Readers write: July 28, 2014 issue

July 23, 2014 | Viewpoints | Volume 18 Issue 15

Church should fund prison visitation

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “[A]nd I was in prison and you visited me.” In Hebrews 13:3, the author writes, “Remember those in prison as if they were your fellow prisoners” (NIV). Now Jesus did not make a command of such, but it was a pretty good suggestion that we follow through. It might even be said that Jesus was the very first M2 volunteer.

In the light of brotherly love, let us consider those who populate our prisons by visiting them regularly as M2/W2 volunteers. At a recent volunteer appreciation dinner there were four prison wardens who each said how much the M2 volunteers were appreciated and how they make their jobs much easier.

Let us not forget that ministry is not forgotten just because there are bars holding some enclosed away from the public eye. Consider that there but for the grace of God go we. Who among us is so righteous that we can snub our noses to those who fall down?

Two years ago, the federal government began diminishing the M2 budget and this year it has diminished to zero, so we rely mainly on the thrift store to subsidize our budget plus whatever other funds filter in.

Because M2/W2 is a faith-based entity, it is my opinion that it is unchristian of us to ask the government for handouts.

According to George Epp, who is a staunch supporter of M2/W2, there are 72 Mennonite Brethren churches in B.C. and I count 32 Mennonite Church B.C. congregations, bringing the total to 104 churches under the Mennonite banner.

 Now I understand that all churches are not equally affluent, but why can we not fund our own projects? Many churches give a bit to M2/W2, but it is not enough. Now it may come off sounding a bit harsh, but do we throw Christ scraps also? No one likes to be reprimanded, but brotherly rebuke is mentioned in more than one place in our holy book.

Ken Hinton, Langley, B.C.
Ken Hinton is a member of Langley Mennonite Fellowship.

We need to engage even if life is messy

Re: “Chastised by the chief,” June 9, page 16.

Will Braun displays a winsome maturity and openness, acknowledging criticism he receives while engaging in issues of social justice. He brings out what seems obvious: that both non-native and native peoples have a mixture of opinions. Knowing this, he calls on the church to recognize that “[l]ife is messy; jump in.” Non-native critics sometimes use the presence of mixed opinions among Canada’s Indigenous Peoples to dismiss their leadership or to minimize the church’s need for engagement. Both of these are unhelpful responses.

Terry M. Smith, Mitchell, Man.

Families should set boundaries for sporting involvement

Re: “Sport is not our saviour,” May 26, page 35.

As I read Paul Loewen’s critique of sport and its effect on family, community and spiritual life, my reaction was, “Wow, somebody actually has the guts to say something about this. A sports fanatic, no less.”

As my kids have aged through the elementary and secondary years, I have observed a worrying trend among my peers and their children: an obsessive commitment to sports. People are booked to the point where the opportunity to connect with friends and family is clearly a secondary priority. A false sense of importance is placed on their child’s—or parent’s—dedication or commitment, and often for the exact reason Loewen stated in his letter: “You miss a practice, they bench you for the game.”

So imagine the church saying the same thing: “You miss a service, we strike you from the directory for a month.” Using that same logic, we should then expect attendance to exponentially improve, right?

Personally, I think it’s up to families to set the boundaries for their involvement, not the coaches or leagues. They will keep doing things as is until there is pressure put on them to back off of family life, until families say Sunday morning is sacred or that a once-a-year family reunion is more important than yet another weekly practice.

I think Loewen is also correct in that the long-term benefits are minimal, as there are few adult leagues with a fraction of the commitment of the childhood leagues. Why? Because by then you’ve either made it your career or you’ve moved on. If that’s all you did as a youth, moving on is harder, because you were cut off from all those other formative experiences that may have provided a path forward. In the process, the family, community and church are left weaker for it.

Involvement in sports is great and offers huge benefits, but should be kept in a reasonable balance. Let the families control that balance, not the sports league or the coaches. They are just kids after all!

Thanks for having the courage to say it like it is.

