Every now and then, your GetReligionistas whine a bit when mainstream news publications publish stories that are full of religious reference, yet contain almost no facts about religion at all. Yes, I'm still thinking about this one at the moment, care of the Washington Post. Some GetReligion readers like to suggest that, by leaving the religious elements of the story foggy, the editors believe that they are reaching out to readers who might not be comfortable with the religious specifics. You know, vague religion for an era of vaguely religious people.
Well, I can see the logic in that, sort of. We do live in a vaguely spiritual age.
But this is something like saying that the mainstream press should avoid the details of political stories, since we live in an era when an increasing number of Americans are not interested in the fine details and many have cynically tuned out politics altogether. Why mention the names and doctrines of the political parties anyway? Why get into the details of court decisions and all of those thick bundles of legislation?
I have always suspected that, for many editors, the fine details of religion are especially threatening and suspicious. After all, religion is supposed to be a totally private matter, so that editors can focus on important issues in the real world -- like politics and sports. And we also know that religion is all about feelings and emotions, unlike the calm, logical, rational and factual world of political life. Yeah, right.
Why do I bring this up? Please read the following Seattle Times story, which I think is rather amazing. Then again, I have always been interested in the study of near-death experiences and related matters. Here's the top of the story:
It would take an unusual man to decide, in a split second after witnessing a car crash, to crawl into the Subaru that had erupted into flames 8 feet high to try to save a little girl and her dad.
A week ago ... that is what Kenny Johnson did. ... Johnson, 40, was pulling out of the driveway, he says, when he saw a Ford Fusion heading north on the arterial at more than 60 mph. Then, there was the crash into cars waiting at a stoplight.
Johnson remembers seeing other witnesses hurry to the scene. But nobody went into the flames. "Everybody was kind of frozen," he says.
He remembers talking to himself as he went into the Subaru: "Oh, my God, this car is gonna blow up and I'm going to be in it. Well, if does blow up, I guess I'm going straight to heaven because I'm trying to save that little girl."
The little girl lived. The father -- 37-year-old Andy Kotowicz -- died three days later.
There are many crucial details that you need to read linked to the wreck and the father's work with a company called Sub Pop. But eventually we reach the calmly reported details at the end of the story.
Days passed, and Johnson went back to his routine. That is, until Tuesday morning around 6, he says.
"My wife is next to me in bed. She's sleeping. Everything is where it's supposed to be," says Johnson. "Then there is this man standing right by the bed. He says he needs help with a few things. I say, 'OK.'
"Now, I know it's him (Kotowicz) even though the only time I had seen him was at the accident, when he didn't look, you know, normal. He says he wants me to give a message to his wife and to his daughter. That's private, so I can't tell you about that message.
"He also tells me to talk to the people at Sub Pop, he wants to let them know not to be mad at the driver that caused the accident. That's his message."
Johnson says that later that day, he went to the Sub Pop website, and there it was, a memorial photo of the man who had stood by his bed: Kotowicz.
Read it all, but you won't learn anything else about that vision. You also will learn zippo about the faith of the man who received the vision or that of the deceased father who offered the message to his grieving family and offered words of forgiveness for the driver who killed him.
Details, details. Who needs them?
Is the story stronger without those few additional words that would have provided some context? What think ye?