Nothing talks like money!

No sooner had Indiana enacted its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) than leaders of the Indiana Senate and House announced they would work to “clarify” the law’s intent by amendment.

How did this happen so  quickly? Money. Money. Money. Corporations, organizations and groups declaring they would boycott Indiana – no more conventions, meetings, etc. – meaning a huge economic hit to Indiana – because the new law opens the door to GLBT discrimination based on claims of religious scruples. Click HERE to read Views from the Edge‘s earlier post.

Real speech – words spoken and written – against the law is not new. The criticism was voiced loudly during the debated.  It passed anyway. Then, suddenly, another form of speech – money – entered the scene. Suddenly Indiana leaders are racing to the microphones to declare the law was meant to be inclusive, not exclusive.

Click HERE for the Washington Post video of Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) feigning surprise and promising to do their best to rally their caucus to make clear the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 31, 2015

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Confession is good for the soul

Tears welled up last Sunday listening to the Gospel reading for Passion Sunday: Palm Sunday. The reading was LONG, but it didn’t matter. It pierces the heart, step by step –  the human psyche revealed under an electron microscope, humanity on parade. All in one long reading. The tears that welled up Sunday didn’t fall, but they will later this week during Tenebrae, the service of Light and Shadow by the end of which the church is left in darkness, every worshiper’s candle extinguished by recognition of our participation in betrayal, sleeplessness, flight, and denial. One by one, the individual candles get blown out. All of them.

Holy Week for liturgical Christians is a solemn time of confession. There is no escaping our participation in the passion: our readiness to betray, doze off when asked to “watch with me one hour”, flee in fear for security, throw the switch, consciously or unconsciously, into psychological and public denial. Yet there is, at the same time over it all, the faithfulness, the wakefulness, the courage, the embrace of reality in its horror for the sake of love’s transforming power, the light of Christ himself.

Christians live in the dynamic paradox of faithlessness and faithfulness, sin and grace. We include a Prayer of Confession in the Sunday liturgy. Last Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, the Prayer of Confession, which came following a dramatic reading of the Passion Narrative, expressed the conscious and unconscious nature of sin and grace.

God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Some sins are plain to us, some sins escape us, some we cannot face. We repent of the sin that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil don on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may not turn from your love, but serve only your will. Amen.

We barely know ourselves. Some sins are plain to us. Some escape us. Others are too painful to face. Holy Week is time to wade into the waters of self-reflection, confident that these waters are the healing waters of the deeper Self, the crucified-risen One who cannot finally be betrayed, fled, denied, or killed.

Sunday’s liturgy ended with the singing of the hymn “My Song Is Love Unknown,” lyrics by Samuel Crossman, 1664, music composed by John Ireland. 


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Ask much of us

“Ask much of us,

expect much of us,

enable much by us,

encourage many through us.”

These words from the prayer that followed Holy Communion yesterday (the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday) at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota leaped from the page. They are part of the congregation’s Post-Communion Prayer, prayed aloud by all worshipers.

In deep gratitude for this moment,

this meal, and for these people,

we give ourselves to you, most holy God.

Take us out into the world

to live as changed people

because we have shared the Living Bread

and cannot remain the same.

Ask much of us,

expect much from us,

enable much from us,

encourage many through us.

May we dedicate our lives to your glory.


I needed that. I need daily to be reminded, asked, enabled, and encouraged to live actively in gratitude.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 30, 2015

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Verse – Legislate Morality

The Pastor asks for those in need
of prayer–
she wants their names. She writes that Bill
will go
for surgery next week. And Ann
at last from waitressing–what will
she do?

In prayer, the Pastor lists each name,
each need.
She celebrates our joys, lists our
not that the One who hears has to
be made
aware, but we require the

of what we are to do: care for
the sick,
go visit lonely folks, give food
and clothes.
Then lobby Congress for new laws
that make
the ninety-nine percent receive
from those

who have it made, a chance, at least
a share
of hope from those who never seem
to care.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 30, 2015

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Religious Freedom in Indiana – the new face of discrimination

Dear IndianaThe Governor of Indiana just signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (SB 101) that brings to mind the pre-civil rights movement segregated lunch counters. In the era of expanding civil rights for GLBT people, Indian’s altogether unnecessary “Restoration Act” turns back the clock on the right to discriminate.

This May six Presbyterian ministers, all former seminary classmates, will spend our annual five-day retreat in Indianapolis at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), a religious leader in welcoming, inclusive, nondiscriminatory belief and practices. CTS understands Christian freedom as the freedom for which Christ has set them free: freedom to love.

Wherever we go we will do as Amelia Aldred proposes in her blog post. Click SB101: Let’s make it awkward to read her thoughtful piece and to comment.

Wayne, Bob, Harry, Don, Steve, and I are from Indiana, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Minnesota. We’ll be courteous, but we will exercise our religious freedom and responsibility by making it awkward to discriminate.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 28, 2015.

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Listen to the crying of our need

It’s not a good day for the power of positive thinking.

News of the Germanwings Airbus A320 crash into the French Alps raises soul-chilling questions that may never be answered.  Early reports assume 27 year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, left alone in the cockpit, deliberately plunged the plane and its terrorized passengers to their deaths.

I need some good cheer on a day like this when it’s hard to tell the difference between terror and tragedy, when 148 travelers who trusted the pilot and co-pilot to get them safely from here to there suddenly find themselves in the hands of…. Of whom? Of what?

In my darkest moments I am aware that we are always standing over the abyss of nothingness. Death. Extinction. But, once in awhile, something comes along to cheer me up. So far today it hasn’t.

“O God…, listen, not to our words, but to the groaning that cannot be uttered; harken, not to our petitions, but to the crying of our need.”

[W.E. Orchard, quoted in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer, p. 117-118, Association Press, 1915]

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 27, 2015.




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The Christian Taliban

Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s father, hates “the Social Gospel” with a passion. He goes after President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, for preaching “social justice”.

A Views from the Edge reader’s response to our recent posts about Senator Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham drew our attention to an article by Chris Hedges that examines a distorted form of Christianity called “Domionism” (aka, “Christian Reconstructionism”).  Ted Cruz’s choice of Liberty University as the platform to announce his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination is consistent with his father’s views as director of Purifying Fire. Purifying Fire is the Christian equivalent of the Taliban. Its vision is a theocracy.

Click The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government to read Chris Hedges’ article. It’s a little over the top at times, but it’s well worth the read.

When the religious right dug out a short clip of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermon to embarrass another candidate for President, Barack Obama separated himself from Wright’s view that “the chickens had come home to roost” on 9/11. The same question should be asked of Senator Ted Cruz regarding his father’s fascist dominionist views, as expressed in this video. Click HERE for Rafael Cruz’s 2013 speech in Tuscon, AZ.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 26, 2015, in honor of Jesus of Nazareth:

“Blessed are the MEEK, for they shall inherit the earth. [Gospel according to Matthew 5:4]

“Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:9] – The Sermon on the Mount.


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Our Anxious Time

Ours is an anxious time, a fearful time, an insecure time. We feel it in our bellies.

This morning we’re moved to consider anxiety, fear, and insecurity. For that purpose we turn to philosophical theologian Paul Tillich* (scroll down) and philosopher of religion Willem Zuurdeeg** for whom the questions were passionate and all-consuming over their lifetimes. Even so, they were not the best of friends.

Zuurdeeg was a severe critic of Tillich’s attempts to create a theological system. He saw every system as a flight from finitude and ambiguity into what he called “Ordered World Homes” that make sense of, and defend against, the anxiety intrinsic to finitude. For Zuurdeeg, to be human is to be thrown into chaos and every philosophy from Plato to Hegel to Tillich is “born of a cry” – the cry for help, for sense, for protection, for a security that lies beyond one’s powers.

Reading Tillich’s Systematic Theology again after reading the news this morning leads to the conclusion that Zuurdeeg and Tillich were very close, as is often the case between critics of one another. One thinks, for example, of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in a similar manner.

For all their differences, Zuurdeeg and Tillich were joined at the hip by their shared experience with madness in society and the demise of once-trusted foundations of western civilization. The rise of the German Third Reich led them to a lifelong search not only for answers but for the questions that might lead to insight into the existential situation into which Hitler’s madness threw the world headlong into chaos and destruction.

Anxiety, said Tillich, is distinct from fear. Fear has an object. We fear an enemy. We fear Iran; Iran fears us. Israel fears the Palestinians; The Palestinians fear the Israelis. “Objects are feared,” said Tillich.

