Reader Mail

Rainy Night in Georgia

Jimmy Carter grounded. Plus: Protestants and the Pope. Ithaca's finest students. Democratization. Detroit. And much more.

4.7.05

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RETIRING JIMMY
Re: The Prowler's Jimmy Carter Who?:

Even in the State of Georgia, Jimmy Carter's headline grabbing is getting old. Retired presidents (are you listening, Slick Willie?) should stay that way. Retired! Assisting in natural disasters and war effort for the good of everyone is fine. Critique and contradicting past and current presidential administrations is not and has not been acceptable. But then it only seems like the last two Democratic presidents are guilty of this so who cares? I am just sick and tired of these two guys (Carter mostly) bashing our country and its principles. Carter has really lowered his stature as a "Statesman" among people. He is a bit of a joke now and some people still take this Socialist-hick seriously! He is "Full of Hope" and "He Cares." He had his chance to change the world as president and he was a flop!
-- Nick Kalodimos
Decatur, Georgia

Your article on Carter not going to the Pope's funeral was interesting. There was a statement by an administration source claiming that Carter has bad mouthed Bush more than Clinton. I feel that is very untrue. I have read and heard more statements from Clinton bashing Bush than Carter. Why Bush insists on attaching his hip to Clintons the way he has is beyond me. I am so disgusted with the way Bush is snuggling up to Clinton and wonder if the facade has come off of him.
-- Lisa Lattea

What a Joke! This skunk can't just go away. If he had been asked to go to Rome it would have finished me with the President. On top of all the damage he did in his four years, I had to travel in Europe and the Far East during that time and had to endure endless snide comments about him.

The worst came a year after he lost to Ronald Reagan. I visited my son who, at that time, was a Navy officer aboard the USS Forrestal at home in Mayport, Florida. The ship had recently returned from a seven-month deployment with the fifth fleet. While on the bridge a senior petty officer pointed out several defensive weapons systems. He then said, "It's a good thing we are not at war, none of these things work."
-- Richard Mann
Chatham, New Jersey

Though not a Bill Clinton fan, Jimmy Carter is possibly the worst President ever, and a back-stabbing sleaze. His policies, especially Iran and the Shah debacle, were truly stupid. Why would "W" do anything for the man, who has gone overboard in criticizing him? Who cares what Carter says? Only Third World dictators do, when it's convenient for them.
-- K. Collins

Maybe the extra seat is going to that well-known Catholic and Carter pal, Michael Moore.
-- Chris Harley
Piedmont, California

CANADA'S BULLIES
Re: John Tabin's Let Freedom Blog:

Thank you for doing what you can to help Canadians get the information they have paid for and that is being denied to them under threat of prosecution.

It is an outrage.

If juries cannot decide on right and wrong from information provided to them at trial regardless of what they have seen or heard then we don't need juries. They are much smarter than anyone gives them credit.

Any old ruse will do when trying to forestall the avalanche of disgust that is headed the Liberals way. Even more volatile and disgusting for this publication ban.

Thank God for Ed Morrissey at Captains Quarters. And for the Spectator. Others too around the Net who have picked up this story. I see Michelle Malkin has links and updates.

Many, many thanks and I know many Canadians feel the same way even if they are not on the Internet. The officials (read Liberal Party) in Ottawa want Americans to think that Canada hates them.

It is not Canadians that have an axe to grind it is the Liberals.

I have long been a fan of the Spectator. From way back during the Election 2000 Florida fiasco. I was delighted that you are doing what you can to help.
-- Careen Longhurst
clonghurst@shaw.ca
An American in Canada

THE PROTESTANT POPE?
Re: Patrick O'Hannigan's The Question of Motivation:

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was an evangelist and shepherd in the truest sense of the words. As Pope John Paul II, he seemed to embody the Great Commission of Jesus, to go out into the world and preach the Gospel.

As a Protestant, I wonder why so few Protestants have acknowledged the motivation of Christ in the late pope's life, though whether they ever do or not, it won't change how the man from Poland followed Jesus and became a fisher of men.

As for the other commentators, especially the advocacy media, it's simple why they don't or won't acknowledge the pope's real motivation: If they mention the Christ, then they must address the power of Jesus in the world. And they'd rather gag on their words than admit that.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

President Mohler also forgets the tremendous effort put forth by the Catholic Church in the United States, under Pope John Paul's encouragement, of the dialog with evangelicals called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." Groups of well-known Catholic and evangelical leaders and theologians wrestled with such important issues as a common statement of faith and the meaning of God's Word. These are the crux of the issues that both unite and divide the two groups. Without John Paul's leadership, such a dialog would never have happened.

