Readers write: May 26, 2014 issue

May 21, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 11

Reader responds to March 31 issue

Thank you for Dick Benner’s insightful editorial, “Who are the millennials?” on page 2. It seems I am in the silent generation category, which suggests this letter shouldn’t be coming from me.

And yet there have been a number of silent generation utterances that carried influence: Nelson Mandela; all of the popes so far; Rev. J.J. Thiessen of the Mennonite population; and John Neufeld, past-president of Canadian Mennonite Bible College, to name a few.

It would have been helpful had you identified Rachel Evans more than her name and millennial identification only. Statements you attribute to her are profoundly insightful and, from my now silent perspective, boldly accurate.

I also notice that a number of the letters to the editor appear as responses to previous letters. One in the March 31 issue (page  12) specifically targets a March 3 letter authored by four people with long histories of dedicated and enlightened service to the churches of their faith. I hardly think they could be classified as “uninformed,” although their understandings may vary from the writer who challenged their knowledge. Could it be that a Facebook-like feature should begin where “likes” could be provided and tallied.

I especially want to thank Canadian Mennonite for the March 31 issue’s feature reflection, “I was in prison.” Sexual abuse is such an impactful topic, let alone its reality as a most demeaning and violent behaviour within the human species. And, of course, positions toward it vary, with self-righteous judgmental approaches finding frequent expression. Circles of Support and Accountability is truly a revolutionary initiative, made possible only through the insights and courage of those who understand and seek to practise the revolutionary messages of Jesus.

Ernest Epp, Saskatoon

Financial situation for CoSA Winnipeg ‘looks good’ . . . for now

Re: “CoSA Winnipeg faces funding cuts from all sides,” March 31, page 24.

Thanks for your article highlighting the challenges the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) programs are facing. It was much appreciated.

I want to give an update about the funding situation:

• Correctional Service Canada Chaplaincy agreed to reinstate the funding for the CoSA programs across the country. What that means for CoSA Winnipeg is that we have our annual $25,000 again, until March 31, 2015. At that point, it’s likely we will lose the money again, but this remains to be seen.

• Another positive is that Joan Carolyn, the program director, worked to successfully secure additional funding from the Provincial Special Needs Program. Effective April 1, we began receiving $73,000 to provide circles for five clients. Before, we were receiving $36,000 to provide circles for three clients.

Our financial situation for the 2014-15 year looks good, but we’re unsure what may come for the 2015-16 year.

Daniel Epp, Winnipeg
Daniel Epp is an associate with CoSA Winnipeg.

Jesus did not ignore sexual matters

Re: “Of genitals and gender” editorial, April 14, page 2.

I was appalled by the viewpoints expressed in this editorial. The quote from Tom Ehrich, “We obsess about sex, a topic that Jesus himself ignored,” is absolutely incorrect.  Jesus did not say to the woman taken in adultery, “How you are living is okay.” He said, “Go and sin no more.”

When Jesus ministered to “marginalized” people, he didn’t adjust his message to accommodate them, neither did he ignore them. Rather, he showed them a new way, life-giving water, and a chance at forgiveness and change. Can we do any less?

Edith Utz, Glenbush, Sask.

Christian religion is founded on the Bible

Re: “Millennials shape their own morality without the church” letter, April 28, page 12.

Wow. The Bible is no more relevant than Harry Potter, according to Clark Decker. And he declares, “Scripture and faith tradition has little to no relevance to anything that millennials are doing.”

What is religion without the Bible? What are we basing religion on if not the foundation of the teachings of the Bible? I, too, struggle with the faith traditions that I feel we confuse with religion, but I cannot envision what my religion would look like without the core beliefs that I believe are based on the teachings of the Bible, which I was brought up learning about in church.

Society can teach us that we shouldn’t hit one another, that we shouldn’t take what isn’t ours, that we should say please and thank you, that we should take care of our world for future generations, and that we should help those less fortunate than us if we have surplus. But I believe that society has only part of the reasoning behind those lessons.

As a Christian, as an individual who has chosen to be an active member in a church that bases its teachings on Scripture, I believe that the Bible holds the key to unlocking those same lessons, then takes us so much further.

I have chosen to live my life based on the teachings of Jesus, and to the best of my understanding, you’ll find those in the Bible.

Mary Tiessen, Leamington, Ont.

Community action—not just fossil-fuel divestment—needed

Re: “It’s time to divest” editorial, April 28, page 2.

I couldn’t agree more with Dick Benner that climate change is “the most pressing justice issue of our time.” Our relationship with fossil fuels is deep and wide, life-giving and life-destroying. The increasingly stark reports of the hundreds of scientists and governments on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make clear the damage that is already happening due to our emissions of greenhouse gases.

I agree as well with Benner’s call for action right now. I have begun to do what I can by reducing my own consumption of electricity and natural gas by 50 percent so far through simple conservation measures and energy-saving technologies, and by divesting my own fossil-fuel investments.

Mennonite Church Canada would do well to look at its investment portfolio through the lens of climate change.

But to go further, we need community action. We need to end the $1.4 billion in tax subsidies to the highly profitable fossil-fuel companies. We need to put a price on carbon emissions to make the polluters—all of us—pay.

