“Make them do whatever we want”

How to read the Cuban street protests in light of U.S.-Cuba history

by Ken Sehested

Cuba seems to have the same effect on U.S. administrations
as the full moon once had on werewolves.
—Dr. Wayne Smith, former director of the
US Interest Section in Havana, Cuba

Medieval European maps traced the outline of the entirety of its exploration. Just outside the bounds of what was known they inscribed the words “Here Be Dragons.”

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Ascension-deficit disorder

A meditation on the Feast of the Ascension

by Ken Sehested
Feast of the Ascension 2021

The Feast of the Ascension is observed by some on the 40th day after Easter;
by others, on the seventh Sunday of Eastertide.

The Feast of the Ascension doesn’t get marquee billing, at least not in Protestant circles. Do a quick web image search and you can see why: Many depict a pasty white Jesus, in a chalk-colored robe, levitating above his surrounding disciples in a beam-me-up pose. Makes me think of the velvet paintings of Elvis.

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Breathing room

A meditation on the conviction of Derek Chauvin

by Ken Sehested
21 April 2021

As I pulled out of our driveway, the NPR radio host said that the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial had reached a verdict and would be announced shortly. I immediately felt my stomach tighten and swallowed an inhaled “oh no.”

Like most, I thought the evidence against him in the death of George Floyd was irreproachable. But history said otherwise, particularly given the massive loophole provided by the Supreme Court’s ruling granting “limited immunity” to law enforcement, for “breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.”

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Easter’s fertile promise

Composting as parable of faith formation

by Ken Sehested
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021

I’ve never had a green thumb. My wife tends indoor plants and outside flowers. I’ve never had the urge to garden, though I wish I had.

But I’ve enjoyed making dirt for over 30 years. Soil, I should say. Dark, fertile, nutrition rich soil that growing things need to thrive, filled with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and a dozen other nutrients and organic matter.

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A few (somewhat unconventional) music suggestions for Holy Week and Easter


It's important to remember that the first Holy Week was not upbeat, chocolatey, nor an occasion for spring fashion. The disciples did not want to be in Jerusalem. They knew the dangers for Jesus, and for themselves, since both the Temple elite and the Roman rulers were lying in wait for an opportunity to nab Jesus.

It was Passover season, recollecting the Hebrew freedom march out of Egypt; thus nationalist sentiment ran hot. Rome always brought in extra security forces during this period. The crowd that welcomed Jesus waved palm branches—symbols of victory which, then as now, implied military engagement. And they shouted "Hosanna"—"God save us!"—not so much for heaven but from Rome's colonization. Both the palms and the hosannas had an undercurrent of insurrection. Given Jesus' notoriety, many hoped—or feared—he was there to ignite a violent insurgency against Roman tyranny and Temple collaboration. Palm Sunday was a dangerous provocation, which Jesus struggled to clarify in Maundy Thursday's footwashing. As the disciples feared, the authorities arrested, tortured, and lynched Jesus by crucifixion, a form of capital punishment reserved for political subversives. The disciples went into hiding. No one had an inkling of what would come next.

Palm Sunday

§ Watch this short (3:49) video from 1940 of Arab Christians marking Palm Sunday by marching from Bethphage, down the Mount of Olives, through the Kidron Valley, and then climb again to reach Jerusalem. This is the trek Jesus made on his final entry into Jerusalem, where crowds formed a processional line waving palm fronds.

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Hong Kong, Britain’s 19th century war to save its drug cartel in China, and escalating US-China relations

To understand the present, you have to know some history

by Ken Sehested

US-China relations have deteriorated dramatically in recent months. Once an outspoken admirer of Chinese President Xi, President Trump is now laying much of the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic at China’s door, further exacerbating the preexisting conflict over balance of trade.

Some of China’s blame, for delaying news of the pandemic’s spread, is merited. Then again, CNN has identified 37 instances where Trump praised China’s handling of the coronavirus between 22 January and 1 April. Then, as the pandemic began to spread widely in the US—and the US government’s inaction became apparent—the president began looking to deflect responsibility.

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The death of George Floyd was a match that lit a bonfire

Four testifiers

by Ken Sehested

I encourage you to open a second tab and listen to the song “Stand Up
by DGLS, a young African American quartet, as you read this post.

As has been said, no one can create a movement. But you can be prepared for it. And the evidence suggests we are now witnessing—and, hopefully, participating in—one here in the US (with echoes sounding around the world).

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Tom Walsh remembrance

by Ken Sehested
Composed on 23 September 2020

My friend Tom Walsh died last night. He was among the kindest, most gentle, intelligent person I have ever known. When I read the Beatitudes and get to “Blessed are the pure of heart,” Tom’s face appears in my mind’s eye.

He was also passionate about the Gospel, and was clear about the fact that the goodness of its news was for the dispossessed and all who took steps to be present to their voices.

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Malcolm, Martin, and the American racial impasse

Dream or nightmare?

by Ken Sehested

I’ve consciously adapted the title of one of my intellectual and spiritual mentors, Dr. James Cone (of blessed memory) for this reflection, in light of the 21 February anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965; and in reaction to the recent announcement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that it will reopen the case against those convicted of that murder.

Already in 2020 the New York City district attorney announced that it had launched an investigation into the murder, for which three members of the Nation of Islam had been convicted. Malcolm X (Malik Shabazz) had broken with the organization’s policy of Black separatism, though not from his convictions regarding systemic racism.

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