Posts Tagged ‘Gun Control’

Call Me a Dreamer

May 18, 2018

So, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately about the state of our union. Union…a funny word actually, especially in terms of what I see happening in the news, on social media, and in our society. We are anything but united. The only union I seem to see is us versus them, whoever us is and whoever them is. (I just sent chills up the spines of my English teachers). It seems to me we only unite with those who hold our same biases, prejudices, and bigotries. Now, before you call me out, I am no less guilty. I too tend to gather with those who are of like mind. And in general, I do not believe there is anything wrong with that.

When this dis-union becomes problematic is when we begin to think us or them are less than, less than us, less than them, less than worthy, less than enough, less than…human? And as a result, become targeted by violence of word and deed. Think about it, in our tradition, every since the story tells us Cain knocked Abel in the head with a rock we have been identifying those who are less than and imprisoning them in camps, building walls to separate, hanging, beating, shooting, and otherwise trying to eliminate the other who are other than us.

Just the history of our own country, this dis-unified union… the government sponsored and sanctioned genocide of Native Americans, called them uncivilized animals, thus justifying the atrocities we committed against them. Forced slave labor of Africans, brought over on ships and tortured, beaten, stripped, whipped, lynched, and called less than human, uncivilized animals, which once again we justified our actions because they are less than. African Americans who still face devastating racism even now in the 21st Century, what is wrong with us? Indentured servants from England and Ireland and other countries, who for some reason could never quite get out from under the powerful elite who brought them here. We demonize the poor and those on assistance trying to feed their families while working two and three jobs and call them less than. Women, continue to be treated less than in the work place, in society, via access to better paying jobs, healthcare choices, and targeted as objects by powerful men who use and abuse and control. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender persons who are fired from their jobs simply because of who they are and who they love…refused and turned away at the doors of the church and forbidden from full participation in the community of faith…beaten in the streets, laws passed to discriminate against them under the guise of religious freedom and I call BS! Religious bigotry directed at Muslims and other persons of faith because they practice differently, treated as other and less than. Immigrants and dreamers, refugees who have come here some legally and some undocumented because they are willing to do anything to save the lives of their children and families from the brutalities of their home country, treated like and called uncivilized and animals. families broken apart, children and mothers separated, because we see them as less than. This list is far too long.

Why do we continue to do this? Why do we as a country as a dis-union continue to fester the need to identify another group of humankind so that we can feel superior and special? When will we acknowledge we are all brothers and sisters, we are all children of the Divine, we all belong to one another… how long must we continue to pretend white, Christian, male, heterosexuals are the master species… I call BS!

This prejudice and bigotry, obviously, is not new, it has been going on for centuries… from the beginning really… to some degree early on it was about survival. But surely, we can evolve beyond what our earliest ancestors needed to survive. Surely, we can evolve beyond violence for violence and hate for hate. Surely one day we will lay down our weapons of war, our weapons of violence, our weapons of words and extend an open hand rather than a clenched fist…surely.

As for me, I will continue to hope, I will continue to speak to the best of who we should be, because even though my heart is hurting watching all this belligerent hate and vitriol language and violence laden dis-union of which we are a part… I still believe we can become who we are called to be. A beloved community where love is the rule and not the exception. A world where violence and war are a distant memory. A world where guns, and bombs, and swords, and spears are relics in a vast museum that simply serves to remind us of what we used to be and have no need of any longer. To such love and justice, I will commit my life. As a prophet not long ago once said… “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Dream and act with me, won’t you? Make Justice Happen. Love as God Loves. Be the Very Reflection of God in the World.

One Day… One Day…May it be so. May it be soon!

Kent H. Little

Advertisements

Carry On Young Prophets!

March 25, 2018

I stood in a sea of students, teachers, allies, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas on a chilly morning outside an elementary school and read signs and listened to calm and thoughtful instructions preceding our march. We marched from the school to the steps of the courthouse here in Wichita, a short walk, but an important one.

