God Used REO Speedwagon to Call Seminarian
THE KANSAS CITY STAR, July 16—“On a hot summer day in 1997, Kent O'Connor, a young actor and dancer then appearing in Gypsy at the New Theater Restaurant, had a strange experience,” wrote columnist Joe Popper.
He was listening to a song by REO Speedwagon that included the repeated line, “I can't fight the feeling anymore.”
“I almost had to stop the car,” O'Connor told the columnist. “For at the moment the song began,” said the column, “O'Connor was pondering the resolution of a quandary that had begun in his childhood.”
That quandary was the feeling that he should become a priest, an idea that first occurred to Kent when he heard his pastor speaking about vocations when he was only 7 or 8 years old.
A performer since his earliest days, O'Connor went to the University of Kansas, where he studied dance and theater. During his senior year in 1997, O'Connor traveled to New York City for a few auditions.
“I went with this funny notion that the theater actually needed me,” he said. His reception was positive. He received a job offer from a ballet company.
Yet, he reached an unexpected conclusion. “I'm not doing anyone a big favor by being here,” he thought. “The theater will do just fine without me.” Frustrated with what he calls the “self-centeredness” of theatrical life, he began to think he was wasting his real talents.
And so he attended a retreat in Atchison, Kan., and then visited Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. “I fell in love with it,” he said. “I knew immediately it was where I needed to be.” O'Connor has now completed his first sequence of seminary course work. “I'm in the right place,” said O'Connor. “And I know that however it turns out, the nagging question will have been answered.”
Al Gore's Gospel
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, July 13—“Critics should not dismiss Vice President Al Gore's recent talk about faith and values as empty presidential sloganeering,” writes Joe Loconte in an opinion piece.
To do so, Loconte said, is to “neglect a profound cultural moment: a repudiation by Democratic leaders of the antireligious mood that has darkened liberal thought for at least a generation.”
Loconte said Gore is not alone among liberals. He pointed to Joel Kotkin, who wrote several years ago in The New Democrat that “no wound has afflicted the Democratic Party so deeply as its divorce from religious experience and community.”
“To be sure,” Loconte said, “Gore himself has not completely escaped his party's secularizing grip. In his May Atlanta speech he claimed that the Founders ‘believed deeply in faith,’ as if the object of that faith may as well be tapioca pudding. He fretted about the imposition of religious values in public life, as if laws embody no moral claims. And he warned against the proselytizing of ‘right-wing religion,’ forgetting that his Salvation Army audience consisted of evangelicals who make faith in Jesus the explicit goal of their programs.”
Nonetheless, Loconte, the William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at the Heritage Foundation, concluded that “the Gore rhetoric on religion suggests a watershed. He correctly argues that the real aim of the First Amendment is to protect religious freedom. He says religious approaches are overcoming human problems left unsolved by federal programs.”
The Gore campaign, however, is far from embracing voters with traditional religious views. That was clear from a June 16 Associated Press account of “the capital's first presidential fund-raiser aimed at homosexuals. Tipper Gore [the vice president's wife] scooped up more than $150,000 for her husband's campaign … and promised contributors he would ‘fight for your dreams.’”
Elite Media Go to CCD
THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 18—The nation's political reporters will be learning more about religion, according to a Times story on a program offered by the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Journalists from ABC's Nightline, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times have signed up for introductory seminars taught by religious experts. The Washington, D.C.-based group received a $925,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to bring religion to “one of the most godless groups this side of the flaming abyss,” the Times said.
The grant will be used for a series of seminars and luncheons, a content-analysis of 30 years of media coverage of religion, and three summits where reporters spend a day and a half listening to theologians and academic experts. The point is to provide information, not to get reporters to go to church, but “that would be fine if they did,” Michael Cromartie, director of the center's Evangelical Studies Project, said.