Readers write: November 8, 2021 issue

November 3, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 23
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Readers respond to ‘living simply’
What is enough?” Sept. 13, page 11.

Randy Haluza-DeLay beautifully draws our attention to a way of life marked by enough—sufficiency. Without discerning what is a need and what is a want, we will never have a sense of sufficiency, and thus no sense of abundance either! Thanks.

I would add: We also need to work for reform of our socio-economic system and structures, reforms and changes that invite people to discern enough, to detect true needs from never-ending wants. Working for such systemic changes is also a holy calling for Christians.
— John Hiemstra  (Online comment)

Perhaps the question should not be how much income is enough, but instead how much security is enough? In a world of inflation (or maybe deflation), retirement systems that transfer all the risk to the retiree and potential for massive disruption in the economy, no one can easily define “enough.”
— Gordon Gilbertson  (Online comment)

Thanks for picking up this important thread of our tradition. A bit frayed perhaps, but still woven through history back to Jesus himself. I believe what is key today is presenting simplicity not as giving up a whole lot (although there is an element of that), but rather a stepping into a more connected, more fulfilling way of life.

For most of us, it cannot be done alone—we need a community to accompany us on this journey. Compulsive consumption attempts to fill a void left by the loss of culture and the omnipresence of capitalism, but in the end leaves us empty. Slowly we can replace that compulsiveness with connection to each other; time in nature; more music, more reading; growing and preparing food; making art; and prayer, meditation and all the other things in life that bring joy without exacting a price on ourselves or the planet. Shalom!
— Ron Berezan  (Online comment)


Two calls to vaccination
The resistance by Mennonites to the vaccinations for COVID-19 goes against the belief in conscientious objection and pacifism. We will not go to war and kill people.

But by being unvaccinated, we are in danger of infecting others and potentially causing them to die. It is almost as if we carry a lethal weapon to cause harm to others.

Please consider and get vaccinated.
— John Klassen, Picton, Ont.

People need to remember that God, in his wisdom, decided to give humans extra resources (a bigger brain) with the intension that they use it. And, of course, with extra talents, people also have extra responsibilities.

It states very clearly in II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Please remember this when deciding whether or not to take advantage of the many God-given brains that have gone into developing vaccines to help us continue the good work of the Lord.
— Richard Penner, Saskatoon


Cookbook article shouldn’t compare apples to orange
Whatever happened to simple living: Part 1?,” Sept. 27, page 14.

I felt that Will Braun’s article comparing More-with-Less Cookbook and Mennonite Girls Can Cook wasn’t quite fair. The two books were created at different times, with different purposes in mind.

As Braun points out, More-with-Less was very intentionally created to encourage readers to “eat better and consume less of the world’s resources.”

Mennonite Girls Can Cook began as a blog that was driven by the requests for traditional Russian Mennonite recipes from the authors’ children. For 10 years, the authors took turns posting a daily recipe, more than 3,000 recipes in that timespan. Sunday posts were dedicated to devotionals.

Their blog enjoyed more than 10,000 page views on any given day. The blog, their two cookbooks and their devotional book, Bread for the Journey, raised tens of thousands of dollars for The Good Shepherd Shelter in Ukraine and clean water projects in Kenya with Mennonite Central Committee.

Their cookbooks may not have sold as many copies as More-with-Less but, in a way, that’s comparing apples and oranges. More-with-Less was created in a time when most cooks purchased print cookbooks, a time before blogs were even a concept. Many cooks today never use a cookbook, preferring to use online recipes from blogs just like Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

This article seems to imply that, because the Mennonite Girls Can Cook cookbook is beautiful and has colour photos on glossy paper, this somehow makes it less virtuous than the plainer, no-photo cookbook that is More-with-Less Cookbook.

The cookbooks do indeed have different emphases, but why do they have to be presented as competing? I argue that both books and their authors encourage simple living by virtue of encouraging people to cook meals that bring people together at the table. Both cookbooks and all the authors sought to do a good thing with their books, and succeeded. Shouldn’t we celebrate that?
— Angelika Dawson, Abbotsford, B.C.

Setting cookbooks against each other is a ‘false dichotomy’
Whatever happened to simple living? Part 1,” Sept. 27, page 14.

I have and love both the More-with-Less Cookbook and Mennonite Girls Can Cook, and probably use them equally, but I use another Mennonite Central Committee cookbook, Simply in Season, most of all.

