|Except for monthly Vital Conversations convened by David Nelson, CRES programs arise by request. Our management principle is "management by opportunity." Every year we are delighted by the number of opportunties given to us, as, for example, last year's list demonstrates. (Of course we also provide free private consulation to organizations and other services as requested, not listed on our public website.)
This page is continuously updated.
Events listed by date, earlist first
Transcendent meanings from COVID?
NEW YEAR UPDATE
Last December 27 I discovered this and wrote:
An Impromptu Report on an
Unexpected Work of Public Art
Several times a week I walk through Mill Creek Park just east of the Country Club Plaza Shopping District with its famous (I think cruel) fountain which you can see in the background of the photo above. December 27 I was surprised to encounter what, from a distance, looked like a mandala. I returned the next day to study it more carefully and was pleased it did not appear to have been molested. I remain worried that this ephemeral, complicated, thoughtful public art at the southwest end of the park will be vandalized soon.
I wish I had a drone camera so I could get a better, higher view of what has obviously been constructed with great thoughtfulness and care. Careful to plant my feet not to disturb any part of the piece, I saw that a ring near the center were stones wrapped with white children's socks, and the yellow ring you can make out in the photo is made of pencils. In between are peppers. I saw other produce as well.
I read the labels around the circle:
473 health staff
At the outside of the circle large stones near Mill Creek Parkway read "1 stone = 1 martyred in Gaza."
I do not know how accurate the statistics might be.
This closer look made clear that this is not a mandala except in the original Sanskrit sense of "circle." It reminded me not Buddhist or Hindu art but rather of Picasso's Guernica which I first saw at the modern art museum in New York when I was young, before it was repatriated to Spain, where I saw it again more recently in Madrid.
Reading this Mill Creek art as a pro-Hamas statement, as I suppose is possible in our reactive, political environment, is as much a misinterpretation as viewing Guernica as a pro-Socialist statement. Though not composed of cloth and pigment, the ground itself becomes its canvass with materials like stones and socks and pencils and bits of food, transporting the rubble we see in the news from there to here, and from horror to art we can just barely endure*. Like Guernica, it is a statement about the violence and horror of war, and transcends the particular occasion which originated the artistic expression. Would that such art be heeded with compassion.
Hatred does not cease by hatred but by love -- such statements are found throughout the religions of the world.
MORE ON 9/11 AND OTHER FOLLIES
* “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure . . . ." --Rilke
A week later, except for the missing vegetables, this art seems unmolested:
January 7: small stones on the perimeter seem to have been added with words like prayers. Long-stem rosebuds, symmetrically placed, appear half way in to the center.
No layman in Kansas City has done more
to promote interfaith understanding and comity
than Al Brooks, so we are eager to share this announcement:
Kansas City’s cultural landscape is once again set to be illuminated on the silver screen, this time through the lens of Oscar-winning filmmaker and University of Kansas Professor Kevin Willmott. Known for his screenplay “BlacKkKlansman,” Willmott’s latest project promises to be a cinematic exploration of themes that resonate deeply within the heart of Kansas City through the life of Alvin Brooks.
In a city where the tapestry of history is rich with stories of civil rights battles and cultural evolution, Willmott’s film is expected to weave a narrative that not only honors this history but also reflects the ongoing journey of Kansas City’s diverse community. This new production comes at a time when the city’s civil rights stories, exemplified by local activists like Alvin Brooks, are increasingly gaining recognition.
Brooks, a civil rights icon whose memoir was released in 2021, represents the resilient spirit of KC. His decades-long fight for justice and equality echoes the sentiments that Willmott’s film aims to capture. Brooks’ story, from his time as a police officer to becoming a pivotal figure in the city’s civil rights movement, illustrates the complex layers of the city’s past, much like the narratives that Willmott has skillfully brought to life in his previous works.
Willmott’s approach to storytelling, often interlaced with profound social commentary, has the potential to spark conversations and reflections on issues that are as relevant today as they were in Brooks’ era.
The film is also a testament to the artistic and creative talents that thrive in KC. With a local luminary like Willmott at the helm, the production is set to showcase the city not just as a backdrop but as a character in its own right. It’s an opportunity to highlight the city’s landmarks, its unique vibe, and the stories of its people.
Moreover, Willmott’s involvement in this project reaffirms Kansas City’s position as a growing hub for arts and culture. The city’s evolving narrative is being shaped by those who know it best – its artists, activists and storytellers. As Willmott brings his cinematic vision to life, he also brings with him a spotlight that shines on the richness of Kansas City’s history and its potential future.
In anticipation of this film, Kansas City stands ready to see its stories told through the eyes of one of its own. Willmott’s film is not just a mirror held up to the city’s past; it’s a doorway into understanding the tapestry of experiences that make Kansas City what it is today. As audiences await its release, there’s a palpable excitement about how this film will contribute to the ongoing narrative of a city that continues to inspire and evolve.
The filming is underway now. To complete the production costs of $110,000, your contribution is desired. Direct your 501(c)(3) tax-deductible gift to the Black Archives of Mid-America (Brooks Documentary), 1722 E 17th Terrace, Kansas City, MO 64108. Those who help fund the project will be listed as producers in the film.
King Holiday Essay — 2023 January 16
Download a PDF of Vern's 2-page summary of the genius of the spiritual approach of Martin Luther King Jr by clicking this link.
You can also read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail here.
Bill Tammeus writes about King's visits to Kansas City here.
I remember meeting King in a church basement in Washington, DC, the year before he was assassinated. I remember his appearance was delayed quite a while as his team checked the church for threats and dangers, as those of us gathered to hear him hoped to see him alive. It was a dark time. I remember his brilliant analysis of Vietnam, and particularly its effect on young Black men.
