No doubt many of you recall that when Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of -- among many other things -- antisemitism, his wife, Kayla Moore, came to his defense by saying that they had a "Jewish lawyer."
Given the low veracity level of the Moore campaign, it did not surprise me when AL.com posted this story a few days ago in which that lawyer is identified. But it turns out he's not the lawyer many people had thought Kayla Moore meant. It also turns out that the lawyer she really meant is a Christian.
I was prepared just to laugh it off as one more bizarre political story of this weird political era, but then I read the rest of the story and discovered that the lawyer Kayla Moore identified has lived a quintessentially American religious story.
Martin Wishnatsky was born to a Jewish family (and says now he's therefore both Christian and Jewish; so give Kayla Moore points for being at least technically not wrong).
To quote the AL.com story: "Wishnatsky, 73, said that he was born July 13, 1944, grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., attended Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue and went through a bar mitzvah, but he considered his family secular, ethnic Jews, who were not very religious."
And Wishnatsky wasn't especially attached to Judaism, as the rest of his religious journey shows: "Wishnatsky said he accepted Christ in his thirties. 'I had an experience of the reality of God at 33,' Wishnatsky said. 'I knew God was real but I wasn't sure who he was.' He became a Mormon first, then later became an evangelical Protestant Christian."
From Judaism to Mormonism (a religion with American roots) to evangelical Protestantism. I'm not suggesting that's anything like a typical American religious journey, but neither is it unique. Lots of Americans have been born into one religious tradition, rejected it, found a new one, moved on from that second one and wound up someplace else. An increasingly common American experience, in fact, is for people to become one of the religious "nones," meaning people who are religiously unaffiliated.
Wishnatsky was what has come to be known as a seeker. Sometimes people are seekers -- and not finders -- their whole life. And sometimes others use our individual religious identity for their own purposes, as Kayla Moore did with Wishnatsky's.
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SEEK YE FIRST SOMETHING ELSE
Pope Francis says that "success, money, career, honors and pleasures" are not the point in life. He's right, but somehow they sell better than failure, poverty, unemployment, disgrace and pain.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column -- in which I try to explain how Protestants differ from, well, Protestants -- now is online here.