Category Archives: Articles

Article: So What’s Your Plan?

Here we are in 2020. My does time fly! In 1998, Community Lutheran Church was engaged in a strategic planning process called “Vision 2020” and here we are. Now I don’t remember the conclusions of that report but that doesn’t matter now. What does matter are the plans we make for the coming year.

Maybe not our plans per se…

May I suggest we turn our hearts toward asking, “What are God’s plans for us in 2020?” I am reminded of a verse in the book of Proverbs that the wisest king who ever lived once wrote, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 We all have things we want to do or even need to do but do we ever take the time to ask God what He has planned for us?

All you need to do is look at the Bible and see that God has plans. Plans for the world, plans for nations and plans for individuals. Where is God leading you in 2020?

I know that some view God as silent or even disinterested but I disagree. Jesus established the church knowing we need each other. That was a great plan! At the end of our lives we won’t be talking about: the degrees hanging on the wall, the cars we drove or even the homes we have lived. We will reflect upon the deep and lasting relationships in our lives. The church is the place where we can grow in our relationship with Jesus and with others. God has a plan for us to be connected but there is so much more Jesus wants to accomplish in your life. 

Let me ask: What about you? What is God leading you to in 2020? Have you prayed about this very question?

I can certainly see how God led me in 2019. I didn’t seek to come to Las Vegas. I was open to the possibility but I didn’t “orchestrate” the process. I decided early on if this was God’s will, it will unfold the way God intends. I didn’t need to do anything other than be myself through the interview process.  

In 2020, I believe God has set me on the path to help our congregation discern who we are and how we will do life together in the coming years. This won’t happen overnight because it is a process of discovery. I often see God working in my life as steps and not giant leaps. I am content to take one step at a time. 

I try to live by Psalm 37:23-24 as it relates to the most important things. “If the Lord delights in a person’s way, God makes their steps firm; though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with His hand.”

I try not to make reactive decisions. I aim to be deliberate so that my path forward is sure. Even the Psalm reminds me that even with good intentions, I will occasionally stumble.  Yet, I am reminded that God will be there to help me catch myself (if I am open to His leadership in my life).

Where is God leading you in 2020? If you haven’t asked yet, maybe you should.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: I’ve Been Pondering…

It is only a couple of days after Christmas and I am still thinking about the beautiful evening and morning of worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Community Lutheran Church.

I can’t help but think about the end of the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2 where it says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I don’t doubt it, Mary experienced a lot of things in the previous 24 hours of her life that caused her to stop and reflect.

I am in no way comparing myself to Mary the mother of our Lord but I am pondering my 5th Christmas at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas. (I know that might be a surprise to some of you! I once served this congregation as the associate pastor here many years ago.) Yet, this is my first Christmas back in Las Vegas.

You might be wondering, what am I pondering? I am thinking about our church family. I purposely tried to greet as many of you as possible on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day if you worshipped with us. 

I am also thinking about all of our guests we extended hospitality to over Christmas (and we had quite a few guests). I am hopeful they experienced the love and joy of Community Lutheran Church. I know of at least one guest who told me they will come back and worship with us again. 

But there is also a third group of people I am thinking about. I saw many people who used to call Community Lutheran Church their church home. Faces I recognized from the last time I served as your pastor. I am sure some moved away and were visiting Las Vegas for Christmas. But there are some who worshipped with us who do not have a church home and still live in the area. My prayer is that they understand that there is always a place for them here at CLC. As I was welcomed “home” in October, they too will be welcomed back if they choose to return.

Although there was no room at the inn for Mary, Joseph and Jesus, there is always room for another family in the Kingdom of God and at Community Lutheran Church. The question is are we ready to make room in our hearts for those who want to join us?

I purposely walk the aisles of our sanctuary before every service to greet as many people as I can. I want everyone to know they are welcome, no matter if they are charter members of this church, visiting for the first time or somewhere in between.  Incidentally, I visited with both charter members and first-time guests on Christmas Eve. Although there was food in the kitchen for us to eat between the services on Christmas Eve, I chose to spend every spare minute talking to anyone who would shake my hand. 

