Journalist Mike McManus decided the nation’s problems run beyond the political and economic to the ethical.

Mike McManus is a newspaper columnist. He writes mostly for newspapers in the northeastern and midwestern states about their sagging economies and efforts of their politicians to find solutions. It’s not the most provocative topic ever to grace the pages of a newspaper, but an important one for the older industrial states.

A couple of years ago, McManus finally concluded that the problems besetting the country were not merely economic or political, but moral. So he started a second column, dealing with the Christian faith. After a year, his religion column appears in 40 newspapers, mostly small to medium-size papers. That’s surprisingly good for a writer whose column is not marketed by one of the newspaper syndicates. Along the way he has surprised a few editors who underestimated their readers’ interest in such matters.

He sells both columns over the telephone, calling editors everywhere, sometimes offering to let them try the religious column free for a while to check the reader response. That sort of offer startled one editor, D. Gunnar Carlson of the Saginaw News in Michigan. “Frankly, I was skeptical,” the editor confessed to his readers in his own column. Carlson gave McManus a try. The first column described the conversion and faith in Christ of astronaut Charlie Duke, one of the first men to walk on the moon. He had everything in life, it seemed, but a void still needed filling. “The response has been dramatic,” Carlson said. “As a newspaperman, I’ve never seen anything like it.” Readers called in and wrote their thanks. Some said they were praying that the newspaper would continue the column.

“It’s clear that ...

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