I stood and listened to the students speak, the chants ringing out, “Not One More!” “Vote them Out!” The impassioned speeches of the students, governmental representatives, and teachers were articulate, committed, determined, and moving…I was moved to tears more than once as their words echoed off the surrounding buildings. “We should not live in fear in our schools.” “Something needs to be done, continuing to throw up our hands and say nothing can be done is no longer acceptable.”

A clarion call from these young voices for common sense gun reform, better background checks, the restricting or banning of military style weapons with large capacity magazines, better schools, better student to teacher ratios, more resources for quality educational relationships, and better healthcare, just to name a few. They were not unreasonable pie in the sky ideas, but solid and practical ideas to change their world, to make a difference.

These students are not the leaders of the future, they are the leaders of today because our current leaders seem unable, or worse, unwilling to attempt any change for fear of losing financial support and reelection. A leader in our government should make policy not because it will garner financial support. A leader in our government should not make policy because it will get them reelected. A leader in our government should make policy because it makes our country safer, more compassionate, and create a just and equitable society for the common good of all persons.

The students I witnessed today are done with partisan politics where lobbyists line the pockets of politicians to advance an agenda contrary to the common good of all. I hear and see in these young people today the words of the prophet Micah of what God requires of all of us, “To make justice happen. To love as God loves. To be the very reflection of God in the world.” Perhaps these youth, these rising young persons are the tangible, active, impassioned answer to all of those “Thoughts and Prayers” that get thrown around and said after every school shooting and tragedy.

As I stood on the courthouse lawn, with tears in my eyes, the words from the Prophet Jeremiah came to mind concerning his call. “Then I said, “Ah, God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But I heard God say to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”

The ancient prophets approached and stood toe to toe with the leaders of the empire and the religious leaders of their time and said, again and again, “Enough is Enough!” They were dismissed, told they were too young, too crazy, too out of touch. They were exiled, others tried to silence them, deflect from their message, and they were ignored. And yet, so many times, connected to God and the people, they changed the world around them.

I stood on the courthouse lawn and was inspired and moved by these modern-day prophets. Speaking truth to power, undaunted and fearless. For me, and my generation, my place is to stand with them, support them, do everything I can to strengthen their voice and resolve. If I am unable or unwilling to do that, I need to get the hell out of the way. For what I witnessed today was the power and resolve of community, of relationship, of truth.

Stand Strong Young Prophets!
Speak Loud Young Prophets!
March on Young Prophets!
Change the World Young Prophets!
I, and many are With You!
Carry On my Friends. Carry On.

Peace and Light for Our Journey Together,
Pastor Kent

Our Youth. I am Grateful.

March 5, 2018

I remember as a teenager in high school learning about our government and political processes in government class. And while I believe it was one of those classes that lit a passion within that would come to flame later in my life, I really was not very politically astute in those days.

The experience was not unlike my journey of faith in those days as well. My father was an United Methodist clergy, so I grew up in the church. And while I have no doubt the seeds of faith and passion for justice were planted in those days I was not particularly religiously astute either. Those awareness’s and passions would come later in my life as I paid closer attention to my own journey of faith as well as the workings of our country and the world around me.

I remember, especially my youngest son in particular and his interest in politics and how our government works and the political processes that happens in the wake of its work. He was much more politically astute in his teenage and college years than I ever was.

It is easy, I think, to become frustrated and disillusioned in these days we live in regarding both faith and politics and our society and culture. There is so much hate and anger, injustice and bigotry, fear and misinformation and it can be so disheartening and overwhelming. While I try to be as active an advocate as I can, it can feel like we are spinning our wheels and the silence of others only feeds the struggle for justice.

And as overwhelming and disheartening as it may seem, right in the middle of it I begin to see glimmers of light, movement, and those willing to take a stand and say it is time to speak up. I find this inspiration and hope not from our politicians, and even not so particularly the leadership of our churches, though I know there are allies and leaders for justice and compassion in both of those arenas, I see and hear it in our youth.