I was a student at the University of Chicago Divinity School when he was assassinated. The next Sunday was Palm Sunday, April 7, and I was to be a guest preacher. I remember struggling to find something uplifting to say, and I was thankful to be able to rely on King's teachings and his public ministry in the context of the Christian story. I used a recording of the April 3 "Mountain Top" speech in many sermons in the following months.
I remember studying the writings and speeches of King, with their eloquence and depth. Each year I continue to reread the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which every year renews me with astonishment. I also especially cherish his last sermon, March 31, at the Washington National Cathedral, a few days before his assassination. And I claim King also as an exemplar of interfaith respect, which is why I wrote this essay.
Peter Jarosewycz, 1948-2024
We are greatly saddened by the death of our friend, Peter Jarosewycz. Throughout his own physical challenges, in so many ways in our community and beyond, he was a strong and faithful supporter of religious pluralism, and his constant underwriting of CRES efforts over the years must be acknowledged. He arranged many opportunities for CRES to present programs for various groups. His clear understanding of the profound and discriminating way CRES presents the special treasures of the Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic faiths, and the huge corpus of columns (947) CRES provided to The Kansas City Star, made him one of our chief advocates. The obituary appearing in the Star January 14, noted his extensive philanthropy, his study at the University of Chicago*, and support of Ukrainian causes. Although his presence was not commanding, there will be a huge gap in gatherings of interfaith organizations this year and forward.
" . . . about my college, the University of Chicago. They say that Chicago is a Baptist school where atheist professors teach Jewish students St. Thomas Aquinas. That’s your Interfaith America right there." -- David Brooks
We are so proud of our former intern, Geneva Blackmer, MA, MESt, studying and working in Europe. She made many Kansas City friends and greatly enhanced the effectiveness of CRES in the community in the years she was here. She has now visited 26 countries is impressing her professors as she completes her PhD and her colleagues with her experience in electronic communications of many kinds and her work with numerous local and international interfaith organizations -- including CRES!
In fact, in discussing the project announced below, she bragged about the involvement CRES had with the formation of the North American Interfaith Network -- NAIN (in 1988 Vern was a member of the planning committee for its first conference, and this in turn, lead to CRES founding of the Kansas City Interfaith Council in 1989).
She currently works at the University of Bonn, Germany, in the field of Digital Religious Communication and holds a master’s degree in Religious and Ecumenical Studies. She has served as a Digital Literacy Instructor for Guiding Ohio Online, working to bridge the digital divide in rural, lower-income communities throughout that state. The discussion also addresses increasing technological hesitancy, social media awareness, and the discernment of misinformation in a digital space.
Below is a presentation she makes January 28 Sunday 2 pm Central Time in the US (CET=Central European Time).
https://mailchi.mp/e512c664f9db/nain-update-03-10684142The consequences of the Digital Divide are far-reaching, affecting education, employment, healthcare, and access to government assistance. Students without reliable internet access or necessary devices face significant barriers to online learning. Job seekers with limited digital skills may struggle to compete in the modern job market, perpetuating cycles of poverty. Inadequate access to technology can limit access to essential health information and services, exacerbating health disparities. Bridging the Digital Divide requires concerted efforts to ensure technology is more equitably distributed and that individuals of all backgrounds have the tools and knowledge to fully participate in the digital age.
Above is a screen shot from Geneva's Zoom lecture and discussion from Bonn, Germany, for dozens of American and Canadian friends involved with interfaith work. In addition to our very own favorite, Geneva, we reconnected with Betinna Gray, who with Vern, was on the planning committee in 1988 for the continent's first conference espressly for interfaith organizations, programs, and offices. You can read The New York Times report here. Betinna also remembered CRES arranging a continental NAIN-Connect in Kansas City some years back.
Using up-to-the-minute scholarship and published studies, made vivid by her own experiences, Geneva presented the surprisingly acute problem of inadequate access to critical digital information and opportunities and the alarming lack of digital content literacy, With so many occasions for religious ignorance and bias to shape our collective lives, this program made clear the harm from both mere misinformation and from pernicious disinformation. Acquainting digital users with such basic questions as the following would support more accurate information about various faiths and their adherents:
* Where did you find this information?
* Is this a reputable source?
* Does your source of information have a particular bias?
* What are the implications of posting this information?
Participants exchanged responses to this problem as well as how various groups employed digital media in their own religious organizations and in thinking about interfaith activities.
(CRES initiated our website in 1997 and has always managed it; so it is surprising how many faith groups are still wrestling with digital issues. We are grateful for the gifts of our friends who continue to make our digital work possible, as we are grateful for the opportunity to serve in so many ways since CRES was incorporated as a non-for-profit 501(c)3 in 1982, the oldest multi-faith civic formation, research, and educational institute in the area.)#IFHarmony
To observe World Interfaith Harmony week, we offer one of our most cited essays, "Stealing Another's Faith." The question of honoring without misappropriating material from others is not so easy, and this essay raises awareness so faiths can be less in conflict and more in harmony. Read, download this PDF, and share this important essay by Vern -- with excerpts from Huston Smith and Harvey Cox.
The Ecumenical and Interfaith History of Greater Kansas City
This valuable resource for understanding interfaith work in Kansas City, linked from the CRES home page (right column) and directly available here
“Civil Religion” has a bad name. Even sociologist Robert Bellah, who popularized the term in 1967, abandoned it because it has come to connote right-wing desires to fuse church and state as in the case of one proposed Constitutional amendment meant to recognize the “sovereignty of Christ.” But isn't citzenship -- beyond sectarian and partisan claims -- really a sacred gift and responsibility?
