Readers write: Jan. 20, 2014 issue

January 14, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 2

Nelson Mandela: We all love a hero

Politicians and celebrities need saints to lean on.

And so it was this time around, that after Nelson Mandela died all the most important politicians and celebrities of the world lined up for interviews to say they had met him, had had coffee with him or had been at an important conference where he had spoken. They gave quotes of things Mandela had said. And much more. It was painful at times.

But where were they when Stephen Biko and Mandela were in jail? Where were they when Mother Teresa was starting out in Calcutta?

We should judge our prophetic voice on where we were when it counted. I for one am pleased to say that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) was asking us to pray for the end of apartheid in the late 1960s, and as time went on told us to remember Biko and Mandela. And long before Mother Teresa became famous, she and her sisters were working with MCC preparing emergency packages for flood and drought victims in Bihar. Easy to love a hero. Harder to be prophetic.

Jake Buhler, Saskatoon


A lament for the loss of a New Order Voice

I add my thanks to Aiden Enns, who, as we learned from the editor’s announcement in the Dec. 16, 2013, issue, is stepping down from his regular Canadian Mennonite column after eight years of poking the pompous and offering observations that are uncomfortably accurate.

It can’t be easy being Enns. Our pews are full of people who put a priority on being nice and never hurting the feelings of their church brothers and sisters. But Enns chose the pew less crowded. He had the audacity to shout the truth as he saw it, even when he must have known he would disturb people who purse their lips and say things like, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It’s not hard to offend people. Ask any teenage tagger with a can of spray paint.

But after reading Enns’s columns and hearing his views debated within my personal church circles, I believe he did not aim to offend. I think his higher goal was to describe his honest vision of our church and, if you were insulted by his full-frontal frankness, too bad for you.

I didn’t agree with all the views Enns expressed in this magazine. When he wrote a few months ago about meeting Willard Metzger and he described the Mennonite Church Canada general secretary as “fancy” and carrying “middle-class ostentation,” I thought the description didn’t fit the Metzger I have met a couple of times and, even worse, it was irrelevant to any issue.

But most of his columns dealt with matters of faith, church policy and his personal struggle to live a radically Christ-centred life in a world that values money and power.

I’ve never met the man, but I think Enns would be an interesting guy to have in a Bible study group. I’m grateful to him for being a cheeky truth-teller and making us ponder what it means to be a Mennonite in Canada.

Carl DeGurse, Winnipeg


‘Atonement’ feature sparks Advent reflections Re: “Atonement,” Nov. 11, 2013, page 4.

I have read the feature article several times and found it stimulated Advent reflections. Assuming that all the atonement theories are partial, how do theologians synthesize them into a coherent whole? In Advent, I was reminded of John’s account of the nativity, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection are the clearest evidence of God’s character and, therefore, the core of all Christian theology. How do these theories ground and nurture individual and collective responses to this concrete reality?

I wonder where the element of faith comes into the discussion? Atonement is a profound mystery, but it is our faith in atonement that provides the basis for life-giving decisions that are transformational and nurturing. It is the experience of redemption, reconciliation, right relationships, freedom and peace that validates the reality of atonement in the lives of the followers of Jesus. How do the various theories contain elements of these qualities?

Finally, what is the role of theologians in Anabaptist theology? My understanding is that classical Anabaptism removed authority from theological specialists and trusted interpretation to believers led by the Spirit and the Word. I would be helped if Derek Suderman and Jeremy Bergen, theology professors at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont., explain how they deal with the ambiguity the atonement typology creates. As a retired sociologist, I suggest that ambiguity in everyday and religious life is a given. We daily encounter ambiguous situations that require making choices. I wonder if theologians sometimes put the cart before the horse. 

Johann Funk, Penticton, B.C.


Justifiable concern is behind many questions donors ask charities Re: “Asking charities the right questions,” Nov. 25, page 8.

The average Canadian income is just under $47,000 per year and is well below corporate executive jobs, government officials, municipal and city managers, and many Mennonite pastors. It should come as no surprise that the average taxpayer, employee, congregant and charity donor wants to see responsible accountability at all levels for how their money is spent. When it is the donor’s own choice to donate to one organization or another, questions should especially not be seen as “problematic.”

More often than not, it is high-income-earning executives and managers who are the first to defend their incomes with the statement, “[G]etting the best person for the job requires a competitive salary.” This suggests that anyone not earning the big money is either not in a significant job position or not really a “quality/skilled” employee. At times, it is exactly those employees or volunteers who bring the most passion and compassion to their jobs in spite of the low-pay or no-pay situation they may find themselves in.

Regarding the use of the “best equipment” within an organization, I couldn’t agree more. However, how an organization or corporation determines what is required and what is excessive is open for debate. Spending discretion is not always an organization’s strong point if transparency is not in place.

Only when careful, educated, proper decisions are made, will organizations be willing to open their books to critical examination and not engage in defensive posturing. Only when organizations keep in touch with the reality of donors or employees, can there be an understanding of the justifiable concern behind their questions.

Steven Penner, Altona, Man.

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