The youth of today are even more aware of our world than we were at their age. And with the tools of social media and networking they have power we never dreamed of. In the aftermath of the gun violence of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the students have begun a movement with students across our nation joining their voices and light together to stand and say, “Enough is Enough!” Their calls for action, their willingness to stand toe to toe with the impotent politicians who continue to do nothing in the wake of such violence and tragedy, should move us all.

I hear in these student voices the words and the passion of the prophets of old who stood eye to eye with the empire, with kings, and said you are reaping what you are sowing, and unless you do something about this violence and injustice you will fall. They are trying to wake those who refuse to see. They are standing against those who embrace money rather than the common good. They are speaking up and refusing to accept no action. They are demanding their lives are more important than the injustice of a broken system of payments and lobbyist’s.

Thank you to our youth for breaking through and beginning what so many of us seemed unable to do. I stand with you. Your work is faithful. Your work is just. And we should stand and walk with you or get out of your way. They will lead us. There is precedent for such leadership in our faith tradition. We should pay attention.

Be A Light. Love One Another. Every. Single. Other.

Pastor Kent

Losing Your Head.

February 18, 2018

It is difficult to know exactly what to say this morning. When I began putting this sermon series together months ago the notion of the connection between starting the Season of Lent on Ash Wednesday with Valentine’s Day and celebrating Resurrection Day on Easter morning with April Fool’s Day seemed an opportunity for theological challenge and homiletical creativity. My intent in the series was/is to hold in tension that notion of love from Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday, an image of love that is not the sentimental all’s well image, but rather the difficult, vulnerable, even dangerous image of love. An image of love where we lay our lives down for our friends. An image of love that is costly, prophetic, life and world changing, and transformative.

And with all of this pondering and thought for the series, I confess I was not prepared to begin the journey of Lent with such a heart wrenching, real, and horrific image of vulnerability and danger as this last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day. I did not expect to be rendered speechless last Wednesday by the senseless violence of yet another mass shooting in one of our nation’s schools and the loss of seventeen lives. And still today, five days later, I struggle to find the words. And not just words, but to speak for the church, to have the audacity to try and discern, ponder, pray, consider, and find some way to utter what I, what we might hear from God on such a day as this, in such days as these.

It is difficult to know what to say, in some sense, what to say that we haven’t already said. I have preached on, written about, conversed with those on all sides of the issue of gun violence in our nation. What more do we say? What can we say and do to make a difference? How do we express the kind of love in the world, in our lives, with our families and friends that makes a difference? How do we share the kind of vulnerability that transforms the world around us into that beloved community where violence against one another, against our children is a distant memory rather than a horrific reality?

What should be our voice as the church sound like? What is our task? Is there any way to stop this tragic increasing trend in our country? What is our calling as the church, as followers of the Way of Jesus, the Way of Christ? Because, it is certainly not the notion of offering thoughts and prayers and then sitting back and hoping for the best. Prayer is participatory, reciprocal, and active. If our thoughts and prayers are not followed by action in bringing comfort for the hurting, conviction for the complacent, truth to the complicit, and justice for the vulnerable and innocent, it is not prayer at all, such prayers are an empty void of faithless self-righteousness.

We live in a dangerous time. We live in a day when we long for a safe place. We ache to know we can or we can watch our children walk away from us as they go to go to school, to a movie, a concert, to work, and not have to worry it will be the last time we see them. How do we exist in such an anxiety laden and fear driven society and culture? I am drawn to the words of theologian and author Walter Brueggemann in considering the task and role of the church, those of us who follow the Way. I believe his words begin to help us bring focus to what we might be about and how we might rise up and carry on.

Brueggemann says, “The prophetic tasks of the church are to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, grieve in a society that practices denial, and express hope in a society that lives in despair.”

