COVID-19: Guns, Denial, and Conspiracy, Oh My… or Let’s Be Better!

March 21, 2020

Here in the midst of the new reality of social distancing, hoarding supplies, self-quarantines, and the unknown uncertainty of COVID-19 we human beings are an interesting bunch. I read, watch, listen, and try to absorb the news as best I can and work at discerning that which is credible and that which is hyperbole and simply untrue. There is a what is often purported to be a Chinese curse that reads, “May you live in interesting times,” though there is no evidence it is Chinese in origin at all… kind of like calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus, rather than its actual name, COVID-19.

However, regardless of where the curse originated, we are living in interesting times. A time too often guided by fear, though many of us are afraid. A time too often guided by exaggerated timelines of cures, though we all want that as quickly as possible. A time too often guided by the stockpiling of supplies, that leaves others without any reserves. A time too often guided by denial, when science tells us this is a serious reality. A time too often guided by an attempt to assign blame as to where it all started, rather than dealing with the genuineness of where we are in this moment.

I have heard stories of persons purchasing guns and ammo during this time because we are going to need them for self-defense because of COVID-19. We have such an addiction to firearms and violence in this country. Why is it every time there is change in the political party of the presidency, other crisis, or as in our current environment with COVID-19 one online ammo sales source said they have had a 222% increase in transactions. It is mind-numbing to me that in a time of a national crisis around illness and vulnerability of the most vulnerable of our citizens we have a segment of the population who believes the best response is to buy more guns and ammo.

We have too large a group in our country and around the world who are just living in denial about the seriousness of this virus. Those who refuse to distance themselves from one another, those who at the lead of our own administration who choose to attack the media rather than offer a word of hope to our citizens when given the chance, and those who choose to believe this is all just a hyped up story by the media to scare us all. And in that denial too many choose to offer exaggerated hope without realism and practical advice which only serves to deepen the denial and refusal to follow practical safety that will save lives.

As I ponder this current crisis in my social distanced chair in my home I listen and read conspiracy theories of those who believe this virus as created and spread to hurt President Trump’s chances of being elected. Do we really believe Italy, China, and other countries care enough about President Trump to kill thousands of people, let alone those in our own country? I cannot get my head around the mind of anyone who would think this way. It doesn’t make sense, and it is just another way of othering people rather than coming together as humanity to care for one another.

There is probably more to say, however I will stop my rant there, and just end this section with… Let’s Be Better! What has happened to us as a society, as a culture, as a country, as citizens that we prefer violence, denial, conspiracy theories, and blind allegiance to compassion, patience, swift action, and grace?

This is not a time for more guns and the mentality of give me mine and you stay away. This is a time to set down our weapons of violence and destruction and speak words of peace, welcome, and the sharing of resources.

This is not a time to dismiss the science community with regard to distancing ourselves. This is a time to help reduce the spread of this virus by limiting physical encounters and staying home.

This is not a time to panic and act irrationally. This is a time to say it is okay to be afraid, this is a scary time. It is a time to not be in denial of the reality or the seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves, it is time to speak and listen to the truth, and it is also a time offer words of hope, comfort, and compassion.

This is not a time to sow division between race, class, or countries with conspiracy theories. It is time to admit we all need help, we are not going to solve this alone, we are all in this together. It is time to pull together as a world and create community that heals.

I pray this would be a time when we gently care for one another. Speak truth to power, and love them into the light. Acknowledge our fear, yet know we journey this uncharted water together. Let down our guard and our self-interested defenses, open our hands and hearts to those around us. Set aside that addiction to violent tendency and way, and seek peace without and share that peace with those you encounter… directly or even virtually. Find ways to connect with others via the internet. We have this wonderful tool of technology allowing us to foster connection and community, please do not dismiss it, we need you to stay engaged.

Stay the course. Stay connected. Seek Peace. Take care of yourselves and one another. We have an opportunity as the human community, in the midst of this frightening reality, to evolve closer to the authentic, unique children of the Divine for which we were created. Perhaps. Know I surround each of you in prayers of love and light each and every day. May we pursue that which is just, kind, and humble as we;

Love One Another. Every. Single. Other. Until there are no others, only one Beloved Community of All.

May it be so. May it be soon.

Peace and Light for Our Continued Journey,

Rev. Kent

Loving President Trump

February 7, 2020

It was a familiar feeling, though I could not put my finger on it until Thursday morning after I had tossed and turned through Tuesday and Wednesday nights unable to sleep well. So, for those of you who know my writings well… when I need to process, I write.

It was a feeling I had as I watched, then candidate Donald Trump campaign for the presidency of the United States, use words of exclusion, racism, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, and fear to work his way to the top of the polls. It was a feeling I had when I listened to him mock a war hero who had spent six years as a POW. It was a feeling I had when I heard him go after a Gold Star family. It was a feeling I had when I listened to the words of sexism and sexual assault shared with a friend. It was a feeling I had when he mocked a disabled journalist and encouraged supporters to rough up a dissenter and he would cover their legal fees. It was a feeling I had when I watched the election results of 2016 as it became evident this one of what seemed so little regard for persons different than him clench the presidency, not with the popular vote, yet with the required electoral votes set forth by our founders. It was a sinking feeling deep in my gut, a knot, a hole in the heart and soul. I remember thinking, if I had the opportunity, how would I explain this to my granddaughters? The presidency should be something, someone, to look up to, with hope in one’s heart. I wept that night and the next day.

Since then, I have watched with distress many, if not most, of the executive orders he has signed. Though, there have been a few I would support, such has additional funds for autism research and protection for animals. There are more than that, and I applaud some of his policies. However, for me the other end the spectrum far outweighs what I believe are positive moves.

There are still children in cages on the border. The travel bans that detrimentally affect persons of color and other nationalities. His comments regarding race and his slow response in condemning racist behavior. His policies aimed at reducing social safety nets such as food stamps for those who need it most. His lack of action on healthcare, where he seems more concerned with doing away with the ACA rather than creating a workable solution. Listening to him call those who disagree with him childish names or shaming someone for being overweight. There are days he reminds me of a playground bully, and I speak of playground bullying with many years of experience. There are more than this, but I am not going to try and create such a long laundry list, including comments and actions that I believe are beneath the office of the presidency. It is not secret I hope there is a change presidential leadership in 2020.

