The Last Word

In the blistering heat of the 2006 summer, thousands of protestors flooded American streets calling for immigration reform. Israel was in an armed conflict with her neighbors. Nuclear tensions were high with Iran and North Korea. Tainted spinach was going down the garbage disposals of homes far and wide. It seems that little has changed over the years (except for the bad greens), yet there have been massive changes.

That summer I wrote my first “Keeping the Faith” column for a local newspaper. A neighboring paper picked it up, then another, and another – until these words were popping up all over the USA. Almost every reader at the time was reading from newsprint. A decade and a half later, almost every reader accesses this column digitally. There have been massive changes.

Back then, local newsrooms employed a full staff of specialized journalists: Sports correspondents, news hounds, investigative reporters, multiple editors, even the occasional meteorologist. But since? Local newspapers around the country have cast off more than half their employees and some communities have no local news presence whatsoever, as 2,000 newspapers have gone out of business altogether. There have been massive changes. 

And the content of this column? It has changed as well. My beliefs and perspectives have morphed, evolved, matured, advanced, retreated, and otherwise been transformed over the years. I’m still “Keeping the Faith” to be sure, but that faith might not be recognizable to some of my earliest readers. There have been massive changes.

In what respect? In almost every way possible! My views on religion, Scripture, sexuality, race, politics, social change, economics, spirituality, church, God, the afterlife, pluralism, metaphysics, and ethics are all in different places than they once were. 

That’s okay, as no one should let the years pass without serious personal assessment, journeys of self-discovery, and the willingness to question every assumption one ever made; and with these questions, to arrive at different answers – or at least to arrive at a whole new set of questions. Yes, there have been massive changes.

Still, here is one more. After 15 years of weekly deadlines and more than half a million words spilt onto paper and screen, this is my last “Keeping the Faith” column. Oh, I still have faith to keep – and I’ll have plenty of future words to speak, write, and put into book form – but following the pandemic, months of recovering from “Long Haul Covid” (ongoing), seeing my now adult children launch into the world, and my wife exit her teaching career – I know these changes call me to concentrate on other things, things that might go undone without my full attention.

So, let this be my last word to you (for now), my favorite blessing from Henri-Frédéric Amiel: “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So, be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. And may the blessing of God be with you now and always.”