Readers write: July 7, 2014 issue

July 2, 2014 | Viewpoints

Keep national, area churches out of LGBTQ decisions

The May 12 issue of Canadian Mennonite contains the recognition that the local congregation is gaining prominence within our denomination, both in the article “Mennonite churches caught up in ‘shifting stats’” by Dave Rogalsky and in the editorial “All ‘church’ is local” by Dick Benner.

I trust that as we move in that direction, we are affirming the expertise of local congregations in discerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their particular situations. Much of the pain wreaked upon those lesbian/gay/bi-sexual/transgendered/queer (LGBTQ) people who have dearly wanted to serve the church in leadership roles could be avoided by the area and national churches simply acknowledging the integrity and discernment capability of the local congregations that have chosen to welcome such leaders.

Instead, we have allowed judgment-at-a-distance to over-rule the close-up compassion needed to make Christian love operative in these situations. At least some of the divisiveness inflicted upon the church by the homosexuality issue could be relieved by permitting local congregations to decide their own stance and act accordingly without fear of decredentialling by the area church or the denominational office.

Where then is our unity? Even in a more localized church organization, our unity is in the lordship of Christ, as open to different understandings and applications as Jesus’ commandments to love. When we can all agree that the lordship of Christ is what binds us together, then the importance of the homosexuality issue can be allowed to shrink to the level of all those other things we couldn’t hope for consensus on, but that nevertheless don’t endanger us as a church, like abortion, the teaching of evolution, or the peace witness. A more localized church under the lordship of Christ can only lead to more healthy diversity, more room for Spirit-led experimentation, a broader collective witness to a needy world, and an exciting revitalization of our collective experience.

Rudy Wiens, Mississauga, Ont.
Rudy Wiens is a member of Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship.

Scripture does not refer to homosexual behaviour positively

Re: Letters in response to “Christians must continue to call all sins ‘sin’” (June 9, pages 11-12)

After reading these letters of response, I felt compelled to write a few words in defence of Artur Esau.  

First off, I am not “homophobic.” That’s a word invented by activists that is meant to shut down honest dialogue. Nor am I a “hater” of anyone in the LGBTQ community. In fact, I have never met a gay person that I didn’t like … a lot!

But I have searched the scriptures and they refer several times to homosexual behaviour, but never in a positive light. Ever. And to my homosexual and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered or queer brother or sister in Christ, as much as I cannot and will not condemn you, I cannot let you ignore the teachings of the Bible in order to let you become more comfortable in your sin, while leaving people like me to remain uncomfortable in mine.

For I am a fallen heterosexual. I live in a society that is only too eager to feed my lustful imaginations. And, trust me, I don’t need much help with that! I don’t know why we are as messed up sexually as we are, but we are.

And to others like Mr. Esau, let me encourage you to keep being those voices in the wilderness. There are more of you out here than you will be led to believe. Don’t ever fall for the lie that Jesus never addressed this subject. He most certainly did, and he referred to the written Word of God when he did so.

He seemed to think it was pretty crystal clear, actually. He said, “‘Haven’t you read’. . .‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matt. 19:4-5)

Canada may have rewritten our marriage laws, and anyone can plainly see that the Mennonite Church in Canada will one day rewrite theirs. But God never has.

Pat Murphy, Ayr, Ont.

Sports can transform, maybe even save, lives

Paul Loewen’s article “Sport is not our saviour” (May 26, page 35) included several points which I believe to be inaccurate or misleading.

To say that most high school athletes go to seed once they graduate is wrong in my experience. Sports instilled a love for physical activity for my teammates and I that continues to this day (I’m 20 years old). Whether it takes place on a high school football field at age 17, or on a treadmill at a gym at age 45, the passion for fitness remains.

Second, to say that sports don’t form lifelong community is categorically false and somewhat offensive. Going through the highs and lows of a sports season together forges relationships based on covering for each other’s weaknesses, which forces you to embrace yourself for who you are. In my humble opinion, a sports team is a form of self-sacrificing community. To this day, I’m closer to some teammates than I am to my own family, because of the trials that sports put us through.