All this to get to Thursday morning. It was in the early hours of the morning I wandered downstairs and sat in my chair unable to sleep with this heavy feeling in my heart and soul. I knew why I had the feeling; it was the result of Tuesday night’s event in Washington and President Trump’s State of the Union Address. I confess, I worked late Tuesday evening and by the time I got home, while I knew I should probably watch what was left of it, I was tired and I did not. As a result, I cannot comment on the speech itself.

The darkness that washed over me was learning the news that radio personality Rush Limbaugh had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh when I first started back to college after I had started the process toward ordained ministry. A local farmer had hired me to work for him when I would get home from classes. I drove a tractor mostly and the grain truck during harvest. So, I had a lot of radio listening time.

I listened to him, not because I agreed with anything, he said, I listened to him because I was curious what he had to say. His blatant racist, misogynistic, and sexist ideologies are well documented. There was a part of me, in the beginning, that wondered if it was all an act, just entertainment to see who he could get riled up. Over the years I have come to believe it is not an act, it is just who he is.

And so, learning of the presentation of this incredible honor to Mr. Limbaugh, who is now in the company of persons such as T.S, Eliot, Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Fred Rogers, Helen Keller, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Reinhold Niebuhr, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr., and this is an exceedingly short list, strikes at the very core of what this honor is supposed to be about. An honor of recognition and acknowledgement to those who exemplify meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, it felt like a punch in the gut. I felt once again that familiar sinking feeling deep in my being, a knot, a hole in the heart and soul. For me the presenting of this highest of citizen honor to one such as Rush Limbaugh is the antithesis of all the Presidential Medal of Freedom stands for, the antithesis of the hopes and dreams of what this country might be one day. Tuesday night, in that moment, I believe, was a, and will be remembered as, a dark time in our history.

I have had to wrestle with this feeling and struggle for the last three years and there are days I have peace about it, and there are days all I can do is sit with it, and there are days when I am moved to action through writing, protesting, and marching. I know, as a Christian, and especially as a Christian clergy I am called to love. It is the ground of my being. It is the purpose of my call. According to our tradition, our faith, and the one we follow, Jesus, it is the commandment. Love God. Love my Neighbor. Love Myself.

In this context of love and my calling, he is my neighbor, and I do love President Trump. I do. I pray for him regularly. I care not for his actions, his belligerence, his policies, nor the way he treats others, they are an affront to the office of the presidency, our country, and the world in which we live. However, I do love him.

Shortly after the last presidential election one of my seminary professors recommended a book to me by O. Wesley Allen Jr. entitled, Preaching in the Era of Trump. He said what I have just shared, we are called to love President Trump, and I concur with him. I also agree with his method and how we carry out and practice that love. Allen sets forth in this book the best way to love President Trump is to resist the unjust actions, behaviors, and policies he and his administration put forth. And I will, I will resist with every fiber of my being any of his or his administration’s behaviors, actions, language, and policies that are not about building upon the beloved community and the common good of all… ALL persons.

And so, here I stand. To be silent in the face of injustice and bigotry is unacceptable, and I refuse to be. I will resist injustice, oppression, and evil in whatever forms they present themselves, even to the highest office of our land with the very last breath I have. And when my three little granddaughters grow up to be fearless and strong. I want to be able to tell them because I love them, and all persons so much, this was my call to ministry, this is my purpose, and that I worked to not let injustice and hatred rule the day, and know they will carry on! And if I am not here to tell them myself, I hope someone remembers me to them by saying, he wanted to leave the world a little better for you than the way he found it.

…for Bug, Bean, and Bear.

Peace and Light for Our Journey…

Love One Another.

Every. Single. Other.

Until There are No Others.

Only One Beloved Community of All.

 

Rev. Kent…

New Year’s Revolution, Resist!

January 13, 2020

In Whatever Form!

I suppose, in hindsight, at least half of my fear was bound up in the height of the board. The height of a standard high diving board at a public swimming pool was about ten feet…though I believe they have been removed now for safety reasons. I would have been about middle school age, 7th or 8th grade. I had never jumped off the high dive before, though I had made numerous trips up the ladder, walked out to the edge, peered into the depths, and then turning around to descend the ladder from where I had come.

At least half the fear was bound up in the sheer height of the endeavor. However, I also know, though I can swim, I am not a pretty swimmer. I love to watch people swim who almost seem at one with the water, they cut through it like a knife, it flows over them almost like they are not even there; smooth, effortless… it is a beautiful sight to see.

Me, I am an ugly swimmer, oh, I can get to the ladder, or the shore, or the bank… though not with just a little flailing and splashing along the way. So each time I would travel up the ladder, walk out and peer into the depths, it wasn’t just about how high I was above the water… it was also about how quickly I could get to the side ladder… after all it was not just ten feet to the surface… it was also ten feet of water to the bottom. I wanted to jump… I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Water is a powerful force, a force to be reckoned with. Unleashed it can level towns, wash away vehicles, properties, life. Even in the smallest amounts it carries power over us… ever had the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet keep you awake at night? Freezing it can burst through steal and concrete. Given 5 or 6 million years it can carve out the depths of the Grand Canyon. Harnessed… with the likes of Hoover Dam, it can produce a yearly average of 4.5 billion kilowatt hours that serves 8 million people.

While it is a force to be reckoned with, and though I am not a great swimmer, when I was younger I swam wherever I could. The public pool, a mossy, muddy pond, a creek, river, the lake, in the uncurbed ditch in the little town where we lived… if there was water nearby I was sure to be messing with it somehow. I have lost that to some degree… I just don’t enjoy swimming much anymore. Even in a clean clear swimming pool, just not my thing I guess.

Though, I’ve never lost my love for the water. There is something about water that draws me to it. There is something sacred for me, about sitting with water, listening to the waves, watching the peaks and troughs form and interact with one another. Or looking out across a perfectly still lake whose surface is like glass… undisturbed. There is a rhythm to water, in the waves, in its presence… I find it profoundly now and then when I am fishing… casting and reeling… and it feels like slow motion as the lure leaves the end of one’s fishing rod and sails to just the right spot and glides into the water… Water is a powerful symbol for me…

Whenever I spend time pondering water I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s words, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

I am drawn to water… In part I believe because it is from the water we came… There is something about water that is sacred to us… it is us… we are about 60% water… it is not only from where we came… it is who we are. The human body can survive perhaps a little over three weeks without food, however, we can only survive three to four days without water. Water is essential to our being. And on a day like today… Being… is more than just physical being… it involves our heart and soul as well.

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus… we celebrate our own baptism. Jesus comes to John to be baptized… to be gifted with the water of life… The water of calling. We are told by the author of Matthew John shared the baptism of repentance… repentance as in turning around… changing your mind … turning around and being sent back into the world for good.

