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

Our Community of Faith
I’m writing to thank Bill Knott, Stephen Chavez, and the staff of the Adventist Review for having the courage to publish the editorials “Reclaiming the Library” and “Prisoners of Fear” (Mar. 14, 2013).

The sectarianism and fear-based ideologies outlined by Knott and Chavez are key characteristics of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism can be described as a posture of fear, reaction, separateness, over-againstness, and aggression found among all religious movements. In fact, according to church historian Martin Marty, religious fundamentalism is on the rise across the religious spectrum (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian).

Our church does not exist in a vacuum, and therefore it should not surprise us to see this same religious trend echoed in our own church. I’m writing to add my voice with that of the Adventist Review in warning our church members against adopting the destructive attitudes and values of fundamentalism. Let us, rather, seek and adopt biblical values and attitudes as exemplified in the life of Jesus.
--Jonathan Peinado
Jacksonville, Florida

In “Reclaiming the Library” (Mar. 14, 2013) Bill Knott brings out a vital point. Ellen White had much to say about reading material. As I have studied it, the emphasis seems to stand on two main principles: First, the Bible is the premier work to study. Second, classical mythology and infidel authors are to be discarded.

Her counsel nowhere states that only Adventist authors are to be read. In fact, not only was her library full of other Christian authors, she frequently quoted from them. The matter is not to shun non-Adventist authors. God has placed many gems in the writings of scores of Christian authors that are worthy of our consideration. The proper approach is to use sacred scriptures to “Test them all, hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Thank you for reminding us of the value of reading well.
--Ray Hartwell
Reading, Pennsylvania

I can only say “Wow!” and “Bravo!” to Bill Knott’s editorial.

I’m not familiar with all the “misguided fringes” Knott refers to, but I do know some of the overreaction to semantics, such as people getting upset and criticizing authors who try to help people learn to make Jesus their closest friend, constant companion, and confidant. We can benefit from many non-Adventist Christian writers, such as Henry Blackaby and his book Experiencing God.

Jesus tells us to be “salt” and “light” to the world. Ellen White said that we should identify with people, be interested, and care about what concerns them. To do that, we cannot remain in our comfortable, little, small-minded, exclusiveness. Instead, we have to connect with people. We can still remain faithful to Jesus and the Bible.

I’m thankful that our church and the Adventist Review are open-minded and willing to publish controversial and sensitive issues.
--Phyllis E. DeLise
New Port Richey, Florida

Guns and Self-defense
Regarding “Do I Need a Gun?” (Mar. 14, 2013): I appreciated Claude Richli’s opinion and his experience in Nairobi, Kenya, where he and his family suffered a break in, during which he injured his gardener.

Let me offer another viewpoint from the perspective of having had a firearm that night. He would not have been standing behind the door, ready to hit the head of the first one entering, rather he would have been standing some distance from the door. His “halt or I will shoot” would have saved his friend from injury and the unarmed thugs would have run for their lives.

As for scriptural input on this subject, the very last instructions Jesus gave His disciples in Luke 22:35, 36 was for them to sell their overcoats and buy swords.

Years ago, a professor of Ethics at Andrews University answered my question regarding gun ownership in respect to Scripture in the affirmative. As for Matthew 26:52, those of us who have a license to carry a concealed firearm, do not live and die by the modern day sword, as do violent criminals, but rather by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
--David L. Tripp
Wytheville, Virginia

“Do I Need a Gun” was well-written and quite a story. I have a couple questions, however.

What if that first person through the door was swinging a machete or indeed was holding a gun? A rubber mallet is no match for either. And what about those people who have been killed, raped, or seriously injured when they might have protected themselves if they’d had a gun? Granted, no one should try to use a gun if they have not been properly trained in how to use it.

Richli gives the figure of 30,000 gunshot deaths in a year. Let’s break that down. Homicides account for 8,000 of those, 16,000 are suicides, 1,000 are accidental and we have no official count of those killed by law enforcement officers. All this is disturbing indeed.

