MAIL CALL AND CORRECTION: FROM THE PASSION TO THE

Readers were passionate about our March 28 cover story on Jesus' resurrection. "I'm glad Jon Meacham let the Bible say what it says," one wrote. A Christian appreciated the "evenhanded treatment that did not write off my entire world view as wacky and ignorant." But others wrote that the article "gives us piety, not history" and was "peddling a superstitious myth." A woman of faith said that the story of how Jesus became Christ "is difficult without a willingness to accept that God really is greater than anything our finite minds can understand." A reader who took offense to the piece said, "If I wanted religious instruction, I would go to church." Yet one reader found a universal message in the story: "Rather than focus on the Resurrection as part of a once-a-year ritual, we should use the example of Jesus' 'sacrificial death' to inspire day-to-day behaviors of performing good deeds, caring for others, valuing justice and yearning for peace."

How Christ Came to Be

When I saw your cover story "How Jesus Became Christ" (March 28), I expected yet another slap in the face to those of us who do celebrate Easter: an underhanded treatment of early Christian history, where, in the end, "historical scholars" successfully reframe the Resurrection accounts as a mere Easter Bunny story with a Good Moral. So I was pleasantly surprised to read Jon Meacham's frank and evenhanded treatment of the subject. Do the Gospel accounts present us with puzzles? Absolutely. Do seekers and skeptics have reason to question? Certainly they do. But does the historical record speak of an empty tomb? Undoubtedly it does. Thank you for being respectful of all sides and having the courage to tell the truth: still rolls the stone from the grave.
Perry S. Marshall
Berwyn, Ill.

Thank you for Jon Meacham's remarkably thorough cover article. Meacham manages to wade through the tricky waters of theological and historical subcurrents with sensitivity and balance, and finds a sure course that depicts the whole culture's reactions to the phenomenon of Jesus the Messiah. In an age of blind and ignorant faith, Meacham shows that reason and tradition are essential in appreciating the most important revelations of a living God at work in the world.
Rev. James K. Taylor
Cicero, N.Y.

Although NEWSWEEK's articles on religion are thoughtful and interesting, it is inappropriate to give so much cover time to one religion in our multicultural society. Please reduce the number of cover stories on Christianity unless NEWSWEEK is willing to devote equal attention to Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, shamanism, atheism, Taoism, Islam, agnosticism and all of the other religions and philosophies that enrich our culture.
Karen C. Ferreira
Acton, Mass.

Jon Meacham asks why Christianity has succeeded when so many religions have failed. A quick look at the historical and present global picture may cause us to question its "success." My personal history will make the point just as easily. While I was a kid and an altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s, our parish priest was quick to remind us that the Protestant boys on the west side of our farm town in western Massachusetts, with whom we played baseball and soccer, were going to hell because they weren't Catholic. In the late 1970s, after my conversion to evangelicalism, I attended a Christian college in Illinois. During chapel services one day, our president reminded us that our brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith were not among the saved, which led me to discourage my Catholic parents from attending my graduation for fear they would be shamed. Today my same-sex partner and our 2-year-old son are proud members of a Unitarian Universalist Church in Boston, whose social activism and programs for the poor and needy strike a chord of deep sympathy in my soul. How ironic that the two other churches of my past not only condemn my family to hell, but are actively working to marginalize families like mine, and eventually eliminate them. What a scary, divisive world Christianity has created.
Michael McGuill
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

As a parish pastor for 45 years, and more recently invited to do campus ministry, I continue my fascination with the question implied by the cover of Newsweek, and I appreciated the way the question was addressed in your pages. For students professing Christian beliefs, the religious climate on my campus has become very polarized. For a very vocal part of that Christian community, faith is replaced by what could only be called certainty. Certainty implies the worship of a God displeased with questions. The emphasis, for many young Christians, is on what is called substitutionary atonement, i.e., "Christ died for my sins." To question the meaning of such a proposition or to suggest that such a faith is self-centered often leads to a counterquestion that measures the questioner within narrow parameters: "Are you saved?" The polar response of other students is to assume that this attitude represents Christianity, so that they move away from involvement with a faith that they assume to be judgmental and lacking in intellectual integrity. Jon Meacham addresses the perplexing facets of Jesus' identity as the anointed one--and the question I raise continually: how, apart from a source in the mystery we call God, do we account for a pattern for human life that leads us away from destructive patterns which are both personal and global?
Hal W. LeMert Jr.
Presbyterian Campus Pastor University of Missouri
Columbia, Mo.