“To tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion.” It is an illusion to believe we live in the greatest nation in the world when we are and continue to be a nation fueled by fear and violence. It is an illusion to believe we live in the greatest nation in the world when 56,755 of our citizens were killed by guns from 2014 to 2017, both intentional and accidental deaths, the number is even larger if we include suicide. In 2017 alone, 15,590 Americans died. It is an illusion to believe we live in the greatest country in the world when in that same 3-year span 2,710 children under the age of 12 died as the result of guns. Difficult truths to hear, but unless we shake off the illusion we live under and hear these numbers we will never overcome our addiction. We have a gun fetish in our country, an addiction to firearms and violence. After every mass shooting, classified as 4 or more deaths, gun sales and stocks spike! Guns have been discharged on school grounds so far 2018 somewhere around 18 times. I have read counter opinion articles to that number. I it is important to know that that around 18 is not shootings as in with the intent to harm. Some were accidental discharges, a student pulled the trigger of an officer’s gun in the holster, some were after hours, and other accidental discharges of a fire arm, suicide, etc… Yet still, think about it, firearms discharged on school property. The fact that that they were discharged at all on school property, regardless of the reason, should be alarming!

And it is not just the guns, it is our whole culture, we have immersed ourselves in a culture of violence, individualism, and isolationism. What is good for me trumps what is good for the community. And the church is not innocent either. Every time the church turns inward and isolates itself from the culture around it,  every time the church says we need to get back to the bible and get out of the social justice business, every time the church refuses to speak out against this violent culture we have created, where we allow games that glorify rape, gun violence, war, street fights, and other forms of violence, every time the church covers up sexual abuse, the diminishing and discrimination of a group of people, the objectification and dismissing of women, the allowing of bullying, we contribute to the violent culture we say we abhor.

Our task is to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion.

Our text today refers to the violent death of John the Baptist. Just when Jesus ministry is beginning to get some traction and reputation is spreading. A reputation of a healing, community building, compassionate, truth speaking ministry, one that will in the end cost him his own life, here in the text we read remember John’s death. While I have not necessarily always appreciated the image I invoke of John’s style of preaching, it is just that kind of prophetic preaching John found out can cost you your head, your life, telling the truth in a society that lives in illusion is dangerous business.  John has told the religious leaders they are snakes of deceit and greed. John has told the ruling powers that be they are living sinful lives and they will reap what they sow, and it cost him his life.

Telling the truth to a culture and society a church that lives in illusion can cost one everything. The truth is, we have a society and culture that is willing to overlook the sins of violence against women, violence against children, violence against health care, violence against those with disabilities, violence against the most vulnerable in our midst because it serves the culture’s consumeristic individualism. Our culture lives the illusion that it doesn’t have to care for the whole as long as it gets what it wants. Brueggemann writes, “Our society is dominated by the self-serving who proceed by ways of calculation and cunning and manipulation and deceit. But such a society – with its violence, its consumerism, its militarism, its alienation – is no way to live.”

Telling the truth is dangerous business and forces us to take stock in what is important in our lives, in our churches, in our families, in our communities, in our country and world. Taking stock of our priorities, counting the cost, also involves grief. What has been lost? What continues to be lost? What could be lost? It is about vulnerability.

“The prophetic tasks of the church are to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, and grieve in a society that practices denial” We live in a culture and society in denial. We are in denial that we are reaping what we have sown. No, it Is not just about the guns, though guns are a huge part, it is about access to proper health care, it is about a culture saturated in violence, it is about individualism and isolation, it is about ease of access to firearms, it is about the types of guns, especially military style guns that increase mass deaths, it is about an unwillingness to relinquish some of our privilege for the common good of all. We need to grieve. We need to repent, lament our apathy, our individualism, our greed, our silence, our complacency, our complicities, and our denial.

