Readers write: September 13, 2021 issue

September 8, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 19
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Nonviolence is the greatest ideal and goal
Finding a balance between pacifism and reality” letter, Aug. 16, page 8.

Like the letter writer, for much of my life I found nonviolence and pacifism a wonderful ideal to aspire to, even as I struggled with its apparent impracticality. Yet, over the past decade, I’ve become convinced that nonviolence is not only the greatest ideal, it is also the greatest goal and the best means by which to achieve these goals.

The Bible’s many love commands are calls to consistently honour people and always treat one another with dignity and worth. This is the polar opposite of current cultural trends, in which we eagerly vilify, caricature and outright ignore those with whom we strongly disagree. We are now on the verge of demonizing one another over vaccinations, and we will see very quickly that this will not win anyone over to our way of thinking.

To engage nonviolently and listen to another person is about so much more than hearing their argument. It is an act of respect and dignity that tells the speaker that they are a person of worth, who has something to say and to add to the conversation. This is invaluable if we want to build bridges and make progress on any issue.

In our current cultural climate, I am convinced that the most important gift the Mennonite church has to give is this capacity to love our enemies—to treat all people with respect and dignity no matter how strong our agreements. I have personally found that focusing on respecting the other as my highest goal and priority to be a transformative experience, both of my conversation partner and of me.

Nonviolence doesn’t always work, but violence works even less often. It only entrenches differences.
—Herb Sawatzky, Fenwick, Ont.


Lack of ‘Jesus’ in CM challenged
June 21 issue.

Canadian Mennonite, a Christian journal, has sunk to the level of an elaborate riff on current worldly cultural issues, albeit “Jesus” is mentioned once in its 32 pages, in an advertisement.
—Henry Ewert, Surrey, B.C.

(Managing editor’s response: Actually “Jesus” was mentioned four times on the editorial pages of the June 21 issue: in our mission statement on page 3; in Troy Watson’s “Being, doing and becoming” column on page 11; in the “I feel happy that I am helping the community” article on page 17; and in the Mennonite World Conference’s 2022 global assembly Calendar announcement on page 30.)


CM accused of not respecting gender diversity
“Accessibility as an act of love,” Aug. 16, page 14.

I was disappointed to learn that Canadian Mennonite refused to use they/them pronouns for one of the interviewees in this article, despite the author having submitted the article with correct pronouns. Using the pronouns that best reflect a person’s sense of self is a basic act of respect, which should be the bare minimum for a magazine that claims to uphold Christian values. If CM wants to reflect the diversity of voices in its constituency, that simply must include respect for gender diversity.
—Jonas Cornelsen, Calgary

Canadian Mennonite responds
In the Aug. 16, 2021 issue, Canadian Mennonite published an article in which we removed the pronouns “they” and “their” referring to a quoted person with a non-binary identity and rewrote the sentences without using pronouns. In the article, “Accessibility as an act of love,” page 14, writer Jacqueline Giesbrecht intended to use “they” and “their” to refer to author Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

With feedback from some readers, and out of concern for inclusivity in language and in the life of the church, we have reconsidered that decision. We have changed the Canadian Mennonite policy to include the use of they/them pronouns. We are determined to portray members of the LGBTQ+ community with understanding and respect. We apologize for the harm caused by our former word choices, in this and other articles.
—Virginia A. Hostetler, Executive Editor

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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Thanks, Herb Sawatzky, for your response to my letter on nonviolence, pacifism, etc. Nonviolence is indeed priceless and should indeed be used whenever possible. Thank you for that.

However, my point of course is that it also often isn't really possible to be completely nonviolent all the time. For example, crime might be a 100 or 1000 times worse in many places without cops with guns. And the world might be 100 or 1000 times worse without certain military measures, such as peacekeeping and reasonable national defenses. So, if we call protective uses of force and deterrence "violence", and say we should not support them or participate, then I guess we're all cooked, unless were willing to offer ourselves and our loved ones up at any time, as well own, at any time.

Without reasonable securities, anyone could easily be victimized and entirely dispossessed. It wouldn't work. Or, we can compromise and say, "Okay, we don't like guns and force, etc, but we have to live with a certain amount of it." We can reduce the amounts, sometimes, through alternative conflict resolutions, etc, which is very good, and we can help make sure there is good policing instead of bad policing, but we really can't say policing and all things military are unnecessary.

The implications of many Mennonite statements are often that we don't need them and neither does anyone else. Unfortunately, such a neat, black and white solution is not workable, and far from it. How many Mennonites do you think would actually go for it? How many would truly say we don't need cops with guns and other things? Much less than 1%, I think, if they really considered what would likely happen. Anarchy and tyranny, probably. Utopia would not likely spring forth, instead, unfortunately.

So, it all needs to be talked about. A great deal, in my opinion. Realistically, honestly and comprehensively. The current Mennonite "solution" amounts to mainly off-loading security work onto non-Mennos. We don't like guns, so we make others do the necessary dirty work, basically. And many seem to feels that they have then pleased God in this way. By attempting to follow Jesus' nonviolent ideals. In reality, we hide behind others, who take the risks and make the sacrifices, if necessary.

WW2 is another prime example. How pleased is God with this silliness? So, this is why I say it is better to look at how we regard nonviolent ideals and take note that even Jesus compromised them. And we already live by compromise, 24-7-365. We just need to admit and discuss it, and adjust our theology. Danger and violence issues aren't so simple that we can just say, well, we'll just oppose and abstain from anything involve force or deterrence. This has been the Mennonite attempt, but it's too simple, and not honest or credible. No one intelligent takes our peace position seriously. In many respects, it's untenable, unlivable and unlived.

So, I'm saying let's face all that and rework it. This is perhaps the greatest thing Mennonites can do for peace because peace relies on honest, integrity and balanced solutions, not simply nonviolent ideals. We must cultivate wisdom about such matters, not simple look to rigidly follow certain rules. Peace and security issues can be tricky, but I'm sure we're up the task of looking at them in a different way.

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