Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Responding to Trump's Bible Pose

Since Donald Trump violently expelled protestors in order to pose with a Bible in front of a church, media and social media has overflown with outrage and ridicule. All this talk will likely prove ineffective, because it is just talk. Trump took symbolic action. The only way to counter ritual action is with other symbolic action.

Bad rituals can only be corrected by good rituals. That is true whether you believe that the rituals have real effects or that they are only symbols. Either way, they have visceral effects on participants and observers. So commentary by supporters and critics has little do with whether or not the picture of Trump holding the Bible will have its desired effect.

What would counter rituals look like? Well, protestors could hold bibles while they march, and claim this powerful symbol of the Christian religion for their cause. Their signs could quote bible verses like “Let my people go!” (Exodus 5:1), “You must love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), “You must love the immigrant as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34), “Let justice and righteousness flow like a river” (Amos 5:24), and “Blessed are the poor … but woe to  the rich” (Luke 6:20, 24).

Better yet: people holding up bibles could march side-by-side with people holding up qur’ans (Muslims) and torahs (Jews) and gitas (Hindus) and sutras (Buddhists) and Adi Granths (Sikhs) and wampum belts (Native Americans of the northeast) and other sacred symbols of different religious and cultural traditions that each community would choose as appropriate for these protests.

A picture of that protest would counter Trump’s pose with a Bible more effectively than all the words on media and social media put together. That picture would reclaim religious and cultural symbols for proclaiming the priority of justice and compassion for all.

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