Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joe Eszterhas: from Basic Instinct to Basic Faith

I heard part of an interesting interview with Eszterhas last night (on Dennis Prager?).

Anyway, here's a written interview with him by David Yonke in The Toledo Blade (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

Joe Eszterhas' latest book is a shocker, but not the kind that made him rich and famous.

The upcoming release from the man who penned dark thrillers such as Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge tells the story of his spiritual conversion and his newfound devotion to God and family.

In Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, to be published Sept. 2 by St. Martin's Press, Mr. Eszterhas describes how his life got turned around during the summer of 2001.

He and his second wife, Naomi, had just moved from Malibu to a suburb of Cleveland - where he had grown up; she was from nearby Mansfield. They felt Ohio would be a better, more wholesome place to raise their four boys (he had two grown children from his first marriage).

A month after the move, Mr. Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed 80 percent of his larynx, put a tracheotomy tube in his throat, and told him he must quit drinking and smoking immediately.

At age 56, after a lifetime of wild living, Mr. Eszterhas knew it would be a struggle to change his ways.

One hot summer day after his surgery, walking through his tree-lined neighborhood in Bainbridge Township, Mr. Eszterhas reached a breaking point.

"I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette," he wrote.

He plopped down on a curb and cried. Sobbed, even. And for the first time since he was a child, he prayed: "Please God, help me."

Mr. Eszterhas was shocked by his own prayer.

"I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.

But he felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Mr. Eszterhas had been blinded by God. He stood up, wiped his eyes, and walked back home a new man....

He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."

He and Naomi have been faithfully attending Catholic Mass on Sundays ever since, and as the book title states, Joe carries the cross down the aisle....

Although he is a devout Catholic, Mr. Eszterhas writes bluntly of his disgust for priests who are pedophiles and bishops who have covered up for them. He and Naomi decided they could not, in good conscience, donate a dime to the church because of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

He also writes about the inner turmoil he felt when he took his boys to catechism classes or other church events and kept a protective eye on them the whole time, making sure they were never alone with a priest.

And he complains about priests' homilies being boring and pointless.

When Mr. Eszterhas visited a nondenominational megachurch, he heard a sensational sermon. But he felt empty afterward, missing Holy Communion and the Catholic liturgy.

"It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals' sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our megachurch experience taught us that we were captive Catholics," he wrote.

Mr. Eszterhas told The Blade that despite his mixed feelings over the church and the abuse scandal, the power of the Mass trumps his doubts and misgivings.

"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."...

He was born in Hungary during World War II, grew up in refugee camps, and then moved to the United States and lived in an impoverished neighborhood in Cleveland....

"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore," he said. "I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place."

Mr. Eszterhas' love and appreciation for life was magnified even more last year when his surgeon told him he didn't need to schedule another visit.

"He used the word 'cured,' a word that oncologists generally don't use," Mr. Eszterhas said. "He said I didn't have to come back for any checks, that my tissue had regenerated to the point where you cannot only not tell that there was ever any cancer there, but you can't tell that there had been any surgery there.

"Naomi and I were, of course, overwhelmed when he told us. I think it's truly a miraculous blessing."...

3 Comments:

At October 21, 2008 at 11:18 PM , Blogger gclausen said...

I would be curious to read your comments on the thoughts of Bishop Robert J. Hermann:

"The right of our children to be protected from destruction is greater than my right to a thriving economy. I am living proof of this, since I am here because my parents believed this priority and lived it. My desire for a good economy cannot justify my voting to remove all current restrictions on abortion. My desire to end the war in Iraq cannot justify my voting to remove all current restrictions on abortion."

 
At October 21, 2008 at 11:43 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I agree.

I am pro-life, against our on-going efforts in Iraq, and a Libertarian who will support policies that will give us the strongest economy.

 
At October 22, 2008 at 12:36 AM , Blogger gclausen said...

I am pleased to read that you agree with Bishop Hermann's words:

"My desire to end the war in Iraq cannot justify my voting to remove all current restrictions on abortion."

 

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