We need to grieve that our children no longer have a safe place to simply be children, our youth have to look over the shoulder constantly, we need to grieve that a hoodie and the color of one’s skin can determine whether or not they should fear for their lives. We need to grieve that individuals would rather stockpile guns and ammunition than get to know their neighbor. We need to wake up from the darkness of denial and take care of each other.

We need to grieve because these are not political issues, or rights issues, or even constitutional issues. For the prophetic church these are moral issues, issues of righteousness, and justice, and compassion! We need to grieve the church’s silence and the country’s denial that we have created this beast of violence and isolationism.

And…

We need to “express hope in a society that lives in despair.” The prophetic task of the church needs to speak to the hope that we are not alone, that we do not have to live in a world of individualism and isolation! We are a COMMUNITY of Faith, and we do need to be in prayer! A quote I saw yesterday reads, “Yes, it is usually better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but sometimes you need to remind the darkness just how loud you can be.” Speak the truth… even if your voice shakes.

The church, our church, needs to express hope in a society in despair. The despair can be overwhelming and exhausting, I know, but if we are to participate in the kindom of which God is calling us to be, if we are to embrace the work, life, and ministry of Christ, if we are to follow the vulnerability of what it means to be the prophetic church, we must rise up once again and again,  we must be present in the culture around us, and be the hope it so desperately needs. Brueggemann writes, “To ponder an alternative, (–to a society with its violence, its consumerism, its militarism, its alienation), to ponder the alternative, from greed to generosity, from self -serving to gratitude, is transformative. Such a way of life contradicts the way of the world.” We need to be “counter culture” Reject the wretched fear of violence and weaponry! Be the hope in our corner of the world that shines a light and brings people together! Begin the conversations that heal rather than wound.

The answers, whatever they are, will not be easy. What to do in response to such violence, tragedy, and fear is often so very uncertain. I do not have the answers. But we need to talk and have these difficult conversations. And, at a minimum, do not be silent, be the prophetic voice of truth, grief, and hope.

By all means, PRAY! AND THEN do something! Work for common sense gun laws, not a free for all. Work for policy change to make our country safer. Work for the change of hearts of those who are fearful of change. Work for better access to healthcare. Work for more compassionate governance.

Be aware of your surroundings. Get to know your neighbors better. Notice the loner, the isolated, the excluded and get to know them. Be builders of community. Don’t let the fear mongers beat you down. Be the Prophetic CHURCH I know you are. Be the Hope we need in the world.

You are NOT alone. You are NOT alone. This IS So. Thanks be to God! Amen.

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.

Clickbait

October 8, 2015

My son reminded me it is called click-bait, those headlines you see on articles on social media as well as news sites that may or may not have anything to do with actual news, the actual story, even reality for that matter. They are designed to incite or at least elicit an emotion from you. Often times I even find myself tempted to be pissed off just at the headline, form an opinion, and make a judgement without even reading the actual article or other news sources. I have learned the hard way too many times regarding these often incendiary tags, and, well, the key word is bait.

It feeds that notion of us against them, I’m right you’re wrong, and what I have said for a long time now our society and culture’s incessant need to be right, and to be right at someone else expense. It is like a drug, we are addicted to it and there are times I am as guilty as the next one, but not unlike any addict often it takes admitting we have a problem before we can begin working on a solution and unfortunately I think this is going to be a long cure if we can cure it at all. Our politics and religion especially have created a black and white world, an either or world, a world that we believe can only be seen as a dichotomy rather than a place where many solutions, opinions, and ideas can be entertained simultaneously for the good of all of us.

Just look at the headlines in our so-called news, I would say rather in our sound bite world where we really prefer to let some commentator, talking head do our research and study for us rather than doing the work and finding out the facts for ourselves. All we have to do is look at the state of this so-called news. Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice, Gun Control vs Second Amendment Supporters, Freedom of Religion vs Really Freedom of Religion, Religiously Based Laws vs Separation of Church and State, Christians vs Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender Queer persons, Religion vs Religion, Religion vs Non-Religious, Negotiation and Diplomacy vs Military Action and War, Livable Wage vs Mega-Wealth, Assistance for the Poor vs Cutting Funding, Poverty, Healthcare, Understanding vs Bigotry, Violence vs Peace, the list goes on and on.

