Joseph Robinette(Joe) Biden JR.
By Mike Burnard
This article is not an attempt to give a detailed account of the life and policies of the newly elected President of the USA. It simply aims to provide a more intimate glimpse into the life that shaped the character and principles of one of the most experienced politicians in American history.
On 20 January 2021 Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (Joe Biden) will be inaugurated as 46th president of the United States of America. He defeated the incumbent, Donald Trump, becoming the first candidate to defeat a sitting president since Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush in 1992. He is only the second non-incumbent vice president (after Richard Nixon in 1968) to be elected president and will enter his term as the oldest president at the age of 78. Joe Biden will be the second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy.
In his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, Noah Hariri writes that “in a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.” There are indeed legitimate concerns at every social and political level about this new liberal leadership, BUT, as Christians, it is clarity, sanity, and truth – love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) – that should still guide our prayers as we seek to follow the Biblical mandate of praying for people in authority (2 Timothy 2:1).
In a world dominated by an overabundance of personal opinions, perceptions inevitably create realities. The challenge after an extended, contentious, and divisive election is that whoever won the election would be demonised by some and worshiped by others. Even though Mr. Biden is perceived by his supporters as a political saviour, he needs to brace himself for an emotional backlash by many conservatives, including a large part of the Christian community.
Christians however do not have the luxury to engage in either demonising or worshiping any political leader. Scripture gives a clear mandate to PRAY – not against, not about, but FOR our leaders. It is therefore important to gather factual information about the person, the policies, and the principles that shaped the character of the new president of the United States.
- Name: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr
- Born: November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware
Biden’s father was initially wealthy but suffered financial setbacks around the time Biden was born, and for several years the family lived with Biden’s maternal grandparents. Scranton fell into economic decline during the 1950s and Biden’s father could not find steady work. Beginning in 1953, the family lived in an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, then moved to a house in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden Sr. later became a successful used car salesman, maintaining the family in a middle-class lifestyle.
As a child, Biden struggled with a stutter, and kids bullied him and called him names like “Dash” and “Joe Impedimenta” to mock him. He eventually overcame his speech impediment by memorizing long passages of poetry and reciting them out loud in front of the mirror.
Biden credits his parents with instilling in him toughness, hard work and perseverance. He has recalled his father frequently saying, “Champ, the measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up.”
He’s also said that when he would come home sullen because he had been bullied by one of the bigger kids in the neighbourhood, his mother would tell him, “Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day!'”
At Archmere Academy in Claymont, Biden was a standout halfback and wide receiver on the high school football team; he also played baseball. Though a poor student, he was class president in his junior and senior years. He graduated in 1961. At the University of Delaware in Newark, Biden earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965 with a double major in history and political science, and a minor in English. He had a C average and ranked 506th in his class of 688.
A major turning point in the life of Joe Biden happened in 1972, soon after he became the junior U.S. senator for Delaware. On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Biden’s wife Neilla and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries. Doctors soon said both would make full recoveries. Biden considered resigning to care for them, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded him not to
When Biden was sworn in on January 5, 1973 his two sons Beau (whose leg was still in traction from the automobile accident) and Hunter and other family members were present. At 30, he was the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history.
To see his sons every day, Biden commuted by train between his Delaware home and Washington, D.C.—90 minutes each way—and maintained this habit throughout his 36 years in the Senate. But the accident had filled him with anger and religious doubt. He wrote later that he “felt God had played a horrible trick” on him, and he had trouble focusing on work.
In an interview with Christian Headlines Biden confessed that he struggled with his faith after the accident. “For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again,” he said.
Biden credits his second wife, teacher Jill Tracy Jacobs, with the renewal of his interest in politics and life; they met in 1975 on a blind date and were married at the United Nations chapel in New York on June 17, 1977. Biden said meeting Jill helped give him “back his life.” He has said Jill has encouraged him in his faith over the years, once posting the quote, “Faith sees best in the dark” on his shaving mirror.
Both Joe and Jill are Roman Catholics and attend Mass at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware. Their daughter Ashley Blazer (born 1981) is a social worker. Beau Biden became an Army Judge Advocate in Iraq and later Delaware Attorney General; he died of brain cancer in 2015.
Mr Biden has had a long and illustrious political career. He first declared his intention to be president in 1987. Doctors discovered he had two life-threatening brain aneurysms shortly after and he subsequently dropped out in 1988.
Biden entered the Senate in 1973. He tried again for presidency in 2008 but was not able to gain enough support and dropped out. Ex-president Barack Obama later offered him the position of vice president. He served two terms as vice president to Obama between 2008 and 2016.
Biden has been characterized as a moderate Democrat and a centrist. Sadly, many assumptions and accusations created false perceptions which soon resulted in false characterisations that created fear and suspicion. Here is a summary of some of Biden’s policies:
Biden on his FAITH
For Christians, this should be the first consideration and of paramount importance: What is the moral and spiritual compass that guides our leader?
