Christmas Break

I dare say [many Christians] don't have a problem missing a Sunday service when it is convenient for them, but God forbid that ministry leaders get a break—and on Christmas, no less! ["Megachurches Cancel Christmas," posted December 5]

Serving in my local church every weekend on top of working a full-time job, I welcomed the news that we would not be having a Sunday service. If anyone feels slighted by not having a church service on Christmas Sunday, [they can] go someplace where they will. And if they really want to be religious, why not spend the day at their local mission or soup kitchen—I am sure they could use the help.

Alvin Bass
Wilson, North Carolina

Sacraments for Homosexuals

Unfortunately, Anne Rice's statement about "Christian gays and their right to worship and receive the sacraments" ["Interview with a Penitent," posted Dec. 1] is misleading, implying that gays are somehow hindered from worshiping as Catholics. In fact, no one is ever barred from attending Catholic mass. Anne Rice's gay son certainly has the right to receive the sacrament of penance (confession) and is encouraged to do so.

However, other sacraments, most notable Communion, are not to be received in the state of mortal sin. Practicing homosexuals are committing a grave sin if they are aware of the church's teaching about the gay lifestyle and consent to the sin anyway. [To deny them Communion] is in no way a lack of love. Instead, it is an act of loving kindness for the Catholic church to deny those who are openly committing grave sins, as it attempts to awaken the faithful to their unhappy condition, bring them back into the state of grace through sacramental confession, and keep them from committing the additional mortal sin of receiving the body and blood unworthily.

I am afraid Anne Rice does not understand the beauty and love in this teaching.

Kathie Marshall
Howell, Michigan


Minutes the average American spends per day in religious and spiritual activities (including those who spend no time at all).

Americans who spend any time at all on religious and spiritual activities on a given day.

Minutes per day spent among Americans who spend any time at all on religious and spiritual activities.































Hard Cases, Bad Law

In the December 2005 editorial, "It's Okay to Be Against Suicide" [posted Nov. 30],Christianity Today's editors conclude that we should encourage the Supreme Court to strike down Oregon's assisted-suicide law while, at the same time, encouraging the Court to de-federalize others issues of concern to us, notably abortion. Like many American evangelicals, the CT editors want the law to reflect their moral values without regard to any overarching political theory. That's mere pragmatism, which is unprincipled and ultimately immoral.

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Early on in law school, I learned that "hard cases make bad law." You can always find a case that, taken alone, seems like a bad result. I'd agree with the CT editors that the Oregon law is a bad and immoral one. But if you make policy based on that individual hard case, you sacrifice the balance and fairness that the system as a whole seeks to achieve. The principled way to change the Oregon law is through grassroots organizing in Oregon, not through federal judicial intervention. Serious efforts at systemic change must stem from a political and jurisprudential theory, not merely from a pragmatic response to a few hard cases.

David W. Opderbeck
Assistant Professor of Business Law
Baruch College, City University of New York

Poverty in Theology

After attending the Christian Community Development convention in Indianapolis, I read Ben Witherington III's article, "The Problem with Evangelical Theologies" [posted Nov. 9]. It occurred to me that none of the theologies discussed had made justice for the poor and oppressed central. Possibly the Reformed, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal theologies would benefit from inserting four key concepts from Luke 4:18–19 into the heart of their thought. These concepts are: the Spirit, the poor, the oppressed, and Jubilee justice (the year of the Lord's favor). As Graham Cray put it: "The agenda of the kingdom of God is justice; the dynamic of the kingdom is the Holy Spirit."

Lowell Noble
Resident Professor, John Perkins Foundation
Jackson, Mississippi

Egalitarian Heritage

As part of an organization that advances a biblical foundation for gift-based rather than gender-based ministry, I appreciate Timothy George's plea for "A Peace Plan for the Gender War"[posted Nov. 17]. However, it is possible that the "gender war" among Christians exists because people erroneously assume that biblical egalitarianism grew out of the radical feminist movement, identified with people like Mary Daly and Daphne Hampson. This is false.

Our history dates back to the great revivals and the "golden era of missions." Our foremothers and forefathers include individuals like Katherine Bushnell, Frances Willard, A. J. Gordon, Catherine Booth, William Godbey, Amanda Smith, Sojourner Truth, and Pandita Ramabai. All of these individuals advanced a biblical basis for women's equality in home, church, and society. They also sought to free women for gospel service, worked to liberate slaves, and labored for all Americans to gain the opportunity to vote.

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Today's biblical egalitarians affirm most of the values of those who disagree with us on the place of women. We embrace the authority of Scripture, the sacredness of the family, and the centrality of missions. This has been true since the 1800s. What is there to war about?

Mimi Haddad
President, Christians for Biblical Equality
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Asymmetrical Submission

In "Bridging the Ephesians 5 Divide" [posted Nov. 18], Sarah Sumner focuses too narrowly on Ephesians 5:21 and misses the wider context. The point of verse 21 is that the motive for submission ought to be "reverence for Christ," not necessarily that every believer ought to submit to every other believer. Paul goes on to apply the principle of submission to specific situations in the following verses. Namely, Paul applies the principle of submission to marriage (wives submitting to husbands, Eph. 5:22–33), family (children submitting to parents, Eph. 6:1–4), and master-slave relationships (slaves submitting to masters, Eph. 6:5–9).

This is a better interpretation for two reasons. First, it is consistent with Colossians 3:18–22, which is likely a shorter summary form of the Ephesians passage. Second, if we were to accept Sumner's interpretation of verse 21, we would have to conclude that parents must submit to children and masters to slaves, which the text does not suggest. If nothing else, we must at least admit that if there is a sense in which husbands ought to submit to their wives, it is not the same sense in which wives are to submit to their husbands. There is an asymmetry in the marriage relationship, just as there in the parent-child relationship and the master-slave relationship.

Brian Chang
Escondido, California