In reading the lead letter on Nov. 18 (“No church? That’s a cop-out”), I couldn’t help feeling a little talked down to. The writer, a pastor, opens his strange letter by enumerating all the reasons that people are leaving churches (or as he calls it, “the Body,” whatever that means), then asks — almost demands — that we not leave the Body just because the church is hypocritical, because, he says, “don’t tell me that you are free of hypocrisy.” My goodness! Suddenly I’m lumped in with oily-haired TV evangelists and pedophile priests? He goes on to imply that I (and you, dear reader) are complicit in society’s degradation because we are “spiritually dead or dying.” Dear God, I guess when I was grading papers on Sunday mornings after tending to my garden (oh, oh, unorganized spirituality creeping up on me?) I was copping out on you by putting my students’ needs first.
It’s understandable that the writer is anxious about the state of religion these days, but don’t blame it on us. I could argue that religion got its start when people desperately needed to explain the phenomena they were experiencing — the heavenly bodies, thunder and lightning, disease, crop failure or success, etc., and argue that it’s all nonsense viewed through modern eyes. I could make a case that religion has been the cause of so much war and suffering, and that we’d all be better off without it. But the fact is, religion is here, and it’s evolving, just like everything else; you can’t stop it.
I would never be so bold as to deny someone his or her beliefs. Whatever brings people peace and comfort and faith and courage, I’m all for it. But the letter writer seems to disagree: He closes with, “the church today is serious business. Please don’t neglect it. When you do, everyone loses.” Forgive me, but I don’t think I’m really that important. Do you?
Steve Ford, St. Paul
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The letter on religious disaffiliation (responding to “Fastest growing religion is ‘None,’ ” part of the Star Tribune’s ongoing “Unchurching of America” series, Nov. 11) was well-intended but largely irrelevant to religious “nones.” Perhaps most striking is the letter writer’s response to the refrain of “I’m spiritual but not religious.” He argues for the benefits associated with membership in a faith community, and he exhorts young people to pay no mind to religious hypocrisy and to “Stay with your faith community and let your voice be heard!” The hidden premise is that young nones agree with Christian precepts. But this assumption is dubious at best. In Europe, a decline in religiosity led to a rise in people believing in “some sort of spirit or life force,” rather than a rise in theists who do not attend church (tinyurl.com/euro-relig, page 204). Getting young nones to attend church is secondary to convincing them of the gospel’s veracity.
Even if a substantial number of nones are absent Christians, the notion that they should stay to try and effect change is ridiculous. Religious nones are not shepherds to their former faith communities. Too often, these communities are entrenched with cliques and poor lay leadership. In my home parish, the “Quilter’s group” was the club of the elderly social elite, and it wasn’t until our priest gave an aggressive homily comparing them to the Pharisees that their grip on power was broken. My overturning tables and chasing them with a whip wouldn’t have made a difference. I just don’t have the credibility. The inclusion of young people starts with religious leadership. The nones can’t be faulted.
Ryan Slechta, Arden Hills
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I reject organized religion for a variety of reasons, but I wouldn’t dream of telling the faithful that they should stop attending church. However, apparently it’s appropriate to say that my well-thought-out choice not to be involved in organized religion is a “cop-out.” People would probably get along a lot better if they didn’t make negative comments about the religious choices of others. I promise not to if they will.
Ruth Conley, Andover
BUSINESS AND REPUBLICANS
Analysis left out small businesses, which have more-rounded interests
The Nov. 18 article “Businesses reckon with GOP losses” implies that businesses that organize to contribute to GOP candidates because they do not like to pay taxes somehow represent the collective will of all or most Minnesota businesses.
As a small-business owner, I find that representation not only insulting but also inaccurate. Just because groups such as National Federation of Independent Business supported GOP candidates because they wanted to pay fewer taxes, it does not follow that most Minnesota-based companies agree with this myopic view of the issues facing businesses.
More important issues for Minnesota businesses are keeping and attracting the highly educated workers who are so sorely needed for high-tech and medical companies. Many foreign workers, recruited to Minnesota for their special technical skills, are relocating to Canada because of holdups in green-card processing, as well as fear that they will be suddenly deported in the wake of immigration “crackdowns.” And it’s not just workers who are moving to Canada. Tech companies are crossing the border to headquarter in Canada not because of the taxes but because of the more stable environment for their international worker base.
It may have been easier for the author to interview the special-interest groups listed in the article, but as the election results showed, the majority of voters, many of whom are small-business owners, actually preferred DFL candidates who, through supporting infrastructure and education, have a longer view of what is best for Minnesota businesses.
Joan Gilmore, Fridley
The writer is a licensed boat captain and sailing school owner.
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People don’t realize how much small businesses in Minnesota contribute through corporate taxes and individual taxes from employees to social programs and to the state’s cultural vitality. Firms with fewer than 500 employees comprise 99.7 percent of U.S. companies, and these small businesses create 64 percent of new private-sector jobs in the U.S. Pressure from high taxes and regulation will likely drive some of these businesses from the state when the economy slows down, as it eventually will. Unfortunately, our colleges are not educating students on the benefits of capitalism and the dangers of socialism. Perhaps the Star Tribune can step in to fill the gap.
Nat Robbins, Minneapolis
Add this to the revolution
In response to the Nov. 17 commentary “Capitalism has a real problem, and needs a revolution,” from the Economist, I agree with the three suggestions to lessen the power of the capitalist plutocrats and suggest a fourth — a three-step program that would encourage competition in the labor market and directly address the imbalance of power between employer and employee:
1. Reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 24 hours a week by amending the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act to read that anything over 24 hours be treated as overtime.
2. Raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour.
3. Replace the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) with an Earned Income Credit (EIC). Give each worker an EIC voucher for $10 an hour, capped at 24 hours a week, that can be used at the employer of their choice. The employer must match the EIC with a minimum of $10, resulting in a $20-an-hour minimum wage.
A radical approach, to be sure, but one that should find support from both the left and the right. Workers and their families benefit from steps one and two. Employers should appreciate step three. This will all need to be mandated to ensure a level playing field for businesses competing for labor resources.
John Crea, St. Paul