Zinn and the Mechanic

Commemorating the anniversary of Howard Zinn’s passing, and that of my father

            This past Tuesday, 27 January 2015, was the fifth anniversary of the passing of Howard Zinn, the historian, activist and playwright who guided many an innocent, blinded-by-the-might nativist (folk like me) to understand the not-so-exceptional history of their country. Zinn was best known for his A People’s History of the United States, of which Matt Damon’s character in the movie Good Will Hunting says, “That book will knock you on your ass.”

            Such a posture, of course, is the starting point of every meaningful spiritual journey (and, typically, includes repeated encounters with that hard ground).

            Tuesday was also the 14th anniversary of my father’s passing. It would take multiple levels of interpretive work for my Dad to understand Zinn’s writing—something I never accomplished. But I kept at it because I believe that—at the core of his sense of honor, and honor was key—he knew the way of the world favors the devious. He consistently refused to give himself to that dishonoring system, though he was mostly skeptical at the prospects of release from its sway.

            He knew the world as relentlessly hard, even treacherous, and suspected joy unreliable. Decades ago, when I—giddy as a goose—called home to say their first grandchild was on the way, Dad was the first to speak, and he said, “Can you afford it?” Read more ›

Dr. King didn’t do everything

Recollecting the Spirit's work through, not to, the man and the movement unfolding still

Ken Sehested

      We miss the significance of the Civil Rights Movement if we attribute everything to Dr. King. In fact, if one studies the record carefully, it is amazing to note that most of the major Civil Rights Movement campaigns were actually initiated by others. And King was initially resistant to many of the projects in which he became involved.

      The Montgomery Bus Boycott is a good case in point. It was Rosa Parks, a seamstress, who ignited that episode.

      It was E.D. Nixon, a railroad porter, who accomplished much of the initial strategy to make Rosa Parks’ case a legal test. And when the group of prominent African American ministers gathered to discuss what to do, it was Nixon (an “ordinary” layperson) who shamed them into having the courage to go public with the plan. Read more ›

My Sling is That of David

US-Cuba Relations as an emerging agenda

This unpublished paper was drafted in 1992 in preparation for the Baptist Peace Fellowship board of directors’ consideration of several projects related to US-Cuba relations. Though dated, this material nevertheless provides useful background information related to the topic, including the thaw in church-state relations in Cuba.

by Ken Sehested
 

During a recent flight I took out the airline magazine to look at the map. Just before returning it to the seat pocket, something on the map jumped out at me. My eyes had wandered down through the Caribbean, especially the strong of Lesser Antilles islands, many of whose names serve as Columbian memorials to so many saints. (Who were those guys?) And there were the larger islands: Puerto Rico, the world’s oldest colony. (It’s still under U.S. “protectorate” status.) There’s Hispaniola, cohabited by the Dominican Republic and Haiti (site of the first successful African slave revolt and much in the news of late); the Bahamas; and . . . Read more ›

Chaos or community: Which way?

Advent commentary on grand jury findings

Ken Sehested. Posted 5 December 2014, commemorating Rosa Parks' historic bus ride.

Chaotic and kairotic are rhyming words that come to mind in these heavy laden days. The latter’s root word, kairos, means “opportune moment,” a pregnant occasion, with life promised but also danger lurking, an opening for truth amid founded fears of catastrophe—as in “apocalypse.”  But in the root word for apocalypse, the emphasis is on “uncovering” or “revealing” what has been hidden. Truth amid the rubble.

These surely are chaotic times, and we cringe at the destructive backlash threatening to rain down on urban and suburban streets. Within a week, police killings of unarmed black men are dismissed by grand juries in a St. Louis suburb and New York City—the latter case, of Eric Garner, by fatal chokehold caught on camera and ruled a homicide by the coroner.

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show opening comments on these cases were as sober as I’ve seen. “If comedy is tragedy plus time,” Stewart said, “I need more f•••king time.” Read more ›

The Baptist Impulse: COEBAC

Notes toward a renewal of Baptist identity

On the 40th anniversary of the founding of La Coordinacion Obrero Estudiantil Bautista de Cuba (COEBAC, Coordination of Baptist Students and Workers in Cuba)
10-11 October 2014, Iglesia Bautista Enmanuel, Ciego de Avila, Cuba

 

by Ken Sehested

People of faith are continuously in the process of asking and deciding “what time is it?” and “who are my people?” When I ask, “what time is it?”  I’m not asking you to look at your watch. I’m not asking you to check your calendar. Rather, I’m asking “what is the Spirit doing in our day, in this place and in this season?” How we live and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel always hinges on this question.  And every age, every generation, every specific location must renew its response to this question. Read more ›