The documents summarizing these dialogs can be found on the website of First Things.
-- Steve Black
Charlotte, North Carolina

I would like Mr. O'Hannigan to consider this thought. Pope John Paul II was the Pope closest in spirit of all Popes to being a Protestant. He certainly admired the devotion to liberty and human rights embodied in America's founding documents, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights etc. And those were a direct outgrowth of largely Protestant communities beginning with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

If you wish to get a grip on the most obvious differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, consider the issue of hierarchy. Catholics have an elaborate hierarchy with the Pope at the top. In many ways, it is still a monarchy with the Pope and his nobles on one side and the people on the other forming two classes. Protestant churches have melded the two into a single class, with some wise heads volunteering to mentor the rest as pastors. But all are equal in the eyes of God. Now doesn't that cleave closer to the words of Jesus, "Whenever two or more of you gather in my name..."?
-- Bruce Thompson

Patrick O'Hannigan replies:
Mr. Thompson is right about Protestant influence on the American Founders, but as a Catholic I'd smile at his characterization of our late pope as almost Protestant, dispute the notion that political freedom is a legacy of the Reformation, and observe that the hierarchical nature of my church is not at odds with what Jesus said about being with people who gather in His name.

That we can have this exchange on a political website gives me another reason to be grateful for that dear departed Pole who worked as an assistant dynamiter in a quarry years before becoming a successor to Peter. John Paul II will be dynamiting misconceptions for years.

FOSTERING DEMOCRATIC CULTURE
Re: P. David Hornik's The Ordeal of (Middle Eastern) Change

Mr. Hornik is closer to the Middle Eastern countries in question than I am, but I think he has made some assumptions that are erroneous.

First, the democratization of the Islamic Middle East is not being undertaken by the United States. I know that this is a common arguing point made by those who oppose the actions of the U.S. in Iraq, but it is not accurate. The democracy movement, if that is indeed what this is, is very much a grass roots movement. It is fueled by a desire among the people for self determination. It is not being imposed upon them by the United States.

Second, it is far too soon to state that the people of the region will immediately sink into moral corruption and decay. The democracies of the West, while they have become much more liberal than they were 50 years ago, seem to be returning to a more conservative attitude. For societies that cut off hands for theft, have the death penalty for questioning the word of religious leaders and exercise gang rape for a woman who was seen with a man from another village to indulge in euthanasia a la Terri Schiavo, would be a step upward toward civilized behavior, not the reverse.

In the long run, I can only believe that democracy for all nations can only be a good thing. That there will be short term problems is inevitable. This country went through its share of growing pains, including a major civil war and our society is in a constant state of flux. But the benefits of a free society are undeniable. They provide the greatest good for the greatest number.

The culture of a nation will be determined by her people, not by her rulers. Without the willing acceptance and participation of the people, the rulers will be able to maintain power only through force of arms and then only for a short time. Democracy will come to the rest of the world without the active assistance of the United States. People want it and what people want, they will find a way of obtaining.
-- Michael Tobias
Oakland Park, Florida

PUNK ROCKS
Re: Paul Beston's Bedtime for Bono:

Perhaps Paul Beston one day will understand that rebellion and adolescence are not the same thing. Until then, we unfortunately shall be treated to smug, pompous screeds such as his recent contribution to this Web site. Word of advice: As he continues to preen over his "maturity," a trait which presumably unreconstructed rockers like Bono or Springsteen lack, he might try to cultivate musical talent.
-- Carl F. Horowitz
Ashburn, Virginia

STICK TO THE TRUTH
Re: Hunter Baker's A Church, Not a Focus Group:

Hunter Baker's article nicely and precisely points out not only why media doesn't get religion, but also indicates the root of much of the Red/Blue state division in the U.S. Almost no one is involved in a church because it's fun. And if they are, the fun is short-lived and the believers of fun move themselves and their sustaining dollars to the Next Big (Fun) Thing.

Why has the Christian Church lasted so long and spread so far? It holds fast to truth, even when it's unpopular. Churches on this track don't try to appeal to everyone. If you insist on leaving the divine out of the conversation, then this natural unpopularity to some explains its staying power.

Of course leaving the divine out of the conversation is the other reason why many don't understand.