--The first paragraph of Vern's essay, "Sacred Citizenship"
with (now-dated?) themes of Loyalty, Freedom, and American Greatness
Benjamin Franklin used the expression, "Public Religion." The term “Civil Religion” comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
"Civil religion, also referred to as a civic religion, is the implicit religious values of a nation, as expressed through public rituals, symbols (such as the national flag), and ceremonies on sacred days and at sacred places (such as monuments, battlefields, or national cemeteries). It is distinct from churches, although church officials and ceremonies are sometimes incorporated into the practice of civil religion. Countries described as having a civil religion include France, the former Soviet Union, and the United States." -- Wikipedia
€ More simply, civil religion is interpreting civil places, persons, and events within the categories of faith.
Thus Donald Trump is seen by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others as a "King Cyrus of Persia" figure delivering America (Israel) from the bondage of wicked Democratic control of the United States.
Here are images over several centuries to provoke consideration of the phenomenon scholars have studied, especially since the 1967 paper by Bellah
The round image and the detail below it is the oculus in the rodunda of the US Capital. The final image shown here needs no identification for Kansas Citians.
SOME US HISTORY IN BRIEF
QUOTED AND PARAPHRASED
Because states had different established churches, the delegates at the1787 Constitutional Convention agreed that the national government should not establish any religion, with the the First Amendment ratified in 1791 which sspecified that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . " This did not, and has not, settled questions of the separation of chuch and state.
* Can non-Christians be witnesses in federal courts? (settled)Even after 1791, states continued to have established official and tax-supported churches. through gradually these practices ended. In 1833, Massachusetts became the last state to end its state religion. But not until 1844 did New Jersey's constitution protect the right of anyone of any faith to be elected to office.
TWO EARLY EXAMPLES OF CIVIL RELIGION AND CHUCH-STATE SEPARATION
A Letter from the President
TO: The Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island
18 August 1790
. . . The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
. . . May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
Treaty of Tripoli
"The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion." --negotiated under George Washington, approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797.
ABOUT PUBIC PRAYER
Please see https://cres.org/pubs/InterfaithPray.htm for discussion and examples.
An opportunity to understand better who we as a community are
1. No prayer or respectful silence
2. Traditional prayers in turn (at one gathering or rotating over time)
3. Inclusive prayers using universal language ("Spirit of Generations," etc)
Here is a sample of a prayer/utterance/meditation/poem seeking to be inclusive:
Spirit of Community,
vivid expression of our lives together in this town,
we gather as atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists,
and those with no particular label for our faith or no faith;
and we rejoice in our pluralism, not only about religion,
but in the different colors of our skin, the heritage and backgrounds
that are ours, our different styles of individual and family life,
and the diversity of our occupations and pursuits --
we gather that we may better understand one another
as we prepare advice to send to the City Council
on the priorities we wish expressed in the budget for the coming year.
May we listen to one another attentively and with compassion;
and, as we feel best, contribute to the conversation
with the insights we offer to one another.
And may we always remember and celebrate that we are part of one another
as we particpate in our own ways with our sundry gifts
to our Community Spirit.
TWO COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
The idea that the American colonies were established for religious freedom is misleading. New England settlers were largely Puritan and wanted religious freedom for themselves, but not others. Even New York (New Netherland) had to be forced by the Dutch West India Company to allow Jews to do business there. The colonies, especially the southern colonies, were chartered as commercial enterprises, not religious havens for al faiths.
But a shout-out to Rhode Island, the 1663 charter for which did include the right for anyone to practice any religion, although there were some civic and political restrictions. And Pennsylvania, which at one time was the most diverse of the colonies, also welcomed folks of all faiths, though only Christians could vote.
Diana Eck, a distinguished researcher and scholar, made the claim in her day that the United States was the most religiously pluralistic country in the world. Now Great Britain has every right to challenge that, with the influx of immigrants from the former British Empire. The current (2024) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Rishi Sunak, for example, is a Hindu. The city of Manchester, for example, can boast of pagans, Wiccans, Satanists, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Yazidis, Shamanists, Shintoists, followers of traditional African religions, Druids, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews. The King has embraced religious diversity.
The United States, because of its size and the diversity of its immigrants, does offer a special environment for the world's faiths as they explore the core meaning of their faiths apart from the particular cultural inflections the immigrants associate with their faith. For example, Muslims from Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt, Black communities in America, and other places have the opportunity to discover their faith expressed in different cultural contexts, and to uncover or develop a form of Islam apart from these particular cultural backgrounds, or one that fits best in a country, such as the United States, where the government welcomes the free practice of all faiths. Muslims, to continue this example, also have the opportunity to engage with other faiths, which they may not have been able to do in their native countries.
PRAYER.-- Whether shared silence or prayer or affirmation or poem or mission statement or other use of time is best depends on the nature of the occasion, the expectations of the group, and other such factors. For example, when invited specifically to give the prayer on a regular occasion for a legislative body, one does not simply ask the members of the body to stand in silence in their chamber, violating and insulting their expectations. The same was true in my Rotary Club where my opening phrase, "O Spirit of Generations" was picked up by other members when it was their turn to offer the opening prayer.
So much depends on the occasion and expectations. For example, I learned from offering prayers to begin meetings of the KC City Council. You'll find them here: where you'll also find my reflections on my mistakes --"Where was God" in my prayer?--expectations are so important! On one occasion -- the installation of a judge, I gave a "Prologue," (item #5) as I called it; I was asked to do something that functioned like a prayer, but was not a prayer. These things are tricky, but I was apparently successful since my text was published in a legal journal.
Again, I do believe one must honor expectations and the nature of the occasion. Silence would have been insulting and an opportunity to articulate an important expression of values lost.
