Ethics & Religion
A Column by Michael J. McManus
 

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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,080
June 22, 2021
40th Anniversary of My Column

This column marks an important personal anniversary - my 40th year of writing the column I call "Ethics & Religion."

I began writing it in 1981 as the result of a sermon. At that time, my family lived in Stamford, Conn. and we attended St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien. Its pastor was Rev. Everett (Terry) Fullam, the most extraordinary preacher I've ever heard. One Sunday he asked, "What are you doing to serve the Lord? Don't tell me that you are an usher (which I was). That is insignificant Christian service," he asserted.

"What are you doing that makes you unique as a person - to serve the Lord?" he asked.

At the time I was writing a newspaper column I called "The Northern Perspective." My aim was to suggest solutions for the economic and political problems of the old industrial states from Maine to Minnesota. I was published by about 70 newspapers. "How can those talents be used to serve the Lord?" I asked myself.

Suddenly I thought of all the boring church pages in America's newspapers. I bet I could write a column that would put content on those pages. Since I was already known to editors, I could probably sell such a column.

Immediately, I had second thoughts. If I started writing about religion, I might lose subscribers to my political column. Editors will think "Since he has gotten religion, his political views can't be trusted."

Besides, I told myself, I have no credentials to write a nationally syndicated column on religion. I have not attended a seminary. I have never even covered religion as a reporter. I've only attended a good church.

And, oh yes, the standard excuse: I don't have time. I was already working 80 hours a week.

Then, as if he were reading my mind, Fullam said, "Now if you are having second thoughts about doing what the Lord has suggested that you do, remember what happened to Moses." He referred worshippers to Exodus, Chapter 4. There Moses is telling the Lord why he cannot lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.

As recorded, Moses replied, "I have never been a good speaker. I wasn't one before you spoke to me, and I'm not one now. I am slow at speaking and I can never think of what to say."

But the Lord answered, "Who makes people able to speak or makes them deaf or unable to speak? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Don't you know that I am the one who does these things? Now go! When you speak I will be with you and give you the words to say."

I gulped as I sat in the pew and thought, "Well if He was with Moses' mouth, maybe he'd be with my typewriter." But I did not wholly believe it.

Therefore I met privately with Father Fullam and offered to co-author a column with him. "You don't need me," the pastor replied.

Still concerned about my lack of credentials, I began with Fullam's permission condensing some of his sermons. But I found that less interesting than reporting fresh stories. I wrote an initial eight columns co-authored by me and Terry Fullam, although he did not suggest changing anything that I wrote.

I showed the columns to a friend, an Episcopal priest, and asked his honest opinion. I was shocked by his answer: "Drop Terry Fullam from the column. He has a funny-looking collar and is a priest in a church with 1 percent of America's population. That makes him suspect to others," my friend said.

And the columns based on his sermons are boring compared to those based on your reporting. Sermons must be heard. They do not read. You are a journalist who has credibility on your own."

I took his advice and suddenly felt liberated. In time, my column, "Ethics & Religion" was published by 120 newspapers, at its peak. I discontinued "The Northern Perspective" when I got a contract in 1992 to write my first book: Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends & Family Avoid Divorce.

Sadly, 2,000 daily newspapers have closed in recent years, and my number of subscribers has dwindled.

However, on my 40th anniversary of Ethics & Religion, I am grateful to Terry Fullam for urging me to take my talents and experience to serve the Lord. It was scary at first, but I can see results.

As I reported in a column upon turning age 80, my writing has prompted 230 cities to adopt reforms that have reduced city-wide divorce rates by an average of 17.5%. That saved about 200,000 marriages from divorce.

_________________________

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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