Thank you, Mr. Baker.
-- Eric Mawhinney
Fombell, Pennsylvania

Mr. Baker's article was a wonderfully succinct analysis of the age-old problem of orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy, of the struggle for primacy between, on the one hand, the genuine faithful and, on the other, people whose religious beliefs are of the non-dogmatic, "knock on wood" variety. There have always been those, within and without the Catholic Church, who see Christianity as being primarily a social uplift club, with Jesus as a kind of Chairman Emeritus. This view of Christianity is something that Pope John Paul II fought hard to correct, and his struggle was an indivisible part of the totality of his beliefs and character.
-- David Carter

The thing that made John Paul II a stellar man was his refusal to cave in to American's selfish, erratic non-traditional "pleas" for change in the Church. I have several issues with the Church (having been a Catholic since birth) but I have agreed to disagree and CERTAINLY do/did not expect the Church to change to support the "American" view of it. John Paul II did the right thing in his refusal to change basically 2000 years of procedure. At least, in the Catholic Church as in no other church in the world, you know what to expect and what the rules are. There is GREAT comfort in that and the Church is still intact unlike many who have moved into modern times and thinking. The Church is constant, and calls for change morph according to the "flavor of the month" issues and the Pope did right by standing by his guns.
-- L. Anaya
El Paso, Texas

Hunter Baker's "A Church, Not a Focus Group" is a fine critique of the truly infantile yearning on the part of millions of lukewarm Christians for the papacy to allow itself to be led by the temporal, self-seeking whims of popular culture, rather than to be the intrepid herald of Truth. His argument is somewhat frayed, however, in its suggestion that "conservative" Protestants recognize the folly. While this may be somewhat the case, if it was completely true, then there simply wouldn't be conservative Protestants, for they'd all be back home in the Catholic Church.
-- Francis M. Hannon, Jr.
Melrose, Massachusetts

Hunter Baker replies:
Mr. Hannon makes an interesting point, although one that is not directly relevant. The Reformation perspective differs with the Catholic Church as a matter of honest theological principle rather than a shallow desire to identify with the zeitgeist.

However, as an evangelical with strong Catholic sympathies I'm very optimistic the Christian church will someday again be one, much as John Paul II (and Christ) prayed it would be.

TEACHER'S PETS
Re: Brandon Crocker's The Limits of "Academic Freedom":

I'm a student at Ithaca College, and I happen to take a class with Professor Barlas. I find her to be extremely well thought out, articulate, and maybe even if I do not agree with her on certain arguments, she is one of the best professors I have ever had. Crocker's article would paint her as a raving lunatic who is desperate to be a topic of conversation, which is not at all the case.

I think it would only be fair to extend an offer to Asma Barlas to respond to this accusation of being a "cancer."

Also, on a side note, I found Crocker's "analytical sophistication" to be "one would expect from an average high school student." He did not say why Barlas or Churchill was wrong, just that they were wrong. If I had written a paper in the same way, I would probably be looking at C grade.

Congrats on making me look forward to my next class with Barlas.
-- Will Lerner
Ithaca College '07

Brandon Crocker's piece "The Limits of 'Academic Freedom" utterly misses the point. I'm currently taking a class taught by Asma Barlas, and I find it ridiculous that Crocker thinks Barlas's teaching methods must be wrong because she wrote something he disagrees with. Barlas is one of the best professors I've had, and she is certainly not one to force her views on her students. On the contrary, she practically begs us to disagree with her, in order to get an even-sided discussion going. Meanwhile, people like Crocker spread far and wide the idea that, if someone has opinions that are different from the norm, they are not fit to teach and therefore should be removed -- possibly replaced by someone who has exactly the same viewpoints as, say, Brandon Crocker? People like him are a far greater threat to my right to a fair education than people like Barlas.
-- Asa Pillsbury

Brandon Crocker replies:
It is gratifying to see that I still have my fans in Ithaca, New York.

Given the responses from Ithaca College students from my piece years ago, I am not surprised that a few (if not many) regard Asma Barlas as a marvelous professor. I don't agree with Asa Pillsbury, however, that a professor staking out a position and then begging students to debate her "in order to get an even-sided discussion going" is necessarily a model teaching technique, particularly since one of the debaters hands out grades. This, of course, can be intimidating to students, especially if they believe, as one of my previous Ithaca opponents wrote in a letter to the editor of the Ithaca Journal, that since Barlas is a professor and spends lots of time thinking about these things she obviously must know a lot more about them than I do. You are absolutely correct that professors shouldn't be fired for holding "opinions that are different from the norm," but then, I never made that assertion. On the other hand, your argument that to criticize a professor for expressing particularly absurd views is the equivalent of demanding that all professors must always agree with me is nothing short of infantile.

