With this article, I have written 1,095 columns for The Citizen newspaper. Any and all of my high school English teachers would be amazed to hear that I could string enough words together to make an intelligible sentence.
Early in December 1996, I was in the newspaper office turning in information for our church’s first paid advertisement. Cal Beverly was there and asked me if I still did some writing. It turns out that, in spite of my performance in high school, I did turn out articles for about two dozen periodicals and publications over the years. I replied that I occasionally did submit an article here and there. He said that the paper was looking to have a couple of local columnists and would I be interested? I was.
I turned in a couple of sample articles within the next few days and, since that time, I have only missed two weeks. Once I was in Africa and the other time I waited right up until deadline and a computer melt-down taught me to not wait until the last minute. Well, that was the lesson. I can’t say I have always abided by the lesson.
The column was to be an opinion piece and I discovered that, sure enough, I have opinions. Not everyone likes them or agrees with them (including my wife) but my opinion is just that — an opinion. I am not so arrogant or narcissistic to believe that, because I write, that my words are any more — or any less — valid than the other opinions out there.
One woman, who apparently disagreed with one article, stopped me in a restaurant and said, “I’m surprised you’re still alive!” And, once in a while, especially on the web edition of the paper, people will write in to agree, disagree, correct, admonish, abuse, complement, and debase me. Not the same person, at the same time, of course.
Writing these columns has helped me in a number of ways. It has thickened my skin. As Cal Beverly once told me, “If you can’t handle being splattered with grease, you have no place in the kitchen.” I have learned to be more observant. In these 21 years I have also preached over 2,000 sermons. One can’t do that and not read, keep up with the news, study texts and periodicals, and learn from other people and experiences. I have learned to be more bold, something I was not known for a couple of decades ago. I have learned some humility as some folks point out the weaknesses of my arguments. It has all been very beneficial.
There are some issues from which I generally stay away. Basically, if other writers or pundits are beating a thing to death, I see no reason why I should pile on. Mostly, that means national politics, although I do wade in infrequently. Local politics do get my attention. If a governing body is about to pass something that I view as monumentally stupid, I might write about it. On the other hand, if that same body passes something that is decent and courageous, that might get a column, too.
People who have read these columns for many years sometimes know more about me than I realize. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Write enough words about what you think and people will, in fact, have insight into how you think and tick.
In my own evaluation of myself, I am an independent conservative, but not ultra right wing. I think ALL politicians should have term limits and that they should follow the same rules as the rest of us peons. I am an American, a veteran, and proud of it. I strongly support the military and the police but if they do something illegal or unethical I believe there are consequences to those actions. I love this country and am honored to have served her. I know America is not perfect but I have been in Europe (Ireland, Netherlands), Asia (Philippines), Australia , North America (Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean — with Cuba being in the schedule for next year), Africa (Kenya, Uganda) and, as wonderful as they all are, I am always eager to return home.
I believe in God. I believe that the only means to be reconciled to God is through His Son Jesus Christ. I believe in the Bible and I also believe in the Church … all 2,000 years of it. I love the Church, warts and all. I do not believe in an individualistic, autonomous Christianity that is apart from the Church. Christ loves His Bride and so do I. I am unapologetically pro-life. I also believe in helping the poor, the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, those who have been abused and misused, especially if they are unwilling to adopt a victim mentality and are willing to strive for betterment.
I believe that within every person, God has placed unspeakable gifts and abilities. I believe that every person is created in the image of God and that He loves all His children with a holy passion that we cannot begin to fathom. I do believe that there is evil in the world and that, often, people choose the darkness rather than the light.
I believe that life is worth living, that, for the most part, the bad will pass on by, eventually, and that good will come. Hope abounds for those who are open to it. I believe that God doesn’t care who wins the national Football Championship but that he does care about our own broken hearts, dreams, and lives. I am an optimist and, occasionally, a realist. I am not pessimistic about very much.
I believe in family and hold traditional, biblical views about its make-up. I believe that children have a responsibility to care for their aging parents and give back to those who have given them life. I believe that parents should not be “best friends” with their children until those children are adults and are functioning as independent, self-sustaining members of society.
Anyway those are some, but certainly not all, of the opinions I hold. And that is, after all, what these 1,095 columns are — my opinions. I don’t know if I will make it another 1,095 articles. That would put me into my late 80s. In many ways, I am surprised that The Citizen has kept me around this long.
It is an honor to write these columns. It is an additional honor to know that you read them — even if you disagree with them and turn them into the lining of the bottom of your birdcage. It is a profound honor to get to meet many of you who stop me on the street and say, “I love/hate your columns.”
Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. It’s part of what makes us who we are. America is a great country, the best in the world and maybe in all of human history. At least that’s my opinion. I am always interested in yours.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]