Tax Wall Street speculation

What we forget often hurts us. Sometimes remembering helps turn the tide.

Establishing a 0.03 percent Wall Street speculation fee, similar to what we had from 1914-1966, would dampen the dangerous level of speculation and gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy and reduce the deficit by more than $350 billion over 10 years.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Wealth for the Common Good, a movement of America’s wealthiest people with a conscience, is calling for the same:

Tax Wall Street Speculation

We, the undersigned investors, business owners and executives, call on the President and Congress to institute a modest federal tax on trades of stocks, futures, credit default swaps, and options. This modest levy would dampen speculation that threatens financial markets while also raising more than $150 billion annually in revenue for the US Treasury.

– See more at Wealth for the Common Good

In the run up to the 2016 national elections, citizen support for re-establishing the speculation fee is one specific way to register voters’ desire for economic fairness and democracy.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 25, 2015.

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Verse – Sweep, vacuum, dust

Sweep, Vacuum, Dust
(with presbyopia)

We’re not in a health club–we have no cool shirt.
We don’t go to yoga–nor live in a yurt.
In our house, we clean,
And try to stay lean,
But now with our old eyes, we see much less dirt!

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 24, 2015

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The Day after Earth Day

The day after Earth Day the world is returning to business-as-usual. Which opens the door to a commentary on the nature of the human species within the order of nature, and the way religion supports or belittles the Earth.

Two days ago we posted about a curious and rather humorous dream of Jesus as a patient in the hospital (Jesus in the Hospital).

Some readers likely stopped reading when they saw the name Jesus. Others like or are neutral about or curious to read the story. Yet another group is distraught or confused by the thought of Jesus as a patient in the hospital; it might be okay for him to appear in the dream as the doctor, but the thought of Jesus as a patient seems over the top.

The picture of Jesus in a hospital bed is a day-after-Earth-Day issue, an every day question of how we see ourselves, the world, and Eternity.

A Jesus who was never sick a day in his life, a Jesus without bodily functions, pains, and hungers, a Jesus who didn’t feel the hammer slam his thumb at his carpenter’s bench, is a not one of us. That Jesus is a figment of imagination.

The theological tradition of the church has always insisted on the full humanity of Jesus. His humanity was only half the Chaledonian Formula (fully divine-fully man), but Jesus’ humanity is the starting point for any claim to the formula’s other half: the divinity of Christ. From roughly 70 C.E. until now fanciful representations of Jesus have diminished Jesus’ humanity. The historical Jesus is, in effect, obliterated by a dualism that views spirit and matter as mutually exclusive, as are immortality and morality, eternity and finitude. Jesus wears flesh and blood the way an actor playing a part assumes a costume to draw an audience into the play. In these versions of Christian faith, the bodily Jesus is a disguise for God, but not fully human as we are.

According to Hebrew Scripture the human species is of the earth. The human being is named “adam” (Hebrew for “earthling”). We are one with the dirt, the earth, nature. Likewise, our end is dust. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes” we say at the end, as we do every Ash Wednesday to remind ourselves before the end.

Strangely, the dream I had the other night didn’t seem strange at the time. A friend who knows the Byron who appeared in the dream wrote that she laughed and laughed because “I could totally hear you and Byron having that conversation” about whether a member of the church staff had visited Jesus in the hospital and whether to announce his hospitalization from the pulpit and pray for Jesus in the morning prayers.

The day after Earth Day I still don’t know what prompted the dream. What I do know is that the dream wouldn’t have come without a deep sense of Jesus as flesh and blood, an “adam” like us.  Only a deeper appreciation of our complete oneness with nature will open our eyes to the real Jesus, the real us, and the sacredness of creation. Matter is not evil; matter is sacred.

Jesus in the hospital is a game changer – a view of human frailty and mutual dependence in a world that too often confuses the goal of religion as the escape from mortality, the soul’s release from the prison of material existence. This dualism is notably errant and it is dangerous to the planet.

Earth is in the hospital. Will we work and pray for healing – a kind of planetary resurrection? Or will we go back to a deadly dualism – business-as-usual – the day after Earth Day?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2015.

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Verse – And now they both have Ph.Ds

Well, everyone liked him, but she
had only been 16, (“Almost
was 17!” she still would say),
when he met both her parents first
and said, “Yes, I am 25,
but can I take your daughter out?”

They made him wait six months, and have
what then was called a double date,
and bring her back by ten. But when
she was in college and told them
it’s his ring on her finger, then
they almost made her stay at home.

He promised she would graduate,
and so they set their wedding date.
In spite of strong parental fears,
they have been married for ten years.

