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Letters to the Editor
Episcopal Life welcomes letters and will give preference to those in response to stories. Letters should be no longer than 250 words and must include the writer’s name, address, phone number for verification. Pictures are welcome. Send to Letters, Episcopal Life , 815 Second Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; or e-mail to letters@episcopal-life.org. All letters will be edited for brevity and clarity.

Clarifying pope’s position
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Reporting that the pope came down on the side of intelligent design was misleading (“Science and Religion: Friends or foes?” February).  His remark, not directly addressing the controversy here [in the United States], was taken by the ID group as encouraging, but the official Vatican position supported the judge in the Dover decision.  Other statements from the Vatican have said intelligent design "diminishes God.” Ever since St. Augustine, the Roman Catholic Church has viewed Genesis as allegory to teach the God-man relationship.  The R.C. position has, since the early 20th century, supported science while maintaining that God is the creator.

The controversy over evolution is peculiar to the United States.  No other developed nation has such problems.  Literal fundamentalism, while it had its genesis in England, quickly died there but flourished here, beginning in colonial times, where there was no history of theological scholarship and few educated clergy.  "I can read the bible for myself and don't need no interpretation," was the attitude and level of education of the clergy.  See David Hackett Fischer, "Albion's Seed, Four British Folkways in America."

My Episcopal Life came as I am preparing to give a presentation on biology and theology at the Spiritual Forum at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Arcata, Calif., this coming Sunday.  I have read Pius XII's  and John Paul II's statements as well as many recent comments from the Vatican press re: evolution and find the R.C. position to be very close to that of our church.

Congratulations on a good job on a subject that is important and with reporting church news. I appreciate your work.


Hypothesis, not fact
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About your various articles concerning the teaching of evolution vs. creationism vs. intelligent design: I was somewhat surprised that none of your sources or contributors mentioned the simple fact that evolution is not science but is merely one hypothesis for the complex life forms now inhabiting this planet Earth. One very shaky hypothesis.

I am amazed by the number of supposedly smart and educated people, including most, it seems, of those who teach biology, who have bought into this far-from-supported guess as to how mankind and other life got to where they are today. In physics, my field, hypotheses when tested over and over and found to always hold true by experimentation are called “laws.” The fact that evolution yet is called a theory is quite meaningful.

The science behind evolution is the same as described by Mary Shelley in her story of Dr. Frankenstein: Lightning did it, or it was cosmic rays or sun spots or some other unknown. Evolutionists have no sound and scientific explanation for the origin of life, much less for its present complex state. I say to those Episcopalians who are trying so hard to force-fit evolution into theology that it is a true waste of effort. Evolution by its nature rejects God and excludes him from the story. Bah humbug.


Kudos for coverage
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Many thanks to Nan Cobbey for her February cover story on science and religion.  I appreciate the depth of coverage given to the Catechism of Creation.

I found it ironic that the Discovery Institute’s Bruce Chapman should fault the catechism by claiming that it sets up a straw-man argument against “intelligent design” and then knocks it down.  His words better describe what ID advocates do to evolution.  Characterizing the science of evolution as “Darwinism” is but one example of how they muddy the distinction between evolution (science) and evolutionism (philosophy).  And, of course, they want everyone to “teach the controversy” they themselves have created.

I would teach that ID advocates have not amassed empirical evidence to support their hypothesis of “irreducible complexity” nor constructed a testable, falsifiable theory.  They have not done the science.  What they offer presently is natural theology, but since their designer is the God they dare not name, they have to insist: “No one here but us scientists.”  

Contrary to Kitta MacPherson’s assertion, Darwin did not “undermine the idea of creation supervised by Divine Providence.”  From Darwin’s own time to the present, theologians both conservative and liberal have modeled God as creating purposefully in, with and through evolutionary processes.  The Catechism of Creation summarizes some of these theologies.

Editor’s note: Robert Schneider, chair of the Executive Council’s Committee on Science, Technology and Faith, says he is not speaking for the committee in this letter.


Mourning Book’s demise
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Jerry Hames’ article on The Book of Daniel  in the February issue of Episcopal Life made me think of a line from my favorite comedy, Stripes.  It's where Sargeant Hulka talks to a new hothead recruit and says to him, "Lighten up Francis." 

I was stunned that so many people who were interviewed in the article hated the show so much.  I thought it was thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time.  And, hello, it’s a television show. This is not a perfect world, and we are not perfect people. I'm sorry the show has been cancelled.  The Jesus character was even refreshing to me.  But, alas, I also liked the show Nothing Sacred a few years ago, and it was yanked, I guess, because no one liked a doubting priest in the Catholic Church.


