Previous month:
February 2007
Next month:
April 2007

March 31-April 1, 2007, weekend


The strange and flamboyant leader of Libya, Moammar Gaddafi (you can spell that name dozens of different ways), says Christianity is not a universal religion. Rather, he says, only Islam qualifies. The next time I believe something he says will be the first time.

* * *


A U.N. group, apparently responding to the Prophet Muhammad cartoon scandal last year, has condemned defamation of religion. OK, class, your question is this: When does press freedom end and defamation of religion begin? In 100 words or fewer.

* * *


I'll be brief this weekend here because I know you're busy letting your yards get ahead of you and doing April Fool's jokes and preparing for the baseball season to open -- all those profoundly spiritual activities.

Arb061But speaking of activities, later this week I'm giving a talk to a church group and have been asked to speak about "Entering the Quiet of God."

So help me out. How do you understand "the quiet of God," and how do you yourself enter it?

Or do you?

My contention is that 21st Century American culture proceeds at such a pace and at such a decibel level that most of us can't even imagine what true quiet is like, much less the quiet of God. (I get some help by going to such places as the Arboretum in south Johnson County, where I took this photo.)

But perhaps some of you have devised strategies to defeat the culture on this and to enter some kind of divine quiet space that refreshes and feeds you. If so, tell me about that. Tell all of us. I have a sense that almost everyone I know could use more quiet and tips about how to find it.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

P.S.: On a recent blog, I mentioned an upcoming PBS documentary about the Inquisition. But at the time I didn't have confirmation that it would be shown on the Kansas City PBS station, KCPT-TV, Channel 19. It will be. The first two parts will air at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9, and the second two parts will air at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16.

A MUCH BETTER P.S.: My sixth (count 'em, 6) grandchild, the beautiful Zoe Margaret, showed up on the planet Friday afternoon. And my question for you is this: What makes us think God would NOT want the world to continue if God keeps giving us gorgeous babies like the little girl you see here?

Zoebday25_2Today's religious holiday: Palm Sunday (Christianity, except Orthodox, April 1)

March 30, 2007


The pope spoke to young people yesterday about penance. I'm interested in what role penance, or confession, plays in your life. Is it a regular part of your spiritual path? Why or why not? For me, corporate and personal confession is vital. (Penance was at least partly or indirectly the subject of yesterday's long but interesting back-and-forth among commenters on this blog, who debated heaven and hell. If you missed it, you might want to go back and have a look.)

* * *


A clergy friend and his wife recently had to put their longtime pet dog down.

DogsIt was a sad, painful day, especially because the couple is childless, and Gracie was in many ways their child. My friend, the Rev. Charles C. Smith and his wife Diana, live in Kingfisher, Okla., where Charlie pastors the Federated Church. He sent me a long e-mail this week about the death of Gracie. It was poignant and full of grief.

Gracie, he wrote, "had cheated death twice before. Once when she was less than a year old, she was hit by a car while she was jogging with me. I think to think she took the hit to protect me. . ."

"Her second brush with death was when Diana and I went to a minor-league baseball game. . .Gracie, cluless in her black coat, sat in the sun without any water all afternoon, and by the time we arrived home, she was suffering from heatstroke."

But she lived through all that and made it to age 13 and a half before her health simply abandoned her. Finally, she couldn't go on, and they had to subject her to what Charlie called "a quick, painless process: her eyes rolled back and she simply went to sleep, breathing her last. I don't think our grieving will be quite as efficient or neat. I know in my heart that I'll see her again in heaven, restored as the tiny puppy that we brought home joyfully so many years ago."

Diana said the the vet, in their small Oklahoma town, came to their house and put Gracie to sleep on the fresh spring grass in the back yard, "looking just like she had so many times when I spied her from the kitchen window. That image gives me great comfort."

Well, I have no idea whether we'll really see our pets in an afterlife, though I've known one or two that, based on behavior, might be eligible for that warmish place. But what do you believe, if anything, about eternal life for animals? And on what basis do you believe it? (For an interesting Web site on religion and animals, click here.)

