Posts Tagged ‘Refugees’

Ruminations on Violence and War

April 7, 2017

I remember and resonate with my professor, mentor, colleague, and friend the Rev. Dr. Tex Sample when he said, “I want to be a pacifist. I haven’t hit anyone in years, but I still want to, so I know I have not arrived yet.” I cannot ever remember thinking violence or war was the answer to violence, conflict, or war. In my mind, war, violence, an eye for an eye mentality is nothing more than a failure of humanity’s ability to be humane. I too long to be a pacifist, though I am probably more in line with President Jimmy Carter’s comment, “War can be a necessary evil, but it is always evil.”

I find myself in that conundrum again this morning as I ruminate on the most recent military action by our current administration in Syria. I find myself in a conundrum because I long for the day we humans can find a better way to resolve our conflicts than killing each other. The missile strike was a response to that country’s atrocity of dropping chemical weapons killing men, women, and children. The images from Syria are horrific and heart wrenching. While I whole heartedly agree something needed to be done in response, either by we the United States, or preferably the whole world community, I have some questions this morning as I recall our President’s comments last evening as well as news reports that are emerging today.

While I understand this is what appears to have been a limited and strategic action with, hopefully, a minimum of human lives lost, which I hope was the intent, I am troubled. I am troubled by an administration, on the one hand, who promotes the closing of our borders by banning refugees from countries like Syria and building walls to keep refugees out of our country from the south as they flee cruel and horrific governments and violence. And on the other hand our President cites the killing of men, women, and children by the countries from which they would wish to flee, as reason for a military strike on that country. I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. If our administration is as compassionate as they wish to appear, then open our borders to the refugees who are in need of sanctuary, don’t feign compassion by dropping bombs on them, when their countries commit atrocities against those who long for safety and refuge!

I have other questions  I am still ruminating on, as well as those that seem to be finding traction, such as around political strategy, contact with Russia, or even Syria prior to the strike, that might cause some to suspect that rather than this being a strategic response to atrocity, that the strike might be seen as a political smoke screen and attempt to take the heat off current investigations of our administration, but I acknowledge that thought, to date, is simply speculation.

Mostly I am troubled by our powers-that-be who continue to put forth an agenda of policy lacking compassion and then citing compassion as reason for a military operation. I pray this might truly be a changed administration and perhaps this atrocity was a turning point in realizing who we as a nation claim to be. However, at this point I am not holding my breath, I have seen no convincing evidence to make me think the administration has suddenly changed course. I guess we will have to see what comes to be.

In the meantime, my voice, my work, my action will continue to be used to hold our leaders accountable to the justice, compassion, and humility for all… ALL to which I believe we as a nation, as a world are called to be. I pray you will join me. May it be so. May it be soon!

 

Kent

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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

The Throw Down

November 14, 2016

It takes a long time to construct our institutions. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold as sacred. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold close to our hearts and souls. It takes a lifetime to construct how, what, where, we believe, and encounter one another and God. It takes a lifetime to construct our passion and journey discovering what we believe God wants for our faith and our life. It takes a lifetime.

Depending on what scholar one reads, the temple of Jesus’ day took somewhere between a few years and 46 years to construct. It takes a long time to construct those things that feel sacred in our lives and faith. 46 years in Jesus’ day was a lifetime.

Construction work today is hard work, whether is talking literally or metaphorically. Construction work was literally a whole lot more difficult in Jesus day, and certainly as hard metaphorically.

The journey of construction is difficult work. Whether we are talking literally constructing a physical thing, temple, church, house, office, etc., or whether we are talking about constructing our life and faith. In my own experience, regarding our life and faith journey, it takes building and tearing down, questions and supposed answers, second guessing, doubts, grief, tears, laughter, celebrations, heartache, and struggle.

And when one thinks they know, according to authors such as Richard Kearney in “Anatheism, Returning to God after God” and John Caputo in “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?” once we think we have the faith, the journey, God figured out, it is time to deconstruct those images, admit we can know virtually nothing about God and begin all over again our quest to understand.

It is heart breaking to believe in an ideal, to trust the sacredness of our hopes and dreams, it is devastating to trust, know, believe to the very core of who we are; what we know of the Kindom of God, what the peaceable Kindom is supposed to look like, what justice, kindness, and humility ought to be about, to know in our very heart of hearts what the common good for all should be, and have it destroyed, attacked, and torn asunder.

That is what many heard when Jesus suggested “not one stone will be left upon the other; all will be thrown down.” It had taken years, decades, lifetimes to build and he is suggesting it was all for naught. At the time this was written the temple was already gone. It was already devastated, destroyed, not one stone was left upon another, which I have no doubt influenced the writing of this text. It had to, what one of us could experience such a devastating event and it not effect and influence everything we do?

So here I am, and we need to talk, and listen, and be together. First, I am not going to presume nor critique how any of we in our community of CHUM voted in the recent election. Not only would that be inappropriate and unethical for me, but illegal in this setting and context.

I am a political junky, I suppose not to the extent of many, but I have long loved to read about, see, study, and watch the political process unfold. It is an interesting place to be as a clergy person who is staunchly committed to the separation of church and state. I often find myself dancing with that line between my own personal opinion and political passion and my role as pastor and religious leader in the church I serve and the broader world. But, for the most part I think I do well the dance along that line staying true to our founders and their passion for a freedom of and from religious privilege in our government, while honoring the diverse expression of religious and non-religious belief and practice in our country. And while I believe this, there are some things we need to talk about this morning.

There are those in our world, in our country, in our community, and here in our church who are grieving. I want to say, it is okay, grief is fine, normal, and important, and I nor anyone here or outside these walls has the right to diminish your grief in the aftermath of hopes unrealized and dreams shattered. No One. Tears, anger, confusion, bargaining, are all part of the grieving process, and those of us who are grieving need to take as long as we need to in order to process what we are going through. I am here for you, whatever your grief looks like, on whatever side of the political and ideological aisle you find yourself on. You are not alone!

As for the politics of our day, I have colleagues and friends who tell me the discussion of politics has no place in the church, or at the Thanksgiving table either. If by that they mean partisan, political party politics in the church, I wholeheartedly agree! We are not going to talk about Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Libertarian, etc., it is not going to happen.  But if by that we mean politics in any sense of the word, I disagree. Jesus was deeply political, a fierce critic of the oppressive political structures in his day in the church and in the government. I have had to really struggle with what I wanted to say this morning, dancing that line of separation of church and state.

I have been wrestling and dancing in the tension between gentle pastoral care and prophetic anger and passion. I thought I was firmly in place in my gentle preparation for today, until I continued following the news and media. While I will not talk partisan party politics I will be an active, loud, committed, and unrelenting voice against the politics of fear regardless of who is using it.

I attended a peaceful protest and gathering Friday evening. I was present and supportive of all who were there. Not so much because of the outcome of the election. My presence and support at this protest rally was in love and support of those who have been targeted and harassed by what has been unleashed by the campaign; women harassed by strangers on the street, fear and slurs directed at persons of other religions, livelihoods and marriages threatened and increased bigotry toward those LGBTQ persons. This protest rally was not about sour grapes or being “crybabies” because a candidate lost. This protest rally was about REAL emboldened and blatant harassment, hatred, and bigotry in our country and our communities as a result of the campaign rhetoric and hate directed at certain groups of God’s children. I will not be silent nor will I stand by and passively listen to others condemn persons who are being targeted and harassed. Please think before you speak! If you disagree and want to talk about it I am here. If you are threatened and afraid and need a safe person and place to talk, I am here.

Yes, when I encounter these things I too get angry, but our anger in and of itself will do us, me, no good, we need to find ways to channel it and my channel will be do all I can to make justice happen! I will Love as God Loves! I will to the best of my ability be the very reflection of God’s love and justice in the world!

My grief and struggle over the last few days, over the last year, is not about political ideology, though that is the context in which it was often born. What has broken my heart is borne out of my faith in God and my role as pastor as I witness the fear and pain that has been instilled because of the vitriol language, hatred, and bigotry that seems to have raised its ugly head in so many ways.

I am profoundly aware I need to temper my words so as to not assume I know or have experienced the kind of fear and hate many are feeling today because I do not and have not. I am white, male, and straight, and as such, I carry a certain amount of privilege. My responsibility is to listen and stand with those who have come to trust me enough to be vulnerable.

When I listen with those who have been the victims of sexual assault and we feel that recent comments made, objectifying women, have fueled and normalized that kind of talk and abuse, and it brings all of that experience back for them, my heart is heavy. And I say… Enough!

When I listen with those who are lesbian, gay, trans-gender, and bi-sexual who fear for their livelihood and their marriage and family because their rights have been promised to be reversed, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I listen with immigrants and parents who are of a different color and national origin who had to comfort their children the morning after the election because their children feared they would be sent away, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When listen with those who are disabled fear they will be mocked and chided even more than they have been in the past, my heart is heavy. When I listen with persons of color victims of racism, still rampant in our society and culture, who are made to feel less than simply because of the color of their skin, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I sit in the Mosque and pray with my Muslim friends, brothers, and sisters and listen to their stories. Stories of hate filled language, suspicious looks, vandalism against their place of worship, and fear of their neighbors, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

It’s time to listen to ourselves. It is time to listen to one another. We need to listen not to diminish, not to critique, not to try and fix the others anger or grief, not even to respond. We need to listen, really listen to one another, to understand what all of us are going through.

We all process and deal with grief and anger, heartache and fear differently. I would encourage you to not cast it off too soon. Don’t just smooth it over for smoothing over sake. Sit with it for as long as you need, abide with it for as long as you need, breathe it in and breathe it out. When you are ready we will gather together. We will gather to figure out how, what, when, we want to do something. We will gather to find hope, find support for our grief, tears for our tears, and love for our Fears.

It is already happening, I have had numerous persons reach out to me over the last few days with questions, “What do I do?” “Where do I turn?” “How can I help?”

We will gather here to do the work of compassion and hope. I here at College Hill we do discuss politics. But never a politic that divides, always a politic that unites and brings us all, ALL together. And not only politics but unity. There will be those who will call us to come together and unify. This is good, but not unity for unity’s sake. Never a unity that denies compassion and justice.

We may need unity…
But never unity at the expense of humanity.

We may need unity …
But never unity with a system that governs by fear.

We may need unity…
But never unity with rights for just a few.

We may need unity…
But never unity with oppression and hate.

We may need unity…
But never a unity with a politic of intimidation and privilege.

Because…

In the church, here at College Hill,

Here we believe in the politics of hope not intimidation.

Here we believe in the politics of compassion on bigotry.

Here we believe in the politics of inclusion not exclusion.

Here we believe in the politics of the rights and humanity of ALL not just a few.

Here we believe in the politics that we are all children of the divine regardless of the religion or lack thereof we practice or not, not the politics of who is in and who is out.

Here we believe in the politics of the human race not racism.

Here we believe in the politics of welcome not locked doors.

Here we believe in the politics of justice for all not just the few.

Here we believe in the politics of kindness not threat.

Here we believe in the politics of humility not arrogance.

Here we believe in the politics of Love not fear!

We will be gathering a group together in the next week and a half. A group to brainstorm, support, and figure out what to do. We need to do something to support those in our midst who know the real fear of threat to their families, livelihoods, and lives AND especially those beyond these walls who are living in fear and uncertainty. It is not enough to stand idly by with only words of support and comfort. We have to put actions behind our words, ALL of us. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, though I have some pretty grand ideas for a few things. We need to start small, knock on a neighbor’s door and tell them you care. Take a plate of cookies to the Mosque, or The Center downtown, offer you support, your solidarity, your presence, and your love. We will rise, and we will rise together for Justice, Kindness, Humility, and Love.      This. IS. SO. Amen.

 

These are lyrics to a song written by Joe Crookston sung following this sermon and communion together here at College Hill UMC.

My father, he could use a little mercy now. The fruits of his labor, falling right slowly on the ground. His work is almost over, won’t be long he won’t be around, and I love my father, he could use some mercy now.

My brother, he could use a little mercy now. He’s a stranger to freedom, shackled to his fears and his doubts. The pain that he lives in, is almost more than living will allow. And I love my brother, he could use some mercy now.

My church and my country, they could use a little mercy now. As they sink into a poison pit, it’s going to take forever to climb out. And they carry the weight of the faithful, as they follow them down. And I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, we all, we could use a little mercy now. We may not deserve it, we need it anyhow. We hang in the balance between hell and hallowed ground. Every single one of us, could use some mercy now. Yeah, we all, could use some mercy now.

 

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…Oh My!

November 25, 2015

The other evening The Wizard of Oz was on. It is a favorite of mine that I rarely pass up when it comes on television. Though, since the advent of Wicked, there is part of me that can never watch the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West in the same way again. As I watched it this past Sunday, marinating in all that is going on in our world, nation, state, churches, and our lives it seemed to me there was a great deal of which to be fearful in that movie.

I know, there was always plenty of which to be afraid while watching Dorothy navigate the plot of the story. Miss Gulch, tornadoes, witches, haunted forests, poison poppies, flying monkeys…these were what frightened me most when I was little, guards, dark castles, wizards, and the list can become even longer as you consider all the darkness and dread that filled the movie screen and the story line.

As I sat and watched the familiar scenes pass before me I could not help but think of our own world, my own corner of the world where there is so much fear and anger, it seems we are saturated in it not only real, but imagined, dreamed up, made up, promoted, and thrust upon us. There are times when I wonder if there are those who just make shit up in order to stoke the fires of fear.

So many times when I turn on the news or open a paper it seems that the powers that be want us to be fearful, I have noted before that notion that a fearful citizenry is easier to control, I am believing that is true.

Terrorist threat, racism, bigotry, religious bigotry, the demonizing of the poor and refugees, homophobia, Islamophobia, fear grounded in a woman’s right to choose her own medical care, fear of losing power, fear of losing jobs, economic fear, fear of those who are different than us, the list can become even longer as we consider all the darkness and dread that fills the images of our minds and lives. Sometimes I ponder; fear is easier than understanding, fear is easier than relationship, fear is easier than trust, fear is easier than cooperation, fear is easier than listening, fear is easier than embrace, fear is easier than compassion, grace, and love.

I am reminded of the psalmist cry, “How long O Lord?” How long will we continue to let fear drive our lives, make our policy decisions, keep the doors of our nation, our state, our churches, our lives, and our hearts closed and locked tight. But we need not let fear, bigotry, and phobia overwhelm and consume us. The place to start is within, that light that burns within us we can share until we light the world. There is enough to counter the fear of those who wish to be imprisoned in suspicion and hate. And who knows, the light we share may not only set us free, but others as well.

As I prepare to join our family for Thanksgiving Day and the Holiday Season and beyond I am pondering fear. While I believe there are a great number of things to be concerned about, to stand against, to speak out in opposition, and refuse to embrace, I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to let fear guide my decisions. I refuse to allow fear to temper my compassion, my embrace, my search for understanding, and my commitment to justice, kindness, humility, and love for all.

There is plenty of light in this world to embrace if we refuse to let those who live and promote fear continue to spread a blanket of darkness and dread over our lives and the lives of all of God’s children. Take some time this Holiday Season, but even more, in each and every moment of each and every day to see and embrace the light of the common good and grace and love for all. There is much for which to be grateful in our lives.

I am reminded of the quote from Glinda the Good Witch at the end of the story when Dorothy asks how she is going to get home and Glinda responds, “You’ve always had the power…” In a world where sometimes we just want to find that peace, that place, safe and sacred, that “home” where we will one day live together all of us, where love is the rule and not the exception, we may not be able to change the world by ourselves, but we each have the power change ourselves for the good and together, then, light the world for good.

In each and every moment, I pray compassion, embrace, and love will overwhelm the worries, suspicion, and fear that would attempt to swallow us up. May we see with the eye of the Divine, even within those who may claim to hate us, the kernel of light and good, no matter how small, that resides in all of humanity … the Light that will not let the darkness overcome it…until we all, all of us…Shine.

Peace and Light for Our Journey…
Kent