IN GENERAL, I think the problem of church-state separation is insoluble. What with chaplains for the Congress and in the military? Do soldiers have a right to exercise their religion by consulting with spiritual advisors? Are prisoners rightly deprived of their First Amendment rights to exercise their faith if they are jailed for theft? To what extent are tax dollars to pay for such services justified?
I will not criticize Abraham Lincoln for obvious "civil religion" in his Second Inaugural. It spoke to the occasion in a powerful way that a merely civil text could not have done. I do not want the ceiling of the Rotunda painted over.
I think the path forward is through recognition of America's diversity, including (as with a recent state execution, an atheist chaplain). One of the issues included above is "* Is a fetus a person?" I do not think we are likely to have the Alabama Supreme Court in vitro fertilization decision here without a political and judicial recognition of religious diversity, which would be a strong argument against the state's use of a single faith, Chrristianity, and just a portion of that faith, with many other Christians in profound disagreement (and those of other faiths as well) to define a fertilized human egg as a person. (Read this decision's use of the Bible and Christian theologians to justify this obvious violation of church-state limits.) My 2006 multifaith assessment of when a fertilized egg becomes a person is here.
Above I listed other problems, a couple marked resolved, such as whether mail should be delivered on Sundays, and others unresolved. I do not like Christmas as a federal holiday, or Columbus day, either, which insultys American Indians. I think moving custom toward recognition of diversity is all we can hope for in the immediate future. I think the example of Judge Waxse (now of blessed memory), who was a vocal supporter of the ACLU and strongly in favor of church-state separation, charted that way forward.
€ Vern's essay, "Sacred Citizenship" available in PDF (two pages)
€ On-line text of "Civil Religion In America" by Robert N Bellah
originally publisjed in Dædalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
in the issue entitled, Religion in America, Winter 1967, Vol. 96, No. 1, p1-21.
It was reprinted with comments and a rejoinder in The Religious Situation: 1968, p331-356.
€ An important contribution to the discussion:
"Divided We Fall: America's Two Civil Religions" by Robert Wuthnow
Christian Century 1988 April 20, p395-399
€ Two brilliant books on this topic by Forrest church:
* The American Creed: A Spiritual and Patriotic Primer, 2002
* The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders, 2004.
€ A couple sites for images
TWO EVENTS FOR BUILDING
UNDERSTANDING and RELATIONSHIPS
Since 1982, CRES has promoted community and international understanding. Here are two events that demonstrate our commitment, especially in these recent extraordinarily difficult months for folks particularly attuned to the Holy Land and the increase in religious prejudice in our own nation.
This Sunday, February 25th at 2:00pm an event titled "CREATE SHARED HOPE THROUGH PERSONAL CONNECTION" will be held in-person at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS at 13720 Roe in Building C Basement.
Dr. David E Nelson, president of the Human Agenda and CRES senior associate minister, is a key figure in this opportunity for Jews, Muslims, and Christians to share hope in the context of current events through personal connection.
From the event's description: "As we take in all that is happening in the world, we are tempted to retreat into our own safe tribes and families and yet our hearts long for a wider reach and a more inclusive sharing.Deep listening and strong sharing can allow us to find hope within our diverse paths and our individuals pains. As we listen to understand and share to be heard and understood, something special can happen. We together find strength to hope, ideas for action, and courage to stay human."
Offering experience and study,
CRES promotes the wisdom of Primal, Asian, and Monotheistic faiths
to treat the crises of the environmental, personal, and social pandemics; so
CRES is pleased to help with this international opportunity
for dialogue with our former intern, Geneva Blackmer,
and Kansas City's own Alan Edelman . . .
Next Sunday, March 3rd at 2:00pm Central Time an online event entitled "Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue: Recentering Our Common Humanity Amidst Conflict" is being presented by The Interfaith Center at Miami University, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, URI North America, CRES, and the Dialogue Institute of Kansas City.
CRES is pleased to help with this international opportunity for dialogue with our former intern, Geneva Blackmer, and Kansas City's own Alan Edelman.
From the event's description: "As tensions continue to escalate around the globe in response to the war in Gaza, Antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents have reached alarmingly high rates in North America (with the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations reporting an increase of 200-300% since October 7th). As an interfaith community, this reality calls us to reflect upon how we can remain in relationship with one another, and maintain recognition of our common humanity, even when it feels like our lives are under attack. We invite you to join us in an honest and open dialogue which considers how the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths might guide us towards a path of reconciliation in our relationships with one another and the way we interact in the world."
Watch via LIVESTREAM on The Interfaith Center's YouTube Channel at
SEVEN DAYS awaiting update
The themes help us focus on kindness in seven different ways, on seven different days.
2024 April tba
LOVE DISCOVER OTHERS CONNECT YOU GO ONWARD
The SevenDays website gives you
the SevenDays story (with the horrific past
on April 14, 2014), the present, and the future,
the SevenDays events this year, how to get involved, resources, and an opportunity to shop and various sponsorship opportunities.
CRES is glad to have been involved from the very first year with an interfaith panel, and admires the folks and the organization involved for turning tragedy into continuing community benefit by advancing understanding and relationships.
# 92 AL BROOKS CELEBRATION
Please join the Brooks family, Vern, and other friends
at an open house to celebrate the induction of Al Brooks into
the Black Archives of Mid-America Heritage Hall on his 91st Birthday.
1:00 - 6:00pm
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
The Black Archives of Mid-America
1722 E 17th Terrace, Kansas City, MO 64108
In lieu of gifts, donations can be made to www.blackarchives.org
The Black Archives is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
Location: Black Archives of Mid-America Heritage Hall, 1722 E. 17th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64108. The museum itself is featuring much to see about our friend. The Black Archives staff and volunteers will be help guest register when you arrive. The museum has a large parking lot.
