Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

Me Worry?

November 3, 2012

 

By Ed Chasteen

November 2012

Worry does not come naturally to me. I expect rainbows and silver linings. It is not my world that makes headlines on the nightly news and morning papers. I tell myself that these behaviors draw attention because few people do them. If they were normal, they would not be newsworthy.

My world is the normal one where people care about one another and look after each other. I expected to find this world that summer I got on my bicycle at Disney World.

My doctor had told me I have MS. “You can’t be active.” He said. “Rest and don’t get hot.” He said. Living that way was killing me. So I got on a bicycle to find out if my doctor knew what he was talking about. Ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim—Disney World to Disneyland—that was my plan. If I made it, MS would live with me on my terms. Somehow I knew that.

My church had taught me that we are created in God’s image. I figured that must mean that every person on the planet has at least a spark of goodness in them. I wanted to find that spark. So I planned to ride all by myself. With no money. I would ask people I met for a sandwich, a drink of water, a bed for the night. If I found their spark of goodness, they would help me. And I would tell them stories.

I found that spark in more than 500 people. No one said no to me. For 105 days I rode. I discovered that summer that my doctor was wrong. My MS doesn’t mean I can’t be active; it means I must.

A quarter century has passed since Mickey Mouse gave me that trophy, Disneyland held that parade just for me, and Disney dubbed me The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College. And I’m still riding. Still looking for goodness.

My doctor thought he was announcing my doom when he said I have MS. He was, in fact, granting me greater liberty. So I drew a circle around my hometown. On my ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, my longest days had been 125 miles. So my circle went 125 miles out in all directions from my town. My town called Liberty. Greater Liberty: That’s what I call every place in this circle.

I wrote a book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You. I started a 501 C-3 non-profit called HateBusters. My MS taught me that I am my own doctor, my own minister, my own person. Thanks to my MS I now have greater liberty to live above and beyond the limitations that other people expect of me, limitations of race, religion, politics, age, gender, class, culture, physical condition.

As The Pedalin’ Prof I ride to places in Greater Liberty. I teach people how to like people. I help people who have been hurt by someone who hates them.

For a map of Greater Liberty, go to www.greaterliberty.org or www.hatebusters.com To contact me, call my bike phone 816-803-8371 or email me at hatebuster@aol.com

Invite me and I will come

(free of charge)

Join me and we will win

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The Seventh Cross

October 31, 2012

The Seventh Cross

By Ed Chasteen

 

Why has the name of that movie and its star stuck with me all these years? I was eight years old when I saw it. I’ve seen thousands since. A handful I recall. None with the clarity of that one.

 

It was night in Cleburne, Texas in the summer of 1944. Mother, Dad, Jerry, Pat and I went together to the picture show at the Yale Theater. For a dollar and twenty-seven cents we sat in the dark to watch Spencer Tracy in The Seventh Cross.

 

More times than I know over the ensuing 68 years I have mentioned that movie by name and star when any topic even remotely related to movies has come up. No one has ever seen it. Or heard of it. I searched Tracy’s filmography on line. I didn’t find it. The library didn’t have it. Or know of it. Folks began to smile at my mention of The Seventh Cross. A manufactured memory they must have thought.

 

A few years back my wife and I bought a big screen TV. She records a lot of movies off Turner Classic Movies. The on-screen menu tells her what’s coming. One recent evening it showed up: The Seventh Cross, starring Spencer Tracy.

 

We watched it last night. And I understood not only why I could not forget it, but also how profoundly it shaped how I see the world and how I try to live in it.

 

Bobbie saw it too. We watched together. Near the movie’s end, as Spencer Tracy as George Heisler, an escaped prisoner from a German concentration camp, describes his view of life, Bobbie says to me, “That’s you. Is that where you got it?”

 

The story is set in 1936 Germany. Hitler is rounding up any Germans who oppose his Nazi plans. These Germans are put into concentration camps. The movie begins with the escape of seven men from such a camp. The first escapee is caught within hours. The prison commandant orders him tortured and tied to a cross. He has seven total crosses erected, one for each escapee. Within a few days, the first six are captured and tied to a cross. The seventh is for George.

 

George has been brutalized in prison. He has grown hard and cynical. He trusts no one. Believes in nothing. But now he is free. To survive, he needs people. After several narrow escapes, George makes it to his hometown. Many friends have disappeared. The woman who promised to wait for him has married and refuses to help. A man he thought his friend is now successful and does not dare help.

