God and raw milk.

Those are the two subjects that have mobilized Lancaster Farming readers to write letters more than any other since my arrival in this news department.

A few months ago, a letter writer who questioned the safety of raw milk prompted a flood of responses in support of the unprocessed beverage. Our weekly poll, which usually draws about 150 answers, swelled to over 5,000 when the subject got raw.

Last week’s letter about the appropriate location of our weekly religion column attracted a similar level of attention. Some of the reaction letters are published on this page, and the discussion inspired this week’s poll question (see below). Please take time to share your answer; the results will be published next week.

I love to see this kind of healthy participation, but it doesn’t happen every week.

Developing an active commentary section where all respectfully submitted opinions are welcome was one of my goals when I became editor about a year and a half ago. Not that such a section didn’t already exist; I just wanted to encourage more involvement from our diverse readership.

I’ve been in the newspaper business for 25 years, as a reporter and editor, and there has never been a shortage of reader opinions. Unfortunately, most of them are expressed privately or anonymously.

We don’t publish unsigned letters — an industry standard — and unsubmitted commentary goes unheard and is thus ineffective.

Many readers who have reservations about having their attributed opinions printed and circulated for thousands to read and analyze say they fear judgment or even retribution. Such apprehension is understandable when one’s status in society is predicated on how he or she is perceived, but I’ve always considered it a shame that the freedom of expression we sometimes take for granted as Americans isn’t more widely embraced.

A well-crafted opinion is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t hesitate to share it. The trick is to do so diplomatically, not at the expense of alternative points of view. It’s too easy to label the opposition wrong or stupid. Those who employ that tactic are demonstrating that they’re only interested in projecting their viewpoints, not hearing those of others. All that does is widen the divide.

So pages A8 and A9 are available every week for all opinions — Republican or Democrat (or other), Christian or non-Christian (or other), vegan or meat eater (or other), oil or solar (or other), Pepsi or Coke (or RC) ... I could do this all day.

Whatever you have to say about the subjects we report on each week in Lancaster Farming, these are the pages where the discussion takes place, and I encourage you to participate. A diverse forum of thought almost always leads to a better understanding of all sides.

So send me your letters, but remember, keep it clean and don’t be mean.