One thing I know I believe about animals in this life is that you can come to love them and their death can break your heart, as it has broken the hearts of Charlie and Diana. That may be all we need to know.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will be about lessons I learned from an interfaith meditation group that I attended recently in Berkeley, Calif.)

March 29, 2007


An expert on religion in China says Christianity is growing so quickly (though its adherents still constitute a small minority of the population) that it is reshaping the country. In fact, this fits with the now oft-reported reality that Christianity is growing most quickly in Asia, Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. The question is how close this kind of Christianity is to what the long line of Christian missionaries in China 100-plus years ago were preaching. What's your guess?

* * *


WASHINGTON -- One of the featured displays now at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here fits in well with the book I'm working on with a rabbi.

Holo2The display is about the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, in World War II, and our book will be about Jews in Poland who survived the Holocaust with non-Jewish help. (E-mail me for details and how you can help.)

After the Nazi government of Germany sent in its troops to invade Poland on September 1, 1939, it began creating ghettos for Jews in major cities.

The ghetto in Lodz was officially formed on Feb. 8, 1940, when 100,000 Jews were moved in with 64,000 who already lived in the area designated to become the ghetto. In all, they squeezed into 1.5 square miles of poor housing stock.

By the end of the war, some 200,000-plus Jews had passed through the ghetto, of whom 43,000 died there. Another 11,000 were sent to labor camps. Some 77,000 (plus 5,000 Gypies) died in the Chelmno killing center. Another 72,000 were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, of whom some 5,000 to 7,000 survived there.

The Holocaust Museum here does a marvelous job with such displays, and the encouraging thing to me when I was here this past Monday was how many young people -- teen-agers, mostly -- were there as part of groups. All of this must seem like ancient history to them, but it's simply crucial that they know the history and become part of a generation that will remember it and work to prevent anything like it happening again.

And if you've never been here, get here.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 28, 2007


How many of you have thought about Sikhism this week? I thought so. Thus, you may not be aware that a group of Sikhs from around the world yesterday presented the United Nations a memo outlining various issues of concern to adherents of Sikhism. It's another reminder that the world is bigger and more religiously diverse than we sometimes keep in mind.

* * *


For some fun listening -- and some good gospel music -- I can recommend a new CD by the Rev. Roger Coleman, "Zacchaeus and the Rattlesnake." I've linked you in the last sentence to the entry for the CD, but the entry is much better, so for that click here.

RattlensnakeRoger is director of the Pilgrim Center in Midtown Kansas City and has been a longtime community activist. In fact, I've known Roger for 30-some years.

In fact, Roger created what he calls "The Family Medallion" as a way of helping to join together families more effectively at the time of second or later marriages.

On the CD, Roger tells the story of a ministerial student invited to preach at a rural church that -- unknown to him -- practices snake handling. Roger swears on the CD that the story is 100 percent true, including the presence that day of the student's Jewish roommate, who agreed to drive him to the church service.

Roger is a great storyteller. But his words are enhanced by music from Danny Cox and Joe Miquelon.

I've never been to a snake-handling church and, given my dislike of snakes, I hope to be able to say that on my dying day. On the other hand, if you can come away from such an experience with a really good story, the way Roger did, well, maybe it would be worth it.

Any of you seen snake handlers in a church?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 27, 2007


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I was here Sunday and yesterday working on my book project about Jews in Poland who survived the Holocaust with Christian help.

Dc1And I can report to you first hand and via this photo I took that religious terrorists have not destroyed the Washington Monument. I thought you might be wondering. And if you're wondering about the book project and how you can help, e-mail me.

* * *


Perhaps you saw this story last week about an executive with an area utility receiving a $600,000 severance pay off.

DollarsignsIt seemed to me just one more in a series of examples of corporate America running amok when it comes to executive pay. (By the way, the AFL-CIO has a Web site that lets you see how executive salaries match up with the pay of other workers in their companies. And click here for the annual Forbes list of executive pay.)

Earlier it was reported that this same utility, Aquila, would be paying its departing CEO something like $6 million plus about $900,000 annually for a pension.