A danger, a pain, an enemy, may be feared, but fear can be conquered by action. Anxiety cannot, for no finite being can conquer its finitude. Anxiety is always present, although often it is latent. Therefore, it can become manifest at any moment, even in situations where nothing is to be feared….. Anxiety is ontological; fear, psychological… Anxiety is the self-awareness of the finite self as finite. [Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1,  p. 191-192, University of Chicago Press, 1951]

Anxiety is the self-awareness that we are mortal. We are excluded from an infinite future. We were born and we will die and we know it. Despite every flight into denial, we know it in our bones. We have no secure space and no secure time. “To be finite is to be insecure” (Tillich, p. 195). In the face of this insecurity, said Zuurdeeg, the individual and the human species itself seek “to establish their existence” in time and space, though we know we can not secure it. The threat we experience in 2015 is the threat of nothingness. Politicians pander to it. Preachers pander to it. Advertisers prey on it. They eat anxiety for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, Tillich, writing as if for our time:

The desire for security becomes dominant in special periods and in special social and psychological situations. Men create systems of security in order to protect their space. But they can only repress their anxiety; they cannot banish it, for this anxiety anticipates the final “spacelessness” which is implied in finitude. [Tillich, p. 195]

So this morning I sip my coffee aware of and thankful for this moment of finitude, and determined that I will not turn over my anxiety into the hands of those who promise security from every fear. Willem Zuurdeeg and Paul Tillich looked directly into the heart of human darkness and saw a light greater than the darkness. I want to live in the light of their courage and wisdom.

Paul Johannes Tillich (1886-1965)

Paul Johannes Tillich (1886-1965)

*Born and raised in Germany, Paul Johannes Tillich was the first professor to be dismissed from his teaching position in 1933 following the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany for his outspoken criticism of the Nazi movement. At the invitation of Reinhold Niebuhr, he and his family moved to New York where Tillich joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary. He went on to become one of the best-known philosopher-theologians of the 20th century, publishing widely from teaching from chairs at Union, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago. His best know works are The Courage to Be, The Shaking of the Foundations (a collection of sermons),and his three-volume Systematic Theology.

Willem Frederik Zuurdeeg (1906-1963)

Willem Frederik Zuurdeeg (1906-1963)

**Born and raised in the Netherlands in a family that served as part of the underground resistance to Hitler’s pogrom, Willem Frederik Zuurdeeg spent his life asking how western civilization’s most sophisticated culture (Germany), could fall so easily into the hands of a madman. His Analytical Philosophy of Religion became a major text for undergraduate and graduate philosophy of religion classes. When Professor Zuurdeeg died of cancer as Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, he left behind an unfinished manuscript later completed by his friend and colleague Esther Cornelius Swenson, the title of which is Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry. Click HERE for photographs of Willem Zuurdeeg and the family that gave Jews sanctuary in the Netherlands.

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A Note from Briant

We couldn’t believe our eyes when this postcard arrived from our waiter last month in Mobile, Alabama.

Postcard note from Briant, waiter at Felix's Fish Camp Grill in Mobile, AL

Postcard note from Briant, waiter at Felix’s Fish Camp Grill in Mobile, AL

Okay, so he spelled my name wrong. Who cares. We really liked Briant. Enough to write a recommendation on TripAdvisor. Which resulted in the note. Felix’s Fish Camp Grill near Mobile, Alabama knows how to make friends and build its business.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 24, 2015

Felix's Fish Camp Grill postcard

Felix’s Fish Camp Grill postcard

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Ted Cruze and The Liberty Way

Sen. Ted Cruze (R-TX)

Sen. Ted Cruze (R-TX)

Yesterday Senator Ted Cruze (R-TX) chose to announce his candidacy for the Republican Party presidential nomination at Liberty University, home of “The Liberty Way” (see below).

Liberty University is a telling choice.  Liberty has grown to become the largest university in Virginia. But, as universities go… well, Liberty is not what Thomas Jefferson or the University of Virginia would recognize as a place of higher education.

Liberty is the creation of the late Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), the televangelist host of “The Old Time Gospel Hour” and father of “the Moral Majority,” the right-wing evangelical political movement that became a national platform for the Religious Right. In the 1950s and ’60s, Falwell was a severe critic of Martin Lutber King, Jr., the civil rights movement and school desegregation. Later, in 1993, he declared

“AIDs is not just God’s punishment of homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for a society that tolerates homosexuals.”

Liberty was not always Liberty. Jerry Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College 1971. The name was changed to Liberty Baptist College, and finally became Liberty University in 1984. Falwell. A graduated in 1958 from Baptist Bible College, an unaccredited Bible college in Springfield, MO, named himself Chancellor. His alma mater was later granted preliminary academic accreditation 43 years later in 2001. When Falwell died in 2007, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps, much as Franklin Graham did with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

So, why would someone kick off a presidential campaign at Liberty University?

Liberty is the largest Christian university in the world, largely because of the more than 100,000 on-line students along with the roughly 13,000 who attend classes at one of Liberty’s three sites.

Liberty University’s colors are red, white, and blue. It’s patriotic. The cross and the flag go together at Liberty. And it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. Their on-line website’s tagline is “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.”

Senator Ted Cruz is a Texan. He could have chosen to announce his mission to take back “the promise of America” at the Alamo or the University of Texas, but he didn’t. He chose Liberty in Virginia.

Liberty requires students to abide by “The Liberty Way” code of conduct but doesn’t tell students what it is until after they’ve enrolled. Here’s all Liberty says about “The Liberty Way” on its website. The Daily Kos published “Liberty University’s The Liberty Way’ Exposed“. I wonder if the Senator signed before he chose Liberty.

We at Views from the Edge view “the way” a bit differently. A little Bible reading goes a long way:

“What does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk HUMBLY with your God?” [Micah 6:8]

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 24, 2015.



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Want a Handgun? Want to Be Safe?

This video is worth watching. It says what so many of us think and feel.

Click HERE to watch the video of visitors to the NYC gun store targeting first time gun buyers.

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Think for yourself – Selective Fundamentalism

The biblical texts a church chooses by which to govern its life say more about the church than the texts it selects.

Critics of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s policy of full inclusion of GLBT members – and its newly adopted definition of marriage as between “two people” – quote biblical texts they claim declare homosexuality itself as sinful.

An anonymous comment by a Views from the Edge reader advised people to read the Bible and think for themselves. “I think anyone reading the comments from Mr. Stewart should read the Bible and think for themselves. For example read 1 Timonthy 8-11.”

We don’t usually reply to anonymous sources, but this one deserves consideration because it asks us to do both things: read the text and think for ourselves.

Here’s the text about which the writer invites us to think for ourselves:

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers,  fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me” [I Timothy 8-11]. Color added by VFTE for emphasis

Texts such as I Timothy are used to identify same-sex relations as sin, albeit in a longer list that names liars and perjurers, among others. But “sodomites” are not consensual lovers; they are rapists so named from the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah from which we get the words ‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomize’.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about sexuality. It’s about assault, violence and humiliation. The tragedy of Sodom and Gomorrah was not consensual sexual relations. It was gang rape by a group of men intruding into Lot’s house to have their way with Lot’s house guests. Such male behavior was not unfamiliar to the partriarchal world of Hebrew Scripture when victorious soldiers humiliated their vanquished enemies by treating them like females.

While conservative evangelical and fundamentalist biblical interpreters condemn consensual love between two members of the same gender, they ignore the much clearer biblical position on adultery and divorce.

On divorce:Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” [Luke 16:18); and “if [a wife] divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” [Mark 10:12].

On adultery: “You shall not commit adultery” [Exodus 20:14]; and “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel [Deuteronomy 22:22].

Many conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christians and churches say they do not interpret Scripture. They obey it. But they don’t. They can’t. Because every reader has to think. One always has to decide which biblical texts take primacy over others. Presumably we would all agree – orthodox, conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, liberal, and progressive – that Jesus’ command to the men who had encircled the woman “caught in adultery” to drop their stones takes primacy over a harsher approach to divorce and adultery.

But that’s a conclusion of interpretation, of selective primacy. For conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christian churches to remain true to their objection to all biblical interpretation as undermining biblical authority, they should exclude all divorced persons from positions of leadership. That would exclude 50% of the American marital population.

We all think for ourselves. Conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are as selective as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and others they declare have forsaken biblical authority.

For the sake of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to [Timothy and us],” may the Spirit guide us and conform us all according to the rule of love.

– Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, Honorably Retired, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Chaska, MN, March 21, 2015.




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Verse – They Call Us Chalks

They all have color,
those in charge.
We are colorless,
pasty, pale, and weak,
vulnerable to the sun,
and visible most nights.
We cannot hide.

