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Mennonite Brethren HeraldVolume 46, No. 10October 2007
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Letters

Mennonite Brethren Herald welcomes your letters on issues relevant to the Mennonite Brethren Church, especially in response to material published in the Herald. Please keep your letters courteous, brief and about one subject only. We will edit letters for length and clarity. We will not publish letters sent anonymously, although we may withhold names from publication at the request of the letter writer and at our discretion. Publication is also subject to space limitations. Because the Letters column is a free forum for discussion, it should be understood that letters represent the position of the letter writer, not necessarily the position of the Herald or the Mennonite Brethren Church. Send letters to:

    Letters, MB Herald
    1310 Taylor Ave.
    Winnipeg, Man.  R3M 3Z6

or send via e-mail. (Please ensure that your postal address is included in your e-mail correspondence.)

Look deeper than dermis

Re “Is Leviticus ink-compatible?” (Viewpoint, September). Kerry O’Brien’s article made me recall my daughter as an 18-year-old, getting a tattoo on her big toe about the same time I entered West Coast College of Massage Therapy. As we students practiced giving massages to each other, I saw many creative works of art on the bodies of classmates and clients. Over the course of the five-semester period, I got to know my classmates at a much deeper level than their dermis-deep tattoos. Many of them were young enough to be my children and I grew to love them dearly.

I remember one comment made by a young student quoting the Japanese man who would soon be her father-in-law. His opinion was that tattoos were an insult to the parents who begot the child. I suspect he was referring to the delight of parents in the bodies of their children, and how tattoos could be viewed as a “blemish.”

I’ve never asked my dear son-in-law’s parents what they think of his tattoos (one of his is right out of the Pentateuch – a dove with a twig in its mouth), but although I’ve learned to look much further than ink, and although I would vote “yes” to September’s question of the month (Is it OK for Christians to have tattoos?) I’m sometimes relieved that my daughter chose to have the indelible ink imprinted only on her big toe.

Daphne Grace Kamphuis,
Abbotsford, B.C.

Tips fall flat

Re “Faith and film” (Crosscurrents, September). Peter Chattaway’s piece was a good discussion starter, but fell flat for me. Let me add my two cents. My first approach to a movie is to figure out what questions the film is asking and how it’s trying to answer those questions. I think movies that don’t ask a decent question aren’t worth watching. But good questions intrigue me: What if a person was so pure that he could absorb evil into himself and free the sufferer? (The Green Mile). What if what we see is merely a deception to keep us in bondage? (The Matrix). Is fate locked in, or do our decisions matter? (Deja Vu).

The second thing I do is ask myself what the movie is doing to my heart. Is it creating heaviness? Inspiring me to be a better man? Making me think deeply? Defiling me? Making me laugh?

The third thing I do is put what I’m seeing before God: Lord, do you have something to show me here? Is there something to learn? Or even, is this worth my time? For me, these three approaches get to the heart of the issue.

Brad Huebert,
Calgary, Alta.

Choose words carefully

Re “Pills, prayers, and priorities” (Features, August). Brian Cooper’s section entitled, “Consider side effects” disturbed me for two reasons. First, Cooper concludes that “some medical treatments can create more problems than they solve” and chooses in vitro fertilization (IVF) as the only example of this conclusion. He asserts that IVF creates more problems than it solves. Where is the biblical basis for this argument?

Second, Cooper calls into question whether it’s “even proper” for infertile Christians to “pursue parenthood through extraordinary medical procedures when there are so many orphaned children in need of loving families.” This could be misconstrued as presumptuous and judgmental because it implies that adoption is a viable parenting option for all infertile couples and because the language he chooses – “even proper” – implies that it might be sinful for the infertile couple to pursue parenthood through any manner other than adoption (again with no biblical reference to explore the issue).

Non-biblically based arguments and flippant solutions to infertility, however intended, cheapen the loss and anguish felt by the infertile couple, intensify the confusion and isolation associated with infertility, and eliminate the opportunity to sustain a couple as they wrestle with God in their pain. Let us be full of care and compassion as we explore issues surrounding infertility.

Deb Dyck,
St. Catharines, Ont.

Sturdy statement

Re “Are Christian bookstores ethical?” (Viewpoint, August). David Socha, 37-year-old Wal-Mart CEO and self-described evangelical Catholic, declared, “We’ve really been blessed. . . . The faith aspect is really our No. 1 driver. It’s all about Jesus.” After doing research and extensive “church seeding” in 7,000 churches, Walmart has placed 35 different Bible dolls, such Jesus, Noah, and Moses, in 425 of its U.S. stores. Socha declared, “We had an outpouring of support from people who engaged in their faith.”

