Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

The Way Forward through the lens of “Right Intention” and the Connection of Jesus and Buddha

January 14, 2019

I was listening to a local radio station the other day and the host was talking about this fall and winter here in Omaha. He was speaking to the fact that he had never been able to get the leaves raked in his yard because of the rain and now snow that keeps coming. Just about the time he thought things had dried out enough to rake, here came another round of moisture preventing him from getting the job done.

I remember thinking to myself, “Yes, that’s why I haven’t managed to get the leaves picked up out of our yard too! It’s the rain and snow’s fault!” Friday, I had minimal tasks to do around the house, one of which was to take the outdoor Christmas lights down, which I did. The whole time I was outside unclipping them from the gutters and gathering the extension cords I was looking at the yard thinking, I should get the leaves picked up. Of course, then it was time to drive downtown and have lunch with TruDee, our Friday tradition. Then I had some other tasks to do in the house, you know like, do a little laundry, send some emails, …take a nap. The next thing you know TruDee is home from work and it is starting to get dark and then…well…yesterday morning, that dang snow again! I am the king of procrastination.  I saw a saying the other day, “If a man says he’ll do something he’ll do it. No need to remind him every six months about it.” It’s easy to blame the weather for the fact I still have the oak leaves in my yard now under the snow again, but obviously it is not the weather’s fault.

I think about the parable of Jesus we read this morning about the two sons in relation to our topic this morning, Right Intention. One son says he will do something and does not, a procrastinator. The other son says he will not do it and does, perhaps even a procrastinator of sorts himself. Which one, Jesus asks, does the will of his father? Well, the obvious answer is the second son who actually does the work. This parable could certainly be seen in light of intention. Perhaps even pointing to that tired cliché “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Perhaps, at least in this sense… having good intentions is not a way to practice our faith or life and place in the world. It is one thing to say we are an advocate and ally for justice, peace, compassion, and love in the world around us…but if our actions, practice, and lives do not reflect those ideals, the intention become empty hollow words. So, in terms of this parable and the concept of intentions there is truth to this, we are challenged in this story of Jesus to do what we say we are going to do, be who you claim you are, words are just words unless the come to life in and through your practice in the world.

While this is true, and it does relate to our theme and message for today, I think we need to take it deeper. Last week we talked about Right Mindfulness, if you were here perhaps you recall my suggesting Mindfulness can be seen as rather the foundational piece of the Eight Fold path we are working through. A presence of mind, a constant reminder to stay in the moment without judgement, a way to be in the world and hold all things in tension, embrace them for what they are; good, bad, ugly… and then release them. It is an appropriate segue into Right Intention, related in an inseparable way. For if we are mindful enough to hold all things in tension in this present moment, perhaps the question we ask ourselves is… what is our intent. In Buddhist thought, right intention is the intention and resolve to give up the causes of suffering, to give up ill-will and to adopt harmlessness. It contrasts with wrong intention, which involves craving for worldly things (wealth, sex, power) and the wish to harm. In this sense, right intention then, can become more than what we do or do not do… it becomes who we are and how we see and practice in the world. Right intention becomes the lens through which we see the world around us as we not only give up the causes of suffering (attachment) for ourselves, but alleviate suffering for others. Right intention become a part of our state of being and how we are present in this moment that we and others can draw from as we practice as well.

The Buddha said, “When you see someone practicing the Way of giving, aid them joyously, and you will obtain vast and great blessings.” A shramana asked, “Is there an end to those blessings?” The Buddha said, “Consider the flame of a single lamp. Though a hundred thousand people come and light their own lamps from it so that they can cook their food and ward off the darkness, the first lamp remains the same as before. Blessings are like this too.”

We are to be light in the world…in the moment that alleviates suffering, release ill-will, and to do no harm…which stirs others to be the same. I think of another parable of Jesus which takes the parable of the two sons deeper… the parable of the Samaritan who came upon the traveler beaten on the side of the road. The Samaritan tends to the stranger, cares for his wounds, provides shelter for him, and promises to return. The Samaritan has alleviated suffering, carries no ill-will, and does no harm, he is present in the moment without judgement of this man who presumably does not hold the same beliefs as himself, and yet he cares for him with no restraint or concern for what he himself believes either…other than a lens of compassion he obviously carries with him…the “lighted lamp” so to speak, others can draw from without diminishing the giver or the one who receives.

I think herein is where we can encounter difficulty in our own journey and practice, or at least I can. This practice of mindfulness and intention holding no judgement but rather is guided by compassion and non-violence, of word and deed. I would suggest right intention in Buddhist thought can be seen as a lens through which we approach the world. I suspect, based on the stories of Jesus we have, similar thought would be present there as well. Jesus, while turning over tables and making a whip out of cords were obviously in his tool box, he never walked away…he remained engaged with those he disagreed. Challenged them yes, resisted them yes, exampled for them yes, taught them yes, but never abandoned them. His “intention,” I believe, was always to alleviate suffering, release ill-will, and to adopt harmlessness.

This intention as a lens…as a posture and practice in the world…a way of being that holds the whole of the world in a place of peace making and reconciliation. Intention is the compassionate lens through which we are called to see and act and respond. Do you remember Jesus words in his sermon in Matthew… “Do not judge.” “Do not love only those who love you but love your enemies as well?” Intention then becomes less about what we do and more about who we are and how we are present in the world. Present to those around us for not only what we bring, but from what can we learn from them and the world, even those with whom we may vehemently disagree.

I remember several years ago I was taking a class at a Buddhist Sangha. Sitting on a cushion on the floor listening to the teacher a fly began buzzing around my head. I shooed it numerous times and it was really becoming an annoyance, it was a very persistent fly and I am not sure why it picked me out of the group of students in the class at the time, but it had. After numerous attempts to catch it, which in hindsight I am glad I didn’t, and numerous shooing’s… the teacher, Namdril, finally asked, “Kent, is that fly bothering you?” I apologized for interrupting the teaching, “So sorry, yes, it is a persistent one.” She answered, “Yes they are persistent and want to teach you, we call them our kind mothers…these flies, are teaching us patience and gratitude.” It is about our posture and presence in the world, our practice, and the lens through which we see and respond to those around us. What is our intent?