Time: 1-6 pm, May 3 Wednesday, with remarks and the Historic Induction Ceremony at 4 p.m.
Dress: Business casual is preferred.
Food/Beverages: We will be serving hors d'oeuvres and dessert. Bottled water and punch available. Alcoholic drinks have been donated by Beam Suntory -- we will have a “signature cocktail” served during the event. Food and drink are allowed in designated areas.
Book Signing: If you have not had an opportunity to purchase Alvin Brooks’ book Binding Us Together, copies will be for sale in the Black Archives Gift Shop. Al would love to personally sign your book.
Support Alvin Brooks Charities:
* Metropolitan Community College Penn Valley campus is home to the Brooks Institute. Established in 2000 and named in honor of Alvin Brooks, the Brooks Institute supports the Civil Rights Learning Community, Civil Rights Pilgrimage and Civil Rights/Social Justice Speakers Bureau.
* Alvin Brooks Center for Faith-Justice at Rockhurst University. The center will house many of the university’s faith-justice related efforts, including a chapel, mission and ministry programs, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Our friend Steve Nicely alerts us to the Funeral Consumer Alliance spring newsletter containing updated funeral prices for 114 funeral homes in our area, with practical information for clergy, social workers, health care providers and others.
Here is the website: funeralskc.org where you can read the articles and survey the research data.
Independence Day readings
* Vern Barnet
* Frederick Douglass
Visit Sacred Citizenship for a 2-page PDF version of our June, 2001 Many Paths essay
with themes of loyalty, freedom, greatness. Does this essay
still work after September that year, and as we are
continuing to come to a fuller appreciation of our history, from before
1619 to the present disfunction of much of government, local,
state, federal -- as well as international agreements?
A way of understanding the years since 9/11
While the 9/11 attacks opened new gates of hell, the way our government has responded has brought us inside hell's domain. The smoke from that day, the acrid fumes, amplified into war, brings us purblind to the charred and hobbled Body Politic. How do we understand what has happened? How do we move forward? And what of other international conflicts, especially the war of Russia against Ukraine?
9/11: METAPHORICAL MALADY:
1. Before 9/11, terrorism had been dealt with as a CRIME, internationally and at home. The violation of life and property in an otherwise orderly society makes the terrorist an especially despised outlaw. We employ a legal system to assure justice by punishing the criminal and removing the criminal from society. International courts have done the same.
2. But since September 11 we have used a WAR metaphor. Of course the metaphor is hardly new. We love war. We have fought the war against poverty and the war against drugs, though it is hard for us to admit defeat, even though Vietnam and Afghanistan are history now. We still fight the war against cancer, against crime, against . . . you name it.
But a war against terrorism was new. The metaphor had power because we struggled not just against isolated attack but against an organized force seeking not just advantage through harm of a target but rather destruction of a government or civilization. Though we ourselves use violence, we assumed our own righteousness would bring us victory over evil.
Both of the metaphors of crime and war too easily commend themselves because they are simple, and rest on the assumption that we are wholly good — and our opponents are completely evil.
3. A third metaphor might come closer to the
complexity of the situation: DISEASE.
Here the metaphor suggests not separate, competing powers but of all
humanity as a sick body, within the organs of communities, cities, and
nations, afflicted in various ways, degrading or sustaining each other
in different degrees, infected with individuals and groups poisoned (using
Buddhist language) with greed, fear, and ignorance. Now, with COVID, we
are learning that, as Martin Luther King said, “Whatever affects one directly,
affects all indirectly.”
Is the disease metaphor give us any insights into the war of Russia against Ukraine? I think this metaphor gives us an essential insight into debilitated world governance, enfeebled by the failure to place armaments under international control requiring some body (a strengthened United Nations) to manage conflict between states when states cannot resolve problems peacefully. One way of looking at this situation, using the disease metaphor, is the war as an auto-immune disease of the world body; Russia, which benefits from a peaceful world order, attacks that very order, and the body must address this illness by sending resources to return to homeostasis. Just as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and other cures, can destroy healthy cells, so the body's response to Russian aggression requires the short-term sacrifice of some otherwise healthy parts for long-term health. Whether the expansion of NATO will inspire a true government of all nations is very unclear, and whether the many increasingly complex forces of civilization lead to planetary senescence and death, or to universal peace
Vern offers his conclusions
from over 50 years of experience and study: in a troubled world, what paths
lie forward? and how can one dare offer praise for the intertwined mix
of the horror and the beauty of existence?
Greater KC Interfaith Council's annual
Table of Faiths event - with awards to
our friend of many years, Karta Purkh Khalsa,
and a key organization seeking to cure prejudice,
MCHE, the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education,
and remembering CRES Amity Shaman Ed Chasteen
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE Table of Faiths EARLY YEARS --#CouncilPhoto1989_____________________________________________________________
The first Table of Faiths event, with David Nelson as convener, was a luncheon at the Marriott Muehlebach Hotel downtown Nov 10, 2005. Alvin Brooks, one of the co-chairs (Gayle Krigel, Mahnaz Shabbir, and Chuck Stanford), welcomed guests. Mayor Kay Barnes was the keynote speaker and presented the first Table of Faiths Award to Vern Barnet.
The second Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 14, 2006, honored Don and Adel Hall and Ed Chasteen.
The third Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 7, 2007, honored Alvin L Brooks and The Kansas City Star.
The fourth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 13, 2008, included a presentation of Donna Ziegenhorn's play, The Hindu and the Cowboy. Honored were Robert Lee Hill and the Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and Steve Jeffers (1948-2008) was lovingly remembered.
