These recent articles in Canadian Mennonite demonstrate the reality of commingling two viewpoints that appear completely different but are closely connected. The writers, Will Braun and Christina Bartel Barkman, drew me into their discussion, demonstrating that faith encourages variety and a desire to exist together within one community. They are fitting followers of 16th-century Anabaptists who were innovators in religious toleration.
Braun and his 15 pastoral consultants immediately discover the power of opposite words—”Out of holy weakness, mysterious power arises”—and a need for new words to explain the meaning of the cross and of resurrection.
One of the pastors, Cheryl Braun, discovered from older folks that she did not need to know all the answers to the biggest questions about Christianity simply for the purpose of needing to be right. Similarly, Karen Sheil summed up the benefits of diversity. When you actually go looking, you find there are a lot of different answers.
Diversity of reality and truth exists throughout society and culture, including among our children, as Bartel Barkman tells us. She gracefully expresses her disappointment and pride at her children’s varied behaviours.
Both writers were content to let questions of intolerance, judgment, paradoxes and multiple viewpoints remain safely unanswered. After all, they are the reality of free societies. Commingling of evil with good, and despair with hope, is present everywhere. The beauty of the intermingling reality is that there is no longer any need to judge others.
—John Klassen, Vancouver
The writer is emeritus history professor at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.
In search of a middle way
China, with a population of 1.4 billion people and with approximately 82,000 infections, was surprised by the novel coronavirus. It stopped the virus through state control, communism and restricted personal freedoms.
The United States, with 330 million people and more than 160,000 infections (as of March 30), had plenty of advance notice. As a world model for free enterprise, capitalism, freedom and individualism, its rate of infection is increasing rapidly.
It used to be the U.S. that would send aid and doctors. Now it is China. There must be some middle way.
I am very thankful to be in Canada. With a few notable exceptions, there has been cooperation across borders, politics and ideologies. It is heartwarming to see this happen.
There is another large cloud not far away, one that does not respect borders, politics or ideologies. The climate is changing and, dear God, I hope we may flatten that curve, too.
Take care of people. Take care of truth, freedom and democracy. Create new ways.
—Ray Hamm, Neubergthal, Man.
Pastor praised, criticized for open letter to governments
Re: “Care and change amid COVID-19,” April 13, page 15.
Great letter, and so true. After a flood, we help people rebuild, but not on the flood plain. Government support for people in this country should focus on the most vulnerable and not support those things that are leading to our ecological ruin.
—Scott Albrecht, Kitchener, Ont. (Facebook comment)
David Driedger’s petition to the Canadian government under the mantle of jubilee is disingenuous. I wonder if it is little more than a misleading call for a socialist revolution: a proletarian levelling. Let’s look at some historical examples before we tackle the theological substance of his petition.
Shall we take the Russian Revolution of 1917 as an historical example, with its famines, gulags and secret police? How about the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia? Or how about Venezuela, where Nicolás Maduro famously remarked that “socialism is the kingdom of God on Earth”?
Calling on governments to use force to impose a “Kingdom of God jubilee” is perverse. If the Christ of the gospels is to be believed, then the levelling comes not through an imposed, enforced governmental action, but by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
It was not Herod, that agent of Rome, who brought change, but Jesus and the bewildered followers who rose up, and, disdaining imperium, began to live life on Earth “in the Body of Christ.”
Let Driedger’s congregation, or my congregation, be that which he calls for. For it is the justice of God that shall bring forth jubilee, not a gussied up Marxism with an imperial-Christian veneer.
—Walter Bergen (online comment)
Two ‘curves’ to flatten
Re: “Worship service this Sunday is cancelled” front cover photo, March 30.
I reacted with mixed emotion to this cover, but after reading the article I felt a little better because the worship service was not really cancelled but had gone virtual.
I’ve had occasion to voice my opinion, as a committee member, to secular social-service agencies concerning their organizational reaction to the current crisis. I’ve pointed out that governments and their funded agencies have adapted quickly and adeptly in terms of vertical communication (revised policies, physical distancing and other from-the-top edicts), but they have performed poorly when it comes to promoting horizontal communication (family to family, client to client). The experts tell us that this kind of peer support is the most important and helpful, especially during turbulent times. So there are two “curves” to flatten: the virus and the bureaucratic.
Churches are a lot like agencies, and they should do the same. Virtual messages are probably not as important as church members and friends talking to one another informally. We forget sometimes that the help from friend and neighbour is as important as the advice from a boss or pastor, especially in a crisis.
—Peter Dueck, Vancouver
The writer is a member of Peace Church on 52nd in Vancouver.
Is Jesus our God?
Re: “The power of paradox,” April 27, page 12.
The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has always been a contradiction for me. The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. But John 1:1 definitely appears to make a reference to the divinity of Jesus. But, as I studied John 1, I noticed that the gospel was written to solve a dispute between Jews believing in the law of Moses and Christians; more than 32 times John prefaces his comments with “the Jews.”
A pious Jew would believe it to be the greatest affront to elevate a man to the level of Yahweh, but to the Greek culture the word “logos” encompassed the understanding of all things. The Gospel of John, written in Greek, for a Greek culture, was at loggerheads with old-time religion.
To me, this is the paradox; the gods in our lives mean different things to different people. To have a god in our life could mean to be completely committed to a cause, idea or interest: a sport, political party, money, the Bible or religious denomination.
Maybe, if we unreservedly commit ourselves to the teachings of Jesus, then Jesus is our God.
—Frank Hiemstra, Stratford, Ont.