Readers write: June 2, 2023

June 1, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 11
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

U2’s “One Tree Hill” is a hymn that is both grief-laden and hope-filled, a hope shaped by Christological themes (“U2’s Mennonite string section,” May 5). I was looking forward to reflections on the intersections between the faith and spirituality of U2 and Mennonite faith and spirituality. That would have been rich.

What I experienced instead was a puff piece touting that Russian Mennonites are no longer locked into a cultural backwater. We have made it. Some of us have played with what many consider the greatest rock and roll band in the world.

It was a piece more suited to a magazine focused on Russian Mennonite culture.
—Keith Regehr, Kitchener, Ontario (First Mennonite Church)


Dandelions in heaven
I appreciated Randy Haluza-DeLay’s column entitled “Dandelions for the Gospel” (April 21). My mom loved dandelions, and one of her memories was looking out on a field of yellow dandelion flowers and blue sky and thinking of heaven. Let it be so.
—Len Block, Delta, B.C. (Peace Mennonite, Richmond, B.C.)


National church scouts
Some time ago, our paper, Canadian Mennonite, published a feature about the Canadian government’s purchase of fighter jets (“Conscientious,” Jan. 30). We are thankful for this.

Which one of our provincial boards or committees would have lifted their eyes beyond their own backyards, their own terms of reference, to consider a question like this? If there had been a desire or need for Mennonite Church Canada discussion or action on this, it would have been a long wait before our current structure could respond.

Who would flag such a national question for attention by provinces or congregations? Do we have any scouts?

I think also of climate. There are church climate statements, but it is hard to move. I’m guessing that MC Canada and regional staff could point to other instances of structural hindrances.

Our national agenda, our national structure, is mostly a compilation of provincial agendas, a gathering of provincial representatives. That is a strange way to shape national agenda.

We in MC Canada have spent too much time in our own backyards. Now with the latest round of restructuring we have closed the gate and painted ourselves into corners. We have a wonderful diagram of our structures and (theoretical) participation, but we have soft spots in important places.

If we want to be aware or involved, we need better ways of initiating, of acting.
—Ray & Marilyn Hamm, Altona, Manitoba (Altona Mennonite Church)


Jonathan Neufeld’s editorial (“A centuries-old offer of peace,” April 21) renews the discussion for the dismantling of the Doctrine of Discovery. He prays that “God so inspire and lead us beyond repudiation.” Yes, moving to less performative words will lead many of us into asking the question: What is my role in working together with our Indigenous neighbours? This is where the real challenge comes.

I may be comfortable thinking how none of us are at the same level of awareness. This thought will not lead to action. Dialogue needs to happen not only within our communities but with our neighbours as well in order to seek ways of supporting Indigenous communities. Indigenous Peoples face enough resistance and government foot-dragging in their lives. Consider the boil-water advisories and lack of resolve with good or adequate housing, along with many other issues.

Unity is required in our spiritual circles for growth in a critical mass of concerned people and for moving beyond our comfort zones. This requires education and awareness of our social position, which continues to come at a cost for our more disadvantaged neighbours.
—George Best, Madoc, Ontario (Wideman Mennonite)


Salvation via doctrine?
While it is possible to appreciate that Indigenous communities want to use the Doctrine of Discovery (“An assumption of grace,” April 21) to make a moral argument for various kinds of restitution, I doubt that it will ultimately bring satisfaction.

In the first place, even if there had never been a doctrine such as this, once the Americas had been discovered by Europeans, people would have begun migrating there. People in places of higher population density and living costs will always look for places that offer opportunity for new starts and economic advantage. At the time Mennonites moved east into the Russian empire in the 18th century, other Europeans also moved there. The east also offered space and no doctrine of discovery was needed to entice Germans, Swedes, Greeks and Jews to move there.

It happens now too. All across the prairies, Dutch, German and British families have converted small holdings in their homelands into much larger holdings here. No doctrine is needed.

It should be remembered that, while they arrived many centuries earlier, Indigenous people too moved from a presumably more populated place.

While it may be difficult to accept, the immigrants that came to this continent from 1500 on, came with great advantages, especially in technology. It might seem as though it meant a “colonizing” imposition, but the reality was unavoidable. The article speaks about a sense of a “superiority of race.” This doubtless existed, else the failed residential schools would not have been attempted. Indigenous communities have every bit the gifted leaders any community has. Yet it was the technology that the newcomers brought that in many cases allowed them to flourish quickly. Racial superiority wasn’t at the heart of their advantage.

We can encourage Indigenous communities to embrace the challenge of finding solutions to the needs they know exist within their communities. As they do, churches can and must come alongside.
—Harold Jantz, Winnipeg (Crossroads Mennonite Brethren)


CM better with age
For most of my working life, I was employed by various Mennonite organizations, including Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and Canadian Mennonite University. I felt strongly that reading every issue of Canadian Mennonite (CM) was part of my job. I needed to be aware of the activities and attitudes of our national denomination. (While at MDS I also read the other denominational periodicals, since they were also part of MDS.)

Much of the time, reading CM felt like a chore. I wondered what would happen after I retired. I thought I would take a sabbatical and not read CM for a time. But a wonderful thing happened instead. With time slowing down and few “have-to’s” in my life now, I am loving CM. I look forward to each issue, often reading it the day it arrives. I’m delighted with this surprise and look forward to continued reading of CM’s great denominational journalism. Thank you!
—Lois Nickel, Winnipeg (Hope Mennonite Church)


Did Jesus collaborate or confront?
Upon first glance at the title of Ann L. Schultz’s column, “Jesus and the 4 Cs” (April 21), I thought she was giving Jesus a C grade as an evaluation of his ministry. Knowing that Schultz was a teacher and school principal, I assumed that she was giving him a passing grade.

I appreciate the alliteration and her attempt to apply the current thinking about the “4 Cs.” Indeed Jesus was a critical thinker, a creative speaker and a convincing communicator. I dare to differ from the author, however, on her claim that Jesus was a collaborator.

Jesus did delegate authority and responsibilities to his disciples, but he never collaborated with them in their ideas or suggestions.

From his rebuke to Peter—“get behind me, Satan”—to all who attempted to lower the bar to qualify as disciples, Christ refused to consider or collaborate with their suggestions. The term collaborator also carries with it the inference of consensus. Christ never led by consensus.

Collaboration is a term that promotes equality, plurality and diversity, but in essence, the bar of acceptance is determined by those who write the rules. The attitude of collaboration seeks to avoid confrontation. With Christ, confrontation was central in his ministry.

For Christ, the letter C stood for the cross. Christ was a cross carrier, and he requires nothing less of us.
—David Shantz, Montreal (online comment)

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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