Hands of God? Hard to tell

For anyone who doubts the powerful role of religion in people's lives, consider the case of Chris Pollock.

Both major Pittsburgh papers -- the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review -- immediately picked up on the "G word" in reporting on this Pennsylvania man who became only the second person in the United States to receive a double hand transplant.

The Tribune-Review got into its story this way:

With both hands stuck in the rollers of a corn picker, Chris Pollock screamed for 30 minutes before someone came to his rescue.

He knew the machine had destroyed his hands. It ripped the skin from his entire right arm.

"God, just let me die!" he yelled on the day after Thanksgiving 2008.

Similarly, here's how the Post-Gazette opened its Page 1 interview with Pollock:

When Chris Pollock was trapped alone in a farm field two years ago, his hands caught in a grinding, mechanized corn picker, "I asked God three times to let me die."

Now, I don't know about you, but after that buildup, I was excited about reading about this man's faith journey. Did he cry out to God because he is a religious man? If so, what role has God -- and his faith -- played in his recovery? Did this tragedy cause him to question his faith, strengthen it or find it for the first time? Does he see this accident as a curse or a blessing? Does he believe in prayer? Had he ever called out to God before?

Is he a Christian? A Jew? An agnostic who screamed God's name on that one day alone? A Martian from outer space who has met God?

Regrettably, neither newspaper answers any of these questions. God makes a cameo appearance, then moves on as gigantic religion ghosts take over both Pittsburgh papers.

The closest we get to any faith angle in the Post-Gazette story is this vague quote near the end:

At the time of his accident, Mr. Pollock was separated from his wife and has since gotten a divorce. His children, 18-year-old twins, were angry at him for the breakup, he acknowledged, but his trauma and the transplant have drawn his son and daughter closer to him.

"I believe everything happens for a reason. I think they realized life's too short -- why be mad at each other all your life? -- and I think they thought they could have lost me that night."

Hmmmm, given that Pollock cried out to God in his time of despair, might the reporter dare ask if this transplant recipient believes a higher power is involved in "everything happening for a reason?" Just a thought.

Unfortunately, the Tribune-Review story doesn't even come that close to anything resembling an explanation of its God reference. After the lede, God jumps off a cliff, never to be heard from again.

Got God? Hard to tell based on these case studies in reporters -- and their editors -- not getting religion.

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