Letters to the editor

The larger lessons of Lazarus

As a response to Mr. Deile’s letter [“The Plight of the Homeless Cannot Wait,” May 10], I do have to admit that I was amazed that such a knowledgeable person (based on his dialogue, computer savvy, knowledge of current events and political influence) was standing on an interstate off-ramp with a sign that — we are assuming, based on his correspondence — [asked] for a handout. He was vocally opposed to the police threat “to arrest and throw me in jail.”

Mr. Deile raised a number of issues that have irked me for days, and I wish to respond to one. He has likened himself to the New Testament character Lazarus. He is obviously not too secular, as he directed attention to the Scriptures, but has he researched them?

The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31): Don’t be too quick to condemn the rich man. Note, please, that Abraham, to whom the rich man turns when he finds himself in torment, was also rich, but he is not condemned for this. From the onset, the excesses of this man’s life are made clear. He is living the life of luxury. But what is equally important is what is not said about the rich man. He is not pictured as a cruel, vindictive character — as Mr. Deile would have us to think (i.e. “misuse(d) charitable donations … CEO salaries”). He is simply wealthy and self-indulgent.

Luke describes the miserable state of the beggar. He is lame, penniless and ill. (How was it that Mr. Deile came to the off-ramp?) The only attention he receives is from the dogs, who lick his sores. There is some dispute as to whether this licking is a painful aggravation to the poor man, or whether the sores are cleansed and soothed by the dogs’ soft tongues. In either case, the poor man’s only companions are dogs, ritually (Old Testament) unclean animals, which places him outside the realm of God’s mercy. (Emphasis: OLD TESTAMENT)

In any event, this parable emphasizes the far-reaching consequences of this present life and the central role that faith plays in directing its outcome. Possessions will never save nor condemn the soul! Likewise, poverty is neither a sin nor a virtue. It is the repentant or unrepentant nature of the heart, in the context of both riches and poverty, that determines a person’s fate. But whether rich or poor, those who surrender all they have and all they are to the Lord, and whose hearts bear the mark of repentance, will find themselves in the company of Abraham.

The message is not that of material inequities of this life, but that a life of faith, with love and charity, is the key by which eternal destination is determined. I wish God’s blessings for Mr. Deile, and I know (first-hand recipient) of many nonprofit, charitable, Christian and non-Christian organizations that will be gladly ready to assist in time of need. I will be first to offer my personal assistance.

— C. Tucker

Rolling in the bicycle aisle

It’s absolutely terrific that there’s a continuing flow of new talent coming into the comedy arena. Jackie Snyder’s letter [“Bicyclists Should Stop Being Selfish,” May 17] had me rolling in the aisle. She’s really a funny gal!

Jackie concedes that biking can cut back on gas usage — she’s read the papers, y’see — but not if it causes any inconvenience to the really important people: the gas-guzzling, steel-machine, motorized road-hogs. Wow, that’s a riot, Jackie!

Jackie tells us that what she’s “sick of” (please, Jackie — tell us all about your gripes and dissatisfactions!) is cyclists getting onto Bear Creek Road, because there are curves in that road (no kidding!), and she might have to drop below the speed limit to ensure another person’s safety until she’s able to pass. What a hoot!

She just can’t manage this aggravating driving problem [of being] in danger just because “someone chose to ride a bike.” Jackie, you’re a laugh-a-minute!

But what gets her “especially upset” is cyclists on the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Don’t they realize they’re putting other people’s lives at risk?” If those people want to get away from downtown and enjoy some of the most magnificent scenery in the country, they must get themselves encased in a powerful, expensive, energy-consuming, polluting steel chariot like she does. Then they’d be acceptable. Howls and chuckles!

To Jackie’s mind, the selfish ones are the folks who are aware that our continuing dependence on foreign oil is a growing threat to our national security, reducing gas consumption would lower our deplorable negative balance of trade, and exercise — making us healthier — would reduce the health-care burden for the whole society. Stop, Jackie, yer killin’ me!

