Readers write: April 14, 2014 issue

April 9, 2014 | Viewpoints | Volume 18 Issue 8

Writer stands up for the victims of John Howard Yoder’s abuse

Re: “MennoMedia questioned over John Howard Yoder disclaimer” letter, March 3, page 11.

There are a number of misconceptions in this letter that need to be addressed:

• The fact that Yoder’s behaviour is addressed at this time is because it was not addressed satisfactorily when he was still alive. It seems the reputation and protection of the church and its institutions were more important than the pain and duress inflicted on Yoder’s victims. Only a fraction of the victims came forward at that time because it was not safe to disclose their experience then.

• That the “plaintiffs” are described as “unknown to most members of the Mennonite churches” seems to imply that the voices of people who are not prominent in the church don’t count, especially over and against such a prominent man as Yoder was.

• The women did not have the complete freedom to say no. Yoder, as an acclaimed theologian the world over, wielded an immense power and influence, especially in respect to the people he mentored, in this case, female students and other women. A common dynamic in professional abuse is for the perpetrator to distort the distinction between his professional role and sexualized behaviour, grooming the victim to believe that the sexual overtures are part of the professional role.

• A disclaimer is not a court trial, as the letter suggests, but a statement about the other life Yoder lived, which was so contrary to the nonviolence he wrote about, a very real factor in how one reads Yoder.

Walter Wiebe, Morden, Man.

Christians should fund CoSA if governments won’t

Re: “CoSA: cautious optimism” editorial, March 17, page 2.

In Manitoba, the potential funding cut represented the final execution of a slow but gradual death by a thousand cuts. Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) funding has not been increased for 20 years. Funding for CoSA has been eroded to less than half of its original buying power through a lack of inflation increases. Government support has been soft, fickle and non-committal.

The facts that the justice system is a revolving door of repeat offenders, and programs like CoSA reduce recidivism by up to 70 percent, sadly mean little to politicians. Even though CoSA requires strong accountability and responsibility from offenders for their horrible crimes, it’s perceived as “soft-on-crime” alternative justice.

I recently sat in a CoSA circle and listened to an offender describe how the program had saved him from suicide and restored his relationship with his family. This individual will spend the rest of his life suffering the psycho-social pain of his offence, as may his victims. CoSA offers a bit of light in the dark tunnel of recovery for offenders and their loved ones. Offenders desire restored relationships and a way to pay for their crime. CoSA offers a way.

If governments are so blind to the brilliance of CoSA’s light, people of faith should readily step up and fund this important ministry. If nothing else, consider that your donation creates more than 10 times the social return on investment than a tax dollar put into the justice system.

Ron Janzen (online comment)

Labelling relief workers ‘terrorists’ is political and unhelpful

Re: “MCC should consider new partner in Gaza” letter, March 17, page 8.

In reporting on the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) response to the Gaza floods (“Flooding worsens Gazans’ plight,” Jan. 20, page 19), it is regrettable to hear such harsh words as those uttered by Andrew Pinnell, who suggests MCC choose different partners in Gaza based on unattributed reports from amateur media with axes to grind.

Palestinian news first reported the story about “Israel opening dams” causing Gaza flooding, and Christian news media reported rebuttals, stating, “Israel has no dams in these areas.” Both are untrue, and professional media, including the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera, properly ignored both versions.

Israel manages water in the Besor (Gaza) region to the best of its ability without concern for Gaza’s residents. It does this through a combination of stone retaining walls to reduce erosion, wells, reservoirs and dams on the wadis Grar, Hebron, Be’ersheva, and, in particular, on the Besor, where a low concrete dam at Tze’elim diverts the water from Nahal Be’ersheva for use in Israel.

Although water quality standards in Israel are high, and sewage treatment  is generally tertiary, significant rainfall events occur periodically and overwhelm local engineering, just as they do in Canada. Thus, the downstream water in Gaza is atrocious. The water in the wadi is undrinkable due to nitrites from farm run-off and natural chloride in the land, but the aquifer beneath is also contaminated from salty water due to excessive pumping, mostly on Israel’s side. The water is nonetheless precious to Gazans; wealthy ones purchase desalination units, while the poor drink what they can.

Gazans themselves are not blameless; the new bridge built at the mouth of Wadi Gaza causes small gravel dams to form at the piers, which exacerbates the flooding into the refugee camps at Bureij and Nuseirat when storms occur.

As such, the words of Chris Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are probably the most appropriate: “Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a commu-nity . . . whose public health system has been destroyed, and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.”

God’s people should be looking past the angry words on both sides, to the truth—some have more water than others—and ask what God would have them do. Simply standing aside and labelling relief workers “terrorists” is only political and unhelpful.

Andre Pekovich, Vancouver

Speaking across the gender divide . . . from a bubble bath

Re: “Speaking man to man” and “Cleaning house and Lenten reflections,” March 17, pages 14 and 15.

I sometimes like to introduce myself as the pastor’s wife . . . in jest. Really I’m a pastor’s husband. I’m a stay-at-home dad part-time and I work part-time. I like to cook and bake, and I make most of the meals during the week.

I clean the house mostly, although I must admit my wife deals with the storage part of our clutter. Since my daughter’s birth, I have been the main person to put her to bed. For some reason, she always wants Daddy. Somehow she think’s I’ve got the “maternal instinct.” Oh yeah, I do most of the laundry. At least I do most of the folding! Does no one in my house understand the importance of folding clothing?

As well, I am a connoisseur of barbecue chips, and I watch and play hockey. I like my part-time work, which is in construction. Interestingly enough, my co-workers are critical-thinking, sensitive brutes who lead caring, egalitarian lives.