Your cover story on the Christ has an enormously important message for people of all faiths. Unfortunately, a casual reader might be left thinking that discrepancies in the historical facts of Jesus' life are a flaw in Christianity. It is important to point out that such differences are not critical to the veracity of the events celebrated during Easter. Rather, they are a key component to the contemporary application of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Raymond Brown, who was a member of the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission, made the point that no one should be upset by the contrasting views of Jesus or try to determine which is "correct." The picture of the different Gospel Passion accounts is beautifully painted for us to embrace over the ranging seasons of our life. Brown made the analogy that these "views" of Jesus' death are like walking around a large diamond from different angles. I believe that we should use Jon Meacham's timely and historically based article in NEWSWEEK, coupled with Brown's metaphor of the diamond, to make us all more tolerant of each other during these seemingly apocalyptic times. Only through a more compassionate handling of each other can we hope to see Jesus' message fulfilled: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you."
E. Wesley Ely
Nashville, Tenn.

Jon Meacham's well-written piece on the Resurrection is disappointing because he does not address questions that would speak to contemporary spirituality. He continues the evangelists' craft of turning theological myth into history. I'm using "mythology" in a positive sense, meaning symbolic or figurative, not in the common dismissal of "myth" as falsehood. We can understand how early Christians, in their world view, saw the Resurrection as a historical event, but we really can't think like ancient people in our vastly changed modern cosmology. As theological mythology, the Resurrection can have valuable spiritual interpretations, but the traditional physical understanding of it as a concrete historical event makes no sense in a world of the big bang and 16 billion years of evolution.
Eugene C. Bianchi, Professor Emeritus
Department of ReligionEmory University
Atlanta, Ga.

As a clergyperson, I read with great interest "How Jesus Became Christ." I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the superb writing and even more so with the theological conclusions. Thank you! But as I read the article about Terri Schiavo, "Between Life and Death," I wondered why Christians are so afraid of dying. Then I read "The Education of Paul Wolfowitz" and wondered if anyone from the Bush administration even knows a poor person, let alone cares about poverty. Next I read "Orphans of Tall Afar." All this during Holy Week left me with only one thought: Jesus still weeps.
Rev. Dr. Alice Petersen
Lebanon, Ohio

I want to commend Jon Meacham for an excellent article that carefully balances the reputation of Jesus as a reformer during his life, with his status as redeemer, gained afterward. For those who wonder how Christianity could spread so quickly, especially among the poor and disenfranchised of the Roman world, I would suggest they compare the misery of the classical view of life after death with the hopeful Christian vision.
Tim Cornillie
Barrington, Ill.

Over the past year, there have been an increasing number of front-page stories on issues of Christianity. While I appreciate the role religion plays in the lives of many, dwelling on the past, particularly on religious issues, does a huge disservice to your readers who expect real news and not a theological discourse. I can think of at least five pressing news stories from last week that would easily take precedence over "How Jesus Became Christ."
Andrew Epstein
Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

How can there be so many adherents to a gospel that affronts our rational sensibilities? I think the answer is that most of us use the Gospel of Christ as a language to conceptualize, experience and celebrate God's love. The Gospel is like a great work of art or a symphony: it mediates God's love to us. The literalness of the text is not relevant.
Joe Tschamler
Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Tragedy of Tall Afar

