Readers write

November 23, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 23
Various Contributors,

‘As Amos as possible’
Re: “I’m a human being,” Sept. 5, page 12.

Troy Watson’s column reminded me of a story in Jewish lore. It went something like this:

Amos Bultman came before Jehovah, who questioned him about how he had lived his earthly existence. He replied, “O Jehovah, all my life I tried devoutly to be like your servant Moses. Sometimes I failed and then repented bitterly, but I never gave up my hard struggles to be like Moses.”

“No, oh no,” groaned Jehovah. “Amos, I created you as a unique human and to be as Amos as possible! Why did you neglect Amos by imitating Moses?”
Jack Dueck, Waterloo, Ont.

God be with you in the highs and lows of life
Re: “Fly like an eagle,” Sept. 19, pages 1 and 29.

Bravo, Amy Dueckman, on your first skydiving experience—hopefully not your last! How very thrilling that must have been for you.

I had my first parasailing adventure while in Jamaica a few years ago. I absolutely loved it and would do it again if it wasn’t so costly. It was just amazing how I felt nearer to God as I was lifted slowly above the beaches of Ocho Rios to a height of calm and simple beauty. Something welled up inside of me and caused me to belt out as loud as possible, “How Great Thou Art.” After all, who would hear me thousands of feet in the air, eh? The whole experience was so freeing. I was most definitely surrounded by God’s awesome presence and power. There was no doubt at all about that.

Be assured that your faith in God will see you through all the highs and lows as you continue your ride through life. Keep us posted on your next risky adventure!
Trudy Enns, St. Catharines, Ont.

 

Believers should let atheists be atheists
I found Troy Watson’s “Faith beyond belief” column, Oct. 31, page 15, disturbing because of the implication that atheism is inferior to faith. Why is it inferior?

Why does it matter whether one is an atheist or a Christian? Some people believe in God, some don’t. People who believe in God are not better, nor do they do better things. And yet somehow it matters to Watson that his philosopher friend admit some sort of faith even if it is with doubts.

If he is simply concerned about his friend’s mental health, and believes faith would help him be more content or something, fine. But that is not what he is talking about. He wants him to have faith because somehow having it puts you on the right side I’m not sure of what: history or life?

That it matters to Watson is clear when he quotes his friend as saying, “so many of the most brilliant thinkers throughout history were Christian.” Does he really believe this? Some of the people he is thinking about may have believed in God, but God for them was not an intelligent personal being; rather it was a way of expressing the mystery and awe they felt after investigating nature or the cosmos.

Others he may be thinking about were perhaps Christian in a cultural sense, having grown up in a milieu where certain things were assumed and these assumptions formed their basis of any further thinking. That doesn’t make them brilliant; that just makes them unable to question certain things.

We all know smart people who, at times, believe stupid things and then defend them brilliantly. That is because the rational part of us does not actually make decisions; it only rationalizes them after the fact.

Many different people believe many different things. Some believe fervently that God exists and that it is important to have this belief. Others believe fervently that God does not exist. Still others are much more casual; not having time to pursue this on their own, they simply accept what the religious authorities say.

My point is simply this: If someone wants to be an atheist, let them. What does it matter? To suggest that the brilliant people are believers, well, that is just nonsense.
David Wiebe, Winnipeg, Man.

 

Jets’ logo is part of Canada’s increasing military presence
I found both of the articles about the Winnipeg Jets’ logo (Oct. 3, pages 4 and 5) interesting, but rather beside the point. I do not agree with David Driedger that the logo is “premature at best” and a “distraction” from the real issues. I also do not agree with the idea of simply boycotting sports teams with violent logos, as suggested by Dan Swartzentruber. I will always vote for the home team no matter what the logo.

I was happy to read the follow-up article by Aaron Epp (“Young Mennos divided over Jets’ new logo,” Oct. 17, page 26), which, I think, was actually a more balanced summary of the issue. I would like to respond to Lucas Redekop’s comment in that article, that time would be better spent discussing Canada’s increasing military presence. He is absolutely right, but I happen to believe that this logo is indicative of this increasing military presence and, therefore, needs to be discussed.

I do not believe that this logo would have been considered 20 years ago. The decade-long war in Afghanistan has had a tremendous and lasting impact on how Canadians view themselves and their country. While Canadians have always thought of our country as having “soft” power and many have been very proud of the Canadian military’s substantial role in UN peacekeeping missions, this is no longer the case.

As Driedger says, “A logo is a central and concentrated form of communication,” and what this logo is communicating is that we have now accepted that the military is a fine representation of our society.

Ruth Taronno, Winnipeg, Man.

Sex needs to be ‘unwrapped’ for the sake of our teens

Keith Graber Miller has hit the nail on the head with his assertion that the church needs to provide a much more nuanced message about sexuality (“Unwrapping sexuality,” Oct 31, page 4).

