Where fewer try
Thank you for your clear-headed response ("Bible Belt breakups," Nov. 27) to a recent AP report on high divorce rates in the Bible Belt states. That report, which used isolated statistics to presume a higher divorce rate in the South than in the Northeast, will be grist for the distortion mill. The number of divorces per 1,000 people should have been compared to the number of marriages per 1,000 people in each state. Regarding love and marriage, where fewer try, fewer fail, and fewer succeed: In my neck of the woods, far fewer people make it to the altar. As a minister, I can tell you that avoiding the altar does not protect people's hearts from the serious wounds of cold breakups, but they do tend to stay off the divorce charts. - Joel Mark Solliday, New Haven, Conn.
Formula for unhappiness
Wouldn't the most compelling reason why other states might have lower divorce rates than those found in the South be the higher rate of cohabitation? Some of the more unhappily married people I know followed the nostrums you set forth-living together, secularism, and premarital sex. - Bill Wilmeth, Ogden, Utah
Hard to believe
While the nationwide divorce rate has abated somewhat since the '80s, it is still far higher than one in five as your article suggested. As a professor of statistics, I'm wondering how Lou Harris-a credible pollster and statistician-can forecast a divorce rate of one in eight given the hard data collected over the last two decades. Data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that, on average, over the last 20 years there have been 57 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women, and 21 divorces per 1,000 married women, a rate of about 37 percent. (This figure requires some adjustment to account for population growth and multiple divorces by the same individuals.) In 1993 the National Commission on Children, among other agencies, noted that the United States had the highest divorce rate in the world, and observed that at then-present rates, approximately half of all U.S. marriages could be expected to end in divorce. - Charles H. Davis IV, New Braunfels, Texas
I wanted to commend Joel Belz for his rational perspective on living out a Christian worldview ("No crosses, no fish," Nov. 27). The "trite symbolism" he speaks of has long frustrated my husband and me. We long to see Christians immerse themselves in pursuing God and His character rather than keeping up with the fads and trends of "Christian" kitsch. - Sarah Garner, St. Louis, Mo.
Better to try
I am disappointed that you used distributing gospel tracts to illustrate the superficial things Christians do to make their businesses appear "Christian." I am a family physician and have been passing our tracts for 30 years and plan to continue no matter how superficial it might seem to some. Instead of criticizing folks who make a sincere attempt to spread the gospel in their own simple way, maybe you should be comparing the innkeepers with the 95 percent of Christians who never open their mouths or their hearts to their lost and dying neighbors. - Charles D. Hodges Jr., Lebanon, Ind.
Devour a sandwich ...
The horrifying article on the rape and murder of Jesse Dirkhising ("Small-town predators," Nov. 20) made me sick and haunts me still. I was especially shocked that Joshua Brown interrupted his vile sodomy to have a sandwich. While his child victim lay bound and violated, Mr. Brown found that his capacity to experience pleasure was hampered by some annoying hunger pangs. No big deal-devour a sandwich, devour a boy. Thank God this man and his accomplice are being prosecuted for murder. - Katharine Birkett, Montville, N.J.
Those who view all mankind as being basically good are those who want to abolish guns. Mankind is sinful, and so there is a need for guns in the hands of responsible individuals to protect themselves and others. Thank you, Cal Thomas, for "Outlaws and their guns" (Nov. 27). - Olivia Williams, Montgomery, Ala.
Excess without consequences
Cal Thomas warns that "the American way of life as we've known it since the end of World War II will come to an end" if people like Al Gore have their way ("Let them eat crude," Nov. 6). I find it more than a little disturbing that one could be so caught up in the illusion of excess without consequences to think that our present lifestyle needs no changing. Al Gore is terribly misguided, but people like him ought to shame us into action. - Matthew Bakker, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Kenneth Starr may be considered by some to be "the most hated man in America" ("An honest cop," Nov. 13), but I suspect there are many more like me who admire him. His integrity, consistency, and calm demeanor in the face of unwarranted media attacks are examples to all who would stand for right in an increasingly amoral society. While I found the constant vilification outrageous and frustrating, it was also a regular reminder to pray for Mr. Starr, his family, and his co-workers. - Judy Steenwyk, Zeeland, Mich.
I was particularly drawn to "Different strikes" (Nov. 27). My wife and I regularly provide music and a gospel message at area nursing homes with our little pop band. These nursing home residents may not be "homeless," but they are without companionship and friendship most of the time. To most people, except maybe their families and their care providers, they have no real value. To us each one is special. - Bob Woodford, Hudson, Mass.
Liz Anderson may lose her job because she won't stop telling customers to "have a blessed day" ("Blessing in disguise," Nov. 20). Wow. She made my day. - Jon Cassel, Lock Haven, Pa.
The reason we don't see this happening more often is because we don't have more Liz Andersons to bring the light of Christ into our God-denying culture. - Frank Vosler, New Albany, Ohio
The Baptist General Conference did not vote against the statement that God "foreknows infallibly all that shall come to pass" ("Marketing heresy?" Nov. 20). Rather, delegates voted against adding the statement to the existing statement of faith. I believe that the BGC's leadership and member churches overwhelmingly agree that God foreknows the future. - Kim Swenson, Wausau, Wis.
Hardening of the categories is a theological disease for which Baker Book House is apparently finding a cure, publishing fresh and challenging views. - Roger E. Olson, Waco, Texas
Congratulations on a well-done piece. Open theism is heresy. It is shameful that yet another publisher has lost its way. - Verlin Frickel, Bellevue, Wash.
The grim reality
I am a first-year medical student and just finished a course in gross anatomy and embryology. I wondered many times during the course how they came up with such intricate pictures and micrographs of fetuses. I am sad to say that I was ignorant of such means because I live in a culture that suppresses such gruesome details. Thank you for opening my eyes to the grim realities of what goes on behind the scenes ("The harvest of abortion," Oct. 23). - Richard Pittman, Jackson, Miss.
Tell you flat-out
Regarding the letter writer who said that Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley had told him he's a Christian, he just doesn't "wear [his Christianity] on his shirt sleeve" ("A partisan shot," Dec. 4): Should not a Christian do exactly that? I think it says a lot about a man when he can tell you flat-out that he'd rather his Christianity be a secret. - Heather R. Willson, Baldwinsville, N.Y.