NEW TECHNOLOGY, according to the commentary "community.com" (by Bob Sabath, September-October 1995), is "helping people find each other, build relationships, and work together toward common dreams." The writer briefly admits that there are inherent dangers, that there is inherent injustice in its all-too-limited access, and that it cannot replace face-to-face communication.
I have observed that new technology tends to alienate rather than build relationships, as people plug into their computers and may have more connection to someone in another part of the world than the person in the same room. The limited-access issue is no small matter in my mind, considering that a very elite number of people on the planet can have computers (perhaps an ultimate blessing). As for the computer renewing friendships as a letter-writing tool, one must wonder about the friendship. New technology glorifies the myth that faster is better and that we need new technology for survival.
Wendell Berry, with his deep respect for simple living, is quoted in the same issue. Does this not appear to be a contradiction? Favoring low-tech living that truly connects us to others and ourselves, I do not believe that the church needs to explore this "new frontier." Maybe it only needs to look more deeply into its own life and spirit. New technology cannot fix us or our institutions, as living at the end of the 20th century pressures us into believing.
Saugerties, New York
SURFING FOR JUSTICE
WE HAVE JUST received your latest issue (September-October 1995) and learned that you are now on the information highway! Wow! I haven't looked at your Web page yet, but will do so soon.
We have been subscribers to your magazine for about 10 years or
so, and feel like we have come a long way on the journey with
you. Of all the myriad mags that pile up on the coffee table,
yours is the one I always make sure I read from cover to cover
(especially the back page-Ed Spivey Jr. take note-which I read
both first and
I have been using the Inter-thingy now for about six months, and I really wonder what people see in some aspects of it. (Ed Spivey has a good description of the Internet in the latest edition.) We wish you all the best in your new electronic venture.
Graham and Nola Daniell
I WAS EXCITED to read that Sojourners is now online. I've been a subscriber for many years (actually it's in my husband's name) and on Usenet for about three. I don't have Web access yet but hope to before the year ends.
I have had some extremely positive experiences of virtual community and hope that Sojourners will be able to do this too. As well as sharing with people who have a similar vision to my own, I've appreciated being able to communicate with people who are different from me. For example, I spent a fruitful year participating in an atheists' newsgroup. Most people were happy to discuss issues with a Christian who did not preach at them and I was able to learn many things. In Christian newsgroups I had a chance for discussion with gay Christians for the first time. This gave me a different perspective on gay and lesbian issues.
I even joined a Christian LBG (lesbian, bisexual, and gay) mailing list a couple of years ago. This group is a model of building Christian community online. There is an underlying caring and concern. We discuss abstract spiritual and philosophical questions. We share personal concerns and prayer requests. We also have a fair bit of frivolity and inside jokes. I would encourage anyone who is interested in community building to observe this group.
DIVIDED OVER DISNEY
AS A MOTHER of three young children, I immediately turned to Bob
Hulteen's review of Pocahontas
in the September-October issue of Sojourners
. Although I agreed with most of his critique of the movie, I was surprised at two omissions that were the main things which struck me. On the negative side, Pocahontas was turned into a sex symbol complete with long, flowing hair, huge eyes, minuscule waistline, and large bust (her friend in the movie, Nakoma, did not have the same attributes).
On the positive side, there was a strong theme of nonviolence in the way the film concluded. Pocahontas literally threw her body across John Smith to prevent his death and the inevitable battle that would have ensued. In light of Disney's usual "good triumphs over evil through violence," which is the standard way that animated features usually end, I was delighted to see nonviolence prevail.
I agree with Bob that "Colors of the Wind" is a wonderful song, clearly the best of the score and surely the most memorable song when one sees the movie. But as we have listened to the tape (my 2-year-old insists on hearing it "from the beginning" every single time we get into the car) the other songs have grown on me, and I believe it to be a great musical score. Thanks for keeping families in mind in your movie reviews!
IN HER ARTICLE on healing for survivors of sexual abuse and war ("Companions of Comfort," July-August 1995), Linda Crockett writes of her experience of being a victim of childhood sex abuse. This is a sad and terrible crime.
There is another side to this situation and that is false accusations of childhood sex abuse, where families are destroyed. A daughter goes to a therapist for help with a problem-bulimia, depression, or marital problems-and after a short period of therapy she comes to believe she was sexually abused by her father and unprotected by her mother. There is no investigation, no family history, and no search of medical records. The parents are found guilty and never given a chance to defend themselves.
Confronting her parents is part of the treatment. Her accusation is absolutely false. Imagine how parents feel when a much-loved daughter accuses them. Then she abandons them and sets up a family of "choice." She cuts off all contact and everyone suffers.
More than 16,000 families have contacted the False Memory Syndrome Foundation about false accusations of sexual abuse. There is much discussion and controversy about repressed memories. We do know sex abuse happens and it is a terrible crime. False accusations make it harder and harder to address true accusations.
