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Readers Respond: Issue 6

Letters to the Editor

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Fundación San Rafael

Fundación San Rafael started as a clinic and children’s homes; other programs now include a farm, an elementary school, a high school, and homes for the elderly.

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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.

 

Religion versus Jesus?

On the Spring 2015 issue, “Earth”: Thank you for your wonderful magazine, which recently had a very heartening section defending natural marriage alongside a commitment to the earth; I am amazed that many people so often fail to make the link between reverence for creation and reverence for created order.

Thank you also for sending Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt’s book Everyone Belongs to God. The book itself, however, was disquieting. Billed as a provocative and thoughtful look at contemporary missionary needs, all I saw in it was old, stale ideas based on bad anthropology and ideologically tainted history. It seems to me that the ideals Blumhardt preaches – eschewing “religion” in favor of “Jesus,” for example – are at the core of everything that is wrong with contemporary Christianity.

The New Testament is unequivocal on the necessity of belief in a unitary, hierarchical, sacramental, liturgical, dogmatic church that is the continuing incarnation of the Son of God on earth, through the Holy Spirit, by and through the watering of the seeds planted in holy baptism. The hard facts show us that mainstream Christianity has embraced Blumhardt’s message to the great detriment of the church and of the salvation of souls. Not only is the message unscriptural and untraditional: it doesn’t work, either.

As a happy reader of the magazine, I can’t help but notice that Blumhardt’s book does not seem to fit the magazine’s message of joyful embrace of the kingdom of Christ on earth. Ryan M. Budd

 

Care for Creation, Care for the Poor

On Mary Eubanks’s “Sacred Seeds,” Spring 2015: Recently in a Bible study group we discussed the question of corporate responsibility and corporate guilt, and I wish I’d had the information in this article. We certainly have made the situation in some of the poorest countries worse by catering to greed and pleasure in our “developed economies.” Volker Klaue

 

What Can Christians Learn from Gandhi?

On A. C. Oommen’s “What Gandhi Taught Me about Jesus,” Summer 2015:  I appreciate this profound article. Gandhi walked a path that most of us “Christians” (that title has become quite blurry) have never even stuck our toe onto, much less our whole two feet. Lindy Combs 

Gandhi had a profound effect on me through my study of his autobiography. When he wrote that he worships God as Truth, I had to figure out how I worshiped God. He taught me the difference between tolerance and respect, as well as the power of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice. Denie Personette

 

Civility, Truth, and Marriage

On R. R. Reno’s “Waging Peace in the Culture Wars,” Summer 2015: I love irony and paradox. Reading the Gospels reveals that Jesus did too. It is always a double-edged sword.

Here is my irony: as I read Facebook this morning, crying with joy over the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I also read an advertisement for Plough suggesting that since I like Henri Nouwen, I would enjoy reading your journal. So, in the spirit of celebration, I subscribed.

The first article I chose to read was by R. R. Reno. Uh-oh. A conservative thinker, Reno is advising me how to respond to those who might think of “us” Christians as homophobic for insisting (with proper civility) that Christian morality prohibits recognizing the legitimacy of lifelong loving and sexual commitments between same-sex persons. And, Reno’s moral chastisement classifies same-sex marriage with abortion and euthanasia, both of which involve the killing of a life.

Yikes! Should I politely ask for a refund, keeping in mind the civility Reno counsels as appropriate for a peace-filled Christian? Or should I do as Reno suggests and speak strong words of truth to a disciple in danger of violating the commandment of Jesus to love one another as he loves us or as we love ourselves? I have decided to do the latter.

Those of us who value the sacramental commitment of marriage as embodying the unity, community, and sacrificial love of Christ would be more faithful to the call of Christ if we would support and protect existing marriages from the ravages of socially caused conflicts and poverty. We would also do well to provide more education on family life and commitment for our young people. We would do well to spend more time off our devices and with our children, so that they understand family life as a face-to-face, real-time commitment that does not shut off easily or painlessly. And we would do better to help those of us who have been through a divorce, as well as our children, to heal. All of these issues are pressing; all of these are legitimate concerns for protecting marriage and the family.