In the book, “The Chocolate Cake Sutra” by Geri Larken, the author speaks of everyone as holy… in the context of intention I would suggest, all things holy; everyone and everything. It is about mindfulness and how we intend to affect the environment in which we find ourselves. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Being Peace,” he writes of peace making. He says, “If we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace.” He goes on, “If our true nature is to be interconnected selves, then our peacemaking, if it is going to be effective, must flow out of our interconnectedness. That includes our interconnectedness with the people whose actions we have to oppose.” It is about mindfulness and intention in the moment to alleviate suffering even from those who do not know they are suffering. In Knitter’s book, “Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian,” he writes of this intentional posture when he says, “[In the Buddhist] there is an aversion to violence, I believe for the Buddhist there is no such thing as “just anger.” Of course, we feel anger and it will motivate and direct our energies. But, for Buddhists, it will not determine what those energies lead to. We will not act out of anger. Rather, when anger surges, we will be mindful of it, and that means embrace it, be kind to it. Our anger will point us to those people or events which, through mindfulness…[intentional]…we will seek to respond to with understanding and compassion. Yes, we may have to oppose them, seek to stop them from their agendas, but our opposition will be one of non-violent resistance; that means compassionate resistance. One of the most quoted verses of the Dhammapada is: “In this world hatred is not dispelled by hatred; by love alone is hatred dispelled. This is eternal law.”

So, in this sense, Right Intention is a lens through which we see everything with compassion and love, even those things that we must resist. In Knitter’s book, he suggests Buddhist thought would be, “Justice will, as it were, take care of itself if compassion is truly present.” The lens of Compassionate Intention will not judge, will be mindful of the present moment, will resist non-violently, will stay engaged, and such presence will change the world for the common good of all.

I think about these things with our upcoming informational meetings, letter writing campaign, and our United Methodist Special Called General Conference on a Way Forward in February. At the Conference there will be three primary plans presented as a Way Forward of our denomination in relation to full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, plus…persons in our United Methodist Denomination. As I consider and reflect on the current state of things in the church, I see the plans as the United Methodist “Intention” of how they are going to relate to LGBTQ persons in our congregations and in ministry. The three primary plans are identified as The Traditionalist Plan, The Connectional Plan, and The One Church Plan.

The Traditionalist Plan leaves the current discriminatory language in our UM Discipline as well as adds more stringent penalties for those who do not abide by the rules regarding same gender weddings and ordination of LGBTQ clergy candidates. It also requires clergy, churches, conferences, and bishops to sign off on the language and if they refuse these will be invited to exit the denomination. In my opinion, this plan, if we use the language of Intention and Practice, is grounded in an intention of fear and judgement. It is a plan formulated with an intention that does not alleviate, I would say increases, suffering, promotes ill-will, and does harm to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in our congregations and the world at large. This is a lens of intention that does not follow the Way of compassion and love Jesus lived and taught.

The Connectional Plan is a plan that recreates the structure of the church in terms of conferences and jurisdictions. Creating a theological and philosophical divide where clergy churches can relate to conferences that fit their theology and view regarding LGBTQ persons role in the church. The conferences and jurisdictions will no longer be geographical in nature, but rather theological and philosophical in nature. While it follows some other models that seem to work well in other denominations it will take a great deal of constitutional changes to get it into place and I do not think it will pass any vote. For me, in terms of intention, I think it is a good intentional view of a way forward…but a complex and difficult journey at best.

The One Church Plan creates a denomination that also allows for differing theological viewpoints. In essence it creates local control and decision making. Each clergy, church, and conference will decide if they will or will not officiate or host same gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ persons in the church. I believe it is important that  you, our community of faith here at FUMC know where I stand, and of the three plans this is the one I support. I support it because it reflects the long history of the United Methodist Church of openness and conferencing. The One Church Plan brings to the table a mindfulness and intention of recognizing we do not all agree one this and makes room under a large tent non-judgement and compassion for both sides of our struggle. This plan gives opportunity to continue to practice patience, to hold in tension opposing viewpoints, to resist non-violently and compassionately, to stay engaged and not walk away from those we are called to love. The One Church Plan makes great strides to alleviate suffering, gives space to release ill-will, and offers hope in doing no harm.

Beginning Sunday, the 27th of this month and the next three Sundays, we here at FUMC will invite our entire congregation to participate in a letter writing campaign to delegates who will be voting at the General Conference in February. I hope we all participate, this is an important and crucial time for our denomination and our church. As one of, if not the, flagship Reconciling Congregation in Nebraska and our Annual Conference we need to make our voice heard and I believe of the plans to be brought before the Conference, we need to support the One Church Plan. We need to make our voice and our intention known at General Conference.

I think of the world in which we live today and the deep divisions we have across our country and in our church. There is too much vitriol, there is too much hate, there is too much walking away and not staying engaged. It is time we truly open ourselves, not to just those who agree with us, but engage and embrace all persons with compassion and love… for this is what will change the world for the common good of all. May it be so. May it be NOW. Amen.

Rev. Kent H. Little, Lead Clergy

First United Methodist Church, Omaha, NE

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We Can Be Better in 2019

December 31, 2018

I am here in the continued afterglow of the Season… of Christmas Eve Services, study, writing, sons and daughters-in-law, and three perfect granddaughters, life is good here in the Little home. It is New Year’s Eve day and I have been pondering this year past and what the new year might hold. I am hopeful about many things, and I am frustrated about many things as well.

My frustrations come from many venues. However, I think right now my main frustration is my continued attempts to understand our current administration and our President as well as those who so adamantly support him. I write this not to look for an argument or a debate, but mostly to vent a little and continue to try and understand. I watched as he mocked a disabled person, a war hero and former prisoner of war, a veteran’s family, women, promoted violence against those who would oppose him at rallies and found myself in disbelief that we would elect such a one.

Since his election I have watched and listened to him continue to diminish our allies, our courts, and our federal law enforcement agencies. Refusing to take advice from his advisors on things such as Syria or his own party on the proposed border wall. I have found myself rather aghast at his hesitation, or even seeming refusal to denounce white supremacy groups. His policies continue to threaten the safety of those who seek asylum in our country from other parts of the world that threaten life and livelihood. The list grows ever longer of things I see as injustice, xenophobic, a threat to the common good of all, and just honesty in general. Just recently he compared the wall he wishes to build on our border with Mexico with the ten-foot wall around President Obama’s current home…a wall that does not exist.

