Faith
and Beliefs

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Charlie Kreiner died last week.

The first time I heard him speak was at a workshop in Oregon in 1989. I remember him saying then that “spirituality is sensing that all things are connected.” I have never met anyone more charismatic.

During a break in that workshop, a rabbi told me that Kreiner was expressing the essence of Judaism. A Christian minister said he was conveying the teachings of Jesus for our time. A Buddhist said, “If the Buddha were alive today, he would be saying what Charlie is saying.”

Maggie Finefrock, then head of Harmony, now of the Learning Project, said, “When we sponsored him as a speaker through Harmony in a World of Difference in 1990, someone skeptically asked me who would show up for a class titled ‘Homophobia, Racism and Oppression.’

“That night there was standing room only. Charlie’s clear perceptions and skilled responses to violence in our society have inspired many of us to examine our own lives and leadership and carry on community work with more courage, compassion and skill.”

In University of Kansas religion professor Robert Minor’s book, Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human, are these words: “I owe my initial inspiration to an international men’s workshop leader, Charlie Kreiner. His fingerprints are all over this book.”

The Rev. David E. Nelson, past convener of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, says, “In my identification of who I am, I often say, ‘I am part of the human liberation movement.’ I first heard that line from Charlie Kreiner. It belongs to him, but it also belongs to any of us whose spiritual practice involves working for the liberation of all human beings.”

Kelly Gerling, a leadership development consultant, recalled Kreiner’s insight that the differences among people are not the reason for prejudice but rather the excuse, and that “to remove the motive to find an excuse to think of others” with hostility and to abuse them “requires a process of healing that he so skillfully demonstrated and lived.”

Thomas F. Edgerton, who attended a Kreiner workshop in Kansas City, says, “I have never met any one man who so wanted each of us to prosper, to heal, to hope and to share the healthy vibrancy of the human condition with others.”

Leadership, Kreiner said, is not a role or holding a position but an activity that frees other people. To lead others, one must be able to lead oneself. To lead oneself, one must heal from the ways one has been hurt. To heal, he asked this question: “What is keeping me from loving every person on the planet?”

©2007 Vern Barnet does interfaith work in Kansas City. Reach him at vern@cres.org.

Read more here.

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