Brian McLaren interprets – “repent; rethink everything, question your assumptions, have a deep turn around in your thinking and values!” This baptism, he suggests is being immersed in a flowing river of love in solidarity with everyone… not just the clean and privileged… everyone![i]

And once Jesus was baptized… he was called forward into the wilderness of the world to confront evil, oppression, and injustice…. To resist the status quo of oppression and abuse of power… until it was no more! We too… in our baptismal vow… We too… in our community of faith… are called into the world to confront that which diminishes the creation, demeans humanity, and belittles the Divine within each one… we are called to take the leap and resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form it presents itself… to be embraced by the waters, welcomed by the waters of resistance!

I remember the day I practiced the ritual climbing of the ladder, walking the narrow rough surfaced board, standing with toes just at the edge… and seeing the water… not as my enemy… but was a welcoming, immersing, embracing presence… and finally springing into a dive and allowing the depths to catch me…

In past tradition, baptism has been understood not only as initiation into the community of faith but also as the washing away of sin… in particular infant baptism of washing away of original sin… in the progressive church, our focus of baptism is on the claiming of God as children of God, an acknowledgement of God’s presence and unconditional love for and within and in all persons; All things, embracing, enveloping, immersing us in this “flowing river of love…” in solidarity with all persons and in particular those who are abused, oppressed, marginalized, discriminated against, and belittled.

This water… when gathered in community… should be a FORCE TO BE RECKONED with… it is an enveloping, immersing, power that moves us forward into the world for the common good of all… like a tidal wave of love and compassion! This day… we remember our baptism… we, the Beloved of God, gather together as a community of one to say no!

We will not abide in a “traditional” plan foisted on the church to do more harm…

We will not abide in systemic power structures that perpetrate racism.

We will not abide in systems that empower sexism…

We will not abide in political maneuvering that creates violence and war.

We will not abide in condoning false narratives and untruth…

We will not abide in denial of creation care and climate change…

We will not abide in the demonizing children and parents of color and other nationalities or religions…

We will not abide in greed over generosity and the ever widening gap between the poor and the mega wealthy!

We will not abide in a culture where the love of power undermines the power of love!

We Will Resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves, by the powers of the waters of our baptisms rolling down like waters and like an ever flowing stream!

Until Love and Compassion, and Justice are So!
Until they are SO!
Amen!

Rev. Kent H. Little

 

[i] McLaren, Brian D., (2014), We Make the Road by Walking. Jericho Books, New York, NY

2020 Vision

January 1, 2020

I will own the fact that I can be a worrier at times. I often sit and stew about things over which I have no control. I suppose I get that from my mom’s side of the family, my grandmother in particular. She was a worrier. Look up worrier in the dictionary and there will be a picture of Edna Robinson just under the word. That being said, generally speaking I am a positive person, I wear rose colored glasses, I tend to see the glass half full, try to see the good in people, and am one who just wants everyone to get along.

I will also own such a positive attitude, rose colored glasses outlook, can be seen as a position of privilege. I read a piece sometime back about the old Easter cliché “It may be Friday but Sunday’s coming!” I have even preached that sermon before, the author of the piece I read posited this comes from a position of privilege, especially when there are those who have lived their whole life in Friday and Saturday and have never experienced Sunday as so many of us have.

So, where am I going with this writing and all this talk of positive attitude? Well, as I think about the vision of 2020, as I peer into the coming months, there is a lot to stew about. I am not so positive nor are my rose-colored glasses doing much good. On several levels 2020 presents some significant challenges for me personally and professionally, for the church, for our country, and for the world. The magnitude of which is overwhelming, there is part of me that thinks if one is not at least sort of overwhelmed, one is not paying attention. Let me share some of my pondering, stewing, thoughts, and commitments related to a few of these things.

The United Methodist Church. The global United Methodist Church last February had the opportunity to create a denomination that was indeed grounded in Open Minds, Open Doors, Open Hearts, however, the result of the special called General Conference was to pass a plan that closed down any sense of this openness and passed a plan that is unjust, non-Wesleyan, mean spirited, exclusive, and harmful to our LGBTQIA+ clergy and lay members of our denomination. I am fortunate to serve in a church who has made the statement to not abide by this plan. We as a church have promised to host same-gender weddings and I have vowed to officiate same-gender weddings in opposition to this, anything but, “Traditional Plan.” I will work to remove the discriminatory language from our discipline, I will support and advocate for our LGBTQIA+ clergy and candidates, and I will be fully in ministry with the LGBTQIA+ participants in the community of faith I serve. Make no mistake, these decisions were not lightly come to. I grew up in the United Methodist Church, I love the United Methodist Church, and the thought of having charges filed against me and being put on church trial for doing my job and fulfilling my call makes a knot in my stomach every time I think of it. However, I will not be dissuaded from doing the right thing in standing in solidarity with those the church wants to harm and exclude; and compared to the oppression and harm LGBTQIA+ persons have endured, in the overall picture it is a small contribution to the justice and compassion needed.

The church does not learn from its past and I will not be found on the wrong side of grace and love in this challenging time. The church has had to repent of the racism of our split over slavery. The church has had to repent of its treatment of women and refusing to ordain. The church has had to repent of its treatment of Native Americans. And one day, the church will have to repent of its sin in regards to its treatment of LGBTQIA+ persons. Lord have mercy.

At the General Conference in May of 2020 the church will have one last chance to do the right thing. I confess, I am not very optimistic, but there is just enough rose tint in my glasses encouraging me to reserve just a little hope in my 2020 vision.

2020 will present us with another presidential election. It is no secret I struggle with our current president. I believe his behavior, treatment of the disabled, veterans, women, children, shaming of those who struggle with their appearance, language that encourages violence, among other things makes him unfit for the presidency and demeans the highest office in our land. I cannot imagine another four years of this lack of leadership and decorum. His policies, while there have been a handful, I have been able to support, in general are often detrimental to the least of these and most vulnerable of our society.

That being said, he is our president for now, and as such I will continue to do what I can to hold him accountable by speaking up, writing letters, and voicing moral imperatives that seem so lacking in our current government. It is my hope and prayer a candidate presents herself or himself that will have what I believe are the qualities the presidency requires. And, once again, I am not very optimistic, however there is just enough rose tint in my glasses encouraging me to reserve just a little hope in my 2020 vision.

