Here's an excerpt:
On any night of the week in Colorado Springs, if one knows where to look, one can join a conversation about God that will stretch late into the evening, regardless of workday schedules to be fulfilled the following morning. Some of these are cell groups, spin-offs from New Life or from the city’s other churches, but others are more free-form. On a Thursday, I joined one as the guest of a friend of a friend named Lisa Anderson. Lisa is an editor at the International Bible Society. A few nights before, after I bought her several rounds of mojitos, she had promised to send me Our City, God’s Word, a glossy New Testament produced by the IBS and included a few weeks before as an insert in the local paper. (To unanticipated effect; the city’s Jews, as it turns out, were not pleased to find New Testaments in their driveways a few days after Hanukkah.) The cover image of Our City, God’s Word is a surreal photo collage in which the Air Force Academy chapel—a row of silver, daggerlike structures that is probably the cruelest-looking church in America—is superimposed over office buildings and snow-draped Rockies. “Colorado Springs is a special place,” declares the introduction. “The Bible is a special book.”
Lisa’s Thursday-night group met in a town house owned by a young couple with two children, Alethea (which means Truth), age three, and Justus (which means Justice), age one and a half. The father is assistant to the president of The Navigators, a conservative parachurch ministry, and the mother works for Head Start. Also in attendance were two graduates of the Moody Bible Institute and Lisa’s boyfriend, a graduate student and a writer for Summit Ministries, a parachurch organization that creates curricula on America’s “Christian heritage” for homeschoolers and private academies. There was also a gourmet chef.
When I walked in, an hour late, they were talking about Christian film criticism—whether such a thing could, or should, exist. Then they talked about the tsunami and wondered with concern whether any of the city’s preachers would try to score points off it. When I mentioned that Pastor Ted already had, they cringed. I told them that at the previous Sunday’s full-immersion baptism service, Pastor Ted had noted that the waves hit the “number-one exporter of radical Islam,” Indonesia. “That’s not a judgment,” he’d announced. “It’s an opportunity.” I told them of similar analyses from Pastor Ted’s congregation: one man said that he wished he could “get in there” among the survivors, since their souls were “ripe,” and another told me he was “psyched” about what God was “doing with His ocean.”
“That’s not funny,” one woman said, and the room fell silent.
James, an aspiring film critic with oval glasses and a red goatee, spoke up from the floor, where he’d been sitting cross-legged. “You know that Bruce Springsteen song on Nebraska, about the highway cop?” he asked. He was referring to a song called “Highway Patrolman,” in which the patrolman’s brother has left “a kid lyin’ on the floor, lookin’ bad” and the patrolman sets out to chase him down. Instead, he pulls over and watches his brother’s “taillights disappear,” thinking of “how nothin’ feels better than blood on blood.”
“He can’t arrest his brother,” James said, and quoted the song: “a man turns his back on family, well, he just ain’t no good.”
“I think that’s how it is,” James continued. “That’s how I feel about Dobson, or Haggard. They’re family. We have loyalties, even if we disagree.”
I told James about a little man I had met in the hallway at New Life who, when I said I was from New York City, said, simply, “Ka-boom!” I told him also about Joseph Torrez, a New Lifer I had eaten dinner with, who, when describing the evangelical gathering underway in Colorado Springs, compared it to “Shaquille O’Neal driving down the lane, dunking on you.” Torrez had said, “It’s time to choose sides,” a refrain I had heard over and over again during my time in Colorado Springs.
“So which is it?” I asked. “Which side are you on? Theirs? Are you ready to declare war on me, on my city?”
“We can’t,” Lisa interrupted, from the corner.
“We can,” said John, another Bible Society editor. “We do. Just by being here.”