Readers write

December 11, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 24

Continue the critique

Re: “‘Political reminder’ disturbing,” Editorial (Nov. 12, 2012, page 2).

I am not as ‘disheartened’ as Editor, Dick Benner, probably due to my not being as informed as he is about potential harm to Canadian Mennonite.

Canadian Mennonite writers must be doing something right to get this reaction from the present government. I agree that this “represents a ‘chill’ on free speech.” This government that came into office promising openness and transparency is actually the most secretive government in some time, with a great disrespect for Parliament—think proroguing parliament twice, producing a handbook on how to shut down committees during minority government, robocalls during the last election and more. Instead of debating critics of government policies in an open way, this government prefers to shut down criticism by defunding organizations that are alleged to have offended them—think KAIROS, MCC and others.

I am in complete agreement with Canadian Mennonite’s articles that raise concerns about excessive military spending, new harmful immigration policies, public safety and prison matters. These are proper critiques and represent the views of many readers. The writers of Young Voices articles should not be silenced either.

It is my hope that Canadian Mennonite will respectfully resist this attempt to silence its writers. To do otherwise represents a slippery slope to an unknown place.

Murray Lumley, Toronto, Ont.

Re: “‘Political reminder’ disturbing” editorial, (Nov. 12, 2012).

It is highly disturbing and considerably chilling, but if what you write evokes this kind of response, then you are doing something right. “Speaking truth to power” does tend to lead to uncomfortable places, or, as my husband has sometimes said, if you really live the ideas expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, there is a good chance you’ll be crucified.

The ramifications are many. In what is perhaps a perverse attitude, I think I am pleased that what we believe appears to matter. I am thankful for your willingness to remind us that what we believe matters—even to letters of reminder from a fearful government. May we continue to hear you call us to be faithful.

Winona Senner, Saskatoon, Sask.

Why does the “political reminder” not surprise us?

Actually, one could hope that sooner or later the discriminating voice of Canadian Mennonite on issues of poverty, immigration, and militarism would elicit a response like the one Dick Benner describes in his editorial (Nov. 12, 2012). It has come sooner. Especially gratifying is the isolation of the contributions of Young Voices as offensive (Nov. 12, page 16).

We understand that this warning may create problems for the editor, not the least of which could be “I told you so!” from segments of the CM readership who are critical of addressing political and social issues as subjects for Christian discernment.

Nevertheless, we encourage the editor to continue his present policy, and not to submit to official bullying of this kind. A price may have to be paid, but it will be small in kingdom of God coin.

Walter and Ruth Klaassen, Saskatoon, Sask.

The question at the end of your editorial, “‘Political reminder’ disturbing” (Nov. 12, 2012) seems like an invitation to comment. I recognize your dilemma of jeopardizing charitable status with all its possible ramifications as opposed to your calling as an editor to put principle above all.

You say your board has chosen to abide by the law, and I think that that is the prudent solution. However, I hope that your hard-hitting political commentary of 2011 will not be curtailed. I’m sure you’ve figured out ways of pointing to the government in power without specifically naming them by party, or calling our wayward brother “the government advocate” so that readers know who you mean. Hopefully that that puts you under the shelter of the law while still allowing readers to understand, sort of like the book of Revelation was to its contemporary readership.

But if you must name names in order to function conscientiously, let me assure you that I for one will stand by you even if we lose our charitable status. Elections are one way to concretely express love for our neighbours, and that love we must proclaim.

Please carry on as you have been; we need you for God’s sake!

Rudy Wiens, Mississauga, Ont.

Re: Editorial, “‘Political reminder’ disturbing” (Nov. 12, 2012).

Dick Benner asks his readers if they are disheartened. I’m not at all disheartened. I’m angry.

Robert Martens, Abbotsford

Re: Editorials, “Injustice ‘once removed’” (Oct. 29) and “‘Political reminder’ disturbing,” (Nov. 12).

It is going on 40 years that I have been waiting for a church leader to lay Christian theology on the line for us mortals so that it is understood by all of us. And I mean all of us! Disheartened? On the contrary! How else can we mortals strive to rise above our navel-gazing-selves?!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Peter Hiebert, Winnipeg

Critique protected by Charter

Each time I read an article in the Canadian Mennonite that had political implications, I applauded the direction it was going. Yet, I felt that the content and intent of the articles was going to be questioned by readers. Dick Benner, Rachel Bergen, Aaron Epp, Emily Loewen and others had the courage to express their convictions about prison reform, pacifism, altruism and  social and environmental issues. This I applaud.

At the same time, I had this uneasy feeling there would be some kind of opposition. That it came from an agency of the government surprised me all the same. I thought the backlash would come from readers who voted for this government.

