Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

I Marched this Day

January 24, 2017

The sign I carried had printed in black on white, “We the People will Never Be Silent.” We built the sign with paper, printer, foam board, glue, staple, and wood. I considered not carrying my sign, sore hands from a fall on the ice a week before. But when we arrived at the gathering space I could not bring myself to leave it behind. My sign was one of thousands. There were hopeful signs, angry signs, fearful signs, signs that were difficult to see and read, humorous signs, and signs of love and unity. My sign too…belonged.

This was not my first march or rally to speak up for justice and compassion. I have attended many over the years. I am often asked as some have asked why I marched this day; a man, and in particular a white, straight, middle class man with my back pack of privilege I have carried with me since my birth. I have pondered the question since hearing it for myself as well as watching others wrestle with the question. I did not want to answer without much consideration. A part of my answer is, I marched in part because I do not know, because I have never experienced the kinds of things those with which I joined in solidarity have.

I have never been humiliated, objectified, assaulted, groped, paid less, talked about like I was an object for the pleasure of another, refused needed medical procedure or had my private decisions with my doctor legislated out of my hands, or the target of offensive and unacceptable “locker room talk,” because I am a man.

I have never been beaten, fired, fearful, rejected, disowned, homeless, yelled at on the streets of the city, or threatened, I have never had to worry about my marriage being nullified by the government because I am straight.

I have never been stopped in my car, followed in a store, had a glaring glance, or a suspicious look… I have never had someone cross to the other side of the street, clutch their bag or their child a little tighter when I walk past… just because I of the color of my skin.

I have never been mocked, made fun of, belittled, or limited in opportunity because of being differently-abled.

I have never been feared, targeted, discriminated against, vandalized, beaten, or told I cannot practice my religion because I am a Christian.

I have never been threatened to be sent back to Germany or anywhere else in Europe because it is the land of my ancestry, had the fear of being separated from my family because of my origin, or struggled to find the funds and assistance because I am not a citizen.

I have never had to fear a wall being built to keep me out or keep me in because I am in the United States.

I have never lived in fear because of bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, ageism, discrimination, prejudice, or hatred because I am different.

I marched with some three thousand persons, and millions around the world, because I have never experienced these things. I marched this day in support of my partner, my daughter’s in law, and my granddaughters because they should not have to live in a world where these things are a reality. I marched this day because I want my sons to know they nor their partners nor their daughters should have to live in a world where these things are a reality. I marched this day because no one, not one should have to live in a world where these things are a reality and happen each and every day in our communities, in our states, in our nation, and around the world .. and no ONE should have to experience such atrocities.

I marched this day because of my faith in a God who loves each and every one of us, each and every creature and all of creation. I marched this day because my faith tells me the vision of KINdom, is one of kinship, we are all related, we belong to one another and that vision for the common good of all requires of us Justice for all, Kindness for all, Humility from and with all.

Until that day … the people… I …cannot be silent.

I marched this day.

May this day be a re-beginning of our journey toward the Common Good for ALL,

Kent H. Little

What Now?

November 7, 2016

Most likely by the time you read this writing you will either have already voted, as I have, or the election will be over. I write this on Monday November 7, the day before the election of our next President and many representatives, senators, and judges. On the evening of Tuesday November 8 emotions will continue to run high, either with hope and relief or concern and disappointment, even, perhaps apathy and continued cynicism about the whole of our system of campaigns, elections, and government.

I have a friend, colleague, and mentor, Bill Selby, who shared the other day, “These are some of the most exciting times to be the church!” I believe there is truth in the statement. The church, the community of faith, and all those who long for a more civil, compassionate, just, and loving world have an incredible opportunity to be a voice and channel for healing and grace. With the election of a new president and other leadership, there will be continued challenge and opportunity to reach across aisles and tables to engage in conversation and work toward the common good for all.

I read colleague Eric Folkerth’s  writing  the other day addressing the state of mind of so many of us in our country. He described this state of mind as a kind of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. I hear and listen to our own parishioners as well as other friends and colleagues, who share tears and fears about the future. There has been, according to many, an unprecedented amount of hatred, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, and fear-laden vitriol language associated with this campaign season. I have likened it more than once to the continued ripping off of a scab from a wound we thought had begun to heal over the years, decades, perhaps even centuries.

With all that has boiled to the surface over the past several years, regardless of which leaders we elect, these issues are not going to go away. The hate and vitriol language will still be present whether it is blatantly out in the open or it returns to just under the surface in subversive and clandestine ways. There is going to need to be focused work on healing, conversation, civility, listening, and compassionate reaching out to those who are hurting and fearful, and to those with whom we disagree. As a country, as communities, as the church, as communities of faith, religious, and non-religious, we cannot afford to sweep these emotions and fears under the rug and hope they just disappear after our particular candidate is or is not elected. The church has to find a way to keep the struggle before us in constructive, redemptive, and justice seeking ways.

