Posts Tagged ‘Religious Freedom’

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

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Bigger than the Supreme Court

June 27, 2015

I have been considering and pondering all that has happened over this past week and am compelled once again to put my ponderings in writing. The final decision released this past week was on a challenge regarding same gender marriage bans. The Supreme Court of the United States found in favor of same gender marriage in all states across our great nation by a five to four vote.

It is important to remember in the context of religious thought and communities of faith in our nation that freedom of religion has not been threatened by this decision. There is nothing that happened within the walls, doctrines, and disciplines of the church that affects us. Those communities of faith and clergy who wish to affirm and participate in marriage ceremonies will continue to have that ability and those who do not will continue to have the ability to refrain, religious freedom has not in any way been threatened by the courts.

This decision was a civil rights decision based on our Constitution which does not consider the religious persuasion of its citizens but rather equality in the eyes of the law. I appreciated Justice Kennedy’s closing of the decision,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

This decision is about basic civil and human rights and it is the right decision under the laws of our Constitution and our great nation.

While this is a huge step toward a more free society and culture and a much needed one, not to mention constitutional, this move is bigger than the Supreme Court. For me, as a leader in the church it is about social change, cultural evolution, and social justice. This decision for the church is not only bigger than the supreme court it is bigger than marriage.

While in my own United Methodist Denomination my ability to be in ministry to all of God’s children continues to be undermined by my own Disciplinary rules, I continue to stand within its bounds and work for change. This decision of the court causes my heart and soul to rejoice with gratitude for our system of government as well as gratitude to God. I believe this is participating with what the Spirit is already about in our midst. It saddens me that our civil law and government seem to be more in tune with what and where the Spirit is about among us than in my own church.

This decision is bigger than the Supreme Court because it affirms that hope that was already in place, that hope that was already being lived out among those who simply longed for the same rights as I have as a heterosexual of privilege and standing in culture and the church. It is bigger than the Court because it speaks to the will of the people, it speaks to an ever increasing awareness of justice and right, it looks to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and states that although that “arc of the moral universe is [still] long, it [continues] to bend toward justice.” Thanks be to God.

As I consider the ruling it occurs to me that the decision is not only bigger than the Supreme Court, it is bigger than marriage in and of itself. Granted it allows the same rights and privileges under the law for any and all married persons now, and for that I rejoice with all my friends and family who have longed for this day! But I also think of my LGBTQ friends and family who are single and who may or may not choose to enter into a marriage relationship. This decision, while it revolves around the rights of those who wish to proclaim and have their marriage recognized, it also honors and empowers those who chose to remain outside of a married relationship. This decision also honors and affirms who they are with the same civil rights and access under the law I had prior to my own marriage.

This past week was an incredible week of justice and freedom for all on so many levels; the ACA affirmed once again and millions continue to have access to health care for which they may not have been eligible before, here in Kansas a court stating our legislature’s school funding was unconstitutional and hopefully requiring them to provide adequate funding for our public schools, recognition that the Confederate Flag is a too long standing symbol of racism and hate, and of course the decision Friday affirming same gender marriage across our great land! We should celebrate and relish the joy and victory.

I would caution us though, on two different levels. One is that now we have celebrated let us not become complacent in thinking the work is complete. We do not have to look far in our journey of history to know the law of the land does not change the condition of the heart. The Civil War ended in 1865, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, and just a few days ago nine innocent people were killed in cold blood for no other reason than the color of their skin.

We don’t have to look far in our journey of history to know the rights of women were well settled in law years ago, and today are still seen by too many as somehow inferior, not worthy of an equal wage, or incapable of making their own healthcare choices.

We don’t have to look too far in our journey of history to recognize the dangers of violence and the use of weapons designed for nothing but death, institutions and care designed to help those with mental illness, and too easily accessed firearms and cuts to healthcare to know Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and too many others have stained our history and lives.

We have to acknowledge our place in history that says in this moment, we are in a state of incivility in a supposed civilized nation. We have to make a change.

Our work is not done until not only the law of the land continues to evolve toward justice, compassion, and peace, but our hearts must be transformed as well, the heart and soul of our country, our society, our communities, and ourselves as individuals. Our work is not done, vigilance is required, action is needed, and silence is still not an option. Racism, sexism, gun violence, fear of the other, bigotry, and hate are a cancer on our country and world and the only cure is justice, compassion, and civility, the only cure is love.

Finally, there are a lot of people, friends, family, a lot of God’s children just like us who are hurting and struggling with this cultural shift, and it would not bode well of us to gloat and be haughty in our success. I would say, as tempting as it may be, even toward those who have been hateful toward us. For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” We as a community of faith are called to grace, to live into and live out the gospel of love for all. So let us continue the work of justice, and of kindness, and of humility as we work alongside the Spirit of God in bringing the kindom here, on earth.

In closing I will share a prayer I learned this week as best I can remember it,

“Go with God. Go in Peace. Wage a little peace. Love one another…ever single other.”

May it be so. May it be soon.

Peace and Light – Kent

HB 2453 “Legalized Discrimination”

February 22, 2014

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

Statement to Hutchinson News

I commend Senator Wagle and am glad to see the Bill stalled and the hopes for passage are seen as dim based on pressure from the business community and the possible negative economic impact it would have. That being said, it is unfortunate that the discriminatory abuse and damage it would do to real people, with real lives, for no other reason than who they love, was not the primary reason for the Bill’s controversy and stalling by the Senate President.
As I read the bill I see no way to compromise or rework the bill that will not result in discrimination against citizens in our State, and in particular in its current form, discrimination against same gender couples, not to mention the broad scope of ambiguous language used that opens the door for all kinds of “religious” objections to marriages. Those who say this bill is not promoting discrimination, I would say, at best are too biased toward the subject and Bill to be objective or simply disingenuous at worse. If I look to this bill as an actual “religious” protection from my own Christian tradition, Jesus was only critical and condemning of the oppressive civil government of his day and the oppressive actions of some of the religious leaders of his day. Other than that he welcomed into his presence “All,” certainly did not send anyone away because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.”
Actually I do not believe this is a “religious freedom” bill at all and it breaches any sense of separation of state set forth in our Constitution and the writings of Thomas Jefferson. I believe this bill is a “discrimination” bill cloaked in religious language to appeal to certain theological based persons in our state.
My hope is that the outcry from thousands of Kansans will be noted and this bill, whether in its current form or any sense of amended form, will be scrapped immediately.

Rev. Kent H Little

Response

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

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

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

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

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

 Susan Wagle
Kansas Senate President

District 30

Letter to Judiciary Committee/Letter the Editor Wichita Eagle

To the Judiciary Committee of our Great State of Kansas,

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

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

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

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

Response

Kent,

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

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

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

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

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

My Response

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

Rev. Kent H Little