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Letters: Feb. 28, 2005

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DEPARTMENT

The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE ON THE 25 most influential Evangelicals in America [Feb. 7]. At a time when Christianity in the U.S. is finally beginning to recover from the televangelist debacles and other overpublicized problems of the past, it was encouraging to see a mostly positive report on the good things that are happening in Christian ministries today. Those who are wary of evangelical activists need to understand that true Christians are not bigots, hypocrites or crooks. We just want to live our lives to please God as best as we can, take care of our families and help people–not because we think we are better than others and not for our own personal gain but for the souls of those for whom we pray.

CHRISTOPHER HART Saginaw, Mich.

YOUR COVER IMAGERY, THE CHRISTIAN cross in front of the Stars and Stripes, was chilling. Since the beginning of the disastrous Bush presidency, we have been inundated with an aggressive brand of Christian religiosity from leaders whose intolerance rivals anything we have heard from the Islamic zealots in the Middle East. What ever happened to free religious choice?

SARA J. RICHEY Chowchilla, Calif.

YOUR STORY ON EVANGELICALS MADE ONE thing quite clear: There is money to be made if you can convince people you have a direct line to God.

HARRY WASTRACK Sterling, Va.

THANK YOU FOR THE GRACIOUS recogiItion of me in your article. I think, however, you missed something: the most influential and greatest Christians are the people all over America you’ve never heard of. They have a deep concern for the most needy among us, especially those who do not know Jesus Christ.

STUART EPPERSON, CHAIRMAN SALEM COMMUNICATIONS Camarillo, Calif.

GOD PROTECT US FROM RELIGIOUS fanatics of any faith who are convinced they know the truth and have a right to impose their beliefs on others. The narrowing of the separation of church and state in the U.S. is a frightening trend that conjures up images of religious persecution rather than religious freedom. It is a mystery to me how people who claim to be followers of Jesus can wage war, seek to disenfranchise those who differ from them, and justify torture.

MARY LINDBLAD Northfield, Ill.

EVANGELICALS ARE VERY INFLUENTIAL IN our nation and, contrary to what some believe, they are not all bad. The individuals you spotlighted are some of the best. From the hard-hitting Pentecostal style of T.D. Jakes to the purpose-driven leadership of Rick Warren, Evangelicals were given a degree of respect and appreciation that they are not often accorded in today’s world. I pray all Evangelicals will follow their example.

JAY PROSSER Guntersville, Ala.

IF JESUS CHRIST PREACHED INCLUSION, acceptance and forgiveness, why are so many of today’s so-called Christians preaching exclusion and intolerance?

GABRIEL REYES Los Angeles

WHILE THERE ARE PECULIAR PEOPLE AND ideas among all groups, conservative Christians are not crackpot extremists. Evangelicals care about people from all walks of life and hope they will have a personal relationship with God.

CURT CHRISTENSEN St. Charles, Ill.

WHAT’S SCARY IS THE EVANGELICALS’ blatant attack on the separation of church and state, a concept that has long protected all U.S. citizens. The battle between the forces of enlightenment and those of religious fundamentalism will determine whether we slide back into the shadowed past when religion and the state were one. Our children are depending on us to preserve their civil liberties and prevent them from having to grow up under a Christian version of the Taliban.

ROBERT CARVER Metairie, La.

WHO ARE THESE RELIGIOUS LEADERS helping besides themselves? Most seem to be selfish theocrats who care only about money and grabbing political power at the expense of those of us who don’t see things exactly as they do.

ARIEL A. VITALI Irving, Texas

I SEE NO CORRELATION BETWEEN THE humble Christ who washed his Disciples’ feet and these conspicuously wealthy religious leaders. And in none of their ministries do I find the most important Christian concept of all, grace.

MURIEL MESSER Polo, Ill.

• Read other stories on evangelical leaders in TIME’s archives attime.com/evangelicals

Payment Due?

YOUR STORY “WHAT DOES BUSH OWE THE Religious Right?” explored what Christian conservatives want in return for helping re-elect the President [Feb. 7]. I wish America saw Christians as something other than die-hard Bush supporters and Bible-toting Fundamentalists condemning to hell gays and pregnant teens. Are all Christians to be known only by the anti-gay-marriage and antiabortion agendas of some? Jesus served the poor and loved the neglected. His message was about caring for the destitute and the outcast. If Christianity in America is to be defined solely by what it stands against, then God help us all.

EVELYN HSIEH San Diego

BUSH OWES THE EVANGELICALS NOTHING. To pay off religious groups, whether on the left or right, for electoral support is to put the U.S. on an ugly road to theocracy.

DICK MARTI Tifton, Ga.

THE CONTINUED FOCUS OF THE mainstream media on the Evangelicals and conservatives who align themselves with the Republican Party perpetuates the myth that most, if not all, Evangelicals conform to the conservative Republican social agenda. Many Evangelicals, however, care deeply about poverty, health care, the economy and the effects of globalization on the poor. Thousands of young Evangelicals are quietly working to alleviate human suffering in impoverished communities across the country.