[For M and K, whose life has been
only somewhat like this.]

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 23, 2015

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Jesus in the Hospital

Jesus is in the hospital.

I had one of those nocturnal throw-back dreams retired people sometimes have.

It’s a Sunday morning. I’m the Senior Minister just returned from being out-of-town. The other ministerial staff and I are robing for worship. Though I’m the preacher for the morning, I am totally unprepared.  In addition, I remember that we are scheduled to receive new members from the new members class during worship. I ask Byron (a wonderful former colleague who shows up in the dream) for an update. He is clueless. He fears the members of the class haven’t been notified. Perhaps no one will be joining, though the reception of new members is clearly listed as part of the morning Order of Worship. We wonder how to handle an embarrassing situation.

Then Byron says, “Oh…and I just learned Jesus is in the hospital.”

“Which hospital?”

“I think it’s Star,” he says.

“What’s Star? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Oh,” says Byron, “it’s a private wing of Christ Hospital for public figures concerned about their privacy.”

“When was he admitted, and why? What’s the diagnosis?

“I don’t know; I just learned of it a moment ago from John (the custodian).”

“Well… what should we do?  The congregation’ll be shocked, but we should announce it. We should remember Jesus in the Prayers of Church, don’t you think?”

The idea of Jesus being in the hospital didn’t strike me as that strange in the dream, but it did pose its own kind of curious scenario. I’d never imagined Jesus sick. I wonder if Jesus was ever in the hospital? There was something strangely comforting about the thought of Jesus in the hospital, one of the flock for whom  we could pray.

Dreams, they say, are ways the subconscious works on things the conscious mind dares not address. What if Jesus had died in the hospital?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 20, 2015.

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The Race to the White House 2016

Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton are taking their places in the starting gates for the horse race to the White House in 2016. Smiles and frowns all around, emails asking “Are you IN?“with a request for money from the partisan Yea-Sayers and Nay-Sayers. But the fact is that every horse they ride – conservative and liberal – is owned by Wall Street.

Painting of Governor Floyd B. Olson

Painting of Governor Floyd B. Olson

I’m not “IN” until a candidate rides a different horse into the starting gate. Until someone acts and sounds like Floyd B. Olson.

Click What would Floyd B. do? to find a candidate who puts them all the declared candidates to shame.

Floyd B. Olson was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He was the first third party candidate elected Governor of Minnesota as the candidate of the progressive Farmer-Labor Party. Years later the Farmer-Labor Party joined with the Democratic Party to form the Democratic Farm-Labor Party (DFL).

I am not a liberal. I am what I want to be — a radical,” said Governor Olson to the 1934 Farmer-Labor party convention. A radical is not an ideologue. It’s a person who insists on going to the root of things. Olson was the nemesis of Wall Street, a champion of the people.

The Farmer-Labor party, a loose and, at times, tenuous coalition of farmers, workers, socialists, isolationists and progressives, coalesced around the idea that working together they would bring about a fairer distribution of income for themselves and increase social justice for the larger society. – Russell Fridley, Minnesota Law & Politics.

If and when someone like Floyd B. Olson rides a different horse into the starting gate for the 2016 White House horse race, I’ll be IN with both feet.  Until then, I’m not IN.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 18, 2015.

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Verse – House Concert

House concert(April 17, Michael Hammer
piano)

so many keys played carefully
one at a time or recklessly
in clumps in chords in runs in scales
hands bouncing fingers waggling trills
yet knowing each composer’s need
for a performer’s sloth or speed
for piano or fortissimo
to Hammer or to gently go

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 18, 2015

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Liberation Limerick

It’s sexist, demeaning, though hard to explain
That a positive adjective can be a pain:
The papers we scan
Don’t say Jane’s handsome man,
It’s always Joe Blow and his lovely wife, Jane.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 16, 2015

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Verse – Annals of Aging, No. 14

On Snoring

I wake and my lips are all chapped,
My sinuses completely stopped.
Breath through my nose is what’s missing.
My biggest regret: no kissing.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 15, 2015

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Verse – A Cliche Expanded

What I believe
and state firmly
does not matter
nearly as much
as my actions
in revealing my
character.

Who I am
can be seen:
much more clearly
by observers
than learned by
hearers or readers
of my words,
so carefully chosen.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 12, 2015

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Verse – Buzzkill

Buzzkill

Five in a line in our family
(all of them females, of course),
have the name Bee in the middle
(between their last and their first.)

Half of the bees in our country
died over winter last year.
One out of three of our foodstuffs
need bees or will disappear.

Einstein may not be who said it
(no one has proved it was he),
that we will die, yes, each family
within two years of the bee.

