Opinion: A call for dignity and civility

Jan 29, 2018 by and

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We were reminded this past week about how labels and degrading words can and do bring intense pain to people. Our president made some very egregious and degrading comments about particular countries. People from the countries that were mentioned have been wounded and dismayed.

Don Morris


Having a Congolese granddaughter, these comments have made me particularly sad. The countries mentioned are home to 735,000 Mennonites — by Mennonite World Conference statistics — and figure prominently in the missional history of the Mennonite Brethren. These people are a source of inspiration and praise to God for the ways in which they continue to faithfully follow the example of Jesus as they witness new life in Christ through their lives of ministry, service and sacrifice.

When getting our granddaughter from an orphanage deep in the midst of Kinshasa — as we drove through the city — my heart broke for the Congolese people and the massive poverty we encountered. Their plight is due to a myriad of things beyond their control and from various historical events and negative intervention by other nations.

God loves these people. We should, too. As Christians and the USMB family, we can make a difference. We can provide help and love to those whom God loves. They deserve love, not caustic labels!

To our president and national leaders: Please, please pursue dignity and civility as you discuss and debate — and open your hearts to those who are in need. Allow your eyes to be opened and listen to the cries of these people. Please learn and understand the reasons why their lives and standard of living are so different from ours. We have so much. Let us be those who help rather than those who cause even more pain through heartless words.

To our brothers and sisters from these nations: Please know that the words used by our president do not reflect how the USMB family considers you. We pray for you, love you and are so very thankful for you.

Let us all be encouraged to watch our words, characterizations and labels. This recent episode can be a reminder to us that Jesus has called us to love, respect and help all people.

Don Morris is USMB national director.

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  • Walter Bergen

    brother morris
    as a Canadian who travels for work to the united states twice weekly I have decided to learn Spanish as a way of showing respect to the many women and men who work so very hard to provide for their families in these countries mentioned by the president. They work in the Estados Unidos because they must. I do not wish to speak against anyone, I do wish to hold my candle of respect, regard and incarnational love for it is the calling of Jesus Christ, the King. thank-you for a gentle, respectful word all the more powerful for being gentle and respectful.

  • Rainer Moeller

    Don Morris asks the politicians to “learn and understand the reasons why their lives and standard of living are so different from ours”.
    Unfortunately he himself does nothing to explain those reasons – except of telling us that “their plight is due to a myriad of things beyond their control”.
    This doesn’t sound very good. USMB, as far as I see, stems from South Russian roots.Did Mennonites in South Russia really believe that poverty was beyond their control? My impression has always been that Mennonies were rather good in getting control of their lives, by a mixture of common practical sense, energy and frugality. And that insofar Mennonites might become a role model for people in Third World countries.

    Not so Don Morris. He seems to have internalized the post-modern economic fatalism of global-market times, using this to support the pre-modern economic fatalism of the traditional Africans.But “fatalism” is not the same as “piety”!

    • Matthew Froese

      I’m not sure where you’ve gotten your understanding of MBs from Russian roots, but my grandfather was an MB who lived in Russia as a child before his family managed to flee, so I can share a bit about that perspective.

      When he was a child his parents gave him all their money to play with, since the government had collapsed and the money had become worthless. My great grandmother helped to feed starving people who streamed out to the farms from the cities looking for food. My great grandparents borrowed money to get the family out and spent the rest of their lives paying off the debt.

      My grandfather and his siblings had a profound and deeply felt appreciation for “things beyond their control” because they had lived through them. Grandpa never trusted the government, banks, or money lenders because of what he had seen. They also carried a deeply held faith that only God could carry them through such things along with a profound dedication to helping others in need.

      My understanding of faith and piety was shaped substantially by my grandfather and my great aunt, and I can tell you that Don’s message – to recognize how much we have, and to help rather than hurt those in need – sounds quite familiar.

  • Greg Leichty

    A gentle and eloquent plea for controlling our tongues. Thanks.

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