When did J.S. Bach find time to pray?

Scholar Patrick Kavanaugh has heard oodles of baroque fugues and he swears that most of their composers were more interested in higher mathematics than in music.The melodic lines spin out one on top of another, creating dizzying layers of notes, intervals and overtones. This is the musical equivalent of watching chess masters maneuver on a multi-level, three-dimensional board."There's an art to it, in terms of the logic and structure and the intricate patterns," said Kavanaugh, author of "The … [Read more...]

A visual tower of Babel

Anyone who turns on a television or goes to the movies in India cannot help but see signs of America's cultural clout.It's also easy to spot the deep influence of India and Eastern cultures in American entertainment, from Oprah to Disney, from "The Matrix" to "American Beauty." The screen stars keep finding the god or the truth that lies within, while striving to lose themselves in love and light sometime before their next reincarnation.There are many paths to one eternal mystery and all viewers … [Read more...]

Sir Alec Guinness, convert

When Sir Alec Guinness began pouring himself into a new character, the first thing he focused on was the legs.The goal was to discover how the character carried himself day, after day. Once Guinness had the walk right, he could ask why the man walked that way. This would then affect his stature, speech and mannerisms. If he could get the feet and legs right, the rest would follow.This truth also could be applied to Guinness, 86, who died last week (Aug. 5). What, for example, would compel this … [Read more...]

Building a faith-based prison?

Bill Robinson walked through prison doors many times in the 1960s, during the bad times when he bounced in and out of white-collar crime.It was different the first time he did it as a free man."I didn't want to smell that smell, again, or hear that door slam," he said. "I only did it because I thought that's what God wanted me to do. ... Then I lead my first prisoner to Jesus and I've never been the same."Scores of prison ministers across America can give the same testimony -- men and women who … [Read more...]

Billy and the anti-Billy

The Rev. Billy Graham doesn't have to worry about his legacy.For millions, he remains the dignified evangelist who stood tall in the pulpit, offering his open Bible to the world as a bridge between an awesome God and lost sinners. Graham has preached in person to more people than anyone in history and has, for half a century, been one of America's most admired leaders.This weekend, his third conference for itinerant evangelists will draw 10,000 men and women from 190 countries to Amsterdam. Many … [Read more...]

Charting the sex wars, Pt. II

"Monogamy" isn't such a scary word, once people get the hang of redefining it to fit the realities of modern life, according to gay provocateur Dan Savage."The sexual model that straight people have created really doesn't work," said the nationally syndicated columnist, in a New York Times Magazine piece on post-modern sex. "All it does is force people to lie. ... In this society, we view monogamy like we view virginity, one incident and it's over, the relationship is over."Heterosexual couples, … [Read more...]

Charting the sex wars, Pt. I

You know the Episcopalians are in town when insiders do double takes at announcements for "Bishops Outings" or the "Orientation of Bishops and Deputies."Are those scenic "outings" or revelatory exits -- voluntary or involuntary -- from sexual closets? And who would dare ask "orientation" questions these days?Words are tricky things. Thus, conservatives made a fervent attempt, during the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church, to seize the high ground with a campaign entitled … [Read more...]

Doing conjugal evangelism

The nightmare begins when the Rev. Joe McKeever turns and faces the bride and groom.He smiles. They smile. The family, friends and faithful smile. Then McKeever begins reciting the lovely words he has said hundreds of times in nearly four decades of ministry. Only this time, he hears a voice inside his head saying something radically different."Dear friends, we have gathered here today to witness a disaster in the making," says the voice. "Martha here has decided she wants to marry Chester. … [Read more...]