Four decades ago, when I began to write this column, my assignment was to “lighten up” the magazine by gently poking fun at the foibles and follies of the mainstream and all the other religious streams. But times have changed. Ecumenical manners no longer allow us to take potshots at one another. For a while, the evangelical cohort remained fair game: we could pun on Pentecostals, have fun with fundamentalists and chuckle over conservatives. Now we restrain ourselves and let them and some of their secular allies have their innings deriding mainstream Protestants.
What should one do, then, when religious behavior seems to cry out to be mocked? When, for instance, charismatic magazines and the secular press are full of reports that gold dust is dropping on some Pentecostal leaders while they pray, and gold is filling the tooth cavities of the prayerful.