Frank and Martha Mason
Linda Crockett responds
The Masons' description of the process of remembering abuse illustrates the type of distortions publicized by backlash organizations. Therapists are portrayed as powerful implanters of false memories. Women are passive objects easily convinced by a stranger that someone they love molested them.
Trauma is messy. It leaves scars. Survivors suffer in a multitude of ways, from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress to depression and severe relationship problems. Many have always remembered their abuse. Most require distance from childhood and safety, sometimes found in therapy, to deal with the horror.
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation was organized by a couple whose daughter, a respected professor, accused her father of molestation. The 16,000 families represent unscreened, accused abusers who contacted them for support. FMSF admits that it has no way of knowing if it harbors the guilty. One FMSF board member resigned after publicity about his interview with a Dutch journal in which he described sex with children as a responsible choice for an individual to make.
Finally, when truth is sacrificed to denial, some survivors break ties with families, a step of last resort usually taken with deep grief. Contrary to myth, most don't find "families of choice." Few people possess the skills and patience required to walk with survivors who are healing.
Faith communities are called to pray, reflect, and discern. Study trauma, recovery, and backlash. Then, start walking.
I COULD NOT keep silent in response to David Wade's commentary on Promise Keepers ("Keeping the Promise," July-August 1995). As a Christian man, this group has enriched my life, and the life of my family, beyond measure. Because of the Promise Keepers ministry, I have learned to value my wife and children even more than I did before. I have learned the importance of reaching across racial and denominational lines for the benefit of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I have been humbled by my own lack of biblical, spiritual leadership in the home. And I have relished in the value of a promise kept. At regional Promise Keepers rallies, I have sensed an overwhelming spirit of love, compassion, and brotherhood with men from all races, denominations, and walks of life, a spiritual experience I will never forget.
In subtly attacking Promise Keepers, Wade consistently used the term "retro." He suggested that Promise Keepers was headed down an "idealized and sentimentalized" 1950s path. In the entirety of Promise Keepers material or meetings with which I have been associated, there has been no mention of returning to an "idealized and sentimentalized" past. Rather, Promise Keepers seeks to walk in the eternal path of Jesus Christ. If there is any "retro" talk going on within Promise Keepers, it is a call to the biblical truths of the first-century body of Christ.
Richard N. Van Nostrand
I HAVE BEEN reading Sojourners
for more than a decade and in recent times I have found it has grown quite tiresome. While there was always one or two articles with something interesting to say, overall the magazine was getting far too predictable and its relevancy was becoming questionable. The preoccupation with Americana has also irked me from time to time.
I was pleasantly surprised last week when I received the July-August issue; I actually read it from cover to cover in one sitting, which is very unusual for me with any magazine. This issue for once was internationalist in its approach to faith, politics, and culture. It was vibrant, interesting, stimulating, and challenging. Dare I say that it was a joy to read, or is that too much of an indulgence!
THE CRY FOR RENEWAL
I READ THROUGH Jim Wallis' column "A Network for Renewal,"
twice ("Hearts & Minds," July-August 1995). For
years, the Religious Right has had center stage. I knew the message
they promulgated was not the Christian message of the "good
news" as I had experienced it. So it was with a glad heart
that I read Jim's article. My wife and I have been subscribers
for several years, and we are excited to know there is an alternate Christian voice being raised to proclaim the "good news." God's blessing is upon this endeavor.
Riverview, New Brunswick, Canada via Internet
THE ORGANIZED RIGHT'S POWER
IT WAS VERY gratifying to read in the July-August 1995 issue about "The Cry for Renewal" and other efforts by Christian leaders to make clear that the Religious Right does not speak for all people of faith in addressing political issues ("Hearts & Minds" and "Commentary"). It is critical that these other voices be heard.
However, we need to recognize that sporadic press conferences,
statements, and lobbying efforts cannot be expected to counter
the powerful, persistent, day-to-day influence of the highly organized
Religious Right. According to a recent study published in the
, the Christian Coalition alone has 48 state units, 1,400 local chapters, 17,000 precinct and neighborhood coordinators, 30,000 local workers, 60,000 church contacts, a magazine with 450,000 monthly readers, and an overall membership of 1.5 million.
The coalition's power was seen in the '94 election where it mailed out 33 million "non-partisan" voting guides, made more than a half-million pre-election get-out-the-vote calls, and provided extensive volunteer assistance to candidates and party organizations at the local, state, and national levels. The coalition involved itself in a third of all contested elections and won 55 percent of those campaigns. These races were critical to the GOP gaining control of the House.
The coalition is only one of many highly conservative, well-organized, well-financed groups now active on the national scene. If we want a different faith-based voice to be heard, we have our organizational work cut out for us.
Richard K. Taylor