Canadian Mennonite
Volume 12, No. 15
July 28, 2008


Viewpoints

Readers Write

We welcome your comments and publish most letters sent by subscribers intended for publication. Respecting our theology of the priesthood of all believers and of the importance of the faith community discernment process, this section is a largely open forum for the sharing of views. Letters are the opinion of the writer only—publication does not mean endorsement by the magazine or the church. Letters should be brief and address issues rather than individuals.

Please send letters to be considered for publication to letters@canadianmennonite.org or by postal mail or fax, marked “Attn: Readers Write” (our address is on page 3). Letters should include the author’s contact information and mailing address. Letters are edited for length, style and adherence to editorial guidelines.

People who come to Jesus must be willing to change their position

If it took Aiden Enns two attempts to write his “Transgressing privilege” article (June 23, page 12), it took me more to reread it and write this letter.

Enns’ article is provocative and it is good to be helped to “migrate to the margins.” But something left me uncomfortable when I read it the first time and reread it again, and it was not just that it was provocative.

I think it was his use of the example of Zacchaeus and others, as listed in the last paragraph of his article, to make a point for greater inclusion. Zacchaeus certainly did not end up wanting to change Jesus’ position, but was willing to allow Jesus to change his position. Yet the “Postcard Project” desires to change the church’s position on homosexuality. (See accompanying article on page 12 of the June 23 issue. Ed.)

We know of another person—the rich young ruler (Luke 10:17–23)—who produced his own marginalization. Jesus cared for him very much, but the man refused to change his position and accept Jesus’ position; this man left Jesus and lived in his own sadness.

Henry Dueck, Leamington, Ont.

Now is the time to welcome homosexuals into MC Canada churches

I was so disappointed to read page 12 of the June 23 issue.

First, the “Postcard Project sends controversial letters on homosexuality” article highlighted how the church continues to exclude and silence those who try to share the perspective of people who want inclusion and welcome of those who identify as other than heterosexual.

Second, the “Transgressing privilege” article demonstrated that the same silencing also occurs by those who run Canadian Mennonite. It has been more than 20 years, and we still cannot talk about it!

It is time for MC Canada churches to demonstrate the love that Jesus requires of us. We need to allow individual congregations to choose whether they will welcome all people or not. And no matter the decision, each congregation should continue to be a part of MC Canada. We are a priesthood of all believers.

Christy Martens-Funk, Osler, Sask.

Anabaptists being co-opted by Religious Right radio programming

The May 26 issue of Canadian Mennonite contained a Golden West Radio Stations advertisement on page 23 that referred to “Back to the Bible” with Woodrow Kroll, “Insight for Living” with Charles Swindoll, and “Focus on the Family” with James Dobson.

I have this sense that our Anabaptist thought, theology and practice have been co-opted by the Evangelical movement, Dispensationalists and the Religious Right in the United States.

I can tolerate the first two programs being advertised, but James Dobson is disturbing. He discounts any other Christian view that does not agree with his. He is heavily involved in the politicization of religion in the United States, and most recently criticized Democratic candidate Barack Obama for his understanding of the Bible. I don’t feel we should be advertising for someone who advocates the war in Iraq, never mentions the moral issues of poverty and environmental degradation, and consistently violates the “consistent ethic of life.”

Murray Voth, Surrey, B.C.

Family Ties

On strike in the laundry room

Melissa Miller

One day she’d had enough. Something about being the mother and the wife, being at the centre of all that family organizing, got to her. She drew her line in the sand of the baskets of dirty clothes and declared, “Everyone is now responsible for their own laundry.”

She had heard it was good for teenagers to learn such a life skill. Plus she wanted to shift something between herself and her spouse. She wanted to move away from a perceived obligation that she was responsible for this basic part of his life, even while she recognized that the perception could be all in her head. She didn’t want to feel taken for granted, and this seemed like the best way to send that message.

I had mixed reactions to her “withdrawal of support.” On the one hand, I am a child of a 1950s home, where traditional roles meant that men worked hard in the outside world to bring home the bacon, and women tended the home and the needs of their men—including the laundry—to support husbands in their endeavours. The completion of the family laundry was a critical measure of a woman’s worth. Resigning from the laundry job would be a dereliction of duty! The whole family might collapse from such a maneuvre.

It’s not unlike the men who fussed at the beginning of the Book of Esther, after the queen had refused an order from the king: “When the women [of the land hear of the queen’s disobedience],” worried these men, “they’ll treat their husbands with contempt. They’ll be out of control. Is that what we want, a country of angry women who don’t know their place?”

My place as a middle-aged woman in 21st century Canada is far removed from queens being compelled to dance at their husbands’ drunken parties, as was the case in Esther’s time. My place is also pretty far removed from the world of my childhood. In my 30-plus years of marriage, both my husband and I have shared the work of earning income and homemaking tasks. But those deep patterns leave imprints today, so I wasn’t too sure about a wife and mother going on strike in the laundry room.

Perhaps it’s better to stop doing the things we resent, so that the giving we do for our families can be joyful and life-giving.

On the other hand, I appreciated her work stoppage. I’ve heard too many people complain meekly or loudly of the duties they are compelled to fulfill. Men sometimes resent being pressed into moving furniture or fixing flat tires at the most inconvenient times. Women tire of being enlisted to clean up other people’s messes or prepare food for those who seem incapable of doing so. Spouses, parents, children, siblings and cousins all find themselves boxed into some kind of ill-fitting expectation, and they wear it like an annoying, restrictive sandwich board.