All in all, for me, there is this dread hanging over 2020 as I peer into the future. However, I am not without faith even if my hope is languishing… I think of a passage from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians when he writes, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” For all my stewing and worrying I know the power of the Divine and I know the indelible bonds of love that hold not only me, but the entirety of the universe. For even as my hope languishes, I am captive to it, it will not let me go. And I will use my privilege of hope and  to stand with, and in, solidarity with those who are still imprisoned in the darkness of the Fridays and Saturdays of oppression, discrimination, bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism, hatred, and vitriol to point to a better way, a Way that speaks of equality, a Way that shines forth justice, a Way that immerses us in compassion, a Way that is Love… for Love, it will Win. I believe that with every fiber of my being, even if I am not here to see it myself… I have to believe it.

May 2020 bring a clearer vision of who we are called to be…

May we Persist!

May we Resist!

May we Rise!

May we Make Justice Happen!

May we Love as God Loves!

May we Be the Very Reflection of God in the World.

And may we make our presence known in the world around us, loving one another…

Every. Single. Other.

Until there are No Others… Only One Beloved Community of All.

May it be So. May it be in 2020!

~ Rev. Kent H. Little

Dear Chris

November 19, 2019

Heart of the Sunrise by Yes, Everything I Own by Bread, Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, any song by Chicago pre-1975, Daniel by Elton John…this is just a short list of countless songs that bring my brother Chris back in very real and profound ways. They always have ever since his death, now 47 years ago. He would have been 63 this past November 16th, 2019. In some ways it seems so very far in the distant past, and sometimes it seems like yesterday when the pain and sadness sweeps over me unexpectedly.

Talking with my therapist the other day we spoke of those times grief comes sneaking up on me from behind when I am not ready. This time of year, especially, I think. Chris’s injury and death in October and his birthday shortly after in November, I suppose consciously or subconsciously those anniversary dates are always there. It was Thursday, November 14th the conversation occurred sitting in my therapist’s office when we had the chat. It would be the next day driving across Omaha to pick up TruDee after lunch the song, Daniel, by Elton John came up in my playlist and immediately felt that knot in my stomach, the tightening of my throat, and tears welling up in my eyes as Chris’s face came to mind and the deep pain that accompanies those thoughts of late.

The song has long brought thoughts of Chris, the imagery in the lyrics speak to the permanence of loss, absence, and pain. Released in 1973, a year after his death, the first time I heard the song I remember feeling that knot, tightening, and pain…

Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much.

Oh oh, Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?
Your eyes have died, but you see more than I,
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky.

Music is such a deep part of me, a soundtrack of my life I suppose, songs that mark my journey of joy and of pain.

I have talked with my sister now and then and how he has been on my mind more over the last several years than usual, she has shared the same experience. I don’t know why that is, perhaps because I am getting older and my own mortality looms larger now than it used to. Maybe just the change of age and things that seem more important now like memories, family, connection, and love. I think I do tend to be more emotional now as I remember those who have had a hand in shaping who I am and my journey and the wish that I could tell them now how much that means to me.

However, mostly I just don’t know. I dream about him more now than I used to. I don’t dwell on his memory, though he comes to mind more often that he used to, more things remind me of him. When his memory comes to mind it seems to move me so much more deeply and profoundly than it ever has before. My therapist encourages me to sit with these feelings and seek to experience them in ways I have experienced them before. I am a feeler, so to speak, I think. I have long been rather emotional and moved easily to tears by strong messages of loss, pain, love, and community. One friend once asked me if I am an empath. I looked it up, though to an extreme degree I would probably say no, though many of the attributes of an empath do resonate with me. While I try to sit with this experience there is the logical part of me wanting to figure it out. Why now? What is going on in my life that brings Chris to me so often? What is it about him that moves me so deeply and profoundly now? I don’t know.

So, of course as she knows me so well, TruDee asks… “Would it help you to write about him?” Write… what a novel idea!

So, here I am writing. I thought about a letter format, perhaps I should write him a letter? I don’t know. I feel lost in the wonderment of whys and whats and how comes. However, … I will try…

Chris,

It has been a long time, 47 years in fact. In my mind, or in pictures, when I look at your face, while you look the same as you did the last time I saw you, I still imagine you as older than me. Weird, I know, but I have always been the weird little brother. I often wonder what you would be like today.

Things I remember as we were growing up seem so far away now and to remember them seems almost surreal. Remember the night in the Bat House when Becky was throwing things at us in bed…or at least we thought she was until we discovered it was a bat flying around.

I remember the brush piles in the pasture in Burchfield and playing army. Oh, and the awesome treehouse dad built for us there, it was so many things, a fort, battleship, hiding place. And riding our bikes up to the cemetery and the time you rode across the graves and I was mortified and told you I hoped no one did that to your grave!

I don’t recall a lot about doing much together in South Haven. Mostly playing football with you and friends in the vacant lot beside our house, going down to the creek…and the time we had BB gun fights with Lloyd and Roger Olivas, probably not the smartest thing we ever did. I don’t remember exactly what prompted it, but do you remember the time you sang “Were you there when Kent stole the catcher’s glove?” to the tune of the hymn “Were You There.” I remember laughing until I almost made myself sick.

And of course, Meade. We didn’t hang out there much. We got along for the most part, but I was the smartass junior high kid and you were in high school. I remember the first time I went to two a day football practice and after the first morning told you I was quitting. You sitting down on the edge of my bed and encouraging me, giving me a pep talk, and getting me up from the bed and back to the football field.

I’ve already written about my memories and experience of your injury and death, so I am not going to do that here. It was such a dark time for me… for all of us. I don’t think mom and dad survived it very well. Oh, it was many years before the marriage finally fell apart, but I believe the pain and grief of losing you is what started the struggle.

Becky is doing fine; she lives in Wichita. She’s had a great career as an RN, you’d be proud of her, I know I am. She has a son Deric; he lives in Derby I believe. We don’t stay in touch very well. She has a whole flock of grandkids that keep her busy. She is thinking about retiring in the next year. She’s 66 you know…can you believe she’s that old? Ha!

I married my best friend, the love of my life TruDee, in 1978. She is beautiful, smart, talented, funny, and fills my heart and soul to overflowing. Yeah, I know we were just 19, but it was the best decision I have made in my life. Wish you could have been there. We have two incredibly gifted and talented sons, Matthew and Nathan. Matthew reminds me a bit of you now and then, he has some of your physical characteristics, he especially did when he was younger. Nathan looks more like me, poor chap! They are both in the banking world doing very well. Both of them married beautiful and talented women, Emily and Stephanie. Happy, healthy, and solid families all of whom we are so proud. We couldn’t ask for better kids. You would be proud of them too, I know. And, we have three perfect granddaughters. Chris, they are beautiful, strong, and passionate girls even at the ages of 5,3, and 2… I can tell. While I want to cherish them at this age, I also can’t wait to see who they become you would love them too!

