To The Herald-Whig:
This last week or so I've had people on my case for what I said -- rather, for what they say I said -- in my recent letter about a noxious lecture I attended and commented on in this newspaper. I have written personal responses to several of these critics but have held back from public response, not wanting to stir the pot of misunderstanding and recrimination. But perhaps a public word is also called for, to clarify a key issue.
To the patriots and Christians who were troubled by what I wrote I now say this: I looked all over the Bible to see whether Jesus ever said "Love thy country." I don't find that he ever did. What I do find is "Love thy neighbor." Maybe he found it hard to love anything so vast and unembraceable as a country, with a lot of unlovable things in the lump. I know I do.
He may, like me, have turned to things closer to hand, such as one's friends and neighbors. Read or reread that letter of mine that stirred so much heat and smoke but very little light. Distressed for my friends and fellow citizens who are in danger of being misunderstood, shunned, or even persecuted because of their religion, I tried in that letter to take a stand beside them and speak for them. I would do so again, even after seeing how great the likelihood is of being misunderstood or targeted oneself when confronting strongly held sentiments. That's what my idea of good citizenship calls on me to do, and do so I must or fail in my civic duty.
I must live with the good people of Quincy, but I must try to live with them as a good fellow citizen, though that may sometimes mean saying things that may be misunderstood or even perfectly understood but simply disliked.