Maybe I’m getting picky in my old age, or maybe I’ll blame it on COVID-cabin fever. But for the second straight week, I find myself irritated over religious clichés. Last week I griped about the over-employment of the phrase “our better angels.” This week indulge me for complaining about the trite phrase “of biblical proportions.”
One might think a person of faith would be happy to have the media citing the Bible. And yes, that’s mostly a good thing. But the problem with this particular usage of the Holy Book is that is always linked with disasters.
Take the article earlier this week in the New York Times, titled, “Stories of 2020: 5 Lives Caught in a Year of Upheaval and Pain.” The article, attributed to six reporters, though sad, was a fair depiction of how five ordinary citizens have been adversely impacted by events of this year.
However, tucked into the middle of the report was the tell-tale, tired phrase, “… at times, 2020 has felt biblical, (italics mine) as if a torrent of plagues had been unleashed all at once.”
Does this sound familiar? Yes, the Bible does record plagues, and yes, the Bible does record a massive flood. But why is it that disasters seem to be the only time writers call something biblical?
Biblical things are happening every single day in our world, and if you pay attention, you’ll realize that most of these biblical things are very good. Here are some examples:
— A congregation had planned to take a mission trip to the Dominican Republic this year to work in the Haitian refugee camps, but COVID cancelled the trip. Now the island of Hispaniola has been swept by hurricanes. The congregation sent the entire cost of the mission trip to a church in the Dominican Republic for flood relief and feeding hungry people. The money probably went at least twice as far. That’s a biblical story.
— Jacob Blake, recently shot in the back seven times in Kenosha, Wis., has a family who has called for calm and disavowed violent protest. The family’s measured, grace-filled interviews have been remarkable. Their non-attacking, non-violent response is a story of biblical proportions.
— Police, EMTs, trauma-room personnel, nurses, doctors, teachers, firefighters, bus drivers and so many others are putting their lives on the line every single day for others. We hardly give it a thought, but the sacrifice of these ordinary people is a biblical story.
— Maya Moore, 31, one of the best athletes ever to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association, who led her professional Minnesota Lynx team to four WNBA titles and who has two Olympic gold medals, took a two-year leave of absence from her team (unpaid) so she could devote herself full-time to help get Jonathan Irons, who had been falsely convicted, released from prison. Moore is an evangelical Christian who learned of Irons’ story through a prison ministry. Released earlier this summer, he had served 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now that’s a biblical-sized story.
Look around. There is good everywhere, often being served up in biblical proportions.