I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.
To join in the conversation about Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt, or to order a copy, go here.
Christians often behave as if they’re afraid of their own questions.
Perhaps this comes from preachers to don’t want to face the same questions in themselves and who attempt to answer the anguished “Why?” of a suffering parishioner with platitudes or, occasionally, accusations of a lack of faith.
But the truth is, there is a reasonable basis for these questions.
“Life,” as President John Kennedy famously said, “isn’t fair.”
Sometimes the rich get rich, the good die young and bad things happen to good people.
That alone is enough to drive any sensitive person to take a good long look at claims that God is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing and all-just.
If that is true, why aren’t the baby rapers of this world piles of ash? Why didn’t Hitler die along with so many others in World War I? How is that the heads of big banks can bring down whole economies and get paid off with our treasure to refrain from finishing the destruction they created?
I could go on.
But the point is made.
This God of ours, with His long list of “alls” can seem a poor fit for the reality of what is often cruel and difficult human existence.
Sensitive, thoughtful, nerdy people, as Kyle Cupp, the author of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt describes himself, are bound see the conundrum and ask themselves their own little whys. These questions are not the Why of a mother whose son was murdered in front of her house, or a girl who was raped and beaten and left for dead. They are the confused questions of a bystander who sees this and cannot balance the two columns, one a column listing God’s attributes, the other a column listing the many instances of “where was God?” that they see around them.
People who are caught in the snares of life’s anguish don’t ask these questions, or if they do, they don’t ask them in the same way. The irony of dwelling in doubt is that the doubts tend to vanish when you are confronted by the hardest realities. There is no choice then but to live by faith or to die psychologically. More to the point, these deepest pits of human suffering are when the Holy Spirit meets us most reliably and in ways that undeniable.
Backward as it seems, intense suffering, which sparks doubts in those who witness it, often increases faith in those who endure it.
Mr Cupp has had his own life’s hardships. He’s dealt with them by living in faith, all the while shadowed by nagging doubt. But difficult as the things he’s borne, they do not reach the level of all-eclipsing cataclysm such as sometimes happen to people.
There are things that are not survivable without God. It is possible for some people to survive them physically, but without God they will never be intact again.
Perhaps the one such encounter that everyone must face is their own death. Without God, death means annihilation. People can pretty that up or, more often, just dismiss it from their thoughts when death appears far off on a horizon they don’t expect to ever reach. Most people who talk blithely about dying without God do not, in their hearts, really believe in their own mortality.
But actually facing death your own death for real is quite another matter. The blithe burbling dries up and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.
It is the time when people make the final choice as to whom they belong, the point at which that choice becomes eternal.
Everything — every grief and small annihilation we face in our lives up to that point — is a practice session in making the eternal choice. Doubt is not a sin. It is not a lack of faith. It is simply thinking it through.
What matters is not so much the question, for in essence all these questions are only one, what matters is our answer. Dwelling in Doubt is simply the question in whatever form your life experiences direct it to.
And that question, directed to Our God Who made us, is, “can I trust You to be Who they tell me You are?”
The answer is either living by faith or going the opposite direction and turning your back on the only hope you have.
Kyle Cupp writes an honest book with Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt. He lays bare many of his own sorrows and weaknesses. By his own confession, he is a nerdy, introverted man. But his prose reveals a strikingly honest person who is not afraid to admit that there are days in which the faith he lives by dwells in doubt.
Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram.
At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers.
The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that.
From PRI The World:
Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.
All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.
At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one.
In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.
“Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.
The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.
God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.
Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2013 / 11:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.
In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.
He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.
The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”
There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …
Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed.
In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.
In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.
The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …
He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”
The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.
Pope Francis gave a hard-hitting homily during his daily morning mass.
“We are all sinners,” he said. “But we are not corrupt. The corrupt remain in a state of self-sufficiency and don’t understand humility.”
This is a homily for the “Christian” West, if there ever was one.
After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.
The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.
I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.
I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.
Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.
The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.
We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.
As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.
From the National Catholic Register:
Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey
Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-collecting-diocesan-data-not-lay-opinions-in-worldwide-survey?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-8%2022:12:01#ixzz2kAjgql7O
Will Illinois create discrimination in the name of ending discrimination?
Illinois’ bill redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriages,” is on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.
Proponents of the bill say that ti will end discrimination against homosexuals. Others are concerned that a lack of exemptions for individuals and small business owners, including one-owner businesses, will allow coercion and a violation of these citizen’s basic right to religious freedom.
One thing that is commonly (and I think, deliberately) overlooked in discussions of this issue is that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights.
