The Dec. 29, 1990, issue of America (pg. 499) had an excellent comment on the Muslim world by John Alden Williams. I recently reread this editorial and discussed it with my family and friends. It is timely and timeless. It was also prophetic, as the events of 9/11 proved: A form of radical activist Islam has the potential to be much more fearful...because it would be driven by religious energies. Please consider reprinting it. Now, more than ever, we need the voice of prudence and wisdom.
Gerard C. Jebaily, M.D.
It is a sobering thought that by taking aim at Iraq (1/20) the United States may also have the Garden of Eden in the crosshairs. Taking military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would by necessity include what many consider to be the sacred place where, according to the biblical account, God chose to create human life.
The region where the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers flow and nurture life, and where many locate the mythic gardenthe paradise of Godis, of course, present-day Iraq. And even where the biblical narrative is necessarily interpreted in terms of myth, waging war in this holy topography should make us pause and reflect. Perhaps we will realize that the dissension and enmity, the self-serving and the loss of ability to discriminate between things profitable and things hurtful, which caused the first human beings to lose paradise, force each generation, including our own, to live outside of Eden.
As the United States considers taking military action, we are reminded of the words of Jesus, borne out in history again and again, that all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Moreover, the weapons we fashion for warthe flaming swords (Gen 3:24)will be used in turn by the angel standing guard at the door to paradise to preclude us from entering therein.
May the God of peace give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace (Lk 1:79), that we might be able to rejoice at last with the poet John Milton: I who erewhile the happy Garden sung/ now sing Recover’d Paradise to all mankind (Paradise Regained).
(Rev.) Jeffrey Myers
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
I applaud the latest column of Thomas J. McCarthy (1/27), entitled Two Flags Side by Side High Above the Altar, which is very timely. Many of us share the pride and identification with all that is good and godly that we see in the American flag and the flag of the Vatican in our churches.
Abuse of power in the institutions that these symbols represent deserves scrutiny during the adult stage of life. There is yet another danger in viewing national policies and church teachings as well as procedures as though they were eternal verities, objects of fetishism.
Rightly should we be reminded not to abdicate either faith or freedom, without which we shall fail to deal with the problems confronting us. All these demand questioning, if we are to remain active participants.
Robert Z. Apostol
If one views life only through the eye of the flesh (senses) and the eye of the mind, one inevitably ends up in the quantitative world of utilitarianism. In Five Moral Crises (1/6), John Kavanaugh, S.J., reviews some of the consequences. In utilitarianism one exercises private judgment based on self-interest without reference to transcendent values. In the United States, both the right and the left are permeated with utilitarianism. No religious group, including Christianity and Islam, has been adept at dealing with utilitarianism, probably because of its technological benefits. The only way out, as far as I can see, is to view life through the eye of contemplation, as well as through the other two eyes. The theology is medieval, Franciscan and Victorine, but speaks better to our current condition than anything else I have seen.
Harold C. Jones
This is a small but important item I should have written to America when it was located at Campion House in Upper Manhattan years ago. It is an example of the commitment of John LaFarge, S.J., to his vow of poverty, particularly noteworthy in the son of a family of extraordinary wealth and talent. It happened after a meeting of the St. Madeleine Sophie Guild, of which he was chaplain.
Late Sunday afternoon, as I was leaving the Convent of the Religious of the Sacred Heart at 91st Street and Fifth Avenue, Father LaFarge was returning from the street. He needed 25 cents for bus fare. At that time, the drivers still changed bills; so, having no change, I offered him a dollar bill. No, no. Only a quarter to get him to Campion House for dinner. Fortunately, another guild member then left the building. She supplied the quarter.
Mary Bernice Aselin