I wonder that about you… what you would have done in life. You were so talented, athletic, musically, academically I have no doubt you would have had the world by the tail. As I watched our boys grow and mature, I wondered about our relationship. Where you would be, what we might have done together after we had grown. Sometimes in my mind I dream of sitting across the table from you just having an adult conversation, or attending a ballgame, just things we never had the chance to do as adults.

I’m in the ministry…go figure, huh? It’s been good. I am in my last church, I hope, Omaha, Nebraska.

I feel like I am running out of things to say. I am sure I will return to this writing and add more as I continue my journey. I wish I could talk with you. I wish I knew why you are so on my mind of late. I love you. I miss you so much.

 

The Little Bro… Kent

Grateful for Light

November 4, 2019

This story begins sometime in 1958 as I recall, I may be off a year or two in one direction or the other however, this beginning will suffice for now. I suspect my pondering has been sparked by the recent All Saints Day celebration as well as fall and in particular October and November which always brings thoughts of my brother, we will get to him later, and our current sermon series here at First Church on being Grateful.

For purposes of this pondering though, I will begin in 1958ish. My family of origin has its joys and struggles as most do. Ours was not, is not, any more subject to its own levels of dysfunction, ups, downs, celebrations, and missteps as any other family. In 1958 or thereabouts, a year prior to my birth, at the age of 25 my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It is a terrible disease filled with struggle, disable, suffering, uncertainty, and hardship. I grew up with a mother who quite literally did not know whether she would be able to get up the next morning or not, or even raise her head off the pillow. That kind of thing did not happen often, but it happened and for all our fear and wondering we managed to persevere.

The loss of her eyesight was the primary symptom, though she had some sense of sight, light and dark, colors, and could make out reading large letters early on, it was the persistent of her symptoms. She would slowly weaken over the years and spent her last years bedridden in a care home. In about 1981 she was diagnosed with cancer, I do not recall the exact kind, but would lose a leg as a result. The cancer spread throughout her body over the next couple of years, manifesting itself in large external lesions, to the extent at her funeral we chose to keep her casket closed. She died in 1983 at the age of 49.

I would have to say, of all the people I have known, while she certainly had reason to be angry, disappointed, and bitter I do not ever recall her expressing it to me about her health or circumstance. Oh, I have no doubt she had her days, who wouldn’t? I just do not recall her ever expressing it to me or to anyone while in my presence.

Mom had the gift of Light. She shared that Light with everyone she encountered. My sister and I, and I suspect anyone who knew her well carry that light still.

In the midst of this story of struggle and Light the year was 1972. My brother at the age of 15 sustained what would be a fatal head injury during a high school football game. He lost consciousness at the game from which he never recovered and died about a week later in the hospital. It is the kind of traumatic loss a family often never recovers. Our family would be no different, suffice to say I believe it was an underlying factor of a lot of issues regarding our family manifesting themselves later in life. I just remember those dark days and the effect this event had on me as a 13 year old. Effects and pain I carry with me still 47 years later.

I ponder as well the year 1991, when we lost 4 family members over 4 consecutive months. The year from hell we often refer to it.

I write these words on the heels of All Saints Day and in this month of being grateful not to garner sympathy or to somehow think our family has had more pain and struggle than others. Rather, I write these words simply as an acknowledgement of what we as humans, as creatures of compassion and love journey through as we move from celebration to struggle, laughter to tears, and joy to heartache. I write these words because I have come to realize I often find the deepest lessons in the most vulnerable places in my life.

I recognize I am a culmination of these experiences and they have molded and shaped who I am as thinking and feeling human being. These experiences and this journey has also shaped who I am as a theologian, a pastor, and one who ponders the meaning of life and the work of the Divine in the world around me.

I confess, I have little patience for the notion all that happens is part of some grand plan of God and that God puts us through these trials as a test. Nonsense, I say. I remember my dad telling me once a colleague of his said to him shortly after my brother had died something to the effect of that God just thought it must have been Chris’s time to go so God took him, all part of God’s plan. I remember dad telling me he looked at his colleague and said, “If I believed that I would turn in my credentials and walk away from the ministry today.”

I have little patience for the notion sickness and illness is all in our heads and if we would just believe we would be healed. I have little patience for those who have no use for modern medicine and treatments and endorse strange and bizarre cures that only promote blind faith and false hope. I believe modern medicine is beneficial and lifesaving!

These kinds of experiences, my studies, and my own reasoning have shaped my theology and practice of ministry in ways that effect my beliefs and actions in ways I know many may not understand. I am a firm believer in practicality and a big picture theology. For me, it is about empathy and compassion.

Here now, after this long pondering of struggle and heartache though, I am grateful for where I am today. I am not grateful for the loss, the pain and suffering we all encounter. However, I am grateful for the strength and love of family and community surrounding me and those I love in those difficult times. I am grateful for the ability to think about what I have learned from those experiences and allowing them to shape my theology, relationship with the Divine, and my relationship with those I love. I am grateful for the Light my mother passed on to me. I am grateful for the Light the community passed on to me through my brother’s death. I am grateful for my family who surrounded us in that year from hell and passed the Light on to us as we journeyed on.

Just a Grateful pondering as we venture toward the holy day season, when family, community, relationship, and love should be…is what it is all about.

Peace and Light for Our Journey…

Kent

Presence; Out Here

October 15, 2019

Will you support the church with your prayers, your presence, your service, and your gifts? Last week we talked about what it means to support the church with your prayers, what is prayer, how does it work, how do we practice? Today… What does it mean to support the church with your presence? What does it mean for the church to be a presence? And in particular in the context of today, joining the other Reconciling UMC’s of Omaha… what does it mean to be a presence on this National Coming Out Sunday in support of our LGBTQIA+ friends, family, and siblings?

I want to begin by touching on what are considered the primary biblical passages many that are not supportive of our LGBTQIA+ siblings use in defense of their position as people of faith. They are often referred to as the six clobber versus, or passages.

First – Using the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality in any form. Let me just say this is unequivocally not true. This is the story of angelic beings visiting Lot and the men of the city showing up on Lot’s doorstep demanding lot send the men out so they might “know” them, “know” in the biblical sense of sexual relations.  This is not homosexuality; this is a demand of gang rape. Not only that, it gets worse when Lot offers his daughter instead of his guests, of course that is not mentioned when this story is used to condemn homosexuality. The clearest definition of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in the bible comes from Ezekiel 16:49 – “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters had pride, excess food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about same gender relations.