Joe Biden identifies himself as a Christian and a member of the Catholic Church. He attended grade school at Holy Rosary, a Catholic school in Philadelphia, and later attended Archmere Academy in Delaware, an all-boys Catholic school.
In an interview with Christian Post Mr. Biden expressed himself as follows:
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36)
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” He said. “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
These abiding principles – loving God and loving others – are at the very foundation of my faith. Throughout my career in public service, these values have kept me grounded in what matters most. As a husband, father, and grandfather, they are the cornerstone upon which our family is built. Through the pain of losing my wife, my daughter, and my son, they have sustained me with eternal hope. My faith has been a source of immeasurable solace in times of grief, and a daily inspiration to fight against the abuse of power in all its forms.
My Catholic faith drilled into me a core truth – that every person on earth is equal in rights and dignity, because we are all beloved children of God. We are all created “imago Dei” – beautifully, uniquely, in the image of God, with inherent worth. It is the same creed that is at the core of our American experiment and written into our founding documents – that we are all created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights.
As a country, we have never been perfect nor free of prejudice. We’ve never fully lived up to those ideals, but we’ve never walked away from them. And, at our best, these are the values that have pushed us, time and again, as Dr King said, to bend that great arc of the moral universe toward justice. As president, these are the principles that will shape all that I do, and my faith will continue to serve as my anchor, as it has my entire life.
An interesting fact is that Mr Biden wears a rosary on his left wrist. Biden’s rosary originally belonged to his late son, Beau Biden. Biden’s younger son, Hunter, had given the rosary to Beau. The beads were from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Beau died in 2015 after battling brain cancer. “I have not taken off the rosary Beau was wearing when he passed, since then. It is my connection with him,” Biden said in an interview. “It’s not about religion, per se,” he said on wearing the beads. “It’s about the connection. It makes me feel good. I know he’s with me, just touching it.”
Biden on MARXISM
Some Christian leaders have referred to Biden as “A Marxist Puppet” and created an enemy image without fully exploring what Marxism is and what Bidens’ policies are.
Michael Austin from Medium describes in more detail why Mr. Biden cannot be classified as a Marxist: “A Marxist is somebody who believes that capitalist economic systems are fundamentally and irredeemably flawed. Such systems cannot be fixed and must therefore be overthrown by a violent revolution in which the workers seize control of the means of production. If Joe Biden ever says something like, “the bourgeoisie must be utterly destroyed or the workers will never enjoy the fruits of their labour,” then we will know that we have a problem. If he says “Congress should raise the marginal tax rate on people making more than $400,000 a year so we can pay for health insurance,” then we can know for sure that we are not dealing with a Marxist. Marxists don’t want to raise taxes on wealthy people; Marxists want to abolish wealth.”
Ironically, on the website “In Defence of Marxism”, Marxists clearly distance themselves from Mr. Biden and sees him as part of the bourgeois system, a Capitalist and an enemy of Marxism.
Biden on COVID 19
Biden laid out his plans to combat COVID-19, including goals for his first 100 days as president:
To distribute 100 million vaccine shots, open most K-8 schools, and ask all Americans to wear masks for those 100 days. And while he applauded the new coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress and signed by Trump, Biden said Congress would need to provide more funding to meet some of his goals for combating the virus. He specifically pointed to steps he believes will be necessary to reopen schools, including more funding for testing, transportation, cleaning and ventilation systems.
Biden also said he plans to invoke the Defence Production Act so that U.S. companies increase production of vaccine-related materials. That act, among other things, allows a president to direct firms to prioritize government orders of goods needed for national security.
Biden on ABORTION
Biden has supported reproductive rights; same-sex marriage; the Roe v. Wade decision; and since 2019 has supported repealing the Hyde Amendment (barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape). But he has not always been clear on exactly where he stands.
Newsweek reported as follows:
Biden, a practicing Roman Catholic, has flip-flopped throughout his career on his stance toward abortion. In a 1974 interview with Washingtonian, the former vice president criticized Roe: “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body,” Biden said during the interview.
By the time of a 2006 interview with Texas Monthly, his views on the subject seem to have evolved. “I’m a little bit of an odd man out in my party,” Biden said. “I made the right-to-life people angry because I won’t support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade. And I’ve made the groups—the women’s groups and others—very angry because I won’t support public funding and I won’t support partial birth abortion.”
And one year later, while speaking on Meet the Press, Biden was asked whether he supported a ban on partial-birth abortions or late-term abortions. “I did and I do,” he responded.
Biden on the MIDDLE EAST
Biden has said he is against regime change, but for providing non-military support to opposition movements. He opposed direct U.S. intervention in Libya; voted against U.S. participation in the Gulf War; voted in favour of the Iraq War; and supports a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Biden has pledged to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and to re-evaluate the relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Biden on the POLICE
As a senator, he forged deep relationships with police groups and was a chief proponent of a Police Officer’s Bill of Rights measure that police unions supported but police chiefs opposed. As vice president, he served as a White House liaison to police.
