To: Ed Baswell
From: Vince Vella
Subject: Your column of October 8, 2013 entitled "Did Bill O'Reilly Miss The Mark In Killing Jesus?"
When Josh Beavers mentioned he was inviting additional columnists to this newspaper, I welcomed the thought. When I heard you were one of them, I agreed with his decision. I thought with your background in TV and law-enforcement you would be objective and see things pretty straight. Then, when your first column appeared, I even congratulated Beavers on his decision. I liked your piece.
Now this! I should have known better! But I didn't think your religious bent would permeate an otherwise pleasant relationship. You saw an opportunity to criticize not only an individual Catholic person, but also launch an attack on Catholicism in general - a trait shared by many of your fellow ministers. I'm very disappointed.
Let's have a look at Bill O'Reilly's record first. His TV program, The O'Reilly Factor, seen on Fox News Channel, has been on the air for 17 years. It is the most watched cable news television program in American television. It enjoys more views and higher ratings than all other similar programs COMBINED. He offers truth and both sides of an issue unlike some of the professional hate-mongers on MSNBC, PBS and others. He doesn't offer information unless he can back it up with facts.
His weekly column appears in over 300 newspapers across the country. He has written 11 adult books and four kids books. Many of them, like Pinheads and Patriots, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy have been on the NY Times Best Sellers List for years. His newest book, Killing Jesus, just recently released, is on its way to record sales worldwide. He is, indeed, a well-respected, very successful author and newsman.
But you just felt obligated to criticize him. At first, I felt angry. Who are you to judge? How many best sellers have you written? How many newspapers carry your column? But, after a cooling off period, I just felt sorry for you. Why? Because you've sunk to the level of many other Baptist preachers who have absorbed a lifetime of petty nit-picking and various denunciation against Catholics and you just had to spill it all out at the first possible opportunity.
And what was the charge? You wrote, "Since he is Catholic, that means the Holy Spirit urged him to write a book. Right away, we have a theological problem". Are you sure? All O'Reilly said that the thought came to him during the night. I can appreciate that statement. The thought came to him when his fertile mind was relaxed and not racing to meet a deadline. How come you couldn't see that?
And exactly what is your "theological problem"? How many years of philosophy, theology, ethics, apologetics and more did you have to master before becoming a minister? How many more to become a pastor? Apparently, not very many. It seems you have a problem understanding terms like "Catholic" and "Christian" and who is and who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Then you spend several paragraphs on a rant deciding who is and who is not a Christian. And, after all that, you finally give "Mr. O a pass"... How nice of you! Who gave you the authority to make those decisions?
Then you state that O'Reilly and his co-author, Martin Dugard, "had chosen to bypass the Bible itself and refer only to historical records to write the book. That made me cringe", again putting yourself in a decision-making position. You also criticized O'Reilly "that he might not know Jesus". Mr. B, that's not your decision to make. No one is authorized to judge others.... not me, not Billy Graham, not Pope Francis and certainly not Ed Baswell. God is the only one who can and will judge. The important thing is what is in our hearts. Let Him decide.
I've known many brilliant ministers in my time, many of whom spent ten or more years in formal study and many more in the service of God's people, who would not criticize and attack other faiths because their knowledge and experience recognizes the brokenness of humanity and, instead, rush to forgive rather than condemn.
My pastor, for whom I have the greatest respect, was born a Baptist. He attended Baptist churches well into adulthood listening to many preachers knock Catholics... until someone invited him to attend a Midnight Mass on Christmas. That raised many questions. He became a convert to Catholicism, continue his quest for truth and understanding, became a priest and now is the pastor for three churches. I thank God for him every day.
There are some misconceptions that some Protestant ministers have spread over the years. Take Mary, for example. Jesus' mother. Our Baptist friends just can't understand why there's such a devotion to her. One of her famous directions to the head waiter at the marriage feast of Cana was "Do what He (Jesus) tells you". And that's what she's telling us to do to this day. What's wrong with that?
And all those saints. No, Catholics don't "worship" Saints. Catholics revere them as role models and ask for their help and intercessions. And all those statues in Catholic churches? No, Catholics don't "worship" idols any more than we "worship" the material in the American flag when we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We salute "the Republic, for which it stands". And, no one in the Catholic hierarchy ever said that Catholics can't pray directly to God.
Mr. Baswell, I hope your future columns are positive rather than negative toward other faiths. We're slowly, but surely, growing closer together. And that is a noble goal. Let's pray that petty differences will disappear and that all human beings will enjoy their next hundred thousand centuries in the presence of Almighty God.
Sincerely yours, Vince Vella.