Articles, Essays & Sermons

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 ›

Lovers in Dangerous Times

Ken Sehested
Text: Romans 8:12-25

“We are lovers in dangerous times.” —Bruce Cochburn

“Faith is not belief in spite of the evidence. Faith is life lived in scorn of the consequences.” —Clarence Jordan Read more ›

Carpe Noctem—Seize the Night

The struggle for spiritual vision in a dark time

by Ken Sehested
Texts: Psalm 181-11; Habakkuk 1:1-11; Revelation 12:1-18
Sermon for the annual joint worship service of FOCUS, an ecumenical, congregationally-based community ministry, Albany, NY, 23 November 2003.

         Earlier this fall I was asked to address a gathering of Christians on the of “peacemaking in a post-9/11 world.” Let me begin here as I did there, with a reminder of an earlier policy which has helped bring us to where we are—struggling for spiritual vision in a dark time. The “Kennan Doctrine,” as it is now called, was articulated in 1948 shortly after the very first use of weapons of mass destruction. It was written by George Kennan who directed the U.S. State Department’s planning staff and was later credited as the intellectual architect of the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union.

         "We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population.  This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia.  In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.  Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.  To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.... Read more ›

The Promise of Pentecost

A sermon for Pentecost

by Ken Sehested
Texts: Acts 2:1-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:22-23

      Word association: What images or associations come to your mind when you hear the word “Pentecostal”?

      Three texts intersect for today’s service: Read more ›