Drinking Drano — Who Will Pump America’s Stomach?

It ends before a paragraph is written. Anything I might say seems so obvious. Trite. I feel like Chicken Little! How many times can I warn that “the sky is falling!”? Why bother?

Once a preacher always a preacher? The people I most want to reach are professing Christians who leave me gasping for air: the part of the American electorate that seems so out of touch with their spiritual-moral core that they cannot see clearly the gaping chasm between their faith and their politics.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN12 – Jim Wallis (L), President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners, USA; Global Agenda Council on Values in Decision-making, is captured during the session ‘Trust and the Social Contract’ at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2012. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Monika Flueckiger

Can we find common ground?

Christians of all sorts read the same Bible. We read different translations, and we read it differently, but we read it. We cherry pick parts of the Bible that support our viewpoint and black out what we prefer to ignore. A search for a small patch of solid ground that could become the common ground for respectful conversation about faith and politics landed on Paul’s good counsel to the Philippians.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Letter of Paul to the Philippians 4:8

Letter to the Philippians 4:8

We all need more of goodness. Less ugliness. Greater attention to the things that are excellent and worthy of praise; less attention to things that are worthy of scorn; more love, less hate. These qualities of character are a succinct guide in all areas of life. But no sooner do we agree with Paul’s wisdom than the divisions re-create themselves.

Christians, nones, dones, agnostics, and atheists

Yet no sooner do we shake hands in agreement with Paul’s advice, than we retun to the fight that brought us to this moment. In 2020, what do we deem truthful, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable/worthy of praise, and how do the these qualities of character guide professing Christians as we make decisions in public life?

It troubles me that the nones, dones, agnostic and atheist friends practice what Paul advised more than the growing number who have read Paul’s letter. How does a professing disciple of Jesus become deaf to the shrillness, the ugliness, the smirk, the self-serving manipulation of the sacred, the drip-by-drip erosion of trust, the disappearance of what we once regarded as admirable?

White House Press Conference 09/23/2020

WH Correspondent: “Will you commit to a peaceful transition of power if you lose the election?” The President: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that.”

WH Correspondent: “Will you commit to making sure there is a peaceful transfer of power?” The President: “We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

Campaign mailing to homes in Minnesota

In our mailbox: Front page of mailing “Paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota” Inside: “THIS IS THE TRUTH: President Trump helped families struggling the most under the coronavirus. When Democrats in Washington walked away from a deal and turned their backs on American families, PRESIDENT TRUMP DELIVERED.”

“To serve, protect, and defend the Constitution”

It’s hard to turn attention to whatever is excellent and worthy of praise when I see the American ancestors of the Philippian church applauding the desecration of what Paul taught, to say nothing of ignoring the violation of the President’s oath of office “to protect, serve, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Getting it wrong and not getting it

But those who support Mr. Trump are not the only ones in need of re-reading the Letter to the Philippians. Progressive evangelical theologian and social justice activist Jim Wallis summarizes the American political scene in God’s Politics: Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it (2005, Harper-Collins). Who of us is not poisoned in 2020?

In need of a stomach pump

The 2020 American electoral campaign reminds me of the day my two-year-old brother swallowed Drano before being rushed to the hospital emergency room where they pumped his stomach before the poison could kill him.

Current logo for Drano

Who will pump our stomach before the Drano burns away the things that are commendable — and American constitutional republic — from inside out?

Gordon C. Stewart, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, September 24.

10 thoughts on “Drinking Drano — Who Will Pump America’s Stomach?

    • Good Morning and thanks for coming by VFTE. Dismantling is what we experience, isn’t it? My concern is the dismantling of structures that serve to keep us whole and sane, an angry “collective madness” that pays no attention to reality. The Christian faith. as I have come to understand it, points to the Kingdom of God as the something new for which the human heart longs. For now, in the midst of time, we attempt to live by the Golden Rule. Just my two cents worth. Grace and Peace.


  1. Forget faith and dogma. We ALL have an understanding of right and wrong. I think most of us are born with it. It comes partnered with free will. That’s our destiny.

    How can we have free will if we follow evil and praise it’s “leader” as if he is the son of God? Forget which God. ANY god. How can we do that? Can you not put the ideologies — the obvious rights and obvious wrongs (nothing subtle here) — against one another and not SEE? There is a blinding light of righteousness that no one with a soul can ignore.

    I have always had a lot of doubts about what, exactly, I believe, but I never doubted in the presence of evil. You can see those hoofprints all over the world. This time, though, I wonder if we can we survive it? Will we take the world as we know it with us into the black hole?

    I can’t even find the words to express how I feel about this world. I feel as you do. I have cried to the heavens, to humankind, to the supposedly faithful and gotten more response from the faithless. And, by the way, I’m pretty sure the left DOES get it. Although I have met many atheists (my mother was one), I don’t believe in their atheism any more than I believe the fundamentalist Christian right’s pretense of honor. If I have fallen from grace it’s because dogma is my bane. I do not believe in a god who condemns those who fail to follow without giving equal value to the good they do.

    The whole Christian right “you are with us or you are against us” fundamental bottom line is so hateful to me that I will not abide it. I can argue with someone with whom I disagree if we are civil and sometimes, leave with an idea that he or she may have some version of truth …. but the fundamentalists make me ill. They are, to coin my favorite Daffy Duck phrase, “dethpicable.”

    Our world is a tragedy. We are marching relentlessly to our OWN end of days. Who imagined that it would not be an antiChrist who would drive us over that cliff, but we, would do it ourselves, prodding and poking each other probably on our way to the bank. It’s time to reread C.S. Lewis, but I’m afraid his words and truth will steal my last of bit of hope.

    I know you feel as if you’ve said it over and over, but until we reach the cusp in November, we cannot give up. That is what “they” want us to do. We are supposed to be so confused, lost, troubled, and hurting that we want nothing more than to bury ourselves.

    In recent nights, I have dreamed of an end of days, the end of the world as we know it. The death of all who I love. Wondering how I can go on with “life” when the world is upside-down.

    I have no answers. I somehow feel that prayer alone isn’t going to get us where we need to be. We also need determination, steadfastness, unity, and a belief in our united power to push past the haters and find love again.


    • Marilyn, do you remember Ignatius’s saying “Pray as if everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you”? Prayer (centering the mind and heart) and work (the labor of love, hope, compassion, determination, . . ..) are like one’s left hand and right hand.

      Your spirit is filled with the Divine Spirit, and your witness with words if a gift that keeps the rest of us up to the taks of resistance and hope.


      • Thank you. I know that the ability to write IS a gift. It’s the one thing I can do that I hope makes a difference with someone somewhere. I’m too broken to go marching with signs, but my fingers still work. You’re kind of amazing yourself, you know?

        I was a religion major in college. I don’t know what exactly I want but I know there’s something I want and I’ll keep looking. Maybe one day it’ll jump out and grab me 😀


        • I’d forgotten about the religion major and don’t remember the college. Help! You’re well on your way to finding it. BTW, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s close friend from his year at Union was Paul Lewis Lehmann, author of Ethics in a Christian Context. Great book. Paul preached the sermon at my service of installation as Senior Minister of Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati (1983). As wonderful a human being as he was great scholar.


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