The Way of the Kingdom
Re “Defending Hyde,” by Richard M. Doerflinger (11/19): It’s good to hear people pushing back on the “war on women” rhetoric. It is such an empty, manufactured slogan concocted by political consultants.
There is a serious problem in the pro-choice and pro-life movements. In the movements themselves—not necessarily in all people who hold these positions—there is a complete lack of respect or understanding of the other side’s position. This does not happen, of course, by accident; it is a result of our political process. Both movements are organized, and strict loyalty is demanded inside the parties they have claimed as their own. Both parties use the issue essentially to coerce voters into voting for their side. Because the nation is relatively divided on the issue, this equilibrium cannot be broken.
One thing that could turn the tide is for one side to reach out to the other (specifically the pro-life side standing alongside pregnant women in love) as their brothers and sisters, trying to change hearts rather than making it all some political game. This could break the gridlock. But alas, forming a modern political interest group is seductive. It brings power and self-righteousness, and means you never have to get your hands dirty. This is the way of the world, not the way of the kingdom. Christianity is not a set of results; it is a method, a way.
South Bend, Ind.
I do not feel like a true Christian when reading “Peddling Deception” (Editorial, 11/12). Why disparage somebody, especially under circumstances like Lance Armstrong’s? Setting aside the fact that he denies the allegations against him, we generally believe people are innocent until proven guilty. What would Jesus do?
Nothing to Admire
It is most definitely and most appropriate for the “superhero” to be chastised for a fall from virtue. A hero is a person we look up to, emulate and hold up to be admired. There is nothing to emulate or admire about the actions of Lance Armstrong. Heroic virtue is the sign of a hero.
Our obsession with celebrity (and the money that goes with it) needs to be tempered with righteousness and justice. It is entirely appropriate for a Catholic magazine to clarify heroism in our culture of declining values and disregard for truth. Virtue is the only basis for true democracy and true liberality.
Who Doesn’t Count
Re “Las Casas’ Discovery,” by Robert Ellsberg (11/5): I found the recognition of those who “don’t count” to be poignant. This article documented quite well the shameful legacy of Central America regarding “the crucified peoples of history.” Our own nation, with its promise of equality, is much to blame—not only for the sufferings of Central America, but the injustices within our borders.
Interestingly, the recent presidential election highlighted this. While the Republican Party gets high marks for its emphasis on traditional values, especially the right to life and personal responsibility, it appears to have turned deaf ears to the plight of the poor and voiceless. The Democrats capitalized on this by reaching out to the young and uninitiated, minorities and women. Whether these appeals were cynical or misguided remains to be seen.
Sadly, America is split between these two polarized and flawed cultures. Politicians capitalize upon this divide, using it for personal advantage. Meanwhile compromise—in its most negative sense—seems to be at the expense of the weakest citizens, whose appearance, ethnicity or social standing consigns them to the masses that “don’t count.” One wishes that, regardless of consequences, courageous persons with the integrity of a Bartolomé de las Casas could speak truth to power. But would they too meet the same indifference?
East Northport, N.Y.
Denis Jain (“Sex, Art and Altarpieces,” 10/29) rightly praises Steven Ozment’s The Serpent and the Lamb, the story of the collaboration of Martin Luther and Lucas Cranach in promoting the Reformation and wiping away Renaissance attitudes towards sex. It is a fascinating, very well-written book, even for someone like me who is not an expert in art or Reformation history.
But I found it odd that Ozment spends a great deal of time describing Cranach’s entrepreneurial skills and his success as a politician, but devotes less than one paragraph (p. 103) to Cranach’s execution of three women and others on charges of witchcraft, having sex with the devil, poisoning fertile fields and causing violent storms.
They were different times and different standards apply, but if Ozment wants to praise Cranach’s intellectual and moral capabilities, he should have made some attempt to explain these brutal decisions, and how a man dedicated to art and improving society could make them.
New Rochelle, N.Y.
Re the passing of John Kavanaugh, S.J., the longtime columnist for America (Of Many Things, Matt Malone, S.J., 11/26): He was truly a great man and great Jesuit. It was Father Kavanaugh’s bioethics class at Saint Louis University that first opened my mind to the huge and intersecting questions of law, ethics and morality, and he later became a wise and generous guide to some of the thornier questions in Catholic theology. As brilliant as he was, he was never too abstract to ignore the real human lives that all our religious theorizing must serve. It was an honor to know him, to study under him and to learn from his deep and humble faith. I am one of many SLU alumni who will mourn his passing and celebrate his life.
Palm Desert, Calif. The writer is the author of “Help Their Unbelief” (9/10).
Palm Desert, Calif.
The writer is the author of “Help Their Unbelief” (9/10).
The May 14 issue of America featured not one but two advertisements for chaplains to serve the U.S. war machine. The Air Force ad asks, “Are you called to serve those serving?” Serving whom? Those who handle the nuclear arsenal and operate the drones?
The Navy ad [which also appears on the back cover of this issue] asks for a priest to serve a “small town,” a town that purportedly nurtures life. However, the billion-dollar warship, with what look like A-10 warthogs equipped with hellfire missiles, exists for one purpose: to destroy life.
No amount of washing keeps your hands free from the blood on the money of those “respectable murderers” who use the means that Jesus rejected.
Ben Jimenez, S.J.
I have always admired America’s constant and serious advocacy for peace and justice. But I am uneasy with the prominence and frequency of your ads for military chaplaincy. It is the Christian vocation most strongly promoted in the magazine.
I recognize that dedicated chaplains perform a valuable pastoral service in their one-to-one contact with members of the service. But the ambiguity of chaplaincy should be recognized. Reinhold Niebuhr described chaplains as having “mixed the worship of the God of love and the God of battles.” Since they usually cannot proclaim, as Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador did, that loyalty to God may sometimes require a Christian to disobey unjust military orders, military chaplains run the risk of supporting the idolatry of exaggerated patriotism.
Why can’t members of the armed forces take part in religious services in the town nearest to their base? As for those in combat situations: if they can justify their participation in the war, then they can be at peace with their conscience and their God, regardless of the immediate presence of a chaplain.
Perhaps America might consider the possibility of stating, “The content of ads in this magazine does not necessarily reflect the editorial view of the publisher.”
Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.
I noticed in R. Bentley Anderson’s fine review of Nadine Gordimer’s latest novel, No Time Like the Present (“After Apartheid,” 10/22), there is some mix-up in names. Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, is given his correct name originally, but at the end of the article he is referred to as Joseph Zuma. The leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, is called “Jacob Malema” on two occasions. Furthermore, Julius Malema is no longer the leader of the Youth League, as he was expelled from the A.N.C. earlier in the year for sowing division within the party.
James McGloin, S.J.