I know many who support President Trump, so much so to the point, it almost seems it doesn’t matter what he does or says. I want to understand, I really do, but now after listening to his speeches and reading news stories for nearly three years, I still cannot seem to wrap my head around what we were thinking or what he is thinking. I cannot decide if he is really just trying to distract the country, and if so, distract us from what or if he is just being intentionally obtuse. I see the struggle in our country and I think of a favorite movie of mine, Remember the Titans, and the struggle the team was having to come together at one point, Gerry tells Julius he needs to fix his attitude, Julius responds, “Attitude reflects leadership.” I don’t know, maybe that applies to us today, our leader is a mess…and thus…so are we.

All this being said, as 2019 rolls into the present, I will continue to keep President Trump in my prayers, our country in my prayers, and our world in my prayers. I will pray for understanding as I continue my unwillingness to settle and my commitment to actively resist any policy diminishing the poor, oppressed, discriminated against and the least of these in our midst.

With the continued struggle of the last few years I am still hopeful. I am hopeful because I find myself to be one who must be. I will continue to try and understand and listen more. However, I refuse to let fear, distrust, chaos, injustice, and violence of word and deed be a directing force in my life.

I believe, whether we are people part of a community of faith or not, we are all called as a community of humankind to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper…ALL of them, and especially those who are the poorest and most vulnerable among us. It takes all of us, yet the division that continues to be driven like a wedge among our fellow humankind in our country and our world will in the end destroy us unless we come together.

However, I believe more in the Kindom, the Beloved Community dreamed of by one of our finest…I believe in our country and our founding documents, I believe more in who we have been and who we can become more than I believe in who our current administration and government are. I refuse to believe we are stuck in this descending spiral of vitriol and disrespect. I am willing to extend a hand and have the difficult conversations to find a way out of this fog of disillusion.

We can be better in this 2019.

My hand is here. My heart is here. Let us begin again on this New Year.

Rev. Kent H. Little

The Word

July 17, 2018

My struggle to put my thoughts into words comes from my wrestling with who I am and whose I am. There is a tension for me between my citizenship and my chosen vocation. As an ardent supporter of our constitutional ideal of separation of church and state I have a difficult time wearing the simultaneous hats of citizen and clergy.

I have long been an advocate, voice, and practitioner of justice making for all of our citizens, in particular those who are discriminated against, marginalized, and oppressed. I rarely wade into partisan politics when it comes to my writing and never when it comes to my role as clergy. While I believe Jesus was certainly political, I would posit he was never partisan. His critiques of empire and the political domination system was about policy and practice, never a particular philosophy of politic. He was certainly critical of those leaders who practiced and condoned policies of injustice, violence, and oppression. It is within this tradition I write these words.

That was two rather long paragraphs to get where I am trying to go as I wrestle with my thoughts and words. Over the last year and a half, I have struggled with our current political environment and in particular this administration and our president. I have watched and listened as he bragged about objectifying women. I have watched and listened as he belittled war heroes and their families. I have watched and listened as he mocked the disabled and the sexually abused. I have watched and listened as he continuously disparages our free press and anyone who disagrees with him. I have watched and listened as he denies at best and lies at worse about things he has verifiably said and done. And most recently has once again diminished our own intelligence agencies and multitudes of others who have confirmed via investigation and fact a foreign country technologically attacked our country and its election process.

As I continued to ponder and wonder all this again this evening it struck me…the word…the word I had been searching for. Contempt. I am not sure I have ever known a person, certainly not a leader, with as much contempt as our president. At least in my perception, and perhaps this is an exaggeration, but it appears to me he holds in contempt almost all things; the world, the world’s leaders, our allies, the poor, foreign persons in our country, the differently abled, his own party, his supporters, even perhaps his country, and his office. Maybe I am blowing this out of proportion, but when I read his tweets, listen to his speeches, watch him encounter others on the world stage, with the exception of a handful perhaps, transgender persons in our military, other religions, …the list is too long finish…. I hear so much contempt. And what deepens my struggle and heartache are those who continue to support his actions or turn a blind eye as if it is all okay and just part of the plan.

I will not be one to say, “He is not my president,” he is, right, wrong, or indifferent, for now he is our president…but I cannot support his actions and contempt for our standing in the world and his contempt for the least of these in our midst here in the USA. As a Christian clergy I will continue everyday to keep him, the administration, our governing leaders, and our country in my daily prayers… but I will not condone his contempt and I continue to resist at every turn words, practices, and actions that diminish the office of our Presidency, weaken our country’s standing with those who work for justice, belittle the oppressed and impoverished, mock the abused and differently abled, and looks with contempt on the freedoms and justice for which we contend.

To continue to support the levels of contempt and disregard for justice and compassion we are seeing in our country today will surely cause us to reap what we are sowing if we have not already begun. It is time to wake up we citizens, it is time for the church, all communities of faith, who long for and work tirelessly for the right, good, just, and compassionate beloved community to become that for which we dream! We need to pray for our country… but not just with words, with our hands and feet, with our work and our passion, with our hope and our compassion, with our voices of justice and reason! Speak up! Show up! When the time comes… Vote!

Make justice happen. Love as God loves. Be the very reflection of God in the world.

The soul of our nation depends on it. Perhaps even… our own.

May it be so. May it be now.

Rev. Kent H. Little

Wonderings of a Recovering Racist, Journeying into Hope.

September 28, 2017

My best guess is it was about 1969 and I would have been ten years old. I may be off a year but for the purposes of this story it does not really matter. As I remember, the incident occurred following our little league game and was during the older youth ball game. A group of us from our team and town were running and playing with some kids from the team and town we had just played.

At least in my mind it happened amid innocent play, but at some point, barbs began to be exchanged and playful attitudes changed. I have no idea what brought it on but I have never forgotten the impact it had on me. From somewhere down in my ten-year-old vocabulary I let loose a barb toward one of the other kids we were chasing, a boy of my age, he was black. It was a word that had never been uttered in my house. I had little knowledge of the word other than what I had heard and picked up. I had no idea of the implication or damage it could do. I am confident I had heard it at school or on television, I had never uttered the word prior to that moment either. As soon as it left my lips, there was a deep twisting knot in my stomach, a sickening feeling I knew I had done something horrible. “Nigger,” I said. The boy looked me in the eye, smiled, and returned the barb, “White trash,” he said. I knew even less about that label, I had never heard it before. With that, he and his friends took off in another direction, my friends chasing after them, and me standing with a boulder sitting in my stomach, twisting and gnawing at my insides. I wanted to throw up. I wondered what I had done. I have never used that word again, to describe or direct at another human being, at this point I am still unsure I should leave it in this writing.

