I find an interesting connection between Gene Edward Veith's June 25 column, "A nation of deists" and your July 2/9 cover story on religious books ("Out of the ghetto"). The bestsellers in Christian books are often about "self"-self-improvement, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, or self-gratification. Is it any wonder that our teens have the mindset that self-esteem and personal happiness are the central goals of life? Whatever happened to books and preaching on biblical holiness, the sovereignty of God, or the cross and blood of Jesus?
-Frank Nolton; Ortonville, Mich.
I have been disappointed by the lack of support for Christian literature and music, which you seem to regard as uncreative and boring. There is a vibrant Christian culture out there that is creative and entertaining while sharing a message of salvation.
-Heather Boesch-Wages; Waterbury, Conn.
I read a lot of children's books and many of them strike me as subtly subversive, as though the author is winking at the child and whispering that she knows better what he wants than his mother does.
-Cheryl Dunlop; Nashville, Tenn.
Janie B. Cheaney's "All alone in the world?" (July 2/9) is spot on in its characterization of current children's literature. I once judged a literary essay competition among middle-school children in public schools. The only thing more depressing than the books were the essays. She is also correct about the key ideological feature of current juvenile literature: The autonomy and triumph of the individual has led to the depressing diminution of the person.
-Jeremy D. Knapp; Iowa City, Iowa
Lauren Winner is spot on in recognizing that many clerical mysteries tell a good story while undermining the foundations of theology ("Clerical mysteries," July 2/9). It's not about feminism, it's about the lack of recognition of sin. I'd also like to mention two popular characters, Peter Tremayne's heroine Sister Fidelma and Margaret Frazer's Sister Fevisee. Although these two heroines are placed in historic times, their thoughts, feelings, and theological musings reek of the very same liberalism Ms. Winner described.
-John Ottinger III; West Melbourne, Fla.
I am not sure why it is surprising that the fictional heroine-priest-detectives Ms. Winner describes are liberal: It is a necessary consequence of being a female cleric with a clear conscience. In order to ignore the New Testament's directives about male leadership within the church, one must do some rather interesting hermeneutical gyrations.
-Chris Cobb; Greenville, Ohio
Joel Belz's column on the death rate in Iraq compared to other U.S. conflicts and to other causes of death certainly did add perspective to the numbers, and should serve as a glaring reminder that we were, during the Civil War, our own worst enemy ("Fatality flaw," July 2/9). We are still, in so many ways, a nation divided.
-Gasper Chifici; San Marcos, Calif.
Two statistics Mr. Belz doesn't mention are the number of innocent people who died under the dictatorships we fought against, and the number of people freed from tyranny. What is the ratio of wartime casualties to these numbers?
-Jim Ingram; Broken Bow, Neb.
Mr. Belz is absolutely correct. As an American soldier, I find it repugnant that liberal media use the fighting serviceman/woman as the stick to whip our president with. I do not need a bunch of misguided, left-leaning journalists fighting for "my cause" and portraying me as some sort of invalid who needs their protection. It is insulting at best. Let us end all talk of death rates and stop being defensive about them.
-Barry Wright; Columbus, Ind.
I heartily agree with Mr. Veith in his column, "To: Our Chinese monitor" (July 2/9). He boldly states a truth that many American Christians may not like to hear: "There is no cost, no danger in being a member of a church" in the United States (so far). American Christians can learn from Chinese Christians what it can mean to confess the name of Jesus before men.
-M.L.F. Freiberg Sr.; Evanston, Ind.
I appreciated Andrew Coffin's review of Batman Begins ("Extreme makeover: Batman edition," July 2/9) but think Bruce Wayne's relationship with his father, a doctor, is the real heart of the film. With the sinister appearance of Henri Ducard, the younger Wayne must choose between two fathers: the Doctor or the Destroyer. His memories of his true father (and his association with his father's surviving friends) not only save him from nihilism and despair, but make him a true hero.
-Gary D. Robinson; Conneautville, Pa.
Marty Justis of the American Legion was quoted as saying, "I don't think any veteran would say they fought overseas so that the flag could be burned on the streets of America" ("Blaze of Old Glory," July 2/9). I have heard many veterans say that they abhor the idea of burning the flag but abhor even more the idea that the First Amendment could be so drastically limited. What will amendment supporters do when the balance of power shifts and people who disagree with them decide it's time to limit their ability to express themselves?
-Michael Clement; Texas City, Texas
The slippery slope of stem-cell and genetic research is real. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the dream to create a set of genes from scratch. Researchers are attempting to create entire species, albeit single-cell at this point, but the possibilities are frightening.
-John Fishbur; Westwood, N.J.
Thank you for the picture of an MS-13 member on the cover of your June 18 issue ("Coming to a neighborhood near you"). I would rather have my children be aware of such grotesqueness before they see it face-to-face someday.
-Max L. Binkle; Williamsburg, Mich.