Readers write: April 13, 2015 issue

April 8, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 8

Bible contains the word of God but isn’t the Word of God

Re: “Bible written without an understanding of genetics” letter, March 2, page 14.

Finally, we have someone pointing out that genetics plays an important part in establishing who we are sexually, and that we do inherit some deviations. I thank Frank Hiemstra for writing this letter. It benefits our understanding of a highly sensitive, polarized cultural topic, a topic that charges the social climate of the day, a topic for which it is hard to find common ground, especially for conservatively religious people.  Some of our thinking and understanding needs to be realigned, transformed.

What complicates the matter is that no study has firmly established an underlying genetic cause for homosexuality. The idea that there is a “gay gene” has been dismissed. That there is a gay centre in the brain has also been discarded. Evidence for the role of fetal hormones has been suggested and has some merit.

Is there an answer concerning the cause of homosexuality? No one has established an underlying cause, but we do know there is considerable variability in human sexuality. Since the cause has not been settled, we should hold back on our moral judgments and verdicts.

How can we judge if we don’t know the cause? The biblical injunctions are best understood if we see the Bible as containing the word of God, not as the Word of God. When we study the Bible carefully, we discover that there are no boundaries, but infinite “shades of grey.”

Seeing it as the Word of God puts us in the same camp as conservative, Jews, Christians and Muslims, a very dangerous place to be. Cultures that claim their Holy Book is the Word of God employ morality police.

We do know there are homosexuals; there always have been in every age and culture on earth, even among animals. Some people are gay. We need to accept that.

It is depressing that all the Scripture quoting, talk of compassion, love, empathy, dignity, acceptance and walking in another person’s shoes doesn’t seem to go anywhere, doesn’t result in transformation. A hundred years in a synagogue, church or mosque seemingly does not alter opinions. Perhaps this is, first, a question for science and not for theology.

Art Hildebrand, Crystal City, Man.


God is compassionate towards sinners

For the last few months we have had so many letters about immorality and still did not find an answer.

Did we really look for answers in the Bible or to what our society thinks is fair and compassionate?

But who shows more compassion than God?

Isaiah: 55 6-8, speaks these wonderful words: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near, let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

I was so encouraged by Steve Hoeppner’s column, “Stand up for God’s truth,” Feb. 2, page 15. We need many more to speak up like him.

Marian Banman, Winnipeg


Resources available for healing indigenous-settler relations

Re: “Facing history with courage,” March 2, page 4.

Just wanted to say meegwetch (thank you) to Elaine Enns for her loving and thoughtful feature article.

There are two new resources that the churches would benefit from watching or attending with regards to our relationship with our first nation neighbours and nearby communities.

The first is a 2014 documentary called Walk a Mile. It is about current race relations between indige-nous and settler peoples of Canada. It was filmed in Thunder Bay, Ont., by an indigenous film maker, and is about the local history between white settlers and the first nation community, racism as experienced by indigenous people and about their hopes for the future, and how we can move forward. The DVD is available for purchase at

The second resource is called “Walking with our sisters.” While settlers often call it an “art project,” first nations people refer to it as a “travelling bundle,” in that it is a part of a spiritual tradition that will be presented across Canada to aid in the healing of all people who are touched by the issues relating to missing and murdered indigenous women.

Thunder Bay was the second community to host the “bundle” and it stayed for several weeks in a local art gallery. It consists of about 1,500 moccasin vamps (the top of the footwear) that were made by families in order to honour members of their own communities who are missing.

To learn more, visit  

Betsy Martin, Kaministiquia, Ont.


Stories of ‘restorative solidarity’ are inspiring

Re: “Facing history with courage,” and “Grace Mennonite meets with local MP,” March 2, pages 4 and 22, respectively.

May God bless Elaine Enns for her amazingly brief yet solid exploration of our tragic relationship with our indigenous peoples. Much food for thought and potential action was provided.

Surely some other courageous congregations could join Grace Mennonite Church of Steinbach, Man., in exploring long-term relationships of listening and dialogue with our indigenous neighbours.

It could benefit the church a great deal if Canadian Mennonite would choose to report systematically on each Mennonite Church Canada congregation that has already begun this significant journey, offering the rest of us powerful examples in “restorative solidarity.”

Mary Mae Schwartzentruber, Kitchener, Ont.


Disabilities should not be equated with suffering

I am grateful to Canadian Mennonite for the opportunity of submitting a commentary on the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on physician-assisted death (“Court turns medicine into ‘death dealing,’ ” March 2, page 19). But my brief biography reads that I “suffer from polio and glaucoma,” rather than “had polio” and “has glaucoma.” I feel compelled to clarify why one word makes such a big difference.

While I was analyzing the media coverage of the Robert Latimer murder case in Saskatchewan more than a decade ago for my book A Voice Unheard: The Latimer Case and People with Disabilities, I found the victim—his daughter—described by her disabilities: she “couldn’t walk, talk or feed herself.” The word “suffering” invariably accompanied the cause of her disabilities: she “suffered from” cerebral palsy.

Her perceived suffering apparently justified her murder. But while researching I found instead a child who loved kittens, red nail polish, outings with her family, watching hockey and teasing people. And she rode a school bus with her siblings until just a few days before she was killed.

Her father told police that her condition had not worsened in her last days. His legal defence claimed the murder was actually assisted suicide, something she would have asked for had she had enough intelligence to do so.

