Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

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

Beginning Ponderings Along the Journey of a Politically Active Christian Clergy I

May 1, 2015

As a Christian, a clergy, as well as a committed voice of support for separation of church and state there can be a fine line of being a prophetic voice in the church, in community, and in the halls of government. It is an important line for me and one of the reasons I have decided to embark on a journey of academia in pursuit of a Doctor of Ministry Degree. The reasoning behind my decision is to better equip myself with tools to create collaboration, conversation, and move not only the church but society in social justice issues regarding race, gender, poverty, sexual orientation, and other areas that are once again in the spot light and threatened by the powers that be.

My interest in politics and the workings of our government began, though did not rise to the service until many years later, when I was a senior in high school in my required government class. A long story short, in the class I was enrolled in I tried to do just the minimum amount of work and found the teacher was true to their word and failed me for that semester. As a result I was required to take a double credit in an additional government class so I would be eligible to graduate. It was that second class and teacher, I would discover years later, that ignited a slow burning ember that would begin to burn brighter as I got older.

I found myself writing letters to the editor, to our state and federal legislators around issues and decisions they were making. Ultimately I found myself taking some night classes to obtain an undergraduate degree with some aspirations of a political career. Another long story short, through the encouragement and inspiration of my local congregation and pastor I felt the call to ministry, to which my pastor said, “Well, you should respond to this call, after all there is a lot of politics in the church.” A true word.

Undergraduate degree, Master’s Degree, and the journey of serving churches that strengthened my resolve regarding social justice and gave me the confidence to continue speaking out on behalf of those who have been oppressed, discriminated against, hated, imprisoned, abused, denied, and excluded have been an invaluable resource and experience for me.

I have found myself fortunate to be serving a progressive United Methodist Church that has a long tradition and passion for encountering the Spirit of the Divine through critical study, active practice, and a commitment to social justice for all.

It is in this environment of such a community of faith that prompted me, at the invitation of a local lobbyist, to travel to Topeka to testify at a committee hearing in opposition to a so-called “Religious Freedom” bill that was designed to make discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons as well as anyone else who may disagree with a particular religious belief. While I submitted written testimony I was not able to testify as the hearing ran too long and I was not given the opportunity.

What I learned in that time in the hearing room was the multitude of Christian voices that testified in support of this discriminatory bill and the realization that I was the lone representative of a faith community that would offer a voice of opposition. I sat in the room and wondered, where is the other voice? Where are the voices to speak out against this unjust law from the church? Where is the church’s voice that says this is a matter of social justice and it is wrong?

It was in that moment made the commitment to be as involved as my work allowed, not only within our own church and denomination but in my community, state, and nation to be that voice and encourage others to lift their voice as well.

As committed and passionate as I am about social justice and activism within and outside the church I realized perhaps my passion was not enough. I needed more tools to facilitate and give my passion more focus through research, statistics, resources, collaboration, and conversation across the spectrum of political stance and theological understanding. Thus is my journey back into academia to resource myself so that I might be better informed and more knowledgeable about that which fuels my passion for ministry and social change.

I have begun my reading and will start my class work on campus in seminary this coming June. I plan to journal here on my blog periodically to share not only new understandings but also my work in the church, community, and the halls of government, that hopefully will give others the inspiration to speak up and move our world into a more just, compassionate, and humble society in which Kindom really is a reality here among us, for ALL.

Thoughts, prayers, positive energy, and input and comment always welcome. Until next time, here I am, here I stand, and here we go!

Peace and Light on Our Journey!

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!

HB 2453 “Legalized Discrimination”

February 22, 2014

I am creating this particular blog in part just for my record. I have sent numerous letters identical to the statements below and similar for which I received no response, the responses I have included here are the only ones I have received. Along with that in hopes that those who read it might see that this bill is far from “dead.” It is currently being reworked and revised. If you have not written or called your reps I encourage you to do so. This is not a “religious freedom” bill, this is a bill legalizing discrimination cloaked in religious language. This is a justice issue and the church needs to speak!

Statement to Hutchinson News

I commend Senator Wagle and am glad to see the Bill stalled and the hopes for passage are 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 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. Those who say this bill is not promoting discrimination, I would say, at best are too biased toward the subject and Bill to be objective or simply disingenuous at worse. If 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,” certainly did not send anyone away because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.”
Actually I do not believe this is 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. I believe this bill is a “discrimination” bill cloaked in religious language to appeal to certain theological based persons in our state.
My hope is that the outcry from thousands of Kansans will be noted and this bill, whether in its current form or any sense of amended form, will be scrapped immediately.

Rev. Kent H Little

Response

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me regarding House Bill 2453, an act concerning religious freedom with respect to marriage. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

After an initial review, I’ve grown concerned about the practical impacts of the bill. A strong majority of our members support laws that define traditional marriage, protect religious institutions, and protect individuals from being forced to violate their personal moral values.  However, our members also don’t condone discrimination. If we cannot find ample common ground to ease legitimate concerns, I believe a majority of my caucus will not support the bill.

