Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prince of Promotion?

When director James Cameron began promoting an ancient Jerusalem tomb as Jesus Christ's final resting place, he knew his opinions would be controversial.

And while Cameron's show "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," airing on the Discovery Channel March 4, may pull in some, er, titanic ratings, any real controversy may be squelched before the show even has a chance to air.

According to a story in The Washington Post, scholars think the buzz surrounding the tomb may be more promotional stunt than science.

"I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight," leading archaeologist William G. Dever told the Post. "I just think it's a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated."

Why the skepticism? For a different take, look at this "exclusive" interview Christianity Today conducted with someone named James Cameron.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Tube and the Tomb

James Cameron, the impresario behind the film "Titanic," is making big waves again -- this time by suggesting he's discovered the real tomb of Jesus.

The catch is that the tomb has (or had) bones in it (authorities have reburied them). So, if it's THE Jesus' tomb, that pretty much puts the kibosh on a literal bodily resurrection.

Many -- perhaps most -- scholars are skeptical that this could be the final resting place of the historical Jesus.
But what if it were true? As a religion writer, that's the most intriguing question at play for me. It calls into question what it means to be Christian, and perhaps the nature of divinity itself.

If Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day nothing happened, then how relevant is it all? Does Christian faith hinge on the resurrection? Or is it couched in the life and teachings of a flesh-and-blood man? Is there a line where Christianity stops being a faith and becomes a philosophy?

I can't offer any answers here -- though I'd be interested in your thoughts. All I can do is offer a few links where you can explore more.

Here's the Discovery Channel's take on the tomb.

Y-Zine, an apologetic site for 20-somethings, has a pretty good rundown of why Cameron thinks this could be Jesus' final resting spot -- and why other scholars say it can't be.

The Associated Press offered this take on what the statisticians say about it all.

Here's an interview with the guy who discovered the tomb way back in 1980, and why he thinks Cameron and his cronies are full of it.

Then there's this curious little story about the tomb's living neighbors -- and how they feel about being in such close proximity to, perhaps, one of the most influential guys around.

On the Bright Side...

It's been an interesting few months on the Colorado Springs religion beat. It feels as though I've written about lots of scandal and heartbreak and pedophile priests lately, and I hear occasionally from readers who wonder why I don't seem to have anything good to write about church.

Over in England, though, some parishioners were taken aback when an online report was a little too good.

The Ship of Fools is a satirical Web site that both mocks and lauds church culture, both in Britain and in the U.S. One of its most popular features is the Mystery Worshipper -- a standing feature written by anonymous volunteers who attend church services and then rate them. Several Colorado Springs churches have been reviewed, including New Life Church and St. Mary's Cathedral, and The Gazette has written a story about our own mystery worshipper.

But I digress. The scandal in this case, such as it is, involves the planting of favorable church reviews by folks with a vested interest: In this instance, an Episcopal priest is suspected of filing posts that applaud his own speaking and singing.

OK, so this is something less than Watergate. Still, it's interesting if you're a church wonk like me, and it's curiously refreshing for parishioners to blow the whistle because they thought the reviews were just too darn fawning of their own church.

"Needless to say, it's a cold day in Hell when a church complains that their Mystery Worshipper report is too positive," wrote Ship of Fools editor Simon Jenkins.

If that particular scandal doesn't interest you, go to the site anyway and check out these two mugshots, comparing KFC's Col. Sanders with Colorado Springs' own spiritual warrior, C. Peter Wagner.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Faith and Film

"The Departed" won Best Picture at last night's Academy Awards. Helen Mirren was named Best Actress for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen."

Me, I cared more about the documentaries.

Many of this year's documentary nominees were just dripping with religious themes. "Deliver Us from Evil" burrowed into the psyche of a pedophilic priest. "Jesus Camp" (featuring snippets from our own Rev. Ted Haggard and New Life Church) was a dissection of a charismatic Christian camp where children are trained to be the next generation of God's soldiers.

The winner -- Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" -- is pretty secular by comparison. But then again, thousands of more progressive churches (including a half-dozen in Colorado Springs) screened the film in their sanctuaries.

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Worship Center Springs Open

Mountain Springs Church officially dedicated its new 1,000-seat worship center tonight with an evening of prayer, music, and much enthusiasm.

