Letters for the week of June 7-13, 2006 

Catholics take chastity essay with a big pillar of salt, and a critic of rap culture takes on our own rap critic.

"Chastity," Best of the East Bay, 5/3

Anti-Christian Intolerance
I pick up the Express from time to time, usually for restaurant reviews. I've always been particularly interested in the "Best of the East Bay" issue because I'm ever on the hunt for good restaurants in the area (even though I generally don't agree with your picks).

Your paper is in many ways standard Bay Area leftist fare, and most of the time it doesn't bother me much. It's hardly original here in Berkeley, even yawn-inducing in its sameness. This year's "Best of" issue, however, is absolutely appalling. I refer in particular to Chris Thompson's savage and hateful sidebar on chastity. As a practicing Catholic I'm accustomed to being on the receiving end of ignorant attacks on my faith and the Church, especially living here in the Bay Area where the only orthodoxy is liberalism run amok and the only heretics are SUV drivers and "religious people." But I have never seen anything as disgusting as Thompson's piece, not even in the Bay Area. Truly, you should be deeply ashamed of this kind of thing regardless of your own beliefs or lack thereof. If this doesn't give an editor pause, what would?

Thompson's screed is twisted on so many levels that I find it hard to know where to begin. I don't expect my words to make a difference and I certainly don't have the time or interest to expound on the beauty of chastity. Talk about casting pearls before swine. Thompson very obviously hasn't the faintest idea of what Christians really believe about sex and the human body. It doesn't take much to see that there has never been a religion or philosophy that exalts, elevates, and respects the human body and the sexual act as much as Catholicism; if you doubt this, read John Paul II's theology of the body. Thompson can drink in and rehash all the anti-Christian propaganda he likes — it's certainly in vogue in these Da Vinci Code-crazed days — but it is beyond reprehensible to give recommendations for abortion clinics and to mock and insult with such savagery the deeply-held religious beliefs of well over a billion human beings. It is clear that Thompson wouldn't last five minutes in the town hall with an informed Christian, so ignorant is his piece. I found it particularly ironic (and amusing) that one of his claims — about infants buried under the convent floors — has its origins in fundamentalist Christian propaganda against Catholicism. He has much in common with the likes of Bob Jones and Jack Chick.

Folks in the Bay Area so often trumpet their openness, celebration of diversity and tolerance, and yet in all my travels around the world I have never lived in a more judgmental and narrow-minded place. Your theme of the seven deadly sins (and few at the Express, presumably, believe that there is such a thing as sin in the first place) is further evidence that diversity reigns so long as one is not a believing Christian or — worse yet — a "conservative" Christian. No room for those, and that's fine. Your approval is not needed and, despite what hysterical liberals seem to believe, we're not trying to impose our beliefs on you or create a theocracy.

Please consider reigning in this kind of ignorant and hate-filled excrement. Perhaps even consider — just consider — terminating Thompson's employment. Try this for a few moments: imagine what kind of response would be generated if he had centered his attack on, say, Judaism or Islam. Why is it OK if the target is Christian in general and Catholic in particular?
John Knutsen, Berkeley

Reconsider Chastity
How sad, I now need to find out what's going on in the Bay Area through other means than your publication. How can I, in good conscience, pick up a copy of your printed material after you publish such an article. I guess I won't get to see all those great ads from your advertisers either. Even taking into account that the article may not express your views, or the view of the owners of the publication, it is contributing to the moral decline of our society in the disguise of freedom of the press.

I wish I was eloquent enough to write an article on the virtues of Chastity, or at the very least on the virtues of giving it some consideration to one's actions as opposed to taking the number 43 line in the middle of the night when one has an urge. What would the world be like if we all had sex with whomever we wanted whenever we wanted and then just aborted the child-to-be? Heaven forbid, sorry, Mother Nature forbid that one would consider waiting to make love with someone they have actually committed to or even are married to?

People in the area are so very open to such wonderful ideas of tolerance and acceptance of each other but so unwilling to read, research, and challenge themselves with difficult decisions like the virtues of abstinence and patience when it comes to sexual pleasure? And articles like this are certainly not tolerant of people with such values and faith practices. I only hope, and yes PRAY, that some of your readers, even if they initially got a great giggle from the article, will someday, hopefully soon, realize how empty such a life is and what that way of thinking and living leads to not only for them but for our society.

We cannot always have what we want when we want it.
Donald Main, San Francisco

Satan lives
That your issue promoting the so-called "Deadly Sins" came out in the same week that the Chronicle reported on a Satanic double homicide is not a coincidence which should be overlooked. There are people — insane, indubitably — for whom the idea of Satanism is not the joke it appears to be to your staff. Satanism is not an "innocent alternative lifestyle." Although I sympathize with the desire to debunk the Catholic myth of damnation for sin, I think the Express goes much too far when it promotes the pursuit of sin and glorifies evil. That is engaging in the same idealization of evil as the Satanists.
J.S., Berkeley

"Go Less Dumb," Close 2 tha Edge, 4/26

No Defense
Yes, when I wrote an article explaining that radio rap had become a "Culture of Death" I knew I was changing my long stand of thinking that we should embrace rappers and encourage them to be more responsible and in so doing taking a risk. I have attended huge hip-hop conferences with major rappers, I have hosted events featuring Frontline (whom I still consider great artists), and I have assisted young people in my programs to pursue their rap careers. But yes, it has got so bad, that I could not sit idly by watching the youth in my programs continue to be so horribly influenced without saying anything. And I have been surprised by the overwhelming support by so many as my article made its way around numerous publications and online forums. In fact, other than my close friend, himself a rapper, who cautioned me prior to publishing my article, Eric Arnold's criticism in the East Bay Express has been the first negative comments I have received on the article. Even the many youths in my programs, whom I talked about the "Culture of Death" with, who would not totally agree with me, acknowledged that the majority of rap played on radio and music video stations promote irresponsible, negative, delinquent, and even criminal behavior. My position even got a recent endorsement by Bay Area rap legend Too $hort, who was recently interviewed on KMEL and said he celebrates the hyphie music, but criticized its promotion of negative behavior.

I appreciate Arnold's calling my efforts "commendable" and I even welcome his criticism of my article and subsequent interview. In fact, since my article was published I have conducted numerous interviews for magazines, newspapers, and radio shows and I have got calls from college professors asking to use my article in their classrooms. Arnold seemed to slightly agree with much of my arguments but took me to task for my criticism of the rappers themselves, but unfortunately his only defense was to say they sometimes do good things, like volunteer and donate money. While these are genuinely good, big tobacco companies giving grants doesn't absolve them from the responsibility of causing massive health problems and death. I would assume Arnold is removed from the reality of life and the imitation of art that exists in Oakland and many inner cities around the country, to the detriment of the very youth I see every day.
David Muhammad, Oakland

Our May 31 package of articles about the impending sale of the Contra Costa Times and other papers to the MediaNews Group contained several errors. In "The Future of News," we miscounted the number of Bay Area papers now owned by ANG Newspapers; it is eleven. We also misidentified the country from which Sean Penn corresponded for the San Francisco Chronicle; it was Iran, not Iraq. In "Evaluating the Draft," we misidentified the film reviewer for the Times; Randy Myers is filling in for longtime film reviewer Mary Pols while she is on leave. Finally, in "Yes, We Are Owned by a Chain, Too," we erroneously referred to Congressman Joseph Knowland, the founder of the Oakland Tribune, as Senator Joseph Knowland; the latter post belonged to his son, William.

In our May 17 issue, we incorrectly called Thievery Corporation a UK-based DJ duo. They are from Washington, DC.

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