the present-day” sanitized and sterilized” version of the civil rights leader’s dream for America with what he said was the real message that King left behind. Rev. Walton cited 1965 as an important turning point for King. It was “the year King moved beyond civil rights,” said Walton, “to human rights, to economic justice,” and to promoting peace in war-torn Vietnam. The problems of poverty and war, Walton said, remain today and seem to be worsening, as huge sums “go to support the military-industrial complex,” while programs for the poor are slashed in the name of fiscal responsibility. “We need [King’s] wisdom now like never before,” Walton said.
That wisdom was echoed at the Horizon Sanctuary at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta during the Martin Luther King, Jr. 2013 Annual Commemorative Service held on Monday, January 21, 2013, where I was privileged to be part of this year’s commemorative service.  I was passionate to attend this year for a few reasons: First, it coincided with the inauguration of President Barack Obama second term in office, second, for the first time in history of inauguration of presidents, the President specifically requested to be sworn-in with King’s personal Bible, and third, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), was asked to be the keynote speaker.
In 2011 MLK Commemorative Service, Professor Cornel West brought eloquence and in 2012, Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III ignited the Horizon Sanctuary with his passionate oratory. Rev. Rodriguez becomes the first Hispanic to give a keynote speech at the MLK Commemorative Service.  He lived up to the occasion.  His message will go down in history as one of the most prophetic messages delivered at the King’s Commemorative Services. Reverend Rodriguez is a passionate and prophetic Bible teacher.  His oratory skills and kin insights on social, moral, religious and political issues are intriguing and amazing.  Some have said that he is the Hispanic MLK.  Without doubt, the spirit of MLK is in him.  We need the African MLK.  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), an organization that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. actually helped to launch in the 60’s, a religious/political organization that is today embraced by over 40 000 thousand Hispanic Evangelical churches in North America and with  over 40 million members.  Since then, his career has risen to new heights.
At the MLK 2013 Annual Commemorative Service on January 21, I had a rare opportunity to meet briefly with Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of King Center and daughter of MLK Jr.  During our brief moment, I delivered a prophetic message to her at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Horizon Sanctuary.  I prophesized to her that the mantle of prophetic leadership is now upon her.  I told her that she’s a prophetess and encouraged her to keep the dream alive. I further stated that the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States of America is not the fulfillment of King’s dream.  The fulfillment of her father’s dream is prophetic and will have its full fulfillment in Jesus Christ, when Christ returns to rule and reign as King and Lord, and at that time all oppressed people will be freed from Self, Sin, Sickness and Satan.  And finally, I released a leadership anointing upon Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, praying upon her the prophetic and leadership anointed prayer of Isaiah 11:2.
The King’s Center observance of the 84th birthday anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebration of the 28th national holiday commemorating his life and leadership. The King Center’s 2013 observance marks the 45thannual MLK birthday program, setting the tone for nation-wide, and indeed, global observances honoring his life, work and his historic contributions. The 2013 observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday also launches the King Center’s year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of King’s “I have a Dream” speech, which he delivered on August 28th, 1963 at the march on Washington DC. In keeping with the theme for the 2013 MLK birthday observance, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! King’s Dream for our World.” The Commemorative Service as always was splendid, empowering, and marvelous.
Like Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, or prophet King, whose exemplary short life was dedicated in non-violent struggle for equality and justice for Blacks, minorities and the poor; the pragmatist and brilliant Obama is dedicating his life and presidency to fight for the middle class, for gays, against healthcare fraud, for climate change, against terrorism, for immigrants, and so on.  President Obama will also be remembered for his passionate plea for the poorthereby fulfilling the most important command of God.  No matter how historians record this century, Obama’s name will be among the great men who came and conquered his generation.  Even if he is written-off by those on the Right, his supporters and admirers will remember him as a man who shattered old-century barrier by becoming the first Black president of the United States to rule the world from the Oval Office in D.C.
For his religious beliefs and moral policies, we leave that for Almighty God to judge him. Rather as believers, we are commanded to submit to those in authority and pray for them that they may have godly wisdom to lead the people in order that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  I offer that pray for President Barack Obama, his adorable family and his cabinet.
•Dr. Ekeke, Atlanta-based editorial contributor to, a theologian, consultant and leadership scholar, is the author of several books—including Leadership Wisdom and Leadership Liability.  He’s completing the writing of two books: “Leadership Prayer” and “The Problem with Nigeria” to be published this year.  He is the founder & president of Leadership Wisdom Institute and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

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