"Wow, this is big," said one congregant as she walked down the aisle. And the new worship center is indeed large: not New Life Church big, mind you, but big enough to serve one of Colorado Springs' largest and fastest-growing churches. Mountain Springs, led by the Rev. Steve Holt, has an estimated 3,500 members now -- half of them, by the looks of things, under the age of 12.

An eclectic group of spiritual leaders came to help inaugurate the new building, headlined by U.S. representative Doug Lamborn.

"It's great to see a place where God is so obviously moving," he told the packed sanctuary.

Paul Stanley, an elder at New Life Church, thanked Holt for Mountain Springs' support the past three months, in the wake of the fall of the Rev. Ted Haggard. He told the congregation that New Life is on the right track again.

"God is doing a new work in that big place," he said.

Mountain Springs Church still has some celebrating to do. In a couple of months, according to Holt, the church will open another 30,000 square-foot addition, dedicated to children's education.

Dirt Cheap?

And now, for your weird-religious-product-of-the-week ...

Holy Land Dirt.

Entrepreneuer Steve Friedman is now selling dirt from Israel over the Internet. Each 16-ounce resealable baggie is guaranteed authentic by a genuine rabbi and costs $20. Friedman's Web site says the soil is perfect for burial ceremonies and gravesite visits, but the dirt is so, er, clean that "you could plant a tree in it."

I wish I could post a picture, but there wasn't really a suitable one on their Web site. So instead I'm including a picture of a chipmunk sitting on a pile of dirt that could, conceivably have come from Israel.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Complex Sex

For those of you who aren't completely sick of the whole "Haggard is completely heterosexual" storyline, take a trip to, where Patton Dodd offers his own take.

Dodd is a writer who worked closely with Haggard before his dismissal, so he's not just some random pontificator. He believes that folks who argue over whether Haggard is homosexual or heterosexual really miss the point. Sexuality is complex -- something experts told The Gazette, as well -- and Dodd says that to deny Haggard's nearly 30-year marriage and five children seems as preposterous as denying his alleged gay relationship with a male escort.

Dress for Litigation

One of the most fascinating things about the Culture Wars is that the battlegrounds can pop up anywhere.

The latest skirmish sprouted in a Philadelphia suburb, where an elementary school principal told a 10-year-old boy he couldn't dress up as Jesus for Halloween. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian activist organization that serves as a Culture War Geiger counter, is now suing on behalf of the boy, who says his civil rights were violated.

According to the Associated Press story, the boy and his mother don't observe Halloween because of its pagan roots, but the mom didn't want the boy ostracized by going to school costume-free for the day. And since other kids were dressed up as witches and devils, the mom thought, it seemed like the school might need a little Jesus.

No dice. The principal made the kid take off his crown of thorns. He was allowed to keep the robe, but was told to tell his classmates that he was a Roman Emperor.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hoping for a Miracle

I spent some time talking with the Rev. Steve Brooks yesterday.

Brooks, senior pastor for Springs Community Church, is suffering from Motor Neuron Disease, often a precursor to Lou Gehrig's disease -- an incurable condition that, barring a miracle, always leads to death.

Brooks, who co-founded the church in 1985, is hoping for a miracle. But he's not counting on one. The disease has taken a toll on his fine motor skills: His hands freeze when he types, and when he talks it sounds slurred as if he's come back from the dentist. But he continues to preach nearly every Sunday, telling his congregants that God is with everyone -- even in the sucky times.

He's not planning on leaving the church, but he's preparing for it -- just in case.

"Congregations get way too attached to the founding pastor," he said. "This has been a gift from heaven to say to the congregation, God is the head of Springs Community Church, not Steve Brooks."

Look for a full story in The Gazette early next month.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anglican Upheaval

Leaders for the Anglican Communion -- a 77-million-member worldwide Christian denomination that includes the United States Episcopal Church -- yesterday gave the Episcopal Church eight months to ban blessings of same-sex unions. If the Episcopal Church doesn't go along, it could slip to an ancillary role within the communion. The worldwide Communion also took steps to create a new governing body for more conservative parishes and dioceses in the U.S.

None of this was particularly unexpected, but it's still a huge deal, both nationally and locally: Ever since the U.S. Episcopal Church ordained an openly and actively gay man as bishop of its New Hampshire diocese, the denomination has been torn apart by issues of human sexuality. More traditional Episcopalians believe homosexuality runs counter to Scripture, and some conservative dioceses and parishes have already tried to withdraw from the U.S. denomination, seeking alternative oversight from more conservative provinces overseas.

