September 11 Gideon letter presents misguided view

Nicholas Money’s letter to the editor in Tuesday’s edition of The Miami Student (“Religious Group Disrespects September 11 Anniversary”) is a misguided polemic which insults the Miami community generally and people of faith particularly. Money’s blithe comparison of the Gideons’ religious convictions to those of the jihadists who attacked our country September 11 stretches common sense to its breaking point.

I should first address Money’s allegation that the Gideons chose September 11 in order to exploit the emotions and memories it elicits. If that was the genuine motivation for their presence, that would indeed be shameful. Perhaps the Gideons Money encountered were openly using the date’s significance to proselytize; I do not know. However, I did not see, nor did I hear of any of the Gideons invoking the 9/11 anniversary as a “selling point” when they were on campus, and thus never concluded that they had chosen September 11 in order to exploit it. Barring clear evidence to the contrary, it seems unfair to say that there was a correlation between the date’s import and the Gideons’ presence.

Furthermore, Money’s assertion that the Miami community would greet Muslims engaged in similar activities with “limited courtesy” betrays a lack of confidence in the general level of decency and tolerance present on campus. Granted, Miami’s population is relatively homogenous, but I sincerely doubt that the community in general would be disrespectful toward any religious group sincerely and peacefully practicing a tenet of its faith.

Possibly the most egregious part of Dr. Money’s letter is the last paragraph, which equates the New Testament and its stories with the perverted interpretations of the Koran, dismissed by mainstream Muslims, that “swirled in the brains of the hijackers.” The paragraph goes on-rightfully-to decry the “horror of religious fundamentalism” demonstrated on 9/11; yet, it does so in a way that suggests that the New Testament is, by its nature, a source of similar fundamentalist horrors.

Certainly, any religious text can be distorted to conform to the warped political philosophies of terrorists; that does not mean that the texts, or the people who adhere to their respective religions, are intrinsically dangerous.

The Gideons were peacefully trying to spread the Gospel, as their faith commands. People walking by were free to accept or decline the offered New Testaments without fearing for their safety. The truly dangerous people are those who, instead of merely presenting a spiritual option, blow up abortion clinics, behead journalists, and fly planes into office buildings. Clumsily packaging peaceful, mainstream religious views with the philosophies of murderers, as Money does, unnecessarily widens the chasm between religious and non-religious people.

Ultimately, my greatest concern is that students new to our university will be affected by Money’s letter in a number of harmful ways. Christians reading his letter may conclude that all faculty are hostile to Christianity-they’re not; minorities reading his letter may conclude that all Miamians are intolerant-we’re not; and those searching for spiritual fulfillment may conclude that, because he can append the name of a university department to his own, Money’s arguments are sound and therefore religion is a bunch of bunk.

As a student, I do not have the luxury of buttressing my argument with the presence of a university department in my signature. So, rather than making any grand claims about what people should believe, I simply urge anyone reading this to keep an open mind, to respect others, and to challenge that which you know to be false.

Thaddeus M.

Perspective piece accurately captures travel woes

Any experienced traveler knows to expect the unexpected: lost baggage, cultural misunderstandings, inaccurate directions, and transportation delays. While at the time these problems may seem overwhelming, these instances are when the best travel stories are formed. Christopher Washington’s Sept. 14 article entitled “Stranded in Paradise: Overbooked and unhappy in St. Lucia” chronicles such a travel experience, but the article is really about transitions. Washington transitions from the safety of his parents to an adult, foreign world while encountering obstacles in the form of international travel. Any college student can relate to the apprehension of the unknown, as well as the desire to be on equal footing with peers. Washington was already arriving late and each delay only magnified his fear.

Jeanne Hey missed the point to Washington’s article in her letter to the editor. Hey characterizes Washington as a “spoiled young man, impatient when things do not go his way and quite unthoughtful about this world’s truly downtrodden.” It may be easy to misconstrue irritation as arrogance, but even so I would be hard pressed to find any delayed traveler more worried at that moment about the plight of the “world’s truly downtrodden” than reaching his or her destination. There is a reason people did not panhandle at the Delta Customer Service desk, even before tightened airport security.

Hey also contradicts herself on her view of the average Miami student. While praising students as “worldly, caring and thoughtful” she worries that students will not read past article headlines. Hey fears that from the title “Stranded in Paradise: Overbooked and unhappy in St. Lucia” as well as last year’s “Confronting rape abroad,” students will continue to view foreign travel as “dangerous and unreliable.” She then mentions that by reading the articles it is easy to discern that fault does not lie with the country in which the incident occurred, but outside sources. I personally would not characterize students who only read newspaper titles as worldly or thoughtful. I would also honestly hope that these are not the students Hey advises to travel abroad alone or “off the beaten path”; they obviously lack the skills necessary to handle the unexpected issues that will naturally arise.

Washington’s fear about losing such an impressive and exciting opportunity abroad does not make him a “spoiled young man,” but rather human. It is better to be honest and realistic when presenting travel accounts instead of creating a false sense of security. By honestly chronicling his worries and tribulations, the reader is lost with him, both in London, and in the beginnings of adulthood.