From The Chicago Tribune:
Illinois’ gay marriage bill that awaits the governor’s signature doesn’t force religious clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings or compel churches to open their doors for ceremonies. But similar safeguards aren’t spelled out for pastry chefs, florists, photographers and other vendors who, based on religious convictions, might not want to share a gay couple’s wedding day.
The lack of broader exceptions worries some who fear an erosion of religious freedoms, even as supporters of the law say it will eliminate discrimination.
“We’re going to have to wait for lawsuits to arrive,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a socially conservative legal group.
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether or not the town of Greece NY had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The reason? Most of the prayers that opened its city council meetings were given by Christians.
From what I’ve read, Greece opened its city council meetings with prayers from many faiths through the years, including Jewish and pagans. The argument is that most of the prayers were offered by Christians, which means …
Evidently it means that Americans United for Separation of Church and State found a couple of people to say that this offended them and were who willing to be plaintiffs in a court case. This Court case has ended up at the United States Supreme Court.
The issue in Town of Greece v Galloway, as described on the Supreme Court Blog, is …
Issue: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.
What is the establishment clause that gives the federal government the right to intrude into small-town city council meetings and censure the speech of citizens who address those meetings? Just this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
That clause, (which, by the way is an accurate description of it, it is a clause and not a sentence) is the pry bar that those who hate religion in general and Christianity in particular have used for decades to attack the presence of religious speech in the public sphere.
Of course, the clause is not a sentence. Here the entire sentence in which this clause rests: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Those of you who read the comments on this blog might have noticed that there is a group that decries the fact that these rights — all of them, by the way — apply to Christians as well as other citizens.
“Christians can believe whatever they want,” they say, “but I don’t want them trying to force their beliefs on me.”
They are not talking about mobs of Christians showing up on their front yard carrying torches and demanding that they get baptized.
What they are talking about and speaking against and trying to stop is the exercise of these free rights by American citizens who happen to also be Christians. What they are objecting to is that there are people, some of whom are motived by their Christian faith, who vote according to their conscience and petition their government either by contacting their elected officials or through the courts.
They steadfastly refuse to admit this, even as they maintain the position, but what they are objecting to is the freedoms of other Americans to disagree with them and to act on that disagreement.
In other words, what they object to is the fact that Christians have and exercise the same rights that they do. They try to frame political involvement by Christians as somehow or another a violation of “separation of church and state” or, failing that, an attempt to “force other people” to do something or other.
But it is not. All Americans, including Christians, have these rights. That is called democracy.
This one-sided application of American rights and freedoms shows up with boring repetition in the com boxes and public debate. It also shows up in court cases. The establishment clause, it would seem, is the only part of the First Amendment that those who want to limit religious expression in the public sphere believe should apply to Christians.
All that stuff about the government not interfering with the free exercise of religion, or everyone having free speech and the right to petition the government, including Christians, is nixed right out of their conversations and their court cases. These same people will make self-righteous statements about how they support the Constitution, but what they mean is they support their own interpretation of the Constitution and want to use that interpretation as a hammer to beat those who disagree with them into silence.
For the past few decades, the Supreme Court has been playing catch to their throw. Every case that gets tossed to the Court ends up limiting religious expression in public situations. The Town of Greece v Galloway is particularly galling because it is aimed directly at one religious group, and that group is Christians.
I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with this case. But I do know that I, for one, will feel no compunction to obey any ruling limiting my right to pray in public. I say that as an elected official and an American citizen who has the right to free speech.
I’ll pray if I want.
What are they going to do? Arrest me for praying?
From Fox News:
Prayer is a conversation.
Prayer is an action.
Prayer is friendship, love, companionship and trust.
It is not a performance or a recipe you must follow to “get it right.”
I’ve read a trove of books and articles about prayer down through the years, all of them well-meaning, and none of them either wrong or right. The authors of these books and articles seek to give Christians instructions or a methodology for doing prayer right.
The most common advice is to avoid laundry-list prayers in which you just say “I want this. I want that.” as if He was your personal genie and prayer was the lamp. That’s good advice, by the way, for the reason that just listing your wants is not prayer at all for the simple reason that it’s not conversation. It is, at base, rude and presumptuous. How would you feel if the only time you heard from your kids is when they want something?
But the writers who give this advice usually try to help you out by giving you a formula to follow before you present your list of wants. Begin your prayers with another list, they tell you. List your thank-yous. Then move into a list of praises for the wonderment of God’s creation. Don’t forget to ask forgiveness for your sins. After all this, you can get back to the real reason for praying and trot out that list of wants.
The main problem with this advice is that it’s just another kind of clocking in. It is predicated on formulas found in the Old Testament (Think Abraham dickering with the angels over Sodom and Gomorrah) and also mirrors the formulas of many public worship services.
