Sometimes religion stories are about what happens at the sweeping level of doctrine, traditional and denominational controversy. And sometimes journalists have the chance to inspire readers to ponder the question --could I do that? A story about a Chicago family of eight who has recently adopted two children from Ethiopia is another home run for Chicago Tribune religion writer Manya Brachear, and a sensitive exploration of the realities of what can happen when believers take their faith seriously.
Behind the doors of a modest Rogers Park frame house, Pete and Patty Mueller are acting out their own reality show of "Pete and Patty Plus 8."
Home-schooling all eight of their children and surviving on one income, the Muellers have not sought the reality show spotlight that helped pop culture icons Jon and Kate Gosselin raise their brood and eventually broadcast the end of their marriage.
Still, there has been a fair share of drama surrounding the Muellers' adoption of two children from Ethiopia -- a process that started four years ago before anyone could have guessed Pete Mueller would lose his job.
The Muellers could have backed out of the adoption. But they didn't. They believed they were answering God's call in the New Testament to look after orphans in distress.
The Muellers have truly chosen a countercultural path -- but also, apparently a sometimes messy one. There's a lot that is wonderful about this article. Brachear examines the real life problems (job loss, home repairs, lack of time) that plague not only the Muellers, but many families. But she also highlights the qualities that impelled them to make decisions which many others might not have made.
I wish that she'd explained the normal meaning of "epiphany" (its not lightning bolt) but that seems like a quibble. Particularly interesting is the way Brachear reveals the way in which Muellers view their commitment to social justice as an expression of their faith --readers too often see the faith-works divide. It would have been interesting to have Brachear widen her article a bit to tell readers about the Mueller's church (this one?) and denomination. I'd like to know- how do the other children feel about two new additions?
Brachear portrays a couple facing many real challenges, but forced, in Patty Mueller's words "to live by faith, forced to need God."
Pete Mueller's evocative end quote, as does the whole piece, invites the reader to look at the families' ordinary choices and Patty and Pete's extraordinary sense of divine calling and ask themselves not "why?" but "why not"? To this reader, that's a real achievement.