Grace Episcopal Church has been one of the focal points for the conservative movement. Its rector, the Rev. Don Armstrong, has been critical of the Episcopal Church, but he had not advocated splitting from the church.

Now, Armstrong's been suspended while the diocese investigates whether he misapplied church funds. Many parishioners believe the suspension was, in essence, a political move to silence this conservative firebrand. With the Anglican Communion working on some sort of alternative oversight plan, it'll be interesting to see what happens in Grace over the next few months.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Chapters

Sunday's services at the 14,000-member New Life Church were intended to offer some closure to the scandal that's enveloped the place the last 100 days. It was intended to tie up loose ends and set the stage for New Life's future.

It also was about spin control.

In the past two weeks, curious revelations leaked out over the Rev. Ted Haggard's "restoration" process and sexual status. Haggard sent an e-mail to some of his supporters, saying three weeks of counseling had helped him immeasurably. An overseer was quoted in another media outlet as saying that Haggard said he was "completely heterosexual."

The overseer in question -- the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur -- told me Sunday he had been misquoted, but that claim certainly didn't change the arc of the Haggard narrative. While no one ever said that Haggard had been "cured" of homosexuality in three weeks, that was the impression some came away with.

Reading a letter to the congregation, overseer Larry Stockstill used Sunday's services to correct that notion.

"There should be no confusion that deliverance from habitual, life-controlling problems is a 'journey' and not an 'event,'" Stockstill said. "Ted will need years of accountability to demonstrate his victory over both actions and tendencies."

New Life Church's own recovery seems to share some similarities with Haggard's path. Yesterday, services felt pretty normal: The mood wasn't somber or apprehensive. It was boisterous and upbeat -- typical of New Life. Congregants listened intently to the overseers, but it wasn't the gut-wrenching scene that took place Nov. 4, when Haggard's letter of apology was read aloud to congregants.

But, while New Life seems fine, it still has a long road ahead of it. A senior pastor must be chosen -- a gravely important choice, particularly when you consider that Haggard's the only senior pastor New Life has ever known. The church will undergo some serious restructuring, too, which may include a personnel shakeup. New Life attendance has dipped only slightly in the months since Haggard's dismissal, but some church experts say the rockiest times may lie ahead.

The services yesterday may have marked the end of one chapter, as one congregant told me. But the chapters ahead may be, in their own ways, just as challenging.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Juche and Jesus

This Saturday's Gazette contains a story on Juche, the North Korean atheistic belief system, examining whether it's a religion or not.

Some readers may take offense at the story's light tone. North Korea is perhaps the most oppressive nation on earth, and some studies suggest that Christians have been particularly oppressed: One study I saw suggests the government imprisons and perhaps tortures around 50,000-70,000 Christians every year.

One of the experts I talked with, though, suggested that Christianity is percolating just below the surface.

Before North Korea closed its borders and turned to Juche, author James Church says Korea was an up-and-coming hotbed of Christianity. South Korea still is, according to Hae Won Suh, who leads a Korean Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs. Hae says that 20 percent of South Koreans are Christian.

Christianity’s influence lingers up north, too. Church says that Christians do meet covertly in small groups, and he says that if he knows about it, the government probably knows about it.“They have not tried to root out Christianity, primarily because they know it’s hopeless,” Church said. “As long as it’s not practiced overtly, in a way that would threaten the regime, they just watch it.”

South Koreans like Hae, however, hope North Koreans will one day be able to punt Juche for Jesus.“We just keep praying for that country to open its mind, open the doors to the Gospel,” he said. “Some day, God will answer our prayers.”

If Only It Would Give You Lottery Numbers ..

It may not look like much, but this may be the luckiest piece of plastic in the world.

Called the "Mexican Snowglobe Pyramid of Luck" by the folks who carry it at retailer Lucky Mojo, this tiny plastic pyramid contains a slew of lucky objects, including the silver milagro hand (representing the hand of God, at top), a floating statue of Buddha (the white thing you see in the middle) an image of San Martin Caballero (the patron saint of wealth) and assorted horseshoes, elephants, lucky beans and glitter.