Being the church in this atmosphere is difficult work. While that is true, I agree with my friend and colleague, this is an exciting, though difficult time to be the church. We have an opportunity to be a unique and critical voice of reason and compassion in a country and world torn by fear, distrust, and anger. Too many times in days such as this the church has retreated from the difficult work of being a voice of justice, kindness, and humility in the world. Too often, the church chooses the broader way of exclusion, reflecting our fears rather than our grace. We cannot afford to shrink from the responsibility we carry set forth by the one we follow who challenges and disturbs us to “Love your enemies,” to “Turn the other cheek,” to engage others, even those with whom we passionately disagree, in ways that draw us to the table as opposed to close the table off.

I am drawn again and again to not only the words of Jesus but to those of Martin Luther King Jr., “We will either learn to live together as brothers and [sisters], or we will perish together as fools.” It is a narrow path, it is one fraught with difficulty and being uncomfortable, but it is the Way, the only Way we, we ALL of us, will find healing and mercy for our hearts and souls.

I hope you will join us this Sunday, November 13, 2016 at College Hill United Methodist Church for a worship service dedicated to keeping the difficulties before us, while offering hope, healing, and grace in this difficult time. It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community.  Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light on Your Journey,

Pastor Kent

Side by Side

January 4, 2016

TruDee and I attended Arri Simon’s concert Sunday evening at the Unitarian Universalist Church. He is so very talented, gracious, and just a joy to hear and be in his presence. One of the songs he has written was entitled, if I recall correctly, Side by Side. I was moved to tears, a song calling us forward to our common journey, our common presence on this good green earth, the common air we breathe, our common humanity; a reminder we are all in this together and with all that is going on in our country and world today, it can seem all too often we have forgotten we are all on this train together. It was a beautiful call to peace and harmony.

It reminded me of my time at the Mosque this last Saturday I referenced in my sermon this Sunday, the song reminded me of my being invited to stand, kneel, bow, and sit side by side with my Muslim brothers in prayer, reflection, meditation, and fellowship. It reminded me of that longing deep in my heart and soul for that day when we will all stand side by side in our diversity and yet stand as one, with one voice, and one purpose of the common good for all.

 
At the request of a couple of folks at church Sunday I am going to share that telling of my time at the Mosque and the hope for a world and a humankind, side by side, in search of peace, understanding, and love. It is as follows.

I was back at the West Mosque early yesterday at the morning prayer gathering. I arrived a bit early and sat at table visiting with the others who were early birds like me. I have been there many times before to share in conversation, prayer time, some food, and building friendship. Each time I go I learn just a little more not only about Islam, my friends, but about myself as well.

Yesterday would prove no different. A number of things struck me yesterday morning as we gathered. One was the leader of the newest Mosque on McCormick who is almost always there as well, when he arrived I stood from my chair to greet him and he smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Good morning brother Kent.” It was not a huge thing, other than it was the first time I remember him, or any of them using the language of brother. I have always felt nothing but welcome and inclusion when I gather with my friends in the early morning light, but there was just something about the term of endearment yesterday morning that nourished a bit of my heart and soul.

When it comes time, they always gather together in a straight line facing the east for morning prayers. I have always joined them, only not in their line, I have always stayed just a respectful few feet behind them with my cheat sheet, an English translation of the Arabic language in which they chant their prayers to God/Allah. As they created the line, one turned to me and motioned me to stand next to him, “Come, join us here,” he said. The one leading the prayer motioned as well and said, laughing, “It’s my responsibility to make sure the line is straight though…” Another gesture of inclusion and welcome that nourished my heart and soul.

 

I had forgotten my cheat sheet yesterday so I simply joined the group, side by side, and listened, standing when they stood, kneeling when they knelt, bowing when they bowed, and finally sitting quietly when they sat. Some of the Arabic I recognized from watching my sheet before, “Allah is great. Praise be to Allah.”

 
There is a melody to the prayer each time, a cadence, a reverence that sounds almost identical regardless of which one leads the prayer. Something about the time in prayer resonated with me, though I did not understand the language, yet still felt in prayer with my brothers yesterday morning. We then spent time around the table snacking on cheese, crackers, and drinking coffee, laughing, sharing stories from our faith, talking politics, theologies, traditions, and practices.

 
We, CHUM, will be invited to their celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday when they get a date set. One said, “Not all Muslims celebrate the birthday, but we are ones who celebrate everything!” I said, “Well, not all Christians celebrate Christmas either, but we at CHUM tend to celebrate everything as well!” To which he said, “Oh, maybe you Christians are not so different than we after all.” Lots of laughter followed.

 
Maybe we are not so different after all…echoed in my mind. We all share the same sun, breathe the same air, we’re all on this train together, were some of the words to Arri’s song. I was moved to tears thinking about all the anxiety, fear, hate, anger, and violence that faces my Muslim brothers and sisters, all those who have somehow by some been deemed as different, unworthy, lost, or outside of God’s grace because of their sexual orientation, religious belief, non-religious belief, gender, race, age, healthcare choices, immigration status, and the list goes on and on of those who are considered other.

 
Thank you Arri for your light and calling us all forward through your gift of music. I hope and pray this New Year carries us closer to that reality of grace and justice for all, a compassionate and just world where difference is honored and celebrated and the common good of all is sought by those who are willing to make a difference. I pray you will join me on this journey toward love and let your light shine in all the dark places of the world. It is time to get on this train of peace, understanding, hope, and love.

 
Such is a way we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and our world here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. An Extraordinary Church with a Place for You. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

 
Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor 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.

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!

Making Disciples or … not about choosing either or …

June 9, 2014

Simeon is probably the real culprit, though Moz participates when he decides he has the opportunity; that is digging in the backyard. Luckily they always dig in exactly the same spot, so it’s not like we have holes all over the yard, just one that they dig and I fill, they dig and I fill, and repeat. They both have a couple of other habits that I do not tend to appreciate; one is they like to wrestle. Not unlike two legged boys when they get to wrestling in the house I send them outside, it’s not bad; it is just that two 65-70 pound dogs wrestling in the living room can create a lot of collateral damage. The last thing I will mention is Moz and his walking. Simeon heel’s very well, walking dutifully by my side; Moz, not so much, he is distracted easily, likes to be out in front, and goes from side to side.

Of course knowing what I need to do to correct all of these I decided to consult the experts anyway, and so I began reading. I looked up in the doggie helps, “digging,” “wrestling/playing,” “training to heel,” because I have read many of these before I already knew deep down what I needed to do but I looked anyway, just in case there was an easy answer for one of them. These are all part of the same thing, if your dog has these kinds of behaviors they are probably bored and if they are bored you are not giving them enough exercise, and if you are not giving them enough exercise you are not walking them enough. Dang! They are all interrelated.

That was the long way around getting to what I really want to write about this morning. I participated in a poll I rather stumbled upon the other day from the United Methodist News Service. The poll asked a series of questions asking the participants to identify the most important “issue” facing the United Methodist Church today. Here is the basic list of choices the poll offered as what might be the most important issues facing the UMC today; Creating Disciples of Christ, Youth Involvement, Spiritual Growth, Decline in Membership, Poverty, Children at Risk, Social Injustice, Sexual Orientation/Same-Sex Marriage, Structure of UMC, Economic Inequality, Women and Minorities in UMC, Racism, and Immigration Reform; a valid list of very important concerns within our UMC.

After the poll had closed I had some initial concerns regarding length of time the poll was available, to whom it was available, how it was advertised, and sample size; as the headline for the results were,

“Poll: Making disciples tops sexuality as church priority.”

Which would lead one to believe that this poll of 509 members, clergy and official UM staff excluded, speaks for the majority of 7.4 million United States UM members in the local church. Now, that very well may be the case, I am not an expert in polling nor statistics gathering.

However, as I pondered the poll more and the questions asked and “issues” raised a larger concern emerged for me. It was the issue of Making Disciples as a separate category. It seems to me all of these “issues” they have identified are part of Making Disciples of Christ for the Transformation of the world. To me to hold out Making Disciples as somehow disconnected or separate is at best misinformed and at worse disingenuous. Every single one of the issues identified is related to making Disciples of Christ.

It is not unlike my story of Simeon and Moz. If I were to ask dog lovers whether walking your dog was more important than teaching him not to dig, or wrestle, or teaching him to heel, of course they are going to say walking your dog is most important, not because it is somehow separate from the others, but because they are all interrelated, one is still going to teach them not to dig, not to wrestle, how to heel AND walk them for exercise.

I believe too often in our UM church stating the purpose of our church, “To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World,” is used to deflect genuine conversation around the issues and concerns that face us today. Too often when topics of equality for all regarding sexual orientation, or immigration reform, or youth involvement, or social injustice are raised it will invariably be stated, “Well, we have gotten away from our main purpose of “Making Disciples,” some times, too many times I believe that can be a cop out. Yes, we need to be about Making Disciples, but we do that through including, loving, welcoming, embracing, and working for a more just, kind, and humble world for those who have been marginalized by not only society but the church, our church, the UM church.

I am unwilling to concede that there is some kind of disconnect or separation between “Making Disciples?” and equality and Inclusion for all persons in the church regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, age, social or economic status, or the other issues this poll raised in order to make such a broad sweeping statement that somehow the other identified concerns are somehow “less than” the others. Disciple making and inviting is about walking with God in Christ, learning, following, evolving, acting, reaching out, and loving. We are all called to and practice “Discipleship,” straight or gay, rich or poor, young or old. Equality, inclusion, and justice work IS “Making Disciples of Christ for the Transformation of the World!”

And it is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent