In response to letter titled ‘We are not afraid of new ideas’
I have a Master’s of Divinity and have served as a pastor in congregations for 30 years. I’m a Western alum and I have lived in the valley for 20 years. A few thoughts:
1. A public library has no responsibility to God or the Bible. A library is a public institution and has a responsibility to the citizens it serves.
2. If someone doesn’t like books about differences in gender or sexual orientation, they don’t have to check those books out. No need to ban books. Banning books flies in the face of anyone or any group who claims to value freedom. Freedom of the press is part of the First Amendment. Any attempt to ban books puts us on a path to losing our democracy. It should be a huge red flag when any group attempts to ban books.
3. The book of Romans is very dense and contains many social issues of first-century Rome and Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter as guidance for a specific group of people during a specific time frame. When reading the Bible, we must always situate it in its context, so as not to use it for our own gain. (Nor use it as a weapon against others.)
In short, the main point of Paul’s letter was to stress the importance of not judging each other. (2:1) If anyone wants to have a longer discussion about the book of Romans or any other part of the Bible, my number and email are: 970.209.1613 and email@example.com.
Kelly Jo Clark
The Bible is a dangerous book
In seventh grade I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. In ninth grade I was baptized. After college, I earned an M. Div. from an evangelical seminary.
I was intrigued by a letter in last week’s Gunnison Country Times that quoted Romans I, a chapter often used to bash gay folks. Now we’re more sophisticated and use it to knock trans people, too.
But context matters. Romans I leads to this: “Therefore you’re without excuse … when you judge others: in passing judgment you condemn yourself, because you’re doing the same thing.”
The author isn’t interested in condemning gay people or trans people. He’s leading his readers toward a reminder that judging others is a dumb thing to do.
Here’s another Bible story: one of Jesus’ disciples dreams of a voice instructing him to eat “unclean” food. When he refuses, the voice says, “Don’t call unclean what I’ve called clean.” The disciple wakes up and goes to visit some people he assumes are “unclean.”
He soon realizes the dream wasn’t about food, but people. “Don’t call anyone unclean.”
But seriously, who cares? In a secular society, religious institutions and ideologies don’t get special treatment and the Bible has no bearing on which books the public library should have in its collection.
In a secular society, many of us are going to see things that offend our religious sensibilities. Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork. I can’t salute the flag. But we make space for pigs and flags.
Last week’s letter asserts that being gay or trans is a lifestyle. Being LGBTQ is identity, not lifestyle. Being a rancher or a ski bum is a lifestyle and there are queer ranchers and gay skiers. Being a Christian entails lifestyle choices, and I know queer Christians. Identity is not lifestyle.
The religious tradition that shaped me centers the marginalized and encourages compassion and solidarity. And it’s part of what motivates me to live and work toward justice and equity.
Here’s where the writer and I agree. I, too, care about innocent, defenseless children — children who know that if they express their identity a religion of grace will be weaponized against them.
I care about children left without resources to navigate the common human experience of becoming an adult, finding identity, feeling new attractions to others. Books are a great avenue for self-exploration and understanding.
Books are both safe and dangerous — dangerous because they expose us to new ideas that radically deconstruct the world, and incredibly safe, because that exposure takes place in one’s mind, where new ideas and old ideas can interact.
The Bible is a dangerous book. It’s dangerous because it is used to promote horrendous hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity,and class. But it’s also dangerous because it sets fire to those very hierarchies, burning down dehumanizing systems and encouraging human flourishing. Of course, that’s the reading I prefer, and I hope my co-religionists will do the same.
Simply love them for who they are
This is in response to Jo Laird’s letter “We are not afraid of new ideas.”
Growing up, I always went to church. My family went to a small non-denominational church, but I questioned a lot of what was told to me. As a young child, I remember asking my local pastor if dogs go to heaven. As a small girl who had just lost a pet, I cried when he told me, “no, because dogs don’t have souls.” I credit that moment to my lifelong questioning of my family’s faith.
While I don’t identify with the faith anymore, I still carry some of the principles of selflessness, service and acceptance that I learned from my time attending church. I now give myself over to service, working tirelessly for young people in our community. I know the young adults in our valley, and some of the kids are not alright.
In May of 2022, the most recent and diverse national study of LGBTQ+ youth came out with some telling statistics.
• In the past year, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide.