Condemnation premature
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I was surprised some of my fellow Episcopalians are so critical of the recently cancelled Book of Daniel.  Perhaps they have forgotten that the early episodes of any TV dramatic series are similar to the opening chapters of a novel or the introduction to an essay--works that may be satirical.  Would these same folks call Twain's Huckleberry Finn "trash" after reading the first few pages, or condemn Jonathan Swift for advocating cannibalism after scanning a few sentences of his A Modest Proposal? 

The first episode or so of a TV drama -- or dramedy -- just introduces characters, plots and sub-plots; so, a fair-minded viewer must withhold judgment until these elements are further developed.

I, too, thought the premiere of Book of Daniel addressed a ridiculous number of issues (adultery, homosexuality, alcoholism, etc.); however, my conclusion was that this show was a spoof of other TV dramas that touch a multitude of such topics within a 60-minute time frame.  So I just laughed.

The harshest critics never mentioned the smug senior-warden character who handled nearly all church business while golfing at his country club, or his aristocratic wife, who hid her racism beneath a mask of upper-class gentility.  Could the root of some of this criticism be that most of the issues in Book of Daniel concern the dark side of affluence --a condition many of us feel guilty about?  As long as we Episcopalians can laugh at ourselves and face the truths that laughter may expose,  perhaps our Lord has a good reason to allow us to stay together.


Narnia’s theological limitations
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I agree that the first episode of The Chronicles of Narnia is an exciting movie and that C. S. Lewis is much to be admired.  However, since for many young people the movie will be their major exposure to Christian theology, several troubling theological issues in the movie need to be pointed out.

Christian theology insists that Jesus was truly human, including human limitations.  In the Narnia tales, Aslan is clearly God in a lion's body, more like the resurrected Christ than the earthly Christ.  Consequently, his redemptive death is in effect merely a show -- a gnostic heresy repudiated by the church.

In Narnia, God has decreed that death is the appropriate punishment for a relatively venial sin of betrayal, entered into almost inadvertently. Is this what we want viewers to regard as God's view of human sin?

In Narnia, the good forces are almost totally good, and the evil forces almost totally evil.  And the "final solution" of evil is for the evil side to be destroyed in war, culminated by the witch being savagely executed by Aslan.  Is this our vision of the way in which God overcomes or will overcome evil in this world?  I find that less than a satisfactory portrayal of Christian theology.


Supporting pope’s view
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In response to (“Condemned by truth” by the Rev. Patrick Malloy, February): God bless Pope Benedict XVI for standing up for what is right and banning homosexuals from seminaries and ordination. 

Personally, I do not care about [the author’s] condemnation by the truth when the truth is simple. He is not fit to wear the collar. I am so infuriated by the fact that a person has the audacity to become a priest if [he or she is] homosexual. It is plain and simple. It is against the laws of the Bible. Simply find another way to serve God.


Changes for the better
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I am pleased to see more articles on the subject of ordaining gays where the person being ordained is maintaining his integrity by being out before ordination. When I was in seminary, I knew a number of gay men, but it wasn't talked about. It must have been very difficult for many of them to go forward to ordination with the fear that they might be found out and refused by some bishop or standing committee.

Thank goodness we have had accepting bishops and dioceses in the Episcopal Church for a long time. I'm sure it has saved many fine vocations. I am also grateful that [the Rev. Patrick] Malloy was able to find a home with us in the Episcopal Church. Hopefully he is or will become active in Integrity. I think we need men like him in that fellowship to help continue the leadership in the church as we continue to strive for the rights of all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) people.


Thanks for column
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I want to thank you and Patrick Malloy for his outstanding article "Condemned by Truth." I spent last year as artist-in-residence at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. EDS adjoins the Westin Jesuit School of Theology, and I saw the agony of many students there when the new pope was announced and subsequent policies began to emerge. It was very sad, and this article has lifted my spirits. The truth ultimately shall set us free!

Intrigued by crèche
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In the January issue, in the column by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, he tells of a crèche with two Baby Jesus figures. I have never seen one. I would appreciate any information, and I think other readers also would.

Printing letter a mistake
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Marc James Small in his letter “Allow oil drilling” (January) dismisses the idea of preserving the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the basis of its appearance and the desire of Alaskans to drill. I feel that Episcopal Life was irresponsible in printing this letter, since Mr. Small's dismissal of the ecosystem's value is not scientifically founded. Many scientists support preserving the refuge because of its ecological value, whether or not it has trees. And it does, in fact, contain great herds of animals.

The Episcopal Church has declared that drilling in the ANWR would imperil indigenous peoples. Has Mr. Small asked these people whether they would like drilling? He encourages others who expressly disagree with drilling to invest in oil companies, to make a profit from drilling. This directly contradicts the concept of socially responsible investing, advocates profit above conscience and is not the morality one Christian ought to encourage in another.

