A Shot From the Pews

A Shot From the Pews

A Shot From the Pews

Letters from our readers.
July 8 1999 3:18 AM

A Shot From the Pews

Cross Check

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I agree with most of Steve Chapman's conclusions in " Praise the Lord, Pass the Ammo." I will say unashamedly that I am a "born-again" Christian. But I will also say that you are very correct in pointing out the basic statistical mistake of implying causation from correlation. I think it is naive to think that simply posting copies of the Ten Commandments is going to solve the nation's crime problem.

I also think it is damaging to the faith to try and "use" religion to solve social problems. God becomes a means to an end instead of an end in Himself. He is not a magical potion that you can sprinkle on your problems to make them go away. I do think that genuine faith and a relationship with God will cure violence and murder and such; however, imposing religion on people is not the answer. I think one of the reasons there is a positive correlation between religion and crime in the States is because large portions of so-called "Christians" in this country are nominal at best.

Also, I think that the number of churchgoers in a given area is relatively inconsequential in this whole equation. If someone could prove that it was the Christians committing all the crimes, then we would have an interesting situation. But if that is not the case, then it makes no difference how many Christians there are. The real issue then becomes the motivations for the population of criminals, which are things such as the social structure and the justice system.

--Jonathan Minter

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Lynchburg, Va.

In Order To Form an Imperfect Union

It is wrong, I think, to suggest, as William Saletan does in "Frame Game" (" Look for the Union Doctor"), that our current health-care crisis is caused by the unreasonable expectations of the people who seek medical care. The reason "patients expect better care than they're willing to pay for" is that they have already paid for it. Medical advances are made through government subsidy: directly, through tax-supported universities, or indirectly, in the form of tax write-offs for private-sector research and development. The hospitals that we go to and our doctors practice in essentially all receive some level of governmental funding. Our doctors attended medical school with the aid of federally guaranteed student loans or outright grants. We paid for the ability to provide the best care in the world, and we continue to pay far more, in terms of percentage of gross average annual individual income, than any other Western society.

Most of the doctors I know are hard-working, compassionate professionals. They certainly provide an essential service. They all make a ton of dough, and I don't know anyone who begrudges them that. The current medical payment scheme in the United States makes the very best medical care available but is also an active barrier to many who seek basic care and cannot afford it. Radical reform is clearly called for but will never happen as long as free-market principles control access to this service. Our current dilemma has come about because we tried to shift cost control away from the service providers. This has had the effect of driving many capable physicians out of their own practices and into exactly the kind of alienating, impersonal, bean-counting HMO setting that has caused the American Medical Association to try and become a union.

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It is sad that the best technical health-care system in the world is delivered so poorly that the professionals charged with caring for us feel compelled to sacrifice their independence in this way. Unionization is a bad idea that will only make things worse.

--William C. Altreuter

Buffalo, N.Y.

Mistaken Condemnation

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Eric Alterman's statement in your letters column of June 30 that my colleague Harvey Klehr and I felt the need to "condemn" a Jacob Heilbrunn article in the New Republic is mistaken. We disagreed with a judgment Heilbrunn advanced in his essay, but disagreement is not condemnation. Indeed, that one disagreement aside, we have a very high regard for Heilbrunn's writings. In view of the fact that in the letter to which Alterman referred, we clearly expressed our appreciation of other remarks Mr. Heilbrunn made in his essay, no responsible commentator could use the characterization used by Alterman.


--John Earl Haynes

Kensington, Md.

Eric Alterman replies: I dunno. This seems a semantic issue at best. Heilbrunn's article attacked Yale's Annals of Communism series and the decision by its editorial director, Jonathan Brent, not to offer Heilbrunn's old professor, Vladimir Brovkin, to edit a series of books about the Gulag. He then accused Brent and Yale of having "caved" in to the ethos of "historical correctness" governed by "revisionists who dismiss as cold war humbug the notion that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian country."

Klehr and Haynes wrote a strong letter in support of Brent's "editorial leadership" and of Brent himself. They maintained that he had "steadfastly insisted on the academic integrity of the series and staunchly defended [their] work." In other words, virtually everything Heilbrunn wrote about Brent and his alleged cowardice--as well as his many criticisms of the Yale series--was wrong. Haynes says this does not constitute a "condemnation." Fine, I'll grant it if he feels the distinction to be an important one. I only hope no one ever decides to demonstrate his or her "high regard" for my writings in this peculiar fashion.