Economists of all political stripes agree that the simplest and most effective way to do this is to put a consumer-friendly fee on carbon emissions, with the revenues returned to households so that we can invest in low-carbon technologies. This is already working in Europe, Australia and British Columbia.

The Lord has entrusted creation to our care. It is a great responsibility and the time for better stewardship is now.

Doug Pritchard, Toronto

When people divide over Scripture, has the Bible been abused?

I am old enough to experience three issues of Bible interpretation by Mennonite church members that resulted in animated letters to the editor.

The earliest of these experiences involved divided opinion about alcohol use. Scripture was used for “spirited” letters to the editor in defence of both abstinence and moderation.

Women’s roles in the church was the next contentious issue. Again, positions were taken using the Genesis creation account and the Pauline epistles for divergent conclusions rather strongly held. When there is tolerance for ambiguity in strict literal interpretation and application for this issue, and when the cultural context of which Paul was a part, and to which he was speaking, are considered, opportunity is provided for the church to be served by giftedness and personal calling free of gender consideration.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one’s view, I have lived long enough to see sexual orientation bubbling up in letters to the editor of Canadian Mennonite, Scripture being used to bolster different strongly held views.

Could it be possible to define marriage as biblical when persons demonstrating commitment to Jesus enter into a committed relationship that includes the gift of human sexual experience? Should it be possible? I applaud Canadian Mennonite for the April 14 issue, where the “Of genitals and gender” editorial on page 2 and the “Thinking biblically about sex” column by Phil Wagler on page 9 provide relevant reflection on the current distraction over sexual orientation in Mennonite church life and witness.

When division occurs over the interpretation and application of the Bible, is it abused?

Raymond Brubaker, St. Albert, Alta.

Where is the global warming? reader asks

Re: “It’s time to divest” editorial, April 28, page 2.

The biases and extreme statements in this editorial should not have been put forward in a Mennonite periodical that is so closely tied to the Mennonite faith!

The first unfortunate error was the supposition, “We’re talking warming of the planet (an increase of 3 degrees Celsius predicted by 2050).” There is no basis in science for this 3-degree number, which is only expressed as a hypothesis in climate model scenarios and is denounced by scientists such as Roy Spencer and John Christy, both of the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Judith Curry of Georgia Tech; and 650 other scientists in the American Senate Minority Report.

Benner then states, “To deny it is happening, or to ignore the proven findings of science on the matter, is to be living in fantasy.” Perhaps he should engage with that type of rhetoric in conversation with the above mentioned scientists. I certainly have not seen, and am not aware of, this proven science he is talking about, or the experiments that have been conducted and independently replicated proving catastrophic global warming!  

The reference made to extreme weather only reflects on the lack of scientific credibility in this editorial, as we are now in the 16th year of no global warming. The “extreme weather” meme is a construct of the media and without merit in any science of weather patterns and trends involving centuries of weather analysis.

In paragraph three it is stated, “This is not a political left versus right issue,” then the editor proceeds to position his narrative firmly in the camp of the American Democratic Party and its position on manmade global warming. In the second-last paragraph, the editor further aligns Mennonites via the medium of this message with the extreme left-wing political personality and activism of Bill McKibben.

Stephen Kennel, Bright, Ont.

The Bible is the global church’s book

Re: “A book of answers . . . or a book of God-with-us stories?” Feb, 17, page 4.

One of the most important reasons for being familiar with the Bible is that it allows us to be in conversation with the church around the world and throughout history. When churches in Africa and churches in Canada want to have a conversation, they need to find common ground because their cultural presuppo-sitions about the world are so very different.

The Bible gives us a common ground where we can begin and carry on very important conversations about how to live out our faith. Biblical illiteracy makes it difficult to participate in meaningful conversation with the global church.

Nancy Frey (online comment)

Mennonites must stop Mennonite puppy mills

Proverbs 12:10 states: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

The “wicked” in this case happen to be Mennonites of the Old Order sect who once again have been highlighted on Animal Planet and CP24’s Animal House Calls for animal cruelty via their abhorrent puppy mills. What other word can describe the conditions in which these overbred, starved, neglected and abused animals live with day by day.

Genesis 1:26 states: “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

I don’t think the Bible is teaching us that having dominion means to subject an animal to extreme cruelty and neglect that comes with the greed of over-breeding in these puppy mills that are not recognized or approved as reputable breeders by the Canadian Kennel Club.

I find it shameful and intolerable that the Mennonite name is becoming synonymous with puppy mills, and I have to ask the extended Mennonite community why we, who are known for our aid in disasters and refugee support, not only close our eyes to the lesser of God’s creatures, but seem to ignore the fact that it is the result of our own Mennonite and Amish brethren.

I propose some sort of outreach to these communities that run cruelty-breeding factories, to see if, through some sort of education or alternative ways of employment, these poor animals no longer have to suffer at the hands of people who are known to be  the “quiet in the land,” “pacifists” and “peacekeepers.”

Rescue groups are interested in learning more about this extended Mennonite community to do their part in changing these abusive ways of money-making, but I feel we, as a church community, also need to prayerfully consider putting a stop to the animal abuse caused by fellow Mennonites.

As Gandhi once said, “One can measure the greatness and moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals.”

Marena Woodsit, Mississauga, Ont.

--Posted May 21, 2014

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