In what was slated to be a trip to Alabama to comfort those impacted by severe weather last week — including a tornado outbreak that killed 23 people — President Donald Trump ignited outrage after he was pictured signing several Bibles, which supporters had requested he sign.
You guys... He...he signed *the covers* https://t.co/bLQzVN9vcB— Sarah Cooper (@Sarah Cooper) 1552085340.0
Trump's actions generated two schools of thought: Some said signing the Bibles was deeply offensive, while others said Trump did not seek out the Bibles, and was only doing what he could to comfort storm victims when he obliged their requests.
But what do Christian leaders say?
Several Christian leaders spoke with the Associated Press, explaining their thoughts on the outrage. Some said what Trump did was not wrong — seeing that Trump's presidential predecessors were known to sign Bibles — while others said Trump's actions were deeply offensive.
Hershael York, dean of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the AP that Trump likely signed the Bibles because their owners believed his signature was meaningful.
"Though we don't have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it's not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles," he said. "Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too."
Bill Leonard, founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus at Wake Forest's School of Divinity, highlighted the fact that Trump signed the Bibles in a church, not at a political rally.
"It would've been worse if he had said no because it would've seemed unkind, and this was at least one way he could show his concern along with his visit," he told the AP. "In this setting, where tragedy has occurred and where he comes for this brief visit, we need to have some grace about that for these folks."
Similarly, James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, told the AP the story does not deserve the outrage it generated.
"Too much is being made out of something that doesn't deserve that kind of attention," he said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Dr. Kevin Cassiday-Maloney, a pastor from Fargo, North Dakota, told the AP that Trump's signature does not belong anywhere near a Bible — let alone on the front cover.
"It just felt like hubris," he said. "It almost felt like a desecration of the holy book to put his signature on the front writ large, literally."