Posts Tagged ‘War’

Call Me a Dreamer

May 18, 2018

So, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately about the state of our union. Union…a funny word actually, especially in terms of what I see happening in the news, on social media, and in our society. We are anything but united. The only union I seem to see is us versus them, whoever us is and whoever them is. (I just sent chills up the spines of my English teachers). It seems to me we only unite with those who hold our same biases, prejudices, and bigotries. Now, before you call me out, I am no less guilty. I too tend to gather with those who are of like mind. And in general, I do not believe there is anything wrong with that.

When this dis-union becomes problematic is when we begin to think us or them are less than, less than us, less than them, less than worthy, less than enough, less than…human? And as a result, become targeted by violence of word and deed. Think about it, in our tradition, every since the story tells us Cain knocked Abel in the head with a rock we have been identifying those who are less than and imprisoning them in camps, building walls to separate, hanging, beating, shooting, and otherwise trying to eliminate the other who are other than us.

Just the history of our own country, this dis-unified union… the government sponsored and sanctioned genocide of Native Americans, called them uncivilized animals, thus justifying the atrocities we committed against them. Forced slave labor of Africans, brought over on ships and tortured, beaten, stripped, whipped, lynched, and called less than human, uncivilized animals, which once again we justified our actions because they are less than. African Americans who still face devastating racism even now in the 21st Century, what is wrong with us? Indentured servants from England and Ireland and other countries, who for some reason could never quite get out from under the powerful elite who brought them here. We demonize the poor and those on assistance trying to feed their families while working two and three jobs and call them less than. Women, continue to be treated less than in the work place, in society, via access to better paying jobs, healthcare choices, and targeted as objects by powerful men who use and abuse and control. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender persons who are fired from their jobs simply because of who they are and who they love…refused and turned away at the doors of the church and forbidden from full participation in the community of faith…beaten in the streets, laws passed to discriminate against them under the guise of religious freedom and I call BS! Religious bigotry directed at Muslims and other persons of faith because they practice differently, treated as other and less than. Immigrants and dreamers, refugees who have come here some legally and some undocumented because they are willing to do anything to save the lives of their children and families from the brutalities of their home country, treated like and called uncivilized and animals. families broken apart, children and mothers separated, because we see them as less than. This list is far too long.

Why do we continue to do this? Why do we as a country as a dis-union continue to fester the need to identify another group of humankind so that we can feel superior and special? When will we acknowledge we are all brothers and sisters, we are all children of the Divine, we all belong to one another… how long must we continue to pretend white, Christian, male, heterosexuals are the master species… I call BS!

This prejudice and bigotry, obviously, is not new, it has been going on for centuries… from the beginning really… to some degree early on it was about survival. But surely, we can evolve beyond what our earliest ancestors needed to survive. Surely, we can evolve beyond violence for violence and hate for hate. Surely one day we will lay down our weapons of war, our weapons of violence, our weapons of words and extend an open hand rather than a clenched fist…surely.

As for me, I will continue to hope, I will continue to speak to the best of who we should be, because even though my heart is hurting watching all this belligerent hate and vitriol language and violence laden dis-union of which we are a part… I still believe we can become who we are called to be. A beloved community where love is the rule and not the exception. A world where violence and war are a distant memory. A world where guns, and bombs, and swords, and spears are relics in a vast museum that simply serves to remind us of what we used to be and have no need of any longer. To such love and justice, I will commit my life. As a prophet not long ago once said… “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Dream and act with me, won’t you? Make Justice Happen. Love as God Loves. Be the Very Reflection of God in the World.

One Day… One Day…May it be so. May it be soon!

Kent H. Little

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Silence

January 22, 2018

I confess, even though I may speak on the topic with some regularity, I struggle with silence. I suppose I am a victim, or perhaps better a product, of my environment. When I try to meditate my mind wanders, I am drawn to the next thing I need to do, the next place I need to be, the next person I need to see. Even now, as I write at home, there is a movie on the television that I have seen numerous times before, it is just background noise I don’t have to pay attention to know what is going on.

While these thoughts are true I work on my being comfortable with silence. I practice, as imperfect as my practice is, I take time in my office, or in the basement here at home to sit in subtle light, in the quiet, and practice stilling my mind in the effort to simply be.

As much as I wrestle with the practice, I also know how much I need it. Our world is filled with too much noise. Noise not just in the literal sense, but noise that diminishes, belittles, and attacks. We live in a world where the noise of injustice, racism, sexism, bigotry, and hate. It is this kind of noise our faith calls us to stand against, to speak to, and to transform in the songs of justice and grace.