Even though it is based on legitimate foundations, when you go through it as you kneel beside your bed at night, it is not genuine. You may be following the recipe, but your heart is really only in the end piece where you ask for the things you want.
There is nothing wrong, in fact, there is a whole lot right with saying thank you to God for the blessings of your life. There is certainly nothing wrong with pondering His greatness. We all need to confess our sins and ask His forgiveness. It is wise to do this daily.
But you don’t need to go through this whole list of worship stuff in order to pray. In fact, practicing prayer in this way can lead to, well, practicing prayer instead of actually praying from the heart. If it’s a performance, God sees through it, even more clearly than you do — and if you will admit it, you see through it too.
Other people advise that you use a totally formulaic approach. The most common formula used by Catholics is the prayer-meditation of the Rosary. Protestants urge the laying on of hands and a sort of rotational prayer among friends. They also advise “claiming God’s promises” by quoting a verse of Scripture and telling God you are “claiming” His promise in that scripture.
I’m a big fan of the Rosary myself. Prayerfully meditating on the Gospels through the heart of Mary is a powerful experience. I’ve also had groups of people gather around me, lay their hands on me and take turns praying for me. That’s an incredibly powerful experience, as well.
I am, however, not so much in favor of the “claiming God’s promises” stuff. The prayers I’ve heard that were done in this way sounded more like an attempt to bully God than worship Him. But maybe I just haven’t heard it done right. I’ll leave that to people who know more about it.
Still other authors advise that you meditate on a painting or crucifix to focus your mind while you pray. There are those who tell you to set aside a place in your home for your prayers.
None of this is bad advice in itself — except perhaps for the effrontery of reminding God of His “promises” like a lawyer carping at a witness on the stand — and all of it can have positive applications.
However, these various pieces of advice and formula can leave the average Christian with tongue-tied brains where prayer is concerned.
I’ve been there.
I never could get into the first, say thank you, then praise god, then confess your sins, then ask for what you want formula. I tried it a couple of times, and it was dead as dirt for me. God and I both knew I had reduced Him to a little g god of doing it right instead of the big God Who is a living being. So I chucked that bit of advice almost as soon as I considered it.
However, I did drink deeply of the notion that I should not just ask God for things. Unfortunately for me, this led to a deeper and almost immediate shut down of praying altogether. Somehow I morphed this into an admonition not to bother God with my itty bitty stuff.
I almost quit praying for a time, simply because I’d read too many books telling me all the right ways to pray, and the sum total of them was to make me feel that my little prayers were unworthy.
I reached the point that I never asked God for my wants, stopped talking to Him about my hurts and fears and pits and stains, aches and scars. I felt that all this stuff of my life was unworthy of Him and since it was just about everything I had going on in my mind, I didn’t have anything much to say.
When I first found Christ, I chattered to Him almost like a stream of consciousness prayer. I would fall asleep at night, just talking to the Lord about whatever was in my mind. But somewhere along the line, I become too sophisticated for that. I began to try to pray “right” and in the process, I found myself praying to a wall instead of entering into conversation with my heavenly Father.
My prayers got drier the more I censured them. When I read enough books to become convinced that it was wrong for me to go to Him with my picayune wants and needs, that I should only approach God with problems that were worthy of God, my prayers verged into formulaic deadness.
I stopped praying except in church because I didn’t feel that my prayers were worthy to be prayed.
It was a strange time of living faith without conversation with the One in Whom I had such faith.
In all this time, God never left me. His presence was right there with me, but He was quiet, letting me bumble around in my unworthiness.
What saved me was, ironically enough, a prayer. I had a personal problem, a family problem, that was driving me up one side of the proverbial wall and back down the other side and then back up again. It was one of those things I couldn’t solve and didn’t think I could bear. I just burst out saying, “Lord, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this, but it is more than I can handle.”
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I realized as I was praying my desperation prayer about my desperate little problem that I had it all wrong. I was supposed to be talking to Him about these “little” things that make up my life. Because …
My prayers are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.
I are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.
That is the point of Calvary. The cross on which Jesus died is the bridge. We walk through Calvary onto the cross and into God’s loving arms. Not because we are “worthy” but because we are loved.
If you love God, you will find yourself thanking Him spontaneously. When you look into your baby’s eyes. When you finally get that new house. When you find a job. When you lie down at night in a comfortable bed. You’ll say “Thank you” from your grateful heart without any formalities.
If you love God, you will find your awe of His greatness spontaneously. When you look up at the night sky. Or down the tube of a microscope. When you see your child on an ultrasound or stand on a ship and watch a whale break through the water, glistening in the sunlight. You’ll know that He is God.