And Aquila is far from the only company paying huge amounts to execs.

My question about all of this: What is -- or should be -- the source of corporate ethics policies? And shouldn't such policies strive to treat all employees -- from top execs to entry-level workers -- fairly? I'm certainly not advocating CEOs and starting data-entry clerks be paid the same. But isn't there some way to compensate both so that most people think it's reasonable?

As to the source of ethics policies, my guess is that ultimately the principles behind most such documents derive from religious sources. All religions ultimately offer some kind of moral guidelines, though, of course, as atheists rightly point out, one can create such guidelines without rooting them in religious beliefs.

But let's assume that most corporate executives and people on corporate boards are adherents of some kind of religion. Is the national corporate greed scandal an indication that people aren't living by the standards that their religions teach? Or is there something else going on here?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 26, 2007


When we think of interfaith dialogue, the first two religions in conversation Westerners usually think of are not Hinduism and Islam. And yet those two have been having a dialogue in India recently, it's reported. Good. The more understanding of common ground, the better. When I lived in India in the 1950s, there still was a sharp memory of Hindus and Muslims killing each other right after India's independence of 1947 and the creation of Pakistan. And there's still tension between the two today over Kashmir. So talk, folks, talk.

* * *


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wants a new national policy on Cuba.

CubamapMy question is not whether the bishops should say anything about this. The bishops can speak about whatever issue concerns them, as far as I'm concerned.

Rather, my question is whether there can be or should be a unified position among people of many faiths on such complex matters as how to relate to Cuba.

The bishops' letter to members of Congress, as you can see when you read about it, says American policies toward Cuba have "failed to achieve greater freedom, democracy and respect for human life." And, it says, they have alienated people and made life harder for Cubans.

I don't disagree with the bishops about this, but at the same time I want to be careful that we don't blame America alone for what has happened under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, whose human rights record has simply been appalling. Has it been more appalling than the records of the rulers of such countries as China, say, or Saudi Arabia, with whom we seem to be happy to deal? Ah, there's the rub.

The United States seems to have inconsistent policies on protecting basic human rights, including religious freedom. Our officials often say the right things but then don't follow those words up with the right actions. And I think that inconsistency causes us enormous harm.

But if you were to take the common values of the major religions and make sure they were reflected in national policy toward Cuba, would you follow the line the bishops propose? If so, is their view of things one that people of faith generally should adopt? Or are they way off the mark?

I'm not asking the government to adopt policies based on what people of faith want. Rather, I'm asking people of faith to imagine what governmental policies would look like if they were in harmony with the values their religions propose.

By the way, click here for some words about Cuba from the Washington office of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). And click here for a 2004 Cuba statement from the National Council of Churches. For the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's connections to Cuba, click here. For an interview with the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Cuba, click here. And finally, click here for some general information about religion in Cuba.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 24-25, 2007, weekend


Speaking of the pope, as I do below, he strongly criticized the European Union on Saturday for excluding God and Christianity from any mention it the celebration of the 50th anniversary of its founding. I think if I were pope I'd have said something similar just to remind people that historical ignorance or purposeful historical distortion does no one any good. On the other hand, the record of how Christians have behaved in Europe over the centuries is, at times, a painful tale.

* * *


I was disappointed to learn that the man often considered the pope of Sunni Islam canceled or postponed a meeting on Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI. This is a conversation that needs to take place, and the sooner the better. In fact, the more often the better. So far it's unclear why the meeting was canceled. I was with a group of journalists who interviewed the grand sheik in Egypt in 2002 and, as I may have said here before, I find him inconsistent. He sometimes seems to say exactly the right thing but then will say things that sound, at least to western ears, as if he's defending suicide bombing.

* * *


In my column for this Saturday, I've listed some worthwhile new books about religion. But there's no way to list all the books that should and could be mentioned in that amount of space.

So I'm adding to the book list here on the blog this weekend.


* From Slave to Priest, by Carolina Hemesath. An intriguing biography of Augustine Tolton, the first place priest in the U.S. (He was baptized in Missouri.)

* Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment, by L. Shannon Jung, a professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. An intriguing volume in which Jung argues that we need to recover historic eating practices of the early church to keep us in touch with God and neighbor.

* Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith, by Henry H. Knight III and F. Douglas Powe Jr. These two St. Paul School of Theology teachers seek to redefine for this era what evangelism means in the tradition of John Wesley.

* A Long-Shadowed Grief: Suicide and Its Aftermath, by Harold Ivan Smith. This insightful Kansas City writer finds many ways to help those whose lives have been traumatized by the suicide of people they know and love.

* Tikkun Reader: Twentieth Anniversary, edited by Michael Lerner. This offers the best articles from Tikkun magazine, a source of progressive thinking.

* A Future History: Christianity for the Next Generation, by Glenn Thomas Carson. This small book by the president of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society will help other Disciples place their faith in a historical context.

* When Saints Sing the Blues, by Brenda Poinsett. This is a helpful discussion of depression and faith.

* Traveling through Grief, by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. DeVries. A useful little volume that can help people make sense of the pain of loss.

* Beyond Knowing, by Janis Amatuzio. The author is a forensic pathologist, or medical examiner, and tells stories about life and death from her wide range of experiences.

* The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, by Michael Baigent. If you loved The Da Vinci Code, you'll love this, essentially an effort to show that almost everything Christians believe about Jesus is wrong. (Let me say again, that I don't always agree with the premises of some of the books I list here. Rather, I thin people should be aware of what's being published.)

* Will the Real You Please Stand Up? by Frank Harris. This former WNBA star and minister offers what she calls "spiritual strategies" from her own experience to help people live passionately and with purpose.

* Faith and the Historian: Catholic Perspectives, edited by Nick Salvatore. This is a collection of fine essays that grew out of a conference. This is serious -- but accessible -- writing.

* The God-Man: A Guide to Understanding the Godhead, by Robert Spearman. This is a Christian author's attempt to help people understand the Trinity more clearly.

* The Real Mary, by Scot McKnight. In this book an evangelical Christian seeks ways for others who fit that description to more fully embrace the mother of Jesus.

* Flawed Families of the Bible, by David and Diana Garland. There are no normal families, and the Bible is proof. This study of the imperfect people in biblical history shines light on how God's grace functions.

* Letters to a Young Evangelical, by Tony Campolo. One of the most arresting voices in Christianity today shares an intelligent and hopeful visison of the Christian faith.

* The Cave of Reconciliation: An Abrahamic Tale, by Pecki Sherman Witonsky. This is a fascinating little double book from the Jewish Publication Society. That is, held one way, it tells Jewish stories of Abraham and Isaac. Flip the book over, however, and it begins again as a book with tales of Ibrahim and Ismail in the Islamic tradition. It's an important book for interfaith discussions.

* The Last Week, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. This is an account of each day of the final week of Jesus' life, as told by scholars active in the Jesus Seminar.

* Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, by Abbot Christopher Jamison. Growing out of a British TV series, this book seeks to help readers understand and adhere to the natural rhythms of life in ways that make more sense than the way most of us do life.

* Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way, by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. This is another in a good-size batch of recent books critical of the so-called Religious Right's political involvement. The author is the daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

* Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on Women in Genesis, by Marion Ann Taylor and Heather E. Weir. These two theological scholars have uncovered a large book full of biblical commentary by women.

* Evil and the Justice of God, by N.T. Wright. One of the most prolific Christian writers today offers helpful ways to think about the old question of theodicy, or why there is evil and suffering in the world. Wright is the bishop of Durham in England.

* God & Empire, by John Dominic Crossan. This is another in the recent surge of useful books examining the role of the Roman Empire in shaping the world Jesus came to address.

Books* The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings & Speeches, edited by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne. This volume is full of the original speeches and other writings that help us understand the current pontiff.

* Buddha Is As Buddha Does, by Lama Surya Das. This long-time student of spiritual masters offers thoughts on 10 practices "for enlightened living."

* Short Trip to the Edge, by Scott Cairns. This is an account of a personal spiritual prayer pilgrimage to the Greek peninsual of Mt. Athos.

* Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul, by David L. Goetz. Life in the suburbs can, it turns out, suck life out of you. Here's help.

* Diaspora in the Countryside, by Royden Loewen. This is a fascinating study of two Mennonite communities experience fragmentation in their rural settings.

* Spirituality for the Skeptive: The Thoughtful Love of LIfe, by Robert C. Solomon. Here's a helpful volume by a man who confesses he's never understood spirituality or paid much attention to it.

* Treatise on Love of God, by Miguel de Unamuno, translated by Nelson R. Orringer. Unamuno, one of Spain's most prominent writers of the last 150 years, comes back to life in this new translation.

* The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, by David J. Hartline. The editor of argues that Catholicism is rising.

* The Divided States of America, by Richard Land. One of the best-known Southern Baptists in the country says both liberals and conservatives often don't understand the God-and-country issues.

* Real Life, Real Love, by Father Albert Cutie. The author offers the kind of advice that has made him something of a multimedia star.

* Get Out of that Pit: Straight Talk about God's Deliverance, by Beth Moore. Another advice book, this one from a woman who writes about her own experiences and her reliance on God to change things.

* The Vatican's Exorcists, by Tracy Wilkinson. This describes the growing demand for the services of Vatican-trainede exorcists.

* Jesus: The Unauthorized Version, edited by Mian Ridge. The world is full of texts that never made the Bible. This book uses some of them to offer a new vision of Jesus.

* To Fly Again, by Gracial Burnham, with Dean Merrill. This former Kansas Citian writes more about how she overcame her capture by terrorists in the Philippines and the death of her husband at their hands.

* Small is Still Beautiful, by Joseph Pearce. This book is an eloquent argument against materialism and all the wrong-headed values that go with it.

* Keeping the Faith, by Ana Mollinedo Mims. She offers guidance on how to put spiritual practices at the center of your career path.

* Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by C. William Pollard. This book offers the voice of an experienced CEO on questions more eternal than a company's bottom line.

* It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World and Cats Are Waiting Tables, by Martin Babb. A Tennessee pastor writes light essays about getting through this sometimes-odd world. The book is illustrated by Kansas City cartoonist Ron Wheeler.

* A Brilliant Mind, by Frank Minirth. This is a faith-based approach to using the brain God gave you.

* Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, by Chaplain William McCoy. The role of military chaplain is fraught with difficulty and danger. This book offers an insider's view as a way to appreciate the work chaplains do.

* How to Survive Your In-Laws, edited by Andrea Syrtash. This is sort of on the edge of faith-based books, but marriage in any religious tradition almost always requires a relationship with in-laws.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 23, 2007


The announcement yesterday that presidential candidate John Edwards' wife Elizabeth has experienced a return of cancer reminded me of having seen some studies on the effect religion might have on cancer patients. You can't read the whole study, but click here to read the abstract and first page of one that deals with this. For information on the relationship between prayer and health and religion and health, click here. And for information about Edwards' faith, click here.

* * *


Ah, yes. The Inquisition, that papal institution designed in the medieval and early modern period to combat heresy and similar sins.

InquisitionIn May (the evenings of the 9th and 16th), PBS will present four hours of documentary filming over two nights exploring the Inquisition. The series is to be called "The Secret Files of the Inquisition." (The beheading photo here comes from the PBS collection of photos from the documentary.)

To prepare to see the presentations, I invite you not only to look around on the Web site of the show on the link above, but also to do some other reading about the Inquisition, a fascinating period in church history.

Much of the documentary is based on material that the Vatican finally made public in 1998.

For a quick primer, look at Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. I also point you to chapter 16, "Heretics," in David Chiddester's Christianity: A Global History and to sections of Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity.

I also invite you to look at the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on the Inquistion.

Rice University's Galileo Project also has this interesting entry about the Inquisition.

Similarly, the Jewish Virtual Library's entry on the Inquisition is worth a look.

Church history is full of villains and great glory, knaves and saints, monstrous moral failures and remarkable achievements.