Human connection is more important than anything else we offer at CLC and I don’t mean chatting with the pastors. Everyone (including me) needs to know they are loved and they belong. We all long for connection with others and with our God. Without that connection, we are only providing entertainment. God came to earth to remind us that we are loved and that we belong to Him. Yet, that connection to God is intimately tied to human connection. If guests don’t feel welcome by us, they won’t experience the radical welcome Jesus offers to all. Church is a “team sport.” 

We are poised to reach more people and continue to share the love of Jesus in 2020 but I can’t do that alone. I need your help.

Continue to look for unfamiliar faces at church and introduce yourself! It makes no difference if they have been attending CLC for years or it is their first time with us. This is not just the “job” of our awesome greeters and ushers! 

Invite others to experience the joy we share at Community Lutheran Church! People are more likely to come to church if they are invited by a friend or family member… especially if you offer to take them to brunch afterwards!

As you know, we have some of the finest (if not the best) church musicians, vocalists, choir, country western band and praise team in the Lutheran church. (If you are reading this and do not attend Community, live stream one of our Christmas services from our church website https://communitylv.org . I am not bragging; I am being completely honest.) However, if people do not feel loved by the other people worshipping with them, they will completely tune out the music and the message of God’s love. Human connection is that important.

So…that’s what I have been pondering since Christmas.

May God bless you as 2019 ends and 2020 begins. May we all have 20/20 spiritual vision and see the love of God in your life so that it can be shared. 

Pr. Ben

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Article: Kindness Matters

Have you ever heard of people setting up lending libraries outside? A talented carpenter might build a box with glass doors and set it up outside so that people can borrow books. It is an act of kindness and generosity knowing they might not get the books back.

Yesterday, I ran across a different kind of lending library that made me smile…

Andrew Taylor noticed that there was a lack of good sticks at his local park, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Taylor from Kaiapoi, New Zealand had been chopping off excess branches from some trees in his yard when he decided to make them into a “Stick Library” for all the local pups.

After chopping up the branches into several dozen conveniently-sized pieces, he put them into a hand-crafted box emblazoned with the words “Stick Library: Please Return” and brought it to the local park.

Since Taylor and his daughter hosted a small neighborhood inauguration party for the Stick Library, more than 50 dogs and their owners have enjoyed a game of fetch with the sticks.

You might be thinking, “so what?”

I shared this story because kindness is lacking these days. Community is built when we extend ourselves to others. It doesn’t just happen. Let me ask, do you have a neighborhood, or do you just live around a bunch of other people? There is a difference. 

I also see our church as a neighborhood. Do you extend kindness and hospitality to those who recently moved in or “live” on the other side of the sanctuary? If not, it is time to do more than look at the top of your shoes or only talk to the neighbors you know and like. Our future is tied to the kindness we extend to others. 

Here is why: when we extend ourselves to others in kindness, deep connections are made. As a matter of fact, kindness is one of the signs of the Holy Spirit showing up in your life. (See Galatians 5:22-23)

As we approach Christmas, let us not forget about our God who extended kindness to us by coming to us and then extended his hands on a cross to forgive us. 

God bless you and Merry Christmas,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Hard Times and a Circumstantial Faith

Its been several weeks since I wrote an article and a lot has happened since my last article.

I moved from Northern California to Las Vegas, NV. 

I returned to Community Lutheran Church to serve as their Senior Pastor. (I was once an Associate Pastor at CLC. I got a promotion!)

Rachel my wife had major surgery.

My mother fractured a vertebra and had one surgery and is facing another surgery next week. 

Honestly there is more, but I think you get the picture. There is a lot going on. 

I could focus on all the things that aren’t going right or I can be thankful. We all have that choice. What have you chosen?

I am thankful to be back in Las Vegas and have a beautiful condominium to call home. 

I am thankful for the outpouring of love and support from Community Lutheran Church and my previous congregation Bethel Lutheran Church. 

