Letters from God: Heavenly or Heresy?

For $5.95, you can get a letter from God's ghostwriter, who according to the Chicago Tribune, "drives a black convertible, smokes Tareytons and gives tarot readings in the kitchen of her suburban townhouse."

DirectfromGod.com is the brainchild of Linda Pearl of Bloomington, Illinois, who sends personlized letters from God to US troops and their families "to help boost morale and to bring comfort and solace into their lives during these difficult times."

James Halstead, chair of religious studies at DePaul University, is not impressed. "
"She's learned a little off the televangelists and is making six bucks a pop off it," he told the Tribune.

But the letters are OK with Adolfo Suarez of Las Vegas, who sent one to a family friend.

Suarez said critics "need to get a life. All through history there have been people who have spoken for God. The last time I checked, there wasn't a 12-page instruction manual on, `This is when God is using you; this is when God is not using you.' Who's to say that God did not use her as an instrument?"

Halstead replies that the letters don't stand up to theological scrutiny, instead offering a "confusing, highly individualized interpretation of the divine relationship."

Although they heap praise on military personnel, they also state that God mourns war. "When did humankind go so astray? " the letter asks. "When did the free will, that I wanted people to use so wisely, become so twisted and distorted, bending to rationalize even the most heinous, hideous and humiliating of choices?"

It's a slippery bit of rhetoric and fits Americans' "broader belief in God" that Halstead said allows believers to mold the divine relationship into just about any form the individual prefers. That individualistic interpretation doesn't often stand up to theological scrutiny, he said. And when such an amorphous relationship with God exists, Halstead said, he's not surprised that someone would write a letter in God's name and find a market.

"It tells me there's this longing in the United States of America for some kind of spiritual connection," Halstead said.

His advice--go visit someone you know who needs comfort, and buy someone a cup of coffee instead.


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