(THE REV.) JEFF CARR Cincinnati, Ohio

BUSH OWES CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS SO much that he can never pay them back. He’s in debt up to his eye sockets.

ED CALKINS Providence, R.I.

IF IT’S O.K. FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND Jews to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, why isn’t it O.K. for Evangelicals to vote overwhelmingly Republican?

GEORGE J. LUKAC Santa Fe, N.M.

BUSH OWES RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES nothing. Just the fact that a believing conservative is in the White House is our payback. Nothing else is needed.

JAMES B. OSBON Amelia Island, Fla.

The Democratic Faithful

ON YOUR COVER, YOU ASKED IF THE Democrats need more religion [Feb. 7]. No, we don’t. We need only to let the religious among us have a stronger voice and take a more active role in reshaping the party. Unlike conservatives, religious liberals are not at all interested in what other people do in their bedrooms. Liberals need not worry that we do not talk the talk of religious conservatives. Why should we try? We have something entirely different to say.

MARY ELLEN LANE Houston

So Long, Johnny

THE PASSING OF LATE-NIGHT TELEVISION entertainer Johnny Carson [Feb. 7] brought back memories of a simpler, more comforting time. During his nearly 30-year tenure on the Tonight Show, Carson delivered a special brand of wit and class, particularly during his sharp opening monologues. He interacted with a fascinating array of guests, accentuating his intriguing and often hilarious interviews with his deadpan expression. Heeere’s to a legendary master of late-night talk TV who had an unforgettable impact on people’s lives.

DAVID KALINER Las Vegas

Reality in Iraq

COLUMNIST JOE KLEIN’S “THE END OF Rose-Petal Fantasies” suggested that hawkish neoconservatives may be losing their influence on the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq and elsewhere [Feb. 7]. Klein says those who were “complicit in rose-petal scenarios” for Iraq may now be less susceptible to fantasies. The only fantasy I can see is Klein’s in thinking that what has happened in Iraq has been a failure. Iraq is far from a lost cause, as was proved when Iraqis in all walks of life braved the threats of insurgents and took part in their first real free election.

OWEN T. MATHEWS Suffield, Conn.

Iraqis Go to the Polls

THE ELECTION IN IRAQ WAS A FRAUD [Feb. 14]. Many of the candidates and party platforms were secret. It was similar to the rigged 1967 election in South Vietnam that brought to power the corrupt President Nguyen Van Thieu.

ROEDY GREEN Victoria, B.C.

ALTHOUGH THE IRAQIS FACED TERRORIST threats when voting, the elections seem to have been a success. But this is not enough. We need to be aware that the government’s future remains uncertain as long as violence continues.

DEEPAK KUMAR VIDHYARTHI Muzaffar Nagar, India

Labeling the Insurgency

IN “HUNT FOR THE BOMB FACTORIES,” about the massive weapons depots around Baghdad [Feb. 7], TIME referred to “nationalist fighters” who use the arms for their deadly operations. You should reserve the term nationalist for the millions of brave and determined Iraqis who risked their lives to demonstrate their commitment to a new, democratic Iraq by voting in the election. The choice of bullets over ballots is being made not by nationalists but by foreign and homegrown jihadists, Baathists and insurgent Sunnis. They are terrorizing the population they falsely claim to represent. The true Iraqi nationalists are those who seek, peacefully and constructively, to build their new nation.

JEFF FARKAS Munich

Stay the Course

IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE A FINAL conclusion can be reached about what impact the invasion of Iraq has had on the long-term global interests of the U.S. [Jan. 31]. Having initiated the war in Iraq, however, the U.S. must not be in a hurry to pull out. Instead of setting a time limit for withdrawal, the U.S. must make certain that Iraq is no longer a danger to the rest of the world and ensure that Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party doesn’t make a comeback soon after the U.S. troops leave. It does not matter if it takes five, 10 or 20 years to achieve these goals. The time spent will be worthwhile.

AJIT PARTAP SINGH Ludhiana, India

A Commitment to Freedom

IN HIS COLUMN ON BUSH’S INAUGURAL speech [Jan. 31], Joe Klein suggested that the President is attempting to “confront tyranny with utopian bellicosity” but gives him credit he scarcely deserves. Far from exuding idealism, Bush seems to exhibit a messianic need to bring the rest of the world in line with the American way. He is no prophet. Sending troops into Iraq was merely politically expedient. If Bush’s commitment to freedom were as idealistic as it sounds, why not invade North Korea? And what about the detainees in Guantánamo Bay, who lost their basic right to a fair trial and were imprisoned for years? Freedom is not a word you can bandy about as verbal punctuation. Let’s hope Bush will learn what it actually means.

IONA SHARMA Merseyside, England

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