Haunted by holy ghosts: 'Devout Christian' cop is so 'blessed,' but questions remain

I have been blessed
And I feel like I've found my way
I thank God for all I've been given
At the end of every day
I have been blessed
With so much more than I deserve
To be here with the ones
That love me
To love them so much it hurts
I have been blessed
"Blessed," song by Martina McBride

Dallas-area police officer Eric Fieilo definitely considers himself "blessed."

That much is made clear in a recent front-page profile of Fieilo by the Dallas Morning News.

What that whole "blessed" word means, precisely, is another matter.

EULESS — Officer Eric Fieilo's patrol shifts usually begin and end in the area where he grew up.
The run-down apartment complex where he shared a two-bedroom apartment with his parents and four siblings. The pistachio green house where Fieilo and his friends often hung out after school. And Euless Trinity High School, where he played football and helped his team win the state championship in 2007.
Around this time eight years ago, Fieilo became known as the kid who assaulted an official during a playoff game against Allen High School. It was his last game as a senior, and the one he's most ashamed of.
But Fieilo, now 25 years old and a devout Christian, says his most embarrassing moment on the football field turned out to be his biggest blessing.
"You know that saying that you take one forward and three steps back?" he said. "It was the opposite for me: I took one step back and five steps forward."

In fact, the word "blessing" appears three times in the story — twice in direct quotes by the officer. "God," too, is mentioned three times — once again, twice in direct quotes by Fieilo. And as you noticed, the newspaper describes Fieilo as a "devout Christian."

So how dare I write a GetReligion post suggesting that the story is haunted by holy ghosts? 

Well, here's the deal: While the Dallas Morning News — to its credit — allows passing glances at Fieilo's faith, the newspaper treats the religion angle more as a spice (think salt or pepper) than a meaty main course. 

As a result, readers catch glimpses of Fieilo's heart but never get an opportunity to delve into his soul.

In talking about the officer's transformation, the newspaper includes this quote:

"I didn't know what to do but just to fall to my knees and thank God for this blessing," Fieilo said.

And this is a nice detail:

He said he prays for the people who end up handcuffed in the back seat of his patrol car. In some cases, he prefers to give someone a second chance instead of arresting or ticketing them.

But the story suffers from a lack of specificity concerning the officer's faith. What makes him "devout?" Does he attend worship assemblies? If so, when and how often? Does he have a specific denominational affiliation? Is there a pastor or other church leader who might speak to Fieilo's faith and how he has relied on it to turn around his life?

It's obvious that religion is important to Fieilo, but the vague, scattered way that the Dallas Morning News presents it detracts from an otherwise compelling story.

The big takeaway for other news organizations writing stories such as these: Show, don't tell, how Fieilo is "blessed," and treat his faith as a critical part of the puzzle that needs exploration and explanation.

To put this journalistic issue into religious terms: What exactly is this officer's testimony?  

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