Readers write: December 12, 2022 issue

December 7, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 25
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Two views on ‘sweet solace’
The sweet solace of polarization” series, Oct. 3; Oct. 17; and Oct. 31.

At the heart of the gospel message is the admonition of Jesus to “love your neighbour as yourself.” It is impossible for me to understand how refusing potentially life-saving precautions, such as vaccines and masks, to protect myself and my neighbours from a potentially deadly infection could be showing them love.

I am a nearly retired pediatrician, and there is no doubt that vaccines are the single most important advance in my career. Sorry, but vaccine hesitancy or vaccine refusal is a very tender point if you work in the trenches of preventable infectious diseases.

—Paul Thiessen, Vancouver

Thank you, Will Braun, for your three-part series on polarization. I have watched, with unease, the us/them, right/wrong, black/white trend south of our border, and found it most troubling to recognize it in Canadian society.

I looked forward to your instalments and eagerly read them. I identified with your anger and with your need to move beyond it.

It was enlightening to learn of the reasons for peoples’ decisions. I found it especially helpful to be reminded that asking questions or offering different points of view is a good thing. I realized that I need to let go of my tendency, when faced with a differing viewpoint, toward judgment, and lean into embracing curiosity.

I do not see an easy way to bring us back together. Your series is a helpful and important start.
—Lori Weiler-Thiessen, Saskatoon


Former CM chair congratulates new editor

I just completed reading the Oct. 31 issue of Canadian Mennonite and feel lifted up by it, as usual. But there are two things that I need to say at this time:

  • Congratulations to Will Braun for taking the “humble plunge” of listening to the “other side” in his “The sweet solace of polarization” series. It is something we Mennonites too often fail to do.
  • Congratulations to CM for engaging Will to become the new editor. I hope and pray that his work will continue to reflect humility and the quest for deeper spirituality and authenticity.

As a former CM board member and chair of that board, I believe we have every reason to be optimistic for the future of our publication.
—Bernie Wiebe, Winnipeg


Reader declines to fund ‘worldly’ church organization

Re: Canadian Mennonite’s Nov. 24 “Equip to connect” fundraising appeal letter.

As I read your fundraising letter, I think that a prediction I heard from a Mennonite elder has come to pass. His observation was that the further the church entered into issues of the world, the more worldly it will become, losing its way among the players vying for its attention. At that point, the Gospel becomes secondary to issues and a diversion from the Word.

I believe you are now seeing the results of these actions, as churches are dividing and funds are dwindling. I also believe that the gate is closing behind you, and there is no way up the slippery slope the Mennonite church is on.

I cannot in good conscience contribute to what I see is a departure from the church I used to know and love.
—Larry Krause, Christopher Lake, Sask.
The writer is a member of Eigenheim Mennonite Church, Rosthern, Sask.


My walker is not a conversation starter
“An on-ramp to welcome,” Oct. 31, page 13.

I appreciated Bonita Sawatzky’s personal reflection. In recent years, my physical limitations have required me to use a walker. What an eye opener this has been.

Having worked with seniors most of my adult life, I thought I knew what it is like to navigate life with a walker or wheelchair. How wrong I was! Navigating life with a walker is a challenge every time I go out.

I want to add to what Sawatzky said by issuing a caution to people about their conversations with people who use walkers and wheelchairs. Please do not expect people like me to give a detailed account of my limitations and problems.

People have said to me, “I am wondering why you are using a walker. You don’t look like you need one,” or “You don’t look sick.” How am I to respond?

My plea is to be treated like everyone else. Talk about the same sorts of things you would with anyone else. I get tired of talking about my health issues and limitations. I am more than that, and I long to have “normal” conversations.
—Ruth A. Martin, Dutton, Ontario


Mennonites hampered by ‘a tradition of insularity and self-protection’
Queer theology pushes beyond inclusion,” Nov. 28, page 15.

Surely a part of our hesitation about being hospitable to different people can be attributed to centuries of over-sensitivity or misinterpretation of what it means to be “not of this world.”

Keeping our “not-of-this-world” enclaves “pure” has resulted not only in the hardening of boundaries, but in an inordinate fear that change threatens. The examples are many, one being the imagined connection between left-handedness and the occult that made us willing to practise a forced form of reorientation therapy—often with the strap—on a percentage of the population. Rubber tires, new hairstyles and mode of dress have, in their times, raised alarm bells and often unbelievably destructive reactions.

This is not to say that these examples are equivalent to sexual and gender queerness. I only mean that we are hampered in our ability to approach queer differences humanely by a tradition of insularity.

A lifetime being lived by someone whose gender or sexual preference doesn’t match the traditional, safe pattern of the “not-of-this-world” community is threatening. Related, I’d say, is our history of banning or not banning persons deemed threatening to the traditional order, this reflected in our age in the ambivalence about membership boundaries.

A time may come, I hope, when being queer is responded to like being left-handed. Which hand you write with is of no significance; what you write is both significant and interesting, however, as it is for all of us.
—George Epp (online comment)

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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Regarding the letter to the editor "Reader declines to fund ‘worldly’ church organization," it may be that I have become so worldly that I don't understand the writer's concern. It seems to me that the church and its members are supposed to go out into the world. After all, that's where the need is greatest, out there in the world, not in the pew I'm sitting in, or in the church basement during coffee hour, or my in living room.

Surely Jesus went out into the world. That's where he met fishermen, prostitutes, lepers, the little children whom he suffered to come unto him, the blind, the lame, and more. He was the son of man, and men -- that is, humans -- live in the world.

John Milton, the devout author of Paradise Lost, wrote, “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. ”

In other words, people who try to protect their virtue by running away or hiding from the world and its metaphorical dust and heat don't merit much praise. Instead, we should follow the example of Jesus and wrestle with the world to make it better.

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