We have heard people say "Oh my God," and "For Christ’s sake." More than likely, people using these expressions are not thinking about religion; they are expressing frustration.
I cringe when I hear them. My parents believed that these expressions were sacrilegious. I feel that they are disrespectful. I agree that "aw shucks" or "darn" are not strong enough for serious frustration, but the English language has many colorful substitutions.
My parents disapproved of curse words. Today, people freely say "damn" which means "damn you." Who is called upon to damn? The answer is God, and the full phrase becomes a curse. Again, this phrase is carelessly used. The true meaning of words do not matter to some people! The "damn you" expression reminds us of the words of damnation and curses found in the Old Testament.
Ancient Greek literature and the Old Testament included the sins-of-the father curse. Over time, people realized that sins were not handed from parent to child, but behavior was a personal responsibility. This type of transition was described in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. We also find the words against the concept of generational passing of sin in Ezekiel 18:2-4. “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ The Lord declared, ‘you will no longer quote this proverb. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child. The one who sins is the one who will die.’ ”
When the Pharaoh in Exodus refused to free God’s people, God placed a curse on the Egyptians. To name a few, the 10 plagues included bloody water, mice, frogs, wild animals and pestilence. The final curse caused the death of the first-born Egyptian sons. The plagues were accepted as God’s demonstration of his power over the Egyptians and their pagan gods.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses clarifies the choices of life. “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn to bow down to other gods, I declare to you that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in this land. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
The essence of this passage remains meaningful. People today can make choices about their approach to life. Additional scripture proves that we do not have to fear curses. When Jesus died for the sins of believers, they were free from past sins.
Today, scientists explain the plagues as environmental events. These scientific explanations of the plagues can be found in an article online. (https://www.livescience.com/58638-science-of-the-10-plagues.html). One of the plagues in the Bible was called a pestilence. The definition of pestilence is “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pestilence).
The COVID-19 experience has caused people to continue to ask if it is a curse. Even though it feels like a curse, I do not believe we have been cursed by God. As I have said before, I believe that science explains that viruses have developed over time.“Estimates for the birth of the first coronavirus vary, from 10,000 years ago to 300 million years ago. Scientists are now aware of dozens of strains, seven of which infect humans.” (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01315-7). May God give us the will and wisdom to protect each other and find treatments and a cure.
In reviewing the past, many wise and moral lessons are found. As we face present dangers and challenges, may our faith-based beliefs lead us to act with integrity and kindness. “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
May God guide America!
Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at email@example.com.