Letters to the Editor

Environmental efforts applauded
I found the article on community-supported agriculture interesting (Fall 2005).

I work for a Christian conservation organization called A Rocha Canada here in British Columbia. As Christians all over the world have recognized the urgent need to protect and restore important habitats, A Rocha has become a family of projects working in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North and South America, and Asia.

A Rocha has two field study centers in Canada, and I work at the location in Surrey, British Columbia (south of Vancouver). We do a variety of projects, from salmon habitat restoration to environmental education. We also have a small, community-shared agriculture project to highlight sustainability issues around food and get people connected with growing and producing their own food.

Jessica Nye ’00
Surrey, British Columbia

Christian perspective appreciated
Thank you to each of the professors who contributed articles on the Schiavo case (Summer 2005). As a palliative care social worker in a major teaching hospital, I regularly counsel and support patients and families who are dealing with life-threatening diseases and decisions about using life-prolonging treatment.

I appreciate seeing your perspectives in print because those views are not embraced by all Christians. You gave credibility to Christians who support the right to refuse or terminate life-prolonging treatment that is inconsistent with a person’s wishes.

Each day I am impressed by the courage and solidarity with which most families face painful end-of-life decisions. I hope that awareness of these struggles helps all of us to understand decisions to relieve suffering and to trust in a better life beyond this one.

Laurie Opperwall Medenblik ’85
McFarland, Wis.

More Online
Opinions on Commencement 2005
Letters received from Calvin alumni

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Policy: Letters regarding the contents of the magazine will be considered for publication in Spark unless specifically marked "not for publication." Correspondence may be shortened to meet editorial requirements. We will not publish anonymous letters; however, we may withhold names upon request.

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More Petra, please
It was wonderful to see the short article about the Petra exhibit at Calvin (Fall 2005). During the past summer, my family was privileged enough to view the impressive display centered on the life and achievements of this marvelous ancient city. The exhibit was truly an important event in the life of the college and the high attendance is a tribute to all those professors and staff at the college who worked so hard to bring this wonderful assemblage of artifacts, pictures, inscriptions and clothing to Calvin. My only regret is that this exhibit did not receive more coverage in Spark. Presidents will come and go, but these priceless treasures have stood the test of time through a period extending over two millennia.

Gary N. Knoppers ’79
State College, Pa.

Proud of alma mater
While opposition was voiced in the Grand Rapids Press prior to the president’s visit, he was still warmly received by the faculty, students and families present at the commencement ceremony. The ability of the Calvin College community to openly discuss how a Christian faith should play a role in politics exemplifies the uniqueness and quality of this institution.

An education from Calvin has given me the ability to critically analyze issues of politics and social justice from a Christian perspective. I’m proud to see that this strongly held tradition remains an active part of academic life at my alma mater.

Jill Helmus Lampen ’97
Richmond, Va.

Graduation podium manipulated
Kudos to some of our June graduates and faculty for wearing buttons at commencement stating that “God is not a Republican or Democrat.” When posed a question about our duty to pay taxes, Christ instructed that we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. His wise words were an early lesson in political philosophy on the importance of a separation of church and state. We have obligations as citizens, and taxes are among them. But a central message in this story was that in order to maintain our spiritual integrity, we must not render unto Caesar more than is Caesar’s.

By allowing the Calvin graduation podium to be cynically manipulated by Karl Rove for highly partisan purposes, and in the process displacing and disrespecting one of our own finest philosophers and interpreters of Christ, I believe that the college did exactly that. Flag and cross may inspire similar passions, and it may be tempting to confuse one’s own political interests and allegiances with those of God. But we should know better. The Bible tells us so.

David deBoer ’86
Chicago, Ill.

Discernment part of education
I wanted to write in support not only for having President Bush come to speak at commencement, but also for the Calvin professors who voiced displeasure. While I could point out some ironies in the left’s point of view, I think it’s most important to applaud how appropriately both sides conducted themselves publicly in this debate.

While I’m sure that you have plenty of people telling you on both sides that this issue is black and white, I’d like to be one who encourages you to continue to teach students how to discern the shades of gray.

This debate is precisely why Calvin exists. This debate is precisely why Calvin is distinct. This debate is precisely why Calvin matters.

Martin Wondergem ’93
Grand Rapids, Mich.

More than one way
I read with great interest the articles by Randy Bytwerk (“Why I Didn’t Sign the Letter”) and by Karen Saupe (“Why I Signed the Letter”). Bytwerk’s article portrays the very qualities displayed by many current religious and political leaders who describe themselves as conservative Christians: a certainty about the rightness of their position, which often appears to others as arrogance, and a readiness to cast judgment upon those who disagree. Bytwerk judges his colleagues who signed the letter as choosing “the wrong way, at the wrong time, and the wrong place to express their concerns.”

Saupe’s article carries a contrasting tone: “I can explain why I signed, but don’t dare claim certainty that it was the right thing to do.” Never does she criticize colleagues who responded in different ways.

Saupe and Bytwerk disagree on more than whether or not to sign the letter. They disagree on whether there can be more than one respectable way to think and act if one represents the Calvin — or Christian — community.

Bonnie Knaack Meyer ’77
Fort Thomas, Ky.

Enough already
I wonder how many more costly, four-color propaganda pieces for the Bush administration we can expect from Calvin College and the Calvin Spark. As for me and my house, enough already!

Nelvia Geels Van’t Hul ’60
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Letter signing made simple
One of the things that makes conservatives so successful as of late is that they’re dead certain they’re right, even when they’re not. Liberals, on the other hand, often know what is right, but retreat in fear when their beliefs are challenged by conservatives.

For this reason, I think that much of the debate between Mr. Bytwerk and Ms. Saupe (Fall 2005) could have been condensed. In short, Mr. Bytwerk’s column should have simply stated that he didn’t sign the letter because he is a Republican, and that Ms. Saupe almost didn’t sign the letter because she is a Democrat. Like a stereotypical conservative, Mr. Bytwerk adamantly believes in the correctness of his position, regardless of whether he is wrong. Like a stereotypical liberal, Ms. Saupe’s beliefs collapse in the face of the oncoming conservative onslaught.

So now I request that the Calvin powers that be impose a remedy for all of us cranky and unashamed liberals: Let’s have this honorable institution invite former President Bill Clinton as the guest of honor at next year’s commencement. Then we’ll really see (1) if the great majority of conservatives connected to Calvin will hold their “sanctimonious” tongues as a liberal believer in Christ takes center stage; (2) if the conservatives will quietly sit back and accept the fact that it is their fault for not holding their tongues when chaos ensues; (3) if the national media will ascribe absolutely no meaning to the mere act of his visit with a school most folks have never heard of; and, of course, (4) how many liberals will throw in the towel and grudgingly support President Byker’s formal rescission of this offer and instead have someone substantially less innocuous come and talk to us about the same old anecdotes on Abraham Kuyper.

Peter De Vries ’01
Phoenix, Ariz.