God as Suffering Parent

[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.

Don’t Blame the Publishers

[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.)

Looking for Religious Truth in All the Wrong Places

[Religion News Service, July 25, 1995] It's as adorable as a kitten sitting on a teddy bear holding a balloon, licking a lollipop shaped like a rainbow that smells like violets and plays “Send in the Clowns.” Make that a pink kitten. Superlatives fail me. The latest porcelain doll catalog just arrived from the Ashton‑Drake Galleries, and just thumbing through it is enough to make my teeth hurt.

Time Out

[Christianity Today, October 25, 1999] My daughter gave me a round clock for my birthday. It has a round white dial like a full moon, dashed with tapering black hands. Black Roman numerals swing around the circumference of the disk and at the bottom stand serenely on their heads. Each snap of the second hand is accompanied by a tick. I haven't had a round clock for a long time. Megan told me this was for my desk, so I put it at the back, just under the window. It joins three square clocks already in residence: one on the far edge facing the sofa, one on top of the computer monitor, and a tiny one in a corner of the monitor screen. When I sit at my desk I am relentlessly aware of what time it is. These three square clocks, with their segmented black numerals, flash time that looks impressively specific. However, they habitually disagree with each other, reminding me that specific is not the same as accurate. Right now I have my choice of 12:31, 12:32, or 12:33. Make that 12:34.

So I’m Sorry Already

[Christianity Today, April 6, 1998] On the old ”Bob Newhart Show," the one that cast Bob as a psychiatrist, one recurrent character carried meekness to a fault. He was a failure as a door-to-door salesman because he feared knocking on people's doors might disturb them. So he'd wait on the doorstep, hoping they'd happen to open the door.

Shows the Famiily Can Watch

[Religion News Service, September 3, 1996] A recent television awards ceremony sought to honor so‑called “family” shows; advertising for the program proclaimed that it would celebrate “shows the whole family can watch together.” The tone was both defensive and opportunistic. The show's producers read their demographics correctly: There are a lot of parents out there who are just plain peeved.

Church Fires, Contagious Hatred

[Religion News Service, July 23, 1996] At the beginning of a summer expected to be long and hot, a shocking charge was made: Racists are burning black churches. In a June 8 address, President Clinton cited the burning of Murkland Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., which he described as the 30th such fire in 18 months.

Smiling Conservatives

[Religion News Service, April 25, 1995}Smile and the world doesn't always smile with you. When Verlyn Klinkenborg reports on a pro-life protest outside a Milwaukee abortion clinic (Harper's, January 1995), the first thing he tells us about the participants is:  “They were smiling.  'They smile all the time,' said a woman named Catey Doyle...in the room with me.” Likewise, when Julie A. Wortman writes in The Witness about her reluctance to attend a meeting on evangelism, her first complaint is, “Most of the people I've encountered who enjoy talking about and doing evangelism have seemed unnaturally smiley and friendly.” When liberals peer across the barricades, they don't only see their opponents thinking wrong thoughts. They see them smiling about it, which is even more unsettling.

From Agnostic to Christian

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.

Where is the Church for People with AIDS?

[Religion News Service, June 13, 1995] Where is the church for people with AIDS? Today the church is chugging up five flights of stairs in a downtown Baltimore nursing home. Gary Carr, sales manager for a Christian radio station and a member of First Baptist Church of Pimlico, first began visiting AIDS patients here in 1988.