National Bible Week

  A small group of businessmen met in New York City in 1940 to talk about faith in the face of an impending crisis. World War II was raging in Europe, and it appeared to be only a matter of time before America would be involved. These businessmen believed they had to do something to help strengthen the nation spiritually. "What can we do?" they asked. Well, after much deliberation, they agreed that Bible-reading was crucially important. After all, the Bible had proven to be a source of hope and encouragement to countless millions over the centuries. So they announced the first National Bible Week, to be observed December 8-15, 1941, and their first nationwide broadcast was scheduled on NBC Radio for December 7. The timing was providential, for just before that broadcast, news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor flashed around the world. There were few details, but America was glued to their radios as the National Bible Week broadcast began. Initially scheduled for one hour, with a comedy to follow, NBC scrubbed the comedy and allowed the National Bible Week broadcast to continue. I still remember as a kid listening intently to my radio that day. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt captured the spirit of the event in his message to our enlisted personnel. He said, "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. Throughout the centuries," he continued, "men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book, words of wisdom, counsel, and inspiration. It is a foundation of strength, and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul." The tradition that began so dramatically fifty-nine years ago continues today, with National Bible Week observed from the Sunday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is a time to pause and reflect on the magnificence of what God has given us, and the great contributions of the Bible to this nation. The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were filled with gratitude for their safe arrival in a land where they could worship freely. They gave thanks to God for their blessings. And they built their new government based on God's promises in the Bible. John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, spoke of this spirit in a talk in 1630 entitled, "A Model of Christian Charity." He concluded with a parallel to Moses' final words to Israel, in Deuteronomy 30: "There is now set before us life and good, death and evil . . . But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods . . . we shall surely perish." Each year some thirty governors and 500 mayors recognize the Bible's contributions to this nation in their National Bible Week proclamations. A Gallup survey reported that 8 million people begin reading the Bible each year as a result of this annual campaign. You and I should be doing the same thing. Why not start by reading Psalm 23, 100, or 145? Or the gospel of John. Read it this week, to your family, and give thanks for this incredible gift -- of God's holy Word that we can read in this free nation.


Chuck Colson


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