The lonely will always be with you

She walks her route at night across the campus, up this stair, down that, always alone, like a ghost retracing its path for the thousandth time. She is tall, gaunt and plain. Rumor has it that her husband divorced her many years ago and she never got over it.

His resentful senior colleagues devise a plan to oust him. They prevail on a junior female teacher to claim that he is prowling around her and represents a physical threat. The administration falls for the ploy, and the man is exiled to the farthest reaches of the campus with instructions not to talk to any of his colleagues.

She is a bubbly nonstop talker. She comes home for a visit, but her relatives make excuses not to see her. She sponges off an old friend and talks incessantly about herself, uninterested in anything else, never offering a hand at the cooking or cleaning up. Her friend can’t get rid of her soon enough.

Bringing value and joy into the universe

If you were God, would you have created a world like ours? Can’t you imagine doing a better job of it? How can you justify God’s creating the messed-up planet we live on?

The classic Christian answer is the so-called free will defense. But first a word about the classic wrong answer, Adam’s fall.

Saints add enchantment to our religion

In the taxi taking my wife and me to the airport in San José, Costa Rica, I noticed a magnetized icon on the dashboard. It turned out to be La Negrita, the local nickname for the beloved Virgin Mary. If it had been Argentina, she would have been named the Virgin of Lujan, that country’s patron saint; if Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Patroness of the Americas.”

Shrines to Mary are found all over the globe.

There are no shrines to God the Father, unless you count churches as shrines. Why do Catholics love Mary so much more than they love God? They know they’re not supposed to. They just can’t help themselves.

'Spirit release' is a different kind of therapy

A new breed of therapist is healing the mentally ill not with talk and drug therapy but by releasing troublesome or malevolent spirits who have attached themselves to their victims. I am not talking about religious healers like Francis McNutt, but secular healers, some of them licensed psychiatrists or psychologists, who have discovered, often by accident, that this new therapy works better than what they learned in medical or graduate school. They tell us that too often drug therapy only masks symptoms, and talk therapy reaches only as deep as the patient’s conscious mind can go. But “spirit release” usually heals, often permanently. Not only does it heal the client; it heals the attached (or “possessing”) spirit.

William Baldwin’s Spirit Releasement Therapy: A Technique Manual, published in 1995, was a watershed event for this movement. Dr. Baldwin left a dentistry practice to pursue his passion. His ensuing doctoral dissertation in psychology was the first ever to take seriously spirit release as a legitimate therapy.