Chocolat

[Beliefnet, March 19, 2001] I’ve got an idea for a movie script guaranteed to win an Oscar. We’ll call it “Sizzle.” See, there’s a village in India where all the people think there’s something bad about eating beef. It’s part of their religion, which says they should repress their desires and hate pleasure. Then this sexy young cowboy comes to town and opens up a grill. All day long it’s thick steaks frying, or maybe some tender filets, and sometimes he dishes up a few racks of barbecued ribs.

Jack Chick Tracts

[Beliefnet, July 2000] What’s 2 3/4 by 5 inches and can scare the hell out of you? Gotta be one of these miniature comic books put out by Chick Publications. You’ve probably seen them before, maybe picked one up in a phone booth or fast-food joint. Each booklet is about twenty pages long, and makes a pitch for the Gospel through a dramatic story told in cartoon format.

How to Know Jesus?

[Beliefnet, June 20, 2000] Of the many mysteries about Jesus, this may be the greatest: why we continue to care about him. Brave leaders and wise teachers by the score have passed through these 2,000 years, but none has continued to resonate like he does. From the end of his earthly life Jesus has captured and commanded hearts in every century and every land. (Christianity isn't a “Western religion”; Western ignorance of the ancient Eastern church doesn't mean it doesn't exist.) Jesus has no parallel in human history.

“The Book of Heaven”

[Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2000] “The Book of Heaven,” by Carol Zaleski and Philip Zaleski, Oxford University Press, 448 pages, $35. Imagine there's a heaven. At the word, a pop-up tableau instantly unfolds and feathers from moulting wings drift into the air. Before a plywood set spray-painted gold, choir voices sing with determined cheer, like a power drill going through steel.

Trusting Tradition

[Touchstone, April 2000] My young nephew Thomas had been attending an Orthodox church with his dad for several months, and must have been impressed by an exclamation the priest makes at the turning point of the service. When the scripture readings and sermon are concluded, the priest says, “The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us attend!”

What Motivates “Anti-Gay” Activists?

[Beliefnet, April 3, 2000]A while back I was invited to a strategy meeting to combat “the gay agenda.” I went in hopes of getting a better understanding of what my friends see the threat to be. As a committed Orthodox Christian I affirm my Church’s teaching that sex outside heterosexual marriage delays progress in union with Christ. Of course, I don’t expect people outside my faith to agree with that, but I’d welcome a chance to display this beautiful faith in its entirety, not distracted by that one guideline. Even for us Orthodox this is a private matter, between a person and his or her spiritual director. Why did my friends think it necessary to organize a public response? I wondered what they saw that I didn’t.  

Psalm 23 And All That

[Christianity Today, February 7, 2000] How much do you remember of your third-grade reader? Could you take a test today on the stories in it? Could you quote it authoritatively? Could you use the stories’ moral lessons to guide your life? I can’t even remember the title of my third-grade reader, much less the storylines. I could only hazard a guess that the stories were about boys and girls having fun, a step up from previous years’ “Alice and Jerry” books