Lucky Mojo doesn't list a price for this curious collection of religious totems, suggesting that this kind of luck doesn't come cheap. But the rest of the company's merchandise doesn't seem to be too expensive, so if you're in the market for a little extra luck -- or if you just like to see tiny Buddhas floating in snowglobes -- it might be worth checking out.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Into the Shadows

The "Out of the Shadows Into the Light" conference started yesterday afternoon at the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado. I attended a bit of the conference, and though organizers billed it as an open-ended dialogue on human sexuality and the church, my initial impression is that it fell short of that mark.

The first speaker, Marvin Ellison of Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary, made an impassioned plea for the church to drop its fear and loathing of human sexuality and abandon the "politics of oppression." He was initially concerned that speaking at this Colorado Springs conference might expose him to "toxic" levels of anti-gay rhetoric, referring to Focus on the Family by name. He said that Christians need to understand that the Bible has some "spiritual deadwood," and that the Ted Haggard story is really about "overcoming self-hatred."

"What about Mr. Haggard, should we ask, needs healing?" he asked attendees.

Ellison's talk hit home for many of the conference-goers, who murmured and chuckled their agreement throughout. But it was a curious keynote to launch a conference that's intended to start a cross-philosophical dialogue on the issue -- one intended to engage both the Ellisons and Focus on the Familys of the world. This was not a "let's sit down and talk about this" speech: This was a "let me tell you what's wrong with the church today" speech.

This was just one of many talks scheduled for the conference, and most of the heavy lifting of the conference will take place in small groups, where attendees will have a chance to speak with one another. I was not allowed into the small-group scene as a journalist, so perhaps the conversations there are taking a different tack.

But initially, at least, the conference struck me as a swing and a miss: You can't hold a culture-changing conference on human sexuality -- at least not in Colorado Springs -- without bringing the conservatives to the table, too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

God on the Campaign Trail

We're 18 months away from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and the race for the presidency is getting more muddy by the minute. By the time you finish reading this blog, I predict at least three new candidates will throw their hats into the proverbial ring.

One thing we can safely predict, however, is that religion will play a crucial role in this campaign. A prime Republican darling is also Mormon -- a faith that some conservative Christians consider a cult. Democrats are working hard to prove they're also a party of faith -- a label that Republicans have monopolized for the last couple of decades. And, to my knowledge, at least three candidates have already been forced to answer faith-centric questions.

Before he even announced his candidacy, Barack Obama was being accused of being a closet Muslim and attending a radical Indonesian madrassa as a child. Both were slam-dunk falsehoods, apparently. Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ, a fairly liberal but undeniably Christian denomination.

Fellow Democrat John Edwards had even more problems. Two campaign staffers resigned after they were accused of being anti-Catholic. Both women -- Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan -- got in trouble for blogging on religion: Marcotte said the Catholic Church punted "compassion" (i.e. abortion, in her view) so women could "bear more tithing Catholics," and McEwan used the term "Christofascists," to refer to conservative Christians. The Catholic League, a conservative Catholic activist organization, launched a nationwide blitz to push them out of the Edwards campaign.

Over on the Republican side, Mitt Romney is dealing with questions about his Mormon faith. The former governor of Massachusetts has done well so far, pundits say, poking fun at his faith's polygamist past by saying "marriage is between a man and a woman ... and a woman, and a woman." Still, with Romney campaigning as a social conservative, there is some question whether the GOP's evangelical base will support a candidate who shares their political views but doesn't share their doctrine.

Most Republican candidates will make their obligatory pilgrimage to Colorado Springs' Focus on the Family to meet with James Dobson. Those meetings are typically private, but I'd be fascinated to hear how a Dobson/Romney summit goes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Psst. You Wanna Buy a Church?

Sure, Colorado Springs pastors have taken their lumps the past few months. But none of our hometown scandals have quite risen to the weirdness level of Pastor Randall Radic of Ripon, Calif. At least not yet.

In terms of sheer gumption, the Radic story takes the cake. According to the Associated Press, the small-town pastor sold his church and rectory to buy himself a black BMW. He later confessed to his nefarious deed on his own blog, apparently -- perhaps assuming his aged congregation didn't surf the Web all that much.

His blog is offline, by the way. I just checked.

Perhaps there's a similar story in the makings here. But until we uncover it, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and say, "well, we may have a pastor who bought meth, but at least we don't go to church in Ripon."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Paine in the Butt

Thomas Paine won't get his own special day in Arkansas -- in part because some modern-day legislators believe he was down on religion.

A proposal to declare Jan. 29 "Thomas Paine Day" failed after supporters fell short of the 51 votes it needed to pass, according to a story from the Associated Press.