How refreshing to read Kathleen Busch’s Viewpoint – a courageous statement challenging the trend in Christian bookstores, which mimics Wal-Mart’s commercialism. Maclean’s magazine also reported that Americans purchase $5 billion worth of Christian products each year. Are some MB Herald readers caught in that trap as well? Thank you Kathleen Busch for your sturdy statement.

George Epp,
Chilliwack, B.C.

Christian bookstores valuable

Re “Are Christian bookstores ethical?” (Viewpoint, August). I have a few concerns about Kathleen Busch’s article. First, she talks about the “questionable theology” contained in many of the books available in Christian bookstores, but fails to expand on what she means. Given the obvious theological bias of the MB Herald, the assumption is that the author believes any writing that isn’t Mennonite or Anabaptist in origin should automatically be labelled “questionable.” How unfortunate that there are still Mennonites who believe that we’re the only ones providing unquestionable theological thought to the larger Christian dialogue.

Second, Busch talks about “Jesus Junk” – such as small toys – Christian retailers sell. Does she realize how many children’s Sunday school teachers rely on this so-called junk to provide budget conscious gifts and prizes to their students? I visit my local Christian bookstore regularly and value the products they make available. It’s disappointing that we look at these Christ-centred stores as unethical, for no other reason that we don’t agree with the theological basis of the materials they offer.

Jon Hansen,
Winnipeg, Man.

Worthy of honour

In “Keep noble deeds secret” (Letters, June), George Epp gently reprimands Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre for identifying a financial donor. By stating his view, he has helped us all re-evaluate the issue. Mr. Epp “felt sorry for the donor,” saying, “how tragic . . . that this person might be deprived of his later reward.” He raises an interesting point. Is Mr. Epp right? Further, is his perspective reflected in other Herald news stories?

Consider these Herald reports, none of which evoked reader criticism. In January, Salome Hiebert was honoured “for more than 40 years of extraordinary volunteer service.” In June, the Herald announced it had won 9 press awards, seminary professor Allen Guenther “was honoured for his years of service,” and Dr. Ferdinand Pauls was honoured for outstanding service abroad. In August, Dr H.D. Hildebrand was honoured with two major awards, The Word Guild honoured Les Stobbe for assisting other writers and recognized God-talented novelist Rudy Wiebe with two major awards. Also, Amanda Falk, with her God-given talent, won Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year at the 2006 Juno awards. All of these Christians put their God-given talents to good use.

In April, in a Stillwood sod-turning picture, four people are identified, not praised. One, a donor, is using God-given entrepreneurial talents to advance kingdom ministries. Is it consistent to thank and even honour Christians who use their God-given talents in ministry, but not those who have God-given entrepreneurial talents?

Yes, Jesus commends secret giving (Matthew 6:1–8), but note the particular context. First of all, these givers were “hypocrites” and, second, they themselves were announcing their giving “with trumpets.” This situation had nothing to do with recipients thanking the givers. Significantly, Jesus also said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

At Stillwood, we thank people, but praise God. Scripture exhorts us to be thankful. In fact, it even speaks of honouring people.

The Bible says that Paul and Luke were “honoured” in many ways for their faithful ministry (Acts 28:10); that Christians should “take delight in honouring one another” (Roman 12:10b); and “if one part [of Christ’s body] is honoured, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26b). Paul says Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus “deserve recognition” because they supplied what was needed (1 Corinthians 16). That’s what financial supporters do. Concerning helpful Epaphroditus, Paul writes, “honour men like him” (Philippians 2:29). Godly leaders “are worthy of double honour” (1 Timothy 5:17).

At Stillwood, all donors, whatever their donation, are ministry partners. They don’t ask to be thanked; we decide to thank them. Isn’t that what Jesus taught when he inquired about nine unthankful lepers (Luke 17:11–17)?

John H. Redekop,
Board Chair, Stillwood Ministries
Abbotsford, B.C.

Question of the month

Do the sermons you hear make an impact on your life?

Click here to vote.

September’s online poll results (at press time)

Is it OK for Christians to have tattoos?

  • Yes (66%)
  • No (33%)

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Last modified: Oct 9, 2007


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