Second – Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 – these are found in the Levitical Law… the purity laws, these prohibitions citing male same gender relations are contextually about a warning against practicing in the temple prostitution that was common in the culture that surrounded the Hebrews and as a result would make one ritually unclean… thus the context within the purity laws…also within this context in the early tribal nature of the Hebrew people, sexual acts were understood to preserve the tribe so if it did not produce children it was seen as unacceptable. These passages do not address same gender relations as we understand them today, in the sense of loving, relationships grounded in the science of orientation, they simply do not apply.

Third and Fourth – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:1-10 – These passages deal with the practice of pederasty… the practice of an older male and a younger male. Pederasty…where we get the word pedophile. These relationships were often non-consensual in which a younger male was purchased as a slave… perhaps not unlike sex trafficking today, this and temple prostitution and a promiscuous lifestyle. These verses are about particular practices of the day which would be considered unhealthy and inappropriate relationships regardless of orientation. Thus, once again, these passages do not address same gender relations in terms of what we know about the science of orientation or loving, monogamous, long term relationships today.

Fifth – Jude 6-7 – These two chapters cite Sodom and Gomorrah as the resource, which we have already spoken of as well as temple prostitution. For the same reasoning as already discussed… these passages are not dealing with same gender relations as we understand them today.

Sixth – Romans 1:25-27 – Likewise, these verses in the Letter to the Romans are dealing with temple and cult prostitution. Paul is addressing a particular practice common in his day and time and in Rome that would be seen as wrong regardless of orientation.

Suffice to say, as one of my favorite Bible professors at seminary says, “In terms of biblical condemnation of same gender relations, and in particular loving, equal, relationships based on orientation and the science of orientation we know in the 21st century… It Is Not in There. Period.”

Growing up in the church, I do not ever remember my dad preaching on these passages or on same gender relations… He would have been in his prime, preaching-wise, in the early to mid-seventies… when the UMC added the discriminatory language to our discipline. I would like to think it was because he knew we were called to love and support all God’s children… I don’t know though, I never had that conversation with him. I wish now I had been able to be better present to him so I could know where he was.

What does it mean then… to support the church, to be the church with our presence? I think about my dear friend when I was in junior high. He and I had become fast friends, best of friends. I was at his house as much or more than I was at my own. So much so, I called his mom… “Mom” she called me one of her other sons. We were constantly together. As we both moved into high school… he began to push me away, we hung out less, he was always busy doing something else, we grew apart… I didn’t know why… at that age I am not sure I could have understood. I moved away.

Years later I ran into him at a mall in Wichita. We visited for a bit, I asked if he ever got back to our home town. He replied, “No, there is nothing there for me.” I remember the comment seemed strange and alien to me but I didn’t say anything.

After I was in the ministry I reconnected with him. We were eating lunch together at Carlos O’Kelley’s when he looked across the table at me and said, “Kent, I am gay you know.” I replied something to the effect of, “Yeah, I think I had figured that out. I’m straight you know.” We both laughed. We had numerous years of reestablishing our relationship and friendship. He died some 10 or so years later… I had the honor and privilege of officiating at this service.

I think of him often and wonder if I could have handled, understood when we were young about how to be present to him in those years. I have thought of all the youth I have worked with in youth groups at churches I have served, or at church camp, those who I know have come out and those I still wonder about… and how I might have been better present for them in their young years. How the churches I have served might have been better present for them when they were young. How much better it would have been to be able to celebrate them then, rather than they feel the need to hide.

It is why I have invited Terry to share with us this morning part of her story… so I…so we all… might have a better understanding about the stories we may resonate with… or the stories we may need to hear in order to better support by being more present as individuals and a church.

Terri – Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into things, and then can’t seem to find my way out. But here I am and here’s my story, it might be different but I think they all are. I didn’t have good experiences with males from the time I was a child into my adulthood. I didn’t think that made me gay though. I really didn’t know what that was about because I was Catholic and, I mean, Catholics aren’t gay.

I remember in high school someone saying something about, I went to an all girl high school, saying someone was gay and I didn’t really know, I guess I know but I really didn’t understand. It wasn’t until in my thirties that I met a woman and we fell in love. I realized, that’s what it’s like; falling in love. It’s all about love. That was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. But, it didn’t last and so I backpedaled and said I must be bi because I surely can’t be gay.

Then I met this man and he had two kids he was raising and I had a daughter I was raising and she had never had a father because he had opted out, and their mother had left them. So, I saw that this perfect family could be formed and they could have a mother, and she could have a father, and then there would be us. I liked him, but I didn’t love him. With my luck he turned out to be one of those Jekyll Hyde characters and had only one thing on his mind, and I was to serve him in any way he wanted.

So, the marriage didn’t go well, and he encouraged me to seek out women for his pleasure. When that didn’t happen, he found one and began having an affair. I had a history of mental illness and he decided to divorce me, which on one hand was fine, on the other hand I would be alone. I then came out, not by choice, but when he told his kids and my daughter that I was gay. My daughter was sixteen and she moved out, and they moved out, and I tried to kill myself because I thought I lost everything.

It took a long time, my grandma, I didn’t have to come out to my parents because the died when I was in my twenties, but my grandma, she was all knowing, much like God, she said she knew I was gay, and I said, “Why didn’t you let me know?” She just always knew everything.

So, I just kind of bounced around and lived with friends, I wasn’t able to work. Then I met Jo online, we were both volunteers in the women’s network on AOL. She lived in Baltimore and I lived in Omaha and we just, I think we needed each other. We hit it off and the next thing I know we moved to Baltimore. Once again I found out it doesn’t matter who you love, it is that you love, it’s the people you love. Love should be the reason for the relationship, it shouldn’t be about sex. I have been happy; we’ve been together for twenty years and I hope we have at least twenty more. Thanks.

Kent – So, Terri what brought you to First Church?

Terri – Duh? God! I left the Catholic church and I said, “Okay, I need a church,” so, I got on the internet and narrowed down to this place and Countryside, then I said, “Which place? Which place?” I just kept being drawn here. It was actually closer, then I talked it over with my therapist and my nurse practitioner and they both said, “First United,” so, I came here and the first time I was here I felt like I was home. And the next week people new my name! Not everybody, but nobody in the Catholic church knew my name after going for a couple of years. So, it was just a real eye opening experience and just a real comfortable feeling knowing I was where I was meant to be.

