4 Mail Bag


April 14 2008
4 Mail Bag


April 14 2008


‘The Christian’s faith is based on a loving daily relationship, not on scholarly suppositions’


IT WAS SO REFRESHING to see Brian Bethune’s unbiased take on the current state of Christianity, especially when it comes to Jesus’s teachings (“The Jesus problem,” Faith, March 31). For far too long, people have twisted and disfigured those teachings until they became a tool to judge, scare and force followers into a certain way of life—just look at American evangelicals. Thank you for having the nerve to address this issue. It’s time people opened their eyes and saw what was being fed to them. I’m not anti-Christian; just anti-propaganda.

Mavis Harris, Toronto

SO, THE CREATOR of the universe, the allknowing master of the cosmos comes up with a plan: “I know, I’ll create a son and send him down to the earth that I’ve created.” Not 100 sons, mind you, just one guy to preach the father’s word to an entire planet. Then the creator of planets and stars informs the world of this plan by dispatching an angel to speak to three wise men (the word “wise” to lend some kind of credibility, I suppose). The son is born of a virgin and reappears some 30 years later to begin his ministry. He cures some blind people, but doesn’t cure blindness. He gives good and bad advice, and while supposedly divine, is illiterate and doesn’t write a thing himself. Finally, the creator figures he’ll slaughter his son in the most gruesome way possible in order to forgive the sins of the very people whom he created to be fallible. And you’re telling me that it took some kind of scholar to cast doubt on this?

Anthony Morris, Toronto

YOUR STORY WAS a waste of a wonderful opportunity to give a glimmer of hope to a world that so seriously needs it, especially during the Easter season. Who needs scholarly trends that seem bent on destroying faith, hope, and trust? The scriptural record of Jesus’s resurrection does give reason for hope. Of course, this is only true if one actually believes the Bible, which even some churches (and clergy) no longer seem willing to do, thus making themselves irrelevant. Could you not have interviewed at least one evangelical scholar to give some balance to an otherwise discouraging article?

J.J. Warkentin, Scarborough, Ont.

KUDOS FOR YOUR thoughtful story. You balanced the opinions of the Jesus Seminar people with some profound quotes from the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. However, right from the outset, I believe you got it wrong. You discussed at length the different views people have of Jesus—activist, politician, pugilist, divine (or not) and so on. Sure there’s a Jesus problem, but not for the reasons you think. Allow me to make my point with another C.S. Lewis quote, “What are we to make of Christ? There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us.”

Alan Baker, Chatham, Ont.

RELIGION SIGNIFIES FAITH, which is the conviction of things not seen, and this cannot be examined under a microscope, for to do so is to deny its power. Religion with its rules is meant to change people. It does not change to suit people. Today, one can be awed by the deep faith and piety of Christians in Africa and India, while, in the West, people squabble about words and pick or reject issues to defend their lifestyles. If we have fabulous ideas of our own, why is Western society still ridden with social evils? Maria Jacob, Mississauga, Ont.

THANK YOU FOR fulfilling my annual tradition in Easter reading. Undoubtedly there were other journalistic postmodern deconstructionist musings regarding the endless quest for the so-called historical Jesus, but I probably just missed them. In your lineup

of bright stars there is Greenpeace International’s Rex Weyler and his latest research. There is Toronto professor Barrie Wilson’s book, How Jesus Became a Christian. And, oh yes, the much-vaunted Jesus Seminar people in California with their little coloured beads. God bless all their honest academic hearts. But then there’s the United Church’s Gretta Vosper. Look, rational people, when they have a crisis in faith, call it what it is. Vosper sounds more like she is trying to breathe life into her dying integrity, and it would be better if she would spare her congregation her insincerity and leave the religion she so obviously hates.

Lee Sweet, Orleans, Ont.

I FIND YOUR COVER offensive. “Scholars” have been casting doubt on the divinity of Christ since the day He was born. It occurs to me that you have never printed a cover of Muhammad with the same questions you asked on this cover.

