This blog is maintained on behalf of the Amy Foundation for the purpose of tracking the best Christian journalism we find on the Web. Our posts regularly identify those news articles or opinions in the mainstream media that represent good faith-based writing and example them for other Christian journalists.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Almost qualifying article dealing with grief (June 1, 2008)

Here is an "almost" qualifying article related to loss of a child and the impact on personal faith. The article, titled “After devastating loss, many people find solace in religious beliefs,” appeared in The Tennessean today, June 1, and was written by staff writer Bob Smietana.

Smietana writes:

Everybody dies.

For most people, life follows an orderly pattern that ends, after a number of years, in death. But when that pattern is broken and the natural order of things collapses, people tend to search for answers.

It can be as diverse as the premature loss of a middle-age spouse or the inexplicable death of a child, as in the recent accident that claimed the life of 5-year-old Maria Chapman, daughter of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman.

Most question the meaning of their loss in quiet privacy. But sometimes the spotlight shines on people of faith — often leaders of their religious community — who fall victim to life's tragedies and find themselves awash in public curiosity and scrutiny.
Read more>>

Smietana draws people in by citing the recent death of Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter's tragic death, a story that topped the internet search logs for several days. But instead of staying with the popular story, the author goes on to contrast several people’s reactions to faith because of the death of their children. This challenged me to think what would happen to my faith if one of my children died-- the test of a well written article.

I also appreciated the delicate way the author handled telling real life stories of families who have undergone the unthinkable tragedy. Smietana quotes one grieving father as saying:

"There's a picture that some have of God as the Almighty Ant Farmer," Mike Rayson said. "He is up there with a magnifying glass, watching what everybody does."

He said some think of God as a deity who would send a ray of burning light through the magnifying glass to see what would happen to one of the ants.

"That's not the picture of God that I have at all," he said.

Instead, the Raysons said, their faith supported them in their grief. They said it doesn't erase the pain, "but it does make it one step under intolerable," Rayson said. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust — you never expect to say those words over your child's body.''
I highlighted the small, but poignant burial rite that, for me, ties the entire piece together by relating personal experience to the promise that God cares about our grieving and loss. Unfortunately, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" is not scripture, but a loose interpretation of Genesis 18:27.

Including scripture would have qualifies Smietana’s piece for the Amy Writing Awards. Typically, including a key passage within the context of someone’s suffering makes the article more accessible as well as the universal truth of God’s comfort in this suffering which is the underlying premise of the article.


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