We need more prairies and fruit trees,
(that are not sprayed from above.)
Honey from new hives can happen:
we need to give bees our love.

[written in 9 minutes early this morning after hearing a PechaKucha 20-slides-each-20 seconds talk last night by Urbana, Illinois, beekeeper Maggie Wachter at a Sola Gratia Farm dinner.]

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 12, 2015

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“Minnesota Nice” and Better – John Skogmo

Minnesotans are known for Minnesota Nice, a phrase that describes Minnesota’s Scandinavian culture of civility. Sometimes Minnesota Mean lies just below the surface. Other times civility and gentleness pervade a person’s character. John Skogmo was Minnesota Nice at its best. There was no meanness in him.

Minnesotans also don’t like fanfare. That Minneapolis is called “the little apple” refers not only to the city’s size compared to “the Big Apple” but also to Minnesotan’s disdain for big splashes, big stages, and floodlights. ‘Ego’ and ‘Minnesotan’ belong together in the Thesaurus as antonyms.

Working back stage behind-the-scenes is what Minnesotans are about at their best.  John Skogmo’s obituary, laced with subtle humor, is a great tribute. John was a man without guile; his faith was the foundation of the quiet stature universally recognized by his family, friends, church, and work colleagues.

Obituary, published April 12, 2015 [highlights added by VFTE]

John Gunderson Skogmo died April 4, 2015 of cancer. Born in Fergus Falls, MN, July 15, 1947, to James Bertram and Joyce Shirley Skogmo.

John found his calling at age nine, reading his father’s issues of Kiplinger’s financial magazine. He became fascinated with compounding interest and saw the benefits of delayed gratification. As a teenager he ran a concession that sold popcorn, cotton candy, and caramel apples at local events. At the end of the day he laundered money-at the kitchen sink, to get the sugar and grease off his cash intake. He used his earnings to buy shares in the Security State Bank of Fergus Falls and was frequently excused from school to attend shareholders’ meetings.

After graduation he left for the Cities to attend Macalester College, where he received a treasured liberal arts education. He earned a J. D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1972 and went to work immediately in the three-person legal department at Northwestern National Bank. Except for a summer at the Cornell University School of Business as a 1978 Bush Foundation Fellow and the bank’s temporary displacement by the 1982 fire, John spent his entire career at the corner of 7th and Marquette, as NWNB became Norwest and then Wells Fargo. He was fortunate to work in several departments before finding his true home in 1989 in Wealth Management, where he applied his stellar relationship skills to helping individuals and families. He was set to retire in June 2015 after 43 years with the bank.

John Skogmo’s volunteer work, much of it behind-the-scenes, helped assure the solvency and stability of some important organizations. As a trustee of Macalester College, he reinvigorated the Alumni Fund at a critical juncture. He worked with Artspace to maintain affordable housing and workspace in gentrifying neighborhoods and was instrumental in establishing the Cowles Center. He served as president of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library and was appointed by the city council to the Minneapolis Community Development Agency.

His proudest achievement was his long-term service to Westminster Presbyterian Church as a deacon, trustee, elder, and treasurer. John’s was the voice of prudence in many crucial financial decisions, and his steadfast leadership earned respect for Westminster’s endowment as one of the most wisely managed church funds in the country.

He was predeceased by his parents and a grandniece, Lily Irene Martyn, and is survived by Tom Morin, his partner of 32 years and husband of 1 year; his sister, Shirley Nelson; niece Sharri Martyn and her daughter Claire; nephew Trevor Steeves (Jana) and his children, Elizabeth (Kyle) and Joshua; half-brothers Phillip Skogmo (Yukiko) and David Skogmo (Linda); two aunts and many cousins. Memorial service on Friday, May 1, 2015, at 3:00 PM, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette, Minneapolis. Reception following at the Minneapolis Club. Memorials preferred to Westminster or donor’s choice. No Flowers Please. www.Washburn-McReavy.com Edina Chapel 952-920-3996.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 13, 2015

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Verse – Rising Early

Our April morning
sky, ribbed in violet,
now becomes

magenta fading into
dusty blue without
a single white cloud

to distract our horizon gaze
waiting for our spinning
globe to show the sun.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 12, 2015

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The Day the School Burned Down

“Where were you on April 9, 1956?” The answers are pouring in from the Class of 1960.

Marple-Newtown Junior High-Senior High School Fire, April 9, 1956

Marple-Newtown Junior High-Senior High School Fire, April 9, 1956

We were in the 8th grade of Marple-Newtown Junior-Senior High School. On that day we were eating lunch, getting ready for our next class when the fire alarm sounded. Must be a fire drill. We knew the drill. So did the teachers. The teachers led us outside, hand-in-hand in the continuous line processional we’d learned in those ridiculous fire drills. The school was going up in flames.

