Secrets of the Nativity
Re your report "Behind The First Noel," which explored the story of Christ's birth as told in the Gospels [Dec. 20]: Jesus remains an enigmatic person who is truly irreducible, and for this reason the quest for the historical Jesus continues. To the Gospel writers Matthew and Luke, the miraculous conception of Jesus was a divine act, unparalleled in history. Of course, whether people accept such a miracle depends on their philosophical worldview. Luke 1: 37 says that the angel Gabriel assured Mary, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." That one passage explains it all.
(The Rev.) Tony Costa
Nearly everything about the stories of Jesus' birth is mythical. Over the years tradition has added layers to the tales: farm animals, three kings, the celebration of Christmas during the winter solstice. Inquisitive people those who are not satisfied with the attitude of others who think they learned all they need to know about Christmas in kindergarten can celebrate the truth behind the myths. If we can imagine humility instead of pride; simplicity in a complex, greedy world; peace reigning over hate and war; and inclusivity rather than bigotry and oppression, then we can imagine the divine potential in a tiny baby.
Grand Haven, Michigan, U.S.
Your article was a reverent but not cloying look at the birth of a man who changed the world. Too often in our troubled lives we overemphasize the divinity of Jesus and miss his message. The central core of his ministry is love. Christ's magnificent legacy is not so much the stories of miracles as his genius in understanding our human predicament and conveying remarkably simple answers to our problems. We should not forget that the essence of his ministry is love, not just for ourselves and those close to us but for everyone.
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
As a southern Baptist Sunday-school teacher, I tell my students what most of us here in the Bible Belt believe: the Scripture is the inerrant word of God, given by inspiration to the writers of the Bible. That Matthew and Luke record different details makes neither of them inaccurate. Nor does the fact that some of this information cannot be corroborated by other sources that's why we call it faith.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
If your story scrutinizing the factual truth of the Gospel accounts of the Nativity had been written in the same tone and vein about the Koran and its Prophet Muhammad, it would no doubt invoke a fatwa by the mullahs. The piece is full of conjectures and speculation by theologians. Please do your readers a favor. In the future, assign such articles to born-again, Bible-believing Christians. There are more than enough other subjects with which skeptics, agnostics and even atheists can entertain your readers.
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
The Dirtiest Trick
Being a Ukrainian citizen I follow the events of my country even living in the U.S. And I try to follow and analyze the Western media publications related to my country. While I think that Time Europe's "The Dirtiest Trick" article [Dec. 20] in general expresses a fair and objective view on the matter, I want to point out that western Ukraine was never in favor of separatism as the article implies. It was, rather, a cultural separation as the western Ukraine was formerly under Austro-Hungarian and then Polish rule, as opposed to central, southern and eastern Ukraine, which were Russian. When Ihor Derzhko, deputy chair of the regional legislature in Lviv, was quoted, saying "the orange revolution has fused us with the rest of the country," he meant that the rest of the country except maybe for eastern Donbassthe, birthplace and stronghold of Yushchenko's rival Victor Yanukovich has finally accepted western Ukraine as an integral part, which west Ukrainians themselves already knew.
Yuriy "Yura" Shalak
Reisterstown, Maryland, U.S.
The Declining Dollar
You reported that the falling value of the U.S. dollar hurts European manufacturers [Dec. 20]. It affects other Europeans as well those, like me, who worked in the U.S. and receive a pension in dollars. My benefits shrink a bit more each month. The loss now is more than 30%. I wonder how many thousands of people find themselves in the same predicament. The U.S.'s reputation has become tarnished by huge deficits, a climate of suspicion for non-Americans, energy waste and pollution, not to mention the political climate. As a young woman, I learned a lot in the U.S., and for that I'll always be grateful. But now, in my older years, I am very glad to be part of Europe's rising fortunes. Even though at times it looks improbable, the E.U. keeps advancing.
The Army We Have
TIME said a reporter helped army specialist Thomas Wilson craft the question he asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about U.S. troops having inadequately armored vehicles [Dec. 20]. That should in no way detract from the seriousness of the shortages and the problems that our troops are facing in combat in Iraq. It does not make Rumsfeld's answer "You go to war with the Army you have" less callous or arrogant. And it certainly does not make the deaths and horrific injuries suffered by our troops less real or less painful to bear because they lack such protection.
Dorian de Wind
Major, U.S.A.F. (ret.)
Improvising in the military, like using scrap material to add protection to vehicles, has always been necessary during battle. Toward the end of October 2003, soldiers had already addressed the issue of needing armor for their vehicles, especially humvees. While waiting for official testing and deployment of armor approved by the Department of Defense, we immediately took measures to protect our soldiers. As contingency contracting officers, we sought, obtained, tested and procured from a couple of Iraqi vendors 1⁄4-in.-thick steel armor that stopped ballistics, including AK-47 rounds and shrapnel. Many officers and soldiers have said the local Iraqi armor saved their lives.
Scott A. Meehan
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
An honest answer from Rumsfeld would have gone like this: "You lack armor because we are incompetent. We expected smiles and flowers, not improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, hatred and looting. We ignored the generals who said we would need 200,000 troops, and we ignored the man who correctly predicted how forbiddingly high the cost of the war would be. Now you must pay for our miscalculations with your lives and limbs. Sorry."
McGregor, Texas, U.S.
The Iraqi nation is fighting for honor and dignity. Innocent Iraqi civilians must have the same level of safety that U.S. troops have. If millions can be spent on humvees, surely more money can be disbursed to rebuild hospitals and dispensaries. President Bush's program of establishing democracy in Iraq is not making its best showing at the moment. A low turnout for the Jan. 30 elections will not bring an end to this unjustified war.
Sufghan Sarwar Khan
I feel the deepest sadness for American soldiers, who must serve under a Secretary of Defense whose blend of supreme arrogance, utter ignorance and blinding incompetence puts them at such terrible and unnecessary risk. Surely even the most cursory acquaintance with The Art of War, the martial primer by Sun Tzu, would have taught Rumsfeld that if you don't have the army you might want, then you don't go to war. How dare he put the Administration's vendetta ahead of the welfare of his troops.
Kenneth J. Wiebe
Sins of the Son
U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan has an image as the world's most trusted diplomat [Dec. 13]. The alleged involvement of his son in the oil-for-food scandal has put a blot on his father's reputation. But why should a father suffer for the sins of the son? It is for the father to decide how he should present his moral strength to the world.
A. Jacob Sahayam
Time to Move?
The United Nations is automatically associated with the U.S., mainly because its headquarters is in New York City [Dec. 13]. The organization would be strengthened if its base were not in the U.S. Moving the headquarters to a less self-serving part of the world might promote greater acceptance of the U.N. among the world's poor and dispossessed. U.N. headquarters could, for instance, be moved to a large cosmopolitan center in Australia, Asia or Africa. It might also be possible to consider limiting the time for a chosen location to a period not to exceed 20 or 25 years.
"Is God in Our Genes?" was interesting but hardly surprising [Nov. 29]. The answer to the basic question of whether religion was created by man from cues sent from above or a sense of the divine evolved in us has long seemed obvious to north Europeans of my generation: man made God out of a need for a God and benefited from the invention. I was, however, surprised by the reverence the story showed toward religion. But then it struck me that this attitude might be a genuine example of the American mind-set that religion really matters. That goes a long way toward explaining the otherwise inexplicable fact that dynamic, energetic and in many other ways admirable Americans re-elected George W. Bush as their leader.