 

In desperation, George goes to someone he remembers but does not think strong. He intends only to ask to stay the night. As they talk, George’s story spills out.

 

George never sees that friend again, but unbeknownst to George that friend, at great personal risk to himself and his family, sets in motion a series of harrowing events involving many people, most of whom George never meets, that eventually lead to George’s escape from Nazi Germany. And as the story ends, the camera fades to that seventh cross, empty still, a potent symbol, reminding us that though evil is persistent and sometimes powerful, the quiet and stubborn resistance of good-hearted ordinary people will always deliver us from its clutches.

 

As he must leave a loved one he will never see again, George says to her the words Bobbie said were mine: “I have a debt to pay to the people who healed me. There are some whose names I’ll never know. I have a debt to pay, not only for their help but for what they taught me. Today I know something I never knew before in my life. I know that no matter how cruelly the world strikes at the souls of men, there is a God given decency in them that will come out if given half a chance. That’s the hope for the human race. That’s the faith we must cling to. The only thing that will make our lives worth living.”

 

This message has been playing on a subterranean back channel of my mind, inaccessible to conscious thought, since that long ago night, infusing my life with direction and purpose. I will be forever grateful.

Back Channels of My Mind

September 28, 2011

Back Channels of My Mind

By Ed Chasteen

I have spent most of my life so far trying in my own person to overcome the racist messages I absorbed from those dear folk I grew up among. I long ago came to understand that I loved them but did not like them. They were good to me when I was small. But as I grew and moved about, I came to see how small they were in mind and heart. More than half a century has passed since I was a boy among my extended family, and those racist tapes still come uncalled to my mind. I can usually over ride them. But I cannot erase them. Several times in my adult life I have been embarrassed when some spontaneous remark I make exposes a racist tape that runs on a back channel of my mind, outside my conscious ability to govern it. To have fewer such tapes haunting my children and my students, I have devoted my life to overcoming hate and teaching people how to like each other.

My mother took me to the Baptist church when I was still a baby. Every Sunday. Moses, Sampson, and David became my heroes. I learned that God loves me. I learned to love my neighbor as myself. I also learned to distrust and dislike Jews and Catholics. I learned that other Christian denominations had misread the scripture and were teaching false doctrine. These tapes, too, still play in my mind.

The church I have attended (Second Baptist in Liberty, Missouri) for the past 30 years appointed me 25 years ago as Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith. Over these years I have taken folks from my church to visit other communities of faith and have brought members of other faith communities to visit my church. Our understanding has been that we do not come to change or join, but to build bridges so that when tensions arise between faiths, we will know someone personally to whom we may go for guidance and understanding.

I was teaching Race Relations at William Jewell College in 1988 when a Klansman in Louisiana won election to their state legislate. My students and I started HateBusters. The Governor of Louisiana invited us to come to Louisiana. We went. Then we began to be invited by other governors, mayors, universities, colleges, communities and individuals. I left full time teaching in 1995 and HateBusters became a 501 C-3 non-profit. We help those who have been hurt because someone hates them.

Our focus now is on religious hatred. My longtime friend, Imam Yahya Furqan, and I have started a group we simply call Friends. We are composed of folks of different races and religions. We want to visit in small groups with churches, masjids, synagogues and other faith communities. We want to have conversations about our families, our parents, our brothers and sisters; where we grew up, what we like to eat, our hobbies, our hopes and dreams.

Who is right is the wrong question until we get to know one another. Will Rogers is famous for saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I’ve always wondered if he might have said, “I never liked a man I didn’t meet.” I have made it a purpose of my life to meet every person I can and expect to like every person I meet.

To help others who have unwelcome tapes playing on back channels of their mind, I started HateBusters, became an Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith and wrote a book called, How To Like People Who Are not Like You.

The book is available on line to anyone who makes a donation to HateBusters. We never ask those who need our help for money. We never say no when asked for help. Good-hearted folks who like what we do give us the money to do it. In return for a donation, every donor gets an on-line copy of How To Like People Who Are not Like You. To donate go to www.hatebusters.com and click on Donate. I will get an Email from PayPal that a donation was made, and I will email the book to you.