The current government has been cited for “contempt of Parliament.” It arbitrarily shut down the Canadian Wheat Board, possibly illegally. It has been alleged to have some connection to the voter suppression robocall scandal. Members of Parliament and members of the press corps will attest to the muzzling techniques of the present administration in Ottawa.

I have always had empathy for Mennonite Church leaders who had to be utterly circumspect in the preparation and delivery of sermons not to tread on political issues. Editor, Dick Benner, of Canadian Mennonite has indeed stepped on the serpent’s head. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Could it be that the Canada Revenue Agency will reverse its admonition when the forces that prompted the warning realize their stance is in violation of Section B of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which explicitly states, “that we all have the right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, including freedom of the Press and other media of communication”?

As far as I know, we pacifists are still protected by the Charter.

Rudi A. Schulz, Winnipeg

Sound the trumpet against injustice

Re: editorial “‘Political reminder’ disturbing” (Nov. 12, 2012).

Is this an example of what John was writing about in Revelation 13:16-18 about the mark of the beast? Will we silently submit to the beast so we can buy and sell, because otherwise it might be bad for business? God forbid!

I am not surprised that you should receive a warning of this nature. Groups like Kairos that received government funding have been instructed not be critical, or simply had their monies cut without warning. We must ask ourselves how we should protest government policies and how we as a collective body of diverse people can come together and share our concerns. Why is the government so fearful of what we discuss?

Years ago in 1937, here in Quebec, the government of Duplessis introduced the infamous Padlock Law. Duplessis simply labeled anyone not in agreement with him as a Communist. The results were unbelievable and a reading of the account reveals a terrible abuse of power.

At the same time William Aberhart tried this in Alberta, attempting to control the banks, the financial institutions, the police and the press. Fortunately people rose up and spoke up. The federal government struck down Aberhart’s laws but Duplessis controlled Quebec in a cruel way. The fear of having their businesses, schools, newspapers, homes and churches literally padlocked silenced many people.

I believe that the leaders of the Mennonite Church should identify issues that are morally flawed and directly contradict what we as a faith community have professed for generations. They need to rally the members. We need to be visibly present on Parliament Hill and outside of the offices of Conservative MPs.

Years ago, we marched in Canadian cities and publicly declared that we were not in agreement with unjust civil rights, the Vietnam war and the nuclear build up of arms. That was years ago, but the present cutbacks and other policies need to be radically addressed because they are equally unjust.

Who will sound the trumpet?

David Shantz, Montreal, Que.

Editor gets what he deserves

Re: Nov. 12 editorial: Dick Benner, you are, of course, trying to do damage control regarding the government frustration with your attacks on them.

Quite frankly, you got what you deserve. When you blatantly state that you are saddened that the Canadian people have re-elected a Conservative government, how do you expect them to respond? And then to have a picture of Pat Martin in our paper, defending your anti-Conservative position, is a bit too much. Is this the man our editorial staff holds up as a model?

I do not agree with everything the Conservative party does but they have been elected by thousands of Mennonites. You have angered many of them. A few local businessmen want to meet with Willard Metzger soon to talk about this issue. We believe it is time  for the paper to fly on its own funding. Those who want can subscribe to it on their own. The paper has become just too political.

Jake and Jean Rempel, Winnipeg

Give up charitable status

Re: Editorial “‘Political reminder’ disturbing” (Nov. 12, 2012).

I’m sure it has always been the case, but it seems we have entered an era of increasing tendency of the government to use its power to exert control on the media and civic society rather than for the common good.

So here’s a radical idea: let Canadian Mennonite, along with other organizations that are feeling interference from government, voluntarily give up charitable status. Are we, as a relatively comfortable, largely middle class Canadian Mennonite constituency so ingrained in the patterns of “the world” that we cannot bring ourselves to support causes or institutions through charitable giving without a tax receipt (read government subsidy)? Or do our leaders in those institutions just assume that this is the case?

My pledge is to maintain or increase my financial giving—regardless of tax implications—to organizations that give up charitable status in order to be free of government restrictions that otherwise impede their work. If others are willing to make the same pledge then the idea may start looking less radical and become downright workable.

Andrew Cressman, New Hamburg, Ont.

Faith healers trivialize illness

The article “An effective evangelist” by Carl DeGurse (Oct. 29, 2012, page 25) tells of the remarkable ministry of Katie Goetz from Winnipeg’s Douglas Mennonite Church. With her inimitable joyful enthusiasm she ministers to all people even those who have no interest in Christ, successfully communicating the love of Jesus.

Unfortunately, because she is legally blind, she was targeted by other evangelists who visited her and vehemently directed God to heal her. How awful!

I live with severe depression. When I spent six weeks in a mental hospital this past fall, I too was a target for healing. Some high-ranking servants of another denomination attempted to infringe on my privacy in the hospital and called my psychiatrist noting I was demon-possessed. They requested that he let them perform an exorcism. I had been in the hospital barely a week and was in very poor shape physically and mentally, too poor to even handle such a thought. My psychiatrist, a devout Anglican, gave them a firm “No.” Later he told me about it.

