Three cheers for the red, white and blue! I love a patriotic season. We are coming up on another Fourth of July. I want to climb up on my soapbox as the parade passes by and say a few words about what I believe is a national shame. I'm speaking about the way we Americans generally treat our veterans with such remarkable indifference.
One of my guiding principles in life is to have nothing that I can live without. Well, sometimes I pause and take stock and realize I'm not succeeding in living up to that principle. Stuff just accumulates. Stuff is what has taken the biblical injunction seriously and is fruitful and multiplying. The bumper sticker announces: "Stuff Happens." It's true.
If you receive a collect telephone call on June 17 this year, what is the likely the reason for that call? It is probably because you are a father! And that is Father's Day in 2012. On Mother's Day many more telephone calls are placed to mothers than are placed to fathers on Father's Day. But fathers win the distinction of picking up the tab for the calls coming to them, and they do it hands down.
On Sunday, June 10, I'm going to preach at Bethesda Presbyterian Church near Statesville. I have preached there before, and despite that they have invited me to do it again. Some of the members out there have read my column and they took a chance on me. Is it possible that I am a Presbyterian and don't know it? I mean, I've been a Methodist all my life and a Methodist preacher 48 years, but I have always loved Presbyterians. Maybe I'm predestined to love them. Anyhow, I'm going to tell the folk at Bethesda why I love Presbyterians.
The Commandment in the Bible does not say: "Thou shalt not cuss." Now, let that outrageous assertion sink in for a moment. I know that some of you instinctively want to argue with me. "My Grandma and my Momma and my Sunday school teacher and my first grade teacher and my preacher all taught me that one of the Ten Commandments reads, 'Thou shalt not cuss.'"
I don't know her name because she signed her letter with her initials. It was written in a lovely script indicating that she was probably a mature person who learned penmanship in an earlier era in which cursive writing was emphasized more than it is today. As I began to read, my suspicions were confirmed. She is an 82-years-old widow. Her husband died 11 years ago. She was born into a Baptist family.
This week, I conclude my thoughts on the results from my unscientific survey among readers, in which I asked some questions about your church involvement. One of the questions was, “If you have joined a church recently, why?” One responder replied that after finding that a large membership church was a place where she found it difficult to get to know people, she found what she was looking for in a smaller church. After a year of being very involved in the larger church, she still didn’t know anyone. She said it felt like she never saw the same people twice.
The next time I see her, she’ll be a mom.
The next time I see her, I’ll watch as she looks at her new daughter the way her mother and I looked at her nearly 23 years ago, alternating between thoughts of, What a miracle! and, What in the hell do I do now?
My friend Terry Mattingly, former religion editor of The Charlotte Observer, is director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. I think he’s a great journalist in the field of religion. He reported recently about the great Roman Catholic educator and researcher Father William Byron’s findings about why millions of Americans are leaving Catholic pews.