HateBusters Motto

Red and Yellow, Black, Brown and White

Christian, Buddhist and Jew

Hindu, Baha’i and Muslim, too

All are precious in our sight

Until we get to know each other who’s right is the wrong question

Bill’s ‘Faith Matters’ Weblog

September 23, 2010

2nd911

Finding our common humanity: 9-14-10

Post from: Bill Tammeus who writes about matters of religion and ethics.

Read more: http://billtammeus.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/09/9-14-10.html#ixzz10ORKysj3

This past difficult and charged weekend, when the nation was commemorating the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, beyond that, was all atwitter about threatened Qur’an burnings and such, my church, Second Presbyterian of Kansas City, did something sane.

We invited a Christian and some Muslims (who had just marked the end of Ramadan) to come to an adult education class and talk about their long friendship and why it matters.

Ed Chasteen (third from left in this photo), a wonderful soul who is founder of Hatebusters, brought with him (from left in this photo) Imam Yahya H. Furqan, a Muslim community prayer leader, Bassam Helwani, Syrian-born founder of Culturally Speaking, and Imam Taalib-ud-Din al-Ansare, (known as Al) a clinical pastoral educator and chaplain supervisor at Research MedicalCenter.

The idea was not to solve all the problems in Christian-Muslim relations or to unpack the mysteries of the Qur’an or for Muslims or Christians to try to convert one another. Rather, the idea was simply to listen as these old friends talked about the common values that they draw from their religious traditions.

As our associate pastor, Don Fisher, said at the end of the hour, this is a conversation that has just begun and will need to continue at some length if we’re to build a friendship more fully.

But in the midst of lots of anti-Islamism rampant in the country, it was helpful for members of our congregation to spend some time with people with whom they share a common humanity, even if they pledge allegiance to a different religious tradition.

As Ed explained about his Muslim friends, “We go around and we hold conversations. We try not to make speeches. We talk among ourselves about our families, our friends, what we eat for lunch, where we go on vacation — just ordinary things to show that friends can be friends across racial and religious lines.”

Bassam added: “The accommodation and the welcoming that we immigrant Muslims feel from this society is overwhelming,” contrary to a common perception drawn from news accounts of interreligious struggles. “Everything is open for discussion because nobody is born educated. We learn from each other.”

“Our friendship is cherished,” Yahya said. “We’re all human beings. That’s the common denominattor. . .We are one family. We are one human family. . .When a baby cries, a baby doesn’t cry in English. A baby doesn’t cry in Chinese. A baby doesn’t cry in German. The baby’s cry is as a human being.”

“If we look around,” Al said, “we find a great variety of folks in every group. And America is the foremost place for the acceptance of this. . .And in the diversity is where our beauty is.”

It’s hard to hate people when you get to know them first as human beings who share common hopes and dreams. I wish the violent extremists who claim to be following Islam and radicals from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and all other faiths could learn that lesson. A conversation on a Sunday morning at a church is a good place to start.

* * *

YES, AND WHAT RELIGION WAS JESUS, ANYWAY?

Ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, a Catholic official there says the British people are essentially ignorant about religion. What? Just because lots of people think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife?

* * *

P.S.: Do you know about Care of Poor People? Headed by a formerly homeless man, Richard G. Tripp, it has collected and distributed clothes, food and other necessities each year to help poor people in the Kansas City area make it through the winters. A phone-in conference call to plan this year’s event is scheduled for this Sunday. Click here for a YouTube video in which Tripp explains it all and how you can participate. His special goal this year is to increase involvement of people of many faiths.

Yahya and Me

July 26, 2010

By Ed Chasten

Imam Yahya Furqan and Dr. Ed Chasteen

When we met, I was a teacher at a Baptist College; he was a Muslim Imam. I had taken some of my students to tutor some of his students in the school he conducted at his masjid. While they held class, we adjourned to his office. We fell into the easy conversation of long-time friends. That was 30 years ago. We have since traveled the country together, going to public schools, federal prisons, private homes, faith communities, founding HateBusters, holding Human Family Reunions and teaching our book, How To Like People Who Are not Like You. Our families know each other.

This morning Yahya has come to my church. His wife Zakia, daughters Lailaa and Zarinah, with him. Bassam also comes, with wife Diana and sons Ibrahim and Hisham. Samuel and his wife, Gloria, come. Then Al. All are Muslim friends of mine, introduced to me by Yahya. Al, years ago; the others, a few months back.

