[World, April 23, 1994] The American Association of University Women, which last year issued a report equating boy-girl schoolyard teasing with sexual harassment, is now concerned about how schools damage little girls' fragile self-esteem. The problem is that they don't have enough role models. Wait a minute, you say. The last time you visited a school, at least half the teachers looked to be female.
[First Things, May 1998] Last spring saw a free-for-all break out in the evangelical Protestant camp over a proposed new “inclusive language” translation of the New International Version Bible. While World magazine, which sounded the alarm, was scolded for joining battle in hysterical and sarcastic tones, the translators were compelled to explain in what sense it was “accurate” to render masculine terms neuter, singulars plural, or produce grammatical whimsies like “everyone...they.”
[World, September 17, 1994] Tom Clancy is the novelist for patriots, and Pat Buchanan is one of his biggest fans. But one of Buchanan’s recent columns, devoted to praising Clancy’s work, had a line that pulled me up short: “[His characters] put duty, honor, country above all else. And in a Clancy novel there is no moral equivalence: The U.S.A. is the greatest force for good on the planet.” I write this as the U.N. International Conference on Population and Development begins in Cairo. The U.S.A. is there, parading as the greatest force for abortion, birth control, and eugenic population management on the planet. Our immense wealth and power make us a force hard to withstand.
[World, November 26, 1994] “Hey, you got stuff all over your car!” the boy called out. He staffs the gatehouse at the retirement home where my son waits tables. The stuff I had all over my car was large white daisies with sun-yellow centers, carefully painted on by hand. Yes, it draws attention. It's my daughter's car, I explain, but she hasn't learned to drive a stick-shift yet. While she tools around in my massive station wagon, I'm in her lumpy old sedan. When this car rolled off the assembly line ten years ago, Megan was in the first grade. It kept rolling for 114,000 miles until it crossed her path, and as soon as she caught it she scattered daisies all over its powdery dull-brown hide.
[Unpublished; Spring 1998] “The more I think about it, the more it bothers me,” my husband said. He had spent the morning with our teenaged son playing paintball, a first-time experience for both of them. This sophisticated version of “capture the flag” pits two teams against each other, each armed with modified guns that shoot a non-staining liquid. Anyone “killed” must retire from the game. My husband’s concern was that the game was too realistic. It’s the closest thing imaginable to actually killing people, he said. “I support the military, and I understand their need to prepare,” he went on. “There’s a reason for soldiers to play war games. But I’m not sure its right for civilians to do it, just as a form of entertainment. You shoot someone, see liquid explode on his body—it’s not the sort of thing a Christian should enjoy.”
[World, October 1, 1994] Sexist treatment is blatant on Broadway. Street hawkers hand women, not men, fliers advertising nail salons (with puzzling semi-English names like ”Tanning Nail“). Men, on the other hand, get fliers advertising the ”World's Hottest Dancers." The latter fliers suggest that a woman who hopes to attract men by investing in her fingernails has chosen one of the least likely sites of interest. At the corner of 42nd street a slight, city-pale man is handing out pamphlets freely, without regard to gender.
[World, February 18, 1995] When Oregon passed “Measure 16” last November, it became the first state in the nation to give doctors permission to prescribe poisonous drugs in order to kill dying patients. In fact, according to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Oregon is “the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize assisted suicide by popular vote.” Oregon was a well-chosen test site; it has the lowest church attendance in the nation, and pro-euthanasia messages played on bias against pro-life Catholic leadership (it's been said that “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the elite class.”) The lines don't split precisely between Christians and non-believers, however. Many Christians feel an innate revulsion for legalized killing of the sick, but some do not. A recent letter in our Mailbag column proclaimed, “Thank God for Dr. Kevorkian.” It's human nature to feel panic at the thought of dying in misery, and to long to circumvent the possibility.
[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.