National Bible Week: Bible Reading Interrupted - Christian Heritage Fellowship, Inc.
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National Bible Week: Bible Reading Interrupted

The reading of the Bible was abruptly interrupted over the NBC radio network in 1941 when world-changing events began to transpire. Seldom in the history of America was Scripture needed to comfort and bring hope as it was needed that day. Yet, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the significance of the beginning of National Bible Week is almost, for many Americans, a matter of historical amnesia. Like so many, many other moments in American history, Christians were presented with a reason to be proud of their heritage.

Table of Contents

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Origin of National Bible Week

First Observance of National Bible Week

The Tradition Continues

Failure to Observe

Origin of National Bible Week

National Bible Association
National Bible Association founded

In 1940—at a time of world crisis—members of the business and professional communities came together in New York City to create The National Bible Association, an organization that believed the Bible was a perennial source of hope and encouragement. As World War II raged in Europe, The National Bible Association determined to strengthen the nation by encouraging Americans to turn to the Bible for strength and guidance. Deeply convinced of its cause, The National Bible Association made America the object of its efforts the following year.

First Observance of National Bible Week

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
December 7, 1941
First NBW Bible reading

In his second inaugural address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged, as president, to do his utmost for the country by “seeking Divine guidance.” On January 25, 1941, he penned a personal prologue to a special edition of the New Testament that was distributed to millions of U.S. soldiers. Believing that all soldiers preparing for battle should have the opportunity to read the words of Jesus Christ, he wrote: “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.”[1]

In 1941, the National Bible Association solicited and received the assistance of President Roosevelt in launching its National Bible Week campaign. The launch of their efforts was set that first year for December 8 through 14. Since then, the observance has continued annually during the week of Thanksgiving—the Sunday before through the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

Pleased to be chosen to help initiate National Bible Week, President Roosevelt agreed to host special events at the White House dedicated to the observance. In addition, a well-organized media campaign was planned, while religious, civic, and fraternal organizations pledged their support as well. To launch the event, a reading of the Bible was scheduled for December 7 on a national radio broadcast of the NBC network—the day before its official weeklong observance. On the scheduled day, Bible reading began on NBC, but to the horror of the nation, the reading was interrupted with the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Throughout the nation, radios were turned to NBC for reporting on the attack, and in between reports, network executives requested National Bible Association leaders to continue to read the Bible throughout the day. Who could have known, that on such a fateful day, America would need most the comfort of God’s Word, and what better preparation for a nation facing the horrors of another world war?

The Tradition Continues

Philadelphia Mayor Nutter Reads Psalm 27

Since so auspicious a beginning, National Bible Week has been observed throughout America and remains the signature event sponsored by the National Bible Association. The President is granted the status of Honorary Chairman of National Bible Week and issues a message from the White House while individual members of Congress offer statements concerning the importance of the Bible for the sake of documentation in the Congressional Record. Governors, county officials, and local mayors compose proclamations for their states, counties, and towns, while civic organizations, businesses, institutions and congregations have appropriately remembered the occasion.[2]

Failure to Observe

Barack Obama

On November 23, 2010, Janet LaRue posted an article on the subject of National Bible Week observance that accused Barack Obama of indifference toward its observance. When she posted her article, National Bible Week 2010 was already two days old with no sign from the White House it would notice the event.[3] Though honorary chairman of National Bible Week efforts, Barack Hussein Obama had completely neglected an attempt to observe the nearly three-quarters-of-a-century tradition, choosing rather to celebrate the Muslim Ramadan with a White House banquet—something he began his first year in office and has continued to observe.[4] Until the presidency of Barack Obama, National Bible Week had received a prominent place of observance by every president, regardless of political affiliation.

Two years prior to Obama’s celebration of Ramadan, Pew Research Center released a survey of religious association in America.[5] It revealed that 71.4 percent of the population of the United States identified itself as “Christian,” 1.7 percent as “Jews,” and only 0.6 percent identified themselves as Muslims. Remarkably in 2009, Obama pontificated, “If you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” Discounting and denying the 71.4 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Christian, Obama declares “We’re no longer a Christian nation.” If Barack Obama finds reason to extoll a tiny percentage of the American population, he should find far more reason to honor nearly 72 percent of the population who respect the Book on which this Judeo-Christian nation has been founded.[6]

How to Get Involved

Family Devotions

How may you anticipate and observe this occasion? Historically, the agenda for observing National Bible Week has been very simple. Gather a small or large group for the reading of the Bible—in a home, house of worship, workplace, or any other place where the Bible may be freely read. The observance need not be limited to the week of Thanksgiving and may extend to other parts of the year. Simply establish a reading plan, an appropriate place and those willing to participate. Most importantly, make Bible reading a matter for personal and family devotions. Regardless of where you exercise the privilege of reading the Bible, it will require courage to speak the Word and will of God.

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[1] “Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Conservapedia (, November 24, 2013).

[2] Keiki Hendrix, “National Bible Week November 21, 2010 through November 28, 2010,”, November 22, 2010 (, November 24, 2013).

[3] Janet M. LaRue, “Obama Oblivious About Bible Week,” November 23, 2010 (, November 24, 2013).

[4] Peter Baker, “The White House Celebrates Ramadan,” The New York Times, September 1, 2009 (, November 24, 2013). While George Bush initiated these diners to show America’s war was not against Islam, Bush did not neglect the role the Bible has played in the beginning and development of America.

[5] The survey was released in February 2008.

[6] Janet M. LaRue, “Obama Oblivious About Bible Week,” November 23, 2010 (, November 24, 2013).

[7] The following quotations are only a portion of those provided in this article: David Barton, “The Founding Fathers on Jesus, Christianity and the Bible,” WallBuilders, May 2008 (, November 24, 2013).

Written by Dr. Stephen FlickNumber of posts: 195
Stephen Flick heads Christian Heritage Fellowship, a national organization dedicated to reclaiming America’s Christian Heritage and celebrating the life-changing influence of the Gospel around the world. Concerned with the cultural decay of America, Dr. Flick has sought to provide answers to fellow Christians (and unbelievers) concerning the questions and objections to Christianity often posed by secularists and the irreligious. Dr. Flick is a writer and speaker and has authored numerous articles and books on America’s Christian heritage. He earned his Ph.D. from Drew University in history and Christian theology and has taught at the graduate level as full professor. He has been a licensed minster for nearly forty years and resides in East Tennessee with his wife, Beth. They have two grown, married children and five grandchildren.
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