Readers write: December 15, 2014 issue

December 10, 2014 | Viewpoints

Feature takes us ‘where we need to go’

Re: “What is truth?” feature, Oct. 27, page 4.

I want to thank writer Dave Rogalsky and Canadian Mennonite very much for this excellent and important feature. I greatly appreciate Rogalsky’s courage and honesty for “telling it like it is.” He presents us with a glimpse of the reality that we’re going to have to contend with, both personally and corporately.

Some of us, of course, are made uncomfortable to varying degrees with what he’s presented. Others of us, myself included, are encouraged and made to feel hopeful that there is a reasonable pathway on which we can continue our sincere seeking while maintaining our love of Christ. Seems to me that, with his formidable talent and ability, Rogalsky has taken us all into territory where we need to go.  

Ron Hiller, Kitchener, Ont.

Controversial articles and letters are better than ‘platitudes or clichés’

Re: “Lower the pointing finger” editorial, Oct. 27, page 2.

The editor brought up the complaint of a reader, that some letters to the editor should be screened or omitted because they could cause friction.

I think Canadian Mennonite would lose its character and purpose if all of the controversial contributions were omitted. I commend the editorial team for the courage to publish those critical reader contributions.

I personally like to be challenged by articles that are controversial. They make me wonder what may have motivated the writer to write that. Has he written it out of frustration or distress, and needed a vehicle to let off steam? Or has she been struggling with a problem and has been thinking aloud? Their frustrations may lead me to pray for their situations.

Should that person sacrifice honesty expressed in an outburst of emotion for the sake of shallow peace or harmony expressed in platitudes or clichés? Those contentious or provocative articles can help us to grow, and to test our level of tolerance, respect and love. They can train us to resist the urge to correct and put others in their place. We may not agree with the writer’s opinion or attitude, but we do not need to respond, just listen and perhaps only acknowledge the challenge by, “Yes, I hear you.”

Those friction-causing articles may suggest to the editor or writer which topics he or she can deal with for the general readership, as Dave Rogalsky did with his feature article, “What is truth?” on page 4, or Troy Watson’s “Faith vs. belief (Pt. 1)” column on page 13. I value Watson’s contributions very much because of the honesty and clarity with which he presents them.

Please continue to challenge us that we may mature and grow in our faith and attitude.

 Helmut Lemke, Vancouver

MCC has broken trust ‘too often’

Re: “MCC B.C. ‘refocusses’ Aboriginal Neighbours program, releases staff,” Oct. 13, page 6.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) seems to repeatedly treat staff within the Aboriginal Neighbours program in a way that suggests that relationships are not important. This is also the message it is portraying to the first nation communities.

I know that when MCC Ontario suddenly ended my contract, I was directly told to discontinue my relationships with those in the first nations communities with whom I had developed partnerships. Aboriginal partners were not surprised that relationships were cut because they are accustomed to MCC and other institutions ending programs—or letting staff go—when they start actually listening to their struggles and beliefs.

Constituents apparently want “measurable outcomes,” but relationships are hard to measure and also take time. First nations have a hard time trusting MCC when the relationships that are built are suddenly ended; trust has been broken too often.

Ultimately, when MCC cuts or changes these programs, it is probably reflecting the attitudes of its supporting constituency who want to see their money going to more “productive” programs, or who simply want others to do the changing.

We are the ones who need to change. We all have the responsibility to listen to the stories of Aboriginal Peoples and walk a mile in their shoes until we understand them and open ourselves to new thinking and acting, rather than expecting MCC and the few individuals working within the Aboriginal Neighbours programs to do the work of “fixing” relationships with first nation communities.

Don Procter, Belgrave, Ont.

Is it really a choice?

Gender issues never came up at home when I was a young boy. As I got older and became aware of gays and lesbians, I couldn’t understand how a man would choose to like his own gender when there were so many beautiful women available. It just didn’t make sense to me because, in doing so, you were opening yourself up to ridicule, bullying, getting beat up, killed, or—the hardest part—being excommunicated from your family, friends and community.

Then one day as I was coming home from work on the bus—I was in my 50s by this time—it hit me like a tonne of bricks: I hadn’t chosen to like girls. It just all of a sudden happened. Being a young boy, girls really didn’t matter; you played with them the same as you did with your male friends. Then one day, all of a sudden you realized girls had beautiful eyes and hair, and you wanted to spend time with them.