Those who are gold
or bronze or ebony
or mixed know they are smarter.
They go where they will.
From the best schools,
they have the top jobs.
They call us Chalks.

They all speak the World Language.
We jabber in Frenglish, Scandy,
Grussian, or Balkan.
We squat in the abandoned cities
while they hum around
in their shade-seekers.
Cancers kill us.

There are tales the Three P’s
once were ours: Power,
Privilege, and the Police.
Now we have one…Poverty.
They tell us what to do.
We submit or are Injected.
Freedom is a dream.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 21, 2015

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An Open Letter to Franklin Graham


“We don’t know what prompted Rev. Franklin Graham to log onto Facebook and pound out the words that lit a firestorm last week. But within one day, tens of thousands of his faithful followers liked and shared his short, patronizing post that called “Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else” to “Listen up” and tune in to his take on why so many black people have died at the hands of police officers recently. According to Graham, the problem is “simple.” It can be reduced to their lack of obedience and bad parenting.

“By Monday morning, more than 80,000 people shared the post and almost 200,000 liked it. Sojourners’ Jim Wallis penned a strong response.” – Sojourners.

Views from the Edge’s hosts signed the letter today.

An Open Letter to Reverend Franklin Graham

Dear Rev. Graham,

We write to you in the spirit of Matthew 18: we aim to reconcile with you. You have sinned against us, fellow members of the body of Christ. While your comments on March 12 were just a Facebook post, your post was shared by more than 83,000 people and liked by nearly 200,000 as of Monday morning, March 14, 2015. Your words hurt and influenced thousands. Therefore, we must respond publicly so that those you hurt might know you have received a reply and the hundreds of thousands you influenced might know that following your lead on this issue will break the body of Christ further.

Frankly, Rev. Graham, your insistence that “Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else” “Listen up,” was crude, insensitive, and paternalistic. Your comments betrayed the confidence that your brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those of color, have afforded your father’s ministry for decades. Your instructions oversimplified a complex and critical problem facing the nation and minimized the testimonies and wisdom of people of color and experts of every hue, including six police commissioners that served on the president’s task force on policing reform.

In the nadir of your commentary, you tell everyone to “OBEY” any instruction from authorities and suggest that the recent shootings of unarmed citizens “might have been avoided” if the victims had submitted to authority.

And you bluntly insist, “It’s as simple as that.”

It is not that simple. As a leader in the church, you are called to be an ambassador of reconciliation. The fact that you identify a widely acknowledged social injustice as “simple” reveals your lack of empathy and understanding of the depth of sin that some in the body have suffered under the weight of our broken justice system. It also reveals a cavalier disregard for the enduring impacts and outcomes of the legal regimes that enslaved and oppressed people of color, made in the image of God — from Native American genocide and containment, to colonial and antebellum slavery, through Jim Crow and peonage, to our current system of mass incarceration and criminalization.

As your brothers and sisters in Christ, who are also called to lead the body, we are disappointed and grieved by your abuse of the Holy Scriptures. You lifted Hebrews 13:17 out of its biblical context and misappropriated it in a way that encourages believers to acquiesce to an injustice that God hates. That text refers to church leadership, not the secular leadership of Caesar.

Are you also aware that your commentary resonates with the types of misinterpretations and rhetoric echoed by many in the antebellum church? Are you aware that the southern slavocracy validated the systematic subjugation of human beings made in the image of God by instructing these enslaved human beings to “obey their masters because the Bible instructed them to do so?”

Your blanket insistence on obedience in every situation exposes an ignorance of church history. God called Moses to resist and disobey unjust authority. Joseph and Mary were led by the Spirit to seek asylum in Egypt, disobeying the unjust decrees passed down by authority figures in order to ensure the safety of Jesus. And Paul himself resisted authority and ultimately wrote Romans 13 from jail.

In modern times, Christian brothers and sisters abided by Paul’s command to the persecuted Roman church. They presented their bodies as living sacrifices. They refused to conform to the oppressive patterns of this world. Rather, they were transformed by the renewing of their minds. (Romans 12:1-2) Throughout the Jim Crow South, in El Salvador, and in the townships and cities of South Africa Jesus followers disobeyed civil authority as an act of obedience to God — the ultimate authority, the Lord, who loves and demands justice (Psalm 146:5-9, Isaiah 58, Isaiah 61, Micah 4:1-5, all the prophets, Luke 4:16-21, Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 25:31-46, Galatians 3:27-28). Likewise, Christians who marched in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, and Madison, Wis., follow in the holy footsteps of their faithful predecessors.

As one who understands human depravity, your statement demonstrates a profound disregard for the impact of sinful individuals when given power to craft systems and structures that govern millions. The outcome is oppression and impoverishment — in a word, injustice.

Finally, if you insist on blind obedience, then you must also insist that officers of the justice system obey the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right of all to equal protection under the law. Yet, reports confirm unconscious racial biases in policing, booking, sentencing, and in return produce racially disparate outcomes within our broken justice system.

Likewise, you must also call on officers to honor their sworn duty to protect and serve without partiality. The Federal Bureau of Investigations director, James B. Comey, acknowledges that law enforcement has fallen short of this mandate : “First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”

Let us be clear: We love, support, and pray for our police officers. We understand that many are doing an excellent job under extremely trying circumstances. We also understand that many officers are burdened by systems that routinely mete out inequitable racialized outcomes.

For the past nine months, many of your fellow Christian clergy have been engaged in sorrowful lament, prayerful protest, spirit-led conversations, and careful scriptural study to discern a Godly response to these inequitable racialized outcomes within America’s justice system. We have wrestled with God like Jacob, begging God to bless us with peace in our streets and justice in our courts.

Rev. Graham, as our brother in Christ and as a leader in the church, we forgive you and we pray that one day you will recognize and understand the enduring legacy of the institution of race in our nation.

Now is the time for you to humbly listen to the cries of lamentation rising nationwide. We do not expect you to be an expert in racial issues, police brutality, or even the many factors that go in to our complicated and unjust criminal system. We do, however, expect you to follow the example of leaders and followers of Jesus throughout the scriptures and modern history. We expect you to seek wise counsel and guidance first from those who bear the weight of the injustice and second from other experts in the field.

Ultimately, we invite you to join us in the ongoing work of the ministry of reconciliation.

In Jesus,

Onleilove Alston
Executive Director
Faith in New York

Dr. Brian Bantum
Associate Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University

Rev. Leroy Barber
Global Executive Director, Word Made Flesh
Chair of the Board, Christian Community Development Association

Rev. Phil Bowling Dyer
National Director, Black Campus Ministries
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Austin Channing Brown
Resident Director and Multicultural Liaison
Calvin College

Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Author, Social Justice Handbook and Just Spirituality
Co-author, Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith

Dr. Christena Cleveland
Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies
Bethel University

Rev. Dr. Orlando Crespo
Latino Leadership Circle
Board Member, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Rev. Léonce B. Crump Jr.
Lead Pastor
Renovation Church

Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung
Executive Director
Community Renewal Society

Rachel Held Evans
Author, Blogger, Advocate

Rev. Dominique Gilliard
Executive Pastor
New Hope Covenant Church in Oakland, CA

Josh Harper
National Director for Urban Programs
Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

Lisa Sharon Harper
Chief Church Engagement Officer

Dr. Troy Jackson
Director, The AMOS Project
Co-author, Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith

Micky ScottBey Jones
Director of Training and Program Development
Transform Network

Kathy Khang
Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

Steve Knight
Transform Network

Rev. Michael McBride
The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, CA

Jimmy McGee
CEO and President
The Impact Movement

Rev. Soong-Chan Rah
Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism
North Park Theological Seminary

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra
Coordinator of Welcoming Congregations Network
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Dr. Andrea Smith
Board Member
North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies

Rev. Efrem Smith
President and CEO
World Impact

Rev. Gail Song Bantum
Executive Pastor
Quest Church

Alexie Torres-Fleming
Organizer, Advocate, Speaker

Jonathan Walton
Blogger, College Student Organizer, Poet

Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove
School for Conversion

Jim Wallis
President and Founder

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
President, Skinner Leadership Institute
Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network

Ken Wytsma
Kilns College

NOTE: Affiliations included for identification purposes only. Signatures do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the institution.

– Republished here by Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, Honorably Retired, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Chaska, MN, March 20, 2015. Click HERE to add your name to the letter.

