Readers write: Dec. 16, 2013 issue

December 11, 2013 | Viewpoints | Number 24

Reader finds issue ‘disturbing’

Three items in the Oct. 28 “peacemaking” issue disturbed me:

• I deplore that Dennis Gruending’s corrective of the Sept. 16 “Holy Contradiction” feature was made necessary. Thanks for printing his “A little humility is in order” letter.

• In “Let nobody judge them,” I appreciate the courage taken in examining and embracing the subtle and not-so-subtle truths lurking among “both pacifists and non-pacifists [who] have in common major sins of omission.”

However, with the article’s unsupported Pollyanna-like conclusions like “U.S. Mennonites were pretty much unanimous in their non-resistant stance since the First World War,” I raise the corrective that one exception breaks the rule! Limited entirely to my own rather small sample of American-based relatives, there exists the story of one mother sending a Mennonite food-care package to her son who had requested it after enlisting in the Vietnam-based air force, only to die in combat before the newly sought-after comfort food arrived.

• Lastly, the editorial, “Peace prevails,” provides inspiring seeds of hope on how Stouffville, Ont., citizens quietly turned the war-hawks’ front-page rewrite of history lemons into the lemonade of a “peace plaque [that] is [now] a permanent fixture in the centre of town, and the Peace Festival is scheduled to become an annual event—celebrating peace, not war.”

Frankly, on its own, the quoted guide-post, “Do not resist an evil person,” has quite literally lost its salt. Shining more light on how Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, through pro-active, persistently non-aggressive but assertive community-building steps, helped the community birth the change—in spite of all the politics to the contrary—would, in my opinion, have been more helpful in unpacking yesteryear’s actively non-passive verse into today’s word-and-deed language.

Eduard Hiebert, St. Francois Xavier, Man.

‘Teach them to obey all that I have commanded’

Re: “Let nobody judge them,” Oct. 28, page 6.

The feature article was the source of intense discussion in our adult Sunday school class at Wanner Mennonite Church, Cambridge. The emotional examples—real and hypothetical—offered by class members cast doubt on our historical understanding of being a disciple of Jesus. That reflected the gist of “Let nobody judge them,” as has been the situation in other controversial topics fragmenting our denomination.

This article virtually ignored the extensive teaching and supportive ministry of some Mennonite pastors and parents during those war years. Time limitation probably prevented our class from including the following article, “Uncle Sam goes to jail,” which could have lent more balance to our discussion.

As a youth reared in the context of a large historical Mennonite congregation composed mostly of those whose ancestors arrived in the late 1800s, I have memories of that post-war era. Any lack of teaching regarding the love ethic of Jesus that may have been lacking earlier—even as it often is now—was altered during the 1950s. There were inordinate numbers of Mennonite youth from western Canada responding to the challenge of Christian discipleship as expressed in global voluntary service, career missionary commitments and local service-oriented ministries.

Our churches, then as now, were weak in discipling potential or new Christians. Baptismal classes were impersonal and vows were litanies voiced by a group of us. The eventual membership dropout rate was probably higher than that of returning Mennonite soldiers.

Of my four close relatives to enlist during the Second World War, none had been active in the church and only one returned to a Mennonite church, but remained relatively inactive and never altered his views regarding war participation. I suspect that most returning soldiers chose not to associate with Christians opposing war. Can we not allow them that choice?

While the pull of family ties is significant, let’s not get Mennonite ethnicity and theology confused in this discussion. Even now, we have members who do not agree with our “official” positions. Why only blame the church leadership of that time? To be fair, I have also heard about uninformed and inconsistent lives of conscientious objectors throughout the wars of our 20th century.

Unmentioned have been those Mennonite and non-Mennonite veterans who became strong peace advocates. Some have been featured in Canadian Mennonite. I believe that we still have the challenge of “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:20). This is a responsibility for both church and home. Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.

‘Mystery’ ad piques reader’s interest

Perhaps it’s a mark of good advertising to make you curious. On that score, The Preacher and the Shrink ad (Oct. 28, page 3) has succeeded. The ad is provocative in many ways, but the only one I’ll mention is this: I’ve read the page at least six times and I cannot determine where it is playing, although it appears not to be in the city or even the province where I live. I could, of course, look up the telephone area code, but that would spoil the allure. Dale Taylor, Calgary

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