I would like to comment on two of your recent articles. First, your interview with Judge Gilbert (2/29). You are to be commended for allowing Mr. Gilbert to speak. I am sure it has been very difficult for Mr. Gilbert and his wife and stepson to endure the relentless and merciless attacks this past year. He obviously is sorry for the mistakes that he made and has done everything possible to atone for them. I think it is also noteworthy that he has been honest about his errors when it would have been much easier to lie. It is refreshing to see a public figure admit when he has done wrong.
Second, your article on the Mel Gibson Movie “The Passion of the Christ.“ I disagree with your review of the movie. I consider myself an orthodox Roman Catholic and I did not find the movie anti-Semitic at all. If Mr. Gibson was trying to instill anti-Semitism, wouldn‘t I be his target audience? The Roman soldiers were portrayed in a much more negative light than the Jewish leadership. When I viewed the betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, the ruthlessness of SOME of the Jewish high priests and the brutality of the Roman soldiers, I was not angry at Jews and Italians. I was disappointed in myself. My sins are just as responsible for Christ‘s Passion. I think that was Mr. Gibson‘s point. His hand drives the first nail into Jesus‘ hand. You flippantly refer to him and dismiss him as an “ultraconservative Catholic“ that washes his hands of instilling hatred towards Jews. That is a very serious accusation and it is unfounded.
I hope to read more fair and open articles and less individually motivated/biased ones in your paper in the future.
Michael Shockley Elk Rapids
What an excellent article on Tom Gilbert (2/29). Thanks for bringing the excellent journalism you do to Northern Michigan.
T. Michael Jackson TC
Wow! What a beautiful presentation, Nancy Sundstrom (re: “Sara‘s Song,“ 2/22). My daughter was so touched by your words as was Tom. I have already had calls and friends have been so grateful to hear the whole story, which usually would not make dinner conversation.
Nancy, you reached the people I want to reach -- those still stuck in the abuse. Thank you especially for your words.
John Paul‘s swan song
What a thoughtfully, well-written article about John-Paul Mendez (‘John Paul bows out,‘ 2/29). You managed to convey many aspects of his exuberance in thoughts, wisdom, music, and his always present “quirks“ of nature. You are right, he is “the best musician you‘ve never seen or heard.“
Thank you so much for your sincerely, honest writing. What a rare treat in the world of journalism. He‘s already had a couple of offers from the Music House and the director of Blissfest. How unfortunate we waited until we were leaving to let Traverse City know of his existence.
We will come back, mostly for the summers. I will keep in touch periodically and it‘s nice to know I can read the Northern Express on-line from Nashville. I would have missed reading the article.
Thank you again for your wonderful writing. It‘s been a pleasure to live in this niche of the world and Traverse City, will always be in our hearts.
Robin Mendez Nashville, TN
Lumps & pumps
Well, your web site sucks. Looks like it hasnt been updated in a year, but the recent article Is Northern Lights Fading? (2/28) was fantastic. I applaud the enlightened attitude of Traverse City Light & Power. We all do live here, too, and thats the point. We should be way beyond fouling our own doorstep. Last night I heard an inspiring tape of Robert Kennedy, Jr., espousing his environmental views. At the end he paraphrased a Lakota saying which I will further paraphrase, We dont inherit the world from our parents; we borrow it from our children.
Lee Trucks via email
(The Express was switching over to a new website the day Lee Trucks wrote. We‘re fine-tuning the new www.northernexpress.com and welcome reader‘s input and interest. --ed.)
Message from Dubya
To be read with a southern drawl:
The War on Terra has multiple fronts, and I continue to show my commitment to protecting this great country from the collective threat of terra. Terra can rear its ugly head at any time and in many different forms. Its latest manifestation may come as a surprise to many of you, my fellow Americans.
In the name of national security, I am calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. That‘s right: gay marriages. We have intelligence that demonstrates a link between married homosexuals and terra-ist groups. We also believe that once married, these couples engage in the production of weapons of mass destruction.
We have further concluded that ecologists who think that drilling for oil is potentially bad for the environment and scientists claiming that me and my administration manipulates data to downplay the adverse effects of industrial pollution are loosely affiliated with these gay couples seeking marriage. These three entities -- homosexuals, ecologists, and scientists -- are part of a domestic “axis of evil“ that must be defeated.
This is now a top priority on my agenda, especially since we cannot find Osama bin Laden, and you, the American people, are starting to look ahead to the election. Actually, we now think Osama might be hiding with a gay married couple in San Francisco.
In closing, please join me in my gay battle, I mean, my battle against gay marriages, as we remain vigilant in the ever-broadening War on Terra.
