Readers write: March 29, 2021 issue

March 24, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 7
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Fascism by any other name
Committed to seeking a deeper understanding,” Feb. 1, page. 13

It is a good idea that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)  is willing to re-examine the role Mennonites played in National Socialist Germany. One would hope that their findings include a thorough explanation of the reasons why Mennonites found themselves in a difficult situation that predisposed them to participating in the evils of Nazism.

Fascism is largely a result of economic disparity between classes. One of MCC’s primary efforts in Europe was to resettle Mennonite refugees fleeing from the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution and the resulting chaos in the former Soviet Union. There were strong reasons as to why the Mennonites were fleeing.

But, since their arrival in Russia in 1789, Mennonites were seriously engaged in what can now only be called a fascist pursuit of mammon, building empire and amassing wealth, and they did a great job of it. The Russian peasant/serf workers (freed from serfdom/slavery in 1861) were keenly aware of the incredible economic disparity and injustice between Mennonite kulaks/landowners/businessmen and themselves. Once the Bolsheviks began to address the economic injustices through violence, the Mennonites fled.

It seems that Russian Mennonites were primed to embrace the fascism of Germany in a variety of ways. They were fleeing in large part because the peasants would no longer be the victims of the Czarist regime, which included Mennonites with predilections toward economic elitism, anti-rationalism, religious fundamentalism and racial superiority.

Russian Mennonites came to a National Socialist Germany with pre-determined fascist tendencies, which seemed to fit in with the Nazi movement after the First World War. It is not surprising that some Mennonites, or perhaps many, participated in the evils of Nazism.
—Peter Reimer (online comment)
  To read a longer version of this letter online, visit and scroll down to “MCC and National Socialism.”


‘We just sucked it up and carried on’
Horst Unger’s comment in “Readers weigh in on MCC’s research on National Socialism,” Feb. 15, page 7.

Thank you, Horst Unger.

All who immediately comment on German armies, people and language in a mostly negative manner may pay attention to what he has written. You wanted to get away from the Russia you had chosen, then grasped on to Germany for safety, and then on to Canada, where mostly you had not much good to say about Germans.

My ancestors came to Canada from Deutsch Kazun in Poland, in 1948. As a child, I continued to be called a “DP kid,” together with many others—even by the local Russian Mennonites who themselves had been immigrants earlier.

No counselling was available to us for “being bullied.” We just sucked it up and carried on. We were postwar immigrants who stuck together and survived.

Historians need to get all their information together, as there are many sources available now.
—Ingrid Regier, Virgil, Ont.
  The writer attends Niagara United Mennonite Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.


‘606’ is a global Mennonite musical phenomenon
“A hymn by any other number,” Feb. 15, page 4.

I applaud the new, modern hymn book, Voices Together. It was long overdue. Well-used hymn books connect scattered bodies of believers. This comes home to me when I visit other congregations far from home.

I much appreciated the background behind the old “606” anthem. I can appreciate raising the “cultural secret handshake” matter, as Kaufmann writes, when referring to “Praise God from Whom” as “606.” Referring to a song by its number can, in some circles, indeed be unwelcome if it generates insider feelings.

I have, however, more often experienced “606” as a common, shared experience. I was privileged, in 1979, to be in Nairobi at the same time as Mary Oyer. She led a gathered group of North American Mennonites in a hearty hymn sing one Sunday afternoon. Our eyes lit up when she announced “606.” We could hardly wait to start singing.

At a Mennonite Central Committee retreat in Alexandria, Egypt, I experienced the same collective, eager response to the announcement of “606.” It brought an eclectic group of Mennonites together in a praise song that many had memorized.

This has been repeated many times in different places.

Personally, whenever I see the number 606 on a clock or a licence plate, I automatically start singing it to myself. It is an invitation to praise. Is that a secret code?

That being said, I’m not advocating for retaining the number. The hymn should be placed where it best belongs.
—Allen Harder, Abbotsford, B.C.
  The writer attends Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford.


Humour much needed during the pandemic
Re:What is appropriate humour?” March 1, page 19.

Just before I opened today’s copy of Canadian Mennonite, we had our regular Bible study on Zoom. At the end of our session before prayer, Otto, my husband who leads the study, asked if anyone had any final comments. Immediately after he asked, the dog of one of the attendees barked. And we all laughed. Appropriate? I say yes, especially during a time of so much grief and loss.

And then, after we closed with prayer, I opened up CM, and what did I see but Joanne De Jong’s article on appropriate humour. Appropriate? Yes, again, and I suspect God was chuckling as well.
—Florence Driedger, Regina.
  The writer and her husband are pastors of Peace Mennonite Church, a house church in Regina.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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I was only able to catch the tail end of our home Church's Easter Morning Service. I've had weeks of late nights and long days writing papers finishing my second term at Martin Luther University College. I've spent a year of isolation surrounded by Lutherans, and entrenched in theological discussions where I represent the only Anabaptist presence. I have savoured the hour a week I get to spend among my Mennonite Community, and the singing has been like a familiar hug, the hymns like a sunny morning in our usual pew.

This year, another Easter apart, another Easter "singing on mute," we were sent out to look for signs of new life with a recording of 606. This recording, however, was our people, voices reverberating from the walls and windows and pews that we so love, those that have sat empty for a full year. Watching young and old silently but heartily sing 'Hallelujah, Amen,' from a screen after this year of buried Hallelujahs was a refuelling to keep going. This community, these faces, these children, these elders; this is why we wear masks, why we put sticky sanitizer on chapped hands, why we're still apart- because these are our people, and part of loving them is keeping them safe. But not even Covid 19, which attacks the lungs and breath of a person, could keep the praise and Hallelujahs out of the mouths of our people.

As a Mennonite transplant, I remember my first experience of "606" at the New Hamburg Relief Sale. I was awesome by the feeling of being carried along by the strong voices all around me, then embraced by the generations of women singing Hallelujahs, then lifted and sent out again by the whole choir, feeling their love for this ritual, how it has become part of what it is to be a Mennonite. Learning these words and melody became for me, a rite of passage into a family of believers, singing their invitation and their gratitude at potluck meals and quilt auctions, and Easter Sunday services on zoom. This doxology rooted itself firmly in my heart.

If this is babbling like pagans, or over the top ecstasy, I solemnly accept and I believe, join with the church and Christ himself in the chorus of Hallelujahs welcoming the stranger, and singing my gratitude. Hallelujah, Amen!

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