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Forum, Aug. 13: The Bible’s Inconvenient Teachings; The Spirit in Dorchester; Let’s Talk About Gun Violence

The Bible’s Inconvenient Teachings

To the Editor:

I appreciated the Aug. 3 column by Randall Balmer (“Welcome the Stranger? Politicians and the Bible Have Conflicting Message on Immigrants”). Like a poker player who calls the bluff of an opponent and finds that the opponent has a very weak and losing hand, Balmer calls out those on the religious right who claim to know the Bible, but seem not to understand some of the most basic realities of scripture.

As a Christian who seeks to understand the Bible, I always cringe when people like Sarah Palin, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert and others cloak themselves in Christian and Biblical vocabulary, yet appear to know very little about either scripture or the life and teachings of the person they claim to follow.

Isn’t it amazing that those like the aforementioned who want Americans to reflect on the importance of the Ten Commandments never invite Americans to reflect on the importance of the Beatitudes? Is it because there are some inconvenient teachings in the Beatitudes (for example, “Blessed are the peacemakers”) that do not comport with their right-wing ideology?

John Morris

Topsham

The Spirit Lives in Our Church

To the Editor:

This is in response to Robert and Katherine Pon’s Aug. 10 Forum letter (“ Spirit Is Missing From Church ”). The Pons are good people, but woefully misinformed. As residents of the Historic District, they praise the appearance of the buildings that they view from their windows: the Town Hall; the museum (which at present is merely a facade, its contents stored in an unprotected environment); and the Dorchester Community Church. Despite their claims to the contrary, a church is not required to have an official pastor, nor must the congregation meet a specified number of times per year or have a specified number of members.

In the Pons’ letter, Attorney Decato is misquoted regarding the July 24 Selectboard meeting, during which the Selectboard was provided with a great deal of documentation proving that the church is in fact used for religious purposes. Spirit is not missing from the church, as the Pons suggest. It is missing on the Selectboard, whose members continue to promulgate misinformation and cause divisiveness.

Grace Fraser, Trustee

Dorchester Community Church

Wentworth

Let’s Discuss Gun Violence

To the Editor:

It was with sadness that I read the Sunday Valley News article headlined “Professor’s Suicide Raises Waiting Period Issue.” I felt great sadness for Cheryl Hanna, her husband and children. I also felt great sadness for our society that we cannot or will not begin to address the issue of gun violence.

There is no doubt that American society is more violent and has higher gun ownership rates than most other Western countries. The question is how we address this problem. Unfortunately, I see little in the Valley News article to suggest that Vermont leaders have an idea where to begin or willingness to find a starting place. As one who lived in Vermont for many years, this absence of serious intent to openly discuss the problem contributes to my sadness.

State Sen. Dick McCormack says that “if proposals come up I am willing to at least give it consideration” but “a lot of people really love their guns so it’s a fight I don’t need.” Gov. Peter Shumlin declined to be interviewed on the subject (which is not too surprising as this is an election year). Sen. John Campbell appears to have already decided that waiting periods aren’t particularly effective, but he’s willing to discuss the issue if someone else raises it. State Rep. Anne Donahue appears not to favor a discussion of waiting periods as people have a “right to determine” their life (or death). Finally, there is Ed Cutler, president and legislative director of Gun Owners of Vermont, who worries that hunters could have their “entire season” thrown off if a waiting period were instituted. None of these individuals are offering anything that appears to be an auspicious beginning for serious discussion.

There must be some place that we can agree to start this conversation. How do we look beyond ourselves to build a less violent, more peaceful society? How do we address the common good? How do we build a more “perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility”?

Does the individual’s right to do as he/she pleases trump the rights of society? How do we muster the will and financial support to provide adequate mental health services for our citizens? These are places where we might begin a conversation.

Margaret A. Campbell

West Lebanon

Quid Pro Quo in Ukraine

To the Editor:

Yale Professor Stephen L. Carter’s analysis in Saturday’s Valley News comparing the Cuban Missile Crisis with the current crisis in the Ukraine is incomplete in one very important respect, namely that the “quid pro quo” contributing to resolution of the Cuban crisis was our withdrawing our missiles from Turkey and Italy, and committing not to invade Cuba (“The Cold War Taught Us Not to Repeat It,” Aug. 9).

While Putin’s motives in escalating, or maintaining, the crisis in the Ukraine are no doubt complex, having as much to do with sustaining Russian popular opinion behind him to divert attention from the parlous state of the Russian economy as with projecting power in Central Europe, almost certainly he is seeking a “quid pro quo” of similar value to the one which Khrushchev obtained in 1962. The only one which immediately comes to mind is a formal recognition that the Crimea is part of Russia. Regrettably, this may simply be recognizing reality.

Morris McInnes Grantham