Kent – In honoring this National Coming Out Day and Sunday there are still a lot of LGBTQIA+ persons who either aren’t ready to come out or are fearful of losing jobs, losing families etc.. What word of encouragement would you share with them?

Terri – Well, first of all, take your time. Don’t push yourself before you’re ready. God led me to a therapist who changed my life, so I’m a big believer in therapy. Not conversion therapy! Just someone to talk it out. It really helps if they have that kind of support and someone who, you know, would set their parents straight if they needed to be.

Kent – As a community of faith, you know, we strive to be present for LGBTQIA+ persons. What words of encouragement would you have for our whole community of faith, and especially for those of us who are allies, are there things we can do to be better present and supportive?

Terri – That’s a hard question, because I’ve been so impressed by this church and the acceptance I have seen here. I never saw that anywhere else. I would just tell people to keep spreading the word, and talking to people, not in a judgmental way, but maybe saying, “Hey, you know, have you considered this might be about love?” That’s what God preaches, to love one another. He didn’t say only certain people. So, if they can just, if people can wrap their heads around the idea that it’s about love, like any other relationship, their half way there.

Kent – Thank you Terri for your courage and your willingness to do this.

We are called in this stewardship month to consider at what level we might be able to resource our community of faith… it is not only the way we support FUMC with our prayers… It is how we facilitate and resource our ability to be present in support of our community and especially those who seek a safe space and place to be who they are.

Looking back now, I wish I would have had these biblical scholarship tools earlier. Looking back now I wish I had known more how to be present for my friends and students and youth who lived in fear because of who they are.

However, I have the tools now. I know better now how to be present. Though I am far from perfect. I do not fear the hierarchy of those powers that be who continue to hold improper interpretations of scripture in order to oppress and dehumanize our LGBTQIA+ friends, family, and siblings.

And so… how will I support, how will we support FUMC with our presence?

By creating space here… in this building and on these premises that ALL are welcome to be the unique and unrepeatable child of the Divine they are.

By creating space here, in these hearts where ALL are Welcome to be the unique and unrepeatable child of the Divine you are.

The Church should be a Presence of Grace. A place where Love is a given. A place where “coming out” is no longer necessary. A Place where we, all of us, simply are. A Place Paul envisioned where…

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, there is no longer gay nor straight, bisexual or transgender; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Today and every day… we celebrate YOU. This. Is. So! Amen!

Rev. Kent H. Little, Lead Clergy – First United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska

*Special thanks to Terri for her vulnerability and courage in sharing her story. And special honor and recognition to all LGBTQIA+ persons who have come out and who have yet to come out. May we continue to journey toward that day when “coming out” is a thing of the past. That day when all persons are celebrated for their authentic and unique selves. May it be soon!

Leadership Institute Update FUMC

September 27, 2019

              We arrived Wednesday about noon and attended the workshop on having difficult conversations. The presenter used a model called Spiral Dynamics, A Model for Explaining Our Differences. It was a good presentation that helped up better understand why we think as we do and the evolution of consciousness we progress through in our lives. It is a helpful model. This was a “pre-workshop” that was offered, among others, before the official beginning of the Leadership Institute here at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS.

               The Institute officially kicked off with a worship service and a presentation by Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton about the state of the UMC leading up to and following the Special Called General Conference on A Way Forward in St Louis last February. His presentation was instructive and helpful in setting the stage for what we would be doing the remainder of Thursday and Friday morning. We used an online poll to help us understand who was in the room with us and where we were regarding the current state of the UMC. There were 1300 churches represented and just over 2500 people. He set our theological positions within a framework of four identifiable perspectives –

               Traditional In-compatibilists – Those who support the current discriminatory language in our UMC Discipline and will not stay in the same church with others they disagree with regarding sexual orientation. – 10%-20% of UM Churches

               Traditional Compatibilists – Those who support the current discriminatory language in our UMC Discipline and are willing to stay in the same church with others they disagree with regarding sexual orientation. – 30%-45% of UM Churches

               Progressive Compatibilists – Those who want a fully inclusive church and are willing to stay in the same church with others they disagree with regarding sexual orientation as long as the church allows them to be in full ministry with LGBTQIA+ persons. – 30%-45% of UM Churches

               Progressive In-compatibilists – Those who want a fully inclusive church and are not are not willing to stay in the same church where LGBTQIA+ persons are discriminated against. About 10% of Um Churches

               Adam Hamilton gave a presentation on biblical interpretation using examples of how we as progressives and moderates approach the scriptures seriously without taking them literally. It was a good review. There were also video clips of families sharing their pain of loss of their LGBTQIA+ children and family members who had lost them to suicide.

               Thursday we heard the history of the church’s discrimination against people of color and women and why those presenters are glad they have stayed in the UMC to continue to fight the fight and to acknowledge the struggle continues with racism and sexism not only in the wider society and culture but in the church as well.

               Presentations were made by LGBTQIA+ persons around their place in the church and they pain they have felt and abuse they have endured at the hands of the church and why they continue to stay and fight the battle for a fully inclusive UMC.

               We heard a brief summary of three of the proposals going to General Conference in May of 2020 for a solution to our current crisis. These plans were put together by progressives, centrists, and “traditionalists.”  An overview of the Indianapolis Plan, The Next Generation Plan, and the UMForward Plan. There is also a fourth plan entitled the Baard Jones plan. I will make a presentation on these plans at our October 1st meeting at First UMC Omaha.

               We heard a talk by New York Columnist David Brooks Thursday afternoon. It was moving and inspiring. My take away for Thursday was a recurrent theme of “Things are Changing” and the church can either be on the leading edge of this change with grace and inclusion or we can stay stuck in the old modes of who is in and who is out.

               Friday we will have breakout sessions by Annual Conference and I hope we will be talking about concrete actions we can take to affect General Conference in May in a positive way. Jason and I look forward to being back in the church to bring what we have gleaned from this meeting as well as sharing the information from our house meetings and other information we have gathered since last we met as a church. I will be writing an extended version of this update early next week.

Until then…

Peace and Light for Our Continued Journey Forward,

Rev. Kent

We Cry, “Thoughts and Prayers…”

August 4, 2019

“We are desensitized, numb, used to it;” I hear and read the words across social media, the news, and from our government representatives. I find myself somewhat speechless in the wake of yet another senseless act of gun violence in our country. Mass shootings, defined as 3 or more deaths, in 2019 have been 248, with 246 deaths, and 979 wounded. It is difficult at best to find words that have not been said before. We find ourselves, once again, in that all too familiar cycle of outrage, thoughts and prayers, no action, and amnesia until the next one happens. How many will it take; lives taken, families shattered, bodies mangled, until our leaders have the courage to do something to curb this pestilence in our land?

