Readers write: July 2, 2018 issue

June 27, 2018 | Viewpoints | Volume 22 Issue 14
Various Contributors,

 

Suicide may not be painless, but it is selfish
Re:Suicide isn’t painless,” May 21, page 16.

I sympathize deeply with the Brandt/Penner family. My cousin used a gun to end his life; a very deep depression must have affected them both.

It’s difficult to say, but it seems to me that suicide is a very selfish act and inconsiderate of family, as evidenced by the turmoil both families experienced.

Maybe we all understand it as selfish act but hesitate to say it. Could the selfish nature of it deter others?
—Victor Huebert, Kingsville, Ont.

 

Is MC Canada on the wrong side of history?
Re:MC Canada working groups call for sanctions against Israel,” May 21, page 28, and, “Mennonite arrested at Kinder Morgan pipeline protest,” May 7, pages 18-19.

I find it disturbing that Mennonite Church Canada has become more involved in politics that are none of our business.

Media reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian situation has been particularly one-sided. We have to remember that the Holocaust during the Second World War is very much on the minds of the Israelis. My heart goes out to the Christians in Palestine who live in the midst of a population that is determined to erase Israel. The Palestinian Christians cannot openly oppose the hostility of their people towards Israel if they want to survive.

Quoting the Qur’an, Jordanian Sheikh Ahmed Aladoan clearly states: “Allah gave the Holy Land to the sons of Israel until the Day of Judgment” (Surah Al-Ma’ida, verse 21), and that “the land was bequeathed to the Jews” (Surah Al-Shara’a, verse 59).

And in the Bible, God said to Abraham: “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:15). God promised to bless those who would bless Abraham and his descendants, and he would curse those who would curse Abraham’s descendants.

Are we working for the blessing of Israel or for its destruction? Perhaps we may find ourselves on the wrong side of history. Therefore, let’s keep our church out of politics.

Our mission is to go into the world and preach the gospel and make disciples for Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). There is plenty of room for that right here in our society. The ignorance of the Scriptures in our churches has led us to where we are right now.
—Isaak Eitzen, St. Catharines, Ont.
The author is a member of St. Catharines United Mennonite Church.

 

Ideas like ‘the Fall’ keep thinking people from embracing the church
Re:God judges differently than we do” letter, May 7, page 11.

Jim Demers states: “With all that is going on concerning sexuality, it all comes down to this—‘The Fall of Man’ as recorded in Genesis 3—and that should be it. Nothing more. The Fall is the one and only reason Christ came to us.”

In response, I feel compelled to ask: What Fall? When did this happen? What did we fall from?

In 2018, is it any wonder that thinking, educated people are not exactly beating down the doors of our churches to fill our pews and increase our offerings? We now have all the verifiable proof we need to know that there never was a time when human beings were not killing, stealing, raping and so much more.

Dear pastors, please help us acquire—and witness—a faith that is as reasonable and realistic as we can manage alongside all the mystery. It will certainly sometimes cause us discomfort, but the alternative is even more concerning.
—Ron Hiller, Kitchener, Ont.
The author is a member of First Mennonite Church, Kitchener.

 

Heinrichs' protest mirrors Christ overturning the moneychangers’ tables

Re:Both ends of the pipeline,” June 4, page 18.

We are walkers from the 2017 Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights, a 600-kilometre walk supporting Bill C-262 as a framework to harmonize Canada’s laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Parliament passed Bill C-262 while we attended a Blue Quills First Nations University cultural camp at the end of May. The pilgrimage strengthened our connection to issues in Indigenous-settler relations, but the cultural camp cemented them. Building face-to-face relations with Indigenous people is a powerful tool to understanding the many perspectives underlying topics like the pipeline expansion.

Steve Heinrichs' involvement in the protest followed the request of Will George, project leader of Protect the Inlet and member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who called on spiritual leaders and people of faith “to stand with us in our defence of the land and the waters . . . for the sake of reconciliation and decolonization.”

Heinrichs' Mennonite Church Canada role, intimate connections with Indigenous nations across Canada, his leadership in the pilgrimage, and his personal commitment led to his protest. In our opinion, this kind of prophetic witness, which parallel’s Jesus’ overturning tables of the moneychangers, is often missing from church and other institutional leadership.