Paine, author of the book "Common Sense" that helped spur the American Revolution, is recognized as one of the United States' founding fathers. But when it came to honoring the guy with "Thomas Paine Day," Representative Sid Rosenbaum balked.

"He did some good things for the nation, but the book that he wrote was anti-Christian and anti-Jewish," Rosenbaum said to AP. "I don't think we should be passing things out like this without at least debating it and letting people in the House know what we're voting on."

Rosenbaum's right about Paine's religious leanings. Paine was a deist, who thought Christianity was a stumbling block on the path to the Divine. He was openly critical of the faith in several writings.

Paine wasn't alone, of course. The revolution was fostered in the Age of Enlightenment -- an age that tended to snicker at overt religious devotion -- and many of our first presidents were Unitarians, a denomination where deists tend to hang out. That said, many founders were very religious, and even deists such as Paine tended to talk about God an awful lot.

All of this brings us to two basic questions.

1. Just how important was Judeo-Christian thought and sensibility to the foundation of the United States?

2. Does rejecting Thomas Paine Day on religious grounds shift the line between church and state yet again?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Soul-saving Sandals

Some people just don't feel comfortable walking up to someone to tell them the "good news." For those shy evangelists, CSO Industries has made it possible to evangelize while walking away.

Shoes of the Fishermen are sandals with treads that leave the words "Jesus" and "Loves You" on sandy or muddy ground. The Web site says they're comfortable, too -- and really, why would a Web site marketing Jesus-Loves-You-sandals lie?

Sandals cost $20 or $30, depending on whether you want a simple sandal or full sandal. And, for those of you who want to leave your evangelical mark through freshly fallen snow, the company also sells snow boots.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Completely Heterosexual"

When the Rev. Tim Ralph told The Denver Post that Colorado Springs' fallen pastor, the Rev. Ted Haggard, was "completely heterosexual," it brought the whole issue of Haggard's sexual identity back to the forefront. Is he gay? Is he straight? Is he just confused? Media outlets ranging from the New York Times to -- ahem -- The Gazette have offered expert punditry on how tricky a thing like human sexuality is to pin down.

Rob Brendle, associate pastor for New Life Church, said that "it's fruitless to speculate" on what Haggard's sexuality is. And maybe he has a point. We, as a society, speculated months ago. Now we speculate again.

To me, an even more compelling offshoot of these comments is how the evangelical church, the media and we as a society still view homosexuality as a curiosity -- something that in itself (at least in the case of a pastor) is worth talking about.

When the Haggard story broke, few people wanted to hear as much about Haggard's alleged methamphetamine use as they wanted to know more details of his relationship with Mike Jones: The when, the how, the how it felt. It's human nature, I suppose. But it's curious, nevertheless.

Evangelicals have told me the biggest issue at play here is not homosexuality, but infidelity. The fact Haggard cheated on his wife was the biggie. The fact he did it with a man, they say, is practically beside the point. So why do we care if he is "completely heterosexual" or mostly heterosexual or a tiny bit heterosexual?

Whether evangelicals say so or not, there's still an extra-special stigma attached to gay acts in many, perhaps most, Christian churches. It's doubtful Ralph would've made his comment had that not been the case. When the Rev. Don Armstrong was suspended from Grace Episcopal Church for (according to the diocese) the misapplication of church funds, I heard from many Armstrong supporters who were VERY angry that Armstrong was mentioned in the same paragraph as Haggard. "How dare you compare our pastor with someone who had a homosexual affair!" was a common theme.

But folks outside the church also are entranced by these issues of homosexuality. Never mind that the "completely heterosexual" comment was made by a pastor not involved in Haggard's restoration process. Never mind that even Haggard's church gently distanced itself from Ralph's comments. Never mind whether we'll ever know if it's true or not. It's the talking point now, and everyone wants to hear about it.

The question is why.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Painful memories

The ongoing Holocaust exhibit at the East Library is called "The Courage to Remember."

There's truth in the title. Remembering the Holocaust -- when millions of Jews were killed by Nazi Germany -- is painful stuff. Particularly for the folks who lived it.

Adele Obodov, 79, initially declined to participate in this latest project, purchased from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. She was nearing 80. She'd done her share of school presentations. But every time she talked, she dredged up painful memories of the past.

"It's the anxiety of the past," she said. "And that anxiety lasts with you all of your life."