One of my classmates, Dave, remembers it this way:

The Boys’ Room was crowded with guys smoking cigarettes before class, the air was filled with a cloud of tobacco smoke and smells, so we didn’t have any indication that a fire was building below the first floor. Hearing the fire alarm, we stepped out into the hallway to see a trickle of smoke rising from each plank of the hardwood flooring. Seeing that smoke, we knew that the school and the students were facing a serious fire emergency. An orderly evacuation began and although it was a cold day, no one was permitted to go back to their homerooms for their coats.

To a chorus of cheers, we all stood outside shivering for what seemed to be a long time and watched the fire fully consume the building. To a chorus of boos, the fire trucks finally arrived and the volunteer firemen had trouble hooking up the hoses and getting water on the destructive blaze.

The school building was obviously a total loss and since I was cold, I decided to hitchhike home. It was about lunchtime, when I arrived home. My mother immediately descended on me, “…why are you home, are you playing hooky and where is your leather jacket?” “No,” I said. “It wasn’t my fault,” I blurted out, before feeling the back of her hand across my face. “Tell me the truth,” she demanded. I said,”the school burned down,” just before getting a fresh one on the other cheek.

One of the memories we share is the picture of Mr. Harvey, still inside the building, handing the typewriters out the upstairs window from his typing class to Seniors who were ascending and descending a firetruck ladder to save the typewriters until he had to come down himself to loud gasps and cheers.

Fred, remembers being “in typing class a year later using one of those ‘saved’ machines with melted keys.”

Ellie, who wasn’t in the building when the first started, adds something else:

I was approaching the school entrance after lunch at the pizza shop and was met by students rushing out to safety. Still remember that once we were all assembled by homerooms Mr. Rathey went tearfully from group to group checking whether we were all accounted for.

What a surreal day!

Mr. Rathey pointing

Mr. Rathey pointing

The miracle is that we all made it out safely. Before Mr. Rathey, shown here pointing to the school, could see his charges walk across the stage at graduation, he was diagnosed with cancer. The Class of 1960 presented him with a gold watch at his early retirement. Ellie reminded us today of Mr. Rathey’s tearful care on the day the school burned down and in the years that followed.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 9, 2015.

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When it rains…

… it sometimes pours.

News came today of the death of John, followed hours later by news of the death of Jerry, and the impending demise of two more friends. Life is like that, or so I tell myself. But it doesn’t help much, if at all, because grief has its own way. Grief wends its course through the soul the way a river eventually ignores the man-made routes and dams imposed to keep it in its place. Nature always wins.

Loss is always hard, even for those who believe, as the Creed does, “in the life everlasting.” I look to the presence of the Eternal in this life, this side of death, this side of my mortal end, as the heart of things, knowing that love continues, no matter how many deaths and sorrows it suffers.

On days like today when it pours, a familiar hymn often sings itself in me, and I am strangely comforted.

“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away, we fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.

“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; be Thou our Guide while life shall last, and our eternal Home.”

I pray the same comfort for John’s and Jerry’s spouses, relatives and friends, and for the readers of Views from the Edge, in whatever circumstance you find yourself tonight.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 8, 2015.

 

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Verse – My Familiar Voice

Her voice is low and very resonant,
but now, with age, I often cannot hear
each word. She rightly takes offense at that
and thinks me inattentive. If my ear
is turned away, or if I do not see
her moving lips, the sounds are often lost.
For other women there is jealousy
since I can hear them fine. It is not lust
for at the string trio tonight, the sound
of violin was clear, cello was round,
but viola was lost in the background…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL April 8, 2015

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The Choir – emblem of hope in a world at odds with itself

Listen in on John Rutter, one of the world’s great composers, discuss the choir as “a kind of emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself….”

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Verse – The Male

When I am mowing grass between
the growing Christmas trees,
I often see the red-winged bird
perched high observing me.

If I turn the loud mower off
I’ll hear his scolding cry
a Konk-la-ree, a Konk-la-ree,
and then away he’ll fly.

Is he critiquing how I mow?:
Hey you there! Watch-that-tree!
No, there’s a female nesting near,
Come-to-me, Come-to-me…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 6, 2015

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The Tree of Life and the Other Tree

Something happened in church yesterday on Easter. Call it an “aha” moment.

Hidden away in the first reading of Easter is a curious reference that draws no attention: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him…” [Acts of the Apostles 2:5]. Yesterday the “tree” shined like a diamond attracting full attention.