As the process moves forward, I’ll work to find a fair balance between providing protections for all religions, while balancing legal and practical concerns from job creators and business owners. If we are able to craft a product with the kind of widespread appeal that I think this core issue maintains, we will proceed to full consideration in the Senate, and pass the language back to the House for review.

 I encourage you to keep in mind, that our legislative process is a long, deliberative, and ultimately thoughtful process. This is a critical factor is building strong public policy, and I’ll remain committed to ensuring our actions are subject to rigorous scrutiny.

 Thank you, again, for the opportunity to respond. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.  

 Susan Wagle
Kansas Senate President

District 30

Letter to Judiciary Committee/Letter the Editor Wichita Eagle

To the Judiciary Committee of our Great State of Kansas,

As a citizen I find House Bill 2453 “An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage,” in conflict with of any sense of separation of church and state as provided in Thomas Jefferson’s comments regarding the First Amendment. As an ordained Christian clergy I find this bill an offense to the ideals of freedom of religion, all religions, in our great country.

To consider because of religious belief or lack thereof, a citizen or government entity of our state could deny rights, benefits, or employment to anyone should be appalling to those who truly value religious freedom. A true religious freedom bill would protect the rights of citizens from discrimination and harm, not serve as a tool of oppression, or an instrument to deny rights. HR2453 is an affront to those who truly believe in justice for all.

This bill, while touted to be clear and concise is ambiguous by design and opens a dangerous door to discrimination and oppression of anyone who happens to disagree with another’s religious or non-religious belief.

Our representatives are elected to serve ALL citizens of Kansas not just the ones they agree with. Our government is not now nor has ever been a religious agency free to exclude, discriminate against, and turn away those who pay its salaries simply because they disagree with the religious beliefs of others.
The intent and agenda that lies at the root of this bill, I would say, is quite obvious a bill intentionally cloaked in the language of religious freedom while denying the very religious liberties it claim to supports! While I appreciate your service and dedication to the civil government of our great state, I find this bill a monumental waste the time and resources, our tax money. This is not a religious freedom bill; it is a bill promoting religious bigotry and oppression. I pray you scrap this bill in its entirety, amended or not.

Response

Kent,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me regarding HB 2453, a proposal to guarantee religious freedom with respect to marriage. I appreciate the opportunity to update you on where things stand pursuant to the bill’s referral to the Senate.

Because the implications of the measure probably went well beyond its original intent, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman has indicated we will not likely take-up the legislation in its House-passed form. Rather, a variation of it will be refined and narrowly tailored to meet the goal of protecting the rights of those with strongly held religious beliefs without becoming a license to openly discriminate.

This is important because a majority of my colleagues, I believe, supports laws that define traditional marriage, safeguard religious institutions, and prevent individuals from being forced to violate their personal moral values. It is when we get into the area of public safety responders and businesses that are responsible for the actions of their employees that we have to be careful about unintended consequences.

The beauty of our legislative system is that it is a long, deliberative, and eminently thoughtful process. The result is hopefully and generally to build a consensus for good public policy, with our actions being subject to rigorous scrutiny throughout. Your views are essential to securing that outcome, so I encourage you to stay involved as this issue moves toward an acceptable resolution.

Senator Julia Lynn
Kansas 9th District
Assistant Majority Leader
Commerce Committee Chair

My Response

Senator Lynn,
I appreciate you taking time to respond to my email. I know how busy you must be and can only imagine how many emails, calls, and letters you have received as a result of this bill.
While I understand the bill to be unacceptable in its current form I am more concerned about the discriminatory possibilities even with a narrower focus. For the state to pass a bill giving individuals the right to discriminate against persons who have deeply held religious beliefs that are in opposition to their own deeply held religious beliefs is not only a breach of separation of church and state but simply untenable. As an ordained clergy I support marriage between two persons in loving committed relationships regardless of their gender. To pass any form of this bill is for the state to sanction the treatment of a segment of our citizenry as “less” than another.
As you have suggested, and as I have committed myself, I will remain involved and will do all in my power and ability to see this bill discarded in any form as I pray you would as well.
Thank you for your time and service to our state.

Rev. Kent H Little

Politics: Disappointment and Fanning the Flame

January 28, 2014

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. I suspect that is true for a lot of things, it certainly is for me. Though I did not recognize it at the time my high school government teacher somehow planted a seed or a burning ember in my subconscious or my heart and soul around the notion of politics. Ironically I only had one semester of Ms. Davis as the result of receiving an F from the other government teacher in our school which then required me to take two government classes at the same time so I could graduate, thus my joining her class. It’s a long story, you are free to ask me about it sometime but I suspect this blog is going to be long enough without that addition.

As I remember back it was somewhere in my early to mid-twenties I began finding my way back to the library and my reading addiction really began and found itself focused on the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. I do not know how many books I have read on his life and times, or the number of speeches I have read, I used to have a whole collection of VCR tapes of television programs and purchased documentaries about his life and death.

As TruDee and I became more and more involved in our local church I started lay speaking, filling in for vacationing preachers. Everywhere I went I was invited to consider the ordained ministry. My answer was always an emphatic “Not Interested!” As my journey continued my own pastor would ask me about ministry and he would receive the same response.

