The Common Good
May-June 1995

Letters to the Editor

by Subscribers | May-June 1995

The Right's Strange Bunkmates

THE RIGHT'S STRANGE BUNKMATES

THANKS FOR THE balanced information and insight on the Contract With America and the Christian Coalition ("Who Speaks for God?" March-April 1995). Why is it that persons who call themselves theologically conservative jump into bed with persons who seem to lack compassion for the "widow, the orphan, the downtrodden"-the poor?

Roy Umble,
Goshen, Indiana

LOSE THE LABELS

IN RESPONSE TO Jim Wallis' article "An Alternative to the Religious Right" (March-April 1995), may I submit that there is a better way to get "beyond labels"? That is to have no labels at all. The Church of the Brethren, in a recent attempt to identify itself, employed a company to help it find phrases that its members could use to invite others to join with them. Why not get rid of doctrinal trappings of the creeds and employ this simple statement of faith: Christianity is to "Continue the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together."?

Ed Lander
North Manchester, Indiana

QUIETLY NOT RIGHT

THANKS FOR A great March-April issue, with the special section on "Who Speaks for God?" I found myself resonating with so much of what was written there. I work in a small, religious non-profit organization that has generally been aligned with the Religious Right, although we are not directly involved in political issues. And I spend a lot of time biting my tongue.

I am not in sympathy with the Religious Right, I do not support the agenda of the Christian Coalition (I did not vote for the "correct" Republican Christian gubernatorial candidate in my state last November), and I have become quite wary of identifying myself as an evangelical for precisely the reasons mentioned in several of the articles in this section.

Jan Reeser
Coon Rapids, Minnesota

VOLUNTEER COMPETITION

I APPRECIATED Jill Carroll Lafferty's "Strengthening Bones and Watering Gardens" (March-April 1995), promoting faith-based volunteer programs. However, I must comment on her disparaging comments about Americorps, the national service program begun in 1994. These remarks were not necessary to promote participation in and support for faith-based programs and inappropriately cast Americorps as a competitor of these programs.

While it is very true, as Lafferty notes, that "volunteerism was alive long before President Clinton signed the [Ameri-corps] legislation," this companion program to the VISTA and Peace Corps programs expands the opportunities for people to choose a term of community service.

There is certainly no shortage of need for people to engage the human and environmental ills of American society, whether as an unsupported volunteer or as a stipended participant in a service program. The motivations may differ, but the opportunity for good and important work is similar. Rather than attacking Americorps, let's work together and deal with the real threats to faith and justice!

Dirk Holkeboer
Executive Director
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami, Inc.
Miami, Florida

While the spirit of Americorps is certainly laudable, its effects may well be counterproductive. Americorps does in fact attract from substantially the same pool of volunteers and placement agencies as faith-based volunteer organizations, which have offered similar service opportunities for years.

Since these volunteer organizations cannot offer the same compensation to volunteers, many potential volunteers may choose Americorps instead. Because the margin of viability for these volunteer agencies is very thin, a lower number of volunteers causes an increase in overhead costs, which means higher costs to placement agencies. This increase in expense drives away other placements, making the program even less attractive. In the most pessimistic scenario, the cycle ends with the programs becoming non-functional.

Americorps may or may not last each congressional funding cycle; that will always be a question. But some faith-based volunteer groups may not survive to see this out. And that would indeed be a sad commentary on volunteerism in the '90s. -The Editors

DEMONSTRATING PRO-LIFE

THE HIDEOUS violence of murder and wounding by anti-abortion people has caused soul-searching among pro-life people. Some, like Cardinal Law, call for a moratorium on clinic demonstrations. Shelley Douglass ("When Anti-Abortion is Not Pro-Life" in "Commentary," March-April 1995) calls for not only a moratorium on public demonstrations, but also a time of prayer and fasting and self-examination. I listen to these voices with profound respect. I embrace Shelley Douglass' call to root out and destroy our own violence.

[However] I do not think there should be a moratorium on public demonstrations at sites where abortions are done. How can peace and justice people turn their backs, stay away, and be silent while violence is done? Loving, Gandhian public witness against all kinds of violence is a moral essential as we struggle toward a community of love and peace.

Two things we can do: We can attend carefully to every note of self-righteousness and violent speech among anti-abortion people; challenge it, make clear that such people and groups are not part of the movement. Second, we can dialogue courteously with those who disagree with us, including pro-choice people, find common ground wherever possible, and work with people of all views to find positive solutions that make violence unnecessary.

Rose Evans
San Francisco, California

ENOLA GAY: WHAT IF?

THE DISCUSSION about the Smithsonian tension over the Enola Gay story, and all of the political "fallout" was especially thought-provoking ("Enola Gay: History's Fallout," by Julie Polter, March-April 1995). During the Vietnam War, when I was pursuing conscientious objector status, it was common to have to respond to "What if?" recounts of history.