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Gay Marriage according to Franklin Graham

I never pay attention to Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. After Jim Wallis of Sojourners called attention to one of Graham’s FaceBook postings, we found Graham’s more recent posting chastising the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s newly announced constitutional amendment redefining marriage. Said Franklin Graham:

“In His Word, the Bible, God has already defined marriage, as well as sin, and we should obey that rather than looking for ways to redefine it according to the desires of our culture. Marriage is defined as between a man and a woman—end of discussion. Anything else is a sin against God, and He will judge all sin one day.”

As of this moment, 107,850 Graham FaceBook followers “Like” it and 12,373 have “shared” it. I posted this comment on the FaceBook post.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you have yet to do your homework, and your statement “End of discussion” separates you from the more humble approach of the father whose name you proudly bear. Without interpretation and re-interpretation those who take the Bible at face value should also hold steadfast to the cosmology of a flat earth.

As a Presbyterian (USA) pastor since 1967, I have watched and heard the debates about the nature of human sexuality since 1979. The discussion within the church have not been without rancor or turmoil, but I’m proud that my church has had the courage to look at human sexuality and biblical hermeneutics through the lens of “the rule of love” not hate, separation, exclusion, or one’s own righteousness.

As a pastor who began hearing the stories of gay church members many years ago, I sensed that the prevailing view of homosexuality as a sickness and/or sin was off the mark and damaging to the heterosexual majority no less than the homosexual minority. There is no distinction at the baptismal font. No distinction allowed at the Lord’s table. And, at long last, I am now free, according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to make no such distinction at the kneeling bench before the altar.

– Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, H.R., Chaska, MN, March 19, 2015

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GUEST POST: I went to Gordon College and My Roommate was Gay

Gordon C. Stewart:

Haddayr Copley-Woods posted this on her blog. Haddayr is a writer published by many venues, including aired commentaries on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program. In light of Views from the Edge’s recent posts on the topic of religion and sexuality, we’re glad to share this first-person story of a student’s dilemma at Gordon College.

Originally posted on Haddayr Copley-Woods:

Note: I agree to host this blog post for a friend who is an alumni of Gordon College and who wants to speak out on this issue without outing her old roommate — which would happen if she posted under her own name.

My alma mater has been making a lot of headlines lately, and not for the reasons I’d like. Previously known for being one of the more liberal Christian colleges, highly ranked academically, and encouraging of intellectual inquiry, my college is now making a name for itself in the realm of discrimination and GLBT rights. As an alumni, I’m extremely disappointed in the recent choices the college’s President and Board have made, and I thought I’d talk about my specific experiences with GLBT students at Gordon. Because, yes, they exist.

My freshman year I was assigned a roommate from the south. Her Mom wore slips and talked in…

View original 1,388 more words

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Verse – Life Together

She cleans the floor.
(I clean the ceiling.)
She washes dishes.
(I clean my plate.)
She cooks.
(I report fascinating
stories from the paper.)

I mow the grass.
(She plays in the flower beds.)
I haul the garbage bin to the street.
(She shops.)
I feed the dog.
(Her cat wakes us up
and terrorizes my dog.)

We get along quite well.
(Her list might be different.)

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL

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Marriage – a covenant between…

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - PC(USA) – approved amending its constitution to define marriage as “a covenant between two people.

Click THIS LINK for the New York Times story, “Largest Presbyterian Denomination Gives Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage”.

Many, such as I, welcome this change after many years spent in local and national discussion and debate over the nature of biblical authority, biblical interpretation, and the nature of human sexuality.  This morning passersby on State Highway 41 and Engler Boulevard in Chaska, MN will see two flags flying high at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) flag and, beneath it, a rainbow flag signifying God’s welcome of all.

The church’s re-definition of marriage adds one more enlarging freedom to the Apostle Paul’s list in the Epistle to the Galatians:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, [gay or straight]; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.“- Galatians 3:8 {NRSV].

Thanks be to God.

– Rev. Mr. Gordon C. Stewart, Honorably Retired, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Chaska, MN; March 17, 2015.

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Our Lady of the Crusades Redux


Crusader Madonna and Child courtesy of Via Lucis Photography (Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey)

Crusader Madonna and Child courtesy of Via Lucis Photography (Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey)How differently people of different times view life is masterfully illustrated by Dennis Aubrey’s post . .Dennis Aubrey’s post .

Dennis Aubrey’s post The Throne of Wisdom demonstrates how peoples’ views of life are shaped by their times in history.

During the Crusades, Mary and the Jesus of the Gospels become the authorization for killing Muslims. The executed Jesus of Nazareth becomes the Knight Templar, angrily taking up the sword against the unbelievers. Mary, the iconic “Mother of God” of Catholic and Orthodox Christian veneration, is turned into the Mother of Christian Jihad.

Pictured below is an altogether different Madonna  (12th Century from Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize [Cantal] Photo by Dennis Aubrey) who seems to be looking with horror at what is happening.

Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize (Cantal) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize (Cantal) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

There is a great struggle today over which Madonna to enthrone.  Our Lady of the Crusades is back. For example, click HERE for Sen. Tom Cotton, author of the letter to Iran signed by 47 U.S. Senators, interviewed by CBS host Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.

Thanks to Dennis and P.J. for prompting this post. When we look carefully at where we come from, we sometimes see the darkness today in the clearer light.



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Verse – John 3:16

Steve’s contribution today is on a well-known, often memorized verse of Christian Scripture.

John 3:16

John could have said God loved only
the Hebrews, or, like him, those who
were followers of Jesus. He,
instead, said, God loves not the few,
but the whole world–how can it be?*

(*This insight comes from the Rev. Jim Montgomery, Decatur, Illinois, who is in no way responsible for any errors in this poem.)

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 17, 2015

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The Silencer Debate

“Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday weighed the perceived virtues and dangers of reversing the state’s ban on firearm silencers.Star Tribune, March 13, 2015.

Increasingly we live in separate worlds of perception. We ask ourselves “What am I doing here?”

The committee room at the State Capitol was packed. The committee chair wore a camouflage sports jacket, a visual statement that requires little explanation. Or maybe it does. Hunters wear camouflage. So do soldiers. The firearms industry loves them equally – hunters and soldiers – because the former provides a market in the private sphere while the requirements of war-making guarantee a steady flow from the public trough.

Also before the committee was a proposal to permit guns on the grounds of the State Capitol without first registering with the MN State Department for permission.

It’s confusing why any of us – regardless of how one interprets the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – would want people walking around the State Capitol building with guns. Can someone please explain why that’s a good idea?

On the silencer question proponents argued that silencers were in the interest of firearm users’ health. Silencers lower the decibels and thereby protect the shooter’s ears from the danger of hearing loss incurred by loud noises. Opponents argue that free access to gun silencers is a recipe for more killing, killing more quietly, and expanding the market of gun manufacturers.

The faith tradition – the view from the edge – from which I listen and watch finds all of this more than strange. Not abnormal, but very strange. I’m trying to hear the “still, small voice” translated anew as “a sound of sheer silence” heard by Elijah on Mr. Horeb?

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – I Kings 19:11-13 [New Revised Standard Version]

What are we  doing here?


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Climate change or just weather?

Cyclone PamReading  The Atlantic story – “A Cyclone that Destroyed a Nation” [March 15, 2015] – about the category 5 storm that has left most of Vanuatu’s population homeless, brought to mind our earlier post, Winston Churchill on Climate Departure.

New Zealand and Australia are coming to the rescue with massive aid. The question that hovers over every compassionate relieve and rescue attempt is how many rescues it will take before “we” – the human species – plan differently for habitable habitations that take climate change as inevitable.

“The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are now entering a period of consequences…. We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…” – Winston Churchill

Click A Cyclone that Destroyed a Nation to read the story in The Atlantic. Then chime in on the topic of climate change, weather, and climate departure.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 16, 2015

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Verse – Me, Me, Me

Some reasons are easily told
Why I am always so bold
To speak out the loudest,
To simply be proudest,
And all the attention to hold:

For I am the oldest of four
And no one can come through the door
Who’s nearly as great
Since I’m six foot eight!
However, I must tell you more…

I know that pride is the worst sin.
It besets me day out and day in.
But how can I fight it,
Or try to deny it:
I’m tall, dark, and handsome–and thin!

But most think one eighth of a ton
Is NOT slim, and that I’ve begun
To prevaricate,
And exaggerate,
And really I’m tall, bald, and dumb…

Okay, I admit that I’m fat.
My head is too big for my hat.
I apologize
for all but my size–
My parents at birth gave me that.