Lastly, I disagree with the assertion that sports will not save your life. In a nation plagued by obesity, I don’t think any form of physical activity should be discouraged, especially because physical activity can prevent diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

The lessons learned of hard work, dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice for teammates can be applied to faith, career, family life and almost anything else. If sports won’t save your life, they will at least substantially improve it.

Sports have the power to transform lives; to discourage that is extremely unwise.

Tom DeGurse, Winnipeg

Writer struggles with God ‘as anything other than a man’

Re: “Beyond Trinity” by Susie Guenther Loewen, June 9, page 44.

You did a good job of digging up some references where God is referred to as having motherly traits.

I would like to point out, however, that I struggle with viewing God as anything other than a man, and always have. I think this may have to do with Jesus being both God and a man, as well as to the overwhelming reference to God as “Father” both by Jesus and in the Old Testament, where Genesis says “he created man male and female.”

I do not want to put God into a box and make an idol of that box, nor do I want to create a God after my own image. John 1:18 says, “No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.”

That being said, this does not change my view on women. I think the fact that Jesus used a “mother hen” reference to describe himself shows that women possess godly traits that he uses.

Ryan Carney (online comment)

Community action, not just fossil fuel divestment, needed

I agree with Doug Pritchard (May 26, page 11) that we have to take action or we are going to destroy our environment. We can’t control what other people do, but we can make a start by excluding items that we use that have petroleum in them.

Here are only a few items of the 6,000 products that are petroleum based. If each one of us could omit only 10 items that we use from this list it would make a lot of difference. So here is a challenge for each of us—let’s get started!

It is estimated that half of all commercial food has some petroleum in it.

Goods containing petroleum include: ammonia, anaesthetics ,antifreeze, antihistamines, antiseptics, artificial limbs, artificial turf, aspirin, awnings, balloons, ballpoint pens, bandages, basketballs, bearing grease, bicycle tires, boats, cameras, candles, car battery cases, car enamel, cassettes, caulking, cd player, cd’s, clothes, clothesline, cold cream, combs, cortisone, crayons, curtains, dashboards, denture adhesive, dentures, deodorant, detergents, dice, diesel, dishes, dishwasher, dresses, drinking cups, dyes, disposable diapers, electric blankets, electrician’s tape, enamel, epoxy, eyeglasses, fan belts, faucet washers, fertilizers, fishing boots, fishing lures, fishing rods, floor wax, folding doors, food preservatives, football cleats, football helmets, footballs, gasoline, glycerine, golf bags, golf balls, guitar strings, hair colouring, hand lotion, heart valves, house paint, ice chests, ice cube trays, ink, insect repellent, insecticides, life jackets, linings, linoleum, lipstick, luggage, model cars, mops, motor oil, motorcycle helmets, nail polish, nylon rope, oil filters, paint, paint brushes, paint rollers, panty hose, parachutes, percolators, perfumes, petroleum jelly, pillows, plastic wood, purses, putty, refrigerant, refrigerators, roller skates, roofing, rubber cement, rubbing alcohol, safety glasses, shag rugs, shampoo, shaving cream, shoe polish, shoes, shower curtains, skis, slacks, soap, soft contact lenses, solvents, speakers, sports car bodies, sun glasses, surf boards, sweaters, synthetic rubber, telephones, tennis rackets, tents, tires, toilet seats, tool boxes, tool racks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, transparent tape, trash bags, TV cabinets, umbrellas, upholstery, vaporizers, vitamin capsules, water pipes, wheels, yarn.

Alice Unrau, Calgary, Alta.

Climate change is happening

Re: “Where is the global warming? reader asks,” (May 26, page 12).

Climate change is happening now. Period. There are many lines of evidence more than just the increase of global temperature: ocean acidification from carbon emissions; declines in arctic sea ice; changes in species distribution patterns (moving to higher latitudes and altitudes); and more. So the question, “Where is the global warming?” is mind-boggling for a people who should dedicate their minds to God.