Mr. Small is entitled to his opinion, but Episcopal Life should not have printed such a misinformed letter that encouraged a person to act against his conscience.


Go into real world
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Too many Episcopal churches are locked into ancient forms (read 17th- and 18th-century hymns) of worship that do not evolve with the contemporary society. Millions of dollars are spent to build church complexes to serve man's ego. It is time for the Episcopal Church to change its form of worship to meet the needs of a young contemporary society.

It is time Episcopalians went forth into the real world to communicate and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Mormons and Seventh Adventists (whether you agree or not with their theology) pound the pavement. Where are the Episcopalians?


Letter’s view anti-Christian
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Michael Moffitt's letter (“Disagreeing with Domini,” February) is a wonderful representation of the anti-Christian mendacity that plagues our time. While it is true that America probably gives more to developing countries than any other single country, it does not give its fair share. It is richer by orders of magnitude than most of the rest of the world, and much of that wealth is the result of current and historical unscrupulous, inhumane and immoral business practices at home and abroad. Why is that anti-Christian?

I would refer the inquirer to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They can be found in the New Testament of his Holy Bible.


Remembering Darwin
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As a Brit, I was interested in the article on Charles Darwin. As a child growing up in England, he was so much apart of our school studies and greatly admired. I thought Episcopal Life would be interested in seeing the very gentle side of this man. Charles Darwin's last words in the Origin of Species are:

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, while this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been and are evolved."

There is another story I was told as a young girl by my grandmother. It was this. "A tall bearded man, looking severe and worried, sat at the desk in his study, working anxiously.  The law of his house was that he must not be disturbed during the time set for his labors. But as he sat so engaged, the door opened quietly, and a chubby face of a 4-year-old peeped solemnly in. Gravelly addressing the tall man, his father, the little boy said, If you'll turn out and play wiz us, I'll give you sixpence. The stern man got up from his desk, stole out on tiptoe, went and played with his tempter and did no more work that morning.” He was one of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known. His name was Charles Darwin.”

My husband’s favorite photo of me is the one were I am seated at Charles Darwin's piano in his home in Kent.


Different paths of learning
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The "Science and Religion: Friends or Foes?" issue (February) was excellent. Science, religion and (I would add as an Anglican poet ) art are different ways of seeing and trying to understand the world and are not in competition with one another in some simplistic manner.

But an intriguing question is this: Is one or more of these modes of knowing the world more profound and comprehensive than the other(s), and is there a deeper level at which they become one? I offer the following lines by English poet William Blake (1757-1827) as a place to start such pondering:

 

Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, Mock on, 'tis all in vain;
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again;

And every sand becomes a Gem
Reflected in the beams divine:
Blown back, they blind the mocking Eye,
But still in Israel's path they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton's Particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.


ID hypothesis untestable
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I read with great interest your article and its references to the publication Catechism of Creation. I found the article to be overall well-balanced and insightful, but I have an issue to put forward.

Most of the people you interviewed and quoted shed light on these science-religion issues and the role of the catechism document in helping to clarify them. But by giving Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute a prominent place in your article and quoting him extensively, I feel you did a tremendous disservice to your own purpose. Your readers deserve better.

I say this because Mr. Chapman’s rhetoric should be subject to much more scrutiny. I have read most of the writing published by Mr. Chapman and his Discovery Institute, and I do not believe that he and his organization should be held up as thoughtful representatives of the search for religious meaning in creation.

Chapman and his colleagues have one basic untestable hypothesis: that portions of nature appear too complex to have evolved, and so this is evidence of supernatural creation. This argument was first put forward by William Paley back in 1802. This is not a scientific hypothesis (special creation is untestable) and so has absolutely no place in science education.

I believe you took on a difficult subject and did a good job presenting it to your readers and leading the way for interest in the catechism. I am happy to see the Episcopal Church speaking out on this issue.


Creator God makes more sense
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It is interesting that people are better able to believe an  accidental origin (ie, the big bang, evolution) than God who created all things, especially when every question answered by science seems to create another five questions. It would seem to me that an infinite creator God makes much more sense. Perhaps science gives people the excuse to say that because the Bible was written so long ago, it doesn't apply today …unless, of course, being an infinite God, time does not apply.

Surprised evolution taken seriously
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I am indeed surprised that some people take evolution seriously. In my college days – Ohio State, class of 1935 – it was an issue. In a course in historical geology, our professor believed in it. We had to give him the right answers to pass, but few students took it seriously. It was just another theory that could not be proved. I personally thought it was an insult to an adult’s intelligence. In the 70 years since then, I considered it a dead issue. I still think so.

The news media, true to form, has dug it up and is trying to get some mileage out of it. It isn’t even sensational. I am unable to find Dover, Pa., on a large map, so I think the district judge is “grandstanding.”