Fast forward, it is 1994, I am now thirty-five, my first year of seminary in Kansas City Missouri. As part of a class I was taking on ministry we were asked to go on a ride along with the Kansas City Missouri police department. The officer I was with pulled into an alley, parked, and turned out the headlights of the patrol car. He pointed across the street at a darkened two-story house with a single light in a lower level window. He told me it was a drug house; the dealers would stay inside the house and the buyers would walk up on the porch and the deal would be done through an open window. We sat, and waited. A man appeared to our left walking down the sidewalk across the street from us, the officer made a comment about watching to see if he went up to the house. The man, a Caucasian man, I would note later, seen by the light of the streetlight, turned the corner toward the house, but then walked on by. We sat for a time again and another man appeared from the same direction, a black man I could see by the same streetlight, walking toward the corner where the house was. The officer made no comment, he reached with his left hand and turned the external spotlight on and positioned it to shine in the face of the man walking down the street. The officer kept the light on the man until he faded from our sight. It was that same knot gnawing at my insides I felt that night watching the officer spotlight the man walking down the street. It brought to mind instutional and sysytemic racism. I wondered why he had not shone the spotlight on the first man. I wondered what the second man had done. I think I know, though I did not say anything at the time, I was fearful at that point.

1995, the age of thirty-six, I was invited to a lecture at seminary as part of our Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities. As part of the talk the speaker asked those of us in attendance to stand and make a single line through the center of the room. The line was to represent a continuum as to where we believed racism was in our country today. Stand at that end of the room if we felt racism had been eradicated from our culture and society, at the other end of the room if we felt there had be no progress at all, and somewhere in between depending on how much progress we felt had been made. I sat in my chair and wondered. I finally made the decision to remain seated. My good friend came back and sat with me and queried why I had not stood. I simply said, “I know racism is still deeply present in our culture and society, but who am I as a white guy to say where we are? I’ve never been followed in a store, looked at with suspicion, been pulled over, or had an officer shine a light in my face simply because I am white. We have a long way to go, but I don’t know.” I wonder now, looking back in hindsight, if that was a copout. Could have been…I wonder.

I shared these three, among other personal experiences and being witness to racism, both individual and systemic, to say it has been, and still is very much alive. I have spent numerous times in my ministry speaking out against, working against, reaching out to my friends who are persons of color in a battle against the cancer that is racism in our country and world. I recognize as a straight, white, Christian, male I have an enormous amount of privilege in this country and world. I am committed to working and using my privilege to expose racist tendencies and policies when I encounter them. But, I am not done with my own journey… and I wonder just how far I have yet to go.

September 25, 2017, I finished a book TruDee gave me for my fifty-eighth birthday, while she took a class. I am a relatively slow reader as I spend a lot of time pondering while I read, as a result I often go back and re-read portions as I progress. This was one of, if not the, most difficult books I have ever read. That mammoth sinking pit I mentioned in my first story, lay heavy in my gut and soul as I read every word. I have a work in progress I intend on becoming a book one day about my life, journey, theology, and philosophies, but to read this book and the author’s depth of knowing, of experiencing his own life, and the depth of from where he comes moved me deeply. I finished the book sitting in my car outside the little bakery where TruDee was taking her class…and wept, and wondered at the depths of my own racism, even though I think of myself as an ally and an advocate.

The book, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates delves into the culture and society we are and from where we have come. I heard in his words, our country was founded not just on the idealized freedom of religion and freedom from oppression, our country was founded on oppression and the enslavement of another group of human beings. Their enslavement was responsible for the success of our economy, and dare I say not just southern economy but the economy of the nation as a whole. Racism, enslavement of, and the diminishing of Africans is deeply embedded in our DNA as a country. And you don’t remove that kind of tumor even with a war, even with a civil rights movement and laws, it is deeply rooted in who we are as a country and especially in those of us who are white, and even, he says, those who think they wish to be white. These are thoughts I heard as I read his words, as I fought against that deep and dark pit that weighed deeper and deeper with each page.

The book is written in the context of a letter to his son, sharing his own story, his own struggles, his own life, his body, as he puts it, and the body of persons of color that he sees as expendable by the powers that be. His sharing with his son is not to convince nor give his son answers, but rather to encourage him to find his own voice, his own being, his own struggles, and his own body and worth. These words spoke deeply to me, You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.” He also shares that it isn’t for him to change other’s minds, or help their struggle, it is for the other to find their own struggle and come to terms with this deeply rooted cancer that is on our nation, my words not his. I cannot recommend this book any higher, it has changed the way I see.

Early the next morning as I re-pondered all I had been thinking since the day before I posted on my Facebook page a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.; “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” That heavy pit reappeared in my gut. I shed a tear. I considered not sharing the quote on my page. Who was I to share the words of a man who endured the racism of our country in ways I could not even begin to know. I did share it, however, that moment and this book have caused me to completely rethink all that I have done and will do in the future. I tried to explain that to TruDee as we drove that morning, and it has touched me so deeply I could hardly speak as the emotions welled up within me. I live in a country, in a culture and society, that is deeply racist and I am a product of that culture. And as a white man, this book has caused me to wonder more deeply the ways I still participate in the racism pulsing through the veins of who we are as a culture. As Coates says, it is not for anyone else to figure out for me, struggle for me, it is not for my friends and colleagues, who are people of color, to teach me or point out what is and what is not racism, though if they do I will pay deep attention, it is for me to struggle with, to dig deep into that heavy, dark pit that resides still within me and continue to try and make myself and the world around me a better, more just and compassionate place.

