Post: Readers Respond

Dear Pietisten: Many thanks to my friend Avid Adell for his heartwarming tribute to his father-in-law, Nils Ackerlund, in Pietisten some months ago. I also thoroughly enjoyed his recent essay on his and Karen’s experiences living, teaching, and traveling in the near East. As always, Arv is delightful, witty and wise. He was my inspiration to attend New College at the University of Edinburgh back in the sixties (he enrolled there a few years earlier). Arv also recently had a spot-on letter in the Covenant Companion regarding Cliff Johnson, truly a remarkable Covenant pastor. Thanks, too, Phil for your years of tireless service to the Pietisten cause. We are all the richer for your generous labor. Grace and peace,

Craig Anderson, Punta Gorda, Florida.

I received my Pietisten two days ago and immediately saw Phil Johnson’s article about Marian Anderson. In 1933-34, Marian Anderson toured Sweden and my Mother, Brita Wester Edlund, walked from her home to hear Marion Anderson sing. At that time she could tour Europe but not the U.S. As I turned the pages I came across Tom Tredway’s article “In Defense of Hybrids.” Both Tom and I came from the Buffalo, New York Covenant church. Although Tom considered himself a hybrid, I was not, having immigrated to the US in 1948—although I now drive a hybrid. Then I married Philip who was English/Scottish. My Dad thought it was good for the bloodlines. So I went from the Covenant to Plymouth Brethren and back to the Covenant and am now being fed by N.T. Wright. I turned another page and there was P.J. Larson. I enjoyed learning more of the English language from both PJ and Gladys, but then we learned much more than English literature and grammar. There wasn’t much that wasn’t discussed in PJ’s class. So it is with Pietisten, there is much to remind us of people and happenings and to keep us thinking.

Ann-Britt Keillor, Madison, Wisconsin.

You accomplished lots and lots for a whole side of the Covenant that has been willing to take many things seriously without taking selves too seriously. What a super arrangement. I sure hope the next generation of Pietisten leadership will not abandon the light heart. “Cause” can easily consume joy.” You balanced things, and that is what gave Pietisten such charm.”

Robert Dvorak, Bradenton, Florida.

We have been subscribers to Pietisten for some time now. We, Iris (C’42,SCH’45) read it cover to cover. Some thing in the latest issue hit me. That was the article by Tredway on hybrids. Well, we seem to be aptly classified. No one has ever put it like that to explain our situation. We have had long time association with the Covenant. Both of us were raised in Covenant churches in Chicago (North Park and Englewood/Redeemer); we met at old camp Shagbark on Lake Geneva when we were kids. Iris and her extended family have attended North Park. We were married at North Park church some 60+ years ago. My family also has long standing ties. In many ways, my cousin, Pastor Joe Danielson, was a model for me. However, since leaving Chicago for Texas some 60 years ago, we have had little or no contact with a Covenant church. We tried out various churches but finally opted out. Here is where the hybrid comes in. We have found meaning and truths in the teaching of Jesus, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam (after a period of teaching in Turkey). The Hopi and Navahos have explanations about life which make sense. In short, there appears to be many ways of finding a meaningful philosophy which can serve as a guide to a fruitful life.

The one thing that draws us to the Christian church is the music. Wiberg’s columns are interesting. We have visited cathedrals in many European countries and always sought out organ concerts and choirs. We are supporters of the Vesper music program of a local Methodist church. The sermons we have heard around town don’t create sparks, but the music is another thing.

So, I guess we are hybrids. Certainly not from an ethnic standpoint, with relatives on both sides who live in Sweden, but, from a religious standpoint, yeah, I guess we would fit the hybrid category. Finally, I appreciate the final premise stated in the last issue, to enjoy the liberty to say “…anything we want and let it be subject to criticism by ‘one who is interested.”

In closing, Iris said to me the other day, “You know, reading Pietisten gives me a warm nostalgic feeling.”

Robert P. Anderson Lubbock, Texas.

I just received the Summer 2009 edition of Pietisten. While I am not a subscriber, you have been gracious enough to keep me informed of the issues that included memorials to my folks, Adele and John Cole. For that I am most grateful and I wanted to let you know how much it has meant to me to receive these publications. I regret that I have not sent even a token contribution to support this good work. I promise to do so soon. It was with sadness that I read that you are stepping down from your position as Managing Editor, but I imagine that, like any volunteer effort, there comes a point when you feel that you have done what you can and it is time for “new blood” to take up the cause. I just wanted to send this message to let you know that I appreciate all you have done and to let you know that my parents also appreciated and looked forward to each issue.