I am thankful that I feel like I am home (even though Rachel is not with me yet). 

I am thankful Rachel does not need chemotherapy or radiation treatment. 

I am thankful my mother is being treated by the best spinal surgeon in Northern Iowa.

It is easy to get bogged down with bad news and feel hopeless. Saint Paul once asked a thought-provoking rhetorical question about difficult circumstances. This is what he asks in Romans 8…

Does it mean God no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Romans 8:35

Sometimes it feels like God is far away when life isn’t going our way. When we live with a circumstantial faith, we interpret every positive and negative event as proof that God either loves us or is upset with us.  However, that is not Saint Paul’s conclusion!

He answers his own rhetorical question this way…

No, despite all these (bad) things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37

I get it, we don’t feel very victorious after receiving bad news or being in the hospital or not being able to pay all your bills. Yet, Saint Paul (who did not have an easy life as a Christian) didn’t let the circumstances of his life get in the way of claiming God’s unconditional love for himself even in the hardest of times. 

No one wants or asks for difficult circumstances and hardly anyone feels victorious in the middle of a personal struggle. Yet Jesus is still there loving on us.

Shortly before Rachel’s surgery, I was an emotional mess. I was ugly crying and did not have a “stiff upper lip.” (I hope Rachel doesn’t remember this.) It was then I started praying to my “dad” in heaven. I know that might sound odd but I needed the comfort and intimacy of God and using the title “Heavenly Father” wasn’t enough for me in that moment. 

Jesus told his disciples to refer to God as “Abba” in the Lord’s prayer. The word means “father.” But I never called my own dad “father.”  In my saddest, uncertain moments of the past month, I called out to my “dad up in heaven”. It brought me great comfort knowing God is like a dad who will watch over his kids (like me).

As I begin this new call at Community Lutheran Church, I know that Jesus is here too. God knows that CLC has had a special place in my heart for over 20 years. If you are reading this and you are a member of Community, please know that I am fully committed to you and this church. I never thought in a million years I would ever be “back” but here I am and I feel blessed to be your pastor.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: What a Week

It has been quite a week. Rachel and I went to another doctor’s appointment yesterday as Rachel seeks to make a decision about her upcoming surgery for breast cancer.  I am finishing my time at Bethel and I feel the sadness of saying goodbye to people I care about. I am about to move to Las Vegas and see old friends which is a joy. I am trying to coordinate my move in two weeks. My son just got a job. One of our dogs is under the weather and will soon visit the veterinarian. Oh and we have had no electricity at our home for the past 38 hours because of the fire danger. 

Am I stressed? Yes. I can feel it. 

Am I tired? You bet I am. 

Am I using this platform to complain or feel sorry for myself? You be the judge… just read to the end. 

I am (my family too) are experiencing all the joys and sorrows of life all at one time whether or not we want to. (We don’t.) 

I am starting to believe the old adages, “When it rains, it pours” and “having mixed emotions.”

Yet, I know this is a part of life… ups and downs, hills and valleys. If our emotional state was graphed, it would read like an EKG reading of someone’s heart. 

The real question is this: Has any of this, especially the difficult stuff, caused me or Rachel to question our faith? Absolutely not. 

Without Jesus, we would be like a ship without a rudder. Without the love, care and concern of others… especially our brothers and sister in Christ, we would feel all alone. We both are so grateful to be within and surrounded by the family of God. We are also thankful that our biological families are watching over us (and are also a part of God’s family too). 

We know that so many people have our backs in this tumultuous time of our lives. I give thanks that Rachel is being prayed for by people all over our nation because she is on several prayer lists and our friends are scattered far and wide.

A few years ago, we spent a good part of the year at Bethel talking about biblical joy. Some of you might remember that. We used a verse from Nehemiah (Old Testament) to remind us of the importance of joy especially in difficult circumstances. 

Nehemiah addressed the people of Israel when they were upset about something they heard. This is what Nehemiah said, Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Godly joy will build us. Despair will deflate us. We may not always be happy about our circumstances but our joy is connected to our faith in God. It is our trust in Christ that gives us strength and joy in these difficult days.

