Posts Tagged ‘The Common Good’

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

January 12, 2018

As a part of my Doctor of Ministry work I had the incredible privilege of journeying to Washington D.C. and New York City with my classmates for a week-long immersion experience. The focus of our experience was to engage and explore the connection and collaboration between church, nonprofits, and NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations), and government as we work for the common good of all. We met with several organizations and groups as well as visiting museums and monuments dedicated to our history, and a tour of the United Nations. It was a dense and whirlwind experience filled with inspiration, heartache, challenge, and hope.

During our time in these cities I found myself moved to tears more than once as I encountered both the horrific tragedies of our history as well as the inspiration of those who again and again refused to be silenced in their fight for justice. Though I was unable to experience all I wished, there were a few I want to mention.

The horrors of our nation’s oppression of, and participation in, our treatment of Africans through the slave trade and practice of slavery I witnessed as I walked through the African American History Museum felt like heavy ballasts on my legs with each step. The Holocaust Museum was a horrific reminder of the evil we do to others who are not like us. I found myself in both of these spaces almost unable to breathe and more than once shed a tear.

I found myself so moved walking through the Rights exhibit at the National Archives. Legislation and treaties guaranteeing rights and peace which were again and again established and rescinded. Moved to tears by the pain of what persons in our nation endured and at the same time tears of inspiration from those who refused to be erased and made invisible.

There were two particular places that moved me which caught me rather off guard as I was not expecting the reaction. As I stood at the foot of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to take a picture, there developed a knot in my stomach and tears welled up in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. And an almost identical reaction when I stood at the foot of the larger than life image of President Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. I cannot explain my emotional reaction other than my passion for social justice, equality, and the inspiration I draw from these two historical figures and the realization that their work is not yet complete and continues to be our work now.

All I have written in the preceding paragraphs is a preamble to what I want to say now. After being so deeply moved and inspired in an immersion experience in our Nation’s Capital I read the news headlines last evening of our president as he once again disparaged groups of people, and in particular people of color. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”, he said referring to immigration and in particular Haitians and Africans.

Words matter. What we say matters. In my Judeo-Christian tradition we have a proverb that states, Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. The comments by President Trump are un-presidential, unacceptable, and inexcusable. But these are not the first of this type to be uttered by our president. Whether we are speaking of inciting violence during his campaign appearances, referring to sexual assault against women, mocking the disabled, suggesting a registry of Muslims, accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, leveling racist comments toward Native Americans, placating Nazi sympathizers, or his attacks on President Obama regarding his birth place, our words matter. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

And my indignation toward his words and policies are not just directed toward the president. Those who continue to deny, deflect, ignore, and justify his comments are equally as guilty, even to say nothing is to lend support to the inherent racism and sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry whether it is blatant or underlying his words. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

As I come from that incredibly inspiring experience in our Nation’s Capital, reading words of our founders, of the likes of Lincoln, King, Rosa Parks, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shirley Chisolm, and so many others, and I think of the words that continue to come from our current administration I am heartsick and disgusted. The words from our current president continue to be a blemish on our great history and I can no longer remain silent. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose. I will choose fruit, for I cannot participate in, nor condone any sense of the poison continuing to be put forth by our president.

President Trump, I pray for you, I pray for our country. You have been our president for a year now, it is time you began acting like one and living up to the great honor and office you hold. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

 

Rev. Kent H. Little

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The Evolution of Our Discourse

February 1, 2017

It is an evolution of conversation. There was a day in political as well as religious discourse when reaching across divides, finding common ground, give and take, even dare I say, compromise, was the work of those in leadership. We are years, perhaps even decades beyond that notion, it seems an almost fantasy laden idealism now as I look at our culture and society today.

For at least eighteen to twenty years I have been saying our society and culture, be it in the halls of government or the hallowed halls of the church, has devolved into an us versus them attitude. I have been guilty of it as well, my way or the highway mentality. I slip into that frame of mind when I find myself frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired. I have shared on more than one occasion that we are a nation, church, perhaps even world who have an insatiable need to be right and an insatiable need to be right at the expense of someone else. There seems no longer room for civil discussion, committed engagement, and compromise that furthers the common good of all.

I wrote a blog a year ago telling my denomination it is wrong in its treatment of LGBTQ persons. I still believe that. I stand by it with every fiber of my being, informed by my study of scripture, the traditions of the faith, my own experience, and reason… the foundations of my journey of faith! And while I believe this unequivocally I believe there is room for discussion and compromise in ways that build up the church that no longer does violence and harm to the faithful who are LGBTQ.

It is larger than that though. It is an issue and a problem that reaches across the landscape of what I believe to be God’s vision for the world and our corner of it. This notion of the need to be right has evolved into an even deeper ingrained entrenchment of society. It is an all or none scenario, and I would say, arguments that play the, us vs them, in ways that are untenable and unsustainable.

The extreme ends of any issue seem to believe that if they can even find one person that upholds their views it must be true for all and the other is obviously wrong. We no longer consider the middle ground of gray to even be a valid part of the discussion. It seems we have forgotten how difficult engaged and committed citizenship and faith are. It is not an easy thing this “We the People” or as the one of my tradition stated, how very difficult it is to practice “the narrow way.” You have to want this kind of freedom and place in the world badly and to continue with the incivility and bigotry is the easy way out because one does not have take responsibility for their own participation in the problems they can just blame someone else. Perhaps what we all need is a mirror.

I am often drawn to the words of a favorite speech in the movie The American President, when the character Andrew Shepard shares these words,

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

One of the reasons I like this quote so much is I hear it applying not only to our political landscape in our country and world, but also to the religious landscape, especially in our own United Methodist Church. Living together as progressive and conservative Christians as well as other religious theologies and ideologies is hard work, “You have to want it bad!” Sharing our passion and commitment to our vision of the world and the church requires the ability and finesse of finding common ground that ensures the common good of ALL concerned, not just the privileged few.

Maybe this writing is preaching to myself, I certainly know I have been guilty, but the question keeps coming back to me and so I will pass it on to those who take time to read, “How long?” How long will we refuse to listen? How long will we continue to make one another the enemy rather than owning we are all in this together? How long will we continue to deny we belong to one another? It takes ALL of us.

Life it too short to deny basic rights, equality, and justice to all of our citizenry, to all of God’s children. Life is too short to unfriend, belittle, attack physically and verbally, life is too short to live in hate and suspicion of the other. These are the reasons I continue to speak, to march, to protest, and to listen.

But if we continue on this path of exclusion, closed doors, closed hearts, closed minds, of either or with no common ground… will devour ourselves. There will be more of these ponderings… this is what is on my mind today.

Peace Be –

Kent