• 14% of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide in the last year, including nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth.
• LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
• LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
• LGBTQ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who do not.
• Nearly two in five LGBTQ youth reported living in a community that is somewhat or very unaccepting of LGBTQ people.
• 89% of LGBTQ youth reported that seeing LGBTQ representation in TV/movies made them feel good about being LGBTQ.
To sum up, there are LGBTQ+ children in our community. Banning books that show LGBTQ+ representation and publishing harmful letters to the paper are two ways that we show the kids — and trust me they are watching — that this isn’t an accepting community. Those are two ways we increase their chances of committing suicide.
If you’re worried about the “rest of their lives,” accept them, so that they can live those lives. If you want to protect innocent, defenseless children, simply love them, for who they are.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are resources that can help you. You can call 1.844.493.8255 or text TALK to 38255 to connect with Gunnison’s Mobile Crisis Services.
Whetstone offers next opportunity for attainable and affordable housing
I’m writing in support of the Whetstone Housing Project which has now been in development consideration since August of 2021. From the available materials on the website and in other public forums it’s clear that there has been significant, iterative consideration for the project. As a community, we speak a lot about housing challenges facing our workforce, small businesses and people in general. Yet, oftentimes when it comes to executing carefully considering solutions to these challenges, many of us become experts in the least productive way possible.
I will acknowledge that I am no affordable housing design or development expert — but I am a supporter of those who have invested their careers and expertise into developing housing for others.
I will wholeheartedly say I’m fortunate to own a home within 100 feet of the largest affordable housing development in the county, Paintbrush. I’m fortunate because affordable housing developments at scale (like Paintbrush and Whetstone) create opportunities for my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens to succeed, which buttresses our community.
To me, Whetstone offers the next opportunity to offer attainable and affordable housing at scale where it’s needed most in our community. Let’s all get behind this.
Life is precious
Damar Hamlin recently stopped breathing due to a blow to his chest in an NFL football game between the Bills and Bengals. Thanks to the timely intervention of medical personnel and the outpouring of prayers of so many, he has achieved a remarkable comeback.
Some have asked, was his recovery a miracle? His answer to that question: “God has been involved all the way.”
The value placed on Hamlin’s life by so many speaks for itself, and I write to bring attention to the life and death decisions being made in Gunnison County by expectant mothers considering permanently stopping the heartbeat of the unborn child in their womb.
Some expectant mothers feel so overwhelmed and helpless that they see aborting their baby as their only option. Those mothers are faced with the decision: Should they have this baby? Fortunately, Lighthouse Pregnancy Center of Gunnison can help these mothers realize that support is available and give them the confidence necessary to celebrate the “precious life” of their child.
The Lighthouse Pregnancy Center offers these brave women and their partners a safe and loving place to carefully consider all their options so they can make a choice from a place of strength — being fully informed, rather than from a place of stress and fear. The Lighthouse doesn’t tell anyone what to do, but instead walks alongside them in their journey.
Over the past few years, the number of clients served through the Lighthouse has increased from 10 to 69, with 55 children impacted in 2022 alone. More and more families are finding help and support. Parents have free access to education, support, advocacy and supplies during the pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.
About half the clients are expecting, and half have infants and need supplies and education. And the Lighthouse relies completely on financial donations and grants to operate.
For more information, phone Wendy Solheim 970.275.6167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited to share an upcoming opportunity with the Gunnison community to participate in a non-partisan discussion group called Great Decisions, an annual forum featuring a variety of timely foreign policy topics.
These sessions will be held Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at the new Gunnison Library and virtually between Jan. 25 and March 15. Topics to be discussed this year — selected by the Foreign Policy Association — include energy geopolitics, war crimes, China and the U.S., economic warfare, politics in Latin America, global famine, Iran at a crossroads and climate migration. Each one-hour session will consist of a 30-minute video lecture on the topic of the week, followed by an engaging discussion.
Attend all the sessions or choose weeks featuring topics that pique your interest. Supplemental reading materials will be available at the Gunnison Library or electronically by request.
This foreign policy discussion series is a chance to come together as a community to learn and share differing viewpoints about current events and challenges facing our world. And, as I see it, for all of us to move a little more towards the middle and away from polarized viewpoints.
All willing to learn and engage in cordial discourse are welcome and encouraged to attend. I hope that it will strengthen our ties as a community and as global citizens.