Of course in my belief and philosophical framework there are a good many of these that for me are black and white. I mean after all, how could someone disagree with me, right? (I hope you hear the sarcasm in that) Ultimately though, if we are ever going to make progress and find any sense of peace, nonviolence, lower anxiety, and a way forward we have to begin changing this dichotomous thinking of ours and come to the table to begin talking, really talking AND listening, really listening!

But it seems we are locked in our opinions and unwilling to budge. Edwin Friedman speaks of this kind of gridlock in his writings A Failure of Nerve when he says,

A characteristic of gridlocked relationship systems as either/or, black-or-white, all-or-nothing ways of thinking that eventually restrict the options of the mind. Such intense polarization also is always symptomatic of underlying emotional processes rather than of the subject matter of the polarizing issue. Anyone who has been part of an imaginatively gridlocked relationship system knows that more learning will not, on its own, automatically change the way people see things or think. There must first be a shift in the emotional processes of that institution. In order to imagine the unimaginable, people must be able to separate themselves from the surrounding emotional processes before they can even begin to see (or hear) things differently. One must have a continual search for new answer to old questions rather than an effort to re-frame the questions themselves. Innovations are new answers to old questions; paradigm shifts re-frame the question, change the information that is important, and generally eliminate previous dichotomies.

Perhaps we are in the midst of a paradigm shift of thought and existence and are still clinging to old ways of thinking and believing. As Friedman says, Paradigm shifts re-frame the question, change the information that is important, and generally eliminate previous dichotomies. One must have a continual search for new answer to old questions. Continuing to use the same old arguments, again and again from both sides of an issue will never find consensus and collaboration. My way or the highway has rarely if ever, especially on emotional issues such as many of the ones we are wrestling with now, come to a point where the solution is good for all. There are more than two ways to look at most anything.

We must as a society and culture, we must as a church find a way forward that addresses the needs and rights of all our citizens and members in a just, compassionate, humble, and nonviolent way. A Way that does not do soundbite band aides that just kick the issue down the road for our kids and grand kids to try and find a way. This is difficult work, it will take all of us individually and collectively to come to the table in a civil, respectful, and compassionate frame of mind or we will be doomed to continue repeating the same old, tired, worn out vitriol language that only causes us to dig our heels in deeper.

I encountered a book in my doctoral work this past June that I appreciated deeply and hopefully will one day be able to use much of its wisdom and knowledge. Juana Bordas’, Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, Leadership for a Multicultural Age, in the section entitled, I is Contained in We writes,

I and we are not a dichotomy. I is intrinsic to the We orientation – individuals must be strong for the collective to thrive. We do not have to choose one or the other. This concept of both/and rather than either/or is a thread that runs through collectivist cultures. Because they are more tightly woven, there is a wholeness in which many things, including differences, can exist at once. The challenge is to balance communal good with individual gain – to reach the higher ground of interdependence, here personal gain is not achieved at the expense of the common good.

We must find a way to move ahead with grace and compassion not only in our world and country, but in the church and in our inter-religious relationships. It grieves me to see so much anger and violence in our world. It breaks my heart to think this is the world I am apt to leave behind for my grandchildren, all our children and grandchildren. I am committed to find a way, I pray you will join me.

Perhaps just the ramblings of a weary soul ready once again to take a stand for all that is just and compassionate. My writing and my speaking are my tools, I pray for the strength of the Divine to raise me, raise us all up into a better place, a better world, that is nurtured, shaped, and guided not by the superficial bait of me vs you, us vs them, but the depths of we together, coming to an open table of community working for the common good of all, of all.