The Canadian government’s decision to push ahead with the pipeline does not have the free, prior and informed consent of the Tsleil-Waututh, Secwepemc, Athabasca Chipewyan, Beaver Lake Cree, and other nations. Additionally, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs remains steadfast in its outright opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Canada’s government must not be satisfied with obtaining agreement from a few First Nations.

We stand in support of Heinrichs' actions, as an individual, and as a representative of MC Canada.
—Steve Manske, Gini Bechtel, Cass Bangay, Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, Chuck Wright, Kitchener, Ont.

 

Need to listen to both sides of pipeline issue

Dear brothers and sisters in Alberta and B.C.:

Although Steve Heinrichs may live and work in Manitoba, he does not speak for or represent the viewpoints of all Christians or Mennonites in that province. I am willing to bet that he did not travel by foot or bicycle to protest the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. Therefore he was using fossil fuels in some fashion.

There are some of us in Manitoba who believe that his actions have caused more harm and division in the church and in Canada. Even our First Nations brothers and sisters cannot yet agree on how to approach the whole business of our reliance on fossil fuel, whether for transportation or jobs. We need to work with them at listening to both sides of the issue. I believe that we need to listen deeply and intelligently to all concerns and that we need to work at reconciliation rather than greater division.
—D. H. Adrian, Winnipeg

 

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I don't feel that "selfish" or "inconsiderate" are helpful words to use to describe the attitudes of persons committing or attempting to commit suicide. Since we recognize depression and mental illness as illness, then its also important to understand how these illnesses affects one's attitudes, perspectives and decision-making. In some cases, people feel that by committing suicide that they are relieving their loved ones of the burden of having them around. In other cases, the world can seem so black and hopeless that people cannot find the courage or hope to continue. In those circumstances I sincerely suggest that verbal deterrents will not be helpful but could perhaps add a further burden on those already hurting terribly.

Rather I suggest as we are able, to walk alongside those who are struggling, acknowledging their pain and suffering; thus offering a ministry of presence.

I have known several people who have died from suicide. I know that for those of us left behind, the grief is overwhelming and it can come with many unanswerable questions and feelings of guilt that do not accompany grief from other types of death. What I have come to learn is that people who die from suicide are not able to think about the grief and pain their death will bring to those who love them. The illnesses that end with suicide disable that part of the brain that allows them to think in those terms, and it skews their perception of reality, believing that their death will bring relief to those who love them. Often, their illness has so completely taken a hold of their thinking that they are unable to understand that there could be another way out of the blackness they find themselves living in. It is difficult for those of us who do not experience these illnesses to understand how that can happen. However, it is important to try and understand and have empathy instead of judgment.

On April 20, 2018, I was arrested for praying in solidarity with Indigenous peoples who are trying to protect their lands and our common home from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Many are wondering how I, Mennonite Church Canada's Indigenous-Settler Relations director, came to be involved in this action. Some are concerned about how this decision was processed, and the potential implications it might have. To nurture greater understanding and conversation, I have crafted a Burnaby Mountain Prayer Witness: Background and FAQ paper. You can access it here — www.commonword.ca/go/1566 . Grace, peace and continued courage to us all as we discern how to follow the Crucified in this time of global warming.

Another way of seeking the scriptures is to see 'the Fall' as a five-part, remarkably nuanced observation of the human condition in Genesis 1-11. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Nephilim and the daughters of men, tower of Babel, the Flood. Each in their own way depict in narrative form the many ways that persons and societies fail to live out the wisdom of God. Then from the story of Abram and Sarai we see one family, in a halting and incomplete way, seeking to live out the favor of God selflessly (which is the point of the Sodom and Gomorrah story) and thereby setting in motion a story of salvation that leads through Exodus and exile to Christ being crowned ruler of the world. It is a reversal of Genesis 1-11.

It may not be 'reasonable,' but it is the witness of the apostles. And they saw, ate with and knew the resurrected Christ.

Let us have the Scriptures search us, before we seek to search the Scriptures.