Elizabeth van Akker, Victoria

YOUR COVER BROUGHT a smile to my face. It’s cute, I like it. However, your approach is much like me saying that after 51 years of marriage, I have doubts about my wife and wonder if our marriage would be better off without her? The Christian’s faith is based, like a marriage, on a loving daily relationship with a living person, not on scholarly suppositions. Maybe it’s not Jesus, but the scholars who have the identity crisis.

Cleaver Keenan, New Liskeard, Ont.

BETHUNE SUGGESTED that the selection of the books to be included in the Bible were the result of a popularity contest and that other books, such as the Gospel ofjudas and the Gospel of Thomas, should share equal consideration when defining the true identity of Jesus. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The canon, as it is currently defined, was chosen by councils of the universal church not on popularity, but by carefully weighing each book.

Bethune also talks about the Jesus Seminar, a less than scholarly collection of liberal theologians attempting to further their own agendas. A vote reflecting a delegate’s opinion on the truth of the sayings of Jesus is hardly a scholarly approach. These people do not take into account the whole of the Bible in their

‘Good tippers are generous, decent human beings. And giving is good for the soul.’

deliberations, as the Old Testament and the New Testament support each other, and make quite a case for the identity of Christ as it has been put forward by the orthodox church. Steve Puersten, Mississauga, Ont.

CHRISTIANITY HAS ABSORBED for many centuries the best energies of man. It has slowed the march of civilization, and made martyrs of some of the noblest men and women of the race. Today it is the greatest enemy of knowledge, of freedom, of social and industrial improvement, and of the genuine brotherhood of mankind. Whether Christ did or did not live has nothing at all to do with what the churches teach, or with what we believe. It is wholly a matter of evidence. It is a question of science.

The real question is what does history say? And that question must be settled by historical criticism. If the thinking world is to hold to the position that Christ was real, there must be evidence to warrant that belief. If no evidence for His existence can be found, He will have to take his place with the host of other false gods whose fancied lives and deeds make up the mythology of the world. The vast majority of Christian myths were stolen from pagan and other ideologies hundreds of years prior to the invasion of Christianity.

Dayel Peterson, Waterloo, Ont.


ANDREW COYNE’S ARTICLE has my blood boiling (“The tipping plague,” Help, March 3l). He wants us to believe that he’s concerned about the seemingly out-of-control spread of tipping, but the whole article is clearly a not-so-thinly veiled attack on waiters. Although I am no longer a waiter, it was my profession for almost 15 years and I simply cannot stand by and allow Coyne to get away with asserting that the public should decide to stop tipping. That is an attack on the working poor. The single mothers, immigrants and students who occupy these service positions cannot afford to have their “salaries” drastically reduced on the declaration of an admitted cheapskate. I can tell you with all certainty that the bad tippers of the world (you know who you are) don’t need any further incentive to leave nothing. They are already looking for a reason to do that the second they walk into any dining establishment. If a waiter asks “How’s everything?” he is considered

bothersome. If the waiter doesn’t ask, it’s inattentive. There’s no winning with a bad tipper. Coyne goes too far when he insults good tippers as phonies, simply out to impress. They’re generous, decent human beings. And giving is good for the soul.

Michael Sparaga, Toronto

I AM APPALLED Maclean’s would have the audacity to print such a socially irresponsible rant. Clearly Coyne has never struggled with the weight of a massive student loan, nor does he know what it is to be an immigrant who has come to Canada seeking financial stability and finds himself unable to circumvent the language barrier that exists, or worse yet, a single parent shouldered with the cost of having to put food on the table. As a former waiter who provided knowledgeable and friendly service for over 10 years, I am all too accustomed to the social skills lacking in the majority of the dining community. Why doesn’t Coyne try being proactive and appealing to the government to raise minimum wages in the service industry? Perhaps that endeavour would give him more fodder for the banter he enjoys so much over his glass of fine Pinot Noir.

Mackenzie Lush, Toronto

ANDREW COYNE snipes about the shamelessness of service industry workers, but not the corporate executives who receive six-figure bonuses even as company profits tank, or rank-and-file workers are laid off. In the grand scheme of things, is it such a big deal to leave 25 per cent (oops, sorry Andrew, 15 per cent) for wonderful service on a nice night out? It’s not complicated, and, for the most part, it’s certainly not worth nickel-and-diming hard-working individuals out of money they’ve come to base part of their household budgets on.

