March Letters

Salt and light

I was delighted to see the effort of the [Christian Family Center] program called FENSES (People & Events, January). If we look at how this world is “cracking” and times are getting worse, it is clear that our churches need to focus on giving relief to families in need. It is still important to show Christ to our community, but immediate actions like FENSES have a real impact in family lives. It is in hard times like these that the Christian community can be more sensitive and much more pro-active – really be salt and light, like Jesus said. Great work indeed!

JOSÉ ARRAIS, CHURCH PLANTER QUELUZ, PORTUGAL ___________________________________________________________________ 

The work of justice

Re “Justice that restores” (January). I’ve taught in Youth Corrections for 19 years, so this topic closely touched me where I live. I’d like to offer a few comments.

Two criminals hung on the cross beside Jesus. One was repentant. One was not. One was forgiven. Both died. Restorative justice is a noble ideal, however, it requires two parties who seek restoration. If the victim is unwilling to forgive or if the offender is unrepentant, restorative justice cannot be achieved.

How do we achieve justice with the unrepentant offender? Neither harsher custody nor lighter community sentences will reduce crime. Until the offender believes that not committing crimes is a better choice, we cannot expect that he will reduce or eliminate his criminal behaviour. Unless there are resources in place, both in the custodial facility and in the community, that teach, encourage, and support the offender to make responsible choices and hold him accountable, the best we can hope for is a delay in further offending. For the offender who does not accept society’s standards, incarceration may be the only option.

Until Christians are actively engaged in the justice system, not only as volunteers, but as criminal lawyers, probation officers, corrections officers, etc., our musings about justice will have a hollow ring.

KEN KLASSEN PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, MAN. ___________________________________________________________________ 

They matter too much

“Do denominations matter?” (October 2008). The MB Herald cover that introduced this question several months ago portrayed denominations as products to be consumed, varying in colour, flavour, and perhaps amount of sugar or fizz. Not a very positive analogy, especially since none of these products are good for us.

Do denominations matter? I’d say, “Yes, far too much.”

I have been part of a number of rather diverse denominations. People who are very pro their particular denomination are convinced that theirs is closer to the truth and more correct in understanding, thinking, or practice than other groups of believers, and that maintaining that distinctiveness is absolutely essential. Yet, people in all denominations wrestle with virtually the same issues. I have found that there is much in all that is good, but also much that is not. I also realize it’s a very sensitive issue since many deeply committed believers have put vast amounts of energy and passion into building denominational programs. I applaud that commitment, but wonder if we need to take a step back and ask ourselves a few tough questions.

I believe that denominations are evidence of God’s amazing patience. Christ’s passionate prayer before enduring the agony of betrayal, public humiliation, and death was that his followers would be unified so that the world would know that God was real. Paul later spoke strongly against believers identifying more closely with follower A or follower B than with Christ. Evidence of precisely what they warned against abounds today, and we justify it so easily. Non-believers are confused by a faith that is incredibly divided.

Perhaps instead of asking whether denominations matter, we should ask on what basis, biblically, do they exist? That might be a difficult, but potentially more beneficial, discussion.

RITA HALMA COALDALE,ALTA.

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A call for respect

  Mark Dobell (Letters, August) writes that “labour unions and Christians have far more in common with each other than many are willing to acknowledge.” The Mennonite community has a legacy of addressing need, as evidenced by the organizations we have established such as seniors homes, educational institutions, and missions. The hope is to influence a better life for people, both materially and spiritually. What is our attitude to our Christian brothers and sisters who choose to belong to and become active in a union for the same end? My secular union coworkers have asked: Why would I receive less than respectful behaviour in a Christian Mennonite community because I am a union member?

HELEN ESAU HO ABBOTSFORD, B.C. ___________________________________________________________________

The marginalized are here

I was encouraged to see your new column, Beyond Borders, and the first’s (January) emphasis on God’s heart for the marginalized. Five years ago, while pastoring a Mennonite Brethren church, we began a recovery ministry for people in Winnipeg’s core area. We learned a great number of things.

One is that you do not have to travel to a foreign country to find marginalized people. Street workers, addicts, unemployed, and abandoned people are very near by. Second, we realized that people who are gainfully employed often have very similar emotional, relational, and spiritual deficits as those who live on the street. People with means have ease of access to alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography but also more ways to cover up their dysfunctions.

This recovery ministry experienced tremendous growth. I left the pastorate and, with a handful of dedicated volunteers, began a ministry called The Harbour, which now has a board and is incorporated. We delve into the 12 Steps of Recovery from a biblical point of view. More than a program, it’s really a spiritual journey among friends.

I’m encouraged to see that the MBs are paying closer attention to the marginalized. Although we were discouraged for a while that The Harbour did not initially find a “fit” with the MBs, God has recently changed that. Pastor Elton DaSilva from the Christian Family Center has invited us to use their facility and the Manitoba conference minister is reaching out a hand of support. Our website is www.theharbourfellowship.ca.

GERRY GOERTZEN WINNIPEG

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New, but poor

I recently came across this comment on contemporary worship by award-winning American novelist Marilynne Robinson: “To me, some of these styles suggest a nervous rejection of substance, on the pretext of contemporaneity…. The problem with contemporary worship is that it is synonymous…with mediocrity. It’s not that the music is new; it’s that the music is poor. It’s not that the lyrics are new; it’s that they are almost ridiculously poor.” She expresses my view on the subject without my having to add a word.

BOB PETERS DELTA, B.C.

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No negotiation

People from MCC who met with [President] Ahmadinejad believe they are following Christ’s example by negotiating with the leader of Iran for peace and understanding.  Not so. When did Jesus ever negotiate with the Pharisees? In fact, he took issue with them on a regular basis, warning them of the consequences of their arrogance. Appeasement was not in his vocabulary.

A recent report from the Voice of the Martyrs states that Iran’s parliament has agreed to a new law calling for the death penalty for apostasy, meaning death to all who renounce Islam. Ahmadinejad is funding terrorist organizations, even as he tortures and kills our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Just as Hitler used [Neville] Chamberlain, so Ahmadinejad is using MCC leaders.

If MCC wants to see change, they should devote more time to praying for the persecuted church.

ERNIE KONRAD WHEATLEY, ONT. ___________________________________________________________________

Correction: In the bio for Regina Shands Stoltzfus (Viewpoint, Feb.), Goshen College was incorrectly placed in Elkhart, Ind. The school is in Goshen, Ind., and Stoltzfus lives in Elkhart.

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