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October 24, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 21

Food shared with the hungry represents God’s table

We appreciated the Sept, 17 issue of the Canadian Mennonite with its focus on “Food and Faith.” Marlene Epp wrote a wonderful article on how food has meaning in other cultures and even our own if we but slow down and think about what we are eating.

But how we think of food is determined by the circumstances within which we live. I wonder what food means to us when we have the propensity in our culture to eat out at whim. What does food mean for us when its cost is “a coupon and change for a cheap burger?” I also wonder about those within our society who walk through life in poverty. What do they think when many of us have the privilege to think nothing of buying a fast burger or hotdog on a busy day?

I remember some years ago talking about food with several men from our congregation in Winnipeg. They were young boys with their mothers on the “Great Trek.” With tears in their eyes they related how hungry they had been and the pain they experienced from lack of food. They saw food as a special blessing from God provided by MCC workers from North America. For them, that food represented the care and concern of others who were thinking and praying for them in their refugee plight. One of them noted, “That food was like communion for us. It represented coming to God’s table in fellowship with other believers that we did not even know.”

Ken Reddig, Pinawa, Man.

Mennonites need to resist violent destruction of the earth

I really appreciated Randolph Haluza-Delay’s fine article, “Care for Creation and Environmental Justice” (Aug. 20, page 4) and would love to see more pieces exploring such matters. He’s right in saying that personal lifestyle changes will not address the current situation. He’s right in calling us to discover communal ways of simplicity that can live against the death-dealing ways of mass consumption. This is solid stuff. But it’s not enough. We need something more radical and more urgent, for the situation is not merely a challenge, but a “crisis.”

As Christian environmentalist Bill McKibben recently said, we are in a precarious, “almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless—position.” The best and vast majority of climate scientists agree that we cannot up global temperature by more than two degrees, or we are cooked (we’ve already upped it by a degree). We cannot add 565 more gigatons of CO2 or we will exceed two degrees, and the horrific reality is that there are 2795 gigatons of carbon contained in the oil, gas, and coal reserves of fossil-fuel companies—fuel that the big corporations are planning to burn (i.e., have billions already invested in). This is an emergency.

Over the past six months I’ve immersed myself in book after book on global warming. They all pretty much say the same thing, and it’s utterly depressing. “We are,” laments Christian theologian Paul Collins, “facing a massive, overarching moral problem, bigger than war. . . it is geocide, the very killing of the earth.” I want to disbelieve it. But I can’t, and I feel the incredible despair that such knowledge brings, especially when I ponder the future of my three kids.

It’s time we Mennonites push beyond conversations about incandescent light bulbs and recycling and even sustainable communities. That’s all good, but it’s tinkering at the edges. It’s not a sufficient response to our culture’s destructiveness, and it will not stop our culture from destroying the planet. We need to massively resist and stop the “pushers”—the fossil-fuel corporations—from extracting and selling the drugs that industrial society is addicted to.

Within our Mennonite community we have subversive traditions, like Christian Peacemaker Teams, that seek to get in the way of the violence of warring peoples. What if Mennonites were to mobilize and try to resist—nonviolently, courageously, even unto jail and death—the violent crucifixion of the earth? The creation is not simply groaning, it’s dying—150 species a day, more plastic than phytoplankton in giant swathes of the ocean, an Arctic that could be seasonally ice free by 2020. If global carbon emissions continue to go up by the current rate of 3 percent each year, we only have 16 years left before we exceed that 565 gigatons and “muck” the planet. It sounds apocalyptic. It is. We need Mennonites to take Christ’s call to peacemaking and apply it with risk-taking abandon to the earth and this land we live in. We need to prevent the expansion of the Tar Sands, and shut that whole thing down. We need to stop the industrial train in its tracks. And we need to do it now.

Steve Heinrichs, Winnipeg
(The views expressed here are personal and do not represent Mennonite Church Canada.)

State-sanctioned human rights cannot override church rights

I read with interest Alex Hunsberger’s letter (Sept. 3, page 10) where he was heartened by some Manitoban congregants participation in the Winnipeg Pride parade and concurrently dismayed by the statements made by church leadership with reference to the LGBT community. He clearly disagrees with “welcoming but not affirming” those in the LGBT community. He then goes on to attempt to equate a Hispanic church community with the LGBT community and infers that if the church can welcome and affirm Hispanics, why not the LGBT community.

From my perspective his argument is very weak as the Hispanic community is an ethnic community like any number of diverse communities in our nation. The LGBT community is unlike any other community and not at all similar to an ethnic community as it is based on sexual preference. It should be noted this sexual preference stands in opposition to our theology; in other words it is sin. That is why the LGBT community is “welcomed but not affirmed.” The church welcomes but does not affirm any sinner.

