I know an Old Party that swallowed a lie … I guess she’ll die.

“All parties die at last of swallowing their own lies” — John Arbuthnot

Dr. John Arbuthnot (1667-1735) became a household name in Great Britain for writing The History of John Bull. John Bull soon became the British equivalent of America’s Uncle Sam.

Although John Arbuthnot was the ground-breaking mathematician said to have inspired Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Alexander Pope’s Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry, John Arbuthnot was a biographer’s nightmare.

“Dr. Arbuthnot,” as he was known with great affection, left behind little information for a biographer who might praise him. So deep was his humility that, according to Alexander Pope, Arbuthnot allowed his children to play with and burn his manuscripts. He didn’t toot his own horn.

Dr. Arbuthnot may seem irrelevant in 2021. He knew nothing of The Apprentice, the Birther Movement, the Grand Old Party (GOP), or Donald J. Trump. Nothing of COVID-19, fake news, stolen elections, the Deep State, Q, or QAnon. He couldn’t imagine watching from Cambridge the live coverage of a mob insurrection in Washington, D.C. He knew nothing of the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Boys, Wolverine Watchmen, Roger Stone, Marjorie Taylor Greene, or the GOP’s duplicitous response to Rep. Greene’s endorsements of domestic terrorism to save America from Satan and from Jews sending laser beams down from outer space to light the fires in California.

The creator of John Bull didn’t need to know our particulars to understand what is happening to Uncle Sam’s country in 2021.

Like the cartoonist of the garish satirical cartoon of “John Bull” with the head of Napoleon held high on a pitch fork, he didn’t need to sit in on the second impeachment trial to read the fear on the faces of GOP senators. He knew that every political party dies swallowing its own lies.

Two days before U.S. Senators become jurors, one can only hope! “Come, John Arbuthnot, Come!” “Come, Lord Jesus!, Come!” “Come, Sojourner Truth, Come!”

John Arbuthnot’s choice of a text from which to speak during a time of deep division reveals what he considered most important in life. The Elizabethan language is no longer ours, and its spirit is at risk, but its truth and wisdom abide. So does courage, if only the Senate Jurors and we, the people, seek it.

Better is he that laboureth, and aboundeth in all things, than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth bread. My son, glorify thy soul in meekness, and give it honour according to the dignity thereof. Who will justify him that sinneth against his own soul? and who will honour him that dishonoureth his own life? The poor man is honoured for his skill, and the rich man is honoured for his riches. He that is honoured in poverty, how much more in riches? and he that is dishonourable in riches, how much more in poverty?” –Ecclesiasticus 10:27-31.

A sermon preach’d to the people at the Mercat Cross of Edinborough on the subject of the union. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10, verse 27 (King James Version)

Gordon C. Stewart, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), Chaska, MN, January 7, 2021

5 thoughts on “I know an Old Party that swallowed a lie … I guess she’ll die.

      • I’m going to try this a third time and hope it goes through. I hope that I’m not blocked, which would be sad. In terms of research skills/talent, it is not as easy as you might think. The person must have a broad world view – not limited to their own chosen path. It’s an ability to see an event or read something that takes the person across history and its political and cultural influences and nuances and make a connection. That is what you did with this piece, and what you consistently do. You don’t limit your view to a theological one, but rather, you may start there but then you bring in all kinds of those historical, cultural and political references noted above. This is not the complete comment that I made earlier that appears not to have posted. In that I made a reference to the play A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner (which he adapted from Brecht’s play, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. That is the reason for sending the play via email. Regardless, congratulate yourself on your skill. May be time for a new book.


        • I don’t know what’s happening with aWordPress! Replying to your later comment about asking who will catch them when they fall, I wrote, referring to the Mt and Lk temptation narratives, “I haven’t a clue. But one thing I know. It won’t be the angels!” Too weary to write more this morning. And, yes, there will be a new book, maybe an Amazon book, perish the thought, but Amazon has the best marketing of al the online publishers.


          • sorry that you are weary. These days are putting us all in that place. As soon as I get up, I’m ready to go back to bed. I have, at last, learned the incredible value of the brief afternoon nap (although my naps are beginning to get longer every day). In two weeks or so, assuming that I have recovered and can walk, I head back to Long Island Sound. This time, it is for a six week residency at O’Neill – with my students live in a classroom. This is thrilling after almost a year of teaching via Zoom. I can’t wait for what I have to believe will be the exhilarating ocean views and smells. If you are able to recover the earlier replies, let me know. Same with the email of the play referenced. All good things.


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