Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month transitions to an even bigger celebration with 'The Case for Christ'

I'm kind of sad that March is Mostly Mets Reading Month is coming to a close. There are still so many books to talk about and stories to tell.

But today's entry will help as we ease into the next celebration, followed by yet another on Monday.

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Published in 1998

Would you give your life to defend something you knew was a lie?

It was one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever covered. A missionary family from a Grand Rapids suburb was working in South America, flying in a small plane that the government mistakenly believed was being used by drug smugglers.

The authorities opened fire on the plane, and a shot ripped through the fuselage, killing the mother and infant daughter she was holding in her lap.

I was assigned to cover the funeral, and was amazed at how some of my fellow journalists were behaving and how well the church staff was handling the international attention, mourning in front of a wall of cameras.

A couple days after the funeral I wrote a note to the pastor, thanking him and his staff for being so helpful during what I knew was a very difficult and emotional time.

A short while later an envelope arrived in the newsroom with a nice note from the pastor and the book, “The Case for Christ, A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus,” by Lee Strobel. I was intrigued by the surprise gift, and was hooked.

Strobel was a cops and courts reporter for the Chicago Tribune and an atheist. His wife in 1979 became a believer and he was amazed by her transformation. Still a skeptic, he dove headfirst into an exhaustive investigation to prove whether or not Jesus existed and whether the details of his life that we celebrate this week were, in fact, true.

It’s a fascinating story as he travels the country, grilling experts and historians. Along the way he weaves in stories about events he covered over the course of his career, and how they might apply to the next line of questioning.

He comes to a startling conclusion – and you can consider this a spoiler alert:

“The atheism I had embraced for so long buckled under the weight of historical truth. It was a stunning and radical outcome, certainly not what I had anticipated when I had embarked on this investigative process. But this was, in my opinion, a decision compelled by the facts.”

I was moved by the gift and the story, and admire the way it was told. So much so, that I required it in the journalism classes I teach. I’m an adjunct at a Christian college, so this is OK. And if you want to make college students happy, tell them that you can find copies of their newly assigned textbook on Amazon for under $1. In classes where I don’t get to select the textbooks, I read aloud passages, especially the sections where Strobel describes the people he interviews and their offices.

I want the students to see how this acclaimed journalist went about his craft, and know that our work can have a tremendous impact on our readers – and, on a good day, ourselves.

Now, to get back to the question at the top of today’s post. One of the most fascinating interviews in the book looks at the disciples and their lives after the resurrection. If that resurrection, and all the other aspects of Christ’s life, were false, they would know. Nearly all were put to death after spending their days telling people about what they had experienced. No one, he argues, gives their life for something they know is false. 

Your reading list:

March 5: "Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century" by Marc Okkenon
March 4: "Clemente! The Enduring Legacy" by Kal Wagenheim 
March 3: "Mets by the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman
March 2: "Faith and Fear in Flushing" by Greg W. Prince

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