David Pence’s opinion on the religious nature of recent wars presents an interpretation of the Kingdom of God that is not very biblical (“These wars — they’re religious. Will the West take a side?” July 19). He proposes that American Christians should “join the battle” with our “mighty armed national brotherhoods” in “wielding a sword of protection” for worldwide persecuted Christians. He asserts Christians have a duty to defend that kingdom, so “Christian men formed police departments and national armies and navies.” The creation of a coercive force is exactly what a majority in Jesus’ society expected a messiah to do. But Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If it were, my followers would be fighting to prevent my arrest.”

In the first 300 years of the rapid growth of the church, it was a persecuted minority that did not take up the sword to defend God’s kingdom. Constantine’s melding of church and state resulted in the first of many examples of what Martin Luther called defective “theologies of glory” that displace a more biblical “theology of the cross.” Pence provides an example.

Pence ignores the relevance of the U.S. pre-emptive war in Iraq, launched with many Christian platitudes. It displaced a Sunni dictator with an elected president who excluded Sunnis, some of whom became the core of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The result is that Christians in the region are now much worse off than they were with Saddam in power. We are a part of the problem, and Pence irrationally wants more of the same as a solution.

Dick Peterson, Nisswa, Minn.

• • •

The headline of Pence’s article misses slightly. The West shouldn’t take a side at all. The U.S. is a nation that is allowed to think freely, and that is what sets us apart. Pence proposes that when you see a senseless act of violence, you will more than likely find religion to make sense of it.

The acts of violence are extremely senseless, and for the most part, baseless. People are committing horrific atrocities and are willing to give their lives for something they don’t even know exists. Belief makes people feel good. Knowing that heaven is waiting can bring someone ease and, in the Middle East, cause someone to blow themselves up. We in the West don’t need to take a side; we need to eradicate these insane behaviors through educational reforms. Religious tolerance in the Middle East would not only save lives but improve economic stability.

Michael Herrle, Savage

• • •

I don’t know exactly where I stand on violence and nonviolence; I am just a broken and sinful human being. But I kind of agree with what Martin Luther King Jr. preached: We have a choice now between nonviolence or nonexistence. I don’t think it will work out to try to defeat the evil of violence in the world by using military solutions to stop the persecution of Christians or any other religious minority. I do feel terrible for the people who are being martyred and mistreated in various countries where persecution of religious minorities is happening. It’s not an insignificant issue. I do not condone persecution at all. But in Christianity, we are told to expect this kind of persecution. Jesus himself predicted that these things would happen in the Bible in the book of John, chapter 16, verse 2: “… and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.” We need to have faith and keep going, but I feel violence isn’t the answer.

Bruce Magnuson, Minneapolis

• • •

In Pence’s article, one could substitute “ethical atheist” wherever “Christian” appears, and his statements would be just as true (or false).

Donald Benson, Minnetrista

 

Pence’s article explains exactly why we are having trouble with the Islamic State. I can’t believe I just read it in the Star Tribune. Maybe it has gotten to the point that it can no longer be overlooked. Well, better late then never. The article should be required reading for every person over the age of 16.

Edward McHugh, East Bethel

 

CEO PAY

At least one of those high-paid leaders felt certain he deserved it

I was a mortgage banker most of my working years. It was a very satisfying career, helping people with their dreams of owning a home. For a few years, my income was very good, but mostly the compensation was not all that great for a job that had a lot of pressure and long hours.

I believe most all of us would like to be paid well and do want money for many reasons; however, reading about the outrageous executive pay sickens me (“The widening wealth gap,” July 19). It is just so wrong. It disgusts me! At a shareholders meeting in Minneapolis a few years ago, a shareholder during the question-and-answer period asked the CEO of one of the largest banks in the region how he could justify his outrageous compensation. The CEO walked to the podium, said that he would not have taken the job without it, and sat down. Only Donald Trump has more arrogance than that.

Don Hanson, Rochester

 

LEGISLATORS

If they’re tempted by lucrative roles, what can we do?

I found Lori Sturdevant’s July 19 column “Legislators come and sometimes go too soon” to be right on point. As someone who has lobbied the Legislature since 2009, I have seen several excellent legislators leave for more lucrative public servant positions.

I have seen former state Sen. Linda Higgins and Rep. Ron Shimanski leave the Legislature for seats on county boards and former Sen. Linda Berglin for a position with Hennepin County Human Services. As someone who has considered a run for political office, I too focus on a County Board seat, which is much more lucrative than a seat in the Legislature.

We criticized Gov. Mark Dayton for giving increases in salaries for department commissioners (he rationalized his efforts on attracting top qualified individuals to fill those positions). What is so disheartening is most long-serving legislators are there more for the power and to self-serve their agendas, and they have the least interest in representing the people who elected them in the first place.

Michael Harasyn, Spring Lake Park

• • •

Sturdevant argues that legislator pay needs to be raised to retain top legislators. However, many top legislators leave public service to work as lobbyists or consultants for the very industries they regulated. This year Sen. David Tomassoni briefly took the top executive position for an organization that comes before his Senate committee without stepping down as a senator.

Taking these well-paid positions is perfectly legal, as Minnesota’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled in Tomassoni’s case before he stepped down from the executive position, but we need to ask: Should it be? Should legislators who regulate health care, environmental protections, education funding and other important issues on behalf of us be allowed to take positions where they use their relationships to help individual special interests?

No, this is a clear conflict of interest and one that must be stopped. A two-year ban on legislators and top staff becoming lobbyists or consultants has been introduced in numerous sessions and, if passed, would lessen the appeal to legislators of leaving public service for a job exploiting their service for a lucrative salary.

Jeremy Schroeder, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of Common Cause Minnesota.