It really does not make you feel good when the illness is overwhelming you, affecting your life and thought patterns, and then some “hot shot” ministers believe you are not really ill, but rather demon-possessed.

In the article Katie was “perturbed” by those healers who came to visit her. For me I felt very angry and felt my illness was being trivialized for the sake of some heavenly credits for these would-be faith-healers. I wish to express my frustration with what Katie and also I have endured. Lord spare us such ignominy.

Ken Reddig, Pinawa, Man.

Big building is wrong project

Re: “MCC’s big building rationale not compelling” (Nov. 12, 2012, page 11).

Thanks to Will Braun for stating so well what I could not have pulled together. I have been an avid, lifetime supporter of MCC and wonder how we could have arrived at a 12 million dollar building when poverty has still not gone away? I remember that in the past designated giving was not encouraged but I suppose I will have to continue that, as my heart is with those whose needs cause me to weep. If I could not feed my child, or my parents had AIDS, or war consumed all I loved, and I knew my affluent brothers and sisters just spent 12 million on stone and decor and technology, how would I feel?

Rachel Schmucker, Bally, PA. (formerly of Markham, Ont.)

New MCC building is a tool

I am thrilled that Will Braun is far more compelled by Mennonite Central Committee’s commitment to show Christ’s love to sex offenders than by the creation of a new building (Nov. 12, 2012, page 11). Thousands of others share his view, and so do I.

During early construction, I remember observing a faithful donor plunk a cheque on the counter while nodding toward the bulldozer in the yard saying, “And I do not want a penny of this donation going for that!” He was properly moved by what is, of course, the core of MCC’s service “in the name of Christ.” We absolutely will make sure his gift goes entirely to the gutsy, gospel-faithful work that Braun, and I (and thousands of others) expect from MCC. In fact, core to the project all along has been the conviction that MCC programs should be entirely unhindered by the creation of this ministry centre.

I am also glad to report that I am not consumed by this building but rather buoyed by the energy it brings to MCC and the broader Anabaptist community. Many in Ontario have generously embraced our “Raising Hope” building campaign as they commit to making sure MCC and the seven other agencies that will share the facility have the infrastructure capacity they need for the next 50 years. This is much like our bold forebears when they first broke ground at 50 Kent Ave. in Kitchener 50 years ago when MCC needed an adequate home from which to operate. MCC Ontario will occupy about one third of the new building.

Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ is our core; buildings are but tools which need routine sharpening, and periodic replacement.

Rick Cober Bauman, MCC Ontario Executive Director, Kitchener, Ont.

Re: “MCC’s big building rationale not compelling” by Will Braun (Nov. 12, 2012, page 11). The Board of Directors of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario is grateful that Will Braun is deeply committed to caring for and responding to the woundedness of the world, and that he recognizes that MCC does likewise.

MCC is a large tent that invites and gathers in people of many different Anabaptist/Mennonite and other Christian groups, encompassing people of all ages and socio-economic classes. Such is the spirit of the Raising Hope initiative, to which Will has added a challenging, necessary voice.

We undertake Raising Hope with the very spirit that inspired our Anabaptist forebears to build the “old” 50 Kent a half-century ago. Their motive was—as ours is—to provide MCC with the tools it needs to grow its capacity to provide relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.

Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Ontario, has shown consistent dedication to the mission of MCC. His heart is in the ministry of MCC and his tireless work on Raising Hope comes at the direction of the MCC Ontario Board.  

Karen Cornies, Board Chair, MCC Ontario

How do we respond to hate?

In the feature article of the Oct. 29 issue, Carol Penner closes her thoughtful piece in this fashion: “We are called to love our neighbour near at hand, and love our neighbour once removed.” Suppose my neighbour near at hand hates me. Suppose my neighbour once removed despises me. And suppose my family is killed by one of these, and I am about to suffer their fate. Perhaps Carol Penner could be persuaded to write a follow-up piece, dealing with my hypothetical situation.

Henry Ewert, Surrey, B.C.

Clear thoughts are also important

Notwithstanding Carl Friesen’s sermon on “Culture and Character” (Nov. 12, 2012, page 4), I suggest that what he has evidenced is exactly what Rene Descartes said: Mr. Friesen has thought (well, I might add), therefore he is. Good article.

Peter Andres, Chilliwack, B.C.

Attack lacks substance

Re: “Mennonites do not understand the holiness of God” (Nov. 26, 2012, page 10).

Walter Bartel, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta, writes that Mennonites are “shameful,” “off base,” and that most have “no understanding of the holiness and righteousness of God, let alone his love.” I find it odd that he makes these claims while simultaneously saying, “I do not know your background.”

Mark Morton, Kitchener, Ont.

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