Commentators in the media have often invoked the term biblical to describe the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which has gone beyond our imagination and our explanatory categories. The term has not been used with any precision—it seems to mean simply vast or awe-inspiring.What would it mean to view the catastrophe in genuinely biblical terms? Four biblical themes inform my own pondering.
Rising tides: Environmentalist (and Century editor at large) Bill McKibben reports that according to one prediction up to 150 million people worldwide could become “environmental refugees” by the year 2050 because of rising waters. There is evidence “that tropical storms are lasting half again as long, and spinning winds 50 percent more powerful, than just a few decades ago. The only plausible cause: the ever-warmer tropical seas on which these storms thrive” (Newsday, Sept. 14).To our readers: When you access amazon.com from the Century's Web site, the Century earns a percentage of each sale. Thank you!
I was emphasizing to parents of confirmands that the young people should be with their families in worship as part of their preparation for membership. “I’m afraid we don’t have time for worship,” one mother told me after the meeting. Her words were soothing and gentle, yet they sounded condescending, as if she were explaining something to a not-very-bright child. “We’ve committed to soccer and cheerleading for my youngest on Sunday mornings. We have a full plate."
"I cannot come to the banquet; don’t trouble me now. I have bought me a wife; I have married a cow.” The guffaws and catcalls of the preadolescent boys as they improvised on a familiar song were designed to attract the attention of the girls at the religious retreat. We girls pretended annoyance as they sang. We knew that we should be insulted, but were secretly amused by their twist on the words.