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October 26, 2009

Culture of Death

I am amazed that you could be sucked in by the propaganda of Judge Goldstone and Hamas (“Siege Mentality,” Editorial, 10/5). The Palestinians live in a culture of death, which is partially signified by their continual brainwashing of youth as to the desirability of killing themselves for the cause.

This is a sad and twisted philosophy that only guarantees the misery and failure of the Palestinians. If they would leave the Israelis alone, the Palestinians would be left alone. If Israel wanted to rub out all of Gaza she could do it in minutes. Israel provides water and medical supplies to hospitals and neighborhoods in Gaza, in case you haven’t heard. I expect you to do a feature article on this in a future issue of your magazine.

Steve Eisenberg

Claremont, N.H.

Suggestions, Anyone?

This issue of Gaza is perplexing. Certainly there have been many examples of disproportionate responses to Arab terrorism. And certainly we have an obligation to “stand up” to our ally in its dealing with Hamas. And I am certainly not in agreement with much of what Israel has done in the Middle East. That said, I have never been a proponent of simply criticizing someone whose actions I deplore.

I think it far more productive to offer suggestions as to just what their behavior ought to be. In this case, I am very much interested to know how the critics would deal with an enemy who eats and sleeps among innocents, who places their artillery and missile launch sites in the midst of urban residential areas and so on.

I would welcome (and I bet the Israelis would also) the critics to offer some concrete and positive suggestions as to how the Israelis should conduct their military operations in these circumstances.

Michael Collins

Myersville, Md.

Dorothy Day Returns

Re “Capital Crimes,” by Thomas Massaro, S.J. (10/19): Who else out there is articulating Catholic social issues as Michael Moore does? Who would Dorothy Day support today in communicating her values? The suggestion that we read the latest papal encyclical does not do much for me. Michael Moore is today’s Dorothy Day.

Bob Williams

Heidelberg, Germany

Beyond Local

Re “The Magic of the Market,” by Kyle T. Kramer (10/19): I am glad the author found such spiritual fulfillment in growing vegetables. I am also glad that there are megafarms all over this country and around the world. I am glad they use pesticides and growth hormones and that they genetically modify their crops to grow in warmer, colder, wetter or drier climates than they normally could.

I am also glad that some farmer in Latin America grows far more bananas than he and his family and his village can ever eat, because they don’t grow too well in the northeast United States. The same goes for oranges, pepper, curry, limes, avocados and grapes. Ditto for all the various kinds of meat, poultry and fish that we have in such abundance. I love it that there are ranchers who raise more of those things than is needed by the “local community.” These people and the crop farmers (a k a giant agribusinesses) are folks who make it possible to send tons of food to the millions of starving people around the world, to every place where there is draught and corrupt governments and where the poor literally starve to death.

The farmers’ market nearest to me sells some locally grown foods as well as $5-a-glass, freshly squeezed orange juice (from Florida, Texas, California or Mexico) and handmade quilts. I notice too that these farmers markets do not accept food stamps! Curious? Mr. Kramer, have you checked out the life expectancy of cultures that consume only what can be raised or grown locally?

James Hamel

Temple Hills, Md.

Technological Wonders

Re “Generation Text,” by Mark Bauerlein (10/12): I am a vigorously practicing and unabashed Catholic father of eight kids (ages 36 to 15) and a grandfather to 10 (ages 12 to newborn) and quite possibly more culpable than most for the advancement of text messaging in the United States.

I have been a major wireless carrier’s product manager for text messaging since 1996, when a very few sent text messages and the majority of people asked, “Why would anyone send a short message when you can just call?” Parental conversation with my oldest four kids included uninterrupted walks, breakfasts and after-dinner sits. Parental conversation with my youngest four kids is often over the “din” of flying fingers on a tiny keyboard and the very briefest eye contact as they respectfully try to glance up to indicate they are truly listening—between reading and clicking out answers on their cellphones.

My 17-year-old did without his cellphone last year for Lent, after February saw 17,500 messages to and from his prized possession. No more giving up candy for Lent or even the dreaded giving up TV. If you want to find idols and dark spaces in your children’s souls, have them give up their Facebook and their cellphones. It’s spiritual warfare—let the fighting commence! Let’s all put our BlackBerrys down and see what lurks in our spirits as well.

Today our kids can download and send the widest variety of media and messages on their cellphones: movies, news, pictures, videos, games, ringtones, ring-back tones, long messages, short messages and instant messaging applications. The age after which peers influence our children more than the parents or older peers is not measured in adolescence, but with the introductions and permissions that accompany these isolating and influential technological wonders. We are seeing only the beginning.

John Provinsal

Berkeley Heights, N.J.

Orthodoxy to Orthopraxis

John Kavanaugh, S.J. (“Proofreading the Pope,” 10/12) has once again approached complexity with clarity and a certain elegance. Pope Benedict XVI has never been one to lead by consensus. He believes in orthodoxy while acknowledging complexity. Trying to force simple views of complex social issues down the gullets of a multitude is not this pope’s way.

All of that being said, in recognition of our sin of hubris, let us all go out and in the next two months organize a food drive that will yield 10,000 food items. That way, the increasing numbers of the hungry in our nation will have a better Thanksgiving and Christmas. This will demonstrate that we are really in tune with what Pope Benedict and Jesus Christ are getting at: “Love your neighbor and feed the hungry.”

Ron Pelley

Allen Park, Mich.

An Outsider’s Comment

Re “Confessions of a Modern Nun,” by Ilia Delio, O.S.F. (10/12): I am humbled by this article and thankful to God for the love and witness of the Franciscan sisters. As an Episcopal priest, I realize that I am outside the usual course of comment on things Roman Catholic, but I must say that the struggle to be faithful is not confined to one side or another, one denomination or another.

I applaud the author for her courage to write about the path of her heart, and I am grateful for women religious who continue to witness to the plight of the poor and those on the margins of our very wealthy and privileged society. They are Christ’s evangelists. Surely Holy Church recognizes that and will not seek to prescribe one call over another.

(Rev.) Deborah Dunn

Santa Maria, Calif.

Dare to Dream

There are many within the L.C.W.R. who have a profound respect for the contemplative life. So it seems to me that to demonstrate the journey from one theological position regarding religious life to another through the use of a bad experience of a contemplative monastery can be confusing rather than elucidating.

By her own admission, Sister Ilia’s understanding of religious life at the time when she entered was rudimentary. She had little understanding of the Second Vatican Council and longed rather for the mystique of an earlier liturgy. That may well be a normal situation for a person before entering a religious order. But it can hardly be said to represent a mature theology of religious life or a mature ecclesiology. It seems unfair to assume that others who now live religious life in a way different from that to which Sister Ilia has progressed simply have failed in that maturation process.

Sister Ilia’s experience of religious life began in a monastery that seems to have included a number of dysfunctional people and quite possibly a dysfunctional spirituality and theology. Clearly that was an undesirable situation. But does it represent a renewed theology of the cloistered life or indeed, of any religious life?

Can it be substantiated that the dominant dynamic of fear, which she claims to have identified and is itself indicative of a less than healthy psychological makeup, is what distinguishes one form of religious life from another, one aspect of renewal from another? Does Sister Ilia want to say that not all religious in the United States are in the L.C.W.R. style, not all are in the same mold, merely because they are too afraid of change?

Can one dare to dream of real listening between different ways of living the charism of religious life, which is meant to be a source of energy in the church?

Jerry Gordon

United Kingdom

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