Second Baptist Church, Liberty, MO

We are here at Second Baptist Church this morning as invited guests in Roger’s Sunday School class. We have agreed that until we get to know each other, who’s right is the wrong question. We are here to have a conversation about the ordinary things of our everyday lives: our hometown, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our extended family, our favorite foods, our hobbies, our hopes and dreams.

I begin:“One of my favorite plays is Our Town, a simple little story about the Gibbs family and their life in Grover’s Corner. Emily has died. From beyond the grave she is ushered back by an attendant from the afterlife for one last look at a typical day in her town. She sees her husband and his parents at the breakfast table. She smells the bacon frying and sees the milk being delivered. She hears the conversation around the table. Then she asks her guide a question that has haunted my mind since I first heard it, ‘Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute?’

“Now, this morning, is our minute. This moment in time is all we have. Everything else is past or future. The people sitting with us in this circle are the only persons in our lives at this moment. To milk this moment to the max, let’s tell each other about our ordinary everyday lives.”

For an hour we do. When we adjourn and prepare to go upstairs for the preaching service small clusters of folks gather for excited talk. A few minutes later we all sit in the sanctuary near the front to hear Jason, our pastor, preach about tithing. We don’t do it to support the church, he says, we do it to develop in us a sense of gratitude toward God and a love of God. We do it to keep our possessions from possessing us. When we had agreed on this day for Yahya and friends to visit our church, Jason told me he had already planned to preach on money and thought there might be a better subject for a visit. But this date worked best for our guests.

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Second Baptist appointed me in 1985 as Ambassador To Other Communities of Faith. In 1988 my students at William Jewell and I started HateBusters. Today as Ambassador I have arranged for our Muslim guests. Following the preaching service HateBusters hosts a lunch for our guests. Fifty of us gather in Fellowship Hall for sandwiches, pasta, cookies, tea and coffee. Debra’s Kitchen has prepared assorted breads, turkey and roast beef, beautiful tomatoes and lettuce. We build our own sandwiches and join others at round tables of eight.

When we have eaten, each person at every table takes a minute or two to speak to the others of us. One of our guests compliments Jason on his sermon. “I felt right at home. We have the same concept in Islam.”

As we are wrapping up, Yahya invites everyone to come to our biggest Human Family Reunion ever this next April in Lawrence, Kansas. “We haven’t picked the date yet. But we’ll keep you informed. Please plan to come.”

“One final story,” I say. “Don Quixote is my fictional hero. As the story opens, Don Quixote is an old man. His brains have dried up from reading too much about man’s inhumanity to man. But instead of surrender, as most folks do, Don Quixote mounts a crusade. He gets an old broken lance, a shaving bowl for a helmet, a worn out horse and his old friend, Sancho, and sets forth on a glorious quest to right all wrongs.

“Early in the story, as told in Man of LaMancha, the play, Don Quixote comes upon what he thinks is a castle. It’s actually an old house beside a dusty road. Mule drivers stay here and eat here on their journeys. Don Quixote comes inside. He sees the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He falls to his knees. ‘What is your name, my lady?’ ‘Off your knees, you fool, my name’s Aldonza. And I’m no lady.’ ‘No, my lady, your name is not Aldonza. Your name is Dulcinea.’ She curses him, flings a dirty dishrag at him and walks away. He takes the dirty rag as a token of her affection and leaves.

Picasso Don Quixote Sancho

“Several times in the story Don Quixote comes again to this castle, calls her Dulcinea and treats her as a lady, the only one who does. She is no lady. She waits on the mule drivers. By day. And by night. Then one day this woman hears that Don Quixote is dying, a great distance from her and delirious. She goes to find him. She forces her way to his bedside and takes his hand. ‘My lord,’ she says ‘Who is it?’ He asks. ‘You know who I am,’ she says, ‘you called me by name and changed my life.’ ‘No my lady, who is it?’ ‘My name is. . . . . Dulcinea,’ she says.

“She now sees herself the way he has seen here all along. That’s the way HateBusters see the world. We know Aldonza is out there. But we will treat the world as Dulcinea until one of two things happen: either the world becomes what we already know it to be. Or it does us in. We will not accept any other outcome.

“Now is our time to leave and go back to our world. Let’s treat it as Dulcinea.”