The Profanity of ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Offering our “thoughts and prayers” in a crisis can be an expression of sincere empathy but when you are capable of doing more and all you do is offer your thoughts and prayers then we quickly realize that such words are reflective of hollow hypocrisy. Prayer can be very helpful to our spiritual journey but as the African proverb teaches, “when you pray, move your feet.” We pray to change the one who prays so that we will do all that we can to meaningfully respond to the many crises we see happening all around us.

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Preserving Democracy

The real fraud in the voter fraud discussion in the USA is the unsubstantiated claim that it is a problem. There are no more than three or four instances of voter fraud in any election cycle so the new state laws requiring a government issued photo ID at polling places is a shameless attempt at suppressing the vote of 20 million poor, disabled, or recent immigrant voters. This attempt at reversing the gains made in the civil rights movement must be rejected by progressive citizens.

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Spiritual but not Religious…

Winston Churchill said that it takes courage to stand up and speak but it also takes courage to listen. Now, in the wake of a cascade of sexual predator and harassment cases involving powerful and wealthy men, we must have the courage to listen to victims without judgment. Truth does depend upon perspective and we should never assume that our own perspective is either universal or normative. Only through generous listening can we really understand other races, genders, and faiths in a way that fosters honest community.

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Dedication to Reality and Balancing

Scott Peck identified four tools of discipline that are crucial to meaningful living. This sermon addresses the last two of those four: Dedication to reality, and balancing. In our time of both religious duplicity and political “alternative truth” a firm reminder of the importance of being devoted to reality is a timely and helpful message.

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Living a Life Worth Living

M. Scott Peck writes in the Road Less Traveled that there are four basic tools of discipline that allow a person to live a problem solving life rather than a life problem avoiding (which argues leads not only to sorrow but also to mental illness). This sermon addresses the first two of those four: the ability to delay gratification and acceptance of responsibility. While most of this channel’s material addresses systemic injustice this sermon and the one that will follow next week are more personally focused on how we avoid “renting space in our skull” to the painful challenges of life.

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The Moral Revival this Nation Needs

Sermon by Mike Kinman

“Far from Israel’s moral core, we are a nation where ‘you shall not murder’ has become a suggestion, and ‘you shall not steal’ is enforced with a gun and a prison cell if you are wearing a hoodie, and ignored with a wink and a nod if you are wearing a suit…”

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Long Overdue Reform of Gun Control

Not because of Vegas (or Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Orlando, Dallas, or even Sandy Hook) and not because of the 50 women who are murdered by their significant other every month, but because a predictable 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot wounds and another 100,000 are wounded. No other western democracy comes anywhere close to our astonishingly high numbers and we cannot just nibble at the edges of this issue any longer. It isn’t “bump stocks” or semi-automatic weapons that gives us this annual bloodbath. It is primarily hand guns but on the whole, the USA is holding nearly half of the guns in the world and we just have to move in the direction of more sane and effective gun laws.

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Tribalism, Narcissism, Nationalism, and their Offspring

The religious left often finds itself at odds with the marketplace but when it comes to refugees and the undocumented, there is a purely profit driven approach that can give spiritual people a reason to cheer. There is more than a moral reason not to deport the 80,000 DACA youth living in the USA, looked at purely for their law-abiding, tax-paying potential, we need for them to stay here! A similarly strong economic argument can be made in favor of granting citizenship to foreign students who come here to earn advanced STEM degrees. Looked at from either a spiritual/compassionate perspective, or from an economic viewpoint: we do not need a Muslim ban, we don’t need a wall on the Mexican border, and we need to be much more welcoming of refugees.

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The Challenge of Community: Sermon by Rev. Roger Ray

The comedian, Dave Berry, observed that if the person you are with is kind to you but mean to the waiter, the person you are with is not a good person. For progressive communities to thrive and gain influence both in the world of religion and in public policy, we simply must stop engaging in liberal cannibalism and find ways to lovingly network with people who are something other than a perfect match with our own beliefs and opinions. Michael Moore has predicted a 2020 win Donald Trump, not because he deserves to be re-elected but because of the fractured nature of progressives in America. We really must do better.

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Race, Drugs, and Prisons

The War on Drugs has failed to reduce drug use but it has succeeded in the original plan of the Nixon administration which was to incarcerate minorities and political dissidents. In a magazine interview in 2016, John Ehrlichman confessed, “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

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Meaningful Work AND Meaningful Salaries!

The weakness of the labor unions in our day has eroded the wages, health care benefits, job security, retirement programs, and even the safety of the workplace. When labor unions were growing, spiritual communities articulated the causes labor supported but in our era the church has been far too silent on labor issues. It isn’t just for union members that we need to find our prophetic voice, it is for the whole population because we all benefit when salaries are increased and the challenges of economic vulnerability in retirement, illness, and unemployment.

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It’s Probably About Sex

Sexual mores evolve from generation to generation. We cannot reasonably assume that religion sets the rules for sexual relationships, after all, the preponderance of biblical references to marriage praise and promote polygamy. We must strive to find what is true, just, merciful, and liberating in our search for sexual ethics.

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Race in America

The removal of Confederate memorials from government properties and the racist tensions created by these decisions becomes an opportunity to have a serious conversation about America’s original sin of slavery and the lingering racism that still haunts this nation. Donald Trump’s failure to provide clear leadership in the midst of the current racial crisis also demands the serious consideration of everyone who hopes for a better America.

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Prayer of Lament – Sermon Video

Prayer of Lament, in the shadow of the tragic explosion of White Supremacy that we witnessed this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. In solidarity with churches nationwide. Rector Mike Kinman, All Saints Church, Pasadena (CA), Sunday, August 13, 2017.

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Spirituality Beyond Theism

All religions combine belief with behaviors but the crucial divide between traditionalists and progressives comes down to this: Traditionalists emphasize right belief while progressives emphasize ethical behavior. Many of us have given up on orthodoxy to become entirely devoted to orthopraxy.

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Income Disparity: The Lethal DisEase

The growing gap between the incomes of the rich and the much smaller incomes of the poor poses the greatest threat to our nation’s future as a democracy. While Eastern European nations have managed to erect reasonable “guard rails” on capitalism that distribute wealth in a way that has eradicated the worst ills of poverty, the United States seems to be going in the opposite direction, hastening our own demise.

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America Will Be Great When…

The campaign cry of “make America great again” presumes that there was some halcyon time of American greatness that has been lost. Given our history of slavery, segregation, discrimination, unprovoked wars, and class disparity it is clear that unless you were white, male, and wealthy, America’s greatness is not something from the past wanting to be restored, but it is something yet to be realized in our potential future. America could be great but becoming great depends upon our willingness to make substantive changes in the direction of giving both freedom and justice to all.

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To Be LOVE in the World: A sermon – John 4:1-42

We talk a great deal around here about embodying Christ in the world. Often in our prayers together we express our desire to “be LOVE in the world.” Our best selves want to be LOVE in the world. In our hearts and minds we know that if Christ is to be embodied in the world then somebody’s hands are going to have to reach out and touch some places that we would rather not touch.

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