Karen Buschert, Waterloo, Ont.

Homosexuality is ‘clearly’ named a sin in the Bible

Re: “Bible can’t be ‘crystal clear’ when it’s self-contradictory” letter, June 9, page 11.

I strongly disagree with Mark Morton’s letter. I agree with Artur Esau that at least some things in the Bible are crystal clear. It is clear to me that homosexuality is named a sin in both the Old and the New testaments. It is also clear to me that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God. I have believed that the Bible is true all my life and have tried, with God’s help, to follow St. Paul’s instructions to Timothy in II Timothy 3:1-16.

Morton thinks Acts 13:39 and Mark 3:29 are contradictory. By saying this he is breaking one of the first guidelines in Bible study, that states we are not to take one verse out of context and come to a certain conclusion.

I believe the Bible clearly teaches that all sins can be forgiven, but to be forgiven there must be faith and repentance (I John 1:9). According to the late Theodore Epp of Back to the Bible, the unforgivable sin is committed by people who know the truth, but who time and again reject the wooing and work of the Holy Spirit until they reach a point of no return and are unable to repent.

I also do not agree that Bible translations are interpretations. Article 9 of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective still states: “We believe the Bible is the inspired book of the church.” The faithful church places itself under the authority of Scripture (II Timothy 3:16). Since the Bible is the book that God wants us to have, and wants the gospel of his love and forgiveness to reach all people, I sincerely believe that he will protect the truth as the Bible is being translated into other languages.

If, as Morton suggests, we can pick and choose what we want to believe and what we want to reject, then our churches and our faith are in serious jeopardy.

Cornie Martens, Rabbit Lake, Sask.

Homosexuality not a priority of Jesus

As someone who is heterosexual, I know that I cannot begin to understand the challenges faced by lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered/queer (LGBTQ) people.

But as someone who can read, I know what Jesus—according to the Bible—had to say about it. Nothing. Not one word. If he had an opinion on the matter, it doesn’t seem to have been one of his priorities.

Jesus had plenty to say about the poor. He spoke of the ill and injured, and widows and orphans. He appears to have been in favour of peacemakers. Maybe if we want to claim to “follow” Jesus, we should make these our concerns also.

Then, once all the hungry have been fed, once poverty and homelessness have been eliminated, when there is no more disability or disease, when those who grieve are comforted, when all people are clothed appropriately for their weather, and war is a thing of the past, maybe we can take the time to worry about what consenting adults do behind closed doors.

Until then, can we please have even just one issue of Canadian Mennonite that’s free from this creepy obsession with what goes on in other people’s bedrooms?

Judie Bond, Edmonton

Climate change is nothing new

In response to all of the articles and letters on climate change, I submit the following report from The Washington Post:

“The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to the [U.S.] Commerce Department yesterday from Consulate at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes.

“Soundings to a depth of 3,100 metres showed the Gulf Stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines or earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers are entirely disappeared.

“Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

“Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.”

Oops. Never mind. This report from the Associated Press was from Nov. 22, 1922.

G.H. Janzen, Prince Albert, Sask.

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Cornie Martens (his letter is above) doesn't think that Mennonites "can pick and choose what we want to believe and what we want to reject" from the Bible. But we do that all the time. Here are some scriptural passages that I assume Mr. Martens, and other Mennonites such as myself, wholeheartedly reject:

“I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” -- 1 Timothy 2:12

“Slaves, accept the authority of your master with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” -- 1 Peter 2:18

“Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock.”-- Psalm 137.9

“You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt you mar the corners of your beard.” -- Leviticus 19:27

“He that is wounded in the testicles, or has his penis cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” Deuteronomy -- 23:1

“And he that curses his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death." -- Exodus 21:17.

I could provide many more examples of scriptural passages that no sane Christian, in the twenty-first century, actually observes or endorses. So why cherry-pick certain Biblical verses, that supposedly condemn homosexuality, and uphold them while disregarding these other ones that prescribe misogyny, slavery, child abuse, and so on?

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