Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Unraveling of Jerry DeWitt

I read an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine (8/26/12), titled "God Who?" by Robert Worth. It tells the story of a Protestant pastor turned atheist from DeRidder, La. The story starts with DeWitt unable to find the words to comfort a parishioner and friend from his Church, whose brother needed prayers after he was in a serious accident. He couldn't find the words to comfort her because he was beginning to struggle with his belief in God. I immediately thought he was going through a "dark night of the soul," but instead of keeping up his prayer disciplines and staying the course and remaining faithful to God, he turned to an online network for pastors who are losing their faith or who have lost it altogether. He started researching the "new atheism," instead of seeking a spiritual director which would have been wise, but I'm sure pride started to seep in. He took a day off of work and took a picture of himself at a talk with Richard Dawkins and put it on his Facebook page, never thinking anyone from DeRidder would know who Dawkins was. More pride?
From the article, "Six months after he was outed as an atheist he lost his job and his wife-both, as a direct consequence. Only a handful of his 100-plus relatives from DeRidder still speak to him. When I visited him, in late June, his house was in foreclosure, and he was contemplating moving into his 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser. This is the kind of environment where godlessness remains a real struggle and raises questions that could ramify across the rest of the country. Is the "new atheism" part of a much broader secularizing trend.......or just a ticket out of town?"
Jerry DeWitt gave up a lot. He walked away from God and his Church, his family, friends and most importantly the truth. Pride is a deadly sin. God is truth and love. God, though always mysterious, is real. Billions of people on the earth believe in God, even when the tough times come, even when every question cannot be answered this side of heaven. There is a God and atheists (in my opinion) are closing themselves off to enormous blessings, grace, comfort and inner strength that comes from a relationship with God and a faith community.
Perhaps because I grew up in Brooklyn and I saw so much deep faith being lived out in the Catholic community, which I was a part of but also in the large Jewish community in Brooklyn as well. The Jewish community in Brooklyn is very prosperous, their deep faith has been rewarded with prosperity, among others things. (Or that's how it appears to me). I've always found the deep faith of the Jewish people that I observed, very commendable and inspiring. They remained faithful to God, (throughout salvation history) no matter what.
I can't even imagine how someone who had been so close to God, could turn away. How can someone turn away from the Truth, once they have found it? It is beyond my comprehension.

The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, the Lord's mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him..." (Lamentations 3:22-26)