Yuki Hayashi, Hamilton


MY CANADIAN-BORN and Canadian-raised mother and father couldn’t vote in this country until after the Second World War because

of their race, and I believe the ability to vote is one of our most precious rights. It is my belief that democracy is not perfect, but it is the best political system there is and we must always work to get more of it. So it was shocking to be included in Mark Steyn’s article (“Love with the perfect dictator,” March 3). To begin with, I did not call “for politicians who disagreed with [me] on ‘climate change’ to be thrown in jail.” What I did say was that we elect people to political office to look out for our well-being and lead us into the future. While politicians are held accountable for their actions (or inactions) at each election, much of what they do (or do not do) has repercussions that reverberate far beyond an election or two, but there is no way to hold them accountable for intergenerational impacts.

Two examples come to mind. After the oil crisis in the early ’70s, Ursula Franklin chaired the Science Council of Canada report, “Canada as a Conserver Society” (1977), that recommended greater efficiency in our use of

resources and adoption of more renewable energy. Had our leaders responded as Denmark did, we would be reaping enormous economic and environmental benefits today. In 1988, after a major atmosphere conference in Toronto, scientists felt that the evidence that human beings were contributing to global warming was compelling enough to recommend that industrialized countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent

‘Our 88-year-old father, pulled off three of his medications, is back playing bridge again’

in 15 years. Had politicians accepted the advice, they would have found it easier and cheaper than it is now and taken us far beyond the Kyoto target.

For two decades, leading climatologists and top scientists have urged action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sir Nicholas Stern, an eminent economist, concluded that while the cost of acting to keep temperatures from rising above 20° C this century would be one per cent of annual GDPs, failing to address the problem would be economically catastrophic. Faced with such expert advice, I believe the failure to act on this urgent issue is an intergenerational crime, as is the effort to characterize the evidence on global warming as junk science. How do we hold our socalled leaders accountable?

David Suzuki, Vancouver


AFTER READING Julia McKinnell’s article about Dr. Dennis McCullough’s book aimed at the adult children of aging parents, I ordered a copy (“You and your siblings need to talk,” Help, March 24). Our family has recently witnessed the remarkable improvement in our 88-year-old father when an astute specialist in internal medicine pulled him off three of the medications he’d been prescribed by his family doctor. In four days, his blood sugar returned to normal, his dizziness was gone, he stopped falling down at night, and his appetite was back. After two weeks, his memory improved and he was back playing bridge again. It is interesting that Dr. McCullough’s experience is that elders later in life do better on almost no medication.

Margaret J. McMaster, Kingsville, Ont.


HIS EXPRESS CONCERN notwithstanding, journalist Edward Lucas might be advised that, as opposed to those whom he accuses of being complacent in the West about Russia’s new-found assertiveness, I am wide awake, with my moral compass to hand (Interview, March 24). Mine, though, is quite at odds with his.

Mine tells me that to equate Putin’s Russia with Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union is to betray a stunning failure of historical perspective and to insult, all at once, the president of Russia, the Russians who

support him, and the memory of the victims of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. My compass tells me that, all Russia’s problems notwithstanding, Vladimir Putin has in eight years led that crucial federation from alarming disorder, despair and derision to stability, hope, progress—and tens of millions of the best Russian lives in history, an achievement of historic scope and positive consequence.

It tells me that, whoever’s done the better job, it is no more shocking to have a former KGB official running Russia than it has been to have a former CIA chief run the U.S.A. It tells me as well that the oft-echoed Economist should find a more contemporary calling than anti-Sovietism and spare us all its restless yearning for enemies in Moscow. And it tells me, at last, to reject the condescension in the attitude of Edward Lucas that he knows what’s good for Russians better than they do, and that those who’d doubt it need “waking up,” having “lost their moral compass.”

Christopher Westdal, former Canadian ambassador to Russia, Chelsea, Que.


AS A LONG-TIME subscriber to your magazine, my request is simple: more Foth (“Looking back, with envy, at leaders past,” National, March 31)!

Patrick Slimmon, Toronto