The iconoclastic chess genius Bobby Fischer -- one of the most unique public figures of the Cold War era -- lived a bizarre life that blended astonishing victories with mysterious choices that, to others, looked like intentional failures or lapses of judgment or something. You can read all about that in the New York Times obituary for Fischer, simply by clicking here. I mean, try this passage on for size:
In 1999, in a series of telephone interviews he gave to a radio station in the Philippines, he rambled angrily and profanely about an international Jewish conspiracy, which he said was bent on destroying him personally and the world generally.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he told a radio talk-show host in Baguio, the Philippines, that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were "wonderful news," adding he was wishing for a scenario "where the country will be taken over by the military, they'll close down all the synagogues, arrest all the Jews and secure hundreds of thousands of Jewish ringleaders."
See what I mean? Now, you might, after reading that, want to ask a question that sounds something like this: "OK, where in heckfire did that guy go to church?"
As it turns out, the obituary by reporter Bruce Weber provides an answer and here it is:
... (Fischer) tithed the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960's. The church, now defunct, followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. For a time, Mr. Fischer lived in Pasadena, Calif., the church's home base, or nearby Los Angeles, where he was said to spend his time replaying chess games and reading Nazi literature. There were reports that he was destitute, though the state of Mr. Fischer's finances was never very clear.
First of all, I think there is a missing word, or even a phrase, in that reference to tithing. Shouldn't that be that he "tithed to the Worldwide Church of God"? Also, I wonder if the Times should not have said something like, "he tithed one tenth of his income" to, etc. I grew up Southern Baptist and, thus, am very familiar with the concept of tithing and lots of other people know all about that term, as well. But is it the kind of term that a reporter can use with no explanation at all, in a mainstream publication? Just asking.
But there is a more glaring problem in this passage.
The problem is that the Worldwide Church of God still exists -- click here.
Now it is certainly true that this unique flock -- which critics called a "cult," not a "fringe church" -- has changed a great deal since its infamous days under the leadership of radio preacher Herbert W. Armstrong. It's pretty easy to find out what happened, with the church evolving closer and closer to the evangelical Protestant mainstream. Google works.
But it's one thing to say that a church has changed. It is something else to say that it is defunct, especially when it isn't.
Correction, please. (Tip of the hat to reader Mark A. Kellner
UPDATE: Well, the Times didn't do a correction, but there has been a quiet edit in the online version. Click here to see that it looks like this now:
At the same time, he tithed to the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960s. The church followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
And in the latest version of the paragraph, the word "to" has appeared after the word "tithed." Hurrah. But, hey, what about the status of the church today? Does that matter?