What we’re doing @ GetReligion.org

Originally posted on getreligion.org

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.

They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.

One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.

A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don't. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don't get to see them. But that doesn't mean they aren't there.

I want to show you an an example -- a case study, if you will -- of what I am talking about, a ghost in a set of stories that is related to this blog that you are visiting (and we hope you come back often).

Democracy of the Dead - Snow Traditions

inter is over and it's time to pack away the shovels, down jackets, insulated boots and mittens until next year. The changing seasons teach different lessons and, this winter, I was reminded of a great truth about life. It goes something like this: There is a right way and a wrong way to shovel snow.

Perhaps you saw the headlines about the massive storms that hit the nation's capital, this past winter. Right after everyone calmed down from the Y2K scare, we were reminded that there are other ways to bring an entire region to a screeching halt.

Or, perhaps you had to dig your way out of record-breaking drifts in some other corner of the country, this year. Or perhaps you live someplace where it's normal to see several feet of snow. Perhaps you're a pro.

I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, which is hardly a great place to learn how to handle snow. We were masters of mosquito control.

But, after college, I found myself in the frozen Midwest, where shoveling snow is an art -- right up there with boiling corn and planning tailgate parties. The snow started about Thanksgiving and, before long, I realized that it wasn't going away on its own.

Several weeks, and several backaches later, I started watching the local talent. This is when it hit me: I was not the first person in the history of the world to shovel snow. I didn't have to reinvent the wheel. There I was, a youngster, slumping to the side of the path in exhaustion while gray- haired neighbors soldiered on.

What did they know that I didn't know? Well, yes, there were different kinds of shovels and different kinds of techniques and some folks were more doctrinaire than others. But there were common themes, such as bending your knees, not getting the shovel TOO full and never flinging the snow into the wind. There was a right way and wrong way to face this challenge and, I decided, only a fool would go it alone.

Eventually, I humbled myself and started asking questions. The elders took me in, showed me the ropes and handed down what they had learned -- a kind of oral snow-shoveling Tradition.