Dubya (Jim Schramski) via email
Betrayed by authorities
I really don‘t know what to do or where to go anymore. My husband has
managed to create himself a not so nice prescription drug addiction, as
well as alcohol. I, being the concerned wife that I am, tried to pull
together a intervention with his doctor, counselor and family. It did not
go as we had planned, considering he would not come into the doctors office
and the doctor told him we were all there waiting for him.
I saw him getting worse every day; he really didn‘t know what was reality anymore. He was having hallucinations, nodding out in the middle of meals and
losing his grip on life. When he finally managed to convince his doctor
to give him an Oxycontin perscription, I panicked.
I called the non-emergency number to the police station to ask about an involintary treatment order for him. They directed my call straight to the
prosecutor, who assured me what I was doing is “tough love“ and my husband
was going to get the treatment he needs. Well four felony counts later,
my husband is not getting any treatment. He is sitting in the county jail
awaiting a trial.
I went to the prosecutor believing what I was doing was a good thing, only to now feel betrayed by a public official. My husband is now looking at 16 years of prison for a crime he swears he did not commit. All because I trusted what I was
saying to this man was going to be used for treatment purposes, not convictions.
Aimee Schwarz Maple City
Bridge a goner?
We‘d like to make you aware that the Grand Traverse County Road Commission has received the MDEQ‘s March 1 letter of guidance on the Hartman-Hammond road and bridge project. As a result, the Michigan Land Use Institute thinks it‘s very clear that the Hartman-Hammond road and bridge project is unlikely to be built, period.
The MDEQ found the road commission used an “erroneous assumption“ to eliminate the popular Smart Roads alternative and wrongly advanced a highway project promising the greatest damage to natural resources. As a result, the MDEQ wholly rejected the conclusions of the “seriously flawed“ million-dollar environmental study for the project, which the road commission launched in 1997 and completed in early 2001.
The state environmental agency also found that the portion of the Boardman River valley that the road commission seeks to fill and cross has “substantial historical, cultural, scenic, ecological and recreational values,“ based upon the publics feedback and the road commission‘s own submissions.
The letter specifically cites the significance of the packed July 2003 public hearing and the Institute and our allies‘ prior lawsuit in outlining the importance of the Boardman River valley and the environmental standards to be applied in this review.
Kelly Thayer Transportation Project Manager, Michigan Land Use Institute
The unfair Marriage Amendment
Currently there are resolutions before both the State House and the Senate
calling for a Marriage Amendment to our constitution.
The amendment would prohibit Michigan from having (gay) civil unions. It would
prevent local governments from providing domestic partner benefits. Cities
like Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, which currently provide such benefits to
their employees could no longer do so. The amendment would prevent school
districts from offering domestic partner benefits to their employees (both
Ann Arbor and Birmingham school districts currently provide such
benefits). State colleges and universities would also be prohibited from
recognizing domestic partners of both employees and students. Recognition
of domestic partners by employers frequently includes health care
coverage. Children who live with a gay or lesbian family member will be at
risk for losing health care coverage.
Among the benefits and protections of marriage are: hospital visitation,
inheriting property, child custody and visitation, joint adoption of
children and recognition at law of both parents, the right to obtain
United States citizenship for partners and children, dependent health care
coverage, family and medical leave, social security and government pension
plans, and decisions regarding funeral and burial to name just a few.
Michigan‘s constitution has never been amended to single out a class of people
for unequal treatment, yet this amendment would make it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in this state.
Gay and lesbian couples in lifelong relationships pay higher taxes and are
denied basic protections under the law. They receive no Social Security
survivor benefits upon the death of a partner, despite paying payroll
taxes. They must pay federal income taxes on their employer‘s
contributions toward their domestic partner‘s health insurance, while
married employees do not have to pay such taxes for their spouses. They
must pay all estate taxes when a partner dies. They often pay significant
tax penalties when they inherit a 401(k) from their partner. They are
denied family leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. All Michigan
families deserve these crucial protections.
According to conservative estimates from the 2000 census, there are more
than 1 million children being raised by same-sex couples in the United
States. Without the ability to establish a legal relationship to both
parents, children of same-sex couples are left without important
protections, such as Social Security survivor benefits.
We are not asking for special rights, just the same rights afforded to all
other Michigan families. Amending the constitution in Michigan to
legalize discrimination against any group of people sets a bad precident.
This proposed constitutional amendment will hurt, not strengthen, Michigan
Tammy Jamett-Yount Ann Arbor
Passionless about The Passion
Following our Ash Wednesday service, my wife and I (both ordained ministers) drove to the movies. The full to capacity parking lot confirmed our expectations. A palpable tension filled the lobby as teary-eyed people milled about us. Wed heard some churches bought the cache of tickets for member-only showings. Lucky for us, we were seeing The First 50 Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Neither of us had the slightest inclination to watch a one hundred minute scene of Roman torture and execution, the ending to which we already knew. We were especially wary of this one that allegedly fans anti-Semitic flames.
