I have been haunted by this story every single day since it came out in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, haunted, as in by a ghost. That's the question: Is there a religion ghost in this story? Here's the top of this painful, vivid piece of writing:
The revelation was shocking enough. That a growing number of teenagers and young adults deliberately embed needles, paper clips or staples in their skin may have seemed unthinkable before an Ohio radiologist presented disturbing proof at a medical meeting. ...
Even more disturbing than his X-rays and accompanying report, however, could be the size and pervasiveness of the trend from which it derives -- self-injury. Cutting, burning and biting one's body is a habit increasingly taken up by young people who find themselves simply unable to cope with stress. Embedding appears to represent a more extreme form of the disorder.
"We always saw a little bit of this, but it was in people already identified as having a psychiatric disorder," says Janis Whitlock, a prominent researcher on self-injury at Cornell University. "What doesn't seem to make much sense is why we're seeing it so much in seemingly healthy kids."
Experts who study the behavior say that 15% to 22% of all adolescents and young adults have intentionally injured themselves at least once in their lifetimes. One study of 94 girls, ages 10 to 14, found that 56% had hurt themselves at least once.
I'll spare you the bloody details.
Of course, I wouldn't be asking this question if reporter Shari Roan and her editors had actually included a religious element in the report, if they had probed the sources of the pain that inspire this hellish behavior. So the religion angle is not there. Should it have been?
I would say that it did not have to be there. There is no hole in this story that has to be there, to cover the basic journalistic questions.
But am I the only one who senses the ghost?
If you are a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox Christian or part of another body that believes that a good God created a world that has is governed by natural law, you can argue that this kind of pain, these torn-up bodies and broken souls, has to have a source. For example: When teens go through a series of broken sexual -- one-flesh, to be biblical -- relationships, should we expect them to handle this better than grown-up adults? Yes, this is a religious question: Does sin have a cost?
But let's not blame the kids, alone. Are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon the next generation? Is that part of the pain? I mean, face this:
The girls had inserted such things as metal staples, unfolded paper clips, glass shards, wood slivers, pencil lead, crayons and stones into their arms or legs. Ninety percent of those girls said they'd had thoughts of suicide or had attempted suicide previously. Forty percent said they were victims of sexual abuse.
Just asking. What do you think? Is there a ghost? Am I alone in sensing one?