Date published: May 16, 2012
Thank you for Sara Maitland's article on the power of desert silence ("In pursuit of silence," April 18). Like the Sinai, where she has found the sacred stillness of God, the deserts of the southwestern US. offer such experiences of God's presence.
Unfortunately, many of these vast desert places are under siege. Eight-lane highways and strip malls have replaced the sacred silence of the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan deserts. Silence and the connection with the mystery and power of God that it offers are some of the many spiritual gifts that are lost when desert landscapes are destroyed by overdevelopment. Learning to live not just in the desert but with the desert is not merely an environmental concern. As Maitland's article reminds us, it is also a spiritual one.
Santa Fe, N.M.
I am intrigued by Maitland's search for solitude and the sounds of silence. As a writer, I share her desire for contemplative silence. In fact, as she makes clear, writers need silence in order to ply their craft.
I was therefore surprised to see Maitland draw a distinction between silence as an opening for her creative muse and silence as an opening to the divine. She seems to see "creative silence" and "contemplative silence" as not only in tension but somehow in opposition.
The creative imagination- awakened and stimulated especially in times of silence- can be the meeting place between God and human beings. Although evil can also arise from an imagination unmoored by tradition and communal wisdom, there is simply no fundamental conflict between the creative voice of a writer, touched by her muse in solitude, and the voice or movement of God's Spirit inspiring the words of those who create aesthetic works of all kinds- including novels and autobiographies such as Maitland's.
Sandra M. Levy-Achtemeier
Plight of Palestinians . . .
Thanks to M. Craig Barnes for sharing his reflections on his trip to Palestine ("Anxious in Palestine," April 18). Indeed, all Christians must be concerned about the plight of Palestinian Christians, as well as Muslims, who face the everyday reality of separation walls, humiliating checkpoints, encroaching illegal Israeli settlements, Jewish-only roads and open-air imprisonment. It is important to remember that Palestinian Christians and Muslims are shouldering this burden together and doing so remarkably well considering that creating friction and inciting division between these groups has been part of the Israeli government's not-so-hidden agenda.
It is important to point out, however, that the politics of the situation can be neither avoided nor ignored. Yes, we are to be concerned for Palestinian Christian and Muslim children, as well as for Israeli Jewish, Christian and Muslim children. But now is the time, more than ever, to seriously listen to one of the most important ecumenical confessions of faith and calls to action produced by Palestinian Christians in modern times: "Kairos Palestine- A Moment of Truth." American Christians who voice concern for Palestinian Christians and go to lengths to visit them and seek to be in solidarity should be studying this document before visiting Palestine. It is significant that Palestinian Muslim leaders have also embraced this document as an important witness from behind the walls in Palestine. Faith in action is always political in nature. Jesus knew that and called for faith anyway. The call for nonviolent resistance by "Kairos Palestine" has been no exception.
Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Medical treatments . . .
In reviewing Frederick Gaiser's Healing in the Bible (April 18), Walter Brueggemann refers to how "medical practice devolves into formulaic statistics and computer data," and he asserts that "Western medicine and ideology have no absolute monopoly on truth." Perhaps Brueggemann needs to change doctors. While data make a difference, they do not dictate what treatments are ultimately given.
If we ignore the statistics, we "devolve" into whatever sounds good at the time, treatments that may not be the best practices, or even quackery. The option to refuse a given treatment is still offered. In my 37 years in medical practice I have seen treatments come and go; today's cure may be tomorrow's blunder. In our medical community there is no talk of absolutes, only the best we have to offer today.
J. William Holmes