On the other hand, denying marriage to same-sex couples is nothing more or less than homophobic. And to do so in the name of Christ is the saddest aspect for me, as it pushes individuals and whole families away from Christ. Patty Kean

Many of the topics Reno discusses have become lines in the sand among people who claim to be tolerant. I know that if I state, even gently, that my conscience doesn’t allow me to agree on a topic, I can see the door close, firmly and forever. We have to be discerning about who is or is not open to other points of view. What good is it to lose an entire relationship by bringing up a topic on which the other person is not open for input? I have been in prison ministry for fifteen years. Applying Reno’s ideals to the world of the poor and abused risks submitting real humans to a lifetime of pain lived out because someone insisted they fill a theoretic premise. Margaret Crandall

For the editors’ response to some of the questions raised by Patty Kean and Margaret Crandall, see “No Time for Silence”

 

What Is Nonviolence?

On Tom Cornell’s “Every Church a Peace Church?,” Summer 2015: I was shocked to read Tom Cornell’s denigration of Fathers Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan, Sister Megan Rice, and others whose conscience led them to draft-board raids in Plowshares actions. Tom asks abstract questions about “property,” “secrecy,” “nonviolence,” “cannon fodder.” The heart, morality, and the law of our post-Nuremburg legal system provide decisive answers. It is more than moral blindness to legitimatize nuclear technologies able to undo the works of Genesis with the mantle of “property.” It is idolatry.

Tom implies a schism between the Catholic Worker movement and the Plowshares movement – a gross distortion. Philip Berrigan was a decorated combat survivor of World War II, a leader in the Freedom Movement, the first US Catholic priest to be imprisoned for a deed of conscience, an inspiration of millions, and someone who suffered eleven years of harsh imprisonment. What self-righteousness allows Tom and Plough to hold deeds of self-sacrifice and moral and physical courage in contempt? Who is justified to judge the conversion, repentance, faith, conscience, or religious convictions of another? John Schuchardt

Tom Cornell responds:

Nowhere in my article do I denigrate Daniel or Philip Berrigan or Sister Megan Rice. We do not abandon our friends even when we disagree with them. For any of us, to be beyond criticism betrays a cult of personality that forecloses any honest discussion. The point is: what is nonviolence?

Thomas Merton deplored the shoddy reasoning in the radical peace movement of his time. Now, so many years later, we’d be wise not to repeat those mistakes. In solidarity, T. C.

 

Ploughing Tips

I am glad you are publishing Plough in paper form, as I do not have internet or email and intend to keep it that way. I represent a portion of your readership – I don’t know how large – who choose for personal or ecclesiastical reasons to avoid online activity. Please continue to accommodate us backward technophobes.

I am delighted with the content of your periodical in all its earthy realism and forward-looking idealism. I applaud your emphasis on social issues and beg you to take no side but that of Christ. Let us never become coercive, as some pacifists do. We must stand in the way, we must take the pain, we must love, we must not align ourselves with any portion of the world system, we must be the lightning rod, we must break the cycle of violence. This is what our King did on Calvary.

Please continue to promote community centered around Jesus and exemplified by the early church at Jerusalem. Celebrate and foster the community of Jesus wherever it is found, and encourage its increase in this lonely world.

I’d love to see Plough address questions such as how we control our use of technology rather than allowing it to control us. What is the spirit of smartphones – is it one to which we can give our children and young people? And on another topic: How should Christians dress? Does it matter? Does it say something? Are there principles involved?

If you allow the spirit of God to pull the Plough, the furrow will be straight and much fruit will come forth to the upbuilding of the kingdom. Ploughing tips: Raise the handles, the share goes deep; lower the handles, the share resurfaces. The way up is down. He who would be great must be a servant. We look for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness! Hallelujah! Elijah D. Hess

painting of woman dressed in blue reading a book August Macke, Woman Reading
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What We Learned From Plough’s 2015 Subscriber Survey

We thank the 1,096 subscribers who participated.

woman dressed in blue reading a book

Plough subscribers are a sharing bunch: 62 percent of them pass their copies on to others. They’re thorough too: 34 percent say they read everything in each issue, while another 43 percent read most of it.

Plough subscribers don’t want us messing with the magazine’s design: 97 percent say they like it (78 percent like it “strongly”).

Plough subscribers relish in-depth writing: the feature-length articles are the most popular parts of Plough, with 94 percent approval. Meanwhile, more than three quarters disagreed with the statement, “The articles are too intellectual.” Who said no one reads long-form essays anymore?

Plough subscribers can’t be pigeonholed – we’re delighted that a “typical Plough reader” doesn’t seem to exist. Ratio of women to men? It’s 1:1, give or take 0.1 percent. Religious affiliation? It’s all over the map

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