What bothers me is the kneejerk reaction to any major violence involving guns. No new laws are going to change one thing about these statistics. What needs to be done is let law enforcement enforce the laws on the books already and make sure the judges and prosecutors take care of their responsibilities.

Amazingly, deaths by guns do not top the list of causes of deaths. If we want to cut down on deaths, let’s look at the health system. The U.S. healthcare system is the third leading cause of death in the United States each year. That is scary! Unnecessary surgery accounts for 12,000 deaths, 7,000 are caused by errors in medication, 20,000 by other hospital errors, infections in hospitals cause 80,000 deaths, and a whopping 106,000 deaths are caused by negative effects of drugs. That adds up to 225,000 deaths per year caused by the health system. I did not look up the statistic for direct doctor error. Maybe we should concentrate some of this energy being exerted to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens and direct more of it to cleaning up the healthcare system.

I have spent more than 20 years in law enforcement, and 41 years as a minister. I would rather have a law-abiding citizen armed than unarmed. More effort has to be placed on catching bad guys and preventing them from harming people. The church should probably leave the gun issue alone and concentrate on soul winning.
--Jim Cox
Rural Retreat, Virginia

I wasn’t surprised to see articles written about the issue of gun violence as a reaction to the tragedy in Connecticut. Having been raised an Adventist, I’m well aware of the church’s position on serving in the military. However, some people really haven’t given enough thought to the issues of killing, murder, and of self-defense.

There’s a huge difference between killing and murder. One of the commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Many in our church think that means not to kill anyone at anytime. There isn’t enough space to list here all the examples from the Bible of killing by either God or His followers. I think God meant we shouldn’t murder; how else do we explain all these biblical examples?

We have the right of self-defense. If we don’t, I’d like someone to explain to me why we have security officers at our camp meetings carrying weapons or why we would call 911 to ask for the police to come to our aid in times of crisis.

You might choose what the weapon you feel most comfortable using, but we owe it to our families, friends, and neighbors to come to their assistance if they are attacked. Christians and others who preach gun control and/or taking away guns have to realize that we are never going to achieve heaven-like conditions until the new earth.

Sure, we have to love others, share the good news, and ask for God’s protection. I’m not advocating that we use violence except as a last resort for protective purposes. I’m just amazed at how many of us are in our church have simplistic views about complex issues like this.
--Brent Thomas
Angwin, California

If Claude Richli had a gun, the situation might well have developed differently. A shot in the air when he discovered people trying to break into his house and the situation would probably have ended as the would-be robbers, realizing that he was armed, would have gone looking for easier prey.
--Keith M. Gordon
Munsonville, New Hampshire

Does That Make It Right?
In his editorial, “Prisoners of Fear” (Mar. 14, 2013), Stephen Chavez wrote, “In countries of the world in which Christianity is the predominant religion, the weeks leading up the observance of Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection are prime opportunities to share our faith, not our fears.”

Really? Is this the reason Adventists should join in celebrating Easter? Should we follow the majority rather than defending our belief about why we don’t? Using that same reasoning, should we join in keeping Sunday instead of keeping the real Sabbath on Saturday?
--Won H. Bae
Marlboro, Massachusetts

Feeling Mystical? 
Regarding “What Is a Mystic?” (Jan. 10, 2013): Thank you for addressing this difficult topic. For so many of us it is much easier to stay with the familiar, whether authors, practices, or patterns of thinking. And of course, we tend to believe that our way of looking at things is “the right way.”

It can sometimes feel threatening to consider other ways of looking at dearly held viewpoints that might also have merit. We can learn so much from other Christians who have faced and overcome challenges that have led them to a closer walk with God.

As we explore topics such as what’s so amazing about grace, how the heart of the Beloved draws us closer to Him, ways other Christians have used spiritual practices such as simplicity, solitude, or fasting to clear their lives of the clutter that kept them from listening to and growing toward God, we can gain courage from the experiences of our spiritual ancestors and benefit from the wisdom God gave them as we continue on our journey toward our heavenly home.

As “loving and loveable Christians,” maybe we can draw more people to Jesus as we recognize how He has led others in their journeys and lift Him up in ours.
--Tamara Russell

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