A little church on Sunday morning is a negligible thing. It may be the meekest, and least conspicuous, thing in America. Someone zipping between Baltimore's airport and beltway might pass this one, a little stone church drowsing like a hen at the corner of Maple and Camp Meade Road. At dawn all is silent, except for the click every thirty seconds as the oblivious traffic light rotates through its cycle. The building's bell tower out of proportion, too large and squat and short to match. Other than that, there's nothing much to catch the eye.
In a few hours heaven will strike earth like lightning on this spot. The worshipers in this little building will be swept into a divine worship that proceeds eternally, grand with seraphim and incense and God enthroned, "high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isaiah 6:1). The foundations of that temple shake with the voice of angels calling "Holy" to each other, and we will be there, lifting fallible voices in the refrain, an outpost of eternity.
If this is true, it is the most astonishing thing that will happen in our city today.
[Christianity Today, September 6, 1999]
I didn't go to see "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me;" I went to see the historic theater where it happened to be playing. But when those psychedelic colors started spilling off the screen I couldn't resist. Austin Powers, the ersatz James Bond, is a weenie with a Herman's Hermits haircut
[NPR, "All Things Considered, June 7, 1999]
As a convert to Orthodox Christianity, I' ve been undecided about Kosovo. While most Orthodox take a pro-Serb position, I don't feel compelled to follow; when I converted I joined a faith, not an ethnic group. Throughout history members of my Church have done both good and evil, and Serbia's Orthodox identity does not alone prove their cause is just.
On the other hand, I'm reflexively anti-war, and have been since my college days during Viet Nam. Perhaps war can be a justifiable last resort, but this situation doesn' t reach that standard.
[Christianity Today, May 24, 1999]
Next time you're in church, count the number of adult heads and divide by the number of pairs of pantyhose. If the pantyhose contingent makes up more than half the total, there's a word for your church: typical.
"Every sociologist, and indeed every observer, who has looked at the question has found that women are more religious than men," writes Leon Podles in his book, "The Church Impotent." (Ouch; the stentorian title makes me wince. Once inside, however, it's reasonable and well-written.) Podles cites a deluge of statistics: in 1986 church growth expert Lyle Schaller observed 60% female to 40% male churchgoers, a split which has widened since. Jesuit theologian Patrick Arnold says he's found a female-to-male ratio ranging from 2:1 to 7:1, and "some liberal Presbyterian or Methodist congregations are practically bereft of men." Even in churches that have an all-male ordained leadership, the inner circle of laity that actually runs things is likely to be mostly female.
[Park Ridge Center Bulletin, May-June, 1999]
Issues of medical controversy hit close to home; in fact, they drop a cherry bomb right through the mail slot. Our bodies are our homes: they are where we live. For this reason, discussions relating to medicine can take on a desperate tone. When one person feels another is asserting the right to meddle with his home,
[Christianity Today, March 1, 1999]
A few decades ago a small paperback appeared titled "Tortured for Christ," by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. In it Wurmbrand described his experiences of persecution behind the Iron Curtain. He pled with Americans to remember Russian believers suffering for their faith, invisible behind the fog of disinformation.
[Christianity Today, January 11, 1999]
When I was first approached about becoming a member of the Spice Girls, I was a little taken aback. My impression was that this troupe of British singers was salacious and provocative, one more example of the debasing of our culture.
"I'm embarassed to admit it, Mom," my 21-year-old daughter confessed, "but I actually liked the movie. It's harmless--a teenybopper thing, like for preteen girls. It's singing Barbies, and there's nothing dirty about it. It has that nutty English humor, kind of like the Beatles' Help!, so I actually ended up really enjoying it--I even watched it twice."
[Christianity Today, October 26, 1998]
“Work or home? Breast or bottle? Spanking or spoiling?” asks the front cover of the New York Times Magazine. “No matter what they choose, they’re made to feel bad.” This “special issue on the joy and guilt of motherhood” is titled in big red letters, “Mothers Can’t Win.”
Is this a special issue from 1987? 1993? 1972? Does it matter? This story has had more lives than Shirley MacLaine.
[Regeneration Quarterly, Fall 1998]
This speech was given at "Engaging Common Ground," the second national conference of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, held in Syracuse, NY on May 14-17, 1998. The Network was organized in 1993 and based in Washington, DC, and worked to enable discussion between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. The Network lost its funding in 1999 and had to disband.
The topic we were assigned for this plenary session was, "What is the broader context of meaning and beliefs in which we engage with the abortion issue?" Though I was in on the discussion to choose this topic, I now find myself in the embarrassing position of wondering "What in the world did we mean by that?" As a result, I've written several different versions of what I would say this morning, and last night when I got up for my regular prayer time I took one more look at the topic, threw out all previous versions, and started over from scratch.
[Christianity Today, September 7, 1998]
I flipped back the corners of the rugs, one after another. It was a clammy, rainy day, and these hand-knotted wool specimens from Iran, Pakistan, India, and China were giving off a fresh-from-the-sheep smell. I didn't know what I was doing; I'd never shopped for a rug before. But the one thing that struck me as I gazed at one gorgeous carpet after another was that they looked too perfect.
Then I peeled back one more layer and saw a rug that won my heart.