— William Jakobi

Skip the circus if you love animals

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming to Asheville, and many families will attend one of its performances because they love animals. What they don’t realize is that by doing so, they are supporting an industry that — by its very nature — abuses animals.

Contrary to what the Ringling public relations machine tells us, performing wild animals endure intense and constant physical and psychological suffering so that uninformed audiences may be “entertained.”

When used by circuses, wild animals are taken from their natural habitats and deprived of everything that comes naturally to them. Instead of being able to nurture their infants, they have their babies taken from them prematurely. Instead of having the freedom to roam vast distances in their homelands, they spend most of their time confined in chains and boxcars and are exposed to inhospitable weather conditions. Instead of being left alone to act out their instinctual tendencies, they are subjected to constant fear and intimidation by trainers who use whips, muzzles, electric prods and bullhooks to force them to perform potentially dangerous tricks.

My two daughters and I are enthralled by wild animals; however, we refuse to attend circuses that use them as performers. Instead, we watch Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel and are educated about and delighted by the true nature of these fascinating wild creatures in their native lands. I urge readers to resist the Ringling propaganda and find out for themselves why all national animal-welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, oppose the use of wild animals in circuses. After doing a little research, I imagine most people would agree that a few “entertaining” moments do not make the inhumane treatment of wild animals acceptable. To learn more, go to circuses.com.

— Leslie H. Armstrong

Think again about sustainable food production

A friend from Bakersville gave me a copy of your interesting paper, and a letter [“Think Again About ‘Sustainable’ Farms,” March 29] has been nagging me. It argued that animal agriculture is an inefficient and inhumane way to produce food.

I wonder about the assertion that 20 acres are required to sustain a family of six on a meat-eating diet. My husband and I live on 26 acres of mountainous land in southwest Virginia. Five to six acres are open, much of that occupied by our home, a small lawn, a hoophouse, outbuildings, trees, wetland, ponds and small hilly areas that grow up in wild things. The rest is steep, wooded mountainside. On about four acres, we have easily been able to raise: nearly all the vegetables we eat (with surplus for the farmers’ market), two cows for meat and dairy, two to four pastured hogs (we keep some; the rest is food for other families), 70-100 truly free-range chickens for eggs and meat, ducks, catfish and bluegill, fruits and nuts. The animals provide fertility, consume as food what might otherwise be waste or pests, and maintain open areas — without fossil fuels. Our woods produce way too many turkeys and deer (no predators!), wild and cultivated mushrooms, herbs and firewood.

We’re getting old, but given unlimited cheap labor (four children?), we could triple our productivity to far more than a family of six could eat. One key is properly managed pasturing, which results in soil improvement and more food per acre. No doubt, the 20-acre estimate comes from the industrial model, which depends on feeding grains that require mono-cropping and lots of fossil fuel. It is indeed a waste of resources to grow corn and soybeans for cattle; both crops require heavy inputs of fuel, pesticides and fertilizers. Cows, goats and sheep naturally consume little grain; they are much healthier when consuming grass, weeds and browse. Free-range poultry get a lot of protein from insects. Chickens are not vegetarians — if you’ve ever watched hens when one has scratched up a fat, juicy grub, you know what I mean!

The one-acre figure for growing all food for a vegan family is probably low. Without benefit of animal fertilizers, the soil would eventually die. Cover crops can rebuild soils, but require that some land be out of production.

Food is probably not the limiting factor for human populations. Clearly we have [more than enough] food in this country; we just refuse to share it. Far more important, when considering how many humans our planet can support, are lifestyle, clean water, energy, employment and resource ownership.

In Stolen Harvest, activist Vandana Shiva says: “A [traditional] polyculture system can produce 100 units of food from 5 units of inputs, whereas an industrial system requires 300 units of input to produce the same 100 units.” Perhaps we should stop worrying about other people’s food choices and begin to discuss ways to put more people, especially the poor, on their own land. The true inefficiencies are in industrial production, whether for feeding cattle or making tofu.

— Vicki Dunaway
Willis, Va.

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