On July 12, 2023 the popular quiz show Jeopardy!,  produced by Sony studios, gave this answer “This Bible book gives us the line ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’” None of the impressive, erudite, and well-educated contestants could even muster a guess. 

Equally stunning, the very next night contestants were unable to fill in a word of the Lord’s Prayer – the most widely recited prayer in Christianity. 

“Our Father who art in heaven ___ be Thy name.” 

Like a canary in a coal mine, or a warning flare, the significance of these two pop culture moments indicate the problems and issues of a society more broadly. The loss of cultural awareness of the providential care described in Psalm 23, or the reminder in Matthew 6 that to be forgiven, we must first forgive, surely leads us to all sorts of poisonous attitudes, social ills and ugly politics. 

Few things I can think of could more readily indict America’s 21st-century idolatry of education. That two of the most famous passages in all of the Bible would be completely foreign to three such knowledgeable individuals is truly dismaying. In the span of my own lifetime, the Bible has lost its universal reputation as ‘The Good Book.’ Indeed, it apparently isn’t even appreciated as an important work of literature. 

On February 3, 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation which began, “The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Fathers’ abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual, rights which they found implicit in the Bible’s teachings of the inherent worth and dignity of each individual.…”

Sadly, for large swaths of the population such a proclamation would be unthinkable today. 

And yet before Draco’s code of Athens, before Homer illustrated virtue as ‘love for your friends, hate for your enemies,’ apart from the brutal code of Hammurabi when the state reigned supreme, King David – in his youth – wrote in Psalm 23 about an Authority higher than his own and to whom he was beholden. This same Authority Jesus referred to 1,000 years later, introducing Him as Our Father and giving witness to His Kingdom in the Lord’s Prayer. 

I pray that our nation will one day elect a leader who once again finds inspiration in the Word of God, not to mention the eloquence to share it. And should that happen, may he or she draw upon the fact that millions of Americans still find daily inspiration in the Bible as well. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue to think of the warning from that quiz show and the foreboding sense that our civilization is , indeed, in jeopardy. 

By Terry Sweany

Terry Sweany has served as senior minister of Playa Christian Church since 2006. His education includes a MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from Hope International University and a BA from Cincinnati Christian University. He is author of the book Life In Ministry and his greatest joy is helping people deepen their relationship with God. Terry lives in Westchester, California and is a member of the LAPD Pacific Division Clergy Council. He and his wife, Patty, have been married 38 years and have a daughter and granddaughter.

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