I hope you enjoyed the feature article I wrote last week on liberal Christianity and progressive preachers, and I'm not just saying that to solicit a pat on the back. What I mean is, if you didn't like last week's feature, you won't like today's column, either. The deal is, I'm not done with what I started last week. I thought I was. Two weeks ago, I turned the article over to Boise Weekly, along with two sidebars. "Sidebars," for those who aren't in the newspaper biz, are separate but pertinent items--generally short--that relate to or expand upon an article's theme in some fashion. And don't ask me why they're called "sidebars." Yes, they are usually situated off to one side of the main body of work, that much I get. A sidebox would make sense, since sidebars often come with square borders around them. But bar? Who knows. Newspaper people are notorious drinkers, so it possibly came out of a drunken haze in which some editor found himself after spending a night in a cheap saloon to celebrate having put a big story to bed. That's more newspaper-biz talk: They "put a story to bed." Don't ask me about that one, either. I have no idea why they say that ... except that newspaper people are notorious for their promiscuity, too.
Anyway, two weeks ago, I turned the article over to the Boise Weekly staff along with two sidebars, and I forgot about it. I thought I was done. I thought I'd put the story to bed, wink wink. Then, last Wednesday, the paper comes out, and guess what? One of the sidebars is missing. That's right, it wasn't there, nowhere. And it was an important sidebar to me. The whole point of writing that article in the first place was to try to pry some dissatisfied people away from their conservative churches and to assure them they can worship Jesus without having to bash gays, restrict women, support dumb wars and vote Republican. In one sidebar (the one that was printed), I gave them an organization (The Interfaith Alliance of Idaho) they could go to for assistance in finding a progressive preacher or involving themselves in a progressive cause. In the other sidebar (the one that wasn't printed), I presented a list of books to go to for a better understanding of liberal Christianity. I asked each preacher I interviewed to name one book (the Bible aside) that best reflected their relationship with their faith, and it was no easy thing to do. Most said, "I'll have to think about that," and they did. They took it seriously. They pondered it. They mulled it over. They chewed on it for a while. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn they lost sleep over it. After all, I had asked highly educated people who've read hundreds (if not thousands) of books on the subject to pick one they thought spoke the most directly to their understanding of God and Jesus and such. Personally, I can't even name my favorite color, so I can only imagine what they went through. And then ... it gets left out of the paper.
So Thursday morning, I call down to the Boise Weekly office, hoping to find someone who wasn't drunk, out screwing around, or both, and asked, "What the hell happened to my sidebar?" See, I just naturally figured they'd lost it under a pile of pornography or behind a case of whiskey or something. You know how those newspaper people are.
But in the end, it wasn't anything nearly so lurid. They simply didn't have the room to print it. Putting it next to my article would have required booting an advertisement for either that Neurolux place, the Westside Drive-in or the Langroise Trio. I understand why they did it. I don't know much about the newspaper biz, but I do know they need to print advertisements now and then, even if it means dropping a sidebar now and then. Otherwise, I'd be writing feature articles for my own enjoyment, and maybe my wife's--whenever I could talk her into it.
Still, I hated to see that list of books get dropped, so I'm running it as today's column. I feel I owe it to the preachers who took the time and trouble to help me out. It's too bad, though. I had an absolutely outstanding column all ready for today that would have cleared up, once and for all, the issue of elk ranching, how a movie about BSU's Cinderella season probably won't win the Cannes Film Festival, and how to get out of Iraq with honor ... all in 800 words--plus a sidebar. I guess it'll just have to wait.
Here it is, the list of goodness books, along with the individuals who recommended them:
• The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancy (The Rev. Lon Bechtel--King of Glory Lutheran Church)
• Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B. (The Rev. David Wettstein--St. Stephen's Episcopal Church)
• The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus J. Borg (The Rev. Linda Nafziger-Meiser--Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship)
• Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff (Pam Baldwin--executive director, Interfaith Alliance of Idaho)
• The Ironic Christian's Companion: Finding the Mark of God's Grace in the World by Patrick Henry (The Rev. Leland Hunefeld--Meridian United Methodist Church)
• A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christians by Matthew Fox (The Rev. [retired] Ed Keener--Board President of Interfaith Sanctuary)
• The Good Book by Peter J. Gomes (Renee McCall--lay minister, Treasure Valley Metropolitan Christian Church)
• Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (The Rev. Mark Davis--First Presbyterian Church)
What you might want to do is carefully snip out this little bibliography and paste it in last week's BW, right next to my feature article. To do this, you will have to cover up one of the advertisements I mentioned--Neurolux, Westside Drive-in or the Langroise Trio ... your choice--but that's the only way it'll fit. Then, once the glue dries, why don't you take a Sharpie broad point and draw a nice, neat box around it.
There was also a photograph of the very pleasant Rev. Linda Nafziger-Meiser that was dropped, but I don't know what to do about that. Those drunkards down at the paper won't teach me how to put pictures in my column, damn their hides.