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caligraphy pen, Petar Milošević, Wikimedia commons

Readers Respond Winter 2017

Letters to the Editor

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We welcome letters to the editor. Letters and web comments may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. Letters should be sent with the writer’s name and address to letters@plough.com.

On Joel Salatin’s “Behold the Glory of Pigs,” Autumn 2016:

Without wishing to fall foul of Romans 14, I must say reading the last issue (and specifically Ronald Sider’s and Joel Salatin’s pieces together) made me wonder if a “consistent ethic of the sanctity of life” should not also be extended to the animals we share God’s creation with? If we are going to allow them to “glory,” as Joel helpfully puts it, should this also mean that we should stop killing and eating them? Richard Barnard, Whitstable, Kent, UK

On John Dear’s “Death Knell for Just War,” Autumn 2016:

If we cannot learn from scripture that Jesus was nonviolent, we can learn nothing about him, according to biblical scholar Fr. John L. McKenzie (1910–1991). Yet Jesus did not elaborate a theory and practice of nonviolence as John Dear claims. That would have to be left to a time when the material conditions were right, and that time is now.

How does John Dear explain Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:38, and John 18:10 if Jesus had taught a theory and practice of nonviolence? Matthew and Luke describe how one who accompanied Jesus to Gethsemane drew a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Why had Jesus allowed one who walked with him to carry a sword? John identifies the swordsman as Peter, chief of the apostles, who had walked with Jesus throughout his entire public ministry. These fellows must have been very poor students if they had failed to absorb the theory and practice of nonviolence John Dear claims Jesus taught. Here the saying holds true: Qui nimis probat, nihil probat. He who tries to prove too much proves nothing.

The Catholic way is not either/or but both/and. Not either just war categories or evangelical nonviolence, but both. Catholic teaching builds in continuity with the past rather than rupture. Do we really expect Pope Francis to teach, in effect, that our ancestors in the faith who held to just war theory were material heretics and that the Holy Spirit abandoned the church for 1,700 years until we pacifists came along? Don’t count on it! You can count on a clear and forceful plea from Francis for a decisive turn to nonviolence in his anticipated encyclical – nonviolence using just war categories to determine the appropriate response to unjust war, the only kind possible in today’s world.

Christian pacifists alone will not end the scourge of war. We must dialogue with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-religious people of good will as well, and link arms in nonviolent resistance. In order to do so, we will have to use a mutually comprehensible language. In so doing we will inevitably reinvent the categories of just war theory, which are, after all, nothing more than tenets of the universal natural moral law. Tom Cornell, Marlboro, NY

On “Forerunners: Muhammad Ali,” Autumn 2016:

Ali asserts that “We all have the same God, we just serve him differently.” This is wrong on so many levels; I can’t believe a “Christian” quarterly would offer it in praise of the man who spoke it. Ali is basically saying that the incarnation of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection are just unnecessary details, and that there is no mediator needed between a holy God and unredeemed humanity. Does his supposed “love for humanity” accomplish what was necessary for Jesus to die to accomplish? Is there really “another way” after all, and Jesus did not need to drink from the cup the Father made him drink from? Dave McCarty, West Milton, PA

On Shelley Douglass’s “A World Where Abortion Is Unthinkable,” Autumn 2016:

Abortion is “thinkable” largely because it’s legal. Infanticide remains taboo, but that could easily change if bioethicists like Peter Singer have their way. The late Richard John Neuhaus said it well: “Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.”Michael Nacrelli, Clackamas, OR

On Sam Hine’s “Gardening with Guns,” Autumn 2016:

 I would appreciate it if you’d cancel my subscription. I receive a steady stream of “blame the gun” tripe from the news; I don’t need to pay to have it delivered to my home as well. I understand the impulse to blame the tool as opposed to the person, but it’s time to grow up and admit that some people are just plain evil. Utopia is a myth and some people who show a propensity for violence against their fellow man are irredeemable. We need to acknowledge this and quit blaming inanimate objects for the actions of those who wield them. Geoffrey Carlson, Coal City, IL

On Erna Albertz’s “Pursuing Happiness: How my sister with Down syndrome . . .” Autumn 2016:

 As a mother of two children with Down syndrome, I’m often amazed that my son, who has an IQ of 70, has more spiritual depth in a conversation than many with higher IQs. God gives to all gifts to be shared; if we see with God’s eyes, we see the gifts others bring. I do believe this is realized in community. My two boys may not have a theological degree but they are grace and love incarnate – true followers of Jesus Christ. Lori Powell, Madison, WI

Thoughts on Ploughing:

I have been a reader of Plough for many years. To say that I have enjoyed every issue is simple truth but very inadequate. I look forward to each issue for the inspiration which it gives me in my ministry as a Catholic priest. While inspiring me, the Plough continues to disturb and to challenge me in my Christian commitment. The articles are all radical in the best sense of the word, because they are permeated by God’s word and presumably reflect the lives of members of the Bruderhof communities. Thank you. Desmond O’Donnell, Dublin, Ireland

What a powerful, enriching magazine! When I received my first copy two years ago here in prison, I knew I had an addiction – but a good one. Now there is wonderful news. I will be released from prison in ninety-seven days after five-and-a-half years. I will be back with my wife and grandkids. I guarantee I will continue my subscription to this fantastic magazine. Thank you sincerely. Dennis Schaefer, El Mirage, AZ

a girl on a sofa reading Florence Fuller, Inseparables
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