You never know when the Gods will intervene.
Julia Duin (pronounced Deen), former TWT religion writer and now a faith blogger at WaPo, invited me as her guest to conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas‘s prayer dinner Wednesday night at the Washington Hilton. Apparently the rule is that you must bring a guest. I had been invited because during a recent prayer session, Julia received word from the big guy in the sky that I was the right choice. “I felt the suggestion come down to invite you,” she said. She wanted to “bury the hatchet” (we had a fiery exchange over TWT layoffs late last year). When I surprised her by accepting the offer, she notified me that she’d be wearing purple. Following her lead, I pulled together a purple outfit of my own.
It turns out, Julia’s dress was a cranberry velour number with Asian patterned embroidery. She accessorized with pantyhose, sensible cranberry flats and a large rectangular box of Kleenex. It seems she was fighting a terrible cold.
We exchanged pleasantries as Thomas smoothly worked the room of faith-filled dinner guests. “I’m always excited,” he said. “It’s a great time to be in Washington. The Middle East is blowing up.”
Later I questioned the Born-Again Christian columnist (she was saved at 16) about a recent WaPo magazine story she penned describing a bus encounter on the way to Jon Stewart‘s Rally to Restore Sanity. Had she crossed a journalistic line by chastising the subject for his wife’s abortion? In the piece, Duin suggested that although the fetus had no heartbeat, the man’s wife should not have aborted.
It turns out, she said, WaPo asked for an injection of personal opinion. “I would have never put myself in the story,” she said. “You know how it is, you never put yourself in the story.”
Rape part coming up…
As for her for fourteen year stretch at TWT, Duin says she has no residual anger about the elimination of her position but she isn’t exactly the publication’s biggest fan. During early dinner chatter, a reporter from Christian Broadcast Network asked her about TWT. “They keep saying they’re hiring 50 people, but I don’t see them hiring them,” she says with a hint of sour grapes. “It’s so off the media radar.”
Later she tells me she was ready to leave, harbors no ill will, but believes she was fired for being the whistle blower on snakes in the TWT newsroom. “It was like a man’s belt curled up in the newsroom,” she said using an interesting analogy. Just one? “One was enough let me tell you,” she said. “I hope they’ve gotten an exterminator since then.”
Sniffle sniffle. Julia is having trouble breathing through her congestion. “I wish the Times well,” she said.
At this point Julia’s working through that box of Kleenex pretty ferociously and I’m increasingly worried that she’s going to give me a virus. Is this the part where I’m supposed to pray for kinder thoughts?
Thomas is at the podium. “You’ve all heard of journalists who pray as in p-r-e-y,” he said, making a pun about a–hole journalists. With that, he said, “Let’s pray.” Julia bowed her head and shut her eyes. And we prayed. Then a few of us inhaled some dinner rolls that appeared to be fresh. The delightful gent to my right, fantastically-named Joseph Fab, is a filmmaker. His real name is Fabiszewski, but he explained it’s way too annoying to spell out all day long. He apologized, said he was famished and wouldn’t be able to talk until he downed something. I think he is my savior. Later he helped display Splenda wrappers on my barely eaten plate of chicken and mystery sauce-drowned potatoes so the bussers would remove my plate and bring me dessert. Oreo cheesecake. It served as our main course.
Then Julia got to talking about part of her upbringing in Seattle. She was raised Episcopalian. But in those days (1972) there was a “Jesus movement” going on. People were being baptized in Puget Sound. “I thought maybe I needed to give my life to him [Christ],” she said.
At that moment, Thomas came and stole Julia. He wanted her to say hello to WaPo‘s Sally Quinn sitting at the next table. “Kiss the ring,” Thomas instructed. “But don’t give her a cold.”
She returned. Time to talk abortion.
Does Julia really think abortion is never an option? “Yeah, I do,” she said. “I’ve talked to children of rape.”
Rape? I didn’t anticipate talking rape with Julia, but why the hell not? “Abortion is a second rape,” she declared. “Don’t kill the child for the sins of the dad.” She told me that maybe in her teens (before she found Jesus) that she believed abortion was okay in the case of rape. She thinks abortion is an absolute last resort if the mother’s life is in danger. But that’s a big if. She tells me about a friend who had an abortion to save her life, but who wanted to save the child instead. She aborted the child. A year later she died of cancer.
What about 12 or 13-year-olds having sex? I’m playing devil’s advocate. Is abortion ever a form of birth control? “If you’re mature enough to have sex you may have the consequences of having a child,” she said.
A personal note to Julia: Thank you for inviting me to dinner. It was a gracious invitation. I hope you’re feeling better.