This revelation is larger than racism though, it cuts across the landscape of injustice that continues to haunt and diminish our culture. Homophobia, Sexism, Women’s Rights, Xenophobia, Ageism, Religious Discrimination, and all the phobias and ism’s that plague our land. A friend once told me as a white person we are all given a backpack of privilege when we are born and we carry it with us all our lives. So, here I am, and I have been made aware on a much deeper level of that backpack of White, Male, Heterosexual, Christian privilege that I carry. I carry it as a constant reminder with that privilege comes deep, deep responsibility to better understand how I participate, consciously and unconsciously, in the injustices of which I fight so diligently against. Perhaps my title of “Recovering Racist” is a bit harsh, but maybe that is what it takes to better get my attention, because of my privilege I am a racist, perhaps not intentionally, but simply because of ways I participate in those injustices and that cancer on our culture and society and am unaware.

This is my struggle and the journey continues. Pray for me, think of me, ponder with me and us. May God continue to open my eyes, my heart, that the pit never goes away, but to serve as a constant reminder to be mindful of my words, my actions, my thoughts, and my love of all. I wonder on this journey, when we might become one…I wonder.

Of Empaths and Collateral Beauty

December 31, 2016

I want to talk about the movie Collateral Beauty, but I want to start with another piece of recent pondering in order to lead into the movie.

If I recall it was just about a year ago now a friend asked me the question while we were on retreat, “Are you an empath?” I do not remember the exact context of the conversation at the time, but I remember having to ask what that referred to as I had never heard the term before, other than assuming it had something to do with empathy. She explained that empaths have a sense about them and can take on others pain, joy, struggle, and emotions and/or are especially sensitive to positive or negative energy in a room.

I came home after the retreat and looked up empath and read numerous articles, blogs, and journals about those who identify themselves as such. The articles spanned a wide array of theories and abilities, some for my more practical and skeptical self, seemed a little bizarre, but many of the articles I resonated with deeply in my being and experience. Here is one of the articles I found helpful in my readings, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people found in Psychology Today.

Some days I can feel like the whole weight of the world is on my shoulders and I have a difficult time shaking the funk so to speak. When I walk in a hospital room when a family is struggling with difficult news and making difficult decisions I can often feel an almost physical heaviness, a tangible distress in my body. Even in other places, the office, a social gathering, dinner with friends, or when it is just TrweepingbuddhauDee and I, there is an energy, presence, whatever one may call it, that is often palpable. I believe this is one reason I found such connection with the image of the Weeping Buddha from the first time I saw it and read the legend behind the figure. Here is a link to the legend of the Weeping Buddha, if you are interested, https://www.buddhagroove.com/what-does-the-weeping-buddha-signify/.

Now to the movie, if you are reading this and wondering, “What the heck?” hang with me I’ll make the connection shortly. TruDee and I went to see the movie Collateral Beauty last night. The movie, in every review I have read has been panned, by some critics as the worst movie of 2016. Now, I know I am not a professional critic and evidently do not look for the same things as those who make a living watching movies, but I found the movie moving, meaningful, and deep.

One critic said the movie failed at answering the question of “What is collateral beauty.” I would agree, the movie is not clear on exactly what it is or what it means. Being the pondering kind of person I am, such a critique does not disturb me. I have no problem with stories, movies, and books that leave me hanging trying to wrestle out the meaning for myself. Heck, I have at the foundation of my vocation a book I have spent fifty seven years wrestling out the meaning in the bible!

I am not going to give any spoilers in this writing but I want to make a brief connection between my pondering of one who has identified with the empaths of the world and what came to me in the movie Collateral Beauty. I have been on a soul and self-searching journey this past year. With the help of a counselor, and a long distance friend, I have resolved some pieces of my journey I did not realize needed resolved. One major difference for me is the Christmas season, every Christmas Season I always have a day, I even named it, my Melancholy Day. I never know when it is going to hit me, but in the midst of the celebrations I have a day when grief overwhelms me and I find it difficult to function. This year, it never came, or at least not at this writing now six days post-Christmas. I believe that while I still have those moments of deep connection of struggle and joy, the day never came because of an intentional attempt to move my focus.

What I found in the movie, was depth and peace. No it did not answer the question of collateral beauty other than to suggest it had to do with connection. I found the movie beautiful, difficult, emotional, and fodder for much contemplation. What I came away with was this, and I think it is very timely at least for me, in this world, in our country, in our state, in our churches, there is so much pain, fear, hate, discrimination, uncertainty, and incivility we have a choice. While these things cause me, and so many others, concern, anger, and fear, in the midst of so much Collateral Damage, I have to choose not to miss the Collateral Beauty. The movie did not answer the question because this beauty will be different for all of us, we will find it in different ways, in different places, in different people, but I must be intentional about seeking it out and allow it to feed and nurture my passion and work in the world, otherwise, like Howard in the movie, the damage of negativity, suffering, grief, hate, and xenophobia will consume me and drive me deep into that ever darkening spiral of hopeless despair, especially for one who connects as an empath in the world. I highly recommend this movie, take some tissues with you.

So, as I close this writing, let me say on this last day of 2016, look for, seek out, be unrelenting in your search for beauty on your path, in your world, in each and every one you encounter, it may be what ultimately saves our world, saves ourselves.

If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution, though it is not what I am calling this, it would  be to continue my journey, as best I can, from moment to moment, seeking out undauntedly the beauty of everything, everything. I know 2016 has been a difficult year, but in the coming year, embrace beauty my friends, you are enough, you are beautiful, you are not alone, I love you… and together … may we make 2017 beautiful and filled with grace, justice, compassion, and love.

Here is to Beauty and Hope –

Kent

The Bending Arc

January 15, 2016

I received an email from a friend asking if I would be willing to come to Topeka to speak in favor of a bill being presented to a House Committee. Several years ago I committed, with the support of our church, to bring an alternative and additional voice of the faith to pertinent legislation and action. I agreed to come, wrote a written testimony, forwarded it and planned to make the drive Thursday afternoon.

 
I sat in the committee room as another bill was discussed and then HB2323 was presented. In essence it is a bill that adds “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, to protect the rights of our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. This amending language provides for safety, access, equality, and employment protection for those who at current time can be discriminated against, simply because of who they are.

 
I was one of five who spoke in favor of the amending language. I will include my complete testimony either as an attachment to this blog or as an additional page. As I believe this was not a religious issue, and even though I am a leader in the faith, I focused on the fact that our founders, both national and state, grounded our governance on equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one, none of us, should live under threat of discrimination and loss of livelihood, happiness, based simply on who we all are as children of the Creator.