The long and the short of it is, we live in a weird and wonderful world where God continues to surprise us just when we think humanity is going off the rails. I would agree that we need to talk and reflect on how we live together as males and females in this world, but I would add—even more primarily—we need to let the Spirit lead us to show Christ’s light to the people around us whether it seems to fit into a gender stereotype or not.

Thanks for the articles! I’ve got to go. It’s been a hard day at work and I feel like slipping into a relaxing candlelit bubble bath with a good novel. But I think I’ll forgo it and do the dishes before I pass out in my kids’ bed!

Dave Sararus, Hanover, Ont.

MCC offers resource when dealing with sexual abuse

Re: “Remembering Yoder honestly,” Jan. 6, page 33, and letters to the editor in subsequent issues.

As members of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Response and Prevention Network, we have been watching with interest as the information about John Howard Yoder’s sexual misconduct has been acknowledged publicly.

In several letters in the Feb. 17 and March 3 issues, discomfort has been expressed with the intention of MennoMedia to include a disclaimer in Yoder’s writings.

It would be helpful for people to review the MCC publication, “Understanding sexual abuse by a church leader or caregiver,” which can be obtained from the nearest MCC office or downloaded by visiting

Elsie Goerzen
(End Abuse, MCC B.C.)

Virginia Froese
(Voices for Non-Violence, MCC Manitoba)

Eileen Henderson
(Sexual Misconduct & Abuse Resource and Response Team, MCC Ontario)

Stephen Siemens
(Restorative justice coordinator, MCC Canada)

Clinical depression is neither sloth nor sin

Re: “The deadly sin of sloth,” March 3, page 11.

I was disappointed and alarmed by the this article’s blatant condemnation of someone living with the burden of the dark and life-sucking characteristics it describes. Melissa Miller describes it as “sloth,” and the clear inference in her description is that it follows that sloth is synonymous with sin, however  one may interpret that term.

In my view, though, Miller has accurately described someone who is suffering from the debilitating illness of clinical depression. As I read the article, I was waiting for her to recognize that fact and encourage us to help such an individual receive professional help and our support. Already-depressed people reading this column would surely have added guilt and condemnation to a situation in which they may already see as hopeless.

If the column in any way represents the Mennonite church’s recognition, understanding and treatment of depression, it urgently needs a conversation with mental health professionals. Clinical depression is not sloth. Neither is it sin. It is  a mental illness. Those who suffer from it need our love, patience, support and understanding, anything but our condemnation.

Del Gingrich, Elmira, Ont.

Is Will Braun too cool for school?

Re: “Sunday un-schooling,” March 3, page 17.

While I think we can celebrate the merits of a variety of approaches to educating our children, I disagree with Will Braun’s dualistic approach of being against—or “hating,” as he stated—the traditional schooling method and being for “un-schooling.”

Richard Rohr states that the dualistic mind compares, competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns and cancels out any contrary evidence, and then it crucifies with impunity. He calls it the Seven Cs of delusion. It appears Braun is attempting to do this to school.

I would encourage him to reconsider, especially considering that there are millions of children who dream of going to school, but instead spend their days engaging in activities such as picking garbage, begging or being sexually exploited.

On his first day of Grade 1, my son told me with great sincerity, “I love her,” when asked about his teacher.  He has learned a tremendous amount from teachers who care about him and who offer things that I may not be able to.

I am grateful that a larger community than myself will invest in the minds, bodies and spirits of my three children. I am sure there will be numerous moments when school will be boring. I, too, have been bored in life, sitting in traffic, doing laundry or taxes. Learning to cope with boredom is an essential life skill.

Finally, Braun states that his offspring will have “less stuff” because of their choice to “un-school” and resulting single income. Parents choose to work outside the home for a myriad of complex reasons, including a desire to help others. While materialism is rampant and something many Christians, including myself, struggle with, it is trite to bring it into this issue. Nurturing our children’s curiosity is so important that we need to explore how we can best do this with humility, not arrogance, the tone which—likely unintentionally—comes across in the column.

Lara Montgomery, Calgary

Québec history prof speaks against proposed charter

Re: “Proposed Québec charter not a threat to religious freedom” letter by John Klassen, Feb. 3, page 11.

There are clearly three agendas at work among defenders of the charter.

  • One is to control the Muslim immigrants, while adding in Jews and Sikhs to camouflage this. The suggestion is that this is not discrimination because anyone can take off their optional religious clothing. What would the Amish, Hutterite and Old Order Mennonite say to this? It is either a clear discrimination or clear misunderstanding of religious belief. While it does not touch Protestants, it is a distortion of religious liberty.
  • A second more long-range and often expressed agenda is to stop all public stances of religion. Again an unacceptable limitation for Anabaptists in particular. I am amazed that a history professor would justify this when government interpretation of religion in history has almost always been flawed and manipulative. In particular, the model of the French Revolution claimed in Québec is one that is hostile to all religion.
  • A third agenda is to provoke the Canadian Supreme Court to reject the charter and thus justify separation from Canada.

Apart from these concerns, there is the biblical mandate to protect the stranger from harassment and alienation. Does that mean anything goes for immigrants? Of course not. Some regulation is necessary, but this should happen in consultation with immigrant representatives and religious leaders, and be enacted fairly. Anabaptist churches in Québec are joining with many others to insist that this proposition does not represent Québec values.

Richard Lougheed, Montreal
Lecturer in church history at École de Théologie Évangélique de Montréal, sponsored by the Mennonite Brethren and the Christian and Missionary Alliance denominations.

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