It was not a subject that was talked about much in my church when I was a teen, but the attitudes I picked up about it were, on the whole, quite negative.

Furthermore, it was a great mystery to me how two people were ever supposed to move from a dating relationship, where, it seemed to me, kissing and hand-holding were about all that was allowed, to marriage, where they’re immediately supposed to get over this “bodies are sinful/sex is dirty” baggage and give their bodies to one another with joyful abandon since, apparently, sex suddenly becomes God’s most beautiful gift to them.

Meanwhile, other teens, less cowed by authority than I was, decided that the church was an old fuddy duddy, with nothing of relevance to say to them on the subject, and they dismissed church teachings on sexuality altogether.

Either way, our young people have been done a disservice by our inability to dialogue about this important facet of our identity, and insofar as it was true for me 15 or 20 years ago, it is even truer in the hyper-sexualized digital world our teens inhabit today.

As Miller said, we must broaden the discussion beyond hot-button issues around homosexuality. We must bring respect, acceptance and humility to our discussions. Our teens deserve no less.

Julie Nash, Kitchener, Ont.

Let the Bible speak on sexual matters

I wish to encourage Canadian Mennonite to reconsider its guidelines for letters to the editor on the topic of sexuality and homosexuality, as presented in the “A reasoned discussion” editorial, Oct. 31, page 2.

Two parameters for letter writers were given:

  • Do not prooftext; and
  • Only say something new.

I wonder about both qualifications, especially since neither guideline is given any definition.  

Leaving prooftexting undefined leaves me with the impression that any and all use of Scripture might be labelled as prooftexting. I am afraid that this undefined discouraging of prooftexting will effectively eliminate our use of the Bible in this very necessary national conversation that will take place in the pages of Canadian Mennonite. How can we talk about being faithful followers of Christ in our sexuality—or any other topic—if we do not discuss Scripture?

I appreciate and share the concerns that possibly lie behind this guideline. The Bible is certainly used and abused during the course of difficult conversations, but isn’t it better to air those abuses, showing them the light of day, so that we can question and explore together what the Bible’s meaning is in a given text?

Similarly, the guideline to say something “new” in our letters on homosexuality is also left undefined, and I wonder if we have all really heard the same—and apparently “old”—arguments before? Some of the strongest advocates for a conversation on homosexuality were not born when the Saskatoon Resolution was adopted. Can we really assume that we have all heard and are familiar with these “old” points of view?

It seems to me that the guidelines that are already set out in the “Readers write” section for letters to the editor are adequate to the task, calling as they do for respect and focus on the issues at hand. It does not seem to me that we need any extra guidelines for letters on the topic of homosexuality.

Far from discouraging our use of the Bible in this conversation, I strongly encourage—in fact, exhort and plead with—Canadian Mennonite to encourage its letter writers to use and reference Scripture freely, and to do so well, with respect both for Scripture and for those with whom we disagree.

Herb Sawatzky, Stratford, Ont.

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Comments

I agree with Herb Sawatzky's suggestion that the parameters chosen for the discussion on sex seem to be much less than helpful. It would seem that scripture already grants us parameters for theological discernment within the Church... but I won't quote the texts because I'd prefer my comments on here to stand.

Discernment in the Church requires that all voices are given a hearing, that we 'listen to the Spirit', which at least partly implies that we measure our discernment against the life, teachings, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(sorry this could have been posted as a 'reply' to Marco)
I think it would be helpful to define proof-texting. When I hear that phrase I understand it to come from a broadly 'modernist' understanding of the Bible in which the Bible is approached as a storehouse of facts that when compiled correctly it will yield demonstrable proof. I think 'proof' is the key word here.
'Look! Here is proof of the correctness of my position. You have two verses? Ha! I have ten, clearly this is more accurate.'
To expand on Dick and and his use of McLaren I think the point is to push Christians to see if they can articulate and express a 'biblical imagination' that actually allows the Spirit freedom from always checking back to be confirmed by some 'proof' of its correctness. I hold that this actually takes the Bible more seriously . . . but I am working on unpacking that in a larger post or article so I'll get back on that.

I find myself reading the Canadian Mennonite with increasing dismay of late, and, in some ways, that culminated with the article about the award to be given to Rebekah Enns.
I find it troubling for the future of a church which, rather than reprimanding a Mennonite School which first allows, and then rewards sexual perversion clearly prohibited by Scripture, rather than considering the reputation and holiness of the God which we claim to serve.

If (and I realize this is an big if) the Canadian Mennonite Magazine represents, in any meaningful way, those in authority in the MCC, we are clearly in danger of having our candlestick removed from it's stand.
If it doesn't represent the stand of those in authority in the MCC, then why is it allowed to continue to publish such unholy and unChristian articles under the name Mennonite?

Is it because Mennonite no longer means Christian in any meaningful sense?

I pray for repentance for those who operate and contribute to , this magazine.

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