The canyon almighty

It happened a dozen times, and it happened this once, very powerfully, as we approached the Inner Gorge. A particular view of the Grand Canyon—from the bottom up—stunned me into a silent awe. There were no words for something this spectacular and intense. The river and the immense sedimentary rocks of the colorful canyon walls had been doing this to mere humans for decades—what more could I bring to it by speaking?

I think a strong sense of spirituality washed over me like the chilly blue-green waves from a Colorado River rapid. My friends and I were looking up at the spires of our church. After pronouncements of atheism, I wouldn’t dare step into a church of an organized religion, so these moments were as close to holiness as I’ll get.

Yet, as people approach a point in their lives, they tend to look for something meaningful, realizing that workouts at the gym and vitamin pills can’t stave off the inevitable. You may not know many seeking spirituality or conversion, but the United States is becoming one of the most religious countries in the world.

And as more people find religion, the free-enterprise system seeks their coin. The debate over the role of money in religion has been going on since Jesus told rich men they didn’t have much chance of getting a backstage pass into heaven. There are now those in the entertainment world who are suddenly interested in improving Christians’ spiritual conditions (and their own financial conditions, as well), and writer Harmon Leon found three amusing examples (see “Holy box office!”).

A trip down the Colorado, like a retreat to a monastery, also comes at a price of time and money. But I’m willing to pay to pray at that temple, and at the same time keep a skeptical eye toward the marketers of faith.