Out of the Closet, Into the Pulpit

We want to commend you for your article on A Safe Space, the gay-straight alliance at Union-PSCE ("Taking the Straight Road," News & Features, May 31). It clearly conveyed one experience of what it is like to be gay and in seminary — the closeted experience.

However, it failed to convey the experience of Safe Space members who choose to live their lives out of the closet. As former and current students at Union-PSCE, we have made it a point to be open and honest about our lives and our loves both in the classroom and in our church communities. We have both served as officers of A Safe Space and saw the organization as a place we could go to celebrate our faith with others who recognized the Spirit working through us. We see being out as part of our calling to witness to Christ. We know that the inclusion of LGBT peoples is nothing new — but what is new is people coming forward to make that inclusion known.

Just as the Holy Spirit broke down barriers before through the inclusion of the Gentiles, causing confusion and anger among the budding church, so the Holy Spirit now calls LGBT Christians to come forth and make their inclusion known, much to the anger and confusion of the present Church. Our inclusion is not something to be debated; it is only something to be recognized, and it is the gifts of the Spirit given to us that will make this recognition possible.

However, in order for this recognition to occur LGBT Christians must first come forward and come out so that the larger Church can see we are already your ministers and your Sunday school teachers, your choir directors and your fund-raisers, your family members and your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Juliana Rasnic, former president
R. Dale Smith, former treasurer
A Safe Space

Questionable Science

I read with interest the June 7 article about the VCU biology textbook issue ("A Textbook Case," News & Features). On a number of levels, it is a sad commentary on the state of classroom instruction in this country.

First, it seems that the new textbook "dumbs down" the subject in order to accommodate the less than adequately prepared freshman biology students. As a result, you are lowering the academic bar, which does nothing to address the root cause of the poorly prepared science students problem. Second, when did creationism (or intelligent design, as the media-savvy religious right spin doctors have dubbed it) enter the realm of science? Please!!

Bill Christy
Mount Laurel, N.J.

Melodramatic? "Water" Needs a Second Look

I do not make a habit of reading movie reviews before seeing a film, and Thomas Peyser's review of "Water" ("The Littlest Widow," Arts & Culture, June 7) is one of the reasons why. I was disappointed to find that this visually stunning and socially compelling film could have been so misrepresented by your reviewer.

Mr. Peyser labels this hard-hitting drama as "melodramatic." It concerns me that films addressing human-rights issues, specifically those of women, are categorized as melodramatic, because they bring to the forefront the consideration of the individual and communal rights amidst complex human emotions. This film escapes the heavy-handed plotlines of American films like "Crash" and allows the viewer to accept these individuals and their deep struggles in confinement without moral dictation.

I viewed the portrayal of the character of Chuyia as a gross caricature of a brilliantly and sensitively executed performance. Mr. Peyser pathetically labels it as "an impeccably impish, life-affirming way that veers into Shirley Temple territory" and draws a shortsighted conclusion to an otherwise true portrayal of how an 8-year old girl actually behaves. Perhaps Mr. Peyser has grown too accustomed to the mechanical and uninspired performances of young actresses like Dakota Fanning and Hallie Eisenberg, and fails to see the unadulterated charm and warmth of a child's perspective shining starkly against the dank backdrop of adult corruption.

To its credit, the film does not lambaste Hinduism, or religion on the whole, so much as it brings out of the shadows the bitter complications of when religion is abused for political, social or financial gain at the expense of those who seek to be faithful to their beliefs. It also allows for the re-examination of one's beliefs to be a healthy and positive process, without equating "questioning" to "rejection" of faith.

I find it laughable that Mr. Peyser's overly sentimental reasoning of the film's message would be debased to "[this film] tells us that all we need to clear up this mess is Gandhi and a good, healthy dose of tear-inducing fellow feeling." Gandhi is not held in reverence as the savior or the solution. The closing scene to the movie is much less about Gandhi and is about the solution being in the individual's moment of choice. Biswas' character is not able to change the system of rule, sacred Hindu texts or the culture at large, but she could in a moment change Chuyia's fate as a victimized child and give her the hope of a future with healing and life. It is her choice in the final scene that is the saving grace for "the littlest widow" and is a brilliant act of courage and strength that, yes, is worthy of a few tears.

Erin Chambers

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