I think it is fitting that the issue that contains Bob Dvorak’s kind tribute to my father and, my brother-in-law’s loving tribute to his father (and my dear friend) Norbert Johnson, would be the last issue I would receive with you as Editor. Please know that I am most grateful and read these tributes with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart for the fact that they came into my mailbox today in the form of Pietisten that you lovingly thought to send my way. Thank you,

Tim Cole, Los Angeles, California. Phil: thanks for the two decades of shepherding Pietisten. It was a worthy project, and you can take pride in its accomplishments. You will enjoy reading future installments, and you will sometimes miss being in the mix. Now you can devote more time to writing! But I know. I definitely know—understand these things and how life changes our circumstances from time to time. It’s a courageous and bold move for you. In my opinion, you top out at the highest peak of Pietisten accomplishment. A great legacy and model for years to come.

Robert McNaughton, Middletown, Connecticut.

Many thanks for Pietisten that arrived yesterday. Naturally my eye was drawn to the Adell article on the “Mid-East.” Adell clearly did not do much in the way of background reading reference Islam. Put another way, he cannot see Islam for the islamisms. What does the sentencing of two unmarried Brits, making out on the beach, and subsequently sent to jail for three months, have to do with Islam? This is comparable to saying that the New England Blue Laws forbidding booze and entertainment on the sabbath, were somehow integral to Christianity.

As to Moslems not having “the slightest hint of doubt or agnosticism,” it could be true of his students but the heart of the Islam. To the point are Ibn Arabi’s commentary on the Koran and the poetry of Rumi. Both gentlemen were condemned as heretics in their time but today, Ibn Arabi is considered Islam’s greatest philosopher and Rumi Islam’s greatest poet!

That Islam is in need of a reformation, as was Christianity, to clear away the clutter—women in abayas, cutting off the hands of thieves, blowing up girls in schools—is admitted by most of the Moslems I know. I have assisted them at many an argument on the subject. And, if my years in Syria (seven all total) are any indication, that reformation is well, if quietly, on the way.

If the “Islamic mind” (whatever THAT is) has no epistemological issues with God, well, so what? Neither does Hinduism or Buddhism, if my limited reading of these two religions is any indication. Is Adell saying that epistemology is integral to religion? Is not epistemology a Western concept applicable to Western religion?

Adell says his students are not pluralists. I see no difference whatsoever between them and that mass of individuals in this country who say that only through Christianity may the individual reach heaven, except that the former are indeed more tolerant: Adell’s students at least allow entry to heaven for non-Moslems!

Robert Thompson, New York, New York.

[R.T.’s “Islams: A User’s Guide” can be found at www.pietisten.org, Summer 2002.]

To the Editor: I thoroughly enjoyed Arvid Adell’s travelogue/classroom report about his professorial jaunt to the Middle East. While hardly a definitive word on Islam, it was a very human and warm account of his inter-action with a sample of the next generation of Muslims. And I was delighted to read (between the lines) that Arvid’s classroom humor is transportable, even to another and very different culture. Blessings,

Tim Johnson, Marblehead, Massachussetts.

Dear Dr. Adell: I would like to thank you for writing such an insightful and interesting article about your sojourn in Qatar. It gave me a greater understanding of Islam through conversation and interactions with your students as well as observations as an adjunct professor. Your casual writing skills and perceptive language certainly added to the outstanding article. Thank you for your contribution to this intriguing periodical.

Sara Akerlund, retired educator, Caledonia, Illinois.

Arvid Adell’s account of his months living and teaching in Qatar was interesting. Our family lived in Kenya for three years and we think that has given us a better understanding of life in Africa. So from this experience, Arvid and Karen have a better understanding of life in a Arab Muslim culture.

I have heard it said that Allah has blessed the Arabs with that vast wealth of oil. As Arvid has stated: $85,000 per year makes for La Dolce Vita in Qatar. But does it? According to Friedman in The Earth is Flat, it is brain power that is required for competition in today’s world. Taiwan, Korea, Japan are good examples, they have no natural resources yet they compete for the top. So, according to Friedman, living off oil is ruinous to the people. To not have to work condemns the society to eventual collapse. Of course the rulers have to pay off the peasants in order to keep in power. And the rulers have their own perks. As told by one of the Saudi royal family, in her book Princess, in Arabia each week, at least for some period of time, they fly in a 747 from Paris full of french prostitutes for the real men of the family. Of course it returns with last weeks pros. Ah, a fresh one every week, wow; isn’t that the true La Dolce Vita? I highly recommend two books, Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and A God Who Hates by Wafa Sultan. Each relates not only their own but their mother’s and grandmother’s personal experiences of living as a woman under Islam and Sharii law and they also relate their experiences, through their jobs, in dealing with the stories told by many, many other girls and women who were viscously beaten by their husbands or brothers for the sake of protecting the family honor. Any hope for change, real change, in the status of women under Islam, lies with the Muslim women; they have so much to gain and little to lose. In contrast, the men have much to lose and nothing to gain.

Robert Blomgren, Vashon, Washington.

To Phil and Staff: Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Best Wishes for 2010

Len Hill, Melbourne, Australia (descendant of George Scott)