Labor Day

Quotes, quick-facts, extracts

by Ken Sehested


This collection of material is especially designed for use in planning a Labor Day observance—but also more: on work in general, both the productive and destructive varieties; on sabbath-keeping, which is so much more than blue laws; on discerning vocations and callings; on the terrorizing disconnect between commerce and the flourishing of every living thing; on the increasingly barbarous treatment of immigrants and refugees.

On this Labor Day, make a commitment that, in the coming year, you will strike up conversations (maybe even friendships) with people who work with their hands. The greatest failure of progressive movements—churched and unchurched alike—is our cultural alienation from working class folk. There can never be a sustained movement for fundamental change until this failure is admitted, renounced, and rectified. Read more ›

Preface to special issue on white supremacy

Part 1

by Ken Sehested

“No one cops to their own ingrained white supremacy, even though white supremacy is the water
and we are the fish, and it’s unlikely that we are not at least a little bit wet.”
—Timothy B. Tyson

        In recent years it feels like we have been drenched with news of a plague most thought was laid to rest with the successes of the Civil Rights Movement: festering white supremacy and white nationalism. Read more ›

Reversal of fortunes

What if schools enjoyed pork-barrel largesse and the military depended on corporate charity?

by Ken Sehested

     One recent slow morning, in late August, the grocery stores’ circulars in the newspaper caught my attention. I began to wonder how things might be different if certain fortunes were reversed. Instead of “back-to-school” it’s “back-to-basic-training” discount offers.

     Imagine, if you will:

      •At Ingles, earn $1,000 for mops for the Navy, boots for the Army, when you use your Advantage™ Card. And keep your eyes out for our “Box Tops for Top Guns” special deals to ensure cockpit decal maintenance. Read more ›

Calling terrorism by its true name: blasphemy

A theological meditation

by Ken Sehested

        In my mind, missing from the public conversation among mass shootings—about the clash between hatred and neighborliness of every sort—is the failure to acknowledge that behavior is always rooted in and propelled by a moral vision. That vision may be formally articulated and reasoned or merely be gut instinct and unreflected rage.

        That moral universe may be as simple as sheer anarchy, the struggle of each against all, but it does have a certain coherence. Our deepest convictions shape our behaviors, which then refine and reinforce (or rearrange or undermine) those core beliefs.

        All moral visions assume conclusions about the nature, intent, and purpose of power and, at least implicitly, the character of life’s destiny itself. Namely, who ultimately will endure; by what provisions; and aligned according to what design? Read more ›

Thoughts and prayers, shots and tears

A meditation on mass shootings

by Ken Sehested

Our nation, averaging one mass shooting per day, now has suffered two in the span of 13 hours. Thoughts and prayers. Shots and tears.

Has there ever been a time when the practice of “prayer” has been so debased and its announcement greeted with such cynicism?

Maybe when Jesus compared the piety of the religious establishment to white washed tombs, radiant in the full light of day, yet full of rot and canker (Matthew 23:27). Read more ›

Pride Month and proud nations

The difference between dignity and arrogance

by Ken Sehested

       Nearly a year ago I wrote a close friend who pastors in Texas, attaching a photo of seven of our congregation’s teenagers arrayed in baptism robes, standing on the bank of a lake.

        My note said simply, “Is it OK to brag about this?”

        He and I both knew well that the Bible takes a dim view of pride. Dozens of texts warn against it, associating it with injustice (“Your doom has come, injustice has blossomed, pride has budded.” Ezekiel 7:10) and violence (“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” Psalm 73:6). Read more ›

North Carolina torture taxis

Commemorating the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture

by Ken Sehested

June 26 is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. The United Nations
Convention against Torture (CAT), approved in 1984, took effect on 26 June 1987. Since the CAT’s
entry into force, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or
degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary
international law. The US ratified the CAT in 1994, but with a boatload of exceptions.
Read more ›

US citizens should be very wary of any US rationale for an attack on Iran

by Ken Sehested

        The dogs of war threatening full scale conflict between the US and Iran are straining their respective leashes. Iran openly admits that it shot down a US drone, claiming it was over Iranian territorial waters—by international law, extending 12 miles from a country’s coast line.

        The US claims the drone was over international waters, doing so under the terms of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS). Complicating matters: Oman, across the Strait of Hormuz, also has legal claim to a 12-mile territorial sovereign claim. Yet at its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is only 21 miles wide.

        Understand, though, that neither the US nor Iran ratified the UNCLOS. Read more ›

Greta Thunberg

When the muted find a voice

by Ken Sehested, with extensive quotes from Jonathan Watts, “Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’”, The Guardian

        I confess I’m head-over-heels in awe of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who was recently awarded Amnesty International’s coveted “Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2019, on behalf of the Fridays for Future movement of school children demanding bold action to address the global climate crisis.

        [For more on that, see Amnesty International. Also, watch this short (4:12) video of Thunberg and fellow “school strikers for climate change” from around the world.]

        Then 15, Thunberg was considered little more than a curiosity when, in August 2018, she began skipping school to hold vigil outside Sweden’s parliament. She sat rather forlornly against the building with her hand-painted sign, which read skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate), calling on Swedish legislators to take climate change seriously. Read more ›

T.S. Eliot’s Pentecostal agenda

Refined by Pentecost’s blaze or consumed by war's conflagration

by Ken Sehested

        Pentecost Sunday is far and away my favorite moment on the church’s liturgical calendar.

        It wasn’t always so. In fact, I grew up with inherited suspicion of “Pentecostal” Christians. Their rambunctious style of worship—speaking in “tongues,” ecstatic trances, slayings in the spirit and, generally, excitable emotions—were considered reprobate in my pietist-revivalist culture. We had our amen corners, but other outbursts were frowned upon. Such intrusions into more restrained Baptist sanctuaries were considered divisive and inflammatory.

        I have this bit of news in my files as illustration. When Southern Baptists in Georgia came to their 1998 convention meeting, among the first orders of business was to vote on two proposed constitutional amendments for congregational membership in the body, both being causes for being “disfellowshiped.” The first was endorsement of homosexual behavior; the second, engaging “in non-biblical charismatic worship practices.” Read more ›