I want to express my appreciation for the tone of Chelsea Edgar's article entitled "Good News?" [September 25]. As a native Vermonter and evangelical Christian who knows some of the people and churches mentioned in this article, I have sometimes felt like the only time churches are in the news is when they have done something wrong or someone wants to try to weaponize Christianity for alternative purposes. I greatly appreciated this article specifically because it did not come preloaded with that kind of intent. Instead, I felt that Edgar was genuinely trying to not only get to know the people and faith communities that she profiled, but she also put forth great effort to tell their own stories in their own words. That is quality journalism.
I think that this article provides a much-needed window into our ideological minority here in the Green Mountain State. The term "evangelical" is used incredibly loosely by so many in modern parlance, but this article attempts to cut through what people think they know and show the authentic hearts of those who are trying to share the message of Jesus Christ with those on the ground in their everyday lives. These are people trying to make a positive difference in their communities, and I appreciate both Edgar's willingness to explore these stories and Seven Days' willingness to publish her discoveries.
[Re Off Message: "After Years of Planning, F-35s Land in Vermont," September 19]: Kevin McCallum seems to have a very low number for the cost of an F-35 — $85 million. The White House's 2019 proposed Department of Defense budget called for the acquisition of 77 F-35s at a cost of $10.7 billion, which works out to a cost per plane of $137 million. The congressionally approved 2019 budget settled on 93 F-35s at a total cost of $11.6 billion, or $125 million per plane.
The proposed 2020 White House budget and DoD request calls for the acquisition of 78 F-35s at a cost of $11.2 billion, which works out to $143 million per plane.
It seems that the cost of the F-35s is going up rather than down, even with the increased sales promoted by the Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales program, which has contracts for purchases of F-35s with Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, and is pursuing contracts with eight more countries: Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain, Poland, Finland, Switzerland and Japan. Israel already has 16 F-35s. The last two landed there in July.
Out With It
[Re "The Search For EB-5 Accountability," September 11]: Nice one about VTDigger.org's EB-5 Ponzi-hunt for state/Sen. Patrick Leahy documents, and good luck to founder and editor Anne Galloway with that. The mysterious "find" of missing emails on a hard drive in a storage closet shows what she's up against: CYAs and cover-ups by local and federal hacks with their friends' snouts in a public-private trough.
Up here in the Northeast Kingdom, it was a running joke that some schmuck like me with a weekly cable-access TV "news" show could find in 10 minutes of searching Yahoo's business website that the vaunted AnC Bio had no stockholders, no P/E ratio and no product sales, and was located in a corner office of a Seoul, Korea, "sports betting firm." Yet the State of Vermont just rolled out the red carpet for Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros as they wowed Newport's city council with bundles of "artist's renderings" of magical things to come. Now they are left with a smoking hole where a city block once stood.
Gov. Phil Scott or U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan should hold hearings and drag in all the hacks, flaks and assorted chairwarmers going back to governors Jim Douglas and Peter Shumlin — and yes, even Leahy's people — and ask them how this happened, and all under oath, to prevent this "public-private" nonsense from ever happening again.
Church and State
[Re "Good News?" September 25]: I have no problem with the ambition of a Christian church wishing to spread its influence in our state, though the proselytizers come across as religious car salesmen. I do object to any individual or group who tells me I am going to hell if I don't give my soul to a god. I am an agnostic and prefer to let each person make his own life choices, though I think that most violence and misery is caused by organized religion. I also find it extremely disingenuous that evangelicals tout their values and yet support Donald Trump, that most despicable and nonreligious of humans.
Vermonters are famously independent and prefer to keep their religious beliefs separate from politics.
Saved From What?
Congratulations to brave journalist Chelsea Edgar ["Good News?" September 25] for her exposé of the new fundamentalism in Vermont. She nails it with Jay Parini in defining why it works for some people: emotionally fulfilling worship, healing and community.
But how can intelligent people ignore the accompanying deadly theology that focuses on Jesus' death to appease a wrathful God to the neglect of Jesus' life, resurrection, compassion, ethical teaching, peacemaking and radical risk for justice for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed?
Why can't we revisualize and reform mainline churches, synagogues and sanghas to better address the emotional and community needs of people with a spiritual approach that unites instead of divides into the saved and the damned? How can we stomach an approach to our Jewish and Buddhist neighbors, for example, that classifies them as "unsaved" and implicitly condemns them to hell unless they mouth a contrived formula for salvation?
Thank God we have a Christianity in Vermont and New England that loves our non-Christian neighbors without arrogantly demanding their obeisance to an obscene theology of substitutionary atonement. Jesus doesn't have to be an archaic substitute sacrifice in order to be a source of personal reformation. Read primarily the gospels and take Paul's letters with a grain of salt. Take the Bible seriously by not taking it literally. We don't need well-meaning Southern Baptists disguised as saviors to lead us astray. We just need to improve our practical approach to loving our neighbors better — locally and globally.