There are a lot of grumpy people tied into energy-sapping obligations. Maybe one person saying, “I quit!” has the potential to make the world of family ties a happier, more breathable space. After all, Jesus himself strayed so far outside the box of acceptable values that his family showed up at his lecture one day to haul him back home, convinced he had gone out of his mind (Mark 3:21).

Perhaps it’s better to stop doing the things we resent, so that the deeds we do for our families can be joyful and life-giving.

(P.S.: I confess. I’m the woman who went on strike. The family didn’t collapse and the world didn’t end.)

Melissa Miller (familyties@mts.net) lives in Winnipeg, where she ponders family relationships as a pastor at Springstein Mennonite Church, a counsellor and an author.

God, Money and Me

Why worry?

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

I do not regularly frequent the inspirational reading section of my local bookstore, but a quote from one of its bestselling authors, Leo Buscaglia, recently caught my eye: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Mennonite Foundation of Canada has adopted three words to describe and guide its ministry into the future: Faithful Joyful Giving. My experience in the Mennonite context is that we are earnest about being faithful and sincere in our giving, but we might have some discomfort with being joyful. Perhaps my experience is sullied by family lore of a Thanksgiving gathering with relatives where games, good food and a significant amount of laughter were shared. But this seemed to distress one of the great aunts, who intoned with warning in her accented voice, “Thanksgiving Day and you are having so much fun!”

I wonder what messages formed my aging aunt’s view that gratitude was best expressed in austerity. It is hard to imagine that this was what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he appealed to the Christians of Philippi, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

[W]e are earnest about being faithful and sincere in our giving, but we might have some discomfort with being joyful.

Paul goes on to make a connection between joy and worry, calling on believers to let go of their anxiety. As an antidote to being anxious, he encourages readers to present requests to God with thanksgiving, which he says results in the experience of peace beyond understanding. Why is it that in this attitude at least, Buscaglia seems to have more in common with the Apostle Paul than my great aunt did?

In our material lives, there are many things that can cause anxiety: employment, taxes, saving for retirement or children’s education, debt or investments in the stock market, among many others. The counsel Paul offers does not mean that we can appeal to a “quick-fix” God, who will make everything comfortable for us. Rather, the call to let go of worry in favour of joy reminds us that our grasping for control does little in helping us to achieve our goals. Giving up control puts us back in our place. Or, as one person put it, “For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.”

Perhaps my great aunt came to believe that expressing gratitude with joy was frivolous and superficial because she grew up in tremendously challenging circumstances. But given that Paul wrote these words while imprisoned and awaiting trial, his call to rejoice cannot be taken lightly. Expressing joy is no escape-hatch for him, nor does he recommend disengagement from our responsibilities in the material world because “God will take care of us.”

Openness and honesty in prayer and the discipline of bringing our requests to God are integral to tapping into the deep well of joy. Opening ourselves to God, by its very nature, challenges our impulse to be in control. We cannot worry away the sorrows of tomorrow, but we can respond to God with the energy of joy today.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen, CFP, is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit mennofoundation.ca.

From Our Leaders

A stumbling church

Willard Metzger

As the church walks, so walks God. If the church stumbles, then God appears to stumble. Conversely, when the church shines with expressions of grace, mercy and reconciliation, then the glory of God shines. As the church walks, so walks God.

The church stumbles whenever it fails to lead. Because the purpose of the church is to reveal the character of God to the world, when the church fails to lead, it portrays God as reactionary and out of touch with the reality of life.

When Jesus functioned as the physical display of God for the world, he led the way in expressing profound acceptance. In a religious system that portrayed God as difficult to reach, Jesus waded into relationship with those who had been labelled unacceptable. Jesus led the way to a broader and fuller understanding of the reconciling grace of God. This revelation is now the task of the church. The church must lead the way in expressing the radical reconciling and redeeming embrace of God.

The church stumbles when it fails to challenge. Because the purpose of the church is to depict the sacrificing nature of God’s grace, when the church fails to adopt lifestyles that challenge the norms of consumption and greed, it portrays God as irrelevant to the needs of the world. When wealth is lauded as evidence of God’s favour in a world staggering with food crisis, God is misrepresented. As long as there is hunger, the purpose of abundance for the people of God is clear: Abundance is so the people of God can exercise the generosity of God.

[E]ven a stumbling church can be a beautiful depiction of God’s grace.

So what might be God’s response when the church stumbles? Certainly the human character of the church was known when chosen by God as the primary revelation of divine grace and mercy. Maybe God places invitations for correction within the church itself. When voices say, “accept me,” maybe it is an invitation of God for the church to become a leader in displaying the radical reconciling and redeeming embrace of God.

When voices say, “help me,” maybe it is an invitation of God for the church to challenge assumptions of consumerism and private consumption. Maybe when the church stumbles for too long, God provides invitational voices to help steady our step and strengthen our walk.

But even a stumbling church can be a beautiful depiction of God’s grace. As we ask for forgiveness, we display the forgiveness of God. As we exercise correction, we display the power of God to transform lives and profoundly impact lifestyles.

When the church stumbles, God may appear to stumble as well. But deep within the conscience of the church God imbeds voices that can steady the step and recover the purpose of the church to be a leader in reconciliation and a force that challenges the norms of self-focus.

Willard Metzger is the chair of Christian Witness Council for Mennonite Church Canada.

 


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