Light and Love – Kent H. Little

A Rock, a Gun, and Our Addiction to Violence

June 18, 2015

Office Table
A friend of mine walked in my office the other day and handed me a rock. She said she had had it for some time and wanted to share it with me. It has found a place on my small pondering table in my office along with a Tibetan singing bowl, small prayer mat from a Muslim friend, a weeping Buddha, a book of selected scriptures, communion chalice, prayer beads, and a stole from Guatemala. It is a simple rock, with a simple message. Engraved in the rock is the word, “Listen.” I placed it on the table in the midst of so many expressions of faith to remind me to listen, to listen to a variety of voices, to listen for the Spirit, to listen to the world, and to listen to my heart.

This morning I am listening and it is difficult. This morning I am listening to a cry as I read of another senseless, violent act against innocents with a firearm borne out of racism, bigotry, and unbridled hatred. Listening to the cry rips my heart apart, brings tears to my eyes, and a welling anger within.

I was raised by a father who loved to hunt, he and I spent hours together participating in various forms. I have, years ago, lost that desire to go hunting though I still own two guns, one is mine, and one was my fathers. I have fond memories of our time together walking fields, crawling up on ponds, or sitting in a blind.

But that was hunting, and even though I no long participate in that activity the memories are good ones. I do not understand our country’s love affair with firearms, with tools of violence. I do not understand the desire to stockpile, buying more and more guns and ammunition. The idea that putting more guns on the street will make us safer, in my mind is simply ludicrous.

I have written about this before on my blog, and I hesitated to do it again as I didn’t want to sound like a broken record, but, Lord have mercy how long does this have to go on? How many innocent lives do we have to lose before our addiction to violence, hatred, and weapons kills someone in our own family? When will we finally listen to the cries of our mothers and fathers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, our friends and families, how many children have to die before we admit we and our warped fascination with weapons designed to kill is the problem? When will we listen?

There is rampant violence across our nation, rampant hatred, bigotry, and racism that continues to raise its ugly and evil head, and the continued passing of laws that allow for the purchase of guns without background checks, registration, and training is irresponsible, ignorant, and killing our friends and families, our children! Gun control is not the enemy! Guns in the hands of those who long for violent resolution are the enemy and we need sensible gun laws NOW! When will we finally say, ENOUGH?! When will we finally admit we have a problem? We are indeed….reaping what we are sow.

We live in a culture and society that is ever polarized. We live in a culture and society that would rather sensationalize and demonize with sound bites than really sit and listen. Hatred, racism, bigotry, vitriol language and action are served up on a daily basis. We have lost the art of listening and understanding. We have lost the art of compassion and humility. We have lost the art of responding and engaging respectfully.

It seems we would rather secure the right to own a gun than feed the hungry children in our schools and neighborhoods. We would rather secure the right to cry religious discrimination than find common ground with those of differing faith tradition. We would rather deny the right to adequate health care and coverage than make sure the most vulnerable in our society are cared for. We would rather make sure we can burn our fuels than find ways to care for our planet. We are losing our souls to greed, hatred, violence, bigotry, and racism. We have sold our souls to the highest bidders of lobbyists, politicians, and corporate money.

This morning I find myself stunned once again at our lack of compassion and common sense. We have become our own worst enemy. Bowing at the altar of the gun lobbies, and until we stand and admit we have a problem not just with humankind, but with guns, there will be more such incidents like this most recent tragedy in Charleston. So I write and I sit with my rock, my faith in a God who is weeping once again, the Spirit within who calls me to listen, …listen… and cry out, “How long O Lord, how long?” Not much longer I pray. May the One who holds us all be most profoundly present in Charleston this day and in the coming days as well as with all those who suffer at the hands of senseless violence. May it be soon… May it be soon!

