Category Archives: Religion

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Will faith- based camps lose funding for summer student workers?

Member of Parliament Ted Falk and other social conservatives are actively fighting  a new government regulation regarding funding for Canada’s summer jobs program. Justin Trudeau says they are creating an unnecessary “kerfluffle”. A new requirement means organizations requesting money must agree to respect all human rights including reproductive rights. Faith groups who oppose abortion are actively protesting the regulation. They believe they will lose the financial support they have received in the past. The prime minister describes their reaction as alarmist. He suggests program applicants whose primary mandate isn’t denial of abortion access will still receive grants. The new directive will just target organizations that actively and openly lobby against reproductive rights.

I will follow the story of how the new regulation is applied with interest because I agree with our prime minister that  reproductive rights are human rights. I believe giving women full control of their bodies is fundamental to them having an equal place in society. The television series based on Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale imagines the frightening possibilities when we fail to defend a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions.

Research shows that protests like this one at the University of Toronto are not effective in reducing abortion rates

That being said it would be ideal if no woman ever felt she needed to have an abortion. But we will not reduce abortion rates by criminalizing abortion or denying women access to it. Equally ineffective in reducing abortion rates are attempts to make people feel guilty with graphic billboard pictures or 100,000 memorial flags for aborted fetuses planted in a public park. Research by the World Health organization and other groups tells us exactly what things will effectively reduce abortion rates.

  1. Provide comprehensive sex education in schools. Teens that receive medically sound sex education and learn about many forms of birth control, not just abstinence, are 60% less likely to become pregnant. Since 30% of women who have abortions in Canada say the reason for their choice is they are too young and not ready for the responsibility of a child, it makes sense that as teen pregnancy rates are lowered, abortion rates will go down. In Canada sex education is different in every province and even varies between school districts. Is it time to create national standards for comprehensive sex education?
  2. Provide free contraception whether birth control pills, condoms or intrauterine devices. When Norway provided free birth control their abortion rate was cut in half. Irene Mathyssen an NDP Member of Parliament has been lobbying the government to make birth control free in Canada. Politicians who are serious about reducing the number of abortions in our country should give her their unstinting support.

    Photo of Canadian child living in poverty from the website of Member of Parliament Ted Falk who is one of the politicians most harshly criticizing the new regulation for summer job grants

  3. Reduce poverty. According to the Abortion in Canada website, financial concerns are the number one reason women in Canada have abortions. If we reduce poverty, we will reduce the number of abortions. Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. We obviously need to search for more creative and effective strategies to address this disgrace.
  4. Better childcare. Many women choose to have abortions because they can’t balance child rearing with pursuing higher education or a successful career. Logically if families had assured access to quality affordable childcare they would be less likely to choose to have abortions. In 2005 Prime Minister Paul Martin negotiated just such a national childcare program. When Mr. Harper’s Conservatives came into power the following year they scrapped it. Nothing as comprehensive has been proposed since. Could all political parties work together to create universal, affordable childcare for our country?

If people who consider themselves anti-abortion advocates are serious about reducing the number of abortions in Canada there are plenty of effective things to do. Fighting a government grant regulation that requires respect for women’s reproductive rights is not among them.

Other posts…….

Should Young Women With Children Be Politicians?

Thank Goodness For The Battle of the Sexes

 

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Mennonite Nuns

Did you know there were Mennonite nuns? Seems unlikely doesn’t it, since Anabaptists really tried to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. But at the turn of the century there was an order of Mennonite women who wore ‘habits’ and dedicated themselves to serving others. They were called deaconesses. Many years ago on a visit to Newton, Kansas I interviewed one of only five remaining deaconesses, Theodosia Harms, who just happened to be my grandfather’s cousin. 

deaconesses with babies at bethel hospital 1915

Deaconesses with babies at the Bethel Hospital 1915 – photo Mennonite Church Archives

The deaconess movement began in Germany in the 1830s when young Mennonite women went to live in specially built homes near hospitals and made a commitment to spend their lives caring for the sick. The movement spread worldwide and at one point there were more than a hundred of these deaconess homes. Some 40,000 women served as deaconesses in the 1800 and 1900’s. theodosia harms0001

My grandfather’s cousin Theodosia Harms, shown here when she first became a Mennonite sister, went to live in the deaconess house in Newton, Kansas in 1922 and train as a nurse at Bethel College. She served as a nurse in the Newton Hospital eventually becoming the chief of the nursing staff and instructor of nursing students. She also lived and worked in Paraguay for two years as a missionary nurse. For a time she was sent to Mountain Lake Minnesota to start a hospital there. 

I spent an afternoon visiting with her in 1989. Although retired, she still wore her habit, a plain dark blue dress with a simple white collar and neatly mended stockings. She remembered my grandfather and told me stories about him as well many interesting anecdotes about her own brothers and sisters, her patients and the good times she had with her sister deaconesses. I heard about the goose who once attacked her brother, the patient who swore at her and threw a Bible at her, and the Christmas gifts she’d received from her nursing sisters. She told me she had been a mischevious  ‘troublemaker’ who liked to have fun with her patients and the doctors. 

deaconesses at bethel hospital in Newton kansas 1911

Deaconesses at Bethel Hospital- Newton Kansas 1911- Photo from Chicago Community Mennonite Church

If you want to read the full story of my time with Theodosia and learn more about the Mennonite nuns you can click on this Mennonite Mirror link and go to page 6 and 7 of the issue. theodosia's grave

Sister Theodora died in 1991, just a year and a half after I interviewed her and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Newton, Kansas. 

Other posts………..

Norman Rockwell – The Mennonite Connection

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

The Break Event

 

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Look! Here! Now!

Hope and salvation doesn’t rest in a text. It rests in people who are truly living out that text with personal integrity.

I’ve been thinking about that idea after seeing the movie The Last Jedi.  There is a scene where Luke Skywalker threatens to burn the sacred texts of the Jedi Order.  Yoda laughs and points out how few people, including Luke have actually read all of the sacred texts. Yoda says that while the texts contain wisdom their value is embodied in the young new generation of Jedi.  

“Time it is for you to look past a pile of old books,” Yoda tells Luke.  

I’m wondering if the same doesn’t hold true for the texts various religions hold sacred.  How many people still read them? Doesn’t their true value lie in the integrity with which people live out the message and wisdom of those texts?  

The salvation described in the ancient Christian texts for example only becomes real when it is lived out in the here and now- when people who have learned about the wisdom and reward of following the way of life it recommends, activate it by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, loving their neighbour, welcoming the stranger, sharing their wealth, caring for creation.  

In his conversation with Luke Yoda says………”Look! Here! Now! Beneath your nose!”

Doctors without Borders member helps a child in Haiti after the earthquake

We would all feel so much more hopeful if, as Yoda instructs, we focused on the people who are actively living out religious texts in positive ways- in the here and now -right beneath out nose and then we found ways to join them.

Other posts…….

Dave’s Vision Quest

Getting To Know Fannie

 

 

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A Mother for King David- Who Knew?

Her name was Nitzevet. One Sunday in December the pastor of our church introduced us to a female character in the Bible I had never even given thought to… King David’s mother.  Isn’t it unbelievable that those of us who grew up hearing all the stories about the sheep tending, harp playing, giant killing, nation leading David never thought to ask who his mother was? She is mentioned twice in the Bible but not by name. The Talmud gives us more information about her.

She was the daughter of a man named Adael and married Jesse a distinguished leader who served as the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Torah law court.  Nitzevet had seven sons with Jesse but then he separated himself from her because of some rather paranoid religious concerns about his family lineage. Nitzevet missed her husband and one night arranged to secretly disguise herself and take the place of Jesse’s concubine so she could be intimate with him again.  Nitzevet became pregnant and had a son David.  Jesse thought David must be the son of another man because he didn’t realize he had slept with Nitzevet. Jesse didn’t disown David but because he believed his wife Nitzevet had committed adultery David grew up treated like a servant and outcast by his father and brothers until the time the prophet Samuel chose him to be Israel’s future king.  

I couldn’t find any images of Nitzevet online so I decided to create one myself.

We are led to believe that David cared for his mother and that she was a spiritual person who served God from the two times David refers to her in the Bible.  In 2 Samuel 22:3-4 he asks a Moabite king to provide his mother with protection and in one of his psalms he says… Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Psalm 86:16 

I wish we knew more about Nitzevet, but she suffers the fate of many women, who are given only a passing reference in books written primarily about men, and chosen for the Biblical canon by men. What we do know about Nitzevet makes us realize David grew up in a troubled family situation which may help to explain why the great king had such a disastrous family life himself.   