So how am I going to say that my attraction to girls happened naturally, but lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) people chose who they would like? In talking with my friends, I think I persuaded them that if they could tell me the date they decided to like the opposite gender is the day I might consider that LGBTQ people made their own choice.

I realized that LGBTQ people want nothing more or less than heterosexuals. They want to find someone who will love them, and sex will be part of that relationship.

As human beings, most of us have a basic need to love and be loved. Love and relationships are really the essence of life and make us who we are. How terrible it must be for LGBTQ people when they reach the age when the need for love and companionship manifests itself and we, as a church and society, deny them the basic right to love and companionship that we cherish as heterosexuals.

I find it very difficult to accept the fact that God would deny LGBTQ people, whom he created, the right to love and be loved. Maybe God is finding out how far we, as heterosexuals and Christians, can extend our grace.

Walter Klassen, Saskatoon

Fight, fight, fight the madness of war

Fight, fight, fight, the recurring Department of Defence recruiting ad urged my grandson as he watched the Maple Leafs and Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada. Join Canada’s Armed Forces. Fight fear, fight distress, fight chaos, said the ad and the attendant recruiting poster. Fight, fight, fight, the ad urged my only grandson, whose parents, grandmother and I were bringing up to be a peacemaker, to resolve differences without resorting to violence.

Our sons and daughters fought in Afghanistan, and 158 came home in maple leaf shrouds. And how many more came home with post-traumatic stress disorder, and, after getting little help from the government that sent them into battle, died at their own hand or sought solace in booze and dope?

There was $30 billion of our taxes to fight the Taliban and make Afghanistan safe for the warlords and their opium production, but just a pittance to help our returning sons and daughters, the walking wounded.

Fight, fight, fight, said Canada’s leaders as they sent CF-18s to Libya to help depose a vicious dictator whose guns mysteriously migrated to Mauritania and Nigeria to arm the Boko Haram, to murder infidels, and kidnap and violate innocent schoolgirls. Too late we learned how easy it is to generate fear, multiply distress, create chaos and leave the country a failed state, a breeding ground for fanatical jihadists now fighting with Islamic State in Iraq.

Fight, fight, fight, said Canadian officials who stood by supportively while Gaza suffered another of its recurring rounds of destruction, pain and death. Fight, fight, fight, and propel the cycle of violence to ever deeper reservoirs of hate, fear, distress and chaos.

Fight, fight, fight, said some Canadians, and we sent six CF-18s to battle Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, born of misguided, dishonest foreign policies and gross military mismanagement. Fight, fight, fight, and join the empire in its self-appointed role as global policeman. Join this empire in attracting to ourselves the pain, inchoate rage and desire for bloody vengeance generated by the obscenities of Abu Ghraib and Gaza.

Fight, fight, fight, and jail or kill our alienated, misguided, mentally ill sons, whose demented minds led them to fight fear, distress and chaos by killing RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., a warrant officer in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and a corporal at the War Memorial on Parliament Hill.

Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

D.E. Hubert, Edmonton

‘Cloud of witnesses’ may help solve complex human problems

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Some pledged it would be the war to end all wars.

Challenges facing our generation—war, climate change, poverty—continue and may only partially be solved by formal governments. Do Mennonite Canadians have a unique role to play in the 21st century?

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 13 that everyone must submit themselves to the governing authorities. However, many Mennonites reserve the right to disagree with governments based on matters of conscience. As a young boy, I remember listening to an old man speak about how he went to jail rather than fight in the First World War.

There are solutions to war, climate change and poverty.

Nonviolent civil organizations are encompassing the world like never before in our history. This includes organizations like Doctors without Borders, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Mennonite Central Committee.

Given our country’s unique multicultural identity and vast geography and resources, could Canada increase immigration as more people are displaced by war, climate change and poverty? Canada has the largest supply of fresh water in the world. Would an inclusive immigration policy create jobs and perhaps a robust economy? Paul may have had it partially right: governments may have a role to play from a Peace Church perspective.

If only it was that simple. On the surface there are issues with first nation land claims  and many broken treaties. By advocating for more immigration, would Mennonites be betraying first nations? An immigration plan like this would only work in partnership with first nations.

Beneath the surface there may be issues with trade agreements with China, the United States and multinational corporations.

I am encouraged, however, by the New Testament writer of Hebrews 11, who lists people that he said had faith. Since we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, let us find the courage to discern the race to be run.

Myron Steinman, Kitchener, Ont.

--Posted Dec. 10, 2014

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