While studying my way through the first two years of a Ph.D. program in American history at Columbia University, I worked part time as the book-review editor (in Webspeak, "the books producer") at a large Web site devoted to religion, spirituality, and morality. Beliefnet.com is multifaith, both externally and internally. It strives to offer "content" (a loathsome Web word) that caters to all manner of religions and faith traditions. It has articles that would be of interest to evangelicals, Mormons, Reconstructionist Jews, Wiccans, Baha'is, Hindus, and just about everyone else on the planet (it even features the occasional article by an atheist). Meanwhile, the staff comprises folks from a host of religious backgrounds: it is more varied than even students in the Introduction to Religion course I took in my self-consciously diverse college.

I took this job to pay the rent, and to learn a little something about how to edit. It accomplished both those things, as well as a few more important things. They have to do with matters of the spirit.

Sharing my faith is not my strong suit. I can write about my belief in Jesus, but when it comes to actually talking about it to a living, breathing non-Christian, I clam up. This isn't because I don't care if the unsaved find God; it's not because I think Jesus is anything less than clear when he charges us to spread the gospel. No, I don't witness because, well, I'm embarrassed.

I'm not sure that most of my professors and classmates even know that I'm a Christian. I hem and haw for hours about my jewelry before I go to a professor's office. Do I leave the cross hanging around my neck, right there in plain sight? Or do I tuck it discreetly beneath my blouse?

Once I was on the train heading ...

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