Readers write

April 10, 2013 | Viewpoints

Conscientious tax objectors look for more support

Re: “Are you paying for peace or war?” Jan. 21, page 12.

We have chosen to divert the military portion of our taxes to Conscience Canada’s Peace Tax Fund since 2007. As we listen to the daily news and hear about Canada’s increasing militarization, spending billions on fighter jets and submarines, we question this direction.

We are paying more for militarization and less for development assistance, and yet the latter could be much more effective in creating friends, instead of enemies. For these and other reasons, we feel positive about the course of action we have chosen.

Our action has always been accompanied by letters of explanation to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) and government leaders. We invite them to imagine with us the possibilities of using tax dollars for peace, rather than preparing for war. We remind our leaders that we pray for them even as we pray for peace.

Letters of reply indicate the dilemma it would create for them if Canadians were allowed to redirect their tax dollars as they see fit. This may be true, but Canada has a long history of allowing for conscientious objection, and so allowing for conscientious objection to military taxation is only a logical next step in our present age of technological warfare.

Another argument used is that Canada’s armed forces provide valuable assistance in times of national disaster. Our response has been to slightly reduce the portion withheld to allow for this.

We have felt very alone and saddened by the reality that seemingly very few of our Anabaptist sisters and brothers have chosen conscientious objection to military taxation. The folks at Conscience Canada need our support.

Our elected representatives need to be challenged to consider alternatives to increasing militarization. Most importantly, as followers of the Prince of Peace, we as an Anabaptist community need to re-imagine the possibilities of paying for peace instead of war.

If redirecting tax dollars is not an option, we can, as Eric Unger suggests, minimally declare our objection to military taxation or send two cheques to the CRA, 92 percent for taxes owed and 8 percent for a Department of Peace.

We invite others to join us on this journey.

Ernie and Charlotte Wiens, La Salle, Man.

Bible reading is a ‘complex and difficult undertaking’

Re: “What about this Bible?” March 18, page 2.

I appreciate the way in which Dick Benner has identified the issues in this editorial. The Bible is, in fact, a problematic book for children as well as for adults, but we have not been ready to admit this to ourselves or to our children.

During the Reformation the “perspicuity” of Scripture was assumed. One definition of this term is: “clearly presented, easy to understand.” The assumption was to just take the Bible and read it because it’s all clear. This has had negative consequences ever since. While reading the Bible is very important, it is also a complex and difficult undertaking.

One reason the Bible is difficult is that we are listening in on conversations being carried on between people with quite different perspectives and convictions within the range of biblical literature. For example, Isaiah challenges the viewpoint of Deuteronomy about the attitude that Israel should have towards Ammonites and Moabites; Deuteronomy 23 teaches exclusion, while Isaiah 56 calls for welcome and inclusion.

A second reason is the attitude that, since the Bible is God’s Word, it must be literally understood. This has been called biblicism and it makes reading the Bible properly an impossibility. This attitude may be related to the expression, “the Scriptures we venerate,” in Part III of “On the Use of Scripture” series in the same issue.

The honouring of Scripture is a good thing, but we do need to ask, “What is a responsible way of honouring the Bible as we have it?” In my mind, taking the literary form, the cultural-historical context and the literary environment of the time into account all contribute to responsible reading, when combined with disciplined and Spirit-guided imagination. We may have to acknowledge that some understandings of God’s will reported in the Old Testament may really be misunderstandings of God’s will.

The resources for fruitful never-ending conversations are available to us. Will we have the courage to become engaged afresh with our own past understandings, to become aware of “conversations” and development within the Bible, and to discover anew what Jesus told his disciples: “the Spirit would guide us into all truth.” I hope that we will accept the challenge.

John H. Neufeld, Winnipeg

Channels of communication around suicide must be open

Parents’ loss of children is always upsetting. If that loss is due to suicide, such as happened to friends recently, the effect is magnified. Most suicide occurs in the context of depression. With rates of depression increasing among young people, we can expect the number of suicides to increase unless we do more about the background.

One of the myths that persists is that talking about suicide might bring up the idea and increase the risk of it occurring. It probably stems from our own discomfort and denial of the topic. One thing that I, as a practicing psychiatrist, stress with my patients and their parents is that suicide is a symptom of depression. If anything, it tells us that we need to work harder to overcome the depression.

We need to open up the channels of communication about those who suffer with it and their families and caregivers, so that they can receive the support they need until they recover to the point that suicidal thinking is no longer an issue. There are also agencies with websites and suicide prevention numbers to call, that every person with depression and their family should always have available.

Having said that, we need to realize that, as concerning as the prospect is, we will no more be able to prevent every suicide than we can prevent every other type of mishap that we fear. Suicides even happen in mental health wards, where people are admitted for closer observation and more intensive treatment.

As Christians, I think most of us are moving beyond the idea where we think of suicide as always a sin. We know of Christians who have committed suicide. My belief is that in the throes of depression, people are really not in their right mind when it comes to making a decision. Therefore, I think it helps us to hold on to the belief that our all-merciful and forgiving Heavenly Father does not hold that against them.

Of course, when a suicide has occurred, we need to be there to support the family and friends of the lost loved one. They need our presence, prayers and reassurance for the struggles and questions that such an event raises for all of us.

Lorne Brandt, Richmond, B.C.

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