Forum, Sept. 4: The uses of religion for good and bad

Published: 9/3/2019 10:00:11 PM
The uses of religion for good and bad

In her letter of Aug. 28 (“Religious hypocrisy in the service of a ‘Big Picture’ ”), Sarah Crysl Akhtar criticizes my Aug. 18 letter (“Trump puts religion in jeopardy”) for overlooking the role of religion in promoting social control and legitimating violence.

I do not disagree with her description of religions’ use. The point of my earlier letter was that religion is at risk not because liberals believe in a secular society, but because religion has been hijacked in the name of religious arguments that are not based on the teachings of their founders. This happened in apartheid South Africa, for example, where, as the Rev. Manas Buthelezi once stated, many white Christians substituted the worship of their whiteness for the worship of God. Although religion can legitimate oppression, it can also legitimate progressive change, and even revolution.

I grew up at a time when the civil rights movement was dominated by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy who struggled against racial oppression. Not just Martin Luther King Jr., but the entire Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Malcolm X and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. And this is not something new. Virtually every slave revolt in the United States and in Haiti had religious leadership.

My point is not that religion can’t be used to oppress people. I make two claims about religion. First, that people who use religion to legitimate oppression (the Franklin Grahams, Jerry Falwells and Donald Trumps of the world) undermine religion by betraying the teachings that they claim to uphold. And second, that there is a whole other side to religion that inspired people like Mahatma Gandhi and John Brown, who risked their lives for a vision of a just society that is firmly rooted in their religious faith.

ROBERT M. BAUM

Norwich

Rubber Duckie Race was a success

The South Royalton Rescue Squad would like to thank our supporters and the community for their generous support of our first Rubber Duckie Race, which was held during this year’s Old Home Days and 250th anniversary celebration. The winners of this year’s race were: April Rogler (grand prize winner), David Barker, Matt Dragon, Andee Llewellyn, Upper Pass Brewing and Anna Marie Stratton.

The race was a huge success and we look forward to doing it every year. Thanks to your support, we will be replacing and upgrading equipment so we can continue to provide the highest level of care possible. Thank you for your contribution, and we’ll see you next year at the second annual Rubber Duckie Race.

STEVE BELMONT
and BECKY OWENS

South Royalton

The writers serve as administrator and deputy administrator, respectively, of the South Royalton Rescue Squad.

Trucks would both come ... and go

In two public forums on the proposed biomass project, Dartmouth College officials estimated that, in the winter, the number of trucks on the road might reach 15 each day. But those arriving must leave. That’s 30 on the road.

MARTIN LUBIN

Lyme

Turning people against people

I bet in President Donald Trump’s next report about the people who are crossing our borders he will say that he has proof of their violent nature because the Border Patrol arrested a set of 1-year-old twins — one for trying to smuggle an AK-47 in his diaper and the other with six 50-shot banana clips in his diaper.

This is what Trump’s base loves to hear — how many immigrants have been caught at the border carrying weapons. But they don’t need to bring guns into the U.S. You can get them as a prize in a box of Cracker Jack, compliments of the National Rifle Association.

This is the way Trump thinks. He turns people against people.

Impeach him before more people in this country are murdered.

ROBERT POLLARD

Enfield

The only path to a new ‘normal’

In your story about Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s visit to the Upper Valley (“Buttigieg urges innovation: Democratic hopeful tells crowd in Cornish playing it safe won’t win presidency,” Aug. 25) you quote him as saying, “Back to normal isn’t going to work. We wouldn’t be where we are if normal was working.”

However, in my view, he doesn’t go deep enough, even though I think his comment is possibly the most profound observation so far to come out of the race.

First of all, for this kind of evolution (past our current views of “normal”) to take place, we as a species must first mend our hearts so we can really feel, as well as see, the damage we are constantly doing to each other and to our environment, and move beyond the catastrophically restrictive but durable psychological and physical boundaries we’ve sustained for millennia.

To start this process (which I believe has already begun), our central task must be to restore to all women, worldwide, their voices, which have been stifled for centuries, so that the pain from all this destruction can finally be effectively heard and remedies begin to be found.

For such feeling to result in action, it’s crucial, I believe, that we absolutely insist that men evolve beyond this current horrible and endless violent conflict in every sphere, from domestic and street fighting to war and environmental destruction, to transform this destructive energy into a whole-hearted effort to repair and rebuild our shattered planet and its equally shattered people.

I don’t think this last, major evolution can occur without strong, opened hearts and the strong, clear voices of women.

I do think, though, that this is the only real path — utopian or distant though it may seem to be — to any kind of new “normal.” And kudos to Mayor Pete for encouraging us to conceive of real change.

NAN BOURNE

Woodstock




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