For about an hour I had maintained the professional distance that is the boon or bane of journalism, depending on how you look at it. Calling from Berkeley, CA, I was interviewing Dean Halverson of International Students, Inc., an evangelical Christian organization in Colorado Springs, CO. Halverson and I have both conducted exhaustive research into the spiritual document known as A Course in Miracles (ACIM), although from significantly different viewpoints. I called Halverson for some background on his writing about the Course in recent years for the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, a Berkeley-based organization devoted to examining Eastern religions and New Age spirituality from a Christian perspective.

While I acknowledged to Halverson at the outset that I was a serious student of the Course and was also researching it as a journalist, I was careful not to challenge his published interpretation of the purpose and true origins of ACIM: that it is essentially an elaborate satanic strategy of deception. My sole intent for the interview was to update Halvorsen’s two-year-old public statements, and my best tool seemed to be the cool professionalism of the reporter, who must deliberately suspend his personal reactions in order to procure the maximum information – without getting snagged in sticky arguments. As useful as this sort of “objectivity” can be, I’m never entirely comfortable with the kind of withholding it entails.

Halverson was on to me, however. When I thanked him for his time and cooperation, promising that if I quoted him he would receive a preview draft of the manuscript, he said, “You mean that’s all?”

Well, yes. That’s all I need to know at the present time.”

In a tone that was somehow both contentious and companionable, Halverson asked, “you mean we aren’t going to get into it?”

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