Other posts………..

King David Was A Rapist

A Woman I Wish I Knew More About

A Facebook Page for Huldah

 

 

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Confession

During the Christmas season my church has included a prayer of confession in each of our services.  I am leading worship today. This is the confession I wrote for the service this morning. 

winter in winnipeg

Park at the end of my street

God you have created a world filled with beauty for us to enjoy

But we have not always cared for it the way we should

children with grandmother 1960's

My sister and brother and I with our grandmother. 

God you have given us other people to love, people to love us

But we have not always reached out to share that love or opened ourselves to receive it

hands-3-costa-rica

Stained glass window with hands in a cathedral in Santa Cruz Costa Rica

God you have given us minds to create solutions and hands to work

But we have not always used those gifts to make the world a better place

Forgive us we pray.

May we move forward in the light

butterfly wonderland phoenix

Butterfly photographed in Phoenix Arizona

Noticing and appreciating your creation

Mildred Beach with students at the after school program she and her husband Tony started in Runaway Bay Jamaica

Loving and caring for humanity

My husband Dave tree planting with a student in Borneo

Working in innovative and responsible ways to make the world a peaceful and hopeful place for everyone

AMEN

Other posts……….

Questions at the Vatican

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

A Prayer for the New Year

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Almost Too Troubling To Read

In November I heard  Anna Maria Tremente  interview Rachel Jeffs on the CBC radio program The Current.  Rachel, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints has written a book called Breaking Free and Anna Maria was talking to Rachel about the story she shares in that book.  I purchased the book last week and read it quickly, partly because the story was so troubling I wanted to get it finished. Rachel’s life experience demonstrates how easily religion can be used as a tool to  imprison people. Rachel experienced love and care and support in her FLDS  homes from her siblings and mothers but she was also at the mercy of her mentally unstable father Warren Jeffs, who was the prophet or leader of the FLDS movement and had to be obeyed unquestioningly. Warren had 70 wives some of them as young as twelve. Her father began sexually abusing Rachel when she was eight.  When Rachel was eighteen her father arranged for her to marry a FLDS man who already had two other wives.  Rachel’s father was arrested in 2008 for aggrevated sexual assault and imprisoned for life but he continues to run his religious empire from his prison cell.  It was his edicts from prison that forced Rachel to be separated from her own children for months at a time and the last time her father issued an order that she be put into isolation, Rachel knew she had to flee her FLDS faith family in order to protect her children. 

One wonders why nothing can be done to break up this  religious group.  But its members have been so brainwashed they believe the imprisoned Jeffs must be followed blindly if they want to acheive eternal salvation.  That makes them prisoners too and is why their group continues to exist. 

I think part of what is so unsettling about this story is that it makes me think about the dangerous and destructive behaviors of my own church in the past, forcing women to be submissive by not allowing them to assume any sort of leadership, pastors using their power over women to take sexual advantage, congregations ostracizing LGBTQ people and saying they must change to part of the church, and scaring children into obeying by telling them if they don’t  they will go to hell.  That’s a troubling legacy as well.  

Stories like Rachel’s remind us that religion can be used for both good and evil and the line is never as black and white as we might think. 

Other posts…….

Gracie

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them

I Want to Believe People Are Good

 

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Ava Maria

A deep cello accompaniment and the soaring voices of young women created an inspirational performance of Ava Maria at the Pembina Trails Voices Christmas concert we attended last night.  Our daughter-in-law is one of the Pembina Trails music directors and we were sitting with her parents.  “What does Ava Maria mean?” my husband asked our son’s father-in-law after the concert was over.  Neither of them really seemed to know so I looked it up this morning. 

botecelli-mary-and-gabriel

Botticelli image of the angel Gabriel greeting Mary 

Ava Maria directly translated from the Latin is ‘Hail Mary.’ They are the first two words the angel Gabriel said to Mary when he told her she was going to give birth to Jesus.  The angel went on to tell her she was special and blessed and that God was with her. 

I really like the version of the angel’s words in The Message translation of the Bible. 

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

I think those words are ones for us all to take to heart. If we woke up each morning remembering we are not alone in this world and that we are truly beautiful and special we would feel assured, motivated and hopeful.

Other posts…………. 

Jesus is Born at the Sagrada Familia

God as A Stranger

December 23

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