May 23, 2013 Print

Elvis, the Bible and the Reporters

by Tom Minnery

Tom MinneryAs The New York Times covered the new pope’s first Easter message, its reporter helpfully explained why Christians commemorate Easter as the central event of Christendom:

“Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus into heaven three days after He was crucified …”

Well, nice try. At least the paper recognized its error and corrected it, but the matter points out a conundrum in American culture. On the one hand, our politically correct elites are forever bustling about in the task of sanitizing society from infections brought on by the Bible, whether from a cross in public view or the Ten Commandments in a town square.

Were these people to stumble upon the treasury of Bible content that has penetrated our language, even occasionally into the pages of The New York Times itself, brows would furrow and lawsuits would fly. But they don’t because they believe everything old came to us from Shakespeare.

Think for a moment of some of the slogans, aphorisms and even cliches that are so familiar to us:

• A house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 12:25). (Note to the Times: Jesus lived before Abraham Lincoln.)

• The handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).

• Living off the fat of the land (Genesis 45:18).

• A prophet is without honor in his own country (John 4:43 and Matthew 13:57).

• My brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9).

• Apple of your eye (Psalm 17:8).

• Inherit the wind (Proverbs 11:29).

• A drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15).

• The blind leading the blind (Luke 6:39-40).

• The skin of your teeth (Job 19:20).

• In God we trust (Psalm 20:7).

• To put out a fleece (Judges 6:36).

I wonder how many reporters know the source of terms like “Armageddon,” “raising Cain,” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul”? I wonder how many feminists know who it was who gave us the very name “woman” (Genesis 1:26), or that one of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits was a rock-star’s commentary on three Bible passages (“Hard-Hearted Woman”: Genesis 3, Judges 16 and parts of 1 and 2 Kings).

Let me confess to a mischievous thought here. It has crossed my mind that I should tip off a reporter to one of those highly visible symbols that looks like it’s straight out of the Bible, and about which no one has yet raised a ruckus. You know it well, it is the image of a serpent wound around a staff, the emblem of the American Medical Association and many other physician groups.

Well, it really wouldn’t be nice to unleash a reporter or an atheist group on the AMA the way they hound us about our symbols. The other thing is, it isn’t true. This particular image comes from Greek mythology, but it is the spitting image of Aaron’s snake on a stake in Numbers 21:9.

So the odd thing is this: As the elites search frantically to find ways to be offended, outraged and insulted, they miss much because so many know so little about their subject matter. And these familiar terms and phrases are too deeply rooted in our conversations and our literature to be dug out now, so I’m not worried that they’ll be gone any time soon: They’re a lot like a house built upon a rock in that way.

A final thought: We get a lot of reporters who travel to Colorado to visit us at Focus on the Family, and traveling people replace luggage frequently. I plan to be ready with a suggestion for the next reporter who needs a new roll-aboard: Samsonite.

Tom Minnery is the senior vice president of government and public policy. Do you know someone who’s bravely done the right thing in your community? Send your stories to Citizeneditor@focusonthefamily.com.

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