The LGBT have their fundamental human rights as set out in the Canadian Human Rights Act which allows them to be who they are. However, that Act also allows the church to continue to follow its traditions and beliefs, which in this case sets out their sexual orientation as sin. This is the benefit of a separation of church and state. The state allows for the LGBT lifestyle while concurrently the church is allowed to a hold different perspective.

In conclusion, those in the LGBT community are attempting to equate sexual human rights with church rights and privileges. They are not the same; as the Act clearly sets out the rights of both and they are mutually exclusive. To equate human rights with church rights is an incorrect and false view of these rights.

Ken Bergen, New Westminster, B.C.

‘Postmodern shift’ column is refreshing

“Life in the Postmodern Shift” is a refreshing and timely addition to our church paper. Troy Watson has the wonderful gift of forcing us to think about matters of faith in new and creative ways without leaving the safety and comfort of tradition and accepted Mennonite theology. For example in his most recent writing, “Is the Bible Reliable?” we are comforted by the inspiration and authenticity of the Scriptures but with a better understanding of the human factor in the writing, the choosing of the writing (with divine guidance) for final inclusion in the Bible as we know it today.

There those of us who might want to ask more questions of Troy, or even suggest that he was too tentative and careful. I want to know more about Marcion, the visionary (my assessment) heretic! Marcion’s Bible was rejected but did it not predict the state of Christianity some 2000 years later—too Pauline, not enough Gospels and the followers of the Old Testament and the followers of the New Testament seem comfortable with their separate Gods and wide schism?

Troy, thank you for helping me feel comfortable in placing as much value on faith as truth as I walk the Christian journey.

Peter A Dueck, Vancouver, B.C.

Making peace with technology

In response to the editorial, “Our electronic world,” by Dick Benner (Sept. 17, 2012 issue), I want to suggest an Anabaptist approach to our conflict with electronics. The editorial repeats the increasingly prevalent view of our electronic world—escape when you can, but live in conflict with this curse when you cannot. Benner writes, “our ecstasy and dependence on the computer has to be reined in. We need to get control of it . . . We need to know when it becomes a curse on our shalom.”

It’s more complicated than this. It is problematic to reduce this conflict narrative down to just electronics without fully taking account of the incredibly complex web of technologies that we are enmeshed within. In escaping to a peaceful place, how did you get there, who built the roads, the car, etc.? Water, sewage, power, food supply, housing are all technological in some form and because they are old we accept them without much awareness, thanks or analysis. Has the computer made our faith stronger, probably not, but then what about cars, cameras, telephones, electricity, printed books, even writing?

This conflict storyline needs a reboot. Instead of just running away from electronics we need some Anabaptist peacemaking. First recognise the depth of the problem. We have been creators or tool-makers from the beginning. We as human will always be tool-makers. Second, understand that we lay our personal failings and fears at the feet of the latest technologies. Third, from this recognition of where the conflict actually resides, we can begin the process of transformation. Computers, iPads, and Facebook may or may not be helpful in faith building; that responsibility continues to be where it has always been since the very beginning—with us as morally responsible people. Don’t blame technology for a lack of faith or for the opportunity to be greedy, blind, or to exert power. The story of Babel shows you could do that with bricks and tar.

Look for how the variety of technology enhances life in health and relationships and also discourages it. Adapting Dann Pantoja’s ( elegant concept, constructing a peace with technology requires seeking our and its harmony with the Creator, harmony with ourselves, harmony with others and also harmony with the created world.

Brian Wixted, Richmond B.C.

Hands-on experience also valuable for pastors

Re: “Choosing a pastor,” Oct. 1, 2012, page 4.

While seminary has been and continues to be an important institution for the instruction of our future leaders, its importance should not be overstated. The diligent student may learn much from the classroom but his deep comprehension of the subject matter will always pale in comparison to that of the autodidact. Professors may instruct and guide you but they can’t tell you anything about your soul.

Nor can the importance of a pastor’s hands-on experience with his prospective flock be discounted. This is one point in favour of looking within for a pastor. The fact that there is a prohibition against interim pastors becoming full-fledged ones is something that continues to baffle me.

After all I’m reminded of a certain first century Jewish rabbi whose words and leadership I have found to be very inspiring despite his lack of a formal education.

By the way, I didn’t appreciate the insinuation that seminary students who don’t wish to move their families to Indiana are somehow racist in the phrase, “But ultimately, the parents must decide if their child can handle being in a racially-integrated learning environment.”

Benjamin Weber, Kitchener, Ont.

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