Sometimes atheist activists get more media attention and I groan, because I know they’re really a shitbag beneath the atheist activism and I hate the prospect of having that type of person making public appearances representing atheists.
But when I see CNN discussing someone like Jerry DeWitt my cold heart grows three sizes. And then the article rules and I want to retire, hand Jerry my blog, and see which fast food restaurant will pay me the biggest pittance above minimum wage while someone like Jerry dispenses his opinions on my internet lawn.
Late one night in early May 2011, a preacher named Jerry DeWitt was lying in bed in DeRidder, La., when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard an anguished, familiar voice. It was Natosha Davis, a friend and parishioner in a church where DeWitt had preached for more than five years. Her brother had been in a bad motorcycle accident, she said, and he might not survive.
DeWitt knew what she wanted: for him to pray for her brother. It was the kind of call he had taken many times during his 25 years in the ministry. But now he found that the words would not come. He comforted her as best he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to invoke God’s help. Sensing her disappointment, he put the phone down and found himself sobbing. He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.
A terrific memo to those who think religion doesn’t win through guilt.