I wouldn’t say Mennonite Girls Can Cook is necessarily “lavish,” even if it includes “comfort foods” and beautiful photography. It also includes a number of spiritual reflections which showcase spiritual simplicity. And it has recipes for some Russian Mennonite standards (platz, wareniki, portzelky) that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

I agree that we can live more simply than most of us in North America do, but I think setting these two against each other is a bit of a false dichotomy.
— Elin Goulden (Facebook comment)

Fancy food ‘doesn’t make my faith any less Mennonite’
Whatever happened to simple living? Part 1,” Sept. 27, page 14.

I would argue that the root is still to be humble and generous with what you have, but one shouldn’t be judged or criticized for enjoying “less simple” living as a Mennonite. Wealth and success—and, in this case, creating a beautiful meal with more than lentils—should not be considered indulgent, wasteful or non-Mennonite.

I would caution comparisons on living simply versus those who, in Will Braun’s definition, do not. I love creating a beautiful, non-simple meal or dessert. That doesn’t make my faith any less Mennonite.

I respect when people do choose that path, but not everybody lives that way, and they should not feel judged for those decisions based on their faith heritage. 
—  Nicole Tiessen (Facebook comment)


More ‘virtue signalling than common sense’
Defund the police?” Sept. 27, page 4.

Curious, I thought that “Defund the police?” was a topic worthy of Canadian Mennonite’s front page as well as four pages within. So, I read it.

What came across was more self-righteous virtue signalling than common sense. For example, academics claiming “there is no relationship between police funding and crime rates.”

So what? Let them lobby the city to shut down all crime investigating units for a month, never responding to any calls about stabbings, shootings, abduction, robbery, home invasions or human trafficking, so they can enjoy the improvement in justice and peace.
— John Hildebrand, Mississauga, Ont.

Reader thankful for quick police response
Defund the police?” Sept. 27, page 4.

I don’t have all the answers, but I was extremely grateful for the police this summer when an individual violently tried to enter my home in the middle of the night, terrifying my family. I fully believe that, without their help, it would have been fatal.

— Dale Friesen (online comment)

Police job descriptions need to be rewritten, not defunded
Defund the police?” Sept. 27, page 4.

My approach to the topic of police services comes out of more than 25 years of working as a chaplain with Correctional Service Canada in several institutions in Quebec.

This feature has highlighted several problems with the present structures of policing.

Police officers, as employees of the government, are provided with a job description which they are responsible to fulfil. Their authority and ethical conduct expectations are all described in detail in their job description.

My questions relate to the job description and what is discerned as a breach of ethical conduct. Are there serious discrepancies in the attitudes and expectations of the general public toward police?

I believe that, rather than defunding the police departments, we need to re-evaluate their job descriptions. Perhaps there are too many officers responding in the same basic way to all the problems.

Perhaps there are officers who would prefer to respond differently—in a moral way—but they are not able to because their job descriptions determine their response.

I do not believe that we should defund the police departments of our country. We should rather rewrite their job descriptions so that their gifts and qualifications can be practised and appreciated by both the offender and the offended.
— David Shantz (online comment)


Ethical funds article appreciated by reader
Are ethical funds really ethical?” Sept. 13, page 33.

I’ve been looking for this kind of information! We need to start having these conversations in our churches.
— Kevin Guenther Trautwein (Facebook comment)


Sunshine blessed ‘this sacred event’
Outdoor MCC festival fundraiser a success,” Oct. 11, page 16.

My brother and I took Mom to the annual in-person Mennonite Central Committee Festival for World Relief. It was great. The sun indeed came out, as if to bless this sacred event. And the vereniki were good, too.
— Horst Unger (online comment)


Thanks for the reminder to be ‘the same person’
Re: The misplaced pursuit of authenticity,” Sept. 27, page 12.

I was captivated by this column. While I get Troy Watson’s point, I also think that consistency without authenticity is not the goal, which I suspect he would agree with.

It reminded me of a commitment I made mid-career, when I decided I wanted to “be the same person” whether at home with my wife and teenage children, at my place of work in an executive/leadership capacity, or as a church elder in a diverse and growing congregation. This was a self-imposed challenge that was ongoing, acting as a constant reminder to me.

Now, many years later, I find this challenge has followed me into my advanced years of retirement; in my relationship in a sixty-plus-year marriage, relating to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and in my volunteer, community and church relationships.

— John Konrad, Abbotsford, B.C.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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