The beliefs and sentiments expressed by those whose letters appear here are not necessarily shared by the Adventist Review or its editorial staff. These letters have been edited for clarity and length. -- Editors
Who’s Afraid of Religion
Regarding “The Shaming of Religion”: It’s easy to sense John Whitehead’s frustration with how religion is treated in public places, such as schools. There are two basic religious pathways in the United States, with some variations between them.
One is sometimes referred to as “sacerdotal,” containing sometimes elaborate ceremonies and rituals, but often with little personal expression, personal experience, or knowledge of the Bible. The other is short on ceremony and long on emotionally supportive feel-good words, music, and singing. The disconnect between the two paths is what leaves people and their children with a feeling of not belonging. It’s easy, then, to belittle religion and the attention its leaders seem to crave.
It seems that members in modern evangelical denominations are afraid to be seen as “legalistic.” They work hard at presenting the love of Jesus, but rarely do they present the requirements implied in the Sermon on the Mount, all of which relate directly back to the everlasting covenant and its laws, statutes, and judgments. Those Old Testament laws require love, caring, and sharing. They represent God’s character.
Walla Walla, Washington
I read “The Shaming of Religion” and found the Ninth Circuit Court wrong in its ruling.
The Bible says there was war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-9) because God could not tolerate another religion apart from His own. There are two religious systems on this earth, God’s and Satan’s. When people play a secular music piece, they promote “material religion” and disrespect Christian religion. Why should the secular religion have sway over Christianity?
Religion is defined as the rule people live by. Culture is defined as the rules communities live by. According to these definitions there is a war between God’s religion and Satan’s religion.
Now the major religious system (Satan’s) is overpowering the minor religious system (God’s) and courts are giving in to the pressure.
When are we Christians going to fight back and overpower secular religion, and show our communities the Christian religion the United States was founded upon?
Let’s be honest: History books have not been “scrubbed clean” of religious references. I know this because I recently homeschooled my son for seventh and eighth grades and clearly remember studying the emergence of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and other religions, as well as their effect on the world. This was from secular textbooks.
It sounds as if the author wants religion promoted in public schools--as long as it’s only from a Christian perspective. I’m pretty certain those who agree with his viewpoint would be the first to be offended and complain if a student in their child’s classroom wanted to present the Islamic prophet Muhammad as their hero.
When will Christians put away their sense of entitlement and begin acting more like the Christ they claim to serve?
Handle With Care
Why has it taken so long for us to wake up to the importance of having an “ecotheology”? We are a people giving the last message to the world---to worship the Creator, which includes respecting His Creation!
The ecological issues the author discusses are not new, though they are increasingly tragic; but they are trends that have been addressed for years in our society. Yet we as a church have apparently not paid much attention to them.
There are two main reasons for being a vegetarian: one is for health reasons--very important! The second, and equally important, should be our respect and value of God’s creatures, simply because we respect life as it has been given to us by our Creator.
When I was 15 years old and ready to go away to academy, I spent a summer working for a family on their farm to earn money for school. On my first day the woman I was helping asked me to slaughter a chicken and make stew for dinner. I had to tell her that I had never killed a chicken, though I had watched my grandmother cleaning them, so I knew how to do that.
Someone else killed the poor creature and I dutifully cleaned it, cooked the stew, and served it. But in my first mouthful of stew I encountered that tough-skinned old hen and had to hide my gagging. I don’t remember much else about that summer, except that my desire and hope to become a vegetarian became a reality with that one bite!
Often young people in their idealism see issues more clearly than do their elders. My attitude toward that poor hen had very little to do with a healthy diet at that stage of my life, but my sense of the aesthetic that life comes from God and is precious was very important to me then, and still is now.
I trust that this article and the author’s book will bring a new sense of urgency on this issue and bring about an awakening of possibilities for action and commitment to make our world a better place as long as we’re still here!
Rosalie Haffner Zinke
Hendersonville, North Carolina
The article about Sigve Tonstad was a great interview with a very interesting person. His perspective on overuse of antibiotics and the exposure of the horrible conditions these animals are kept in is something everyone should be made aware of. Ecotheology, as well as the realization that factory farming has such an important role in the environment and our own health and well-being, is a fascinating subject. I hope work such as Tonstad’s gets even more attention and exposure in the future.
More Fact Than Fiction
Chavez misses the point entirely. Fiction is, and always has been, created for more than just to entertain. Fiction has been a medium for the devil for as long as it’s been available. Those who write it use it to convey their ideas and beliefs about many things, whether true or false. They often mix truth and falsehood together. The books Chavez mentioned involve belief systems from the bottomless pit. Although people know they are fiction, they accept many of their ideas as truth.
The Left Behind series is an example. I have family members who ascribe to the futurist ideas in these books. These ideas have been successful in derailing the Protestant reformation. They know that the books are fiction but speak of them almost as the standard of eschatology.
Chavez seems to think that books, such as Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code are harmless because they are fictional. That is not true. The devil is muddying the waters with these books and movies so people cannot recognize his masterpiece of deceptions when it happens. These exciting stories numb minds to the truth as it is in Jesus. Satan’s confederacy of evil is preparing the world for the final events by trying to make “foolish virgins” out of God’s people. He works harder at this as we approach the end.
In our schools and churches we hear conversations among young and old that recount details of these movies and books. Entertainment seems to be the “god” of many so-called “Christians.” I consider it as replacement oil for foolish virgins. The problem with this replacement oil is that it dries up and is useless.
I speak from experience. God rescued me from a life of pleasure-seeking through vicarious living in media. How many out there have been drawn to a life of witchcraft and worshipping demons because of Harry Potter, a fictional character? God wants to rescue as many as He can from the artificial. He just might do it through someone’s book or slide presentation.
Valley Center, Kansas
Out of the Box
It’s wonderful that we have social times with our church friends--potlucks, special programs, church in the park, etc. We need to strengthen this bond of friendship with fellow members. Yet I, too, have wondered why we are hesitant to share what we have with others in the community.
The idea for the “unofficial” college choir to climb out and share their music with other churches and schools was brilliant, resulting in new friendships and breaking down many different prejudices. Good for them!
Three years ago our church joined several other denominations in our community in what is called “The Interfaith Singspiration”--a monthly sing-a-long program that includes special numbers presented by volunteers from the audience. Each church, in turn, acts as host church, which includes a light potluck lunch. We are afforded the opportunity to fellowship and share with other Christians and frequently answer questions about our faith.
The advertisement that appears prior to our turn in the rotation always states “a vegetarian potluck will follow.” What interesting, creative vegetarian dishes show up!
Recently a couple churches have started encouraging their members to bring and label vegetarian dishes when our members meet in their facilities.
We have made many wonderful Christian friends and opened up dialogue with them that probably wouldn’t have happened, had our church not come out of the box.