The reference to “a tree” seemed strange. This wasn’t a lynching in Mississippi – they hadn’t hanged him from a tree. It was a crucifixion. The Roman cross was made of wood, but why would Peter call it a tree? Unless, perhaps, the tree calls something else to mind, a reference point within Hebraic scripture and theology that puts the cross in the greater light of a tree. Like the stories of creation and fall in Genesis 1 and 2.

There are three references to a tree in the Genesis narrative.

The first is from the third day of creation:

“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.” [Gen. 1:11-12]

The second reference juxtaposes two trees. One gives life. The other is the tree of death.

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” [Gen. 2:8-9]

The third reference describes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as the one tree that is forbidden in the garden:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen. 2:15)

It is always the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that gets us into trouble. It is the tree of divine presumption. Hubris. The tree that produces not life but death. It destroys, almost always in the name of goodness, and what goodness seeks to kill is evil. The knowledge of good and evil is beyond human capacity.

The Jesus who is hanged from this killing tree exposes the folly of the tree on which he hangs. As foe to the global imperial claims of the Roman Empire, his killing tree becomes for one and all the tree of life.  On the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the crucified-risen One becomes the tree of life, “yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind; and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”

Perhaps that’s the rich history, the diamond, that shines like a diamond in the Easter text from The Book of Acts. No one would know the juxtaposition better than Peter, the only disciple to deny knowing Jesus, and the only disciple specifically named in the instructions to the three women at the empty tomb: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him… [Gospel of Mark 16:7]

Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; The third day he was raised again from the dead” [Apostles’ Creed]. And by this fruit of creation restored is all creation blessed.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 6, 2015

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A Verse for Easter

Readers unfamiliar with Christian scripture will find it helpful to learn that the original Gospel of Mark ended abruptly and curiously, not the way one would expect good news to end. Upon discovering the stone rolled away from the tomb and the tomb empty, Mark ends not with triumphal joy but with fear. “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for fear and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Here’s Steve’s verse for Easter:

The Short Ending of Mark

Most scholars think that first came Mark,
then Matthew, or perhaps St. Luke,
but Mark is shortest of the three
and it takes work for brevity.

The empty tomb is found in Mark,
but in the first draft of the book
no resurrected Christ appears–
his followers are left in fear.

The Gospels four all tell the tale
of thousands fed by miracle,
but only Mark will tell it twice–
this Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Young Mark assumes from Chapter One
that Jesus is the Son of God
the Christ-Messiah, Holy One.
His faith was fed by wine and bread.

Mark must believe that doubts and fears
can turn to trust when he appears.

[Mark 16:1-8]

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 5, 2015

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Do unto others…

It’s not often we follow up of Steve’s poems. But today’s post (“Verse – Indiana”) on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) merits further comment on Holy Saturday.

some so-called Christians change the
Golden Rule:
Do unto others what hate did to you.

Steve and I are both Presbyterian ministers. We’re Protestants. We’re not proud of it; it’s just who we are. At this point in his life, Steve restricts his social commentary to poems and verses.

Here are the earlier stanzas of of “Indiana” that succinctly set the Indiana religious Freedom Restoration Act in its ironic historical context:

To America came the Protestants.
In England they could not live
as they would.
They were despised by ruling residents
and fled to freely worship their own God.

Conservatives want to preserve the past,
forgetting which side they were on…
They now
discriminate against those who resist
and say, “To your beliefs we will not bow.”

Tomorrow Steve will celebrate Easter in Illinois. I will celebrate Easter in Minnesota. The symbol of the stone rolled away will be front and center. There can be no hate at the empty tomb. Governor Pence and legislators, pay close attention. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s hard to believe they didn’t know what they were doing, but in the sense in which the prayer from the cross was uttered, they really didn’t know`1.

 

Posted in America, Discrimination, Faith, Poetry, Religion, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Verse – Indiana

To America came the Protestants.
In England they could not live
as they would.
They were despised by ruling residents
and fled to freely worship their own God.

Conservatives want to preserve the past,
forgetting which side they were on…
They now
discriminate against those who resist
and say, “To your beliefs we will not bow.”

Instead of helping people to be free
to live and love as God made them to be,
some so-called Christians change the
Golden Rule:
“Do unto others what hate did to you.”

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 4, 2015

Posted in America, Discrimination, Poetry, Religion | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A memory of Ken

The first Good Friday following retirement from active ministry is filled with the memory of a friend named Ken.

On Good Fridays from 2006 through 2013 Ken Beaufoy was the one member of the congregation I could count on to be with me in the Chapel from noon to 3:00 p.m. There were years when there were three or four. But most Good Fridays, it was just the two of us.

