April 4th, 2010
07:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #440: Notes from a pew near the back

Reporter's Note: Shortly before President Obama took office he asked people to let him know what they are thinking. I’ve been doing so every single day since his inauguration. I think I am developing carpal tunnel.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Easter is interesting in that, despite various trappings of secularism (the big nocturnal bunny comes to mind,) it remains a pretty hard core religious holiday; unlike Christmas which is pretty much a free-for-all in terms of how people mark its passage. For some Christmas is just a good time, for some it is all about families, for some it is about gifts and sales, and for some it is about faith…you know how it goes. But Easter stands alone.

My father pointed out in one of his sermons long ago that Easter really is the most important day of the year for Christians. While the birth of Jesus is important, we’ve all been through that. The idea of coming back from death, however, is in some ways the very essence of the promise that faith can conquer all.

I find many things in my faith plenty puzzling; and I often wonder how much of it is factual and how much is allegorical. Not that it makes a difference to me. I still believe in God and find comfort in the idea that he, she, or it is present in my world, even if I can’t always understand what God is up to or why. Certainly I would not claim to have enough understanding to start ripping into other folks’ faiths, unless of course those faiths start acting more like political groups or governments and pushing people around.

But back to my point, between the Old Testament and the New any discerning reader can find loads of contradictions, and mysteries. Sometimes in church we read passages that are just plain baffling. For example the whole tale of the prodigal son still makes my head hurt. So one son does what he is supposed to do and gets generally ignored. The other behaves like a jerk and they throw a party for him? I’ve heard explanations over and over again and it still makes no sense to me. Sometimes when we hear such things in church, our family privately says afterward, “So we had a reading from the Book of Inconceivables this morning.”

Speaking of which, we had a deacon some years ago who had such a thick accent that it always sounded like he was saying “We all need cheeses.” He was a great guy and we all really liked him, but that would put us into fits of stifled laughter every time.

I live in a neighborhood now where my experience tells me that a good many folks take a somewhat dim view of religion overall. And I understand that. Certainly religions have given us many terrible things: The Inquisition, terrorists, witch trials, Christian rock. But my father (since I happen to be thinking of him) said something to me that I have often remembered when religion…any religion…is under fire. He said, “Church going people do all the same bad things that other people do. They lie, they cheat, they steal. They are greedy and selfish and hurt others all the time. The only real practical difference is that at least once a week, if they belong to a well-intentioned, thoughtful congregation, they are reminded of their duty to try harder to be better; to love their neighbors, to care about their world, and to conduct themselves in an honorable and decent way.” He believed that, on the whole, that probably gave them a somewhat better chance of being good folks.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

All I know on this Easter, and every Sunday, is that it works for me. Sure, I’m often bored in church and my mind wanders, and sometimes I wonder if I’m really getting anything out of it. But it is good for me to be reminded that there are greater interests and powers than my own; to be reminded that I must always strive to be better and recognize my own frailties, if only so that I will be more willing to forgive them in others.

I hope this Easter is wonderful for you, your family, and for all our fellow citizens… indeed for all the people of the world, whatever their faith may be.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Don

    I agree with Tom about finding religion in your own way... At least that is what I took from it. Christmas is what you make it.. Yes, sorry to say it, but it is. Not everyone believes that Christ was born on this day, actually, Christ was born in the spring, hence the baby cows and sheep. Christmas was a Pagan day of worship, the Winter Equinox. Christians decided to take it over and make it a Christian holiday to stop the pagan worship of the sun. If you don't believe me, take a look at the Crusades. What a bloody evil mess that was.
    Anyway, Easter is what you make it. Be happy, be with family if you can and if not with good friends and spread love and good cheer, that is a good Easter.

    Best to all


    April 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Vassar Black

    Beautiful. So many Christians get bashed for trying to cram their views down people's throats, but not all of us are that way. I respect and treasure my friends of other faiths, because in the end, we don't know that we are all not going to the same place but just on different paths. Thank you for a wonderful Easter gift.

    April 4, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  3. Mpowers526

    Very well said. May the blessings of Easter follow us year round.

    April 4, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  4. HolidayMermaid

    Tom, that was beautiful, thank you. I feel exactly the same way.I guess most of us are reminded of the lessons are parents taught us today. They are missed. That's why the promise is so great. Happy Easter.

    April 4, 2010 at 8:09 am |