The fifth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 12, 2009, introduced The Steve Jeffers Leadership Award, given to Ahmed El-Sherif. All Souls Unitarian Church was also recognized, and Allan Abrams (1939-2009) was lovingly remembered.
The sixth Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 11, 2010, honored Notre Dame de Sion High School with the Table of Faiths Award and Queen Mother Maxie McFarlane with the Steve Jeffers Leadership Award.
The seventh Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 10, 2011 honored the Kansas City Public Library with the Table of Faiths Award and Donna Ziegenhorn with the Steve Jeffers Leadership Award.
The eighth and last Table of Faiths luncheon, Nov 8, 2012, presented the theme of "Spirituality and the Environment: Caring for the Earth, Our Legacy." The Steve Jeffers Leadership Award was given to Mayor Sly James and the Table of Faiths Award went to Unity Church of Overland Park.
There was no Table of Faiths event in 2013. Beginning in 2014, Table of Faiths events were no longer major downtown civic luncheons involving elected, cultural, and business leaders. With a longer evening format, the first in the new Table of Faiths dinners was held May 8, 2014, at Unity Village.
Vern Barnet founded the Council
in 1989 as a program of CRES and is Council Convener Emeritus. The Council newsletter has
published his brief notes about three
milestones in the early history of the Council.
2024 TBA 2022 November 13 Sunday 5 pm CT
INTERFAITH THANKSGIVING GATHERING
“Promoting Interfaith Peace, Renewal and Regrowth”
FREE online interfaith gathering -- including interfaith prayers of gratitude.
Hosted by Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love
Co-sponsored by Greater KC Interfaith Council
Livestream on www.facebook.com/HeartLoveKC
The annual observance was sponsored by CRES for its first 25 years.
This year, 2022, is the 376th year of the tradition and we are indeed grateful to the
sponsors for perpetuating the recognition of the place of gratitude in every faith.
Having spawned several other organizations,
including the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council,
we continue to offer programs initiated by and through others
but we no longer create our own in order to focus on our unique work.
For interfaith and cultural calendars maintained by other groups, click here.
David answers questions about Vital Conversations
A 13-minute YouTube video with Vern
You are welcome even if you have not read the book or seen the movie
A Free Monthly Discussion Group Led by David E Nelson
CRES senior associate minister
president, The Human Agenda
“The purpose of a Vital Conversation is not to
win an argument,
"Listen with curiosity, not judgement.” —David Nelson
in dialog that will add value to the participants and to the world.
In Vital Conversations, we become co-creators of a better community.
The discussions began May 24, 2002, at the CRES facility
by examining Karen Armstrong’sThe Battle for God
2024 Vital Conversations Schedule
2024 January 10 Wednesday 1-2:30 pm. David Nelson, email@example.com
In person at the library and on Zoom ID: 832 3534 6541
ABOUT VITAL CONVERSATIONS: YOUTUBE VIDEO
God Is Red: A Native View of Religion
50th anniversary and earier editions available
Vine Deloria, Jr.
The 50th Anniversary Edition and many copies of the original are in libraries and used book stores. This book remains the seminal work on Native American religious views. Deloria's classic work reminds us to understand that we are a part of nature, not a transcendent species with no responsibilities to the natural world. Time magazine named Vine Deloria, Jr. as one of the greatest religious thinkers of the twentieth century.
1. “I have been gradually led to believe that the old stories must be taken literally, if at all possible, that deep secrets and a deeper awareness of the complexity of our universe was experienced by our ancestors, and that something of their beliefs and experiences can be ours once again.” (xvi) Share your name and location. What do you now embrace from your ancestors that you once doubted or rejected?
2. “What we dealt with for the major portion of a decade was not American Indians, but conception of what Indians should be. While Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was selling nearly a thousand copies a week, the three hundred state game wardens and Tacoma city police were vandalizing the Indian fishing camp and threatening the lives of Indian women and children at Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually River. It is said that people read and write history to learn from the mistakes of the past, but this could certainly not apply to histories of the American Indian, if it applies to history at all.” (30) Why did romanticized views of historic Indians get respected even as contemporary acts of violence and plunder were common?
3.“When AIM (American Indian Movement) captured a dormitory at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and presented a set of demands carefully worked out by sympathetic Lutherans in secret sessions, the Lutheran churches eagerly embraced the Indian cause…In a real sense, Christian churches bought and paid for the Indian movement and its climactic destructions of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) headquarters as surely as if they had written out specific orders to sack the BIA on a contractual basis.” (41) Why were Christian leaders eager to partner with AIM and address the evils done to Indian families and children?
4. Through nearly two decades while American Indians were rediscovering the integrity of their traditional religions, the rest of American society has torn itself and its religious traditions apart, substituting patriotism and hedonism for old values and behaviors. Give illustrations of this and discuss why this happened.
5. Developing a sense of ourselves that would properly balance history and nature and space and time is a more difficult task than we would suspect and involves a radical reevaluation of the way we look at the world around us. Do we continue to exploit the earth, or do we preserve it and preserve life? (54) Read chapter 4: THINKING IN TIME AND SPACE, and prepare to define history, nature, space, and time and discuss how different groups understand them.
