Neglecting the Sacred: The President’s First Words

Thomas Griffin 1/22/21

President Joe Biden’s inauguration address contained several mentions of faith, a pause for silent prayer as well multiple occasions invoking God’s name and protection for unity to reign in our country. These are objectively good things which are needed for our time and circumstances. The second Catholic president also mentioned a quote from the Bible regarding the fact that those who weep in the evening will rejoice in the morning (Psalm 30:5). The president appeared to do a nice job with his first speech, however, my quarrel is with his ignorance of and neglect towards the true and the divine.

If the sacred is misused, it allows anyone to abuse the sacred. There must be careful appreciation given to any mention of the divine and holy because this is a reality, or rather a person, that we not only depend on for our existence but is literally the greatest power in the universe. If everything is sacred, then nothing is holy and while the bedrock of our nation is important, it is not God. 

It may seem to be a frivolous point and one that is made in order to accuse the president of something rather than applaud him for his call to work together and not seek out violence. The main issue, though, is that words are important. The nature of words such as holy, sacred, and hallowed are crucial because they denote realities which are of the highest degree and importance, namely God. If we frequent these words with ease and without careful discernment we will be guilty of equating the mundane with the divine. 

“Now, on this hallowed ground,” Biden notes in the preliminary remarks of his speech, the nation is gathered for the peaceful transition of power despite the fact that enemies attempted to destroy democracy on January 6th. The term hallowed means “holy” or set apart for divine usage. Holy ground is used to denote an arena or space which is filled with God’s presence and life like the burning bush, the ark of the covenant, the tent of meeting, and the Temple in the Old Testament. America and its government is the best that man has known, but it is not God and cannot be equated with his holiness, especially if it neglects the dignity of the human person. 

Behind the seemingly insignificant gesture of word choice is the main problem with Joe Biden as a Catholic president. He does not know what is sacred and what is holy; he only knows what sounds nice and what appears to appease the masses. How is the ground lying around the Capitol holy, but the child in the womb not? How are the steps leading up to Congress hallowed if the blood of tens of millions of children have been poured out because a law ratified there deems them worthless. 

While he claimed he would be a president for all Americans, no matter who they voted for, Biden could not even come to grips with saying the name of Donald Trump. The president never once mentioned the former POTUS in his speech, and he never specifically named the lies which he claimed are tearing the country apart. Instead of taking this momentous occasion as a way to reconcile he desired to ignore the issue at hand while speaking about grand ideas which are nice to hear about, but difficult to accomplish. For, how can you state you will work for and with Trump supporters if you are not even willing to say his name?

Biden noted, “I’ve just taken the sacred oath” and promised to protect the Constitution and defend every American. Several groups of Americans are crying out for help and demanding that the president heed his initial words as commander in chief and live in the light of the truth. The Little Sisters of the Poor are asking that you defend them because they are fearful that you will force them to violate “your church’s” teaching on the immorality of abortifacients and contraception as methods which murder innocent children and desecrate the truly hallowed action of a husband and wife.

That baby in the womb who is past full-term in New York and may one day be a healthcare worker or first responder is pleading for you to heed her voice because her life is threatened by a law which says that even if she can safely live outside of the womb she is still not a human life. If you honestly believed that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were sacred and God-given rights then you would devote your efforts to protecting the most vulnerable and the ones who “your church” says have infinite dignity. If the president deemed it worthy to cite the Psalms and St. Augustine in his inauguration speech then he should recall the truth of what “his church” teaches and stand by what is truly holy in this world. 

“I close today where I began, with this sacred oath before God and all of you,” that he, President Biden, would give us all that he has and build a future of “light, not darkness. Decency and dignity. Love and healing.” God urges the president today to prayerfully reflect on these words and call to mind and heart that the Catholic Church speaks for Christ and all that is holy, even if he rails against the light and truth of what is most truly and profoundly sacred in this world.

Thomas Griffin teaches at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.

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