This violence born of hatred, racism, xenophobia, and the othering of persons who are not white is fueled by words that identify others as less than; murders, rapists, animals, those who need to go back where they came from, those who are ripped from their parents and put in cages. Words matter and those who spew hatred and unfounded accusation are responsible with those who hunt down the other.

This violence, born of hatred and racism, xenophobia and bigotry, is systemically ingrained in our culture and society, in our government and systems. When black men selling cigarettes, or who pick up a BB gun in a store are shot and killed while a white man with an AK47 style rifle kills 20 persons in a store and is taken into custody without incidence…there is something wrong with our system!

This violence, born of hatred and racism, xenophobia and bigotry, is systemically ingrained in our culture and society, in our government and systems. We hear language of terrorists and thugs if a person of color or other religion commits a crime and when a white man commits the same offense all of a sudden it is about mental illness. We have a white man, white supremacist terrorism problem in our country; home grown terrorists with easy access to violent weapons and we are asleep at the wheel. When millions of dollars, and hours of time, and campaign rallies rail  on the dangers of Muslims, immigrants, asylum seekers, and persons of color and say nothing of the plague of white men with white supremacist affiliation, Nazi values, and racist ideologies continue to gun down innocent lives…there is something wrong with our system!

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” as another twenty of God’s children are slaughtered by senseless gun violence as if we believe God is suddenly going to swoop in and save us from our warring madness.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” from the highest halls of our government and yet the cowards who are supposed to be our leaders, supposed to work for the common welfare of our nation do nothing.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” in our places of worship, light candles, pray for peace, weep and grieve with the mourning, and yet refuse to yield our rights even if it might save just one life.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and point fingers at the others we believe are responsible and refuse to consider our own guilt.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and sit comfortably in our gated communities and our alarmed and armed homes…as long as mine are safe I need not worry about the others.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and by August 15, 2019 El Paso and Dayton will just be a memory of two more killings in our land like the others, as we wait for the next.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” as the attempts at sensible gun legislation continue to pile up on the desk of those whose cowardice, power, and greed refuse to strive for a solution.

We cry “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers!” and I wonder how many more lives it will take before we awake from our blood stained and violence ridden comas of denial?

How long O Lord, will we sacrifice your children on the altar of gun rights, racism, white terrorism, individualism, and hatred? Not long I pray, however it has already been too long. I am seeking some light in the darkness of this morning. How many times must our hearts been ripped open before we are willing to let the light of justice, compassion, and love shine in?

Today I will say my prayers, I will light a candle, I will do my best to speak truth to power and find some way to make a difference. I pray you will join me.

Searching for Peace and Light on Our Journey…

Rev. Kent

Words, They Matter!

July 31, 2019

The words of my mom came to me as I wrestled with this writing. If memory serves me correctly, we were on a family trip to California. The radio was on in the car and Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain began to play. Mom was in the back seat and she told us to change the station because she did not care for the song. You see, mom was one who not only said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” she lived it. I have often said I never heard my mom say a curse word, I am not even sure she thought them. I certainly never heard her speak ill of anyone. I am sure she wasn’t perfect; however, you couldn’t prove it by me.

And then there is this prophetic task to which I believe I am called. I think about the prophetic tradition of which I am a part. Reading the Hebrew prophets, I am not sure the idea of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” was something they practiced with a lot of success.

I find myself in this uncomfortable tension of late, regarding the current state of our country, our culture, our government, and in particular our administration and president. I feel caught in the life lesson my mom and my dad raised me with, the notion words matter. The words we say and how we say them matter. I have learned along with that the old saying, “Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is not true. Words used wrongly hurt, tear down, destroy, they can even inspire others to kill. Words matter!

I am caught between that gift of grace that defined my mom and the frustration and even anger I feel when I hear words being leveled from the highest levels of our government that not only demean and belittle their intended targets, but demean, belittle, and tarnish the office from which they come.

I have written bits and pieces about this dilemma before; however, it has been weighing heavy on my heart and soul of late and need to get it out. There comes a time, a colleague of mine once said, when gentle words no long work. There comes a time, a colleague of mine once said, agreeing to disagree is not longer palatable. There comes a time when one needs to stand up, speak up, and simply speak truth to power and say, “No. You are wrong!”

The struggle began in the campaign leading up to the election when, our now president, mocked a Vietnam War hero, mocked a disabled journalist, and evidence released of his objectifying women. It only grew worse when he encouraged attendees of his rallies to punch someone and he would pay for their legal fees. Since he has been in office it has only continued.

Mr. President, you are wrong. It is one thing to disagree with members of congress, senators, community leaders in the nation you are sworn to support. It is one thing to disagree with world leaders and dignitaries as you represent our country around the world. It is quite another to use words and language that demeans, belittles, attacks, and targets persons for who they are and for where they are from. You are wrong to use your language to incite bigotry and division in our own country. You are wrong to suggest there are both good and bad among white supremacists. Mr. President you are wrong to demean a city in the country you are sworn to represent by derogatory language of rat-infested communities. Mr. President the divisive and vitriol words you use influence those who take you seriously and are dangerous for our country and its citizens. Mr. President, your continued tweets and diminishing language is beneath the dignity of the office to which you were elected. It saddens me to hear and read of your continued inflammatory words. It weighs heavy on me daily to listen to those who support you dismiss your often hateful and derogatory words.

All this being said, I was raised by two loving parents who taught me there is good in everyone. And there is still a part of me that wants to believe there is something within you that knows what you say is wrong. It is. I also believe in the power of our citizens and know in the end, right, compassion, justice, equality, diversity, grace, and love will endure and prevail. I will pray for you. I will love you, Mr. President. My love will be in the form of resistance and calling you to account. I pray others will join me in this kind of resistant love that stands and speaks and says, “No! You are wrong!” when you are. It will also be one that acknowledges when you do the right thing.

In the tenor of my mom’s teaching…one can call another to account, one can stand up and speak up and say to another they are wrong, without the belittling and hateful language coming from our highest office. I will continue to strive for this goal. I pray you would too.

Rise. Resist. Prevail.

Be a Light. Love One Another. Until there are no others, only one beloved community of All.

Rev. Kent H. Little