Soon I shall be 93 and, in May, I shall complete 57 years as an Episcopal priest. I am more convinced than ever that God created man at a level above other animals, endowed man with some talents and gave him opportunities to be useful. Animals lack this and exist mainly for man’s benefit, directly or indirectly. They have no use other than that. Man, in turn, was created to be in the family of God, and [God] has eternal possibilities for him in heaven. He treats us differently, as children.


‘Family’ discussion warranted
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I'd like the suffragan bishop of New York to elaborate on her statement (“Triennial budget up $10 million,” February) about the Episcopal Church's relationship with the Anglican Church. I thought that the Episcopal Church is the Anglican Church (Communion)  in the United States. 

We are members of the same family. Perhaps members of the same family don't always get along or even agree together. They, then, need to sit down and have a frank chat with each other, which is, as far as I understand it, what the archbishop of Canterbury wanted the family to have before our last General Convention on a subject that all members of the family do not currently agree.


Saddened by his anguish
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I was raised Catholic. I am not gay, and I never was made to experience what the Rev. Malloy speaks of in this column (“Condemned by truth”).  Yet, I, too, have learned that very often the Catholic Church speaks grandly of its love for all people but fails to live that love.  Just read the piece in the missal stating its views on who are fit to go to communion at a Catholic Mass and then try to believe that it respects and loves people of all faiths.

The Rev. Malloy is so right:  "You cannot inflict that kind of damage on people and claim to love them." Since I do not speak for the Catholic Church, I cannot apologize for it.  But I would like Rev. Malloy to know that I feel deep sadness about the anguish he has suffered at its hands.  It is inspirational to me to read that he has no regrets, that he has been able to pursue his vocation, that he has found home.  And I believe God smiles knowing that his gift to Rev. Malloy has been realized.

God bless Patrick Malloy.  God bless all of us, every one.


ECUSA stance dismaying
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I have read the article by Patrick Malloy with much dismay over the fact of ECUSA jamming the homosexual situation down my throat. The way I personally feel about it is as an Episcopalian (born, baptized, confirmed) and using the teachings I was taught as an Episcopalian having been born in 1934. What Frank Griswold and his cohorts have done to my church is unconscionable. God bless the ACN [Anglican Communion Network].

Sorry Daniel ended
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I'm sorry The Book of Daniel was foreshortened, apparently because some people are afraid that God is too weak to withstand being part of everyday conversation. The show was not great theater, but it was fun, more fun that those Housewives and numerous family imbecilities. We need not be afraid for God's honor.  If the Episcopal Church is threatened by being portrayed as a human institution, perhaps it deserves to be.

A shameful statement
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In a tape-recorded 1962 conversation with fellow science-fiction writers Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss, C.S. Lewis mentions having been in correspondence with an American graduate student whose proposed thesis "was attributing to me views which I have explicitly contradicted in the plainest possible English" ("Unreal Estates" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, Harvest, 1975). Donald Lewis's January letter (“Wrong focus on convention”) commits precisely the same transgression against Gene Robinson, among many, many others, in its gratuitous castigation of "clergy who wish to make a public show of their sexuality ..." Shame on you, Mr. Lewis.

Young Adult Mission Programs
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I have a great beef with the Episcopal Church: the poor lighting conditions in our churches. I have somewhat compromised eyesight. Some of our churches have altar and sanctuary lighting that is best described as Victorian gloom.

I use self-copied service and lectionary materials at both altar and lectern, and a good parishioner friend provides me with blown-up copies of the Gospel readings. But in some places, both in the U.S.A. and in Canada where I have officiated, I strain my eyes even to see the large-print copies. Parishioners in some places can barely see the words of the hand-held BCPs and hymnals.


Drilling is poor stewardship
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I wish to respond to Marc Smalls’ letter in favor of oil drilling in Alaska. He fails to understand that the Great Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a migration center for thousands of wildlife such as caribou, and to them that treeless tundra is their very life. With what little amount of oil it has compared to the vast oil fields of the Middle East, such exploitation would be tragic.

What is obscene is the attitude that so many Christians have, especially in the U.S.A., that God gave us the land and the animals to do with as we please. Alaskan or not, shareholders and oil companies and ordinary citizens alike, we are to be caretakers of what God has given us. And under our watch, we’ve done a darn poor job of it.

Thousands of animals have gone or are going extinct. Maybe Mr. Small and others like him care more about oil stock than the fact that 50 percent of amphibians are expected to go extinct because of global warming and pollution, but God is watching. After all, he knows when every sparrow falls.

Our worship at the unholy altar of oil and our addiction to cars as the only way to go could well be the cause of our extinction. The disappearance of so many amphibians is a warning, the proverbial canary in the mine. Ignore it at your peril.