Return to Potter’s field

It was Harry Potter's 13th birthday and, since he was surrounded by his occult-o-phobic relatives, the high point was a trio of owls arriving with cards from his best friends at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.The big news was that Ron Weasley's family had won a pile of gold and was investing its grand prize in a pilgrimage to Egypt. Classmate Hermione Granger was happy for him, but added: "I bet he's learning loads. I'm really jealous -- the ancient Egyptian wizards were … [Read more...]

A Baptist facing East

The Romanesque sanctuary of South Main Baptist Church near downtown Houston may seem like a strange home for the Gen-X faithful in the Ecclesia Christian Community.The church holds 1000, which means there are acres of empty oak pews when the 250-plus in the Rev. Chris Seay's new congregation gather on Sunday nights. But the sanctuary with the giant rose window has one essential element welcomed by the singles, artists and seekers in trendy urban neighborhoods -- beauty."It's as close to a … [Read more...]

Squinting into the entertainment future

Steve Taylor and his Chagall Guevara colleagues were fired up when they arrived in Los Angeles to do the cover for the band's first and only album for MCA Records.They also were hungry, so they promptly called Domino's Pizza. Trouble was, one MCA executive didn't think much of Domino's leaders. Taylor distinctly remembers the words: "They support those pro-life Nazis.""We did have a rather spirited argument," confessed Taylor, describing that infamous clash in 1990. "It started in one room, … [Read more...]

Doubting the death penalty

Bud Welch was driving his daughter Julie-Marie home from college when a radio signal drifted over the Iowa plains and started another talk about the big issues in life.It was a report about another execution in Texas. Welch said his daughter's response was blunt: "Dad, all they're doing is teaching hate to their children. ... It has no social redeeming value." This remark was not surprising, since this whole Catholic family was opposed to the death penalty."I didn't think a hell of a lot of it … [Read more...]

St. Raphael, a shepherd in America

NEW CANAAN, Pa. -- The icon is coming to life in Father Paul Albert's imagination and in the simple pen-and-ink drawings he is sharing with his bishops.The drawings show the strong face of an Arab bishop, with a thick salt-and-pepper beard and hair that contrast starkly with his Byzantine vestments. The dominant colors in the icon will be bright green touched with gold, the colors that Eastern Christianity uses to symbolize new life and Pentecost, the birthday of the church.The inscription reads … [Read more...]

Are journalists getting religion?

WASHINGTON -- The late, great religion writer George Cornell knew a big story when he saw one -- especially when people kept underlining it.It was in April 1982, that he wrote his Associated Press story about research by S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman into the moral and religious views of journalists in America's top newsrooms. One statistic jumped out of the report and into pulpits nationwide. Half of these journalists, when faced with the "religious affiliation" blank, wrote … [Read more...]

Faith Popcorn’s spiritual cocktails

Way back in the 1990s, Faith Popcorn had a sports car with a driver's seat that could be programmed to fit three different people, making each feel comfortable with a simple click.This perfectly symbolized what the hip market analyst calls "Egonomics," which is what happens when Information Age consumers feel swamped and depersonalized and demand products that let them wallow in "me, myself and I.""We Americans are the most self-analyzed and self-important people on the planet," argued Popcorn, … [Read more...]

Cracking a Capitol Catch-22

On Sept. 18, 1793, President George Washington donned his Masonic apron and helped lay the U.S. Capitol's cornerstone.Today, the plaque commemorating this event is in a small space just inside a door, near a stairway, across from an elevator in a maze of busy Rotunda hallways. It's a hard place to pause for prayer, but this is always one of the Rev. Pierre Bynum's first stops when leading Capitol Hill Prayer Alert tours.For many evangelicals, said Bynum, it's easier to talk about Washington … [Read more...]