Thank you for the wonderful journalism in the article "Orphans of Tall Afar" (March 28), which reminds us of who is really paying for the Iraq war. The soldiers, dealing with an act of self-defense that killed innocent civilians, were asked to put it in a box ("We did nothing wrong") and return to combat because the commander tells military psychologists "Don't ruin my combat power." Someday those soldiers will have to face this burden, a terrible price to pay. The orphans have been crippled in the same way. Why should we be surprised that the teenage daughter, who had to have her parents' blood cleaned off her, says, "If it were up to me, I'd kill Americans and drink their blood." In the wake of events like this one, how can we not expect young Muslims all over the Arab world to become "freedom fighters" and "religious martyrs"? Most Americans can tell you the number of 9/11 victims and the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq, but can they say how many thousands (or tens of thousands?) of Iraqi noncombatants have died? When and how will the Iraqis forgive and forget Abu Ghraib, Fallujah and the countless victims of U.S. bombings? When and how will the bill come due?
Allan MacDonald
New London, N.H.

Owen Matthews did a comprehensive job covering the tragedy done to the Hassan family. Should we blame our soldiers who are ordered to march into the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time? Definitely not. We had My Lai in Vietnam 37 years ago; and we have Abu Ghraib and Tall Afar now. Our enemies, including supporters of bin Laden and Kim Jung Il, couldn't be happier to hear about these incidents, which are perfect propaganda bullets against us. Unfortunately the Bush administration never gets this message; otherwise they wouldn't let such incidents happen.
Hudson C. Holland
Fresh Meadows, N.Y.

Growing Up in the Big City

Sally Marshall may have convinced herself that her city kid is going to be OK, but I'd recommend she spend a week sometime in a small town to see what her child is missing ("A Childhood Without Crickets Isn't So Bad," March 28). My three young kids find visiting New York City exciting, but at home they get to experience the "freedom and simple pleasures" Marshall remembers from her own childhood. They ride bikes around our cul-de-sac, they climb the trees in our yard, they swing and slide on our climbing structure, they build snowmen in winter and dig in the dirt in the summer. And they can distinguish the sound of a chirping insect from a screeching truck.
Catherine Sanderson
Amherst, Mass.

I loved Sally Marshall's "My Turn" article on raising children in the city. My husband and I and our two kids live in full-blown suburbia, a much different environment from the one she described. As I read her article I found myself chuckling, because her concerns for her daughter seem to be the flip side of what my husband and I worry about. While Marshall's daughter may not know every dog's name in the neighborhood (our children most definitely do) and isn't quite sure what a cricket sounds like, ours rarely get to visit world-class museums or meet children from other countries. Our son and daughter are very familiar with climbing trees and summer evenings chasing fireflies, yet we worry about the lack of ethnic and racial diversification in their schools and the number of toys in the playroom. I believe that given love, structure and guidance from their parents and families, children constantly prove that they can flourish in almost any environment.
Anne-Marie Gilliam
Charlotte, N.C.

In an attempt to assuage her admitted ambivalence about raising her child in Manhattan, Sally Marshall manages to insult and dismiss the approximately 99 percent of Americans who do not live, as she says, in "the center of the universe." I think it's wonderful that Marshall's young daughter is on a first-name basis with the collection at the Met and that her public school is in the United Nations district. I also think her assertion that her daughter is "learning firsthand something that can't be taught in a homogeneous small town or suburb--that life is enriched by learning to get along with those different from us" is vastly unfair. Whether a grown person plays well with others can be a matter of life experience. It can also be a result of parental messages and modeling. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, but my parents preached respect and equality of all people, no matter what. I have met many people who grew up in big, diverse, urban areas whose minds are narrow and whose world views are small. In defending her choice to raise her child in the nation's biggest city (which, incidentally, doesn't need defending), she has built walls rather than torn them down. The center of any child's universe is where he or she feels love, acceptance and respect. Those things can be had anywhere, accompanied by cricket song or the view from a high-rise.
Lisa Kingsley
Des Moines, Iowa

Correction

"In Georgia, A Matter of Faith" (March 28), we incorrectly stated the name of the church where Rick Warren is a pastor. It is Saddleback Church, not Saddlebrook. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.