She relented, in part because Paulette Greenberg, head of the sponsoring organization Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance, is so persuasive. But she also realizes there are still those who deny the Holocaust -- those who say it never happened.

"If that's the case, what happened to my uncle and my aunt and my cousin?" she said. Nazi records say they died in Auschwitz. How can there be people, she wonders, who still don't believe?

So she allowed herself to be filmed for a DVD, now part of the exhibit. She was there at the exhibit's opening Feb. 4. She still talks about the Holocaust with those who ask. But this, she said, is the last time.

Obodov never went to a concentration camp. She was transported to England shortly before World War II, part of a massive effort to evacuate Jewish children from Germany.

"We knew at some level that if we didn't leave, we wouldn't," she said.

Her parents also survived. Many of her relatives were not so lucky.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime was openly anti-Semitic for years before the war. The fact that Jews were in danger didn't take anyone by surprise, according to Obodov.

But, she added, "I don't think anybody knew the extent or could imagine the numbers. I don't think anyone imagined the magnitude of it."

The exhibit, at 5550 N. Union Blvd. will run through the end of February. Materials from the exhibit, including Obodov's DVD, will be available for checkout thereafter.

Monday, February 05, 2007

On the Same Team

Yesterday, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy became the first African American to win a Super Bowl. Chicago's Lovie Smith became the first African American to lose one. Both are reputed to be the classiest of class acts.

Before the Super Bowl, they also teamed up to push their Christian faith.

The two men appeared together in a huge ad in USA Today championing their Beyond the Ultimate Web site, which offers each coach's testimony (including the role faith played in Dungy recovering from his son's suicide) as well as some general information about Christianity.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Are you ready for some football?

Folks take their football pretty seriously around these parts: Some sociologists even consider football fandom as a kind of religion.

Like different religious persuasions, many fans have their own rituals that delineate them from the guy across the salsa dip, and it's a good idea -- in the interest of cross-cultural exchanges -- to know who you're watching the Big Game with. So, as a reader's service, we're providing the following guidelines for "football denominations."

Evangelical -- wears jerseys and foam fingers at work as a witness of his team's greatness
Baptist -- jives on the whole Gatorade dunking at the end
Presbyterian -- feels the game's outcome has been pre-ordained
Methodist -- brought the best food
Unitarian-Universalist -- likes ALL the teams equally
Seeker -- asks what a shovel pass is
Mennonite -- wears only retro jerseys
Amish -- forgave Terrell Owens for being such a jerk
Religious Right -- questions why the quarterback spends so much time touching the center's butt
Pentecostal -- lays hands on T.V. for better reception
Fundamentalist -- likes the old leather helmets best
Postmodern/emergent -- asks fellow fans "how they feel" when team struggles
Atheist -- believes the game is made up by greedy advertisers
Heretic -- came wearing an Oakland Raiders jersey
Catholic -- feels guilty about not rooting hard enough
Lutherans -- post 95 suggestions for the coach on your TV screen

Itsy bitsy, it's not

So, when conservative Muslim women -- women who by Islamic law and tradition can only show a (ahem) bare minimum of skin -- want to swim a few laps in the pool, what do they do? Well, nowadays, they can put on one of these specially designed swimsuits, sometimes refered to as (and I'm not making this up) Burkhinis.

This particular outfit is made by the Australian company Ahiida, whose swimwear runs $170-190 Aussie dollars. But you get a lot more fabric for your buck than when you buy a $60 bikini.

Several companies make similar outfits, which suggests that a real need is being filled here. Certainly before such suits came along, many Muslim women would've had to keep their toes out of the pool. And, while these particular suits aren't exactly aerodynamic, full-body suits are all the rage in the Olympics these days ... it's possible the burkhini could be the start of a bona fide, cross-cultural fashion trend. or not.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

So Long, Sommer

I received word yesterday that the Rev. Armin Sommer, one of Colorado Springs' most visible pastors, is leaving the nearly 2,000-member Pulpit Rock Church to take over Grace Baptist Church in New Jersey.

Sommer is no stranger to the church, located in the (I'm sure beautiful) city of Netcong. He pastored the church for 17 years before coming to Pulpit Rock in the mid 1990s. But here's the irony: Sommer -- a native New Yorker -- tells me that when he first became a pastor in the 1970s, he prayed that God would send him anywhere BUT New Jersey.

Sommer will be around here through the end of February.