William Lobdell is a writer and reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Several years ago he attended a men’s retreat and decided that he wanted to follow Christ. He began to attend church, read the Bible and serve God in a variety of ways. He soon wanted to write about faith and he approached the Times on numerous occasions about creating a religion column. After much persuasion the Times allowed Lobdell to write “Getting Religion”, a weekly column about religion.
Lobdell wrote about an elderly church organist who became a mentor to the man that tried to rape and kill her. He wrote about an Orthodox Jewish mother who developed a line of modest clothing for Barbie dolls. Lobdell’s stories didn’t just inform but they inspired the reader.
Lobdell loved his life. He couldn’t wait to get up and go to work in the morning and he couldn’t wait to go to church on Sundays. Then some of his religion stories began to bother him at a deep level. He began to cover the Catholic clergy sex scandal. He saw how the church had been covering up the misdeeds of her priests. He interviewed victims and families and became deeply grieved.
Then Lobdell began to cover the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The prosperity theology of founders Paul and Jan Crouch had them calling for sacrificial donations from viewers with the promise of God answering prayers and bestowing blessings. Meanwhile the Crouches ate $180 per plate meals, flew in a $21 million corporate jet and had access to 30 TBN owned homes across the country. All paid for with donor money.
Lobdell met and covered the work of faith healer Benny Hinn. He interviewed sick people from all over the world who would spend their life savings to come to one of Hinn’s “Miracle Crusades”. As an act of faith they would give money to Hinn and take themselves off of medical treatments so that God might heal them. And they weren’t healed.
The final straw was when Lobdell went to Portland to cover the case of a single mom whose sickly son needed help and she was seeking child support from the child’s father, a Catholic priest. The priest simply declared to the court that he had taken a vow of poverty, had no possessions but the clothes on his back and therefore could not afford the $323 a month child support. Yet, the religious order came up with the necessary money for the priest to have a sharp lawyer to represent him. The mother who couldn’t afford a lawyer lost the case.
With that Lobdell walked away from Christianity. In my words the lifestyles of “pretender Christians” was too discouraging for him to overcome. He has since asked the Times to remove him from the religion beat. This past week was his last week to cover religion. (The story can be read at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lostfaith21jul21,0,3530015,full.story?coll=la-home-center)
Friends, we don’t have any control over what happens with clergy sex scandals and extravagant lifestyles of religious celebrities. But, what we can deal with is our own faithfulness to Christ and His mission, and the faithfulness of this church.