Many thanks to Steve Heinrichs for producing a background to the Burnaby mountain witness. I hold the authenticity of Brother Heinrichs with respect and have affection for him as a person. His personal integrity, as witnessed by his foregoing a vehicle, is commendable. That does not make him right in his assessments.

A close reading of his background reveals that he has consulted with those who have a high probability of agreeing with him, and a very low probability of disagreeing with his actions. A 'sort of consulting with the converted.'

Consulting with Henry Krause, former moderator of MC Canada and chair of the Mission, Peace and Service Committee MCBC seems, on the face of it, a wise step. I have concerns that that this consultation was not a substantive consultation with MCBC.

B.C. Aboriginal communities have accepted the informed consultation process and according to news reports (Vancouver Sun 7/5/2018) are not only giving permission, but are seeking to invest in the Transmountain Pipeline Project. The one community that is protesting is being left behind by their own community.

At the same time, Canadian crude is moving to market via rail, a much more unsafe transportation method (Vancouver Sun July 4, 2018).

All this places the presuppositions and logic of the Burnaby Mountain witness in a different light.

To compare protesting the Transmountain pipeline with the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Oscar Romero seems gratuitous. Both confronted a lawless tyranny. Brother Heinrichs will face a fairly benevolent judicial system in B.C., used to tokenism protests as a way of life for some.

In a time when the legitimacy of MC Canada is in serious question, to take actions that further fray the unity of the congregations seems unwise and precipitous, not faithful and prophetic.

Also, to name MC Canada congregational members as settlers is a de facto act of prejudicial aggression. Just as Aboriginal Canadians are not 'Injuns,' but persons, MC Canada congregational members are not 'settlers.' We are persons, who have a common goal of seeking a better koinonia in Canada with all. Being called a prejudicial moniker stymies that path.

In the end, the path being chosen leads nowhere. Not to a better koinonia or to costly discipleship. It leads nowhere, which seems like a particular aptitude of MC Canada. I mourn.

In trying to understand mental illness (for many reasons) I have spent a lot of time in research, educating myself and have come to realize that there are many elements of stigma that surround these issues, including the idea that suicide is a "selfish" act. Recognizing this as fact could actually make problems worse. I hope and pray that people such as Victor Huebert will be open to educating themselves from organizations that deal with these elements of stigma around mental health and suicide.

I find it very disturbing too, to read Isaak Eitzen’s letter of July 2, pages 8-10. There seems to be complete lack of understanding of what is actually happening on the ground in Palestine in the last 70 years and especially in these last few years.

As followers of Jesus, we are told in this letter that we should not become involved in politics. Should the Jewish prophets in the Old Testament also have kept themselves from speaking to the politics of their day? I doubt very much that the Zionist Israelis have the Holocaust in mind when they terrorize children, steal land, destroy olive groves, homes and villages in occupied Palestine. As Jewish organizations like B’tselem and many others who have actually interacted with Palestinians will attest to, most Palestinians are peace-loving people who only want to live at peace with their neighbours and raise their families like they did before 1948.

In the last three months over 150 unarmed Palestinians including women, children and journalists have been killed and more than 15,000 have been injured along the Gaza border while peacefully protesting their enslavement. At the same time only 4 IDF soldiers have been injured. Does this have anything to say about the inequities and the Old Testament law/limit of “eye for an eye”?

I find it interesting that in the U.S.A. among younger Jewish people today, it is reported that over 40 percent are backing the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and dignity. Another interesting fact is that most of the Zionists and settlers in Israel are not from “Abraham’s seed.” They are relatively recent immigrants from the Slavic countries to the north whose ancestors many centuries ago were converted to the Jewish faith but today have mostly abandoned any faith in God. When I spent three weeks on a study tour of the Holy Land, I asked one of our Jewish rabbis how many of today’s Jews were believers in God, he confessed that maybe about 20 percent. The writer quotes scriptural promises made to the Hebrew people (not only to the descendants of Judah and Benjamin) that always ended with “If you keep my commandments.”

I have a deep appreciation for the many genuine Jewish people who are deeply distressed with what is happening in Israel and Palestine. I also take great comfort and encouragement in what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 2:11-22. May we truly seek God’s guidance as we study and follow the Word of God—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

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