Veteran journalist Lobdell provides a compelling account of his personal journey toward and then away from faith in God.
As a troubled young man, the author turned to religion as a way of finding meaning and order. His faith grew through involvement in a Protestant mega-church and eventually began to mature while attending a more traditional congregation. He spent years in personal turmoil as he attempted to find his spiritual place in the world. This quest led him to pursue, and in the fall of 2000 to attain, a job as religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Soon after, he received the first of many assignments connected to child molestation scandals within the Catholic Church. This was personally as well as professionally shocking, since Lobdell’s wife was a Catholic and he was in the process of becoming one. His reporting exposed a grim pattern: “Hypocrisy at all levels of the church, innocent people put in harm’s way by the church’s ‘shepherds,’ self-interest triumphing over Christian values, lies big and small and a general lack of courage among followers of Christ, especially those in power, would be recurrent subjects of my reporting.” Lobdell soon concluded that this pattern extended beyond Catholicism. He attended a conference of ex-Mormons who told of the harsh, unforgiving treatment they received in their Mormon-dominated communities. He investigated the evangelical Trinity Broadcasting Network, finding evidence of extensive financial and sexual misconduct. These discoveries drove the author away from his faith and toward the bottle. He struggled to blame human imperfection and organizational flaws for the evils he was investigating, but he could not escape the question of why God would permit such things to happen. Pursuing a particularly horrendous story about an Alaskan island on which virtually all the boys were sodomized by Catholic clergy, he finally reached an uncompromising answer: “What had happened to helpless boys at the edge of the world made a lot more sense if there were no God.” It’s not a cheerful conclusion, but Lobdell’s honesty and self-effacement make it persuasive.
An important wake-up call to people of faith.