The late William F. Buckley, Jr., (1925-2008), began his career reflecting on God and man during his undergraduate years at Yale, 1946-1950, with a book in 1951 entitled 'God and Man at Yale.' A news report allows us to reflect on the status of God and woman at Berkeley, California.
of February 15, 2007, told the story of a woman, a 21 year old college senior from the University of California - Davis, who had completed a quest to find her biological mother. Her story was also recounted in a report in the New York Times
, on December 22, 2006.
She had been put up for adoption when she was six months old during the Salvadoran civil war. Twenty years later, in 2005, she traveled to El Salvador in an attempt to locate her family.
The NewsHour report described how DNA testing subsequently enabled her to identify her biological mother. After learning of the match, the two spoke by phone in December 2006. (The young woman later traveled to El Salvador to meet her biological mother in person.) Reflecting on the December phone call, the adopted woman said, “Every other word out of her [biological mother’s] mouth was 'Thank God,' 'Thank God,' 'Thank God,' and that's a little scary, because growing up in Berkeley, religion isn't exactly a big thing.”
And so, a woman who had taken college courses for seven semesters, who had traveled to El Salvador (named after “The Saviour”) and had been exposed to the religiosity of its people, who had resided in the United States which every year celebrates Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and Easter, who had heard people cry out in person and on TV on a variety of occasions “O my God!” -- was utterly surprised that her biological mother would exclaim "thank God" when she heard her daughter's voice for the first time in over 20 years. While the young woman did not know how to respond, to her credit, she did understand that the mother's “thank God” was not simply an excited utterance, but reflected her belief in God. It was this Salvadoran mother's belief in God that was “scary” because in Berkeley, California, “religion isn't exactly a big thing.”
We, the public, learned that, although the young woman was alive and well -- for which the mother was thankful to God, the daughter was a lost sheep. The mother’s prayers would be expected to be enlarged from praying for the daughter’s health and safety and well-being here in this life to praying for her eternal salvation.
Last year, 2015, the young woman received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California – Berkeley with a dissertation entitled Tortured Logics: Crafting the U.S. Response to Human Rights Violations during the Argentinian Dirty War and the Salvadoran Civil War. Maybe in the past eight years she learned that “human rights” come not, as President Kennedy declared in his 1961 Inaugural Address, from the state, but from the hand of God. That is a “scary” thing for all those dictators and thugs world-wide who violate them – including in Crimea, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and in attacks in Paris, in San Bernadino, in Istanbul, and on and on.
Spero columnist James Thunder is an attorney who practices in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
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