On Feb. 6, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down the ban on assisted suicide, not restricting its ruling to terminally ill people, but reserving it instead for those with “a grievous and irremediable medical condition [including an illness, disease or disability] that causes enduring suffering . . . .” Here, too, disability was paired with “suffering.”

The description of me below my commentary followed this familiar pattern. Readers first learned about my disabilities—framed in that familiar word, “suffers”—while my work came second.

Although I do have disabilities, I do not perceive myself to be perpetually “suffering.” Describing me as “suffering” when I do not view myself that way consigns me to the dreary role targeted by the ruling.

If readers really want to show empathy for people with disabilities and other vulnerable Canadians, please join the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia, Living with Dignity and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in urging the Canadian government to overturn the ruling by invoking the notwithstanding clause. Readers can sign a petition at

Ruth Enns, Winnipeg


First we need to define what is sin

Re: “A difficult debate,” Jan. 19, page 2.

I am not sure if the task is “debating,” as was mentioned in the editorial.

The Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process should not be about how Mennonites or Anabaptists interpret the Bible. A sound theological principle should be “the Bible interprets herself,” and the BFC is to find the truth in the Holy Scriptures. It’s God’s opinion we need, not mine nor Canadian Mennonite’s.

I think we need to find out if the Bible defines homosexuality as a sin or not, then let’s talk about discrimination exclusion or other things. In the editorial it was mentioned that “we do not want to be exclusionary.” But the whole world is exclusionary: club memberships, affiliations, unions, churches, etc.

In my congregation—Cedar Valley Mennonite Church, Mission, B.C.—you have to be a “good-standing Christian” to be a member, meaning you have recognized your sinful nature, you have asked forgiveness for your sins and are a follower or Christ. Are we perfect? No, of course not, but we do not celebrate our sins on Sunday. We do not have a “pride day to be drunk” or a “pride day for drug addicts.”

We embrace any kind of people, including the most sinful . . . me!

Edgar Rivera, Mission, B.C.


‘My lament and my promise’

Re: “An experiment in sexuality gone wrong,” Jan. 5, page 4, which is an excerpt of “Defanging the beast: Mennonite responses to John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse,” published in the January 2015 issue of Mennonite Quarterly Review.

It is encouraging to see the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary board’s commitment to an ongoing transparent process of institutional accountability in the Yoder sexual abuse situation. It offers hope to all of us who have been vulnerable to the clutches of sexual abuse, whether it be through our own suffering or witnessing the suffering of others. It hurts us all.

As I reflect on Yoder’s experimentation, I am reminded of the experience of a friend from my youth who had suffered sexual abuse. The memory and consequences of my friend’s experience lingers today. I regret that as an adolescent I did not know more about the signs of sexual abuse, or about how to assist my friend in obtaining the help she desperately needed at the time. This is my lament.

Now I recognize that I can challenge and change cycles of abuse by recognizing abuse when it is happening, disrupting harmful patterns and creating new ones. Although, as a psychotherapist, I do not have a fool-proof guarantee that those I love and know will not be subject to abuse, there is a lot I can do to prevent it.

Many children, youth and adults are sexually abused by someone they know. As a wife and mother of two teenage sons, I am in a position to teach my sons that they are loved and that their bodies are their own. I have discovered that discussing sex is not a favourite topic of conversation for my teenage sons to have with me, but if it means that they are more protected because of it, their discomfort is a minor concern.

If I could travel back in time and change my understanding and response to my friend’s abuse, I would—in a heartbeat or the twinkling of an eye. But those moments are gone. What I can do now is recognize and prevent abuse in the lives of those around me. And prevent misuse of power in my own life as well. Abuse stops here. With me. With us.

I hope my friend is listening to my lament and my promise.

Linda Weber, London, Ont.
Linda Weber is a member of Valleyview Mennonite Church, London.


Disbelief of God’s Word is another reason why people leave the church

Re: “Five reasons young adults may leave the church,” March 2, page 44.

I believe that all five reasons were valid and are probably the reason some of our young adults are leaving the church.

However, I believe there is another reason that wasn’t discussed. That is when people start disbelieving God’s Word, the Bible. I believe that evolution and secular beliefs are a big stumbling block for our young adults and could well be the main reason many of our young people are leaving the church.

We cannot separate God the creator from God the Redeemer. If Genesis 1:1 isn’t true, then John 3:16 and the rest of the Bible don’t make any sense. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we are told how God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them. We are told how God created us and why we are all sinners in need of our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

A big problem is when some Christians are buying into evolution. Evolution will make atheists out of people. Most of the scientists who promote evolution are secular atheists who come up with all kinds of unprovable theories that fall under historical science, where there is no eye-witness proof. The theory of evolution is not compatible with the Word of God.

Our young people need answers to many things in the Bible, that even some Christians  are starting to disbelieve, including, “Were Adam and Eve real people?” and, “Was there really a global flood?” The answers to these and many other questions are all in God’s Word.

There are many Christian scientists who believe in biblical creation. These are the scientist’s we should be adhering to, not secular scientists with an atheistic worldview. Some good resources are the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International.

The Bible should always be our starting point on how we view our world, not the other way around, where we take fallen man’s word and try to fit it into the Bible. I Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Glenn Gascho, Zurich, Ont.
Glen Gascho is a member of Zurich Mennonite Church.

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