 
There were an equal number of persons scheduled to speak in opposition to the bill. The testimonies quickly took a religious freedom bent even though this issue, this bill, this amending language has nothing to do with religion.

 
One Representative suggested that a clergy person could be compelled to hire or not a LGBT person, the one giving testimony concurred. A false statement. An attorney representing a Christian organization, when asked if a pastor could be compelled to perform a same gender marriage against his/her belief answered, “Yes.” An attorney! A lie. I was pleased when one Representative finally held her accountable, or at least tried to. As I sat and listened to misrepresentation of the LGBT community, misinformation, bigotry, prejudice, and blatant untruth being shared as if it were logical, rational, and just I literally finally had to get up and leave the room as I was having a difficult time remaining silent.

 
As I sat in my chair listening and struggling to find some sense in what was going on, the words from Martin Luther King Jr. came to mind. I suppose on one level or another it was because he has been on my mind as we move toward the day we honor his legacy and dream, but as I watched this unfold I could hear his voice, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,”

 
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” ~ MLKJr.

 
I realize, over the years as I watch the political process I have suspected this, witnessed it from afar, experienced it myself, but somehow it was always rather subtle, in a way that made me want to say, “Really?” But it just never struck me deeply or at any kind of profoundly disturbing level.

 
I heard MLKJr’s voice today, witnessed his prophetic witness come to be, a religion that has become the tool of the state and a state that has become the tool of religion. Religious and political tools of fear, distrust, bigotry, discrimination, and misinformation designed to control and silence those who raised an alternative voice, all masked in the language of religious freedom. I saw it up close and personal, it lingered in the air we breathed, it was so thick in the room I could reach out and touch it.

 
This night as I reflect, and am more deeply disturbed and troubled as I have ever been as I watch, not only on our state level, but the national stage as well, a religious form that is defined by fear mongering, discrimination, hatred, suspicion, a religious form that is defined by who it can exclude and shut out rather than a nation founded on freedom for all, and a religious expression grounded in the unconditional love and grace of the Creator.

 
However, while in this present moment I am discouraged and heavy of heart I know, I know of other words that guide my thoughts this weekend. I know of those words spoken from the steps of the State Capital in Montgomery, Alabama, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

 
I suspect it will continue to be a long time coming, the kind of peaceable and just world we long for because the arc is long. Patience can be hard to come by, because the arc is long. Justice rolling like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream may be a distant horizon, because the arc is long. A world without fear, dishonesty, and discrimination may have lost the day today, because the arc is long.

 
But it bends toward justice. There is a light that shines in the distance, I may not ever bathe in its light, but I will not be dissuaded. The journey toward that light is our task, so that those who come behind us will know we were a part of why it shines, when it finally immerses us in the warmth of justice, compassion, welcome, and love. One day, one day my friends. Keep on. Keep on. For our way may be long, but it is the way to justice. And on that day, we will all say, Love Won, it always wins.

 
Tomorrow is a new day. The light will shine. The work will be done. And love will dawn.

 
Kent

Where Are You?

October 15, 2015

I walked away from the meeting feeling as good as I have in a long time. My friend asked me, “So, this journey you have been on, how are you, where are you?” I had to pause for a moment before I responded. Over the many months, and to a large degree over the past several weeks I have been on what I consider an inward journey; inward into my past, my future, and finally my present.

There is so much to consider about what I, what we, experience in the past that shapes and molds who we become in positive and negative ways. And to come to the realization that just a blip on the screen of one’s life can effect so much, can open one’s eyes to a clarity and vision that grounds one in who, whose, what, and why they are.

There is so much in our world that can seem so broken. So much to worry about, fight against, stand up to, and speak out against. It is often difficult, I think, in our current reality to get to the important, deeper, and more life giving issues than in this soundbite world we live in.

There is so much attention focused on “what is in it for me” rather than making this world a better place in which to live for “all” of us. Depending on what side of the political and or religious fence one is on determines where we stand on so many issues, but really not “issues,” we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

Prepare here for personal, religious, political perspective rant. Too many lives and livelihoods are threatened in our country, in our world today.

The lives and livelihoods of persons, female persons, who want to access quality healthcare, prescriptions, abortion care, care that should be provided and decided between them and their doctors, and in clinics that shouldn’t subjected to false accusations and edited videos, government should not be making these decisions for women and their doctors.

The lives and livelihoods of parents and children who want a more safe and sane world, more safe and sane educational experiences, without having to worry about whether some unlicensed, untrained, unregistered individual is going to walk into the room with a gun with intent to do harm.

The lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their children and whether they are going to have a chance at education, food, medical care, and the opportunity to become citizens without the fear of deportation and inhumane treatment.

The lives and livelihoods of young black men and women, parents and children alike, who have to worry about being targeted and profiled unjustly putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

The lives and livelihoods of the poor, middle class, working poor whose incomes and resources are continued to be mocked and swallowed up by the greedy and those who lack compassion.

The lives and livelihoods of those religious who simply want to practice their faith in peace but are besieged by protest, threat, suspicion, lies, and bigotry in a nation founded on freedom of religion.

The lives and livelihoods of those who simply want to embrace the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, marry the ones they love, buy their houses, file their taxes, care for one another and visit one another when they are sick, and share the same protections under the law that my wife and I have.

The lives and livelihoods of all of us, when science is ignored and denied while glaciers melt, anomaly weather patterns create floods, droughts, and super storms that threaten life as we know it.

There is so very much wrong in our world, in our country, in our government, in our churches today. And I believe we are charged with the continued work of trying to make it a better place, for all of us, all of us.

All of this being said, I had a bit of a revelation along this journey I have been on over the last many months and last few weeks. Life is too short. Life is too short to get bogged down in what is wrong with the world. Life is too short to get caught up in a soundbite world that is more interested in shallow fear of the other, fear of new things, than it is in the weightier matters of the common good for all. Life is too short to focus on sensationalized headlines rather than substantive information and education. Whether it be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the church, life is too short to bicker about who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not, what I want to your exclusion, or who deserves and who is undeserving. Life is too short not to embrace the world, the whole of it and tell it, “I love you, and deep down inside … you are good; Good I Tell You!

With all of this preceding pondering, I can say I walked away from my meeting as good as I have been in a long time. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m right here.” I replied. “Right here, in as good a place as I have been for a long time, here in this moment.” Life is too short to let the past continue to obscure and blur my vision. Life is too short to worry about the future. Life is too short to live anywhere but right here, in this moment.