As for Mr. Lerner, taking on the specifics of Mr. Churchill's and Ms. Barlas's views was not the purpose of this particular article. I would give you a "C" for not recognizing that. I did, however, write a detailed response to Barlas's Ithaca College Quarterly masterpiece. It appeared on an unfortunately now defunct website run by a small band of embattled Ithaca conservatives who, I believe, ran the site as a way to preserve their sanity. And, Mr. Lerner, if I have to explain to you why Mr. Churchill is wrong in characterizing the victims of 9/11 who happened to work for corporations or in finance as "little Eichmanns" or to explain to you the problems with Mr. Churchill's scholarly assertion that George W. Bush believes that all non-whites are "sub-human," then I give you an "F." But I am sure you'll have no problem passing Dr. Barlas's class.

EARNED RUDENESS
Re: Joseph Baum's letter (under "Hardball on the Church") in Reader Mail's Pontiff and Pontificators:

News flash for Joseph Baum... Chris Matthews is ALWAYS condescending and rude, particularly to guests with which he disagrees. Mr. Matthews is probably like a lot of Americans that are tired of the hypocrites in the Catholic and Protestant churches that incessantly rail against abortion, gay marriage and female priests (the 3 mentioned by Mr. Baum), while doing little in the way of curtailing divorce and the Catholic church sex abuse scandal. Like many religious people, Mr. Baum elects to pick and choose which sins to judge and ignore those that apply more widely. I'm sick of hearing about how gay marriage is bad for society when the evangelicals have a divorce rate of 50% and Catholic priests are walking around free (some in the Vatican) after decades of molesting children. Yeah, I can see why Mr. Matthews was condescending and rude to the hypocritical priest.
-- Ben Berry
Washington, D.C.

GREAT SATAN DETROIT
Re: P. David Hornik's The Ordeal of (Middle Eastern) Change and Ralph R. Reiland's Detroit: Hayek's Nightmare:

Even in 1979, I could not disagree wholeheartedly with the Ayatollah Khomeini's characterization of America as the Great Satan -- the culture this country was exporting was too noxious. And as the wonderful song says, "Sweet Jesus, today it's much worse." Instead of exporting heroic and moral films such as My Darling Clementine, The Quiet Man, el Cid, Ben Hur, The Searchers, and the like, we are sending filth like "Sex in the City," and profane and violent rap.

Presumably well-intentioned liberals have brought Detroit to where it is. In the '70s, the city's elite -- including the newspapers -- decided we needed a black mayor. Unfortunately Dr. Ralph Bunche was not available and instead we got a Michigan legislator who was a Communist Party fellow traveler, Coleman Young. Young was a kind of a more evil sportin' life (remember Sammy Davis Jr. in Porgy and Bess?) whose decades-long corrupt rule of the city was the major cause of what we see today: a blasted heath masquerading as a city. (Among the other causes were Lyndon Johnson's Great Society which rendered it easier for many Detroiters to be indolent and/or criminal slackers rather than engage in worthy endeavor and also the busing orders of U.S. District Judge Steven Roth, which hastened the flight of white and black families from Detroit's crumbling schools.) The Detroit Free Press supported Young long after it was apparent that he was as amoral and corrupt as any public official in the country. Many of its retired editors live in the exclusive Grosse Pointes, largely insulated from the horrors and dangers of Detroit. I hope that each morning as the sun rises over Lake S. Clair and they awake that they bow down away from the direction of the city and ask God's forgiveness. (It would be too cruel to require them to look upon what they have wrought.) It's likely not necessary for me to fill in the dots, but I will anyway. Those who live in this area lost a great city because of liberal nostrums and as usual someone other than the liberals bears the consequences.
-- J.R. Wheatley
Harper Woods, Michigan

FIX CATHOLIC HERESIES
Re: George Neumayr's Missing His Holiness:

I agree with your article about the Pope and the lack of understanding of the Pope's spiritual depth. I have been appalled at some of the comments made by world leaders.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, however, I was disappointed that the Pope did not do more to bring his own Church back to its historical roots. He did reach out to the eastern orthodox churches, but he never addressed some of the major changes (heresies) introduced in his own church. These changes would make reunion with the eastern orthodox churches impossible. I pray that the next Pope will address some of these issues.
-- Pam Rohrmann

Mr. Neumayr says, "Like Ron Reagan Jr..."

ARRGH!! Please stop repeating the inaccuracy. Ron Reagan is not "Junior." If you must, refer to him as Ron the Lesser -- much lesser.
-- Rick Osial
Montclair, Virginia

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