There is no reason to turn your prayers into formal worship sessions. Prayer is talk. Not God talk. But talking with God, your heavenly Father, Who loves you beyond your ability to comprehend.
It’s not only ok to chatter to God the way you did to your parents as a small child, it’s good. Prayer is putting your hand in His hand and walking through life beside Him.
I still pray the Rosary, by the way. I also pray a prayer of consecration to Our Lady. I do not ever refuse to have people lay hands on me and pray for me. Every single one of these things blesses and sustains me.
Real prayer is conversation and these things are just another type of conversation.
Don’t worry about praying worthily. Just consider that the same God Who made everything, everywhere; Who holds all of existence in existence with a single thought, enjoys your conversation that same way you enjoy listening to the talk of your little children or, as in my case, my elderly mother.
Consider that miracle of miracles. And be grateful.
Then talk to Him from your heart.
Even if I die, I should be the first one.
That was how Father Benny Putharayli evaluated the situation when the gunman who had invaded his church during mass gestured for him to step forward.
Father Putharayli’s parishioners were already on the floor, taking cover. A gunman had walked into the Church of St Michael in Ray, ND during mass and yelled, “Stop Father!”
“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” the priest recounted. The parishioners hit the floor and that left Father Putharayli the only one standing.
When the gunman gestured for the priest to come forward, Father Putharayli thought, “Even if I die, I should be the first one.”
I would guess that Father’s thoughts were almost instantaneous. This doesn’t sound like the kind of situation where someone has time to weigh their ideas and contemplate consequences. Moments like this strip away the intellectual boundaries we place between who we are and who we would like to be.
It sounds as if that split second thought was Father Putharayli, offering his life for that of his parishioners.
The gunman was a killer. He had murdered two people, including his 82-year-old mother, before coming to the church. Fortunately, he only wanted money from the parishioners. But Father Putharayli didn’t know this when he was looking down the barrel of that shotgun, and given that he was dealing with someone so depraved that he had killed his own mother, things could easily have turned bloody in that church that evening.
The world gets crazier and violent acts multiply. But, even in the midst of this violence, individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice witness to the best that’s in us. That is one of the messages we need to take away from the many terrible events in our society. Good happens, and it happens in the worst of times.
I’m tired of asking the question “Why?” about the senseless violence in our society? The operative word about these terrible crimes is that they are senseless by ordinary thinking. There will never be a comprehensible answer to the question Why? or at least not one we want to hear.
The truth is, our society has become a psycho-breeder. We don’t want to face that and the implications it has for some of our cherished misbehaviors. But without a willingness to forego easy answers and quickie fixes that will not work, the eternal whys of the victims have no answers.
As I said a few months ago, we are going to have to learn to live with this. This is our new normal.
I understand the shattered victims who ask Why? That is the first and deepest response of the grievously wounded. Coming from those whose lives have been shattered, Why? isn’t a question so much as it is a statement. I am worth something it says. My loved one who is dead or injured is a beautiful gift from God and their worth is beyond counting. Don’t you see that?
That is what Why? means when it comes from a shattered victim.
But as a rhetorical question from a stunned public, it has ceased to resonate, at least for me. I am tired of asking Why?
I refuse to go where these rhetorical Whys? lead to, which is a fixation on the monsters who do these things. I don’t want to talk about them. I would rather we never spoke their names and, when the times comes, that we salt their graves so nothing can ever grow there again.
So, if you want to gabble about the various shootings and tragedies of this week or the weeks before, go elsewhere. The silence on this blog is my salt on the monster’s graves. They are anathema to me. When I speak, it will be about the beautiful acts of heroism and love that ordinary people rise to as a result of these pitiless assaults.
We need to focus on the brave and selfless people who look down the barrel of a shotgun and think Even if I die, I should be the first one.
Because, even in the worst of times, good happens.
From Chicago Sun-Times.com:
The Rev. Benny D. Putharayil was conducting Saturday night mass at the Church of St. Michael in Ray, N.D. when a man armed with a shotgun barged in.
“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” Putharayil recalled Monday night, only after learning the man had been wanted for murder. “He stepped in with a gun and shouted, ‘Stop, Father.’”
Heads in the pews turned to catch sight of 54-year-old Billy Varner, who has since been charged with the murder of two women in north suburban Antioch, according to the priest and authorities.
Nearly three-dozen parishioners hit the floor, taking cover in the pews, leaving Putharayil the only one standing, the Catholic priest said in a phone interview.
Then the man gestured with his gun for Putharayil to come forward.
“My thought was, ‘Even if I die, I should be the first one,’” Putharayil said. “By God’s grace I was a spared.”