A vague resurrection

With books like "Heaven is for Real" on the New York Times bestseller list, it's no wonder reporters might gravitate toward stories of death, resurrection, heaven and everything else that touches the topic. A reader sent us a piece that neglects to mention quite a few details in trying to retell a resurrection-like story.

A local Knoxville television station reports on a man who died -- or appeared to have died -- in a church service but woke up 10 minutes later.

On January 22nd, Fred McAfee attended a morning worship at Covenant Life Worship Center in Lake City. He got out of his chair to give an offering, and collapsed suddenly.

"No breath, no heartbeat... just completely collapsed," remembers Pastor Tony McAfee.

Several people attempted to revive Fred McAfee, and an ambulance was called. While the congregation waited, they prayed.

"Its an amazing story, really, about the power of prayer," said the pastor. "And that miracles still do happen."

The reader who sent it in also sent a list of questions the story left her with:

Has this ever happened in the history of the church? Is this a church or denomination that typically looks for miracles and charismatic events? How has this experience affected the man's faith? How has it affected his church? Is the pastor related to the man who collapsed? They have the same last name.

You would think these kinds of questions would come up in the editing process. Otherwise, the story is rather thin on substance or background. The reporter took the time to interview some doctor (not the one who practiced on the man) to explain the science behind it, but didn't bother to take the time to explain some of the underlying religious themes.

The pastor told the reporter, "It isn't unusual for people to be healed, but it is unusual for people to be resurrected from the dead." Could the reporter have asked, "What do you mean when you say people have been healed?" Does he mean spiritually, literally, or something else? Could he provide examples?

The reporter finds a cutesy way to end the piece without bothering to dig for more of the details. "He had been participating in a religious fast. His wife assured me, it could be his last." So what is this religious fast, you ask. Too bad, the story's over and the anchors moved onto something else.

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