It seems to me that the "what if" question is presented in a way to justify events that we all wished would have occurred differently. The pictorial and written accounts of the dropping of the bomb are horrid realities. We rationalize the bomb by talking about all the lives of soldiers saved.

The real issue is how this great performance in human history looks to God, not humankind, and how we feel about that review. We should apologize to the world, to our neighbor, and to ourselves for dropping that bomb, and for every minute that we try to rationalize that act by arguing that there was "no other way out."

John A. Jostad
Fort Collins, Colorado

DATABASE FOR DISARMAMENT

I WAS GLAD TO see the article "The Enola Gay: History's Fallout." The Peace Action Education Fund is maintaining a database of activities nationally and internationally to commemorate the atomic bombings of Japan, published in our update "H95." We also help activists integrate into their commemorations the call for a comprehensive nuclear test ban, an end to the production of fissile materials, and disarmament. To receive "H95" contact Burt Glass, 1819 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20006-3603; (202) 862-9740, ext. 3044.

Fran Teplitz
Washington, D.C.

WHAT MAKES ART CHRISTIAN?

A READER QUESTIONED the message of grace in Flannery O'Connor's stories ("Letters," March-April 1995). Part of the limited cultural voice of Christianity (particularly evangelicalism) in the United States is due to a frequent demand placed on artists to conform not to scripture, but to status quo conservative palettes and sensibilities.

How is O'Connor more disturbing than Old Testament storytellers? What about Jael, who pounded a tent peg through her deceived lover's temple? Not something you will see soon on the Disney Channel, but a story of faith nonetheless. Your letter writer says "every story ends with death or despair or both." Has she considered that maybe this is the point? O'Connor's characters die and they save others. They die and in dying spiritually come to life. Isn't this what the gospel is about? God dies for us, and we die to ourselves.

Brett Nelson
Chicago, Illinois

PROP 187: SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

IN THE LETTER "Law and Borders" ("Letters," March-April 1995), the reader's thesis is that 187 deals strictly with a legal issue and is "fair and honest." As a resident of California for 55 years, I believe that to take that position, one must ignore certain facts.

The primary attraction for illegal immigrants has always been a job and a chance to save money, not welfare. Jobs are available because many employers have needed more low-cost labor than legal immigration can provide. Few U.S. citizens have been willing to accept the wages and working conditions experienced by Hispanic immigrants.

For decades our government has looked the other way on hiring of undocumented workers because we all wanted it that way. We liked the lower prices for food, clothing, etc., and felt California's economy would really suffer. But now we find ourselves with a struggling economy. Our elected leaders have told us we need to force "illegal" immigrants out of the state, and the best way to do it is to punish their children by denying them access to schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, enforcement of employment laws receives little or no attention. We still want the low prices; we just don't want to give anything back.

James Parkhurst
Bishop, California

RECOVERED MEMORY

CAROL LEMASTERS' review ("Our Sacred Memory," November 1994) of the two books, Unchained Memories and Suggestions of Abuse, is not so much a review as it is a platform for LeMasters' own personal agenda. She reiterates the position of the recovery movement, that there is a societal bias against women who feel victimized and powerless, and that there now exists a "backlash" against the feminist and recovery movements.

LeMasters writes "...the debate [between advocates and non-advocates of repressed memory] will undoubtedly be used to further discredit and silence victims, thus enabling abuse to continue." The implication here is that any questioning of an accusation of abuse is not to be tolerated, just in case it might offend someone. No matter that a false accusation may destroy a person's life.

Repressed memory advocates insist we accept the theory of massive repression on faith. That is not good enough. Such a position totally denigrates the tragedy of thousands of falsely accused who suffer the onus of an accusation being considered as good as conviction.

Jacqueline Sharp
Michigan Parents Falsely Accused Newsletter
Ann Arbor, Michigan

COMPASSION TO HEAL

THE RECENT REVIEW ("Our Sacred Memory") discussing the issues surrounding memory and sexual abuse shows a serious intent to sort through the claims and counterclaims, the confusion and controversy, and the intensity of emotion swirling about. LeMasters' basic plea for sensitivity to human misery and pain, whatever its cause, is the same note we attempted to sound in our recent book, Return of the Furies: An Investigation Into Recovered Memory Therapy.

Our conclusion is that the most fundamental and important question for our time is how can men, women, and children relate together in intimacy, warmth, compassion, and freedom. We believe that if we can learn more about how to get along with each other, the tragedy of the savagery we can do to our children can be overcome. The kind of reasoned discussion you reflect in your approach is the beginning of that process.

Hollida Wakefield
Ralph Underwager
Institute for Psychological Therapies
Northfield, Minnesota

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