My calling by the Spirit of the Divine as a politically active pastor, clergy, advocate, voice, thorn in the side, and nervous prophet is no less important to me, I would venture to say it is now even more so now. My encounters with the Divine contine to bring me peace, nurture, and connection. My calling is within and outside the halls of the church. Within to continue to challenge the status quo, to continue to look for where God is doing a new thing. My studies, I pray, will bring new revelations and understandings of what it means to follow The Way. Progressive and compassionate theologies grounded in love of God, neighbor, and self, not focused on fear and sacrifice. And that Spirit calls me to be a voice, presence, and advocate of social justice not only within the church but in the halls of government as well. Our Gospel is a Social Gospel and without the Social Gospel there is no Gospel at all.

I still intend on changing the world, even if it is just my little corner of it, moment by ticking moment. My renewed vision of the present moment has clarified for me my vision of the task that lies before me. Life is too short to sit idly by and watch as injustice after injustice diminishes and belittles the lives and livelihoods of too many women, men, and children.

I am no longer governed by fear, but am led and guided by, immersed in the love of the Divine, a love that I believe we are all immersed and connected within. This love of God is a love from which nothing, no thing, not one thing, can ever separate any of us … in each eternal moment, we are loved, period! I am here, right here, and present in as good a place as I have been for a long time. I am not going away or shrinking back, the moment before us is huge, but we will persevere, we will see the day, when Love will, Love does, when Love Wins!

Just a long process of pondering along the Journey of the Way… the Way of Light, Life, and Love.

Kent.

Bigger than the Supreme Court

June 27, 2015

I have been considering and pondering all that has happened over this past week and am compelled once again to put my ponderings in writing. The final decision released this past week was on a challenge regarding same gender marriage bans. The Supreme Court of the United States found in favor of same gender marriage in all states across our great nation by a five to four vote.

It is important to remember in the context of religious thought and communities of faith in our nation that freedom of religion has not been threatened by this decision. There is nothing that happened within the walls, doctrines, and disciplines of the church that affects us. Those communities of faith and clergy who wish to affirm and participate in marriage ceremonies will continue to have that ability and those who do not will continue to have the ability to refrain, religious freedom has not in any way been threatened by the courts.

This decision was a civil rights decision based on our Constitution which does not consider the religious persuasion of its citizens but rather equality in the eyes of the law. I appreciated Justice Kennedy’s closing of the decision,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

This decision is about basic civil and human rights and it is the right decision under the laws of our Constitution and our great nation.

While this is a huge step toward a more free society and culture and a much needed one, not to mention constitutional, this move is bigger than the Supreme Court. For me, as a leader in the church it is about social change, cultural evolution, and social justice. This decision for the church is not only bigger than the supreme court it is bigger than marriage.

While in my own United Methodist Denomination my ability to be in ministry to all of God’s children continues to be undermined by my own Disciplinary rules, I continue to stand within its bounds and work for change. This decision of the court causes my heart and soul to rejoice with gratitude for our system of government as well as gratitude to God. I believe this is participating with what the Spirit is already about in our midst. It saddens me that our civil law and government seem to be more in tune with what and where the Spirit is about among us than in my own church.

This decision is bigger than the Supreme Court because it affirms that hope that was already in place, that hope that was already being lived out among those who simply longed for the same rights as I have as a heterosexual of privilege and standing in culture and the church. It is bigger than the Court because it speaks to the will of the people, it speaks to an ever increasing awareness of justice and right, it looks to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and states that although that “arc of the moral universe is [still] long, it [continues] to bend toward justice.” Thanks be to God.

As I consider the ruling it occurs to me that the decision is not only bigger than the Supreme Court, it is bigger than marriage in and of itself. Granted it allows the same rights and privileges under the law for any and all married persons now, and for that I rejoice with all my friends and family who have longed for this day! But I also think of my LGBTQ friends and family who are single and who may or may not choose to enter into a marriage relationship. This decision, while it revolves around the rights of those who wish to proclaim and have their marriage recognized, it also honors and empowers those who chose to remain outside of a married relationship. This decision also honors and affirms who they are with the same civil rights and access under the law I had prior to my own marriage.

This past week was an incredible week of justice and freedom for all on so many levels; the ACA affirmed once again and millions continue to have access to health care for which they may not have been eligible before, here in Kansas a court stating our legislature’s school funding was unconstitutional and hopefully requiring them to provide adequate funding for our public schools, recognition that the Confederate Flag is a too long standing symbol of racism and hate, and of course the decision Friday affirming same gender marriage across our great land! We should celebrate and relish the joy and victory.

I would caution us though, on two different levels. One is that now we have celebrated let us not become complacent in thinking the work is complete. We do not have to look far in our journey of history to know the law of the land does not change the condition of the heart. The Civil War ended in 1865, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, and just a few days ago nine innocent people were killed in cold blood for no other reason than the color of their skin.

We don’t have to look far in our journey of history to know the rights of women were well settled in law years ago, and today are still seen by too many as somehow inferior, not worthy of an equal wage, or incapable of making their own healthcare choices.

We don’t have to look too far in our journey of history to recognize the dangers of violence and the use of weapons designed for nothing but death, institutions and care designed to help those with mental illness, and too easily accessed firearms and cuts to healthcare to know Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and too many others have stained our history and lives.

We have to acknowledge our place in history that says in this moment, we are in a state of incivility in a supposed civilized nation. We have to make a change.

Our work is not done until not only the law of the land continues to evolve toward justice, compassion, and peace, but our hearts must be transformed as well, the heart and soul of our country, our society, our communities, and ourselves as individuals. Our work is not done, vigilance is required, action is needed, and silence is still not an option. Racism, sexism, gun violence, fear of the other, bigotry, and hate are a cancer on our country and world and the only cure is justice, compassion, and civility, the only cure is love.

Finally, there are a lot of people, friends, family, a lot of God’s children just like us who are hurting and struggling with this cultural shift, and it would not bode well of us to gloat and be haughty in our success. I would say, as tempting as it may be, even toward those who have been hateful toward us. For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” We as a community of faith are called to grace, to live into and live out the gospel of love for all. So let us continue the work of justice, and of kindness, and of humility as we work alongside the Spirit of God in bringing the kindom here, on earth.