6. Both religions (Christianity and Native) can be said to agree on the role and activity of a creator. Outside of that specific thing, there would appear to be little that the two views share. Tribal religions appear to be there-after confronted with the question of the interrelationship of all things. Christians see creation as the beginning event of a linear time sequence in which a divine plan is worked out, the conclusion of the sequence being an act of destruction bringing the world to an end. The beginning and end of time are of no apparent concern for many tribal religions. "The phrase 'all my relatives' is frequently invoked by Indians performing ceremonies and this phrase is used to invite all other forms of life to participate as well as to inform them that the ceremony is being done on their behalf." (76) Discuss the consequences of this different belief. (Snake dance – Morning Prayer – January 20th)
7. Indian tribes combine history and geography so that they have a 'sacred geography,' that is to say, every location within their original homeland as a multitude of stories that recount the migrations, revelations, and particular historical incidents that cumulatively produced the tribe in its current condition. (110) Share some of those stories from the book or your own history. Do you have some "sacred geography" in your life?
8. Tribal peoples, who had no difficulty with death, and saw it as part of a natural progression in the stages of life, seem to have no memory of promises of specific delights and rewards. However, they have a healthy attitude toward death that is a result of living completely within the normal earth cycles of life and death. (149) Compare that to the common Christian idea of death as reward or punishment. Read out loud Chief Seattle's speech on page 159.
9. A substantial number of people believe that becoming a Christian involves a radical change in the human being's constitution. (repent, turn around, be born again, etc.) In contrast to this attitude, the Indian tribal religions do not necessarily involve any significant change in human personality but encompass within the tribal cultural context many of the behavioral patterns spoken about by Christians (be human, kind, compassionate)." (169) What difference do you see in these contrasting ideas?
10. When we turn from Christian religious beliefs to Indian tribal beliefs, the contrast is remarkable. Religion is not conceived as a personal relationship between the deity and each individual. It is rather a covenant between a particular god and a particular community. The people of the community are the primary residue of the religion's legends, practices, and beliefs. Ceremonies of community-wide scope are the chief characteristic feature of religious activity. (178) How do you feel about this difference? Do you prefer your religion/spirituality to be personal or community based? Read Chapter 12 THE GROUP and prepare to share your opinion.
11. The status of native peoples around the globe was firmly commented by the intervention of Christianity into the political affairs of exploration and colonization. They were regarded as not having ownership of their lands, but as merely existing on them at the pleasure of the Christian God who had now given them to the nations of Europe (the doctrine of Discovery). (239-241) Discuss the doctrine of Discovery and it's current status in the world. Why have many Christian organizations taken a stand against it?
12. These crises point to Deloria's most significant contribution to humanity and the balance of life on this planet: a need to see the world—the cosmos—and our human place within it through a new lens… The non-alter-Native worldview Deloria offers essentially does the three things that are much needed. First, it suggests we return to an ancient kinship view of our relationship with the balance of life on this planet. Second, Deloria proposes that space and places should frame our understanding of history, not an abstract timeline view of history like that embodied in the US Manifest Destiny mythology. Finally, Deloria's commitment to human experience as the touchstone for what we think we know could reap tremendous rewards in this age of information and communication technology – driven nowhere spaces selling the Big Lie.” (306) Do you agree with Daniel Wildcat in his statements offered in the afterword? What other learnings are you taking from this book and our Vital Conversation about the book?
30th anniversary PDF link
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2024 February 14 Wednesday 1-2:30 pm. David Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org
TIME CHANGED TO ACCOMMODATE AUTHOR: 6 pm
In person at the library and on Zoom ID: 832 3534 6541
ABOUT VITAL CONVERSATIONS: YOUTUBE VIDEO
Postwar Journeys: American and Vietnamese Transnational Peace Efforts since 1975
by Hang Thi Thu Le-Tormala
Hang will be with us on Zoom and will share her rich insights into the relationship between these two nations and how human interaction can heal brokenness after war. “Underscoring that premise, this study explores US-Vietnam postwar relations through the transnational peace endeavors of ordinary US and Vietnamese citizens. In an attempt to understand how people transformed their negative emotions into positive actions, and how those acts helped reshape the relations between the two countries, the study choose as its subjects the lesser-known people who endured the effects of the Vietnam War.” (4)
“The label ‘enemy’ that they had put on one another quickly dissolved, they were but men, women, and children who endured undeletable scars of a destructive violence. The pains that they shared served as a foundation for their aspirations for peace. This book presents a picture of vibrant interactions between the two countries in the postwar years.” (6). It has been almost 50 years since The Vietnam War ended. Many citizens have learned the reality that “there are no human enemies”, we must be conditioned to engage in war. How has your thinking and conditioning changed in the past 50 years in respect to Vietnam?
“Immediately after Hanoi took over Saigon and ended the war in April 1975, Washington extended the 1964 trade embargo on North Vietnam to all of Vietnam…the United States declined to recognize a reunified country renamed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV)…The War on Vietnam continued; only the weaponry had changed.” (10-11). Unlike the previous wars in the twentieth century, the United States did not see why it should help reconstruct the country that it had damaged, neither in terms of reparations nor humanitarian aid.” (15) In your opinion, why did the US continue hostile relationships with Vietnam?
“Individuals such as Martha Winnacker were groundbreakers for the postwar transnational network of US and Vietnamese citizens who worked for peace and the betterment of people’s lives.” (17) March 16, 1977, Friendshipment had received donations from 12,852 American for the construction of a hospital on the My Lai massacre…The idea of turning a massacre site into a hospital vindicated a profound symbol of reconciliation…The My Lai hospital, founded on blood stains of a dishonorable past and built by the compassion of borderless hearts, upholds the ideal that reconciliation is always possible.” (21). Citizens, with compassion and courage, did what US as a nation was unable to do. Men and women donated and dreamed and began nurturing the healing needed. How can we promote more of these kinds of human responses?
