Thomas Metzger's "Power & Passion" (January 5) resonates with the recent arrest of preacher and Klansman Edgar Ray Killen.

            One cannot objectively read the New Testament and fail to recognize its message of tolerance for nearly everyone. Jesus disdained only one group --- the Pharisees (overtly religious preachers of Biblical times). Preacher Killen, a modern Pharisee, could certainly contort a Biblical verse to justify murder.

            It's important for modern Christian youth to enjoy and be devoted to religion. However, I am alarmed that they are deluged with martial imagery and "armed with Bible tracts." Jesus' message of tolerance (which excepts, ironically, the outwardly religious) is conveyed by an overall impression --- not tracts. Literal interpretation is compromised by translation and the evolution of language.

            Consider, for example, that the word "Lord" was derived in feudal England (circa 1250). It is contracted from "loaf weard," the name for feudal lords with the God-given right to rule over serfs. Neither the word nor the concept of feudalism existed when the Gospels were compiled. It takes great faith in men, not God, to believe that the introduction of "lord" into the Bible had theological, not political implications.

            I am no cynic. I regularly read the Bible and, personally, I even reconcile Genesis with 21st-century science. I think it's important for people, young and old, to read the Bible, but we must be wary of tracts selected by men with a mission. Militant Islamic fundamentalist memorize selected phrases from the Koran to justify their actions, as militant Christians emphasize selective Biblical verses. Is there not a similarity between Islamic terrorist and Christians who bomb abortion clinics?

            Literal interpretation can destroy the Bible as well as the Koran. The image woven into a beautiful tapestry is destroyed, not enhanced, when it is unraveled to study thread by thread. So is scripture destroyed when the Bible is deconstructed and twisted to support the preconceptions of modern Pharisees or, for that matter, even atheist, e.g. "there is no God" (Psalms 14:1).

            John Speciale, Webster


On Monday morning I sat on the edge of my bed and watched "Good Morning America" air readings of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's speech "I Have a Dream." People of all ages, shapes, and colors recited the beautiful and timeless words, and before I knew it, I was sobbing.

            I was surprised by my emotional outburst, and then I thought about the lives lost in Iraq. I thought about people like my mother who are without health insurance and are battling illness. (She is diabetic, has rheumatoid arthritis, and most recently is being treated for breast cancer and will begin chemotherapy soon.)

            I thought about the electoral process, the future of the Supreme Court, women's reproductive rights, education, and Social Security.

            I thought about my most recent "inconvenience" on a plane trip: At the Rochester airport, I had difficulty obtaining a boarding pass. The sour-faced man behind the counter disappeared with my driver's license for several minutes through a closed door. He returned, equally sour, and handed me a letter from the Transportation Security Administration that claimed my name may match that of someone on the "watch lists of persons who are known to pose, or are suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security."

            I thought about the letter that I drafted, after a two-week cooling off period, to the TSA divulging my full name, date of birth, birthplace, address, and phone number so that I may be (hopefully) removed from the list and avoid future inconveniences.

            I thought about the upcoming inauguration and the how much all the money spent on that one colossal party could help people in need. And I thought about Bush's eternal smirk.

            Then I thought: "No wonder I'm crying."

            Elizabeth Anne Abdallah, Thurston Road, Rochester


You remember Harry and Louise? They were the ones who destroyed Clinton's health-care reform plan.

            Where are Harry and Louise when we really need them, this time to destroy Bush's oxymoronic plan to privatize Social Security?

            What irony! If Kerry hadn't run such an abortion of a campaign, we'd be talking about reforming health care and controlling prescription drug costs. Instead, we're talking about the destruction of Social Security.

            As a sign I saw December 1, hanging from the 11th floor windows of a Manhattan office building, said: "Who voted for this fool?"

            Gil French, Wisconsin Street, Rochester


I am a relatively well-off retiree who would not be affected by the president's proposed changes in Social Security provided he keeps his promise that no changes for present retirees will result. Nonetheless, I am concerned about the potential effects on my children and grandchildren.

            A major part of my pension is based on a conservatively managed stock fund. From 2000 to 2003, my monthly income from this fund decreased by 50 percent. Because this was not my sole source of retirement income, my standard of living was not seriously affected. But if I had been relying on Social Security alone and my monthly check had been halved, I would have had major difficulty even in paying for the necessities of life.

            Let us leave the stock market to those of us who can afford some risk, and continue the Social Security system unchanged for others. The Social Security Trust Fund will not run out of money until 2052 according to current estimates, and the projected shortfall can be remedied by much less drastic actions. These include repeal of a portion of the Bush tax cuts, increasing the amount of income subject to the Social Security tax, or a modest raise in the age at which full benefits can be collected.

            By no means should we make hasty changes in a system that has worked well for many years, and will continue to do so for nearly 50 years more.

            William Saunders, Parkwood Avenue, Brighton


Andrea Wander's response to an Aaron Burr fan was a nice exposure to the dichotomy of thought and ignorance some folks bring to the party ("Cheer Burr?" The Mail, January 5). She describes as sophomoric a notion that our differences should be settled "bully style," yet makes no reference to one who wants to bring back dueling (Zel Miller) or one who enjoys taunting from a safe distance (our fearless leader). A system of government so obviously envied in the world, yet confronted by crazed insurgents, must be part of some god's plan to add to the sweet mystery of life.

            Adding more mystery is Wander's implication that Bush won this election by a whopping majority of two million votes, which is about the same "close" number he "lost" by in 2000.Victory truly is in the eye of the beholder.

            Faith is needed now more than ever. Yes, for faith alone will lead you to believe that GWB is working for you when he pushes to limit lawsuits in medical cases, when he blocks importation of cheaper drugs, when he sweats while cooking the books to privatize Social Security. Oh, ye of little faith: You can always vote Democrat.

            Tim Shea, Nelson Street, Rochester


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