[5 limericks for Lent]

- Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 14, 2015

The Shoemaker brothers

The Shoemaker brothers







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Blank Verse: Singing the Old Hymns

When I was 15, Dave was 12,
and Joel was 8, and Jim just 4.
Our Baptist parents went to church
with us in tow four times a week:
for Sunday School and Church, of course,
but also service Sunday night,
impromptu, repetitious prayers
on Wednesdays, choir practice each week
on Thursday nights. We played with friends
from school when we walked home from class,
but church and school and play, repeat
repeat, was our whole life. We four
are almost all retired, and none
are Baptist now, but we still sing
the old-time Gospel hymns–if we
have had enough to drink…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 13, 2015

The Shoemaker brothers

The Shoemaker brothers


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Barack Obama after the Presidency?

Ever wondered what President Barack Obama will do after he leaves office? 

The President’s 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” speech in Selma, Alabama is a masterpiece in the tradition of the Church of the Bridge (see earlier post “The Church as Bridge” on Views from the Edge). Think of the President as pastor-preacher in the prophetic preaching tradition that speaks truth to power, celebrates hope, honors courage, and preaches a gospel that calls us all to cross the Pettus Bridge toward the world for which our hearts yearn.  The President’s speech was, in fact, a sermon rooted in Hebrew and Christian Scripture, freely quoted from memory.

Click HERE to hear the President on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

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Elizabeth and the Pipeline Patriot

Imagine your name is Elizabeth. You’re 64 years old. Your grandparents have left you and your sister an inheritance – farm land – in Storm Lake, Iowa. You and your sister grew up next door to Iowa in Nebraska and, though you now live in another state, you’ve looked on with pride as Nebraska put the screws to the Keystone XL pipeline.

You’re sitting at home. The phone rings. You answer. The voice on the other end represents an oil company from North Dakota.

After you finish talking with the man on the phone, you email your Nebraska high school girlfriends describing the conversation. It reads like this:

Another oil company – Dakota Access, LLC – is planning to run a pipeline from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. They wanted to pay us $16,000 plus three years of crop damage for easement on our Iowa land.

I had a rather funny conversation with the young representative from Texas who was sitting in Storm Lake, Iowa contacting land owners and farmers. When I asked him if it was voluntary, he said, “We are told not to discuss that.” What? (I already knew it was, just wanted to see what he would say.)

So they are telling people that a pipeline is coming and not that they don’t have to do it. I asked him why landowners would want to do this and he said, “Well, for the compensation involved and…for the nation.” I laughed out loud.

Then we talked about the environment and Nebraska and the recent pipeline spill in western North Dakota, and how I thought our leaders better get it together or we were going to destroy the planet. At which time he said, “Maybe we should have a woman president.” He had me for a moment until he said, “21 days a month, my wife is the nicest person on earth.” Seriously. He is from Texas.

We ended the conversation with me suggesting a nice young man like himself should get into the windmill business and then give me a call back. He said he would take me OFF the list, with a note – don’t bother trying to talk to this lady again. Amen brother. (until it turns into eminent domain :(

Happy Valentine’s day to all you women who used to be nice 21 days a month but now….skies the limit.

The conversation is real. It happened to Elizabeth while sitting at home in Princeton, New Jersey. Do I hear a vote for another Elizabeth for President?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2015. Elizabeth’s email, sent originally to her dear friend Kay Stewart, is reprinted here with Elizabeth’s permission. The coloration of the text and the links have been added to the original.

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Verse – After Wine

after wine 
aboard ship

is the
of my
the wine
or from
the sea

is the
full moon
on the
of silver

is the
we found
when younger
bright as
as wine

– Steve Shoemaker, cruising the Caribbean, March 12, 2015

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“Wait a minute!” – Tributes to Fred Craddock

Fred Craddock

Fred Craddock

Fred Craddock, one of America’s great preachers who died last Friday, was honored Sunday by CNN. Click HERE to see the CNN video and written tribute.

In this post on Views from the edge, two other preachers influenced by Fred Craddock share their stories.  The first came by email from McCormick Theological Seminary classmates and friend Harry Strong, recently retired, in Prescott, Arizona:

Fred may have been small in stature, but he was truly a homiletical giant! I still remember sitting with him and Barbara Brown Taylor in a preaching seminar back in 1985 at Kirkridge in eastern Pennsylvania. Fred was talking about the texts in Mark that made you want to interrupt Mark’s narrative and say, “Wait a minute … wait a minute! Mark, you can’t drop that sentence to the middle of the story and then move on!” One I especially remember was Mark 6:48  — “When (Jesus) saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by …” And Fred interjected: “Mark! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! ‘He saw them straining at oars … he came towards them, walking on the sea – and HE INTENDED TO PASS THEM BY???’  Where the heck was he GOING??!!

A second email arrived from Bob Young who once served as Pastor First Presbyterian Church in Enid, Oklahoma. Bob is no retired in Corsicana, Texas:

Fred Craddock lived a block away from me in Enid. I chaired the Fall Festival of Faith for the Council of Churches one year. Fred was our preacher. It was a treat to work with him. We met several times to prepare the liturgy for the services. He often preached at the chapel services of Phillips Theological Seminary where I was an adjunct. He ALWAYS — and I mean ALWAYS — left us as people who knew we had overheard the Gospel again. We laughed and cried and listened with wrapt attention. I hate to admit this, but one time, as he began to preach, I said to myself “I will not let him hook me today. I will just sit here and be stoic.” By the end of the sermon I had tears in my eyes. In my experience he simply could not be ignored. When he preached, barely visible behind a pulpit in that squeaky little voice, everyone listened. Amazing just amazing.

I was at the funeral he preached for a Phillips faculty member who had battled cancer for years. Still gives me goose bumps. A very fine, humble, amazingly gifted and faith-filled gentle man. I have been rereading Cherry Log Sermons and the book of his “parables.” Whew!

Quite independently of each other, Harry and Bob each ended his email by calling attention to Fred Craddock’s Cherry Log Sermons.

Thank you, Fred, for your long ministry of thoughtful humor and tears. “Well done, good and faithful servant….Enter into the joy of your Lord” [Matthew 25:23].

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 11, 2015.

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Shall the meek inherit the earth?

The meek shall inherit the earth, according to the fourth Beatitude of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth” [ Gospel of Matthew 5:5].

Will they?

And, if they will, what kind of earth will they inherit? Will it be worth inheriting?

Will there be….

As in the rest of Jesus’ teachings, the contrary value system of the powerful, the rapacious, and the vested interests is turned on its head. The prevailing fourth beatitude then and now is different, the beatitude that parades under the cover of freedom from government interference:

“Blessed are the indomitable, for they will have title to the planet.”

This morning’s story “Dayton, safety rules get blasted” [StarTribune, p. 1], is a local illustration of the two sets of beatitudes playing themselves out in American public life.

The Minnesota Legislature is muscling in on the power of state agencies in a broad effort to assume more influence on everything from from water quality to health and safety regulations.

A  coalition of Republicans and DFLers from the Iron Range and rural districts say regulators are socking businesses and cities with burdensome, expensive rules in order to keep Minnesota’s water clean of sulfates, phosphorus and other contaminants.

What will be left of the Earth by the indomitable may not be worth inheriting. The StarTribune article goes on to quote a South Saint Paul legislator at a recent hearing, which makes the connection between the need environmental protection and the need for campaign finance reform. “The pollution in the system is money.”

However that may be, one thing is clear. No one owns a planet.

Only the meek deserve the inheritance we’re now wasting — the Earth to which no one owns title.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, March 11, 2015


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flat dry island
cactus aloe yucca
wind blown waves
wind blown trees
always 80 degrees
white sand beaches
cruise ships dock
sails boats yachts
many tropical fish
scuba dive snorkel
tourists shops stores
resturants bars cigars
brightly painted houses
free schools hospitals
hotels windmills golf
time share condos
above ground cemeteries
brightly painted tombs
one happy island

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 11, 2015

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February in America

Our Subaru left Chicago
and used each wheel of 4-wheel drive
to navigate 2 feet of snow.

The ice we saw off Lake Shore Drive
got worse as we drove by Sox Park,
but after 97th Street

the Interstate was dry. We mark
the trip-o-meter: it is set
at zero–so is temperature.

We take I-57 south–
by Memphis the results are clear:
one degree warmer on the route

for every 13 miles we drive.
By Florida (smile!) it’s 75!

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL [written from Central and South America without cell phone access]

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Like beads on a string

This morning’s StarTribune carries a number of stories Views from the Edge ties together like beads on a string. The string is our culture’s addiction to violence.

Bead #1: Madison students protest shooting [Section A,  p. 1 & 5, reprint from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and local Madison high school students marched to the State Capitol where “about 1,500 protested the death of Tony Robinson, 19, who was shot and killed by a Madison Police Officer Friday night.” Tony Robinson was black; the officer is white.