In closing I will share a prayer I learned this week as best I can remember it,

“Go with God. Go in Peace. Wage a little peace. Love one another…ever single other.”

May it be so. May it be soon.

Peace and Light – Kent

Perishing, Perishing

November 25, 2014

The news and images from Ferguson over the past months have been heart wrenching and difficult to read and watch. With the announcement of the final decision by the Grand Jury there has obviously been outcry, violence, affirmation, and struggle. It is difficult to form a good unbiased opinion from more than four hundred miles away without all the evidence, facts, and the overwhelming emotion. But, I felt compelled to speak to the situation in what plans to just be a brief pondering on my blog that is subject to editing and evolution as I continue to ponder.

First let me say the media carries a huge amount of responsibility for fueling the fires of discontent. Some days it seems the media would prefer there be violence and uprising as opposed to peaceful protest. However, unfortunately that is what sells because that is what we the consumers buy. In one comment I read someone referred to it as “disaster porn.” But to paint all media with that broad brush would not be just or fair, there are good media outlets and reporters just as there are poor ones.

The findings of the Grand Jury were difficult to hear. There is so much competing information from both sides of the argument it is difficult at best to know what is fact and what is fiction and what is presumption. I would say for myself, based on all I have read and listened to I am still not clear on where I would weigh in on this particular situation involving Officer Wilson and Michael Brown. There seems to be compelling evidence that Officer Wilson may have overreacted and used excessive force. I have difficulty believing an unarmed young man would need to be shot so many times… a needless tragedy. And there seems to be compelling evidence that Michael Brown threatened and a physically altercation occurred. The young man seems to bear some responsibility for engaging the officer in what sounds like a threatening and physical way. However, ultimately, I don’t know, I just don’t know, which are the three most difficult words for some people to say.

Let me say this though. To use this tragedy to say all law enforcement officer are never guilty of racism, excessive force, and wrongful acts is simply wrong and disingenuous and to use this tragedy to say law enforcement officers are always guilty of racism, excessive force, and wrongful acts is simply wrong and disingenuous. To use this tragedy deny racism is still alive and well in our country is at best ignorant and at worst dishonest. Our system is broken and dysfunctional and skewed toward the privileged and it is up to us to fix it, nonviolently and civilly.

Racism is still rampant in our country. I have seen it happen. I have heard it spoken. I have witnessed it carried out. That being said, I am not one to say how far we have come or how little progress we have made in regards to race, as well as gender, and religious relations. I believe we have made progress but at the same time I have never been suspect, followed, refused service, spat on, avoided, or treated differently simply because I am white. I live in a country that privileges me simply because I am a white, male, Christian, and we have a long way to go and much work to be done.

I don’t have the answers other than we need to find a way to be in honest conversation; conversation that is civil, forward thinking, and seeking to better understand what it means to live in this country together! We do that best, I believe, by getting to know one another; by creating just and compassionate relationships, to walk our neighborhoods and find ways to be together in order to make this world and country a better place to live. It is an oft used quote, but some things bear repeating until we get them right, from Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Dr. King, I am sorry to say we are still perishing…we are still perishing. Lord have mercy.

Full Statement at Equality Rally Topeka February 25, 2014

February 27, 2014

I edited the length of this statement on the fly Tuesday wanting to make sure I kept it brief because it was VERY cold and did not want to over stay my welcome, this is the full statement I had written and the core of the message was retained. I was very honored to have been invited to be a part of this important event.

              I have a confession.  I am straight, I am a person of faith, and I am a citizen. That may not be particularly astonishing news, though it may be to those who occupy this rotunda behind me that I am all of these things and find HB2453 an offense to my citizenship, to all of you, and to my deeply held religious beliefs!

              I am glad to see HB 2453 stalled by Senator Wagle and the hopes for passage seen as dim based on pressure from the business community and the possible negative economic impact it would have. That being said, it is unfortunate and unjust that the discriminatory abuse and damage it would do to real people, with real lives, for no other reason than who they love, was not the primary reason for the Bill’s controversy and stalling by the Senate President.

              As I read the bill I see no way to compromise or rework the bill that will not result in discrimination against citizens in our State, and in particular in its current form, discrimination against same gender couples, not to mention the broad scope of ambiguous language used that opens the door for all kinds of “religious” objections to marriages. To those who say this bill is not promoting discrimination, I would say, you are at best are too biased toward the subject and the Bill to be objective or and at worse you are simply disingenuous.

            When I look to this bill as an actual “religious” protection from my own Christian tradition, Jesus was only critical and condemning of the oppressive civil government of his day and the oppressive actions of some of the religious leaders of his day. Other than that he welcomed into his presence “All,” he certainly did not send anyone away because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.”
           

             Personally I do not believe HB2453 is dead yet and that is why we must remain ever alert to the goings on here in our state and national government. This “bill,” whether in its current form or some amended form thereof, is not a “religious freedom” bill at all and it breaches any sense of separation of state set forth in our Constitution and the writings of Thomas Jefferson. This bill is a “discrimination” bill cloaked in religious language in order to appeal to certain theological based persons in our state.

            I would implore us to not respond and react in kind to those who would discriminate against and oppress our friends, family, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, nieces and nephews I would encourage us to overcome them with love. Love is a powerful force, love is what has brought you here to this place, and it has the power to transform our land into a land of equality and justice for all, where ALL MEANS ALL, is the rule and not the exception.

            I want you to take a second and look around you, really look at the person/persons next to you, how many are here? The day is coming, and I believe it is not far off, when love will be celebrated for all regardless of gender, a day when love is love.  The day is coming when moms and moms, dads and dads, and moms and dads will tell their children of this day and more to come. We are not there yet, obviously, the road will not be easy, the resistance will be strong, and when it is difficult to put one foot in front of the other, and the days are long and the nights are longer, when your knees feel weak, your arms are weary, and your voice raspy and tired of crying out, you remember this sight, your remember why we rally, you remember all these persons with you here in this place and around the world who stand by your side, you remember the equality and justice for which we stand. We may not change the hearts of souls of everyone, but if our standing and speaking up help others to stand and speak up then this rally is worth the time! And when you stand and speak know, you are not alone. You are NOT ALONE!  Thank you … Peace and Light for Our Journey!