Like the past couple of weeks I am sure the next few weeks will be filled with both tears and laughter, because there will be both joy and sorrow. We are ready for that because of Jesus’ love and presence. 

I am also reminded of the words of God found in the Old Testament book named after the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 43 God proclaims…

But now, this is what the Lord says— “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… Isaiah 43:1b-3a

Exactly what I needed to remember at this point in the Bergren family journey.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Righting the Wrongs of the Past

Did you see this news article about the 5th graders who righted a 60 year wrong? It reminds me that the power of grace will always be stronger than hate. Here is that story from CBS News…

Reverend Gilbert and Grace Caldwell were overjoyed about tying the knot 60 years ago. They were then immediately heartbroken, however, by the honeymoon that followed.

Back in 1957, the Caldwells got married at a church in North Carolina before driving eight hours to the Mount Airy Resort in Poconos, Pennsylvania for their honeymoon.

Despite having a reservation, the happy couple was forced to drive eight hours back home after they were turned away from the hotel for being the wrong skin color.

The incident spurred the Caldwells to join the civil rights movement where they worked side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. In the decades that followed, Grace and Gilbert continued giving speeches and lectures to schools and organizations about their experience with racial injustice.

But when they told the story of their honeymoon to the New Jersey fifth graders at Bear Tavern Elementary back in January 2018, the kids became especially saddened by the tale.

Months after seeing the Caldwells speak at the school, all of the fifth graders banded together and wrote letters to the Mount Airy Hotel asking for an all-expenses-paid second honeymoon—and their wish was granted.

“It makes me feel really good inside because we know that even though we’re just kids, we made an impact on the world,” one student told CBS News.

It is never too late to right a wrong. It is never the wrong time to do the right thing and never forget that love can undo the damage of hate. If 5th graders can do, so can you. 

Did you notice that the children who heard the Caldwell’s story had nothing to do with the original offense? Yet, they took it upon themselves to repair the damage that someone else inflicted on the Caldwell family.

Isn’t that what Jesus did? He came and fixed what he didn’t break. He came to right an uncountable number of wrongs including the brokenness in our lives. 

It is the grace, love and power of Jesus that gives me the ability to push forward in my life instead of being mired in the mistakes of my past. With everything that is going on in my family’s life right now, we need to be looking forward knowing that Jesus has been more than faithful in the past. 

With the knowledge that Jesus will walk us into our uncertain future is of unmeasurable worth. I am not sure if I could even take step forward in life without Jesus. 

I also know because of what God has done in my life, I can pay that grace forward by helping others let go of their painful pasts. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Change is Hard

If you are from Bethel Lutheran Church in Cupertino and did not see the email I sent out this morning, I informed the congregation that I will be leaving Bethel in mid-October. 

If you are reading about this for the first time, I apologize for the shock of these words. I accepted a call to be the next senior pastor at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas Nevada. The decision to leave Bethel was personal. Rachel and I are concerned about my long term health and the current schedule I am keeping. I have gained 50lbs since moving to Bethel and I do not have the time to exercise more and eat at home (healthily) on most days. This is the hardest decision of my pastoral career because of my strong feelings for the people of Bethel.  

I first served Community Lutheran Church after I graduated from seminary and will return the congregation I served so many years ago. 

With that being said… change is hard. 

I understand if you don’t believe that this is hard on me too. 

There are lots of ways to react to stress and change. Some eat, some fast. Some become angry and others passive. And the list goes on. 

After letting my heart and head get the best of me (that happens sometimes) I turn to God. 

I am reminded of the Psalm that Martin Luther used as inspiration for his famous (and very Lutheran hymn) “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It is Psalm 46. 

Verse one of that psalm tells me everything I need to know about God…

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

God alone is my safe place when life is uncertain. God alone is the one who will be there all of my days and at the end of my days. 

