Articles, Essays & Sermons

Speak out clearly, pay up personally

The purpose, promise and peril of interfaith engagement

by Ken Sehested, Lynn Gottlieb, and Rabia Terri Harris

        In the early weeks of 2011, during the Arab Spring uprising, Egyptian blogger Nevine Zaki posted a photograph from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It showed a group of people bowing in the traditional style of Muslim prayer, surrounded by other people standing hand-in-hand, facing outward, as a wall of protection against hostile pro-government forces. Zaki affixed this caption: “A picture I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers.”

        Similar scenes—some ancient, some as recent as yesterday’s newspaper—have been arranged in a host of ways with a variety of religious identities. No religious tradition can claim a monopoly on compassionate courage. And yet such snapshots remain rare.

        A recent magazine ad for a large U.S. stock brokerage firm features a stunning photograph of the Earth taken from space. Superimposed over that image is the phrase “WORLD PEACE IS GOOD.” And then the ad continues: “But finding a stock at 5 that goes to 200 is better.” This glimpse of cynicism gives us some idea of the economic and emotional forces we’re up against when we try to work for genuine peace. Read more ›

There is a new creation

The Apostle Paul’s vision of the ministry of reconciliation

by Ken Sehested

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Read more ›

Bowling in Baghdad

Which memorial will guide?

by Ken Sehested, Memorial Day 2015

The Al-Fanar Hotel restaurant was bustling when I walked in. I sat with a new friend, Charles, a professional photojournalist and fellow Iraq Peace Team member. There were about 40 of us, split between three hotels in downtown Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River. This was February 2003, in the weeks leading up to the “shock and awe” invasion.

We were monitoring the effects of U.N. sanctions and providing an alternative account to that of the mainstream media’s war promotion. The trip was not undertaken lightly, given the impending invasion, along with the threat by our own government of prison sentences and steep fines for breaching the U.S. travel ban.

Midway through our meal Charles asked if I’d like to go bowling. Read more ›

On reading Malcolm X's "Autobiography"

Marking the 50th anniversary of its publication

by Ken Sehested

        Malcolm X’s Autobiography was the first book that scared me. Here I was, in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, secretly abandoning my pietist-revivalist rearing in favor of the more verdant fields of liberalism (which helped for a time), and here’s this guy, who I now am ready to befriend, sharply critical of liberal integrationists!

        Turns out he was right, unnervingly prescient, not exactly predicting the cases of Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddy Gray—ad nauseum and likely to be continued—but sensing that “civil rights” could be doled out in limited doses without affecting the underlying patterns of structural disparity. Something deeper is at work sustaining the patterns of discrimination, something more than simple bigotry and prejudice.

        However sincere the righteous intent, integration has mostly been a one-way street. Despite curtailed bounds, including constant indignity and threats of violence, the African American community had—before the advent of the “war on poverty” urban renewal initiatives—vibrant commercial districts, schools, neighborhoods and other cultural institutions. While the grip on access to bus seats and lunch counters and drinking fountains and even voter registration rights were loosening, the noose of widespread economic disparity was tightening. Read more ›

After the ecstasy, the laundry

Ken Sehested
Texts: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; John 3:1-17


         It was the first football game of my senior year of high school. We traveled west-by-northwest, paralleling the Louisiana coastline, to New Iberia, where that bottle of spicy Tabasco sauce in your kitchen cabinet was made. Read more ›