- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2000

Well-intentioned but absurd tampering with Scriptures

Just when I thought political correctness couldn't get any more ridiculous, I read "New Bible for black women thrives in 2 major markets" (April 3). The "Women of Color Study Bible" was hailed by a former religious editor of Publishers Weekly as a "knockout." So it is, of a sort.

After the 1995 publication of "The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version," by Oxford University Press, I thought I had seen it all a politically correct and thoroughly feminized version of the Scriptures.

The editors sought to liberate victim groups, especially women, from the onslaught of words that exclude or demean them. The Oxford Bible, according to its editors, replaces or rephrases "all gender-specific language not referring to particular historical individuals, all pejorative references to race, color, religion" or "physical disability."

The editors cut out God the Father and begin the Lord's Prayer with "Our Father-Mother in heaven." The Son of Man becomes "the Human One." In the Sermon on the Mount, all references to brother are rendered as "brother or sister" or "sister or brother."

The simple benediction in 2 John 1:3 becomes: "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father-Mother and from Jesus Christ, Child of the Father-Mother."

Anticipating the new "Women of Color Study Bible," the Oxford version eliminates all references to "darkness" that are equated with sin, evil or ignorance because darkness, the editors claim, is "associated with dark-skinned people."

The solicitude of editors of both new versions is touching, but somehow the age-old message of the Bible has managed to get through to men and women, to the lame and the blind, to slaves and slaveholders, and to those of every clime and color as today's more than 2 billion biblical believers attest.

This benevolent tampering with the Scriptures is one more example of virtue uninstructed by common sense.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Chevy Chase

International Criminal Court or law of the jungle?

The paranoia of Helle Bering and others fearful of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is gravely misplaced ("International criminal circus," Op-Ed, April 5). Their fears are based on both ignorance of how the court would work and their inability to grasp the enormous benefits the ICC would bring to all Americans, here and abroad.

Most people agree that humans are endowed by our Creator with a set of inalienable rights independent of race, sex, nationality, income level or political ideology. Those rights are not limited only to Americans. For better or worse, humans also are endowed with an innate sense of justice. When we, or one of our family members, are treated unfairly, strong emotions are stirred. Actions often follow those emotions. Sometimes those actions are rational and measured, and sometimes they are not.

Laws (or enforceable rules) were created to allow measured reactions to real or perceived injustice. Courts ideally interpret laws and impartially apply justice to prevent unmeasured human reactions, which tend to escalate. Without a court, individuals (or nations) are left to their own devices. If innocent lives are destroyed intentionally and those responsible are not held accountable, we cannot expect peace or stability. "Thou shalt not kill" should apply to street thugs and presidents. Hiding injustice behind national, religious, ethnic or political identity starts wars. The United States can claim itself exempt from an ICC, but the consequences could be catastrophic for all Americans.

Americans' love of freedoms and openness, our dependence on technology and the global spread of advanced technological killing capacity (nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional) all mean we are living in an increasingly dangerous era. With the Human Genome Project and advances in bioengineering, humans are not far from the ability to design biological weapons capable of targeting specific ethnic groups. It is technologically possible for an individual to engineer a horrible disease as well as the vaccine to protect the engineer. This new era of hyperglobalization and the superempowered individual means we must change our way of doing business. Enforceable global law is the change we need.

We can either accept the ICC as the origin of world law or we can continue to press our luck with the law of the jungle. The force of law provides a saner and safer future than the law of force. U.S. support of and participation in the ICC will bring far more benefits to Americans than the United States continuing to be the world's outlaw.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Social Security plan just another shell game

The March 31 article "Senate panel OKs budget plan including $150 billion in tax cuts," about the Senate Budget Committee's plan for the fiscal 2001 budget and beyond said, "The plan would use surpluses generated by Social Security taxes, about $1.1 trillion over the next five years, to pay off federal debt held by the public." Sen. Pete V. Domenici, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also says of the plan, "It protects Social Security unequivocally, protects Medicare, and significantly reduces the national debt." The Senate committee, under Republican leadership, advocates the same approach as proposed in the Clinton administration's Budget Report for the Year 2001, which says: "The President proposes to devote the entire Social Security surplus to paying down and eliminating more than $3 trillion of debt held by the public by 2013."

In fairness to the Senate Budget Committee and the president, the laws governing Social Security give them no alternative to paying off public debt with the American workers' retirement funds. The law says the surplus can only be invested in interest-bearing securities of the U.S. government, which in practice means special-purpose, non-marketable funds. When the government runs a deficit, it uses the proceeds of these bonds to run the country, but when there is a surplus, the only use for the proceeds is debt retirement.

The Social Security Trust Fund owns $900 million in interest-bearing special-purpose bonds, and the Republicans and the Democrats plan to keep selling them to Social Security for the foreseeable future. The only way for the government to honor these IOUs is to issue more of them or to raise money through taxes. In other words, the government has a huge, and growing, unfunded obligation to Social Security.

It is hard to see how, under these circumstances, Mr. Domenici or the president can say the strategy they are forced to adopt will protect Social Security. Simply collecting the Trust Fund surplus and using it to pay off holders of Treasury bonds does nothing to solve Social Security's two fundamental problems. By about 2015, benefit payments will exceed payroll tax collections, and unless the Trust Fund can earn a higher rate of return, it will go broke by 2035. Furthermore, the strategy does not reduce the national debt; it simply replaces public debt with debt in the government account.

For many American workers, their only savings are the funds paid by them and their employers to Social Security. Ways to stop this raid on workers' savings are:

• Remove the Trust Fund from the budget and set up a separate account to receive in cash (not IOUs) the net income, taxes on benefits and interest.

• Pay the Trust Fund every year, in cash, the interest on the outstanding special-purpose bonds of about $58 billion per year. (This will have to be a charge on the general fund, and it will reduce the budget surplus.)

• Invest the inflows to the Trust Fund in corporate bonds, preferred stocks, marketable Treasury bills and eventually a portion in equities.

This approach to reform should appeal to both parties. It is a form of privatization that would appeal to the Republicans who argue that the Trust Fund is full of worthless IOUs and worry that the need for vast injections of general revenues will in the long run impose a heavy burden on the taxpayers. The Democrats should find it acceptable because the basic structure of the system would be retained, and they shouldn't oppose the separation of the Trust Fund from the national budget.

Both parties should see it as a safe platform from which further changes could be introduced gradually. The next steps in reform might take several forms, but the main objectives would be continued diversification of Trust Fund investments, a higher real return and elimination of unfunded liabilities.

WILLIAM T. SMITH

McLean

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