The author refers to predictions of the future as having “no basis in science” and “only…hypothesis.” Hypothesis based on past predictions and theoretically robust reasoning is precisely the foundation of science. The future is always an hypothesis, until it happens! Theories are the explanation of the data collected by systematic means. Theories are tested over time and only superior theories last. This is an important, self-correcting process.

In both science and faith we see imperfectly. In faith we humbly know that someday, what we know in part will be made fully known. Science is even more humble—it assumes that nothing will ever have every last bit of doubt erased. Proof, in this context, is not perfect knowledge—it is evidence that is resistant to falsification because of the quality of the evidence. This quality is improved by the peer-review process of scientists.

As an aside, the scientists cited by the letter have only disputed minor points in the overall patterns evidenced by climate change science, or have not published their larger criticisms in peer-reviewed sources.

Climate change is happening and we are already dealing with the consequences which are falling most severely on those with fewer resources. Thus climate change is a social and a moral issue. Global environmental degradation (including declining biodiversity in major ecosystems, loss of soil fertility, rapacious resource extraction) is happening.

We are to prove all things, hold fast to that which is true, and seek out what is good. Since we know that people and God’s world are suffering, it is deceitful to deny or avoid knowledge that has run the best human tests of proof. It is wicked to ignore our brothers’ and sisters’ suffering. We gain a bit of worldly comfort for the short while, but lose both the world and our souls.

Randolph Haluza-DeLay, PhD, Edmonton, Alta.
The author is associate professor of sociology at King’s University College, Edmonton, and has published academic research on this topic.

Finding employment never easy for new grads

Re: “Are we ‘the worst generation’?” by Rachel Bergen (June 9, page 43).

What Rachel is experiencing is not a new phenomenon. I graduated from Teachers’ College in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education. I applied for teaching positions across Ontario, only to find there were none available. My wife, a nursing graduate, was one of the few people in her class to find full-time employment. Most people looking for work as nurses or teachers had to leave Ontario for jobs in the United States or outside North America.  

After graduating we moved to Kitchener and for three years I worked as a driving instructor and then 13 years in the retail sector. I finally realized my goal as a teacher just before turning 40.

I worked as a teacher for 23 years and am now retired. Perhaps the message for today’s graduates is—hang in there. I enjoyed all my jobs and found they were a great help when I was able to get work as a teacher. The days of employers lining up to hire new grads ended many years ago. I hope Rachel finds as I did, that there are many interesting jobs and people out there. Enjoy what you are doing!

Sam Assad, Waterloo, Ont.

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re: Randolph Haluza-DeLay comment,

Yes "Climate change is happening now", but this is a misnomer for "Global Warming" which is a misnomer for "Man Made Global Warming" which is a misnomer for "catastrophic Man Made Global Warming".

The climate is always changing either warming or cooling and our planet has been warming slowly since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850). The scientists I cited take great exception to the hypothesis of "catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming" or man made global warming.

The scientists I mentioned, Dr. Roy Spencer (NASA, UAH, Dr Richard Lindzen (M.I.T.) and Dr.Judith Curry etc. These scientists and professors are well published in the peer-reviewed science journals. Dr. Lindzens Mannheim lecture on the 10th of April 2014 outlines the most recent Climate Science and clearly addresses the fallacy(s)in the IPCC’s statements on global warming. Click here to view this lecture on youtube. Lindzen and Choi's latest peer-reviewed paper is titled "On The Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and it Implications" downloadable from the website.

The only place future climate predictions occur is in computer generated climate models and these climate model do not do science they only express a hypothesis! I have been a software developer for 35 years.

RE: “Climate change is happening” reader says (July 7, 2014).

Briefly, here is the climate skeptic’s position to the best of my understanding.

Many “skeptics” or so called “climate deniers” are labelled as such by their opponents who then create false arguments that can easily be defeated by the opponent. But what to most skeptics really believe?

Most skeptics of climate change do not deny that the climate is changing. Therefore, providing a long laundry list of climate change examples only shows a misunderstanding of the skeptic’s position.

Most skeptics agree that the climate is warming. They also agree with the theory that an increase in carbon emissions should result in an increase in the earth’s temperature. Furthermore, skeptics would agree that global warming is some combination of human caused activities and Mother Nature.

