A humble word of encouragement to my Wesleyan friends

On the United Methodist Church’s General Conference decision to ostracize queerfolk

by Ken Sehested
24 February 2019

Today’s hard news from the United Methodist General Conference made me remember something a friend (and United Methodist pastor) wrote some years ago about another travesty in the Wesleyan tradition.

“John Wesley recognized such violence hidden in the clean and tidy profits of slave traders and owners. He exposed it, addressing them with the fire of a prophet: ‘Thy hands, thy bed, thy furniture, thy house, thy lands are at present stained with blood.’ Read more ›

Ash Wednesday

The only counter cultural holiday we have left

by Ken Sehested
Ash Wednesday reflection

Several years ago, at an Ash Wednesday service, the one preaching that evening made a stunning confession.

“Ash Wednesday is actually my favorite holiday,” she said. Read more ›

Taxing matters

Tax laws and troublesome faith

by Ken Sehested

“Some people are so poor all they have is money.”
—Bob Marley

        The question of tax fairness has long been on my radar. But it wasn’t until the phrase “marginal tax rate” made headlines recently that I realized few people know what it means, and my own understanding was pretty vague. Read more ›

The taunt of Lamech’s revenge

Authorization for Use of Military Force: 60 words that bring the US to the edge of a permanent state of war

by Ken Sehested

        Fifteen years ago today, 14 September 2001, the US Congress approved a 60-word joint resolution—with only one dissenting vote, by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)—named The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It grants the president sweeping latitude for authorizing military action. The implications it carries have become so commonplace they no longer raise public attention. Not unlike the lyrics to some popular children’s songs, the AUMF’s assumptions are repeated so often we are numbed to their significance.

        This is unfortunate, for the AUMF, approved amid the trauma and rage of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, has brought us to the edge of a permanent state of war.

§ § § Read more ›

The cultivation of gratitude and the practice of thanksgiving

by Ken Sehested

        The topic of gratitude has become a marketing trend in publishing over the past decade—confirmed, most recently, in Diana Butler Bass’ best-selling Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, not to mention a score of books written by and for the “positive psychology” school of authors and readers.

        If you do a Google Scholar web search for the word, you immediately get 1.32 million results.

        Scientists continue to provide confirmation of things mystics have promoted for eons: that singing is good for personal and communal health; that a cultivated devotional life tends to extend life expectancy; that wealth is not neutral but actually diminishes the capacity for empathy; that even the spiritual hunch that everything-is-connected is being confirmed by ecologists, cosmologists, and quantum physicists. Read more ›

The backdrop of Veterans Day

Remembering red poppies and the Great War’s armistice

by Ken Sehested
for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day ending World War I

 “You can no more win a war than win an earthquake.”
—Jeanette Rankin, first female elected to federal office (in 1916, to the US House of Representatives,
before women were allowed to vote) and dissenting voter on US declarations of war in both world wars

I used to think the symbolic wearing of red poppies in remembrance of war’s sacrificial cost was a British thing. And mostly it is, if you include other nations who belong to the Commonwealth. It was a Canadian military surgeon, one with poetic inclinations, who established what is essentially a weed’s place in literary and military history. Read more ›

Vote, or don’t

The issues are larger than elections

by Ken Sehested

        To my friends who question the value of voting, or have ethical qualms about choosing between the lesser of two evils: Vote, or don’t. Its significance will always lie somewhere between essential and useless. None of us is allowed to assess any action as ultimate—but that’s no license for skepticism or despondence.

        Voting is such a small part of our commonwealth duty. I spend more time in grocery store lines every month than in polling stations every year. Elections are but the end result of an advocacy for the common good that starts in each watershed. Imagine a different future, find collaborators, and spend yourself extravagantly.

        Renewed public policy requires new public consensus. As Frederick Douglass knew all too well, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Be demanding. Justice often requires the painful work of delegitimizing existing power arrangements before reconstruction can occur. Read more ›

Safe church policies

Pastoral advice on getting started

by Ken Sehested

      I’m embarrassed to admit muffling a groan when I first heard “safe church policy” mentioned in conversation among our members. Three thoughts came rushing up in complaint.

      First, I remembered the news, from years ago, of a daycare center announcing it was instituting a “no-touching” policy guiding staff behavior with children. No hugs. No encouraging hand-on-the-shoulder. No child-on-lap comforting of distress. I thought then, and still think: that’s nuts.

      Also, I had recently spent many hours wrangling with two different insurance companies, trying to get a very basic liability policy, a new requirement by the church whose space we rent. None of the agents with whom I spoke could conceive that we didn’t want a dozen or more types of coverage. ‘Danger” marketing (“Risk management”) is a growth industry. Read more ›

Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero

Canonizing El Salvador’s beloved archbishop

by Ken Sehested

        This Sunday, 14 October, former Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romeo (15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980) will be officially canonized—declared a saint—by the Roman Catholic Church during its 2018 Synod of Bishops in Rome.

        In 1997 Romero was declared a “Servant of God,” a process which makes him a candidate for sainthood. But the process stalled when the hierarchy worried if such a move would be too “political.” Then in February of 2015 Pope Francis decreed that Romero had died “for the faith” (in odium fidei); and then in May announced his beatification, the final step before canonization as a saint of the church. A quarter of a million Salvadorans attended Romero’s beatification service.

        When in 1977 Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, many in the government, wealthy landowners, the military, and the Catholic hierarchy were pleased. Romero was known as a traditionalist, compliant on matters of piety, doctrine, and relations with the state. Read more ›

Getting soaked

A meditation on the recovery of baptismal integrity

by Ken Sehested
24 September 2018

Last week I wrote a quick note to my friend Kyle, who gets as excited about baptism as I do, to share the news.

“We’re baptizing seven of our youth group this coming Sunday. Is it OK to brag about this?” Read more ›