On the Day Before the Biggest Election in New Orleans’ History

Probably the biggest. I wasn’t around for most of this city’s elections, so I must not be too dogmatic about this. I mean, the city was founded in 1718!

Everyone says it’s a toss-up, that Mayor Nagin and Lt. Gov. Landrieu are too similar in their positions for the voters to have a clear choice, and that a large percentage of the electorate will not decide until they enter the booth. Both candidates have full-page ads in Friday’s paper. Nagin’s has color photos of himself looking presidential, and of three of the defeated candidates endorsing him. Underneath is a long list of people who have endorsed him, including the mayors in the National Black Mayors Conference. That one is somewhat puzzling. You have a white guy running against the black guy, and the Black Mayors organization endorses…which one? I wonder, have they ever, in their history, endorsed a non-black for anything? I don’t know; just raising the question of what weight their approval carries.

On this day when “The DaVinci Code” movie opens all across the country, Religion Writer Bruce Nolan found that local churches and ministers are “too weary to worry about (the) film.” He quotes our Dennis Watson of Celebration Church: “For most of us in New Orleans, we’re so overwhelmed it’s not even on the radar. This (controversial film) is far more important to people in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. But in New Orleans, we’re still just struggling to survive.”

My son Marty–webmaster of this site, husband to Misha, and father to the wonderful Darilyn and Jack–says author Dan Brown was smart picking on Christians in his “DaVinci” book. Had he picked on some other religions of the world, the leaders would not be answering him from their pulpits with truth and logic, but putting a price on his head and sending assassins his way. The word on the “DaVinci” movie, however, is that Ron Howard and Tom Hanks soft-pedaled the controversial portions of the story, robbing it of its zip and making it less interesting. No matter. That’s one movie I will enjoy not seeing.

I like the suggestion of somebody, a nun, I think, who said we all ought to go see “Beyond the Hedge,” the computer animated children’s movie that also hits the screens today, and let the “DaVinci” folks see the power of this portion of their audience.

One more thing, and it’s the last thing I plan to say DaVincially. There’s a good side to all this. Think of the multitudes who are asking thought-provoking questions about the foundations of the Christian faith. That can only turn out one way, if they will stay with their quest long enough to find the answers. And, think of the thousands of pastors in pulpits everywhere proclaiming the authenticity of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ, and the solid rock on which the Christian faith rests, all as a result of the attack made on the faith by Dan Brown’s book. My hunch is no one who truly believes will have their faith shaken by Brown’s attack, and a lot of people who took these things for granted will be asking the ultimate questions now. And finding ultimate answers.

One of these days, Satan will figure out these schemes of his have a way of back-firing. One of the aspects of being a Christian I treasure most is that we have truth on our side. Jesus said Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

The authorities are upping the number of Katrina-related deaths, this time in a dramatic way. The front page of Friday’s Times-Picayune announces a 22% increase, pushing the total to 1,577 deaths. What’s happening is that other states are reporting their numbers. Hundreds of thousands of local residents evacuated all over the country before, during, and after the hurricane, and many died in ways that were related to the hurricane. A quick rundown on states reporting Katrina-related deaths: Louisiana 1,097; Mississippi 63; Alabama 48; Florida 30; Texas 223; New Mexico 2; Arizona 5; Nevada 2; Colorado 1; Georgia 16; and so on across the country. New York reported 1, Montana 1, Minnesota 3, and Michigan 3. There are others, but that’s a sample.

The paper did a story on one couple, Sam and Rita Parker of the small riverside community of Jefferson, wedged between Harahan and New Orleans. He was 84 and she 81. Both had serious health problems before the storm, and the evacuation aggravated them. The automobile ride out of the city took 20 hours. Arriving at their destination, Rita stayed glued to the television coverage of the storm. When word came that two family members had lost their homes, she went downhill fast. She refused to eat and became lethargic. On September 4–the floodwaters were still covering the city–Rita was hospitalized in Oklahoma City and died 6 days later. The doctors said her breathing problems strained her heart. Her husband, Sam, died two months later.

Elderly people have a hard time adjusting to catastrophes, a local psychiatrist says. Patients in nursing homes get used to their routine; change it and they react. “Take them out of their milieu,” he said, “(and) they begin to decompensate. They might refuse to eat and take medication.”

I have a theory, and that’s all it is, that the multifaceted aspects of Katrina–the storm, the flooding, the devastation, and life in this city ever since–has shortened the lifespans of hundreds of thousands of local citizens. Stress is a killer.

Oh, I was going to comment on Mitch Landrieu’s full page ad. Various business leaders endorsed him. No photos, nothing dramatic, just a large fleur-de-lis in half-tone under the print.

I’m doing Jennifer Screen and Renato Costa’s wedding at the First Baptist Church of Kenner Saturday at 2 pm. Jennifer was 10 or 11 when I became her pastor, and she’s been dear to us ever since. She and sister Stephanie were home-schooled by Mom Chris, and won full music scholarships to Loyola, where both have received their masters’ degrees. Renato is a native of Brazil, in the states to get his masters at our local seminary, and minister of music at a church in Hammond. There is so much musical talent in these two young adults, any pastor would get swimmy-headed at the prospect of having them on his staff. They can easily put a half dozen normal people out of work!

The calls keep coming every day. “We’ve got a volunteer team of workers ready to come help rebuild New Orleans. Where do we start?” We love to receive such calls. Thank you for continuing to care.