Biden on RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The chair of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin, the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and who has served with the congressionally mandated commission tasked with advising the executive branch and Congress about global religious freedom matters since 2018, told The Christian Post that she has spoken with the Biden administration’s transition team about the issue of religious freedom and she believes the incoming administration will continue the religious freedom successes of the Trump administration.
“The Biden administration will be just as strong,” vowed Manchin, a former first lady of West Virginia. “I certainly congratulate the [Trump administration]. Trump put a spotlight on [religious freedom]. I believe the Biden administration will continue that.”
Biden on IMMIGRATION
- Refugees: Biden promised to increase the annual refugee admissions cap to 125,000, compared to the Trump administration’s level of 15,000.
- Asylum: During a December 22, 2020, news conference, Joe Biden said rolling back Trump administration changes to the asylum process will take months, not days.
- The Wall: Biden promised to end construction on Trump’s wall. Government estimates concluded doing so would save $2.6 billion, according to the Washington Post. Advocates will pressure the administration to remove parts of the wall that caused environmental damage.
Biden on ISRAEL
Biden is considered a friend of Israel. Of Biden’s three children, all three married Jews. His late son, Beau Biden, was married to Hallie Olivere, and his daughter, Ashley Biden, married Howard Krein, a Jewish doctor. His other son, Hunter, married Melissa Cohen. The couple have matching tattoos that say, “shalom,” which means “peace” in Hebrew.
“If I’m going to switch, I know where I’m going,” Biden said in 2016 about his Jewish family members and support for Jews in Israel.
Biden has long been considered an advocate for Israel’s Jews. He has also talked about his large collection of yarmulkes he has gathered from attending Jewish events. Biden has also been honoured by the World Jewish Congress for his work in helping Israel and the Jewish people. “I am a Zionist, and you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist,” he said.
Biden on ISLAM
Mark Durie commented as follows: Though not all Muslims are religiously observant, organizations that claim to speak for them typically have a religious agenda. Consequently, when politicians set out to out to garner Muslim votes, they all too often end up affirming Islam. Biden did just that in a recent speech to a Million Muslim Votes gathering. He said he wished that more was being taught about “the Islamic faith” in American schools. He called Islam one of “the great confessional faiths.”
Informing that theology is one of his “avocations,” Biden explained that “we all come from the same root here in terms of our fundamental, basic beliefs.”
He meant that Islam, Judaism and Christianity share a common origin, so, speaking theologically, we are all one family. Later in his speech, he commended American Muslims for “preaching peace,” echoing former U.S. President George W. Bush’s “Islam is peace” address to the nation after 9/11.
In the context of this warm theological embrace, Biden went on to assert that the Muslim voice deserves recognition, acceptance and a place at the table. He contrasted this with U.S. President Donald Trump’s (as he said) “assault” on non-white Americans, including Muslims, which he said has fanned the flames of racial hate.
To motivate Muslims to turn out to vote, Biden quoted from a hadith, a saying attributed to Muhammad: “Hadith from the prophet Muhammad instructs, ‘Whomever [sic] among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.’ ” Biden immediately put this hadith to work for his campaign, urging Muslims to make the world a better place “with our heart, with our hands, with our votes.”
Steve Freeman, a Church leader from Anderson, Indiana shared during the 2016 election campaign how the elections emphasised the divide between Democrats who primarily operate from a platform of JUSTICE and Republicans who fundamentally operate from a perspective of RIGHTEOUSNESS. Liberal democrats, believing that man is born good, embrace JUSTICE as the fundamental rights for every citizen. “Having rights and securing justice for all”, formed the electorate platform of Joe Biden as well and won him the votes of the LGBT community, abortion activists, same-sex marriage campaigners, etc. For conservative Republicans, however, believing that man is in essence bad, RIGHTEOUSNESS, as found in Scripture and applied in society became the basis of voting. “Being RIGHTEOUS and securing a Biblically moral society”, formed the electorate platform for Donald Trump and that won him the vote of pro-life movements, pro-Israel supporters, persecuted Church campaigners, etc.
Throughout a nineteen month, grueling electoral campaign, these two virtues were seen as adversaries instead of being embraced as unifying factors. As Christians, we need to celebrate both without demonising those who differ from us.
Both justice and righteousness are fundamental Biblical values and form the foundation of the Kingdom of God. The challenge for Christians is to celebrate the pursuit for justice and the seek to apply both virtues in equal measure and with mutual respect. Preferring one over the other will not only paint an unbalanced picture of a God who loves justice and demands righteousness, but it will also polarise communities and destroy the witness of the Church.
Main sources used:
 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Penguin Random House 2018