Why is the Bible (or, as the law says, the Holy Scriptures) used in courts to swear an oath?
It seems to me that the Bible is a font of God’s Word, a collection of writings received as Holy and True and Sacred to the Christian community. In some faith communities, it is so hallowed as to have a special resting place in churches and in homes. In others, it is so valued as a tool for every-day guidance that it is carried in soft, personalized cases so that it can travel easily to work, to play and to church for constant reference and inspiration. Whether high church or low church, people of the church value this Book as God’s Word and a source of faith and truth and life. But I don’t know of any faith communities that use the Bible to swear oaths. It just seems like a misuse of God’s Word.
Put another way, the Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is the living Word of God. (Bear with me.) If I were in court and Jesus were there, I doubt that I’d put my hand on His Holy Head to somehow demonstrate the truth of my testimony. It just seems like a misuse of the person of Jesus, the living Word of God. I’d rather sit at his feet or walk along his side, not set my hand on his head to promise a truthful testimony.
The Bible is a source of faith, not some sort of ultimate superstitious tool that by being sweared upon somehow guarantees the credibility of the swearer’s testimony. In fact, that Christians from the right cry and complain when a Muslim wanted to swear on a Holy Quran (see the link above) makes no sense to me (Rush Limbaugh and others have whined about this). Why would Christians lament the fact that someone did not want to misuse the Christian Holy Book in court?
It boggles my mind that many Christians feel the need to preserve the misguided placement of religion in public spaces (court house Bibles, court house Ten Commandment monuments, etc.). Are they fearful that by removing these tokens of religious symbolism they will somehow lose their influence, power or role in society? They may lose some influence, but a wonderful new reality will arise by shedding these symbols of religion’s co-mingling with temporal rule – the Christian community will be freed to truly live into and live out a faith that is not compromised by being a bedfellow with Caesar. Disestablishment and disentanglement from the government is the best thing that can happen to our faith.