by Joe Shea
April 8, 2012
BRADENTON, Fla. APRIL 8, 2012 -- On this holiest day in Christendom, I think I'll ignore the traditional silence that journalists give to religious views in their news pages.
Were you to query most about their views on race, the economy, health care, gay rights or any of the other leading topics of the day - and queried them outside of the protocols of their profession, which requires obje3ctivity of them in writing about all those things in print - I think you probably find most quite forthcoming and voluble.
Religion, however, is at the center of mystery, and the mysteries that compel various faiths - which must always be taken on faith - are the very opposite of the objective facts that populate columns of newsprint. Did Christ rise from the dead? Is the God we know and the Allah of Islam the same God, and does he view both faiths as equals? Is the Buddhism that says there is no God, just the ability of some Buddhists to become enlightened and lead and teach others, the practical truth about faith?
Most journalists would say, Please: Don't ask me."
My truth is definitively not theirs. I do believe in Jesus Christ and I do believe that He arose from the dead to allow all the rest of us to do likewise and to follow Him into the next world. I believe every detail of my life gains meaning through Him, and that He answers my prayers. I pray to him many times a day for all kinds of things, and probably most often to thank Him for all the gifts he has showered on my life.
Skeptics would say, what have you to be thankful for? You have no paying job and your income is far, far below the poverty line. You've just been diagnosed with diabetes Type II and you have an elevated blood count and enlarged prostate, you can't walk straight and your back is misaligned.
Both of your wives left you and your parents and big brother died and you lost all they left you in the stock market. You are barely able to hang onto your home. You can't afford to fix your camera or buy a laptop. Just a handful of journalists have stuck with you through the thick and thin of publishing the world's first online daily newspaper. What's to be thankful for?
Those are fair questions, and all they lack - to me - is an insight to where I came from, into my life. I could easily have spent my life in prison, and I was headed that way for a long time as a kid. A miracle happened - after a critical moment of prayer - and everything went the pother way.
Yes, my wives left me, and that hurt was profound, but neither of them stopped loving me, and neither wanted support. I was fortunate in that, or I'd be mired deep in alimony issues. Without going on a long litany of rationalizations, as skeptics would call them, let me just say I remain grateful for the hurts that deepened and inspired me to some of my best work. Also, I need to be thankful for the ability to live alone with some degree of consolation and grace - I don't pine away, aching for lost love, and I'm grateful for the attitude.
For me, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ is central in all this. To Him I attribute the ability to absorb my losses without crying too much about them (although I may have at the time). To Him I attribute the absence of the terrible agony and burden of bitterness I might have carried with me into old age.
I also have to believe that the bullets that missed, the cars that didn't hit me, the bats and flashlights and bottles that didn't kill me are a sign that He meant me to live for something. It might have been as trivial as this article I'm writing, or the great, rich vein of journalism that has run through this publication for 17 years. It might have been for the hamburger I bought for a hungry man tonight, and other acts of charity I saw a need for.
Maybe it would to allow me to realize the dreams I have placed in His hands after having failed so many times to realize them myself. Perhaps it was to allow me to indulge myself in my favorite pastime, which is to talk with other people and learn about them and their lives and how they have dealt with them. Each person is so incredibly different from all the others that the never-ending story of their lives radiates more of that joyous realization that there is a God at the core of our lives and all around us.
My greatest challenge is abortion. The one child I might have had in my life was aborted in Chicago before abortion became legal and common. In my dreams or in moments before my dreams begin, I sometimes see that child. There can be no greater loss for a man, other than his soul, than to lose his child. I was opposed to it and offered to marry the woman but she had been doing dangerous things - jumping out of trees, taking extreme amounts of drugs believed to stimulate abortion, etc., and insisted she didn't want to have it. Later on, she had two beautiful sons with another man; I have none.
It appalls me, and more than that, offends me, that 70 million young Americans have fallen to the abortionist's scalpel. All those lives! All those people! All those personalities and achievements - and all the conversations I have missed! Does it make God mad at us, I often wonder? Has the decline in the quality of American life reflected our loss of concern for the sanctity of life? Is that why we were able to throw 54,000 young American lives into the jungle of Vietnam, lost forever? Or to throw thousands more into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is that why the past few years have stripped millions and millions of honest, hard-working Americans of their homes and savings?
If we allow 70 million lives to be chopped into pieces and thrown into Dumpsters, what should we expect? If God weighs this sin against us, as always, he has been immensely kind. In the days of the Bible, plagues thought sent by God decimated vast populations; Buddhist armies, not to single them out, killed hundreds of millions of people across Asia as their faith moved from India to China. Those nations have been impoverished ever since.
Ours, meanwhile, has survived and our people enjoy lives that would be the envy of all history; we must have had something special. Why not our belief in God, our respect for the teachings of his Son, and our adherence however weakly to the admonitions of the 10 Commandments? "He leads me beside still waters..., and indeed He has comforted me.
For each of you who do not feel that comfort, or feels slighted by the religion of your choice or non-choice, I ask today that God and Jesus Christ will move and inspire you to lead a life that is meaningful. God bless you all.