When war or national crisis sets our hearts churning, people normally accustomed to taking their cues from the daily news suddenly discover that Pentagon briefings, op-ed pieces and Oval Office updates provide little consolation for their deep spiritual distress. They turn to the one source they believe might have a spiritually significant word to utter—the church. And well they should.
The way communities turn toward the church in the heat of a crisis is fascinating. Conflicts and tragedies generate their own sense of urgency. Much of the public response quickly assumes a range of feverish emotions. Fear, nervousness, shock, dread, anger and despair all figure in. Clergy phone lines light up with calls from local media hungry for announcements of impromptu worship services and special vigils. Denominational headquarters e-mail helps for Sunday prayers and pulpit perspectives. Church members inquire about what they can do to address the anguish. Anxiousness reigns.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly