Posts Tagged ‘Religious Diversity’


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 Clergy’s Pondering of Politics and Elections

November 8, 2012

I think over this last year or so I have been on information overload, and especially over the last couple of months. I am referring to the Presidential campaigns and other political offices that were vying for our votes through print, email, internet, television, and even door to door volunteers. One of the struggles of course is sorting out and discerning for oneself what is true what is not, what is partly true, and what is just silly, mean, and even evil.

I researched as best I could and voted like many or all of you based on my best opinion of who I thought represented the ideas and ideals I hold to be important for my city, state, and our nation. TruDee and I sat nervously watching Tuesday evening as the returns came in and some of those I voted for won election and some of those I voted for did not. I stayed up late that night intending to hear the two Presidential candidates speak and was only able to keep my eyes open through one. I watched the other the next day via video on one of the news channel’s websites. I thought both candidates were gracious to one another and did our nation proud in the way they conceded and/or accepted the election paying honor and tribute to one another and encouraging us all to work together in moving our nation in the right direction.

As a person of the Christian faith and as a member of the clergy I want to share a couple of observations about responses and follow up comments I have read and listened to since Tuesday evening. I have witnessed much humility on the part of both sides of the aisle which gives me hope for cooperation and willingness to work together. That being said, I have also seen much cynicism, anger, arrogance, and judgment leveled by both sides of the aisle in the aftermath.

I want to comment on some of what I have encountered and share my viewpoint. There has been comment about the idea that minorities in our society played a huge role in the outcome of the election. Some see this as good and encouraging some disparage it by belittling and judging those minorities. Reading the comment of a news person made me think about that idea, about the shift and change that he sees as a result of this election. He said, “’It’s not a traditional America anymore… the white establishment is now a minority.” Actually I see that as a good thing, truly reflective of who we are as a nation, a nation of immigrants. I believe it is our diversity that makes us strong; it is our willingness to exist differently yet work for the common good of all that should be the ground of our being.

I have also read comments that speak of God’s sure judgment of us as a nation because we have somehow turned away from God and the recent election is evidence of this turning because we are a Christian nation. There has been critique of our President when he has said we are not a Christian nation, and I agree with him, citing we are made up of a very diverse religious and non-religious landscape. There is and should be a clear and defined line of separation between church and state! I am a Christian. I serve in a Christian church. But that fact should not give me any more access to rights than my friends who are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and Baha’i, as well as others who I love, cherish, and respect; they have the right to be represented in our great nation just as much as I.

I have been dismayed by disparaging comments made toward democrats and republicans in the midst of this recent campaign. It is unfortunate at best and tragically unjust at worse to level words of hate, bigotry, and even violence toward those who disagree with us. Just because we disagree on what we believe is best for our nation and the candidates we support does not automatically make one lazy, bigoted, stupid, greedy, and hell bound, it does mean we disagree but sometimes it seems we have lost all ability to be civil, respectful, and engaging.

One last word regarding my opinion of the role of our representatives in local, state, and federal government; you are elected to represent all of us. I expect the people I vote for to have what is in the best interest of all of us as their clarion call. It doesn’t matter if ones country of origin is Libya, Iran, England, Mexico, India, Africa, China, or the United States. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, straight, rich, poor, male, female, young, old, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan …your voice deserves to be heard in these United States, and you deserve the same rights and access to freedom and liberty as anyone else. I believe that is why lady justice wears a blindfold.

Just some ponderings, observations, and opinions from one who prays our nation can once again find the courage and compassion to seek common ground for the good of all. It is my prayer we move ever forward toward a nation of freedom, liberty, and justice for all; a nation where compassion, kindness, love, humility, and respect are the rule rather than the exception.

Peace and Light, Love and Laughter…
Pastor Kent

Happy Holidays

December 5, 2011

I have been pondering again, this time about Christmas and the Holiday Season that is upon us once again. As the celebrations begin to get going there seems to be push back from those of my own Christian tradition who feel Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus is somehow under attack. I hear of those who find offense at using the greeting Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. Others who share the news that Christ has been taken out of the season and that a large number of people, in fact some would say society in general takes offense at Merry Christmas so we have been forced to say Happy Holidays instead. So here are my ponderings on the topic.

I do understand that there are and have been incidents where someone has somehow taken offense at the greeting Merry Christmas, especially if they are not Christian. I also recognize the celebration of Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus and his birth and would not want to detract from that at all. I agree that in a large sense society in general has moved the celebration into way too much commercialism and materialism and that causes my heart to hurt, especially in these difficult economic times.

However, as I journey in my corner of the world I just do not see Christmas under attack. As TruDee and I shop here in the city I hear Christmas songs both secular and traditional Christmas hymns being played on stores, Merry Christmas shared by store staff and on signs in the windows. Listening to the local radio stations playing songs of the season such as O Holy Night, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, and Hark the Mary Did You Know, seems more than common in my world. We drove through a public park the other evening to see Christmas Light display and one of the first displays was a beautiful lighted Nativity Scene and I have yet to meet anyone who has said to me they find Merry Christmas offensive.

Now, don’t get me wrong I know there have been lawsuits and controversies about placing religious symbols on government property. I agree with the constitutional mandate of seperation of church and state and the non-establishment clause. So, in general I think we should keep religious icons, images, symbols out of our government. And at the same time I really have no problem placing religious symbols on government property as long as we are willing to be inclusive and include other religions other than just Christianity, we are a country grounded in freedom of religion and should not be exclusive in the practice. It is when we narrow that foundation to “freedom of Christianity” or any other religion at the exclusion of another that should cause alarm.

I guess it seems to me those who find such offense at Happy Holidays are not really concerned about taking Christ out of Christmas but rather an inability to share the season. Christmas and celebrating the birth of the Christ Child is not the only celebration going on in the months from November through January. There are Christian, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, African American, Sikh, Holy Days and Celebrations happening throughout our country and the world. I guess for me, I think as a country as diverse as ours, founded on freedom of religion, we would celebrate the gifts and joys all of these celebrations bring to each one of us. Sharing Happy Holidays with my Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist friends is one of the freedoms this great country of ours provides me and I am more than willing to share the Holiday Season with them, after all the roots of the word Holiday simply mean Holy Day, and their Holy Days are just as important to them as my Holy Days are to me.

And so I will close out my ponderings and wish all of us the Happiest of Holidays, whether you find that in Merry Christmas, Ashura, Bodhi Day, Diwali, or the Birthday of Baha’u’llah, isn’t it wonderful to live in a place we are all free to celebrate. I find challenge in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words as I finish this pondering, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” I pray we find such brotherhood/sisterhood/human-hood soon, may it be so. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.