National Bible Week—When America Needed God
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National Bible Week—When America Needed God

USS Arizona after Attack on Pearl Harbor
American Thanksgiving Week
National Bible Week

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.National Bible Week

Table of ContentsNational Bible Week

* Click headings to navigate; click headings to return.

Origin of National Bible Week

First Observance of National Bible Week

The Tradition Continues

Failure to Observe

Origin of National Bible Week

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National Bible Association
1940
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.

To learn the importance of the Bible in perpetuating the republican principles of America’s Founding Fathers, please click this link to read our article, “Founding Fathers Begin Bible Societies”

First Observance of National Bible Week

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

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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

National Bible Week
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

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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.

Founding Fathers and the Bible

National Bible Week

National Bible Week

National Bible Week

National Bible Week

National Bible Week

John Adams

John Adams

. . . signer of the Declaration of Independence; Judge; Diplomat; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States:

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!

I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams

. . . sixth President of the United States; Diplomat; Secretary of State; U. S. Senator; U. S. Representative; “Old Man Eloquent”; “Hell-Hound of Abolition”:

My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ and I cannot cavil or quibble away [evade or object to]. . . . the whole tenor of His conduct by which He sometimes positively asserted and at others countenances [permits] His disciples in asserting that He was God.

The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made “bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” [Isaiah 52:10].

Dr. Benjamin Rush

Dr. Benjamin Rush

. . . signer of the Declaration of Independence; Surgeon General of the Continental Army; Ratifier of the U. S. Constitution; “Father of American Medicine”; Treasurer of the U. S. Mint; “Father of Public Schools Under The Constitution”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations! . . . My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins [Acts 22:16]. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! [Revelation 22:20]

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects… It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.

[T]he greatest discoveries in science have been made by Christian philosophers and . . . there is the most knowledge in those countries where there is the most Christianity.

[T]he only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.

The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effective means of limiting Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools.

The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.

The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life… [T]he Bible… should be read in our schools in preference to all other books because it contains the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public happiness.

Noah Webster

Noah Webster

. . . Revolutionary Soldier; Judge; Legislator; Educator; “Schoolmaster to America”:

[T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles… This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.

The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws.

All the… evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.

[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.

[T]he Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.

The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society – the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men.

[T]he Christian religion… is the basis, or rather the source, of all genuine freedom in government… I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.

Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster

. . . U. S. Senator; Secretary of State; “Defender of the Constitution”:

[T]he Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society.

[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible… men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty.

The Bible is a book… which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality with his fellow man.

Elias Boudinot

Elias Boudinot

. . . President of Congress; Signed The Peace Treaty to End The American Revolution; First Attorney Admitted to The U. S. Supreme Court Bar; framer of the Bill of Rights; Director of the U. S. Mint:

Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned… [L]et us earnestly call and beseech Him, for Christ’s sake, to preside in our councils. . . . We can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God, Whose Divine aid and assistance it becomes us as a Christian people most devoutly to implore. Therefore I move that some minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning . . . in order to open the meeting with prayer.

For nearly half a century have I anxiously and critically studied that invaluable treasure [the Bible]; and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new – that I do not receive some valuable addition to my stock of knowledge or perceive some instructive fact never observed before. In short, were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible; and should you renew the inquiry for the best philosophy or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge.

John Jay

First Chief Justice, John Jay

. . . president of Congress; Diplomat; Author of the Federalist Papers; Original Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court; Governor of New York

By conveying the Bible to people . . . we certainly do them a most interesting act of kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed – that this Redeemer has made atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve. The Bible will also [encourage] them with many explicit and consoling assurances of the Divine mercy to our fallen race, and with repeated invitations to accept the offers of pardon and reconciliation. . . . They, therefore, who enlist in His service, have the highest encouragement to fulfill the duties assigned to their respective stations; for most certain it is, that those of His followers who [participate in] His conquests will also participate in the transcendent glories and blessings of His Triumph.

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

[T]he evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds… they who undertake that task will derive advantages.

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

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[1] “Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Conservapedia (http://www.conservapedia.com/Franklin_D._Roosevelt, November 24, 2013).

[2] Keiki Hendrix, “National Bible Week November 21, 2010 through November 28, 2010,” Examiner.com, November 22, 2010 (http://www.examiner.com/article/national-bible-week-november-21-2010-through-november-28-2010, November 24, 2013).

[3] Janet M. LaRue, “Obama Oblivious About Bible Week,” Townhall.com November 23, 2010 (http://townhall.com/columnists/janetmlarue/2010/11/23/obama_oblivious_about_bible_week/page/full, November 24, 2013).

[4] Peter Baker, “The White House Celebrates Ramadan,” The New York Times, September 1, 2009 (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/the-white-house-celebrates-ramadan/?_r=0, 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,” Townhall.com November 23, 2010 (http://townhall.com/columnists/janetmlarue/2010/11/23/obama_oblivious_about_bible_week/page/full, 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 (http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=8755, November 24, 2013).

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Written by Dr. Stephen FlickNumber of posts: 206
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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