The pattern for the three-hours was very simple. Each half-hour began with a reading from the passion narratives of Gospels. A five minute silence followed, ending with a movement from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. A brief prayer was spoken aloud. Another contemplative silence ended the half-hour segment.

There were times when I looked at Ken and felt as though I knew him the way his beloved wife, Ilse, had known him. Isle had been the third person in the pews before her death in 2007. Ken and Ilse were like no other couple I’d ever known and not only because theirs was the most unlikely of loves. Ken, a British soldier during the occupation of German following the end of World War II, and Ilse, a German soldier decorated with the German Silver Cross for bravery, fell in love during the occupation and made a life together against all odds. Their marriage was a sign of the power of reconciling forgiveness and love.

Two people never adored each other more than Ken and Ilse. During Ilse’s demise, when hope was scarce and hard decisions were made, I saw Ken’s faith up close and personal in his Good Friday moment of saying goodbye to his Ilse. As often happens between a pastor and a congregant, we became blood brothers until Ken died quietly in his sleep.

Today I’m remembering Ken and those six half-hour segments in the Chapel. I read the readings, listen to the movements of Faure’s Requiem – Introit et Kyrie, Offertory, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei et Lux aeterna, Libera me, and In Paradisum – pray the prayers, and give thanks for a communion deeper than words. It still endures.

 

 

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Mom’s Handkerchief – Good Friday

As a child, I wondered why they called Good Friday ‘good’. It wasn’t. It was awful.

At the annual Good Friday service my mother’s cheeks were wet. She’d hold her handkerchief in one hand and, without drawing attention to herself — Mom was shy and shunned attention — she would dab the tears, hoping no one would notice.

A soloist would sing:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when the crucified my Lord? Oh……
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Mom would dab her cheeks and eyes.

As I grew older I began to understand why they called the Friday of the crucifixion ‘good’. It wasn’t good because they nailed him to the tree, or because they took him down and laid him in a borrowed tomb. It was good because, in that deep darkness, tears fall in grief and in hopes of something else. Tears that recognize both the betrayal, denial, flight — our  own and others’ – and the steadfast love, courage, and magnanimity of the man on the cross.

Both sides of the human condition are front and center on Good Friday. So is the sense of god-forsakenness – the wrenching cry from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) — the gnawing feeling of senselessness, meaninglessness, and helplessness, hanging alone, tortured and mocked, over the abyss of nothingness.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a healthy sense of denial is sometimes a good thing. So is truth-telling. Good Friday brings me face-to-face with myself at my worst and my best. And at the heart of it all is a man with arms spread wide, looking out at us who still crucify him — ours is a Good Friday world — with eyes that reach my soul. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

On Easter Mom would dab her eyes for joy because she’d brought handkerchief with her from Good Friday.

— Gordon C. Stewart. Chaska. MN, April 3, 2015.

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Even our best intentions…

As Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog croaks that it’s not easy being green, today reminds me that it’s not easy being right, whatever “right” is.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) recently amended the Church’s constitutional definition of marriage as a commitment between two people. It was a good day for those of us who have discussed, debated, and advocated for full inclusion over the last 40 years.

It represents something akin to the civil rights movement – institutionalization of the same ethic that refused any longer to deny equal rights to African-Americans in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was the right thing to do.

But nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Collateral consequences accompany every controversial decision, and sometimes those collateral consequences place us in conflict between two highly prized commitments.

No sooner did the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitutional change make the news than the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) announced its decision to break fellowship with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Click HERE for the story. The NBCI claim that the PC(USA) has abandoned or “manipulated” sacred text is not a new charge, but it’s a mistaken one. Said NBCI’s President, the Rev. Anthony Evans:

“No church has the right to change the Word of God. By voting to redefine marriage PCUSA automatically forfeits Christ’s saving grace. There is always redemption in the body of Christ through confession of faith and adhering to Holy Scripture.

“In this case, PCUSA deliberately voted to change the Word of God and the interpretation of holy marriage between one man and one woman. This is why we must break fellowship with them and urge the entire Christendom to do so as well.”

But the PC(USA) did not alter Scripture. It amended its understanding of the Word of God, as we did when we repented of the biblically acceptable practice of slavery. Scripture and tradition without the guidance of the Holy Spirit are not the sine qua non of the Christian faith. It was and is through the guidance of the Spirit of the Living God that we are called to read the Bible through the eyes of Christ, the eyes of love and human dignity, to bring the church and society into a greater light.

