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 ›

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 ›

"We tolerate no scruples"

A brief history of 20th century bombing of civilian populations

by Ken Sehested

Every year on 6 August much of the world remembers the first-ever atomic bombing, of Hiroshima, Japan; then, three days later, of Nagasaki.

Few remember, though, that the US firebombed more than 60 other cities (using the recently invented incendiary substance known as napalm), including Tokyo, causing the deaths of 100,000, mostly by fire, destroying 16 square miles of the city, leaving another million homeless. The fatality total from this “conventional” bombing rivaled each of the two atomic attacks.

Despite the Hague Convention of 1907, where European powers agreed to forbid the use of aerial bombardment of civilian populations, the prohibition was rarely observed. Both German and English aircraft killed at least 2,000 civilians during World War I. 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 ›

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 ›