Incivility, Hobby Lobby, Refugee Children, Equal Rights, and Gunslingers

July 17, 2014

I have had a rant coming on for some time now and it began bubbling to the surface today so I turned to my favorite form of therapy, writing, if you choose to read this once it is completed you may carry on, I will have gotten it off my chest for a while. I suppose one explanation is it depends on “whose bull is being gored” as the saying goes, it just seems to me the level of incivility of claiming and taking away rights has risen to a new level of late. We have passed laws giving corporations the same rights as individuals, more rights in some instances, and as I look on and encounter the news, media is a whole other blog; it just seems to be getting worse.

I acknowledge there is incivility, vitriol language, hatred, etc. expressed among politicians and even toward our presidents from various factions of our citizenry over the years. Though, at least since I have taken an interest in the political process over my fifty-five years of life, I do not believe I have ever read about nor seen the level of obstruction, hatred, and incivility like that directed at our current President Barack Obama. I do not agree with everything he has done or is doing, but that does not affect the fact that he is my/our president and the office deserves the respect of the people. Blatant personal attacks, racist comments, and outright bigotry should be unacceptable whether we are talking about President Obama or former President George W. Bush. I just don’t get it I guess.

We have a Supreme Court that, at least in some cases in my opinion, it seems the wheels are coming off. From decisions that would somehow justify the doing away with affirmative action because racism no longer exists… as if. The current Supreme Court that would give businesses the right to deny providing particular parts of health insurance if it is against their deeply held religious beliefs, which opens a huge can of worms. We continue to pass laws regulating women’s healthcare choices and reproductive rights and I keep wondering why there is not the same level of regulation on a man’s reproductive abilities, as if I didn’t already know the answer; something about the beast of patriarchy still trying to raise its ugly head.

We hear over and over again the chorus from so many about how we are a Christian Nation, which we are not and never were intended to be, but this same voice would send refugee children back to countries where they are abused, tortured, and killed. Other voices threaten to shoot them if they cross our borders all the while our own politicians using them for political pawns rather than finding compassionate and just ways to care for them.

There are lawmakers and churches, continually trying to revive laws that would allow businesses as well as government entities to discriminate against same-gender couples and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons simply because they are who they are or because of who they love. Not to mention churches, including my own beloved UMC, who continue to claim all persons are of sacred worth and welcome, unless you are LGBT and want to be married or feel a call into the ministry. It’s time to end discrimination and violence of word and deed toward our LGBT sisters and brothers.

I see images of people who would rather stockpile weapons and walk through department stores with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders rather than require background checks, gun regulation, or admit we have an addiction to violence, guns, and war in this country! It is time to acknowledge more guns are not the answer to violence.

This is just a short list really of what I see going on in our country today. A list of things that seem to be getting more and more amplified as time goes by. I hear so many saying our current president is trying to take away our rights and those same who condone taking away the rights of those with whom they disagree. It seems a vicious circle and some days it seems as a nation we are regressing to a time of dark and violent days.

But every now and then I see a glimpse of hope and hear a voice of reason. Every now and then someone stands up to the patriarchy, sectarianism, intolerance, and injustice. Every now and then someone rises up and says, “Enough is enough!” I heard a speaker once say that in our national political atmosphere the pendulum swings from one side to the other, it moves to the left for a while, pauses in the center, and then moves to the right for a while and so on. I want to say, “Swing baby swing, it’s time!” Part of me wonders, with all that I see as wrong in the world, if these crazy unjust laws, and this incivility are but the last gasp of a dying era, one last grasp at power before it finally fades into nothingness, I pray so. Every once in a while I think I see it starting to move back to the left, hasten the day I say, hasten the day!

I have come to think I may not change many minds, though I pray I might influence those who are still wrestling, as I work to make my corner of the world a little more hopeful, just, compassionate, and loving, but if nothing else I pray my voice will lend encouragement and courage to those of like mind who have not yet found their voice and place in the struggle. Justice, kindness, humility, and love will prevail of that I have no doubt and because of my confidence in just that kind of world immersed in the Spirit of God, I will continue to stand and work, and speak, and encourage others to do the same until that day when Love is the Rule and not the exception. May it be so and may it be soon!