I'm looking forward to seeing how well PBS handles this sorrowful part of that history.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 22, 2007


Perhaps you saw the brief story yesterday about the death of the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). It's a fascinating Pentecostal denomination with a rich history. Click here to read the church's own account of that history.

* * *


It seems to me that the only legitimate and appropriate question about religion for politicians is how their religious beliefs might affect public policy, though, of course, sometimes politicians wish to volunteer more information than that.

AlvinbrooksBut voters have a right to know at least how an office holder's faith commitment might make a difference in the decisions he or she makes as a public servant.

Funk1With that in mind, let's look at the two candidates for mayor of Kansas City as Tuesday's general election approaches. They are Mark Funkhouser, (pictured on the right) former city auditor, and Alvin Brooks, (pictured on the left) current mayor pro tem and city councilman.

Brooks is Catholic and has long been active in St. Monica's parish. Funkhouser was reared a Lutheran but says that today he and his wife Gloria Squitiro, who was reared Catholic, "are not big in organized religion."

"We don't belong to any church," says Squitiro, "but we are spiritual beings."

Funkhouser says he believes in God and that means "I need to be as right and true a person as I can and care for my fellow human beings. I want to do good and help people."

He says he prays a silent prayer about 20 times a day, and it goes like this: "Lord, I am grateful. Help my family be safe. Help us be peaceful."

Brooks is well-known for his interfaith activities in which he tries to help people of different religious traditions understand that they share a common humanity.

His councilmanic Web site puts it this way: "Brooks believes that we have one common spirituality based on the oneness of God, in which all of humanity is inextricably connected and hopefully, prayerfully, we will recognize the oneness and live in peace." It's an approach he has tried to put into practice as a public servant.

Brooks told me that for him it's crucial to recognize that "you're a spiritual person" and that others are too. That, he said, is how all six billion people on the planet are connected, and "I believe that recognizing my spirituality makes me to be a better person." The important thing, he said, is to realize that "together we can make a difference if we set aside the differences that divide us."

I've known Brooks much longer than I've known Funkhouser, and I know Al's religious faith is profoundly important to him. But I believe both men are upright and honest. (Which does not mean they've made no enemies and always done the right thing.) And I believe either one will be guided by good moral values in office.

So to find reasons to vote for one or the other, you'll have to look beyond religious affiliation or how their beliefs will affect public policy. I believe that those are essentially non-issues in this race.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

March 21, 2007


A new survey suggests that more than a quarter of all Arab Israelis deny that the Holocaust took place. How can there ever be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in the midst of such a remarkable thing?

* * *


EDMOND, Okla. -- So on Sunday morning I was leaving Oklahoma City heading back home to Kansas City, and just after getting on I-35 I turned on my car radio.

Car_radioSermons galore. My, oh, my.

And you know what's fun about all of that? You can flip around from station to station and hear one preacher after another doing his or her (mostly his) best to convince you of something. In the process, you learn that preachers say the darnedest things.

So today I'm going to take you on a brief button-flipping tour of Sunday morning preaching as it can be heard on a car radio in Oklahoma:

* "If you don't know who the Three Stooges are, you're watching way too much educational television."

* "When you have sex outside of marriage, you run a very high risk of messing things up."

* "Paul says circumcision is not necessary for salvation."

* "Tax collectors and sinners were the folks who partied too much. Tax collectors and sinners were the folks who might wear a mini-mini skirt to church."

* "Each one of us is going to be called upon to make a commitment."

* "Jesus is the only perfect model."

* "We're concerned about he who spoke." (Nobody said all preachers were good at grammar.)

* "He was not born of humankind but he was born of a virgin." (When you figure that one out, let me know.)

* "We follow Jesus not because he can play golf."

* "The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth."

OK, folks. Now go and do likewise. Or not.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

PS: Did you catch this fascinating New York Times piece about the origins of morality? Where would you guess all this will wind up?

Today's religious holidays: Norouz (also NauRooz), Zoroastrian; Naw Ruz (Baha'i); Ostara (Wicca/Neo-Pagan, Southern Hemisphere); Mabon (Wicca/Neo-Pagan, Northern Hemisphere)