Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Clements visit was unfortunate

There used to be a saying: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This passionate take on the First Amendment seems an appropriate preface for reaction to the Independent’s meticulously reported coverage of David Clements’ recent visit to Valley Bible Church in East Middlebury.

As a former teacher of World History, I used to point out to my students that while I can’t be labeled Christian, I do admire the bravery of Christ’s brief ministry. I shared with the relevant excerpts from the definitive book on the subject: “The Historical Jesus,” by Dominic Crossan, a professor at Notre Dame. His findings remind us why Gandhi admired the New testament.

In sharp contrast, Clements’ recent performance reeked of enmity. At least we were spared a tenet of his usual rhetoric suggesting the use of “Firing squads.” Good heavens, Perhaps the erudite professor from New Mexico was making an oblique reference to the position taken by St. Augustine, who posited that holy war is not in fact an oxymoron, as enemies of the Church Militant die in body, thus sparing pagans and heretics’ immortal souls. How kind.

As I continued to read Clements’ message (the gilded cross stuffed into his breast pocket was a decorative touch intended, I gather, to symbolize the gap between church and state he would cheerfully erase) I was reminded, as well, that when it comes to buzzwords, Marxism is easier to spell than fascism.

The Vermont I love has changed over the years, as is inevitable. But for me to read a local congregation’s willingness to identify as aggressive canines left me feeling insulted, even if they weren’t. Clements had the brass to be in Vermont, insulting Vermonters. Have I missed something? The last I knew, we took pride in never putting up with that behavior from anybody. Finally, I am left with a peculiar form of anguish. I am uncertain as to whether all this fills me with pain or disgust. I will compromise by feeling both.

David Munford

Middlebury

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