The “skeptics” concern, however, is with the forecasting abilities of the climate models (of which there are over 100) which universally produce too much warming when compared with observations from thermometers or satellites. Even worse, when knowing the outcome, these models are inputted with known data and still yield more warming than what is observed. The models can’t even hindcast accurately. These are the models that are driving public policy.

The question posted by the reader “where is the global warming?” is not to suggest that there is no climate change. Rather, it is in recognition of the fact that none of the models used to project global warming were able to predict the now 17-year “pause” that has been observed. The models simply don’t reflect reality.

Natural variability is now widely accepted as the reason for this pause. Doesn’t this indicate that existing climate models are not reliable tools for projecting future trends? Scientists simply do not understand how much warming is “human caused” and how much is “Mother Nature”.

Skeptics, who include many climate scientists, question the assumptions used in the climate models and the reliance placed on those models knowing the limitation of climate science. Things like the earth’s climate sensitivity (which is the most important climate factor in determining how much warming will result from greenhouse gas emissions) is not well understood and in fact there is a growing body of research that sensitivity is much lower than previously thought. Skeptics believe that the sensitivity used in the models is too high.

So what if the skeptic is wrong?

Completely stopping all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. between now and the year 2050 and keeping them at zero, will only reduce the amount of global warming by just over a tenth of a degree. This is an amount not even measurable. This is based on IPCC data and using climate sensitivities that are likely too aggressive as suggested above. Therefore, some scientists would say that the temperature averted is likely even a smaller number since they believe climate sensitivity is much lower.

The skeptic questions if climate models, that don't reflect observations, can be trusted to dictate public policy and also question whether any meaningful change can be made to avert warming using current technologies.

Wouldn't it be a social injustice to spend trillions of dollars having virtually no impact on climate change based on models that produce too much warming? Meanwhile those who can least afford it suffer.

Thank You Matthew van Sintern-Dick for you comment. Your narrative about what "skeptics" believe about the hypothesis of man made global warming is well stated and appreciated.

From a skeptical perspective there is much more that can be said about the social engineering aspect of policy's based on a modelled hypothesis like man made global warming.
The most concerning to me is a social engineering strategy of making energy expensive by a variety of mechanism's in an attempt to curb the amount of energy used.
This has the unintended consequence of impacting everyone but mostly the poor locally and globally and driving them deeper into energy poverty and a less civilised existence.
We should be employing a strategy of investing in a variety of hard engineering approaches to generate abundant amounts of inexpensive energy (along with engineered efficient and ecological consumption), our civilised advancements to date has been predicated on this. Abundant inexpensive energy would benefit us all, but most of all the worlds poor.

What has been most puzzling to myself has been the willing media acceptance of radical policy positions based on an unproven computer modelled hypothesis and the uncivilized discourse that often accompany skeptical discussions on this hypothesis.

Pat Murphy observes that the scriptures never refer to “homosexual behavior” in a positive light. He therefore tells gays and lesbians that he cannot allow them to “become more comfortable in your sin.” He says this even while telling them that “I cannot and will not condemn you.” In response, I have a couple of points.

First, describing someone’s behavior as sinful in one breath, and then claiming to be not condemning them in the next breath, is deeply disingenuous. If any meaningful dialogue between different perspectives is to happen, we need to be candid and accountable for our words.

Second, assuming for the sake of argument that Murphy is correct in saying that the scriptures never refer to “homosexual behavior” in a positive light -- so what? The scriptures say lots of things that we now ignore or that we bend over backwards to accommodate. How about these:

• “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.

Regarding the last passage from Exodus, three weeks ago my eldest son cursed me while having a tantrum – he told me to “F___ off.” Should I now send him to Texas to be put in an electric chair?

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?

In a forest, I can find lots of individual trees that are bent or twisted. But if I step back and look at the forest as a whole, I see that it is healthy and strong. Likewise, certain passages of the Bible are grotesque and hateful. But the overall message is one of love and acceptance. That’s how we need to approach the issues that the Mennonite church is currently grappling with.

Mark Morton (Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church)
Kitchener, ON

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