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Top 10 Letters

The Feres Doctrine, Allen Barra, "Return of the King," and more.

11:00 PM, Dec 29, 2003
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Allen Barra is the worst kind of statistician. He uses stats as a drunk uses a street light--for support, not illumination. Barra starts out with his (often absurd) conclusion and then sets about to mustering some statistics to support that conclusion.

--Dean Barnett


The more critical question for Terry Eastland is not whether President Bush brings a religious foundation to his decision making, but why his opponents are so opposed to this religious foundation (God and Governing).

The First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." was never intended to remove religion as a moral basis for government and politics. It was meant to prevent a state-sponsored religion from being mandated and to prevent the state from prejudice against the exercise of religion.

Atheism has grown into a religion just as much as any faith that believes in a higher, moral being. Aren't these opponents to mainstream religion now forcing the establishment of atheism as our country's state religion?

--Ed Irby


I disagree with Larry Miller's "report card" analogy (And It's Just That Easy). I agree Miller (and I) are undoubtedly better people than Saddam. But all of our "report cards" have F's and only F's. We all failed. Only Jesus has A's, and only He can "make the grade."

--Jason Spangler


I appreciate Jonathan V. Last's The End of the Ring, but I want to amplify his comments about the way Jackson tinkers with Tolkien's magnificent characters.

Faramir is not the only one who gets abused in "The Two Towers." Theoden is portrayed as craven, when in the book he courageously leads his small force into battle, retreating to Helm's Deep only after the army he is racing to reinforce at the Fords of Isen is defeated before he can reach them.

Jackson also butcher's Tolkien's "theology of despair." In the book, Theoden's mind was not "possessed" by Saruman, rather his will had been broken by Wormtongue's ill counsel and the death of his son, Theodred. Gandalf delivered Theoden not by "driving out" Saruman's controlling influence, but by calling Theoden to manfully face the tasks that were before him. There is not a hint of the movie's "deliverance ministry" scene in Tolkien's writings. Maybe Jackson is a lapsed Pentecostal.

Jackson's mangling of Faramir and Theoden is not only distressing, it is paradoxical. In "Fellowship," Jackson ennobles Gandalf by setting him against passing through Moria, which he takes as a last resort, and only then at Frodo's choice. So Jackson portrays Gandalf as knowingly going into great peril against his better judgement, and because of Frodo's decision. But in the book, it is Gandalf who from the first prefers to pass through Moria, while Aragorn opposes it for fear of its perils.

But the worst victim is Aragorn. In the books, he is deliberate, purposeful, and energetic in his pursuit both of the restoration of the united kingship of Gondor and Arnor and of Arwen's hand (and the two are intertwined, for in "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" we learn that Elrond withheld his permission for Arwen to wed unless Aragorn should establish the dominion of Man in Middle Earth; he was unwilling to sacrifice her immortality for anything less). But Jackson's Aragorn is conflicted, anxious and unsure from his first appearance in the movie. Arwen is the suitor in the romantic drama and Gandalf is the suitor in the political drama. Aragorn is a passive waif (though skilled with weapons), swept along in interpersonal and international dramas that are seemingly too big for him. It is a bitter disappointment to those of us who love these stories.

Nonetheless, the movies are, as Last says, masterpieces. The one great shame is that now, it is unlikely that anyone will ever do this story right.

--Sam Conner