Readers write: April 21, 2023 issue

April 20, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 8
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

The religion of peace

The week the F-35 fighter jet was on the cover (Jan. 30), I had pulled an antique book of sermons off the shelf that my wife had from her grandmother. Published in 1896, it is titled The Message of Peace by R.W. Church. It was written within memory of the U.S. Civil War but prior to the First World War.

The following quote gives what is likely a common view of many Christians: “Christianity is a religion of peace. . . . You say that you cannot make the world other than it is . . . [but] you can prevent yourself from being like the world in its evil. . . . It would be an evil day when a Christian became deaf to the public call on his manliness, his courage, his daring, his self devotion. There are solemn times when he has not only to die, but fight and make others die. There are times when, for the sake of his brethren, for the sake of truth, for the sake of his master, he must resist evil, falsehood, disobedience, wrong. Yet for all this . . . Christ’s religion is the religion of peace.”

There is more that is very thoughtful and really fun to read out loud. But it’s such an irony that your cover and my reading came together in this way.
—Elton Kauffman, Bluesky, Alta.


Don’t deny who we are
After reading Kevin Barkowsky’s March 24 article, “What is a Mennonite?” I would like to commend him for urging Mennonites to think more inclusively about who is a Mennonite. Unfortunately, it seems that he weakens his important point by overstating it.

He writes that if “someone asks me if my three grandparents’ last names, ‘Regier, Friesen and Doerksen,’ are Mennonite, the new answer is no.” May I suggest that he is incorrect? Just because the new names “Choi, Pham, Hoajaca or Abebe” are now also Mennonite, does not change the fact that Regier, Friesen and Doerksen are, and will remain, Mennonite. Even as we welcome others into our family of faith, those of us with traditional Mennonite names retain our identity.

He also writes, “Are rollkuchen, watermelon and farmer sausage Mennonite food?” His assertion is an unqualified “No.” Again, these traditional Mennonite foods do not cease to be traditional Mennonite foods simply because “kimchi, tacos, pho, nasi goreng and injera” are added.

I do not read his assertions as merely using the literary technique of exaggeration. He seems to be expressing his belief.

For me, the fundamental theological and logical truth is that we should not and, in fact, cannot with integrity, deny who we are in order to welcome and affirm people of other races, ethnicities or traditions. We are all made in the image of God, and are mandated to love and affirm one another.
—John H. Redekop, Abbotsford, B.C.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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Re Elton Kauffman's letter above, yes, we must always be about peace.

Re the sentence, "There are solemn times when he has not only to die, but fight and make others die" - yes, this is true, though many Mennonites are loathe to admit it.

Crime must be countered, for one thing, and can't be done without armed cops. Unfortunately, they must use their guns, at times. Things like Nazism must also be countered. Unfortunately, all diplomatic and otherwise nonviolent methods can fail, so the things like the Allied efforts of the Second World War become unavoidable. We also need international peacekeeping. The list goes on.

In all such matters, many Mennonites do little more than hide behind others who do the dirty work. Pacifists have no real solutions to more serious danger and violence problems, so they need to reevaluate. We can and should live as nonviolently as possible, but it's virtually impossible to live completely nonviolently - without some uses of force and deterrence. There are vital safety and security issues, near and far.

Far more honesty about this is needed by many Mennonites. Peace strategies should be credible and doable, not all pie in the sky. Nonviolent ideals must often bend to stark realities. Compromise is how we live and must live, and we do well face this.

I'm waiting to hear how Mennonite idealists would directly handle serious crime, serious international conflicts and so forth. These answers never come because they don't exist. So, they should humbly take their seat at tables where they discuss what actually works, which are balanced approaches, which can be as nonviolent as possible, but no more, unfortunately.

Middle ground solutions are often all that works. We all know this, but many talk like they don't.

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