Addicted to Attention?

I remember reading a story in the Chicago Tribune a few years ago about a pro-life blogger known as “April’s Mom” or “B.” Maybe some of you remember  it as well. She posted the tragic news of the death of her newborn daughter, whom she had carried to term though diagnosed with a terminal case of Trisomy 13 and HPE.

This came at the end of a nine-month pregnancy which she shared with the internet world. She wrote about her Christian faith and pro-life values often quoting Bible verses and Christian music. People responded with prayers, gifts, and pro-life bloggers rallied around the cause. Twenty-six year old Rebecca Beuschausen could have ended there, but she decided to post a picture of the baby. The picture was identified by some readers as a toy doll. Things unraveled and Beuschausen admitted her deception.

Why did she do it? She told the Tribune, “I’ve always liked writing. It was addictive to find out I had a voice that people wanted to hear. Soon I was getting 100,000 hits a week, and it just got out of hand. I didn’t know how to stop. . . . One lie led to another.”

The name Beuschausen sounds a lot like Munchausen doesn’t it? Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Munchausen lived in the eighteenth century and he was known for his tall tales and exaggerations. In fact, Rudolph Raspe compiled a collection of his apocryphal stories in 1785. There is a disorder called Munchausen Syndrome which describes a troubled person who will fabricate illness or injury in order to gain attention or sympathy through treatment. In reality it is just a fancy name for lying.

Munchausen was a liar, a fabricator, and so was Beuschausen. Her main problem (and ours) was not her addiction to attention, but her sinful human nature which acted against what she knew to be true.

Let’s face it, there is a Munchausen/Beuschausen in all of us: our fibs, white lies, tall tales, and exaggerations (yes, and maybe some of our blogs and selfies) are designed to make ourselves look or feel better. Let us be humble people who love to tell the truth more than we want to escape our pain. Just a thought…

Don’t Take Your Eye Off the Ball, America…

eye on the ballOn June 8, 1978, a man who looked more like an Old Testament prophet than a Nobel Prize winning author stood before Harvard’s graduating class and gave a speech that both offended and fascinated our nation. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet Army veteran arrested in February 1945 for speaking against Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend. He spent the next eight years in prison in the Gulag, eventually being transferred to a camp for political prisoners. It was out of this experience that Solzhenitsyn wrote his first novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

He was exiled to southern Kazakhstan after his imprisonment and taught at a local school. He developed cancer and was treated successfully. He saw this as a miracle. “I could see no other explanation. Since then, all the life that has been given back to me has not been mine in the full sense: it is built around a purpose.” And he believed that purpose was to expose the injustice of the Soviet prison system which he did in his book The Gulag Archipelago and subsequent works, which resulted in him getting kicked out of Soviet Russia. He eventually came to the US and, two years later, gave the Harvard speech, “A World Split Apart.”

It did not go over well. James Reston of The New York Times said the speech represented “the wanderings of a mind split apart.” Arthur Schlesinger Jr., then Professor of Humanities at the City University of New York, and former speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, said the speech promoted “a Christian authoritarianism governed by God-fearing despots without benefit of politics, parties, undue intellectual freedom or undue concern for human happiness.” And philosopher Sidney Hook insisted that “theology is irrelevant not only to democracy and capitalism and socialism as social systems, but to the validity of morality itself.” But to the more philosophically conservative, his speech was a prophetic warning. Michael Novak, resident scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, described the address as “the most important religious document of our time.”

“Many of you have already found out,” Solzhenitsyn said in his opening, “and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter. A measure of truth is included in my speech today. . . .”

America’s concentration has flagged. She has taken her eye off the ball of truth and has been distracted by other things, like her own absolute sovereignty and supremacy. She has also been blinded to other things, like her own evil and injustice. In junior high I was playing pitch and catch and I took my eye off the ball. It hit me just above the eye and they took me to the ER for stitches. America needs more than stitches. Solzhenitsyn may have spoken to young graduates, but his speech was meant for us living 36 years later. More about what Solzhenitsyn said, next week…

(Some quotes were taken from a 2007 WordPress blog by D. Jeter)