Readers write: August 16, 2021 issue

August 11, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 17
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

‘Big’ farmers can be ‘Christians with a conscience’ too
Germinating conversations,” June 7, page 16.

It seems to me that this article has been written with a negative outlook. Will Braun is right when he says that this is more a “rant” than an attempt to consider any other point than his own.

It also makes it difficult to read this when Braun seems quite proud that he accepts no government subsidy on his farm, and is content to live a self-sustaining, subsistence life with his family as an experiment. In fact, the way he puts it, he found seemingly any values besides his own repulsive. And yet he has equal access to a protected health system and all other infrastructure benefits when his 3.5-hectare farm would likely not generate more revenue than what would cover his family’s experimental living.

Another difficulty that I find offensive is when he accuses the “big boys” of seeking and whining for subsidies, and yet not one mention is made of the massive tax bills that they pay annually, especially land taxes. We should remember it is these taxes that subsidize those of us who pay substantially less and still receive the same benefits.

There are big farmers who are Christians with a conscience.

As I see it, the “big boys” and the 3.5-hectare farmers all seek to serve the same Jesus. Wouldn’t it be more Christlike to love even the “big boys” rather than let them get under one’s skin? It seems to me that the only true equity and fairness will have to wait for that eternal promised land. There, the only exception to true justice will be grace and mercy, something that we all need so that we can truly serve and worship our God.
—Armin Ens, Winkler, Man.
(formerly of Reinland, Man.)


Differences of cohabitation by the young and the old
The growing phenomenon of cohabitation,” June 7, page 20.

Young couples living together for whatever period of time outside of the marriage covenant was considered a sin by the Mennonite church up until a few years ago. The leadership in the Mennonite church, its colleges and universities need not look any further than the inconsistency in the dormitories, discipline off campus, basic teaching and indifference towards this issue. 

Trinity Western, a university with Christian standards in British Columbia, had detailed policies forbidding all forms of male/female cohabitation outside of the covenant of heterosexual marriage, and a lot of pressure was put on it to rescind its policies. 

Is cohabitation practised where the faith community has a clear stated position against it? No.

Irma Fast Dueck noted that “many congregants who cohabitate leave the church, returning after marriage.” There may be a few different answers for this, but I believe that their consciences are telling them that it is a transgression of God’s will.

Many older people who were living alone because of divorce or the death of their partner are now simply living together. They prefer not to get married because of all the legal requirements and adjustments to their wills.

For older couples, a covenant of commitment can be celebrated in the presence of their families and communities, directed by a pastor or a person with good discernment. Vows are said by the couple to each other and a blessing is bestowed upon them.

I personally witnessed this service, and it was a meaningful, godly and practical way for older people to declare their sincerity and love for each other before the community. They have no need of the civic registration.

This covenant, which is similar to our baptism vows, has moral implications but no legal jurisdiction. In the understanding of God’s wisdom I believe the vows based on moral principles are more divinely blessed.
—David Shantz, Montreal


Do men have a role to play in ‘creating a culture shift’?
Creating a culture shift” feature, June 21, page 4.

I noticed seven women contributed to this article about abuse and only one man. The reason for that may be that more women are victims of abuse.

Some suggestions to create a culture shift were: better church policies, extending peace theology to the family, guides for church discipline, workshops for abuse prevention, and healthy relationships to dismantling patriarchy. These suggestions may be very valuable if applied, but are they enough?

Where are we men? What are our possible contributions to a culture shift?

Extreme male abusers are often too proud to take advice from women, or may think this is the pastor’s problem to deal with. Should the church perhaps encourage men’s groups, if possible led by an exemplary husband and loving father? Would a male abuser be more receptive to a man-to-man talk from a mature fellow companion who could tell him what he misses having a loving supportive wife and happy children, instead of a defensive wife who is afraid of him, who has to keep secrets from him, and children who hate him? Would that make him think about his situation more seriously and perhaps change his behaviour?
—Helmut Lemke, Vancouver
The writer is a member of Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship, Vancouver.


Zero tolerance not a Christian teaching
Creating a cultural shift,” June 21, page 4, and “Investigation reveals misconduct by influential Mennonite leader,” June 7, page 24.

In the area of discipline and abuse, I have been wishing for an article that addresses zero tolerance. The Canadian government is currently squirming after espousing that policy.

It is my contention that believers’ ethics do not so much teach—or expect—zero tolerance as a response to the reality of transgression. We all like to cite Matthew 18 with regard to reconciliation, and that is clearly more helpful than planning retribution or sanctions against offenders.
—Ed Zacharias, Morden, Man.
The writer attends Pembina Fellowship in Winkler/Morden.


Indigenous-Settler reconciliation is what we should be ‘doing’
Being, doing and becoming,” June 21, page 11.

“Few of us arrive at pure being. I’m not even sure what that looks like,” writes Troy Watson. I find this slippery logic unworthy of the topic.

But this is a minor flaw compared to his oft-repeated assertion “that our doing should flow from our being, not the other way around,” which is admittedly vague and possibly false.

Much has been made about the value of meditating in silence and allowing some external force (possibly the Holy Spirit) to permeate our being with meaning, and perhaps this column is attempting another way to say this.

It’s not surprising that the column should end with his “I’m not sure what it looks like” caveat. To search for one’s “true essence” doesn’t resonate with Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, his submission to the cross, his feeding of the four or five thousand. Contemplative monasticism only leads to ghettos of contemplative monks, steeped in the singularity of each one’s “true essence,” never self-confident enough to give up psychological self-flagellation in the search.

We are in a time in Canada when it’s becoming clear to me what the Mennonite church as a community really is, what its being consists of. I’m talking about our doing—or not doing—in regard to the reconciling of an Indigenous culture tremendously wronged by the residential school system. It seems to me we’d rather search for “our true essence” than pick up a pen, a placard, or do things that are more than the contemplation of the problem in discussion groups.

Have we really grasped who the Indigenous sufferers are? What the needs are? What means we have to contribute to healing? Are we really doing anything?

I would argue that it’s in doing that we rediscover our true essence in each succeeding generation.
—George G. Epp, Rosthern, Sask.


Finding a balance between pacifism and reality
Mennonites appreciate the enormous benefits of good policing, reasonable national defence, international peacekeeping and other securities, but few say so. Officially, all religious Mennonites embrace nonresistance, and don’t support or participate in normal securities, no matter how necessary or well done. Actually, they implicitly condemn them, as well as the people who provide them—those who risk and sacrifice themselves to protect us, society and the world.

Jesus taught nonviolent ideals but let his disciples carry swords, encouraging it at one point. He knew people need to compromise. We know it, too, and so we live by blending ideals with pragmatism. At the same time, many are also obsessed with ideals. Almost no one can live them fully, but many pretend they can, and state or imply that everyone should.

Without many protections, many more people would suffer greatly and be killed. Crime, violence and anarchy would reign.

Mennonites experienced anarchy in Russia. The reviews weren’t good. So, we now live as peacefully as possible, but also practically, like everyone else. We rely on cops with guns and on other things, which is fine, unless you want to risk and sacrifice all for nonviolence. Pacifism is willingness to give up everything, including yourself and others, so true pacifism is rare.

A few might choose it, but it isn’t necessary. Perfect living isn’t very possible in a far-from-perfect world. But we can be perfect within, which is what’s important. It’s where peace begins and ends, regardless of outer compromises.

Many Mennonites don’t get that, hence the obsession with outer ideals and the shunning of securities, which they also secretly like, want and need. It’s all quite nutty, frankly.

I hope for far more balanced, honest and realistic conversations on peace and security issues.
—Howard Boldt, Osler, Sask.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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