Readers write: June 7, 2021 issue

June 2, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 12
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Final letters responding to controversial vaccine letter
Reader calls on Mennonites to reject COVID-19 vaccines,” April 12, page 7.

I applaud Canadian Mennonite for printing the letter because it highlights the diversity of thought that we find within the Mennonite communities.

I was employed in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 40 years, so, contrary to the letter writer, I applaud the leaders who have come out for vaccination, although, to their credit, they have usually done so with restraint, allowing individuals to search their own souls. Vaccination has been a great advance in the last century, which saved many young people from deadly diseases, such as polio, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and smallpox.

I take great offence at the statement that our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies are sufficient to ward off COVID-19. Tell that to the families who are mourning loved ones who passed away too soon. The writer’s statements remind one that he is perhaps championing Charles Darwin in the concept of survival of the fittest.

I have tried to be a good neighbour and have received my first vaccine, and I am eagerly awaiting my second. I pray that God will keep my son and daughter-in-law safe (and all the other younger people) until their turn comes up.
—Norman D. Huebert, Saskatoon


I know there are more people than this writer who have fallen for many of the extreme conspiracies.

In the past, we have received many vaccinations to protect our health and the health of others, and it boggles my mind why suddenly this one has become controversial and bad. A very good friend of mine contracted polio before a vaccine was available and has suffered ever since. We all took the polio vaccine, and polio has been eradicated. We also gladly take all vaccines needed to travel abroad.

This winter, the writer feels his fundamental rights were restricted. However, to have freedoms, we need restrictions. Why do we have restrictions like stop signs, traffic lights, speed signs and no-parking signs? They are all designed and regimented by the government for our safety and the safety of others on the road. We adhere to many other restrictions and laws to protect our freedom to drive, worship, prevent chaos, and have order in our homes and communities.

We, in our household—and our children and their households—have taken this isolation seriously and, by the grace of God, have not contracted COVID-19. We are waiting for everyone to get vaccinated, so we can once again get together without restrictions and go travelling to many countries.

With freedoms come responsibilities to neighbours and our families. I would feel guilty if I didn’t take the vaccine and got COVID-19 and spread it to others who would get sick or even die.

How else are we going to eradicate this virus?
—Brian Derksen, Plum Coulee, Man.


I admit I don’t know how to dialogue with people like this letter writer, who rejects vaccines and believes that COVID-19 provides better natural immunity.

I know what I saw, though. I saw what natural immunity looks like. Last year, in the first and second waves, Montreal was the epicentre of Canada.

I am a physician working in hospitalization, intensive care and administration. Together with my friends and colleagues, I worked seven days a week for months, in field hospitals, intensive care and COVID-19 units. I was part of the administrative team for a designated COVID-19 hospital, responsible for managing outbreaks and making decisions to redirect or cancel surgeries and cancer treatment.

I saw nurses and orderlies contract COVID-19 because they attended to sick patients without adequate protective equipment. Dozens of my own patients died and hundreds suffered.

The writer’s comments feel to me like a civilian telling a soldier who has seen action that war is not so bad. It’s natural. Cleansing.

Be that as it may, I don’t expect to change the mind of anyone who does not believe in vaccines or masks. They stand by their convictions. So be it. I am happy to play my role. And I am grateful to those Canadians of all faiths who are not on the front lines but who are doing everything they can to help people like me get back to worshipping in fellowship.

In the strange irony that marks our times, what will protect my minority rights and freedom to worship are not protests, court challenges, actions of civil disobedience against governments, nor even my own medical knowledge—but the actions of the majority who are willing to accept vaccines and choose, through prayer and reason, to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
—Duncan Schellenberg, Montreal


“Walk a mile in my shoes” is a common way to say that it’s folly to judge someone until you know that someone’s life. “Seeing the world through others’ eyes” might be another way to put it. These things are hard, but not impossible. We tend to assume that other people’s shoes are like our shoes, that others see what we see, and so it’s hard for us to understand why others do what they do, think as they think, see something different from what’s obviously there.

In the Anabaptist universe, arms and the gospel can’t be reconciled. In the veteran’s universe, anyone who benefits from a country’s largesse but refuses to defend it doesn’t deserve citizenship. Both are completely logical assumptions—to their respective worldviews. But to actually listen to such opposing viewpoints with integrity is hard, really hard.