At the encouragement of TruDee I decided to begin work on a college degree and started taking some night classes as we could afford them and as I had time. Word got back to my pastor who one day asked, “So, Kent, what are you going to do with your degree when you get it?” I replied, “Well, actually I have considered public service, perhaps even politics.” His response, “Oh, perfect, like I’ve been saying you need to go into the ministry, there is a lot of politics in the church!” Well, the call, college, seminary, ordination and the rest is history!

I have long been interested in, a student of, and an active voice for equality and social justice. I have preached sermons, led studies, counseled, and had perhaps hundreds of conversations on equality, inclusion, welcome, and justice. My position on various social justice and equality perspectives are well known among those who know me, or even know of me.

Recently I have been a part of events that have, I believe, fanned that flame that was planted long ago in an eighteen year old. I was inspired by Tex Sample, a longtime friend and past seminary professor, who spoke of many, me included, and who “know all the positions and none of the moves.” …we’ll leave it at that. I am blessed and fortunate to serve in a loving, welcoming, inclusive, Reconciling United Methodist Congregation here at College Hill in Wichita. I preach from a progressive theological lens and Biblical perspective and we often discuss social issues, equality, and justice for all. I have a supportive community of faith in which to serve and a loving environment to be cared for and encouraged. We are a community of faith committed to justice and equality for the LGBTQ community, justice for the poor and hungry, committed to quality scholarship, dedicated to caring for the environment, and a place where justice and rights for women, children, and all are taken seriously.

Part of the series of recent events that struck me was that, to some degree, when I am in this supportive environment, though not everyone may agree with everything I speak about, and though I try to challenge the community of faith to act on their faith and live it out and do something beyond our walls, I am preaching to the choir. After these recent events and after Tex’s comment, I realized I need to do more. I need to take our voice of inclusion and welcome beyond our walls and take it to another level.

Today I was invited to Topeka to speak to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in opposition to House Bill number 2453, here is the link http://kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/hb2453/, in my opinion it is an atrocious bill that is an affront to the concept of Thomas Jefferson’s comments on the First Amendment regarding separation of church and state not to mention an offense to anyone who takes religious freedom seriously. My first thought was, “Whoa, I can’t speak in Topeka!” A little out of my comfort zone. But, I agreed.

I sat in the chamber and listened to the explanation of the bill, I listened to those who supported it, and was able to listen to a few who opposed the bill. The Committee ran over time and it was postponed until tomorrow morning before I was able to speak. I was disappointed.

That being said, I found myself inspired to do more. In some respect I heard more profoundly what Tex as saying to “me.” It is one thing to speak to the ideals of social justice and equality within the church walls where the majority agrees with you, it is another thing entirely to actually “do” something and move that voice to a whole other level!

I listened as some who were speaking saw absolutely no crossing of a boundary of separation of church and state. I listened as some spoke on behalf of “the church” and “Christians,” and “religion” as if there is only one valid perspective and understanding of those terms. I found myself wanting to stand up and say, “No! You are not speaking for “all” of Christendom, you are only speaking for a “part!” In the midst of all of this I realized that I am weary. Weary of the powers that be who would claim to speak for all of us and I have long been frustrated by our media, government, and other venues that seem to only acknowledge and draw input from one particular view and theology as if that is the only one that matters. And I’m sorry, I and many, many others “matter!” And as I sat and listened I heard the voice of Tex tell me, “You know the positions, and it’s time to move! It’s time to act and take it to another level.”

I could taste something here in this chamber that I am not sure I can give up, nor do I want to. That ember was fanned and I was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

As a result, I believe it is crucial we take our voice beyond these walls of our beloved CHUM and speak it with clarity and conviction in the halls of government whenever we have opportunity. I will be offering my voice to those in Topeka who are fighting the battle and for the cause of equality and justice for all; for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for the rights of women, for the eradication of hunger and poverty in our State and Nation, for the care of creation and sustainable choices, to ensure the proper funding and education of our children, to address the increasing wage crisis to help raise the working poor out of poverty with a livable wage, a just resolution to our immigration process, and to protect voting rights as well as other social justice issues and the critical need for separation of church and state and the protection of true religious freedom, and freedom across the board.

I realize that my time and voice in Topeka or other places will be limited by my commitment and service to you my beloved community here at College Hill and I would never let my advocacy in Topeka interfere with that calling and service. When I am unable to travel to speak I will submit written statements and letters to our legislators. But an alternative Christian voice that promotes inclusion, non-discrimination, truly religious freedom, and a commitment to separation of church and state is desperately needed! I trust you will help me be our voice not only here in Wichita but across our State and Nation.

Thank you CHUM for who you are and for giving us all voice, I could not do what I do, nor speak what I speak without knowing we stand together. I thank you Tex for your inspiration and guidance. Thank you Ms. Ann Davis for that ember and spark that still burns. Thanks be to God for my call, for the Spirit’s grace, wisdom, and love.

Rev. Kent H. Little