For several years – circa 1999 to around 2008 – I penned a weekly “op-ed” column that ran in anywhere from one to eight local newspapers. Twice – before staff writers decided freelance work should not qualify – I won top honors at the Florida Press Association’s annual awards banquet.
I especially miss the sense of ongoing conversation I developed with the entire Brandon community – and I still believe The Tampa Tribune made a huge mistake when they dropped the feature. But it’s a “state of the industry” reality that I don’t imagine will change any time soon. Now the only periodical where you can count on reading my “opinion” is FOCUS Magazine, one issue per month (page 95 in this issue if you take a look).
My slant was more connected to current affairs, news stories and social issues. I felt strongly that a faith-based perspective needed to be an element of the general conversation. And, thinking about it this morning, I realize that I still feel that way. I’m wondering about how I might reintroduce my voice to the mainstream media, beyond the limited reach of this blog.
AMY WINEHOUSE AND NORWAY: I know I would have published a column about the sad story from Norway, plus a few thoughts about the Amy Winehouse tragedy. Because there needs to be a perspective that is spiritually astute without being moralistic or simply reactionary.
More than answers, and especially more than pat answers, what these stories require are better questions.
Nobody needs to hear another lecture about “The dangers of drugs and alcohol.” Addicts are some of the best informed people in the world, and the first alcoholic we try to hit over the head with the Winehouse story will likely go out drinking to get the sound of the lecture out of their head.
And we could speculate all day about political ideology, and global jihad, and where the lines need to be drawn regarding free speech, and how effective – or counter-effective – gun laws are, and if a free society is more – or less – susceptible to violence? There are a thousand details we could talk about and we still wouldn’t have a clue.
Because, the way I see it, the most dangerous trend in any part of the world is not so much a movement toward evil as the drift away from the Gospel of Light. And, by “the Gospel of Light” I mean the life-charged truth that we are – each one of us – created in the image of God, that our best source of light and life is an active relationship with the Creator, and that the only way to communicate such Good News is to actually live as if it were true.
So, here are some of the questions I’d like to raise in response to both Amy Winehouse and Norway:
- Let’s be honest, what are the priorities and values that effectively guide us in our day-to-day lives?
- How are these values and priorities acquired?
- If we don’t think these are the best priorities to live by… then what are we doing about it?
- Do we know, beyond a doubt, that we are loved unconditionally? And how do we communicate that truth to the people around us?
- Do we know any people who tell the truth about the Gospel of Love, simply by being?
- What can we learn from these folk?
- Do we tell the truth about the Gospel of Love, simply by being?
There are more questions, of course, but I’m sure you get my drift. We can speculate all day about why terrible things happen, we can assign blame, and we can make moralistic judgements about “those people”, and “those societies”… But the only thing that’s going to change this world is going to be you, and me, living as if the Gospel we proclaim really is true.
We’ve all heard the classic observation, “I might believe in the Redeemer if His followers looked more redeemed….” But it’s more than looking redeemed – it’s actually living into the truth of that redemption.
So the question isn’t even about sharing our story with the world. We’re sharing the story we have chosen already. The way that we live tells the truth about what we believe. The way we are tells the real story loud and clear!
The best question that comes out of both the Amy Winehouse tragedy and the horror of Norway is this: What story am I living? If enough of us begin to live as if the Gospel story really is the source of light and life and redemption, then….
Peace – and I really mean that – DEREK