“Madison Police Chief Mike Koval issued an apology on his blog,

Reconciliation cannot begin without my stating ‘I am sorry’, and I don’t think I can say this enough. I am sorry. I hope that, with time, Tony’s family and friends can search their hearts to render some measure of forgiveness.

Protesters honored the urging of the Robinson family that protests be peaceful.

Bead #2: U of Oklahoma kicks fraternity off campus for racial chants [p. 3, re-print from the New York Times]

No sooner had that nation observed the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama than University President David Boren shut down the local chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma. Boren ordered members of the fraternity to remove their things from the frat house by midnight at which time the house would be closed.

The closing came after videos showed a group of young men in formal attire “riding a bus and singing a chant laden with anti-black slurs and at least one reference to lynching.”  A student group calling itself the Unheard Movement had posted the video on YouTube and identified the men as members of the local SAE chapter.

The video contains this message: “This video contains language that is offensive, disrespectful and unacceptable. Even after 50 years after the events that occurred in Selma, Alabama, we will have a reason to march. We as a people have come a long way, but yet still have so far to go.”

Bead #3: Boy shoots girlfriend, kills self  [Twin Cities & Region Section, p. 1]

The 14 year-old girlfriend, who’d been shot in the chest and face, was later alert enough to tell investigators her 15 year-old boyfriend had been “playing” with the gun when it went off accidentally.  After the gun went off, the distraught boyfriend ran outside with the handgun. He was found face down with the gun nearby. According to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office “there are no additional suspects being sought and no specific concern to public safety with regard to this incident.”

The string: American culture’s addition to violence, racism, and guns, and the increasing number of Americans who are joining “the Unheard Movement” to say “Enough!”




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The Church on the Bridge

Pettus Bridge, Selma to Montgomery

Pettus Bridge, Selma to Montgomery

If some churches are like opium dens, others are like Pettus Bridge, the bridge over the Alabama River you must cross to get from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

In the history of America’s civil rights movement, Pettus Bridge and the events of “Bloody Saturday” represent a crossing over from the society addicted to violence, hatred, and war to “the peaceable kingdom” of Isaiah. Think Jesus. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. Think Congressman John Lewis. Think all the anonymous souls who dared to cross the bridge from here to there.

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies — or else? The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” [The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]

I suspect Karl Marx never knew a church like that. What he saw was religion as a tool of the powerful, an ideological overlay on reality to keep their subjects compliant with the existing social order.

The church of the bridge is no opium den. No one is doped up. No one is in a stupor. People don’t go there to hide. It is by nature a place that calls for commitment and action. The Church as Pettus Bridge is spiritually, economically, politically, and culturally revolutionary. It requires far-reaching transformation of people, structures, and systems. It’s a risky place. The church on the bridge requires you to put your whole body, mind, and soul on the line – on the  bridge – fully conscious that the troops the old social order will come after you. It is the church of Jesus and the prophets, and of Paul at his best:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. [Epistle to the Romans 12: 1-2, NRSV]

Every time the Church of the Bridge gathers for worship, the pews are filled with people wearing crash helmets. They expect something real to happen. They expect to make it happen. When they gather around the Lord’s Table for Eucharist, they know what they are celebrating: “the peaceable kingdom”, the City of God on the other side of violence, hatred, and war that puts them on the bridge.




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The Church as Opium Den

Opium Den, Manila, Philippines

Opium Den, Manila, Philippines

In our previous post “Just a Bunch of Hypocrites” we promised further commentary on the American religious landscape. Randy Beckum’s sermon — posted earlier today as “American Sniper, Selma, and Jesus” — followed the courageous preaching examples of William Sloane Coffin and Martin Luther King, Jr. He turned the Chapel of MidAmerica Nazarene University into Annie Dillard’s kind of place where worshipers are learning they’d better bring their crash helmets to church.

Chaplain Beckum’s body language communicates that he knew his sermon wasn’t meeting the standard expectations of the worshipers. There are moments where his hands take the lapel of his sport coat to draw his coat like a shield around him against the arrows coming his way. “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day.” [Psalm 91:5]

So, one wonders, what might they, or other chapels and churches where a certain kind of American-Christian gospel, expect when they gather?

Imagine the Opium Den

The real world is hard. It’s disturbing, if you pay attention to all the bad news, and it’s often personally painful. Sorrowful. We need to be lifted up. Given a reprieve. Assured that all is as it should be, that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”

In many evangelical Protestant churches the messages from the pulpit, the music, and the prayers put people into a Christian nationalist stupor. God, America, Christianity, and Capitalism are like strands of a ball of yarn, indivisibly entangled.

These are the forms of religion the exemplify Karl Marx description of religion as “the opiate of the people.” The opium dens are places folks went to smoke themselves into another world, the temporary illusory high manufactured by the human mind under the influence of opium. The Opium Den – the flights into another world – are escapes from real life that allow the systems and sources of human suffering to continue without conscious criticism and the actions necessary to overcome them.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

– Karl Marx, 1843, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

To the extent that a church serves as a relief valve for the suffering of its adherents and substitutes the amelioration of suffering through charitable programs for addressing the root causes of social suffering, it qualifies for Marx’s critique. Jesus and the Hebrew prophets didn’t fall for the opium den. They turned  to the criticism of Earth, of law, snd of politics…in the name of the God Who is beyond religion itself.  Like the psalmist,they rose above the fear of the terror of the night and the arrow that flies by day. They sound more like Marx than the sermons in the opium den, and they expect the same of their followers.

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American Sniper, Selma, and Jesus

Sometimes, as the saying goes, a preacher goes from preaching to “meddling”. The sermon disturbs the listeners. Chaplain Randy Beckum preached a sermon like that in the Chapel of MidAmerica Nazarene University, a conservative evangelical college in Kansas. Focusing on the way of Jesus and American culture’s addiction to violence, Beckum’s sermon included comparison of the exceeding popularity, according to box office receipts, of American Sniper compared with Selma, the story of the Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King and the non-violent way of Jesus.

Views from the Edge had never heard of Randy Beckum or MidAmerica Nazarene University until this sermon went viral after the university president relieved the preacher of his additional role as Vice President of the MNU Foundation. Some sermons are hard to give and, apparently, they’re even harder to hear. That’s when you know a preacher’s worth his/her salt.



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Just a bunch of hypocrites

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” – George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Many folks who remain in the churches have learned to live with poor sermons. Others have heard them and moved on.

William Sloane Coffin memorial photo

William Sloane Coffin memorial photo

One of those who had given up met one of America’s great preachers one day in a casual encounter.

“I don’t go to church any more.” he said, “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites!” To which William Sloane Coffin replied, “You bet. We are! And there’s always room for one more.”

William Sloan Coffin’s sermons always gave offense. As Chaplain at Yale, it was his pulpit that sparked and led the campus civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War. It was Coffin who presiding at the burning of draft cards. It was this offensive preacher who co-founded Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam and served as leader of SANE/FREEZE, America’s largest movement for global nuclear disarmament. Coffin became Senior Minister of Riverside Church in NYC, one of the nation’s great preaching churches built for Harry Emerson Fosdick, the pacifist preacher thrown out of his previous congregation for sermons that status quo maintainers found offensive.

In the parlance of William Sloane Coffin, the well known statement that “the church is a hospital for sinners; not a museum for saints” [variously attributed to Augustine of Hippo, St. John Chrysostom, Abigail van Buren, and others] might be re-rendered “the church is a hospital for hypocrites; not a museum or a mutual congratulations society for the sinless.”

In a future post Views from the Edge will reflect on the American religious landscape in light of Whitefield’s observation and this retired preacher’s search for a new church home.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 7, 2015.

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Their Blood Runs in Mine

Our friend Dennis Aubrey posted “The Destruction of History” today on Via Lucis, lamenting the latest in the sordid history of religion destroying history and art.

Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey love beauty, history, and the religious architecture of Gothic and Romanesque churches they photograph in Europe. Sometimes, like today, they express a profound despair over the destruction done in the name of religion.

“Now we have word that ISIS has defaced and destroyed artifacts in Mosul, including Assyrian statues of winged bulls from the Mesopotamian cities of Ninevah and Nimrud. Video released by the newest barbarians to assault the cultural history of humanity shows a man using a power drill to deface the works.

“As so often throughout history, the excuse was religion. ‘The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.’  How many times in our work at Via Lucis have we read variations of these words from Catholics, Huguenots, Calvinists, revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, and military leaders?”

