How Mitch Albom Found "Faith"

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If you were asked to write a eulogy, would you do it? What if you barely knew the person? What if the person you were eulogizing was a rabbi or a pastor, and you were no longer religious? And, to top it off, what if the person you would eulogize still had eight years to live?

Mitch AlbomIf your name is Mitch Albom, then this has happened to you. If it's not, then, well, I guess your life is not as interesting as his.

Mitch Albom's books—like Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and For One More Day—have sold over thirty million copies in dozens of languages around the world. Raised attending synagogue with Rabbi Albert Lewis in New Jersey, Albom wandered from his Jewish faith even as his star rose in the publishing world. Yet his most recent book, Have a Little Faith, tells the story of a reawakening of faith that followed when Albom was asked to write Rabbi Lewis' eulogy. The book has been made into a television movie airing this Sunday, November 27th, on ABC at 9pm ET / 8pm CT.

Watch The Trailer

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When Rabbi Lewis (played by Martin Landau) asked Albom to write his eulogy, he still had eight years left to live. Albom (played in the movie by Bradley Whitford) accepted the challenge and his visits over the years became the occasion for thoughtful reflections on God, the meaning of life, and whether another life awaits us beyond the veil.

The movie might have deteriorated into a painful series of smug, faux-profound conversations, the grownup version of late-night college pontification contests. Yet it's delivered from this fate by Albom's decision to get involved at an urban church in his hometown of Detroit, where the pastor (Henry Covington, played by Laurence Fishburne) is a former drug dealer, crack addict, and convict for manslaughter. The only time Covington had ever been in a synagogue was when he was robbing it. Initially skeptical, Albom is eventually persuaded of faith's extraordinary transformative power.

As Albom told Paula Parker: "I hope that people who see this film would see that there is a lot to celebrate about faith. In our modern world—and especially since 9/11—when we talk about faith and religion, we hear only about the extreme factions on all sides. The fact is that most people who come to faith aren't on the extreme. They are loving and they've embraced it; it's part of their lives, it's part of who they are."

Were Albom ever to join me for tea, I'm sure we'd have our theological differences. But there's much worth celebrating in this film, and much worth celebrating in the fact that such a film would be made in the first place. Thanksgiving in the United States has been largely secularized. People express gratitude to friends and family and feel a sort of vague sense of appreciation (to whom or what, they may not know) for all the good things one has received in life. If you're Simon Cowell on "The X-Factor," you give thanks to "my talent." Yet here is a film that affirms the value of faith unabashedly. If it does so without quite affirming the truth of faith, or the truth of any particular faith's particular beliefs, at least it shows a Boomer questioning his skepticism and opening up to the possibility that the Judeo-Christian tradition has more to teach him than he had realized.

11/23/2011 5:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
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  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.