[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.
[World, April 17, 1993] Thanks to the eclectic tastes of my thirteen-year-old son, whenever a tape player is on I'm apt to be serenaded by one of the Pauls--Simon or McCartney. Hours of exposure have reaquainted me with these luminaries of my adolesence, and have led, surprisingly, to new reflections on the mystery of election.
[Christianity Today, November 18, 1995] It's hard to know just how to take an invitation to write about gluttony. “We thought you would be the perfect person,” the editor's letter read. “Gee, is it that obvious?” I thought, alarmed. “No, no,” I wanted to protest, “that's not really me. It just these horizontal stripes.” But, if I'm honest, I have to admit that it is me. It's most of us. Food is an intoxicating pleasure, and it appears superficially like an innocuous one; it's not one of the bad sins, like adultery or stealing. We wouldn't do that; gluttony is different. All it does is make you soft and huggable. It's the cute sin.
[Religion News Service, September 19, 1995] The heat wave has broken hundred‑year records, and now the wave is broken with rain pounding the asphalt and whipping the trees around. This morning I tried to pick my way toward church around the yawning puddles, with an umbrella held down tight enough to function as an awkward hat. At last I sacrificed dignity to common sense and ran barefoot through the parking lot with my sandals in my hand.
[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.”
[Touchstone, Summer 1994] When I joined the college newspaper as a shy freshman many years ago, the editor gave me my first assignment: “Find out what’s all this stuff about women’s lib.” I was baffled as to how to do that; reports of feminism (which was then usually called “women’s lib”) were just beginning to titillate the public, just beginning to show up in Johnny Carson jokes about “bra-burners.” Was it possible to dig up any local “libbers”? My editor had a suggestion: go to the Student Union and have them announce over the loudspeaker, “Anyone representing the women’s liberation movement, please come to the information desk.”
[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.
[Religion News Service, January 7, 1997] In a north Florida city, just off the interstate, stands a gas station that at first appears routine. But as I came around last week to pump a tankful for my holiday trip home, I noticed a sign posted next to the credit‑card slot. The wording was oddly formal. ”We hope your fueling experience will be enhanced by Jacksonville's first FAST PAY television gas pumps."
[Beliefnet, December 22, 1999] * Selected for Best Christian Writing 2000 * On a cold day in December a mother gave birth to a baby boy. Seventeen years later he sat in her kitchen with a towel around his neck while she trimmed his hair. When a boy reaches a certain age he doesn’t like his mother to touch him any more. This is as close as she’s likely to get, circling him, nipping behind his pink ears with scissors.
[Christianity Today, February 9, 1998] Get a bunch of Christian intellectuals together and pretty soon they'll start in deploring the CBA. The initials stand for the Christian Booksellers Association, the organization that links Christian bookstores across the nation. (Secular bookstores form the American Booksellers Association, or ABA.)