“The Los Angeles Times defined the boat people as follows: ‘They put to sea in small, overcrowded boats that are easy prey for storms, pirates, and the hostile naval forces of Vietnam and Cambodia. If they survive – and many haven’t – to reach a foreign shore, they may be interned or turned away and forced to try their luck elsewhere. These are the ‘boat people.’” (32) Tell some stories of the “boat people” and what happened to them. Explain the role National Security Advisor Brzezinski, Senator Kennedy, and President Carter all played.
“Amerasians, children of US personnel and Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War, underwent multilayered discrimination…considered bastard because of the absence of their fathers…Culturally, xenophobia caused many Vietnamese people to be racists against descendants of interracial parents. Although Vietnam consists of more than fifty ethnicities, few interactions happened among them…’imprisoned in their own skin’”. (42) Share stories about these children and what they have encountered. What did reporter Bill Kurtis do? What about the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Vietnam Veterans of America, and other organizations? “Despite the lack of love in their childhoods, many Amerasians nurtured the seeds of tolerance and compassion to effect change. Born in circumstances of hostility and growing up with a plethora of hatred, they deeply understood the thirst for love. Their experiences of animosity transformed them into peaceful, loving individuals. Some even used their nationless states as an advantage to advocate borderless love.” (65)
5. VIETNAM VETERANS
“Most noticeable was the participation of America’s Vietnam veterans. In efforts to heal the wounds of war – for themselves and for Vietnamese people—many US veterans returned to Vietnam. Together with their former enemies, they build schools, medical clinics, and houses for the disabled. They organized cultural and academic exchanged, thus creating channels of communication that helped bring Vietnam out of isolation under the effects of the embargo” (76) “Stories of American and Vietnamese veterans working side by side to rebuild their shattered worlds remained little known…It was their shared pasts that drove the closer to one another. In their postwar struggles to adjust to their societies and to redefine themselves, these former adversaries realized they had more in common than they did with some of their compatriots” (83). In reading these stories we realize that we can now see Vietnam as a country instead of a war. Read out loud p. 93-94 “Larry Hlavaty…..felt at peace.”
6. HUMAN CONNECTIONS
“At first glance, the bonds among American and Vietnamese people—the people on opposing sides of one of the most devastating conflicts in the twentieth century –may seem paradoxical and unfathomable. A closer look at the nature of their relationships, however, revealed a logical explanation. The national, and perhaps political, boundaries imposed upon these people were social constructs. Because they were social constructs, these boundaries were created and recreated over time. They were but temporary labels. The one thing that was permanent lay in their shared human emotions. Despite the military uniforms that they had put on, or the flags that they had chosen to carry, they all want peace—peace of mind and peace for their living space.” (162) Is war itself an “artificial construct” and can we nurture a global community that refuses to see war as an alternative?
7. TELL US
Tell us about your current research regarding indigenous schools. How are your students being involved? How can we learn more about Native American Exhibits?
Clif Hostetler's complete review on Goodreads.com
As indicated by the title and subtitle, this book is a history of postwar relations between the peoples of the two nations, United States and Vietnam. I very purposefully used the term "peoples" in the previous sentence to emphasize the nature of many of the initial actions taken to achieve peaceful reconciliation. In the early decades after 1975 many of these contacts were made in spite of embargoes and trade restrictions imposed at the national level.
I pause here to reflect on the use of the term "transnational" in the book's subtitle. I wondered how the meaning of this word differs from "international." They both refer to crossing national borders, but after reading this book I believe transnational is the appropriate term to use in this case because it has a connotation of somehow floating over national boundaries as if they didn't exist. Such was the case in this history because "individuals or groups of individuals in the United States and Vietnam contested their national boundaries as well as reshaped relations between former enemies."
War is a source of unpleasant memories, and one could at first think that reaching out to communicate to the other side would be painful. But the stories in this book indicate that it is those unpleasant memories of a brutal war and the consequential desire for peace that was the incentive which drove "the painstaking journeys of individuals from varied political, cultural, and social backgrounds" to put those old memories to rest.
To illustrate how people transformed their negative emotions into positive actions, and how those acts helped reshape the relations between the two countries, this "study chose as its subjects the lesser-known people who endured the effects of the Vietnam War. The subcategories of these
people included Vietnamese refugees, children of US personnel and Vietnamese women, US and Vietnamese veterans and their families, relatives of fallen soldiers on both sides, and other civilians who experienced the impacts of war one way or another. The study also highlights the roles of nongovernmental organizations and individuals who strove for peace and mutual understanding through transnational humanitarian and cultural activities."
This book contains four chapters. The following four paragraphs are short descriptions of their content.
The first chapter examines the initial turbulent years following the war. Vietnam was still listed as an "enemy country" by the US government in those years.
The second chapter is about Amerasians-children of mixed US and Vietnamese parentage. Amerasians had the double disadvantage of being ostracized by Vietnamese society and generally grew up in poverty with minimal education.
The third chapter describes the groundwork for normalization by ordinary citizens, with an emphasis on US veterans' contributions, from 1980 to 1994. This was the era in which USA policy inexplicably refused to label the Cambodian Pol Pot regime as "genocidal" because it would result in siding with the Vietnamese government.
The fourth chapter discusses peace efforts after the establishment of diplomatic normalization. This chapter contains some emotionally touching stories about returning keepsakes to families of fallen soldiers and reconnecting family members who had been separated for many years by the war.
I have a rule that I don't give five stars to a book unless I was so emotionally moved by its contents that it brought tears to my eyes—Chapter 4 did that.
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2024 March 13 Wednesday 1-2:30 pm. David Nelson, email@example.com
In person at the library and on Zoom ID: 832 3534 6541
ABOUT VITAL CONVERSATIONS: YOUTUBE VIDEO
Forgotten Founders by Mifflin Lowe – copies available at the library.
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Selections are subject to change. For Zoom
link and additional information,