It seems, as best I can tell, that there are two grounds on which opposition to the PC(USA)’s full embrace of GLBT members is based. One is psychological (fear). Whenever fear appears, we are called to be compassionate. To understand and walk in the fearful one’s shoes. The second ground is intellectual, as in arguing against biblical interpretation. To argue that one’s biblical literalism is the only faithful reading of the Bible is intellectually dishonest. It’s buried in denial, but it no less intellectually dishonest if it were spoken from unfettered consciousness.

Life is messy. Theology, ethics, and morality are messy. Every decision is contextual, and in that complex set of competing claims and valued, we stand responsible for our decisions of interpretation, faith, and action.

The “breaking of fellowship” by the National Black Church Initiative and its 36,000 African American congregations cuts to the bone of a church for whom racial justice and reconciliation has long been a mandate of the gospel of Jesus. Racism is America’s great sin. Its forms are personal and institutional.

The PC(USA) Confession of 1967 declared the ending of discrimination as of first important to the church’s mission of reconciliation, a confession of faith we now apply to discrimination against the GLBT community.  Section 4 on Reconciliation in Society, begins as follows:

In each time and place there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act. The church, guided by the Spirit, humbled by its own complicity and instructed by all attainable knowledge, seeks to discern the will of God and learn how to obey in these concrete situations. The following are particularly urgent at the present time.

a. God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love he overcomes the barriers between brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all men to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize their fellowmen, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.

It was in that same spirit of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ that the Presbyterian Church (USA) slowly moved over the last 40 years to the position of full inclusion of GLBT members, culminating in the marriage amendment.

It’s not easy being green. It’s not easy being right, whatever right means, especially when one right creates another wrong, or is perceived as sin.

This Wednesday  of Holy Week, we once again move with Jesus toward the cross. Green, black, white, yellow, red, and brown, straight and gay; the certain and the confused. Sin is everywhere, even in our best intentions, and often it hides in the corners of our own claims of righteousness. Only a vast love and mercy can overcome the gulfs of estrangement that divide us. Some sins are plain to us, some escape us, some we cannot face. Even our best intentions…. Johan Hermann’s text “Ah Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended” (1630) set to music by Johann Cruger’s “Herzliebster Jesu” (1640) is a heartfelt prayer for the whole Church and for the world itself as we move through confession on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday toward Easter this Holy Week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus and Indiana’s Religious Freedom law

Yesterday, March 31, Christian Theological Seminary released President Matthew Myer Boultons statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The statement represents the official position of the CTS Board of Trustees. Views from the Edge is pleased to re-print it today:

“Christian Theology Seminary (CTS) believes deeply in religious liberty. But we witness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth — the one every Christian disciple seeks to follow — calls us not to a freedom to exclude, or a freedom to discriminate, or a freedom to create an atmosphere where prejudice may flourish. On the contrary, again and again, Jesus calls us to a freedom of inclusion, equality, justice, and profound respect for the dignity of all.

“CTS opposes this act, then, not only because it represents an offense to the spirit of civil rights; not only because it cuts against the best of Hoosier hospitality; and not only because it has created a public relations crisis for the state of Indiana. CTS opposes RFRA primarily because it violates the Christian values we hold dear: values of inclusion, equality, justice, and the dignity of all people, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

“The Christian Gospels are replete with examples of these values. In the Gospel According to Luke, in response to the command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ a lawyer asks Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ It is a clannish question, a question that seeks to draw a circle around one group we are required to love and serve, creating another group we supposedly may exclude as outsiders.

“But Jesus will have none of it. In his response — the parable of the Good Samaritan — Jesus flips the question on its head, as if to say, ‘Don’t waste your time asking the clannish question of who your neighbor is; instead, go and BE an excellent neighbor, serving all with mercy and justice.’

“Three weeks ago, I was a keynote speaker at a church service rallying against RFRA. In conversations afterward, many of us who attended, including some of the event’s organizers, lamented that it appeared the bill was headed for passage. I take heart today at the bipartisan, statewide, nationwide outcry against this unwise, unjust legislation. And I continue to be inspired by the many Christians and other religious people who stand against RFRA as a matter of faith, conviction, and genuine religious liberty.

“Real damage has been done, but together we can and must begin the work of repair. Indeed, for Christians, as we move ever deeper into Holy Week, we can only be challenged and encouraged that God is a God of hope and resurrection.”

Matthew Myer Boulton
President and Professor of Theology
Christian Theological Seminary

NOTE: Christian Theological Seminary, an ecumenical seminary of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and its neighbor, Butler University, founded and co-host the Desmond Tutu Center.  The Desmond Tutu Center is North America’s only academic center in a university and seminary context named for Archbishop Emeritus Tutu. The center, launched on September 12, 2013, focuses on leadership development in social justice and reconciliation, international relationships, and interreligious bridge-building. South African churchman, theologian, and anti-Aparteid leader Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak is the Tutu Center’s Executive Director.