All I can do as a pastor is point to God and trust that God is a promise keeper. (Spoiler: God is reliable)

I am also reminded of the words of Paul that come with a promise. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Paul reminds us that instead of worrying or having anxiety in times of uncertainty we should turn to prayer. The simple act of lifting your concerns to the One who is always listening has a benefit. Did you see it when you were reading the verse? 

The God of peace (not anxiety or worry) will watch over (actually guard) your heart and your mind. As a pastor once said, “If you have time to worry, you have time to pray.” I choose the latter. 

These will days of prayer for me. I hope that you will join me.

God bless you all,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Pope Francis and the Golden Gate Bridge

Last week I wrote about horses and hurricanes. You can read the article here: https://benbergren.com/article-horses-and-hurricanes/. Since then, many people have asked me how the Spanish Colonial Mustangs are doing after Hurricane Dorian past over the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After doing a little digging online, I am happy to report the wild Spanish Colonial Mustangs weathered the hurricane and are doing just fine! No injuries! They did exactly what their instincts told them to do: They huddled together, went to high ground, took shelter under trees and kept their faces out of the wind!

After Hurricane Dorian

Now on to other things…

I cross the Golden Gate Bridge a lot. Like 10 times a week. I have contributed much to the upkeep of that iconic bridge through my tolls. 

I am amazed literally every time I cross it. It is an engineering feat of the early 20thcentury. 

I am no engineer, but I’ve read that strength and longevity of the bridge comes down to its foundations and its flexibility. The north and south towers of the Golden Gate bridge are what give the bridge its strength. The north tower on the Marin County side was built on dry land. The south tower, on the other hand, was built 1100 feet off shore and at a depth of more than 90 feet under water and just so you know the foundation goes deeper than that! 

As strong as the two towers are, the bridge’s other strength is its flexibility. It is designed to sway 27 feet laterally. 

For example, in June 1935 an earthquake struck the region as men worked atop the bridge’s unfinished south tower. According to PBS’ American Experience, one worker recalled, “the tower swayed 16 feet each way. There were 12 or 13 guys on top with no way to get down… The whole thing would sway toward the ocean, guys would say, ‘here we go!’ Then it would sway back toward the bay.”

The bridge roadway can even flex up and down depending upon the amount of traffic.

The Golden Gate Bridge During Construction

Like last week when I was writing about horses you might be wondering why on earth am I talking about a bridge even if it is the Golden Gate Bridge?

I have no doubt that a strong Christian needs a firm foundation in Christ. Remember what Jesus said at the end of the “Sermon on the Mount”?

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25

Unfortunately, some theologians over the centuries have taken this to mean, being good and following the rules versus the one primary instruction Jesus impressed upon his disciples above all others: LOVE. 

We must remain flexible enough (like the Golden Gate Bridge) to love others. The winds of hate and the waves of division will try to shake our foundations. Love is more powerful than either of those things but it is sure easy to give into anger, jealousy and the like. Just keep loving…even the haters. It is not easy, but that is what we have been called to do. 

Just last week, Pope Francis was talking to the press after a visit to Africa and they were asking him about those in the Roman Catholic Church who see him as too soft on people and that might cause a schism in the church. Pope Francis replied that he wasn’t concerned about a split in the church and then he added this…

“When you see rigid Christians, bishops, priests, you know there are problems there. We need to be gentle with these people and accompany them.” 

Pope Francis talking to the press on the way back from Africa

Amen to that. Now I may not agree with Pope Francis on everything but I can totally get behind this. Let us be gentle with the rigid people of this world. Our foundation is in Christ and he has given us the power to be flexible in love with those who blow a lot of hot air at us.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Horses and Hurricanes

In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazano of Spain mapped the coastline of North Carolina. Most likely Verrazano left a gift that still resides in North Carolina today. Wild Spanish Colonial Mustangs still roam the outer banks of North Carolina today. There are not many left and they are critically endangered. 

Currently, there are about 100 Spanish mustangs that live on the Outer Banks. Since I have never traveled to North Carolina, I have never heard about them until today. As Hurricane Dorian bears down on North Carolina, a mandatory evacuation of humans have left the Outer Banks devoid of people but the horses remain. 

