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Of God and George being good

George was active in the church throughout his childhood, had read the Bible and studied theology. His Catholic high school helped him obtain a scholarship to a Catholic college. He had even said at one point that he considered the priesthood. But George left organized religion by the time he was in his later teens.

George's first communion, Linden, New Jersey, in 1955.When we got together he said he was glad I was a Christian and was happy Dan had a chance to go to church with me. Over the years, he joined us occasionally at Loop Church, where I am a member and where our sons Sam and Josh were baptized. We also occasionally visited Faith UCC by our home, and Fourth Presbyterian, where we occasionally went to services and had Danny attend Sunday School for a time.

He was happy for Sam and Josh to go to Christian pre-school and attend Vacation Bible School at Mt. Olive Church. He encouraged their summer, Christian activities like Young Life family camp with their grandparents and HoneyRock camp, where they studied the bible with Wheaton College students.

Attending services in 1999 at Loop Church, known then as Loop Christian Ministries.George liked us to say our short prayers before dinner. He hoped that his sons would have faith in God. At church, whenever he attended, George would sing hymns at my request. I wasn’t the only one who noticed his wonderful voice. “You always wanted George to join you at youth group,” one of his teenage girlfriends Chris Little told me, during a visit she made to Chicago. “He would always participate and sing so beautifully.”

I couldn’t convince him to join me in my understanding. He rejected the idea that people have a choice to follow God. He’d say, “You either have faith or you don’t, and I don’t.” However, in 2018 he returned to some openness to his Catholic roots when he began subscribing to the Jesuit-published magazine America.

Josh Schmidt's baptism at Loop Church, May 2005.When we met and he told me he was an atheist, I asked him how you could make the world better without God.

“Unions and education, with a newspaper watching them,” he said. His service to others and pursuit of the truth always seemed like godly work to me. In the book of Micah, verse 8, the prophet says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Graduation ceremony for Sam Schmidt from the Christian Parents Co-op nursery school at Mt. Olive Church. I think George was good, without professing God. He loved mercy and he acted justly. Humility just wasn’t his thing. He was incredibly smart and strong and he knew it. Although maybe the way he used his gifts to better the lives of others could be construed as a humble walk with God, for he honored God’s people more than himself.

Throughout his life, George fought for the weakest of these by teaching, organizing others to gain strength and reporting the truth, not because he wanted glory but because it was right. In his interview with Melena Nicholson Wright, he answered a question she asked about being a role model:

“I just felt that it was your responsibility to be consistent and fair and honest,” George said. “You don’t say, ‘I’m going to be a role model.’ You say, ‘I’m going to do what’s right, work for justice and try to print the news accurately.’”



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