- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not long ago, I learned I would get a twice-weekly religion column, a real luxury in these days of newspaper cutbacks.

The challenge was: What to name the thing? It took awhile for my editor and me to agree on “Belief Blog,” our religion blog that premiered last December.

The new religion column would be in a more formal setting, so it could not be too flip or preachy, nor appear to make light of people’s faith. But it had to be interesting and a bit offbeat to grab readers.

It could not be partial to any religion since our readers belong to a multiplicity of faiths. So, nothing like Buddha Blogger, Bible Beat or Quran Queen.

Encyclicals, one of my favorites, was construed as too Catholic. Benedictions, another good one, was too pope-specific.

The title had to be original, thus I could not steal from the London Times’ “Articles of Faith,” still the best title out there for a religion column.

The title had to be theologically accurate - plus, it had to be something I personally liked.

Surveying a few friends and fellow employees, I came up with some nominees: Faith-o-meter, Holy Cow, God Beat, Between Heaven and Hell, Frozen Chosen, Spirit, Soul and Body, Creed and Commandments, Anathemas, Angels and Demons, Epistles and Thinking Theology.

None of those quite took, so I sent an e-mail to more reporters and editors saying, “Help me.”

There were the celestial suggestions: From on High, Eternity in Print, Divine Inspiration, In Spirit or InSpiritation, eTernity, Out of the Silent Planet and Thoughts from Above. Those would be great were I a Delphic oracle or canonized saint.

Then there were the cosmic nominations: God Only Knows, Going with God, Running with God, Soul Tracks, Cloud 10, Pathways, Beyond Belief, Trust but Verify, Soul Chatter, Soul Matters and The Other Side.

I got a lot of “faith” nominations: Simply Faith, Keeping the Faith, Joy of Faith, Faith Matters, Faith Files and Faith Beat. A big favorite was Life in the Faith Lane.

From the sports department: Sunday Morning Quarterback, Pew Points, Realigion and Crucifictorious.

From my cats: Meow Mercy, Aslan’s Children and EuCatastrophe.

The prophetic ones: Repent or Else, Turn or Burn, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Paradise Lost.

The journalistic ones: Deities, Demons and Deadlines, Source Notes, Dateline Heaven and Bully Pulpit.

From Screwtape: Sympathy for the Devil and The Devil Made Me Do It.

Nothing was resonating with me. I got a hold of a book of religious quotes and combed the index. More possibilities arose: Faith in the Balance, Acts of Faith, Common Grace, Ordinary Faith, Spiritual Oxygen, Pilgrimages and Spiritual Exercises.

I arrived at two finalists: Acts of God and Stairway to Heaven. Both were unusual, pithy and nonsectarian.

I finally chose Stairway to Heaven, the title of a brilliant 1971 song by the English band Led Zeppelin with an acoustic guitar passage in the beginning that represents the “stairway.” More than 35 years later, it’s still one of the greatest pieces of rock music ever written.

It was just the mixture of pop culture and religion I wanted. Nearly every religion believes in heaven. And whom among us doesn’t want to end up there?

* Julia Duin’s “Stairway to Heaven” column appears Thursdays and Sundays . She can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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