Since it had been in the news quite a bit lately, I used my press credentials and requested a tour of heaven.

I was met at a designated checkpoint and advised that was as close as the media could come.

“I’d be happy to answer any of your questions,” said an angel who identified himself as St. Horace.

“I was hoping to interview St. Peter,” I said.

“St. Peter is very busy processing souls,” said St. Horace. “I’m his press spokesman.”

I said that was OK, acknowledging that the tragic events outside of Waco may have placed extraordinary demands on St. Peter’s staff.

I stepped back and looked around. The gates and fence were indeed pearl-colored. What was behind was obscured by a hedge of cloud. But the clouds shifted occasionally, yielding a view of what was beyond.

Off to the left just past the gates was an enormous carousel, aswirl in pastels. I could see children riding the ponies, lambs and unicorns.

“I see the children over there,” I pointed. “That raises a question I’ve always had. When one is in heaven, at what age does one reside — the age at which one entered? Does one grow old in heaven? Does an old person grow young?”

“You’re talking about temporal criteria there,” said St. Horace, “and we’re eternal.”

“But I see children over there,” I said.

“You do. But, you’re temporal,” said St. Horace.

Admission policies

“How is it that children could get in here?” I asked. “To hear some people talk, you’d think heaven was an exclusive retirement community: no kids or pets. Don’t you have to prove yourself worthy to be admitted here? Some of those kids don’t look old enough to have sung hymnals or recited Scripture.”

“True,” said St. Horace. “But we’re like a lot of earthly enterprises. Children get in free.”

“That brings to mind the whole question of how anyone gets in,” I said. “Some people say, ‘Pray this way, read this book, accept this savior,’ or no dice.”

“Acts,” said St. Horace. “We’re concerned with acts alone.”

He pointed to what appeared to be a large holding area outside the gates, with desks and long lines, like an Internal Revenue office.

“That’s where we verify resumes,” said St. Horace. “Some people like to talk a good game but can’t back up their words with deeds. We check.”

Place for arguments

As expected, there was a line at the main entrance of heaven, but I noticed another line making off along the outside of the fence, in which people were paired off and appeared to be arguing vehemently.

“What’s the commotion?” I asked.

“That area, just this side of heaven, is designated for theological debate,” said St. Horace. “We’ve discovered that for some people all faith comes down to is an argument — that they have the only true interpretation and everyone else is wrong.

“We decided that rather than being in heaven, these people were perfectly happy given a place to argue and someone with whom to do it, as that seemed to be their reason for being on earth.”

“I see,” I said.

I trained my eyes on the pearly gates and noticed that as one individual was admitted, a loud beep sounded. Indeed, it sounded like a . . .

“Metal detector!?”

The admittant removed some earthly possessions from his pocket and entered heaven.

“A metal detector at the gates of heaven?”

“Yes, unfortunately,” said St. Horace. “Some people seem to believe that God smiles on violence.”

“Surely you don’t intercept many weapons here,” I said.

“True,” said St. Horace. “But we saw what was happening on earth and decided to increase security. And anyway, it should be at least as hard to get into heaven as it is to get into public school.”

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.