Henry Hildebrand is pastor of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., and is currently in trouble with authorities for continuing to hold unrestricted church services. His accent and demeanour clearly show two influences on his universe: a conservative Mennonite background with its emphasis on separation and piety, and North American evangelicalism. I listened to his defence of the “we serve God rather than man” stance, drawing on the religious freedom guaranteed in the Canadian Bill of Rights and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was delivered in Low German, on YouTube, obviously addressing the conservative Mennonites of southern Ontario.

His arguments were cogent, logical; his references to Canadian rights documents appropriately applied. Freedom that makes sense in his universe, though, probably doesn’t make sense in yours and mine. The conundrum for those of us whose universe includes a flexibility on the word “freedom” in a time of crisis is the question, “What does it mean that we both shelter under the umbrella that is Jesus Christ?”
—George G. Epp, Rosthern, Sask.


Congratulations to the Canadian Mennonite editor for publishing all seven letters in the May 10 issue that responded to a previous letter asking us to avoid COVID-19 vaccination. Two of the letters berated CM for publishing the letter in the first place, and the editor let us read them, too.

The freedom of dissent has a long history in Anabaptism. Already in 1524, B. Hubmaier argued that heretics should not be burned, as was the current practice, but avoided, and let go to rant and rave, as in Titus 3:10. In other words, persuasion, rather than force, is the way of Christ. The writer of CM’s original letter did us all a service by bringing forth responses that gave clear Christian rebuttals of his position.

In choosing to publish that letter, the editor acknowledged his right to dissent, and the response benefitted all of us.

Should she ever refuse a letter? Of course, but there are laws about such things. I would hope that beyond that, the sole requirement be that the contributor must be part of the confessing Mennonite community. Anyone from outside that community is to be judged by the editor according to their letter’s potential benefit to the community.

Thank you, CM, for sticking to your principle of free and open discussion. It works!
—Rudy Wiens, Etobicoke, Ont.
The writer attends Mississauga (Ont.) Mennonite Fellowship.


I want to commend the editors for their courage to publish this controversial piece of writing. I personally like to know from “Readers write” what kind of people we Mennonites of the 21st century are.

I, and I am sure the editors as well, were expecting a number of responses. And there they are: from the political response, which we hear frequently now in the news, that “the editor should resign,” to the fact-presenting ones, which are meant to correct false information.

Looking at the way the letter is written, these responses will not likely change the writer’s mind. He will likely consider them “fake news.” But readers who might have thought similarly can get the facts from the experts’ responses and see the truth.

Perhaps all that we can do is pray for the writer, that God will open his mind and heart so that he can see the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus from a more global angle, not only from his narrow, personal “human rights” view, and change his outlook.

When I read his letter again, I asked myself this question: Could I love the writer, who presents a perspective opposite from the way I think, as a neighbour, as Jesus meant it, if he were a member of my church?
—Helmut Lemke, Vancouver
The writer is a member of Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship in Vancouver.


Reader offers another alternative to factory farming
What would Jesus think about factory farms?” March 29, page 12, and “Digging into diet,” April 26, page 14.

The first article encourages us to abandon meat consumption entirely and support a complete plant-based diet. The second offers another solution but suggests that his approach is not economically viable.

I’d like to offer readers another perspective. First, it would appear from the two articles that factory farming is the only solution found thus far to be a way of producing food for consumers in a way that offers a living to food producers. And factory farms conjure up images of animal abuse and environmental degradation.

There are many farms that don’t fit into the image of factory farms. Many farmers make a living producing food, while caring for the land and for animals, while constantly thinking about sustainability and Christian stewardship.

In my area of Manitoba, many cattle are fed on hay and straw all winter, being housed in “loose housing,” which shelters animals from the elements but allows them to freely roam an area of bush and frozen grassland. In spring, the calves are born, and then with their mothers they roam a large area of bush and pasture until fall, when the calves are weaned.

Jesus lived at a time when people like us would “kill the fatted calf” and serve a great meal of meat and other trimmings. I believe the way many of us farm would meet with his approval.

For those concerned about the use of fossil fuels, would it not make sense to be concerned about our leisure activities more than about food production? How much fuel is used in motorized pleasure craft of all types in the summer or in airplane trips to vacation destinations? And now space tourism is to become a reality.
—Harold Penner, St Malo, Man.
The writer attends Arnaud (Man.) Mennonite Church.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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