Years ago during a sabbatical in St. Andrews, Scotland, the destruction wrought there by my Scottish reformation forebear John Knox and his followers chilled my soul. The people who bred and raised me – Presbyterians of Scottish descent and religious sentiment – did this. They took the commandment to have no other gods as license to destroy, maim, and burn church art and heretics. Their blood runs in mine. Their DNA is mine. And, if confession has any meaning or merit whatsoever, the children of such crimes must say we’re sorry. Really sorry. Repentant. No more destruction. No more following the orders of bully prophets, no matter whose name they claim to honor.

Thank you, Dennis, for your post. On behalf of my ancestors and in the spirit of spirituality of beauty, love, and peace on the other side of destruction, thank you for your artist’s eyes. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for the hope in something better in a barbaric time.

– Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, Presbyterian minister Honorably Retired, Chaska, MN, March 4, 2015.

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Jewish Voices for Peace

Jewish Voices for Peace (“JVP”) asked its constituency to thank those who will pay a price for their public refusal to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before the Joint Session of Congress yesterday. Here’s the letter:

Thank you for taking a principled stance against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s inappropriate speech.

Netanyahu, who has presided over a 23% increase in illegal settlement building and a brutal assault on the people of Gaza that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, should not have been given this platform to speak to US elected leaders.

It was unacceptable for a foreign leader who has repeatedly snubbed US officials to come to Washington to directly challenge President Obama’s diplomatic efforts, promote his own reelection campaign, and try to drag us into war.

Thank you for courageously taking a stand against the speech.

The Board and staff of Jewish Voices for Peace fully recognize the continuing cancer of Anti-Semitism. Like the Prime Minister and Elie Wiesel, they, too, would surely say “Never again!” to the Holocaust (“Shoa”). They, too, are concerned for the survival of Israel. They, too, love Israel, but they love it differently, the way the Hebrew prophets did – in the way that lovers quarrel, critically and self-critically.

U.S. Senator Al Franken (MN) is one of those who yesterday exercised the lover’s quarrel. By not taking his seat, perhaps he could hear the sound of a different clapping from Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Micah.

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

As one of your constituents, thank you, Senator Franken for standing tall for justice,mercy, and humility.


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A Letter to Mr. Netanyahu

Dear Sir,

Speaker Boehner’s invitation, your acceptance, and your appearance today before a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress insult the Office of President here in the U.S. and the American people.

Whether you like our President is beside the point. International protocol is clear: Heads of States deal with other Heads of States. They don’t go around them. The don’t go under them. They don’t instruct their Ambassadors to lie or hide the truth from other Ambassadors while they negotiate with a Speaker of the House. They don’t. And on rare occasions when they do, and when they get caught manipulating and invitation to the floor of the U.S. Congress, thoughtful Americans – regardless of religious persuasion – don’t like it.

Today an estimated 57 Senators and Representatives have chosen not to attend the Joint Session of Congress. Your speech will be broadcast around the world. It will come into our living rooms this morning at 10:45 a.m. EST. You will do your best to convince your listeners that you mean no disrespect for Mr. Obama, that your appearance is not partisan here in the U.S. and has nothing to do with your campaign for re-election in Israel. You will get loud applause from those in attendance because America’s support for the survival and wellbeing of the State of Israel is bi-partisan.

You will not hear criticism of your occupation of the West Bank or your sabotaging of the peace process with Palestinians. You will not hear from the President of the United States who is more attentive to international protocols and the spirit of friendship than his Israeli colleague.

You will not hear the dull thud echoing across America in the homes of those who turn on C-SPAN to watch and hear you. You will speak. But you will not hear.

With all due respect, Sir, today you deserve no respect.


An American Citizen

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 3, 2015

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Nullify ALL Gun Laws! Seriously?

Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R), MN House of Representatives

Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R), MN House of Representatives

The same MN State Representative who made the news for 1) packing a loaded gun in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood and 2) berating a constituent who  asked his support for Governor Dayton’s proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans (click HERE for the CBS new story), is making headlines again.

Heather Martin, Executive Director Protect Minnesota issued the following news release today, March 2, 2015:

Proposal would jeopardize public safety

SAINT PAUL — HF 1289, a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Tom Hackbarth today, is a serious threat to public safety in Minnesota. Cloaked in a nice-sounding name, it is a brazen attempt to fool the public by misnaming a constitutional amendment that would nullify every gun law on the books in Minnesota. “This is not a ‘right to bear arms’ amendment. This a ‘nullify-all-gun-laws’ amendment,” said Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota: Working to End Gun Violence.

“I am incredulous that the same people who passed a law last year to get guns away from domestic abusers are now proposing to repeal that law, and all Minnesota gun laws, by constitutional amendment,” Martens said.

The proposed amendment reads, “The right of individuals to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms, including firearms, knives, other weapons as well as ammunition, components, and accessories for any of them, for defense of life, liberty, self, family, and others, sanctity of dwelling, and for all other purposes, is fundamental and shall not be denied, infringed, or curtailed. Any restriction must be subjected to strict scrutiny. Registration, mandatory licensing, special taxation, fees, or any other measure, regardless of type, manner, or purpose, that suppresses or discourages the free exercise of this right, is void.


(a) The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2016 general election. The question submitted must be:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to protect the right of individuals to keep and bear arms?”

Protect Minnesota will be urging all Minnesotans to voice their strong opposition to this proposed amendment.

How a ballot question is worded often determines its passage or defeat. The proposed MN Constitutional Amendment has nothing to do with the hotly debated Second Amendment right to bear arms of the U.S. Constitution. It’s something else.

My, oh, my, oh, my! Salute the gun manufacturers and pass the ammunition!

M&R Photography

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Slender, cross-eyed, and handsome

The Rev'd George Whitefield

The Rev’d George Whitefield

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” – George Whitefield (1714-1770)

A preacher’s search for a new church home following retirement is often an exercise in sin, a prolonged, prideful discontent with the state of the churches one visits.

George Whitefield seems to have spent his whole ministry offending and displeasing, although the huge crowds he drew outside the church walls lead me question how offensive or displeasing his sermons were.


Perhaps the photograph of this heralded Anglican priest, “the Father of the Great Awakening,” and this PBS documentary description of him illuminate why the preacher who offended and made his hearers displeased with themselves drew the crowds.

“Slender, cross-eyed and handsome, George Whitefield was an Anglican priest and powerful orator with charismatic appeal.”

While others were reading their sermons from prepared manuscripts, George knew that good preaching is different from a public reading at the book store. He memorized his sermons or spoke extemporaneously with gestures considered too dramatic by the more stoic New England preachers. But one suspect there may have been something more to his success. Perhaps his eyes communicated a real human being, someone unable to hide behind being merely slender or handsome, a man whom frail and vulnerable human beings didn’t mind hearing an honest word that offended and or made them displeased with their own posturing games of pretense.

In honor of George Whitefield, a recently retired pretentious Presbyterian preacher worshiped at a nearby Episcopal Church. The word from the pulpit was deliciously real. He didn’t commit the preacher’s sin. He’s going back next Sunday.


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An Axe for the Frozen Sea Inside Us

Writer Franz Kafka discusses books worth reading.

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, The Castle, and posthumously published The Trial and Parables and Paradoxes wound and stab us. They “wake us up with a blow on the head.”  They “open the frozen sea inside us”.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Feb. 28, 2015, in tribute to Franz Kafka.


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The Cock-Fight

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell

Uh, Oh! Cock-fight!!! 

The GOP House and Senate roosters are at it with each other.

And the loser is…national security and the public image of the GOP. There is no hen house in Congress. Ever tried to herd a bunch of roosters? Cock-a-doodle-do and death to Yankee Doodle Dandy.


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How do you know?

How do you know you’re a writer? Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Virginia Wolff might have “known” because other writers, publishers, and Broadway and Hollywood producers heaped praise on their writings. But the operative word is might. Existential knowing is a different sort of knowing.

Like great athletes, composers, and musicians, great writers are rarely satisfied with their work. They are always reaching beyond themselves. Often they operate from the depths of depression, despair, obsessed with death, the dark depths of the human psyche and the world’s instinct toward self-destruction. Some of the greatest – Hemingway, Wolff, Sylvia Plath, and Edgar Allan Poe – do themselves in.

How do you know you’re a writer? Some would say you “know” it existentially by the ebb and flow between times of creativity and nothingness. When I feel down and the well runs dry as a bone, I know existentially…I might be a writer.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN Feb. 28, 2015, inspired by tour of Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida.

