Imagine the novel idea of being a missionary in Africa or elsewhere and sleeping on a dirt floor, swatting flies, and going behind a tree to do your business ("Extreme games," July 30). What is really hard to imagine is that anyone ever thought any other idea would work. To earn someone's ear and heart you must first identify with them personally. What better way to identify than to live with them and like them?
-Ray Miller; Rio Frio, Texas
I was glad to tear into WORLD's stories of African compassion when I returned from a two-month mission trip working in the slums of Nairobi. I learned firsthand that ministering to people with Christ's love is the only way to help the problems wrought by sin. Too many missions efforts focus on saving a few souls without discipling them or ignoring their physical needs, and too many government programs are swallowed in corruption or fail to give people genuine hope. Your series fuels my desire to spend the rest of my life in Africa.
-Matthew Loftus; Bel Air, Md.
I am encouraged by your article regarding Rob Smith and his efforts to help prevent AIDS in Africa. It saddens and angers me that organizations are offering condoms and pills to help stop the spread of AIDS. The answer to stopping the AIDS epidemic is found in abstinence, and that will only make sense to people when they understand the gospel.
-Mark Carrington; Raleigh, N.C.
"The other venue" (July 16) was excellent. The Spirit of God is moving in unique and largely unnoticed ways through Christians willing to step out in faith.
-Martin Hasz; Northglenn, Colo.
Sadness & weep-ing
"Weep for the hyphen" (July 30) was well-balanced on the subject of journalistic accountability, and there are plenty of examples of concatenated titles near Joel Belz, including the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Hendersonville Times-News, and the Durham Herald-Sun. Ampersands, such as in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Greensboro News & Record, suggest the same troubling history.
-Hal Young; Smithfield, N.C.
I disagree with Joel Belz about not canceling subscriptions to other news sources. I got sick and tired of articles in Time and Newsweek that denigrated and falsely represented my faith. I canceled my subscriptions, and WORLD fills my niche for magazine news. Why put money into the hands of people who denigrate our faith?
-Jim Walker; Canton, Mich.
Thanks to Joel Belz for his wonderful column. I have several subscriptions to different news magazines, read the paper, and check things out online. It's good to know that I'm not the only one who thinks relying on several sources is a good idea.
-Andrew Hartman; San Jose, Calif.
Janie B. Cheaney could not have said it better: "It's a grand old flag, but it must never be lifted higher than the cross" ("Star-spangled symbol," July 30). For too long, many well-intentioned Christians have errantly exalted the Stars and Stripes to idol status while Christians who knew better remained silent.
-Aaron Gunsaulus; Newton, Iowa
We do not have to tolerate desecration of our flag. I respect our flag and support laws that require a modest amount of respect for it. How does that amount to idolatry? Ms. Cheaney says "a constitutional amendment would . . . elevate patriotism to a civil religion." No, it would merely make it against the law to desecrate our national symbol.
-Keith Borgelt; Kamiah, Idaho
The flag should definitely be protected. I reverence and worship the Lord, but, as a veteran, when I see "Old Glory" I am reminded of the men who fought and died for the country I love. It almost always brings me to tears.
-Robert Roll; Clintonville, Pa.
Not so dangerous
Susan Olasky reminds us that it is a dangerous step into darkness for Harry Potter to be both hero and sorcerer ("Hogwarts horror," July 30), but how is it so dangerous? Didn't some of us pretend to be Gandalf or Merlin in our childhood? Is Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which Lucy reads a book of spells, just as dangerous? Harry Potter is far less a problem for Christian readers than some nonfiction books that teach that praying in a certain way will win God's attention and grant our prayers.
-Phil Wade; Ringgold, Ga.
Ms. Rowling's books could very well be dangerous to some, but for strong Christians with their minds rooted in God's Word, these books can be enjoyable without being dangerous.
-Katie Beth Groover, 17; Franklinton, N.C.
Not so funny
I read your review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory right after seeing it ("Chocolate treat," July 30). I disagree that Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka was "reasonably convincing and often very funny." Gene Wilder's Wonka from the 1971 version seemed whimsically eccentric, but Mr. Depp's Wonka came across as somewhat feminine and even insane. The movie was also extremely dark; my younger siblings were frightened throughout the movie. Still, I loved how the movie brought out in the end the value of family.
-Chelsea Rankin, 15; Burlington, Conn.
Timothy Lamer listed the cost of tickets and concessions, better TVs, and DVDs as reasons why fewer people attend the theater ("Exit signs," July 23). One that is even more significant, at least to my family and friends, is content. On your movie review page that week, only two had a low rating of "1" for sexual content, and only one had a "0" for language. When we can watch a movie without blushing or covering our ears, we may return to the theater.
-Eunice Chapman; Edmonds, Wash.
The last few times at the theater, my husband and I have had to sit through 20 minutes of ads even before the previews. If I am to be subjected to more and more advertising, I will go to the theater less and less.
-Patricia Frehafer; Spring Valley, Calif.
Warned of the attraction of the female priest to a married parishioner, but intrigued by what your reviewer described as "a taut, riveting read" ("Clerical mysteries," July 2/9), I picked up Crooked Heart at my library. I was utterly appalled to read the Episcopalian priest stating, "the first thing you need to know about the Bible is that there's a lot of [expletive] in it," and her notation that "the New Testament is full of anti-Semitism." I might be able to enjoy a book that has fallible humans as main characters, but I cannot abide a writer, wearing her clerical collar in the book-jacket photo, attacking the Word of God.
-Lisa A. Van Aken; Elverta, Calif.
The Discovery astronaut who performed the Aug. 3 spacewalk was Steve Robinson (The Buzz, Aug. 13); also, foam insulation had fallen off an external fuel tank on the space shuttle's July 26 takeoff (The Buzz, Aug. 6).