Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion by William Lobdell

Book: Losing My Religion by William Lobdell Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Lobdell
    Seventh Commandment: “Don’t take weekends off. Friday night through Sunday night is Game Day for most religious folk. You can’t understand someone’s faith unless you experience the public expression of it.” I found this to be invaluable in learning about different faiths, though I tended to find my actual stories outside of the religious services.
    Eighth Commandment: “Don’t spend too much time in your head. Faith isn’t just expressed. It’s experienced. It’s belief and behavior. It’s intellectual, emotional, and, above all, spiritual.” I tried to report on mystical experiences with the same level of objectivity as a denominational squabble. When the marathon runner said he was ordered by God to run across America, I wrote it in a straightforward manner, without a snicker. For context, I did contact those around him to see if his behavior had changed since becoming a Christian, and checked criminal and civil court records to see if anything interesting turned up. But as for people’s alleged interactions with the Lord, I simply reported what their experiences had been. I tried to follow the example set by Supreme Court Chief Justice William O. Douglas, who in 1944 wrote the majority opinion in the United States v. Ballard case. Guy Ballard claimed, through mass mailings, to be a healer and prophet of God (he also claimed to be Jesus, St. Germain and George Washington). The government convicted him of fraud, which he had undoubtedly committed. But the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, with Douglas stating:
Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others.
    …The miracles of the New Testament, the Divinity of Christ, life after death, the power of prayer are deep in the religious convictions of many. If one could be sent to jail because a jury in a hostile environment found those teachings false, little indeed would be left of religious freedom.
    Ninth Commandment: “Fear not. Even God had editors. They might not always get what you’re trying to do or say, but keep at it.” Religion frightens a lot of editors, many of whom aren’t used to the subject and are uncomfortable with expressly religious terms. For one of my early stories, I covered the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, California. The three-day event is designed to convert nonbelievers to Christianity. I wrote a line in the story that went something like this: “About 20 percent of the crowd came out of the stands and onto the outfield to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.” The editors on the copy desk flipped over that line. They said it implied that Jesus Christ was everyone’s savior. No, I replied, it said that these people accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. It was just a fact. That’s what happened. That was the whole point of the Harvest Crusade. They thought the line was still offensive and wanted to change it to something like “About 20 percent of the crowd came out of the stands and onto the outfield to express their new belief in God .” I actually had to appeal to some supervising editors to keep the reference to Jesus Christ in the story.
    Tenth Commandment: “Forget the flood. Interview God. No matter the story, ask people about their faith and how their faith guides their thoughts and actions.” For me, this is derivative of Waters’s Fourth and Fifth Commandments. I suspect that my friend had a hard time coming up with a fresh Tenth Commandment, and David Waters’s Nine Commandments didn’t have the proper ring.
    Waters’s Ten Commandments served me well on the religion beat, and the Seventh Commandment—thou shall not take weekends off—allowed me on a personal level to sample a wide variety of Christian denominations and churches and find where I wanted to make my spiritual

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