Thank you so much for Gene Edward Veith's wonderful article on The Two Towers ("Lord of the box office," Jan. 11). As a Lord of the Rings fan and a Christian, I sincerely appreciate it that you recognize this trilogy, not only for its inspiring story and impact on the world, but also for its Christian values. I just wish the world would realize that the values that they admire in the characters could also be evident in their own lives through Jesus Christ. - Emily Brown, Wills Point, Texas
I enjoyed the movie as much as anyone else, but to call it "based on serious theology" and labeling Gandalf a "Christ-figure" is utterly ridiculous. - Brian C. Bennett, Barboursville, Va.
WORLD's admiring article on The Two Towers disturbed me deeply. The presence of "an epic struggle between good and evil" is not a sufficient reason for Christians to embrace a film based in witchcraft and sorcery. I wish with all my heart that my generation would evaluate popular movies against Scripture alone and not endorse cultural darkness in the name of Christian theology. - Marian Braaksma, Purcellville, Va.
The masses have indeed escaped into fantasy, but it is unlikely that this indicates a widespread receptiveness to truth. Most religions have the concept of good against evil, but the message of man's lost condition-and the salvation found only in Christ-is not nearly as popular as these Hollywood masterpieces. - Jeremy Bajema, New Plymouth, Idaho
Thank you very much for your insightful article about The Two Towers. It is an amazing movie that really connects with a lot of Tolkien's themes about power, evil, bravery, friendship, and destiny. Without even mentioning Christianity, it makes a powerful impact for Christian truth. - Matthew Loftus, 16, Bel Air, Md.
Although it can be argued that Gandalf is the primary Christ-figure, clearly Aragorn fits this description more aptly. In the next book, The Return of the King, Aragorn enters the Paths of the Dead and emerges alive as a fair and merciful king who frees the slaves, overcomes evil, is victorious over death, and heals the sick. - Timothy Berry, Fenton, Mo.
Thank you for your article which convinced me to see To End All Wars, even though my personal standard is that I do not see R-rated movies ("To end all culture wars," Jan. 11). The last exception I made was for Schindler's List, a life-changing film. In your article you wondered if Christians will see this film. I think another important question is, will Christians take their unsaved friends, especially those imprisoned by unforgiveness, to see it? War movies aren't my favorite, but the message of forgiveness and faith in the crucible was compelling. - Cindy Murphy, Monument, Colo.
"Rating the ratings" (Jan. 11) was an unfortunate piece. I agree that a movie's worldview may have more of a negative influence on a viewer than the verbal or graphic images. But I think the effect of the commentary was to justify the movie choices of many who use little discernment. How many people go to movies to be part of the "Great Conversation"? What has been said in R-rated films that cannot be heard elsewhere? How many times can I hear a word or see an image without it seeping into my thinking, eroding my sensitivity, my purity? Do I have to be assaulted visually and verbally to hear a message? - Dan Gleason, Elizabethton, Tenn.
How can we find concentration camp victims stripped bare by the Nazis a "shocking humiliation" but then passively approve when a Hollywood director strips actresses bare for our entertainment? And surely Mr. Veith misses the point when he says that "hearing bad language does not seem sinful." No, not if circumstances force it on us. But paying people to entertain us by saying perverse or blasphemous words or telling filthy stories? Heaven help us. If Hollywood is indeed where the Great Conversation is found, the price of admission-misusing people-is too high. - Wayne Wilson, Acton, Calif.
Price of a ticket
John Piper argues that churches should not accept money won from gambling in part because lotteries exploit the poor ("The wages of sin," Jan. 11). I disagree. Gambling is a voluntary tax. Jack Whittaker has given several churches huge sums of the winnings. I say, "Great! Lord, continue to bless him!" The money was won legally and legitimately. As a retired pastor, if the money came to my church, I would put that check on the altar, pray for guidance and wisdom and release, and bless that money unto the Lord's work. - Orval K. Moren, Coon Rapids, Minn.
Mr. Piper correctly states that there is a problem with the church accepting gambling money. We have been lured down the path that says the church must change with the times, and that any time good can come of something, like a new youth center, it must have been ordained by God. We are too eager to accept any explanation that allows us to do what we want, and then claim that God is in it. - Jack Durbin, Lacey, Wash.
Mr. Piper is way off base. I have a nonprofit project and any time I can get some funds to help that along, I will do so. And my church will also benefit from some of those funds. Not a dime will go into my pocket. I usually buy a lottery ticket each week in the hopes that I might win some funds to help my goal. If Mr. Piper thinks that by this I have "wandered away from the faith and pierced myself with many pangs," and that I also am working against Christ's hopes, then he is sorely mistaken. I feel no pangs. - H.K. Miller, Weed, Calif.
I could not agree with Mr. Piper more. In Oregon, the state lottery commission is continuously running advertisements about how it supports school programs, economic development, and environmental programs, but as a police officer I have seen the dreadful human costs of gaining these funds. I will never forget an argument that I handled in a bar. The wife was screaming and yelling at her husband, who basically ignored her as he sat (sober) in front of a video poker machine provided by the State of Oregon. When I arrived, he had already blown over $500 and was working on destroying the future for his wife and their young children. The most appalling part of this scene was his complete lack of concern. Oh yes, the Oregon Lottery "does good things" but the cost is truly abhorrent. May God grant that our politicians wake up to this terrible price before more damage is done. - Dennis Marks, McMinnville, Ore.
Mr. Piper slanders Jack Whittaker by assuming that he-indeed anyone who buys a lottery ticket-is a greedy lover of money, and that Mr. Whittaker is attempting to atone for his sin by giving some of the money he won to churches. Perhaps Mr. Whittaker is simply tithing. Will Mr. Piper's church now refuse gifts from those whose love of money-a heart attitude after all-is less evident or expressed in more socially acceptable ways than buying a lottery ticket? - Chip Watkins, Arlington, Va.
You can quit looking for the Best Article of 2003; it is John Piper's "Wages from sin." He's right on the (legitimately acquired) money. - Bob Palma, Brownsburg, Ind.
We faced a similar, albeit smaller, situation when my husband's parents won money at a casino and gave some to us to buy a new mattress set we couldn't afford. We prayed and discussed whether we should accept the gift. In the end, we accepted it because it came from the heart. I think the Whittakers should not be condemned for offering their gift to the church. - Jen Scott, St. Charles, Mo.
I heartily agree with John Piper's rejection of lottery winnings. The poor are overrepresented in the $57 billion gambled away; that is money they need to spend on more crucial things for their families. Dwelling on the lottery's mind game can make the blessings given us seem cheap, and make me think that the house, car, job (wife?) with which God has blessed me is not good enough for me. We should want to better the lives of our families through work and accomplishment, not through a government gambling scheme. - Randall Ware, Newport News, Va.