Christmas Shopping Blues

[Religion News Service, November 28, 1995] Is everybody happy? I'm not sure. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Christiana Mall in Christiana, Delaware was crowded and bristling with festive decor, but the people waiting around the base of the fountain looked dazed and glum. The fountain was dry, so its circular field of brownish rocks sat idle,

Futile Utilitarian Religiosity

[Religion News Service, November 14, 1995] Pick a page, any page, in your daily paper and you're likely to find one of two things. Either there's a horrific story of violence and evil, or there's a politician or pundit decrying such and telling us America is going to hell in a handbasket. All around us we hear the predictions of catastrophe. What we don't hear is what to do about it.

The Weeping Icon and Eugene

[Religion News Service, October 31, 1995] All day long Eugene Nahum prays in a church on the outskirts of Chicago. At night, he sleeps in the basement below the church offices. ”This is my life now,“ he says. ”I have no other life." Both the man and the church are remarkable. Before moving here permanently, Eugene made several day-trips from his home in Ohio to this church in the grimy suburb of Cicero, Ill., because it is the site of an unusual phenomenon: a weeping icon.

War, Peace, and Bumper Stickers

[Religion News Service, May 7, 1995] I can't get the bumper‑sticker out of my mind; it's stuck there like a wad of gum under a theater seat. “World Peace,” read the message on the back of the Dodge, in faux‑childish crayon scrawl. It had a smiley‑face in the middle. No doubt the woman toting this sticker likes world peace, and wanted to suggest it as an option the rest of us had not yet considered.

Against Capital Punishment

[Religion News Service, October 3, 1995] When Jane's fiance, a tugboat engineer, disappeared at sea, there were many theories about the cause of his death. When his best friend suggested that he had been murdered after stumbling across a drug deal, the idea electrified her. “It caused such a rage it was almost a physical reaction,” she told me.

Soap Gets In Your Eyes

[World, September 23, 1995] Reporters are brave adventurers, required by their profession to visit places where they face danger in the forms of gunfire, tornados, or foreign food. Recently I undertook a similar expedition: I spent an entire afternoon in my living room. With the television on.

Mail-Order Bundles of Joy

[World, August 12-19, 1995] The residents of a doll catalog that arrived in yesterday's mail are still, perfect, and beautiful, carefully arrayed in fetching poses. Most of these pricey, un-playable dolls are babies and children. Porcelain is ideal for such dolls: it has a smooth, matte finish reminiscent of tender skin, takes color well, and can be exquisitely detailed

The Subject Was Noses

[Books & Culture, January/February, 1997] One night after dinner, while Gary and the boys and I were still sitting around the kitchen table, Megan called from college. After the phone had been passed around and everyone had done some chatting, it came back to me. Megan hesitated, then said:

A Labor of Love

[Philanthropy, Culture, and Society, October, 1993] The toughest thing about Marilyn Szewczyk isn't her name. You can forget everything you learned in grammar school and rattle off “Seff-check.” Keeping up with Marilyn's determination, energy, and vision is not so easy. Marilyn arrives late for our lunch appointment, her ample silhouette filling the door. Outside it is a blistering white summer noon ;