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Church leaders miss deadline on inquiry Dec. 7, story
Why did I think that Without Walls and Paula White Ministries might be different? Were they that charming? Was it because they were local? Or was it that I just wanted to believe that ministers can build their followings to a mega size without becoming corrupt? Billy Graham seemed to have pulled it off. Why can't Randy and Paula White?
The answer, of course, is disclosure. There is nothing wrong with becoming successful. In itself, prosperity is neither a crime nor a sin. But when you build a church to the high-profile, multimillion-dollar level of Without Walls, you have to anticipate a little scrutiny, particularly from the same government that grants you a tax-exempt status. In these situations, the best thing to do when the government knocks on your door is to let them in with a spirit of peace, love and cooperation.
You don't read many success stories about religious groups that resist the government. Some have pathetic endings, such as Jim Bakker's PTL Club. Some are more tragic, such as David Koresh's Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The lesson always learned, often too late, is that when you try to hide things like money from Uncle Sam, it is not a matter of "if" but "when" they are going to get their way.
I have no idea how much money the pastor of my Presbyterian Church is paid, but I suspect a phone call or two would make available a precise number. Why hide it? But it appears that the Without Walls Church has decided to put up a fight with lawyers, delay tactics and sermons that demonize the government as the enemy. Strange decision.
David Fraser, Clearwater
Postwar, a dimmed idealism Guest column, Dec. 8
Give young people a chance
"This above all: to thine own self be true," Hamlet, Act I, Scene III.
The Donald Eastman column may say more about the present generation of teachers and administrators in higher education than give insight into the current undergraduates. As one who has spent a lifetime in academic administration and teaching, I have learned how careful we must be to avoid psychologically attributing to our students a mirror image of our own fears and thoughts. So what influences have shaped those who now mold the next generation?
The majority of those teaching and leading our educational institutions are the baby boomers who come in two varieties. The leading-edge boomers (now 50-62) are our senior faculty and administrators; the shadow boomers (43-49) tend to be coming of age as leaders and shakers in academe. The former group, of which Dr. Eastman is a member, was shaped by the Vietnam War, the draft and a new age of Aquarian optimism. The latter group was influenced by Watergate and Nixon, the Cold War, the oil embargo and massive inflation. The former group tend to be social-cause oriented, idealistic and somewhat free-spirited. The latter group tends to be more distrustful of government, less optimistic and more cynical. So is it our academic leadership, or our students who have lost their innocence and some measure of their idealism?
It would be naive to assume that in past wars the United States did not engage in torture and acts of inhumanity and that class and race have not been reflected in the structure of our military. I hope our academic leaders will see the next decade as a great opportunity to re-energize the intellectual, material and spiritual resources of our nation. That is the kind of leadership our college students ask for and deserve. Let's give our young people a chance and not project our own generation's sense of disappointment and failure on them.
Merle F. Allshouse, St. Petersburg
Clinton appeals to female voters Dec. 9
I would like to remind my "sisters" that some people think women only buy an automobile by the color of the exterior.
Choose your candidate by educating yourself on the history and integrity of the person.
S. Etheridge, Oldsmar
Teachers earn honors, risk bonus Dec. 5
More than a paycheck
Why do those outside the teaching profession, legislators and sometimes DOE officials speak of teachers as professionals who are only interested in collecting a paycheck?
Educators are constantly attending workshops or participating in programs for self-improvement. Although there is accountability in every school in the form of classroom walkthroughs, observations and the checking of lesson plans to assure compliance with the state- and district-mandated K-12 Plan, those who propose these mandates are still not convinced we deserve to collect our salary and bonuses without jumping through more hoops.
Those who question teacher quality should spend a week in a Title 1 school before they make degrading comments about teacher accountability.
Donna Tesson, Hudson
Levy on the brink Dec. 9
Progress this isn't
This story presents, yet again, a condensed version of Florida's history. Whatever the reason, there is this constant juggernaut of "progress and development" that claims to be the saving grace of all places in Florida yet untouched by strip-malled and subdivided "progress."
Perpetual development continues to be touted as the only hope for this state. Keep building, or the economy collapses. What about redeveloping our inner cities, instead of always encroaching into rural lands? What happens if, for some reason, the rate of development slows down to, say, 25 percent of what it is now? Why don't we have anywhere else to turn to, economically speaking?
It seems we're headed for a future where an already tight water supply (and a drought forecast to last well into next year) is being divvied up into smaller slices among 1,000 new residents arriving every day (but don't tell people not to water lawns more than once a week); where casinos and gambling establishments are touted as the savior of Florida's education budget; and where rural counties like Levy County are being courted by the same types as Mr. Yulee, promising economic euphoria, this time with a 21st century "nuclear glow" added for effect.
Except that, as in so many sad, predictable cases before, it comes at the cost of yet another bit of irreplaceable, rural Florida landscape and culture.
Ron Thuemler, Tampa
A gospel of money?
Methinks the Rev. Randy White protesteth too much regarding Sen. Charles Grassley's request for financial information. Statements like "the enemy wants to attack because of what we believe, but the devil is a liar" have a haunting ring. It wasn't that long ago that the Rev. Henry Lyons accused his critics of being racists who didn't want to see a black man succeed. The questioning of possible misuse of tax-exempt tithes and offerings is not an attack on Christian beliefs.
White also stated that "we sincerely are winning this battle. ... That is sincere gospel truth that we're winning this battle." Dare I ask if money is his "gospel"?
Clem White, St. Petersburg
[Last modified December 11, 2007, 22:27:13]