I learned that the horses know exactly what to do in times like these…

“They will move to higher ground and gather under sturdy oak trees to shelter from the storm, said the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, which manages the herd and sends a similar reminder during major hurricanes due to the outpouring of concern for the horses.

‘They’ll likely ride out winds and rain as their ancestors did before them — in huddles, butts to the wind,’ it added.

And unlike human beings living in the Outer Banks, the wild horses are better equipped to handle a hurricane. They’re already sensing a change in air pressure and are grouping up together.

‘Remember, they’ve been doing this for 500 years!’ the Fund said.”

What an instinct! Head to high ground, look for shelter, huddle together and keep their faces out of the wind. 

That is vastly different than what Lieutenant Dan did (in the movie Forrest Gump) during the hurricane he faced at the top of the mast on a shrimp boat daring God to make the storm worse. 

These horses are survivors. This herd has endured many hurricanes over the past 5 centuries. Maybe we can learn something from our equine friends.

There is no escape from hardship in this life. So when it comes, do what the Colonial Spanish Mustangs do…

  1. Look for high ground and look for shelter. Go to the place that is spiritual high ground. In other words, go to worship. When life gets difficult there is no better place to be than in the spiritual presence of God and be reminded of Jesus’ love. Church is a safe harbor from the storms that inundate our lives.
  2. Huddle together. There is nothing worse than going through difficult circumstances alone. If you seek out the spiritual high ground and shelter, you will others who will walk with you through the storms of life.
  3. Keep your face out of the wind. Don’t ignore the storm, but don’t magnify it either. By focusing all your energy on the storm you have little energy to do anything else. Turn your back to it. You can still feel it but you will also be able to have a better perspective by having your back to the wind and potentially see what God is up to in your life. 

Listen to this promise from Psalm 107:28-31

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for us. 

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

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Article: Hate and Mental Illness

Last week my friend and colleague the Rev. Cindy McCalmont of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) wrote an “op ed” for the Mercury News that has not yet been published. She sent this to me and other clergy to ask if we would sign on to this “op ed” at the time of publishing. I agreed to sign my name to the document below. 

You might remember Cindy came and spoke to Bethel about the wonderful work NAMI is doing at one of our First Wednesday Speaker Series earlier this year. 

I wanted you to see the important distinction between hate and mental illness when it comes to mass violence. 

August 23, 2019

To the residents of Santa Clara County:

As spiritual leaders in this beautiful valley, we unite to make this proclamation: 

Hate is not a mental illness.

While these words aren’t original to us, they speak a truth we desperately need in the aftermath of yet more violence in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton.  It’s a truth that unites us, emboldens us, and makes clear the work that is ours to do in this community.  And what is that work? 

To stand against hatred and to stand beside those with mental illness.  

Despite what the media and our elected officials may allege, those with mental illnesses are not the primary perpetuators of gun violence. Yes, of course, untreated psychosis can lead to violence, but the vast majority of gun violence is the product of far more insidious problems–problems like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.

Our diverse spiritual traditions have much to say about the many faces of hatred and the violence they incite. “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”(The Qu’ran)

Our traditions also make it clear how easy it is to point a finger at others without taking a hard look at ourselves: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” Jesus asks.

The plank in our own eyes is how passive we’ve been as we’ve allowed the media to perpetuate the myth that mental illness equals violence.  The plank in our own eyes is how little we’ve done to challenge all that fuels hatred.

Hark! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth,” God says to Cain in the Torah.  The blood that has been spilled far exceeds that at the Gilroy Garlic Festival or the Walmart in El Paso or outside the Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton.  It is blood that is being spilled in suicides in our community every day as people with mental illnesses struggle not just with their symptoms but also with our disdain.

Hate is not a mental illness.  It is a condition that must be transformed, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, into love. 

Together, we commit ourselves to transforming hatred into love by speaking against extreme acts of violence but also against the small discriminations and implicit biases that plague us all.

Amen. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Update: The Mercury News printed the “op ed” today.

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