Letters October 2012
Fifty years of Peace
This is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many, by Rudy Wiebe, founding editor (1962–63) of the MB Herald. Many Mennonite Brethren, like other Canadians, were caught up in a wide range of responses to the novel. Some felt deeply dismayed by its appearance; others felt liberated.
In preparation for a historical assessment of the reception of Peace Shall Destroy Many that I am writing, I’m seeking people’s memories or understandings of reactions to that event a half-century ago. Please email your recollections to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to me c/o Department of English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ont., N2L 3C5, Canada.
Re “A letter of thanks to delegates and constituency” (September). It was good to read moderator Paul Loewen’s statement to CCMBC constituents reflecting on the events at Gathering 2012, particularly the frank admission that there were various shortcomings and a need for better and timely communication from the executive board.
While most of the concerns have been stated by various individuals, I sincerely hope that everything possible will be done to address all the issues. It appears that the Mochar report revealed a flawed process from the beginning. The determination of credentials as well as unstated presuppositions and questionable conclusions led to a great deal of confusion and unnecessary polarization among delegates.
There seemed to be an assumption that an “outsider” would by definition be neutral or independent. The overlay of “prophetic” or highly spiritualized language made it difficult for those who disagreed to respond without feeling that their own spirituality might be questioned.
The summary of the report (Outfront, July) stated that Mennonite Brethren should “lower the flag” of the MB denomination. It appears to me that many churches have been doing just that for some time, with the result that our holistic ministry is often watered down and we’re ashamed to proclaim our commitment to peace and service. How often do we hear messages from our pulpits that are recognizable as coming from our own confessional heritage which we have together discerned from the Scriptures?
“A word from the Lord” (Outfront, July) was the single most exciting piece I’ve read in the Herald in 25 years. I hoped and prayed for enthusiastic support for this prophetic word to our churches at Gathering 2012. I’m saddened, but not surprised, at what seems to be the muted and lukewarm reception given it. The best we can do is send it back to BFL for review? Can it be that we really don’t believe in or perhaps recognize prophetic words from the Lord? Or is it a sign of our continued mistrust of our leadership? Stubborn independence? Holding on to what the prophecy calls “personal agendas and kingdoms”?
Unless there’s more to the prophecy given to Terry Mochar than contained in Reimer’s Outfront article, I see little that needs to be reviewed or pondered and much that needs action now. “If you respond to God’s invitation and acknowledge what he has prepared and gifted you for, he will raise up leaders, give you wisdom and understanding, and allow you to understand the times.”
The prophecy is a call to action. Unfortunately our corporate track record for immediate action isn’t a great one. I’m repeatedly perplexed by how we can be so entrepreneurial and adventurous in the business world, yet timid and fearful when pondering new directions in ministry (notwithstanding J Janzen’s assertion that the request for a review isn’t motivated by fear).
Since when does following the call of the Holy Spirit come with guarantees and without risk? It would be so much better to fail hugely doing something new in faith than to succeed hugely in doing little because of uncertainty. Peter sank because of his fear, but at least he stepped out of the boat! (Matthew 14:29–30).
There is indeed a “Holy Spirit discontent” simmering in our churches and among some of our members. I confess to being one of the discontented. Change is coming and will happen whether we as CCMBC are on board or not. It will take a miracle for it to happen within the MB church as it currently stands. Fortunately I believe unreservedly in miracles (and prophecies).
Re “Creative repentance” (Intersection, August). Phil Wagler’s article is missing some information. Wagler says we need to repent of three things: downplaying our creative contributions, our creative perversions, and our use of creativity to increase our glory. I support modesty, speaking demurely of one’s creative endeavours, and listening more than speaking – most people would benefit from a bit of personal downplaying.
What confused me was the mention of creative perversions or evils that, apparently, all Christians are guilty of. What are these evils? Christians create good things, as far as I know. I couldn’t think of any creative thing God’s children did or have done that’s worthy of shunning, creatively speaking.
Wagler could have shown some imagination by giving the reader an idea of creative works that halt the kingdom, are non-reflective, non-celebratory, or keep people bound by lies. A few examples would have redeemed the piece.
Portage la Prairie, Man.
Re “Find language to include women” (Letters, August). Hal Toews states that “in our patriarchal world, we’ve made Father and King into controlling metaphors [for understanding God]. We can and must do better. Our daughters and sisters deserve a re-imagined language that fully embraces and includes them.”
It’s true there are many names for God in the Bible. There are both father and mother metaphors for God. However, is it a patriarchal world that made “Father” into a controlling metaphor for God? Or was it Jesus who did that? Was not “Father” our Lord’s controlling metaphor for God in all four Gospels?
And if “Father” was Jesus’ controlling name for God (and the name by which he instructed us to address God – Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2), what does that tell us about whether we should have “Father” as the controlling metaphor in our time? Should we suppose that fathers were less flawed back then than we are now?
Re “A good news story” (Features, July). More mind-boggling than Mike Duerksen’s broadcast of his marriage proposal on Twitter is what he says in its defence, that his tweets built genuine “human connections” and “community. “Community” once described a diverse group of people who overlooked personal differences in the interest of a profound and common good, such as faith or home. Modern parlance, so inundated by marketing-speak, reduces the word to associations based solely on these minor differences (e.g., “the yoga community”).
Duerksen seems to believe that his Twitter followers, gathered for mere moments around the most fleeting of shared sentiments, constituted the former, not the latter, sort. After the event was over and their dewy eyes had dried, I doubt that many in this “community” ever even knew each other’s real names; more than likely, they simply dispersed to “follow” Brad and Angelina, the NHL playoffs, or Lululemon’s summer clothing line.
The most profound content can be eviscerated by the form in which it’s spoken and the ears upon which such forms tend most to fall. Duerksen is certainly right to assert that Christians’ use of words is an act of stewardship, but he has unwittingly cashiered his pearls for pebbles and then cast them before swine.