The practice of silence and centering is about preparing our hearts, minds, and souls for the noisy world around us so we are prepared to be a presence of peace, light, and compassion in a world that has often forgotten how to be such things.

One of the places that brought me hope on my journey to Washington D.C. and New York was the United Nations Building. In a country and world that can often seem so hell bent on war, conflict, violence, and diminishing of the other, it was inspiring to be in a place dedicated to peace, committed to human rights, and determined to create a world free of weapons and war.

In the building I spent a couple of minutes in The Meditation Room. These are some of the words I was greeted with just outside the room,IMG_8654

“We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence. This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense.” There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So, it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.” If you would like to read more about the room here is a link, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/dag/meditationroom.htm.

I found the place and space calming and inspiring as well as instructing, that in all the work we do to promote the kindom and beloved community of peace, justice, kindness, and humility we need time for stillness and silence.

Take some time this day, this week, and all the days to come, to tend your soul, to be still, and know the Divine is with you, you are never alone. And then we will rise together to stand and light a light of hope and justice in the world around us.

Peace and Light for Our Journey,

Pastor Kent

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

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

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter on the Occasion of Her Birth

September 15, 2014

Dear Kadee,
It is now near a day and a half since you were born and I am struggling to find the words to write and say. I am a bit speechless and yet one day you will know as with any preacher that does not last long. I am sitting alone in the dining room of our home with a cup of coffee with only my thoughts and a picture of you before me on the table, as your Grammy is already with you. I have yet to hold you but I can already sense your warm smooth skin, your sweet fragrance, and the softness of the new born hair on your head. I already know you are the most beautiful and loved baby there is, that is Poppie talk and you’ll need to get used to it as will anyone else who happens to overhear.

This morning as I ponder the world into which you have been born I want to share some thoughts, wisdom, and other comments with you within this first letter. Our world is filled with a lot of scary things. There are wars being fought over religion and territory. There are people who claim to speak for God who commit atrocities against their fellow humankind without thought or remorse. There are people in our own country who want to retaliate in a kind of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality that only perpetuates more war and violence.

There are people in our own country, in our own government, even in our churches who would do violence to another, discriminate against them, call others names, and deny them legal, civil, and human rights for no other reason than for who they love, the color of their skin, the state of their finances, the religion they practice or lack thereof, and Kadee, in the world we live in today there are those who would deny you rights and privileges and freedoms simply because you were born a little girl.

Dearest Kadee, I know you cannot read this yet, I hope someday you do and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I hope you read this when you are a young woman and say, “Poppie, really? People used to do those things to others? That is so sad and I’m glad it is not that way any longer.” I do not write these words to scare you; I would never do such a thing. I write these words to apologize. I am sorry. I am sorry we are not able to welcome you into a world in which equality and justice for all are the rule of the day. I am sorry we who have come before you continue to screw things up so badly for those who would come after us. It is not fair, but please do not be afraid.

I write this note to you on a cool September morning as the sun begins to break over the eastern horizon. This letter to you is a hope-filled promise and reassurance. As the days carry on I want you to know for all the scary stuff that is out there it is still a good world. This is a beautiful world filled with the very Presence of God, with grace and love and music and harmony, it is just that sometimes it takes a little extra effort to find it and embrace it.

There are still those who believe and fight for equality and justice and right. There are still those out there who know what it is to love unconditionally and strive to make this world a better place. I want you to know Kadee I try to be one of those persons and as of September 13th I have one more very special reason to continue the fight and promise to you to do my best to leave this world a little better than I found it, not only for you and for all those who are like you and just beginning.

Kadee, you have been born to incredible, grace-filled, loving parents, your mom and dad will immerse you in the very unconditional love of the Spirit. You will be surrounded by so many family and friends who will love you unconditionally, of that I have no doubt! That love, I pray, will nurture you into whatever kind of dreams you are able to dream, into whatever kind of magnificent woman you choose to be. But I get ahead of myself and now I am dreaming of what might be rather than what is and who you are in this moment.

I’m going to close now, precious little one, and get on with my day looking forward to that moment this afternoon when I can wrap you in my own arms, kiss your face, and hear you breathe and coo. Your Poppie will always love you, always, no matter what and there is nothing you can do about it.

One additional note Kadee, I am publishing this note to you in our church newsletter and on my blog because not only do I hope all these things for you, but I pray every day all of us, the church, our society and culture, universally will one day embrace such a world where justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, a world where love and justice for all is the rule rather than the exception, a world where all means all. May it be so. May it be soon.

May you always have Peace and Light for your Journey,

Poppie