‘Error! Error!” screamed readers over the three blunders I’d made in recent columns.
First, in a column about fitness, I recapped the 2014 story I wrote about WWII pilot Roger Revay. I met the 92-year-old hospital patient after he broke his collarbone on the dance floor. He told me a nail-biting story about being shot down over Germany and then captured.
Unfortunately, in my retelling, I transposed some numbers to say that Roger was flying a B-29 bomber. Not so. He actually flew the B-17 bomber.
When my wife tried to downplay my mistake as a trivial one, I told her, “I don’t suppose it’s trivial to those who came home in that plane.” She admitted that was a good point.
So, Roger, I offer this public apology and a salute to you and the honorable crew of your B-17.
In a more recent mistake, I recalled a scene from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie, “Schindler’s List” to make a point about forgiveness. The movie recounts the efforts of Oskar Schindler to rescue Jews from the Auschwitz concentration camp and its sadistic commandant Amon Goeth. It’s a great story, except for the part where I erroneously recast Goeth as a “fictional character.” I can’t imagine the hurt I caused some in the Jewish community by implying that a single element of the holocaust was fictional.
As I wrote each column, I believe that I knew the correct information, but somehow became confused in the retelling. I hope that my point of forgiveness in the Schindler column was well taken. I offer my most profound apology for both mistakes.
However, no previous nasty gram compared to the vitriol I received for the counsel I offered a church member who was considering an abortion. Sandy was a not only a family friend, but she was our children’s baby sitter.
Sandy flatly asked me if abortion was a sin. Some would give a quick answer, but I couldn’t. This was the woman I trusted with my children. I knew her heart.
I replied in the gentlest way I knew to express God’s hurt in these complicated situations. I encouraged her to tell her parents, as I knew them to be compassionate people.
I needn’t use the word sin in telling her “the spirit of Christianity is on the side of life and redemption.” I also cautioned her that she may have doubts the rest of her life.
My answer wasn’t strong enough for some readers who seem to want me to scream, “Hell, yes, it’s a sin!” Many questioned my qualifications to be a minister. They slapped me with that old truism, “God wants us to hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
I answer that dog-eared platitude today with a Mark Lowery quote. Lowery’s a Christian comedian/singer who once sang with the Gaither band. Like me, he self-identifies as a “recovering fundamentalist.”
“Love the sinner, hate the sin?” Lowery asks. “How about: love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!”
So, sorry, no apology for the kindhearted way I spoke with Sandy. I spoke to her with every ounce of compassion I hope someone would express toward my daughters in that situation.
Fortunately, these readers helped me with three important corrections for my upcoming book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving: Stories of Resilience From a Hospital Chaplain.”
Wait. Did I say three corrections? I meant only two. Sorry, my mistake again. I promise to do better next month.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of “Hero’s Highway.” You may send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Visit thechaplain.net.