Redemption is a powerful experience for Christians. Knowing and experiencing Gods unconditional love, regardless of personal failings, brings comfort, healing, and inspiration. Christians are taught that humanity has been redeemed because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Acting as a substitute, Jesus became a surrogate for us, a proxy. While many Christians find great comfort and rich meaning in this traditional teaching, other Christians, myself included, find the violent and oppressive images unhelpful in expressing Gods compassion and love for humanity. Did God really coerce Jesus to the cross? Did Jesus choose the cross voluntarily? Both? Neither? Regardless the perspective, the violence and oppression in Jesus death seems an odd way to express the zenith of Gods love. What does Jesus horrifying death really teach people about redemption? With what imagine of God will those young children we saw entering the theater leave?
Throughout the eras of history, Christians have understood Christs Passion differently. During the few centuries following Jesus death, when people believed spirits and devils controlled everything, Jesus death was understood as a ransom; Jesus death was payment to the devil for the sins of humanity. During the Medieval era, Christians concerned themselves with paying honor and loyalty to God (like peasants to a king). They gave Jesus death a chivalrous character; though people dishonored God by sin, God made restitution for humanity by sending Gods own Child to die on a cross, thereby satisfying Gods own violated honor. Also during these Middle Ages, Christians were concerned with repentance. Jesus crucifixion took on a moral flavor; a teaching about Gods love that would drive people to repent, seeking forgiveness. The Renaissance era, a time when people were focused on law and politics, Christians understood Jesus death as justice for humanitys sin.
What does the Bible say about the Passion? Christians usually turn to Pauls writings to find the orthodox position. Surprisingly, reliable translations of The New Testament (not paraphrases) show that Paul does not think of Jesus death primarily as a sacrifice (excluding the uncharacteristic Romans 3:24 passage). Neither does Paul think of Jesus death as a substitution made on humanitys behalf. Instead, Paul is concerned about solidarity with, participation in, or belonging to Christ. Paul expresses this redemption as being in Christ.
In the Gospels redemption came through Jesus ministry to those in need. Jesus healings of body, mind, and spirit didnt happen through one excruciating Roman death sentence, but by continually ushering people into a right relationship with one another and with God. Perhaps redemption can come to us by Jesus showing us that life can be lived more abundantly through healing, peace, and compassion, rather than fear, violence, and oppression.
Doesnt our world need that kind of redemption? We live under threat of nuclear weapons. We defile the earth with our choices, actions, and lifestyles. The sins of racism, sexism, and homophobia are in plain sight. When wives are abused by husbands, and children by parents, must we continue to point to Christs abusive death as the path to redemption? Can we look at the world honestly, claiming that sin and evil have been overcome by Jesus brutal demise on the cross? If Christians are called to think critically and live faithfully, as I believe we are, wouldnt it be more thoughtful, more relevant, and even more scriptural, to see that redemption has to do with God, in Jesus, offering people a vision of the resources leading to an abundant, relational, peaceful life? Isnt this what Jesus spoke of in the famous Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6: 17-49), in the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), and in the admonition to love one another above all else (John 13:34-35)? Will we continue searching for healing, peace, community, and compassion by looking to the Roman Empires pogrom of violence, coercion, and destruction?
Far from advocating a cross-less Christianity, I wonder if we might find redemption in the larger story. What did Jesus and that rag-tag band of followers do as they roamed the remote villages of the Middle East? They dealt with peoples problems, revitalized communities, organized a movement, and boldly proclaimed that a new socialpolitical order was about to be established. When the populace was alerted to how the ruling elite exploited and oppressed, troublemakers were targeted and punished. Convinced Jesus did not die in vain, disciples continued this mission. Might redemption be found in the larger story, and not just in one violent moment?
The Passion of Mel Gibson will shape peoples perception of Christianity-for better or worse. Gibsons claims, the Holy Spirit is just working through me sells plenty of tickets, but Id have thought God had better cinematic taste. I dont like to tell God what to do, but if youre trying to build up humanity, why be fixated on the tearing down parts? God, weve already seen enough of that. Maybe God and Jesus need new P.R. agents.
Might it be time for Christians to search out less violent and more peaceful paths of redemption? Maybe the Holy Spirit was also working through The First 50 Dates. We saw a movie about accepting others differences, growing in awareness of past wrongs and repenting, offering forgiveness, seeking healing, and building relationships. Plus, we left the theater refreshed and laughing. Which movie would Jesus see? Redemption just might not be where you thought it was.
The Reverend Corey Sanderson
The Potters House of Grand Traverse,
United Church of Christ