Re "The sermon that provoked the IRS," Nov. 18
Thank you for printing the sermon that got All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, ostensibly for endorsing a presidential candidate. In reading the Rev. George Regas' words, he seems to only marginally prefer John Kerry over George Bush; he in fact scolds both for not rising above the arguments about how to manage the Iraq war, to the urgent question of the immorality of war.
What a relief to hear that war is wrong and especially to be reminded that it is not only Americans who are dying in this war. Bravo to All Saints for speaking out and upholding moral and truly Christian values.
LISA FAY MATTHIESSEN
Regas' sermon was based dangerously on presumptions that put words into God's mouth. While one might agree that it was folly for America to wage war in Iraq, sooner or later it was likely that a non-democratic Islamic dominance in Iraq, and elsewhere, would lead to a jihadic alliance bent on the eradication of Western democracies whose Christian beliefs are waning.
At the same time, the Koran makes clear that disbelievers will face "painful torment." However well meant, Regas' admonition to grant mercy to Islamic jihadists is a sure prescription for death, not just individually, but for the survival of Judeo-Christian and democratic civilization. Although I respect Regas, I remind myself of what might have happened if Western democracies had done nothing to stop Hitler's war against the Jews and Western civilization. On another level, if someone were to threaten the lives of you and your family, I suspect action would be taken.
The Times' excerpts of Regas' sermon were selective and slanted. Among other things, it left out Regas' preamble to the sermon in which he makes it clear that the imagined debate is a three-way debate between Jesus, Kerry and Bush. Regas says, plain as day: "Let me quickly make two statements to relieve some of the anxiety you bring to this debate. Jesus does win! And I don't intend to tell you how to vote."
The only section excerpted was the section of war and peace, leaving out the sections on poverty and hope. You also failed to cite his closing lines to the congregation, when all he said was: When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, take with you all that you know about Jesus, the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your deepest values. At no time did he endorse any candidate, which is what the IRS accuses him of.