FURTHER PERSONAL NOTE: Matthew Myer Boulton is the son of  Wayne and Vicki Boulton whose friendship has blessed us since Wayne and I met as roommates in 1964 at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.  Steve and I  could not be prouder of Matt’s leadership and witness for justice and peace.

 

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Disciples of Christ opposed Indiana RFRA

Before the national hubbub about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leaders sent this letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence urging him to veto the the bill.

March 25, 2015

The Honorable Michael R. Pence
Governor of the State of Indiana
200 W. Washington Street, Room 206
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Dear Governor Pence,

We write with respect to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). We urge you to veto the bill.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been headquartered in Indianapolis for nearly 100 years. Although Butler University is no longer affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), its founder, Ovid Butler, was a Disciple and a noted abolitionist. The college, in keeping with our values, admitted women in a time when that was rare. We are the church that founded Christian Theological Seminary. Our offices are located on North Meridian. Our Indiana regional offices are located in Indianapolis as well.

Every two years our general assembly, a gathering of over 6000 people from across the United States and Canada, is held in a US city. In 2017 it is scheduled to be in Indianapolis as it was in 2009 and 1989. Like so many other host cities, we find Indianapolis to be a hospitable and enjoyable location for our people. Many of our leaders are citizens of this city, and we take particular pride when our selection process makes it possible to bring the assembly to our home town.

However, the recent passage in the state legislature of the RFRA bill is distressing to us. It is causing us to reconsider our decision to hold our 2017 gathering in Indianapolis.

Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith – as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great.

As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him.

We are particularly distressed at the thought that, should RFRA be signed into law, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.

We are following closely the progress of this legislation. It will be a factor in whether we continue with our plans to hold an assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. We urge you to veto the bill.

Respectfully,

Sharon E. Watkins  Julia Brown Karimu, President    Ronald J. Degges, Pres. Gen.Minister & Pres.     Div. of Overseas Ministries    Disciples Home Mission

After Governor Pence signed the bill, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) took further action reported by The Huffington Post. Click “Disciples of Christ Church Threatens a Boycott Over New Law … that Allows GLBT Discrimination” to read the story.

Sometimes disciples of Jesus stand up for the rule of love. Do I hear hands clapping for the Disciples of Christ?

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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.

Amen.

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
retire
at last from waitressing–what will
she do?

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

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.

 

 

Posted in America, Politics, Religion, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

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.

Posted in America, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

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

INTRODUCTION TO THE OPEN LETTER

“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
Sojourners

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
Co-founder
Transform Network

Rev. Michael McBride
Pastor
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
Director
School for Conversion

Jim Wallis
President and Founder
Sojourners

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

Ken Wytsma
President
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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The Punishment and Rescue of the Talkative

You’re reading a blog post. Blogging is talking. Sometimes it’s downright t-a-l-k-a-t-i-v-e. Chatty. Pointless. Silence is to be preferred to word pollution.

Two photographs in The Wood of Our Lady, Dennis Aubrey’s Via Lucis post, give reason to talk about talkativeness. Open the link and scroll down near the bottom to see two capitals: 1) two figures with their heads in their hands, weeping, and 2) what Dennis calls “The Punishment of the Talkative”.

The weeping figures of 12th century Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité strike a chord of familiarity.  How many times a day does the news cause us to put our head in our hands in despair? But “the punishment of the talkative” capital evokes no such sympathy. It strikes us moderns as barbaric, the art of a Christian first-cousin of ISIL with grotesque figures excising the tongue of the talkative. Yet it served to remind the worshipers in the 12th century, as it still does in its startling way, that talkativeness is no virtue. Words are sacred. Dennis Aubrey puts it this way:

Perhaps the most famous capital represents the punishment of the talkative, presumably by excising the tongue with tongs. I don’t know if this condemns lying, calumny, or verbal abuse, or if it is a more generalized censure of chattiness or language in general. While this punishment somehow seems fitting for the slanderers who fill our public lives, I would prefer these thoughts of Voltaire, … les anges m’ont tué par leur silence. Le silence est le just chatiment des bavard. Je meurs, je suis mort. “The angels have killed me with their silence. Silence is the just punishment for the talkative. I’m dying. I’m dead.”

It was poet Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, whose first published book (1918) was titled The Madman, who used words to say, “I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerative from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

Thank you, Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey for bringing the teachers to light.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 20, 2015.

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