Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions?

You should be

by Ken Sehested

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions? You should be. The stakes are high, Trump is recklessly impulsive and currently in need of a public distraction from the Mueller investigation. It’s not likely to be an all-out war, but some limited strike—maybe backing Israel to do so, as it did in 2007—that would further escalate belligerence.

(Remember: This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I which began with one assassination, in a country few US citizens had heard of, igniting what was then the deadliest war in history, due to a complex web of international alliances, planting the seeds of World War II, then the Cold War, and on and on.)

Hatred—as e.e. cummings said—bounces. Read more ›

Pastoral dilemmas with observing Mother’s Day

by Ken Sehested

            Some of you share my childhood church experiences of Mother’s Day. During the service, the oldest and youngest mothers present were recognized. All women were offered carnations to wear, pink if your mother was living, white if deceased. And of course, families took Moms out to eat lunch after church, so she wouldn’t have to cook that Sunday(!).

            This was in a time—long ago in a galaxy far, far away—when restaurant visits among my social strata were rare. In my rearing, the only eating out was occasional trips to the Dairy Queen for burgers, a few times on vacations (which were still burger events for me), and Mother’s Day. (Nowadays, the average American consumes 4.2 commercially prepared meals per week.)

            A brief anecdote by Maralee McKee illustrates how unintentionally brutal those Mother’s Day observances could be. Read more ›

Dr. James Cone: A brief remembrance

by Ken Sehested

I was traveling when the news of Dr. James Cone’s death was reported on Saturday. The first thought that came to mind was what seems to be a providential concurrence: His passing came two days after the opening of the National Peace and Justice Memorial, solemnizing the lynching in the US of some 4,400 black people, in 800 counties, between 1877 and 1950.

Cone’s last book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, was recipient of this year’s Grawemeyer Award in Religion. In that book he wrote “in the United States, the clearest image of the crucified Christ was the figure of an innocent black victim, dangling from a lynching tree.” A fitting reminder in this season of Eastertide.

My second thought was more personal. Dr. Cone was my seminary master’s thesis reader. Yet in our several meetings to discuss my research and writing progress, only one clear memory remains—one that had nothing to do with my academic project, a survey and assessment of 19th and 20th century exegesis of the “community of goods” accounts in Acts 2 and 4. (Hint: Those texts made scholars of every stripe—across the conservative-to-liberal spectrum—squirm. One respected scholar went so far as to say this account was surely idealized for it would have otherwise revealed the early apostles as lacking in common sense!) Read more ›

Earth Day - The link between Easter and Pentecost

Pacem, pacem, pacem in terris

by Ken Sehested

Easter’s focus is always sharper when allied with Earth Day. We sing, properly, of being wayfaring strangers. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” (Deuteronomy 26:5) is among the oldest testimonies of fate and faith. An alternate translation—“A Syrian ready to perish was my ancestor”—brings added poignancy to the text.

We are indeed strangers; but not foreigners. In common usage these two words seem similar. Biblically speaking, though, the theological difference could not be greater.

§  §  § Read more ›

Cuba’s Historic Crossroads

A new president—one not named Castro—will soon take office

By Stan Hastey

            Cuba stands at a crossroads unlike any other in the 59 years since a rebel army headed by Fidel Castro and his younger brother, Raul, defeated the supposedly far superior armed forces under the command of Fulgencio Batista. Batista, the last in a series of corrupt and repressive Cuban presidents backed and kept in power by the United States for the previous half century, fled the island nation as three columns of rebel soldiers bore down on Havana during Christmas week 1958. Declaring victory on New Year’s Day 1959, the three commanding officers—Raul Castro, Ernesto (Che) Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos—welcomed Fidel to Havana one week later, where the charismatic leader formally declared victory before a massive crowd of supporters convinced that a new day had dawned on the economically and educationally deprived nation.

Right: Cubans voting in precinct elections, November 2018.

            Among the undeniably significant achievements of the Castro brothers’ revolution have been the virtual elimination of illiteracy by means of a system of public education funded and overseen by the government from kindergarten through university graduate studies and a public health system premised on prevention that boasts a lower infant mortality rate than that of the United States. These are measurable successes. Read more ›