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Our Dad would take a bathroom scale
in both his calloused hands and squeeze
200 pounds. He said his boys
should also press their weight. To fail
meant hearing yet again how he
when in the Navy chinned himself
a hundred times a day. His laugh
at photos when he was skinny
before he read the Charles Atlas
booklet reminded each of us
of Dynamic Tension. We’d take
a towel and pull and tug to make
each tiny bicep that we had
grow big to be as strong as Dad.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Feb. 27, 2015

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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

A month in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida, makes clear that history is a strange thing. History is the past, but it’s also the telling of it, the renderings of it. The English language does not distinguish between the two – the past as it was – and the past as remembered and interpreted. Only the interpreted past is available to us.

Historians distinguish between the two with the word ‘history’ (the past) and ‘historiography’, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the study of historical writings or the writing of history”.

Example of ACCORD Freedom Trail plaques

Example of ACCORD Freedom Trail plaques

Most interesting during our one-month stay in St. Augustine were the different historiographies of the Civil Rights Movement.

Tourists in St. Augustine walk past homes and churches with plaques like this one that tell the story of the brave civil rights history of the ’50s and ’60s on what’s called The Freedom Trail.

The casual tourist is unlikely to notice that the Freedom Trail story is not the only one in town. There are two different sets of plaques. The groups that wrote and erected them represent different, often competing, historiographies.

The more prominent set of plaques the define The Freedom Trail were created by ACCORD.  They highlight the role of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The other is the project of a group of local citizens led by the Eubanks family, whose father, the Rev. Goldie M. Eubanks, Sr, was Vice President of the St. Augustine Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whose work predated and continued after the arrival of Dr. King and the SCLC in St. Augustine.

The NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization in America. In the 1950s and ’60s, many civil rights leaders came to regard it as too passive, too conservative. The word ‘Colored’ in its name labelled it as out of touch with Back pride.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) arose as a bolder, more activist organization, although the the SCLC and the NAACP represented by Dr. King and Roy Wilkins, respectively, worked closely together. To the left of SCLC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), arrived on the national scene.

While in St. Augustine, we lived next door to a home on The Freedom Trail identified by ACCORD as important to the Movement in St. Augustine. Some of the men who gathered there every mid-morning until dark seem to identify with Dr. King and the SCLC. Others seem resentful that Dr. King and the SCLC got the praise for the work of Rev. Eubanks, Rev. Thomas, and Dr. Robert Hayling, a courageous local dentist, who paved the way for national media attention to the plight in St. Augustine. The historiography of the latter group is posted on the alternative plaques that focus more on the indigenous leaders who put their lives on the line every day as citizens of St. Augustine.

History and historiography are like that. The four Gospels of the New Testament look at the same time period and events with different memories and different angles on the Jesus story.  The nature of history is that it always leaves itself to interpretation. And the nature of historiography is that it raises the question of the story-teller’s angle.

In light of Dr. King’s later speeches about the intrinsic connection between capitalism, the War in Vietnam, and militarism, it seems a great paradox that it was the Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the largest Department of Defense contractors, that funded the ACCORD project centered on Dr. King. History and historiography are always strange. Always they involve some concoction of our better selves, self-interest, pride, and sometimes, a heavy dose of irony.

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Église Abbatiale Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes (Dennis Aubrey)

Gordon C. Stewart:

Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture is a Views from the Edge favorite because of its ability to synthesize art, history, theology, and social commentary centering on the deeper things of the human spirit and the awe of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. In the midst of this post, Dennis Aubrey draws attention to the lion which appears to be spewing foliage. I proposed to Dennis that perhaps the lion is “eating straw like the ox” in Isaiah 11 and 65, Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable kingdom, an interpretation that seems to go well with the church’s sculptural rendering Jesus’ Parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25.

Église Abbatiale Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes’s Last Judgment scene suggests an artistic interpretation that eliminates the divide between sheep (saved) and goats (damned), a pictorial witness to the final judgment as universal forgiveness and salvation. To enjoy the original, complete with photographs, scroll down and click on “View the Original”.

Originally posted on Via Lucis Photography:

The church of Saint Jouin de Marnes is known as the Vézelay Poitevin, a tribute to its importance and beauty. It was named after a 4th century hermit named Jovinus from Mouterre-Silly near Loudun. Desiring a retired, contemplative life, he settled on a site of a Roman camp near the road from Poitiers to Angers, ten miles southwest of Mouterre-Silly. The site was called Ension and was in the swamps of the river Dives which flows two miles to the east. In 342 he founded an oratory church which attracted a modest religious community. By the time he died in 370, Jovinus had achieved a great reputation for sanctity and miracles. Over the years, his small community grew in importance, but eventually there was another decline.

In 843, however, the monks of Saint-Martin-de-Vertou in Brittany were forced to abandon their monastery by depredations of the Vikings. With the help…

View original 968 more words

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Lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp

Felix's Fish Camp near Mobile, Alabama

Felix’s Fish Camp near Mobile, Alabama

Driving home to Minnesota from Key West, Florida, Kay and I stop for lunch near Mobile, Alabama. Trip Advisor ranks Felix’s Fish Camp the #8 most highly recommended of 581 restaurants in Mobile, right on the waterfront. An old fish shack; our kinda place!

Our waiter has Southern DNA written all over him. His style is the epitome of Southern hospitality: unhurried, gracious, warm, personable, respectful, friendly. “Yes, Ma’am. No, Sir.”

In his late-2os, Brian is very tall. He kneels down beside the table to get acquainted. He introduces us to Felix’s, talks about the menu, asks about our tastes, and zeroes in on the dishes we might like most.

The man in the next booth overhears the conversation.  He’s smiling. Getting to his feet with the help of his cane, he comes by to say hello. Turns out he’s from Duluth, Minnesota, a traditional stronghold of the Democrat Farm Labor Party. He and his wife closed their chiropractor office in Duluth three years ago to retire near his son in Mobile. He asks what brings us here and what we did for a living. He smiles. “You’re a pastor. You like people. What church?” “Presbyterian,” I say.  “I’m a Lutheran,” he says. “What’s your favorite Scripture? Mine is Psalm 91. I learned it as a child and can still recite it from memory.”

Lunch at Felix's Fish Camp, Mobile, Alabama

Lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp, Mobile, Alabama

Brian delivers the fish, topped with fried oyster, shrimp with cheese grits, and side dishes of almond green beans, cheese grits, and turnip greens to die for.

At just the right moment, as skilled waiters do, Brian returns to ask whether we’d like desert, maybe some lemon pie or Key Lime Pie. The lemon is more unique to Felix’s but he thinks perhaps we might prefer the Key Lime.

After the Key Lime pie, we thank Brian for his extraordinary hospitality and service, promise to write a review on TripAdvisor, pay the bill, and say goodbye.

The relocated Minnesota couple leave at the same time. As the four of us walk way out together, our new friend wishes us a safe trip home and then says “Before you go, I have a question for you. Which Republican do you like for 2016?”

His wife grimaces. We just smile. Maybe he’s forgotten that he’s from Duluth, or maybe he’s being playful one last time…or maybe he’s confusing Christian and Republican. We’ll never know. Life is funny like that.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2015


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Privatization: the Death of Public Life

Dennis Aubrey, photographer of great religious architecture, brought to our attention this edgy view from The Guardian on the deleterious effects of privatization on the city of London.

Photo of Europe's tallest building, The Shard, Lorenzo Piano, architect

Photo of Europe’s tallest building, The Shard, Lorenzo Piano, architect

Click The city that privatized itself to death and ponder the meaning of “us” and the political economy of greed in the U.S.A.


Posted in America, Economics, Life, Politics, Social Commentary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hey Chicago, waddya say?

Long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans like Steve Shoemaker are excited about this season. The Cubs look like a serious contender in 2015. The club’s new owners have invited fans to write a new song for home games at Wrigley Field. Steve explains his contribution. “Steve Goodman in 1984 wrote ‘Go Cubs Go’.  It is sung by surprised fans after each Cub win. It does not really fit since Goodman wrote it to ENCOURAGE the Cubs. Instead of writing a new song, here is my revision of Goodman’s classic.” Click HERE for a YouTube video of Steve Goodman’s original Go Cubs Go. Here’s Steve’s new rendition:

Go Cubs Go

Baseball season’s underway
We hope ya got ready for a brand new day!
Hey Chicago waddya say?
The Cubs have gone and won today!

We’re singing:
Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

They got the power, they got the speed,
They are the best in the National League!
Well this is the year and the Cubs are real,
So join us here at Wrigley Field!

We’re singing now:
Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

Baseball time is here again–
We just saw another win!
So stomp your feet and clap your hands!
Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans!

We’re singing now:
Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

Go Cubs, go!
Go Cubs, go!
Hey Chicago, waddya say!
The Cubs have gone and won today!

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Feb. 23, 2015

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