Stem Cells

[recorded for NPR “Morning Edition” December 2003; postponed to wait for a “news hook,” eventually lost in a system crash]When reports of human cloning first began appearing in the news, a lot of us had the initial reaction, “You're kidding, right?” They weren't kidding. This bizarre field of medical research is rarin' to go. We don't have much time to consider the question: should it? The idea of a full-grown human clone is creepy enough, but what about cloning for medical purposes--making an embryo with a patient's cells, then killing it to use in the patient's treatment? Even here we know instinctively that something's wrong. We know it isn't right to mix up a baby in a test tube and then, when it starts growing, chop it up for medicine. It isn't right to make medicine out of people.

Roe v Wade 30th Anniversary

[NPR, “Morning Edition,” January 22, 2003] Thirty years ago, when I was an idealistic college student, I volunteered at a feminist newspaper called “off our backs.” The Roe v Wade decision happened the first month I worked there. Our editorial said it didn't go far enough, because Roe requires a woman to have medical reason for abortion in the third trimester. I thought abortion rights were going to liberate women.

Pascha

[NPR, Morning Edition, May 3, 2002] Every couple of years this happens. It's like living in the Twilight Zone. For weeks, everywhere I went, there were fluffy chicks and bunny-baskets, and the grocery store was stacked with bags of pastel M & Ms. It was all about Easter--and now it's done. But not for me.

Holy Week

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” April 14, 1998] Holy Week is 501 pages long. My husband's Greek-English prayerbook begins with Palm Sunday evening, but the week actually starts the day before, Lazarus Saturday, when we commemorate the raising of Jesus's friend as a foreshadowing of Pascha. Some churches anticipate Lazarus Saturday with a service Friday evening. That's the Orthodox way: can we add a few more icing roses to the top of this cake?

Horse Trough Baptism

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 8, 1998] In this ranch house in an older suburb, the carpet in the dining room is vintage orange shag. But no dining table stands on it tonight; we moved out the table and moved in a giant Rubbermaid horse trough--the hundred-gallon size. The baptismal service is in full swing. As incense rises and the choir sings, my husband, the priest, floats blessed oil on top of the warm water. Then it' s time for Mitchell to step in. Some churches sprinkle for baptism, or pour water from a silver cup. But the Eastern Orthodox Church prefers full immersion, dunking the entire person underwater.

Truth and Beauty

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 24, 1998] He was an Episcopal priest, but he was standing in an Eastern Orthodox church on this Saturday night and thinking about Truth. At the altar a gold-robed priest strode back and forth swinging incense, moving in and out the doors of the iconostasis according to rubrics that were as yet unfamiliar. Golden bells chimed against the censer, and the light was smoky and dim. Over to the left a small choir was singing in haunting harmony, voices twining in a capella simplicity. The Truth part was this: the ancient words of this vesperal service had been chanted for more than a millenium. Lex orandi, lex credendi; what people pray shapes what they believe. This was a church that had never, could never, apostatize. She was his wife, and she was standing next to him thinking about her feet. They hurt.

Lenten Sacrifice

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 4, 1997] Scattered among your friends and neighbors are those now living a shadow life: people observing Lent. For them Easter waits at the end of March, but preparing for Easter takes time; time for reflection, time for repentance and reordering a life. The Church counts backward seven weeks to allow this breathing space, and begins the season with Ash Wednesday.

Thrift Shop Treasures

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” May 20, 1997] I've walked a hundred miles in another woman's shoes, and I don' t even know her name. I've ironed her blouse, hemmed her skirt, and carried her handbag. She's not one person, but a composite of dozens, women of all ages and races and creed. But there is one thing they all had in common: they were all mostly my size.

Crucifixion Icon

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” November 5, 1997] Jesus is lying on his side on my dining room floor, leaning against the radiator, balanced up on one finger and one toe like a gymnast. He is flattened, just a sheet of painted wood, and from pointed toe to the tip of his halo he is about four and a half feet tall. For protection, for storage, Jesus is swathed in a blue tablecloth that has been knotted around his ankles and pulled up over his head. When I push it aside I can see his form, a crucified body without a cross. His extended arms are like the wings of a bird; he floats in sorrow, head sunk toward one shoulder, eyes shut, face washed with death.

Progress

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” November 18, 1997]What will life be like in the 21st century? A recent survey by Maricopa Research discovered that 31% of respondents, almost a third, believe that scientists will invent a way to beam people back and forth, like Scottie does on “Star Trek.” On the other hand, less than half that figure, only 15%, believe that in the next century we’ll find a way to end political corruption.