Readers write

March 28, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 7

‘Regular guys’ who went off to war

A former soldier read, and liked, a poem for peace that I’d sent to a veterans organization working hard for peace. He phoned me and we became good friends over time. He’d often invite my wife and me to come visit him, and he liked nothing better than if he could tell us about events of the war he’d been in. At Christmas he and I went to a veterans hospital in Manitoba to visit and hand out Christmas goodies.

I know that war, no matter how adventurous and how right it may seem to one side or the other, or to both, is horrible, brutish and fiendish.

One day I told my soldier friend, “You didn’t have to join the military.”

He said, “I had to.”

I said, “No, you didn’t have to. You could have taken prison or even death.”

Then he said, “The honour.”

I knew very well what he meant. His country was at war and as soon as he joined up he was a regular guy doing his duty. His parents, church, friends, young ladies and children all looked up to him admiringly. Young men fear being called cowards more than they fear the enemy, especially so when they’re still far from the front with all of its agony, gore and death. So, even though he had always been against the war, off to war he went. He was one of the fortunate ones to have survived.

By the way, my friend had fought in Hitler’s army, the Wehrmacht. He was a regular guy who fully thought he was just doing his duty. Our boys were regular guys, too.

Stan Penner, Landmark, Man.

Columnist has unscriptural view of our place in creation

Re: “By what authority?” column by David Driedger, Feb. 20, page 11.

Is the writer saying that, as Christians, having received the Holy Spirit and “the mind of Christ,” according to Paul in I Corinthians 2:16, we are now equal with God, we do not have to consider Scripture authoritative, and we live by no authority we did not create?

This writer has an unscriptural view of man’s place in God’s creation and would do well to study II Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness . . . .”

Ernie Reesor, Listowel, Ont.

Former pastor provides biblical links to ‘ashes to ashes’ phrase

Re: “Info sought on ‘ashes to ashes’ phrase” letter from Les Friesen, Feb. 20, page 10.

I served as a pastor for nearly 18 years and often used this phrase in funeral services, but never really stopped to investigate just where it originates. But after reading your inquiry I did a bit of research. Here’s what I found:

“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” is a poetic phrase originating in the burial service in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This same phrase also appears in the funeral service resources listed in our Mennonite Minister’s Manual and is frequently used in Mennonite funeral and burial observances.

The phrase, as quoted, doesn’t actually appear in the Bible in that specific form, but it is entirely biblical in source and meaning. The reference to dust comes mostly from Genesis 3:19, which states, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” noting that we are created out of dust, and at our earthly end our bodies return to this elementary substance.

The reference to ashes comes from Job 30:19: “I have become more like dust and ashes”; Genesis 18:27, where Abraham refers to himself as “I who am but dust and ashes”; and perhaps Ezekiel 28:18: “I turned you to ashes on the earth.”

A similar reference occurs in Sirach 10:9 in the Apocrypha: “Why is earth and ashes proud?” This phrase refers to human beings.

I hope I’ve helped answer your question.

Dave Bergen, Winnipeg

Dave Bergen is Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister of Christian Formation.

Like doctors, churches must ‘do no harm’

Re: “Our healing is within us” letter, Feb. 6, page 8.

In Wes Epp’s letter we are challenged to have a greater faith-based, a more proactive church-family-based stance on health care. I could not agree more.

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2010, fellow pilgrims offered to drive me to the Winnipeg cancer care centre, a 230-kilometre round-trip, for my daily radiation treatments. What a blessing to have the comfort of knowing that even when I was under a great deal of stress, there were people who put their faith into action and travelled that unknown road with me.

I would agree with the writer that our churches could—and should—become more involved with the care of all members of our community, regardless of church affiliation. Where we see a need, we must help, just like in the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan.

However, we must also be careful to do no harm, regardless of our good intentions. Sometimes the religious community has trouble discerning what is true faith and good medicine, and what is pseudo-medicine. The practice of iridology is based on the idea that your iris can be mapped into specific areas, and by looking at a chart an iridologist can tell what ails people and then prescribe a “natural treatment.”

These “natural herbs” will replace all the expensive prescription drugs that your doctor prescribed because your MD has a sinister pact with the “evil money-grabbing pharmacists.”

This call for the churches to bring in iridologists to treat the sick is naïve at best. It is nothing at all like that Good Samaritan, who said to the innkeeper, “Here is some cash. Treat him well, and if you need more, I will come back and pay you what he owes.” We can—and must—do no less.

Allan Giesbrecht, Altona, Man.

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