An Absence of Humility

Featured

Hold to the Good

153 Evangelical leaders convened recently in Nashville under the auspices of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood and issued a statement on sexuality. Signers include some of the most prominent and influential leaders in the Evangelical family: James Dobson, Richard Land, James Robinson, Tony Perkins. The statement targets gay, lesbian and transgender persons but also Christians, Christian churches and organizations that do not exclude gay, lesbian and transgender people from membership and leadership, and everyone who comes to different conclusions about sexuality and sexual morality.

The first section of the statement reads:

“We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

The hubris of that statement is breathtaking. Not only does it reaffirm the traditional evangelical position that any sexual relationship outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful, it also sweeps anyone…

View original post 355 more words

The Dreamers’ Psalm

Featured

da2dbf9601aa6f870584206f878d8ba8Steve Shoemaker’s poetry reminded Views from the Edge readers that there is “A Song for Each Kind of Day” [April 12, 2012].

On an ordinary day, today’s assigned reading from The Book of Common Prayer would have sent me scurrying for something brighter. But today is darkened by the cruelty of the announced intention to end legal protection of the ‘Dreamers’.

I hear in the psalmist’s voice the cries of the Dreamers.

 tThose who seek after my life lay snares for me;

those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin

and plot treachery all the day long. [Ps. 38:12]

Blitzer-Trump-DACAThose who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who hate me. [Ps. 38:19]

There is a song for each kind of day.

“O Lord, you know all my desires,

and my sighing is no hidden from you.” [Ps. 38:9]

29906170001_5472373829001_5472368495001-vs

“Make haste to help me,

O God of my salvation.” [Ps. 38:22]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 6, 2017.

Who is Joe Arpaio?

Featured

This is the convicted former sheriff President Trump has pardoned before he served a day of time.

6629170821_e02e4fb8d6

The president just thumbed his nose at the rule of law under the constitution he swore to protect. This is Joe Arpaio’s longer story of a convicted lawless lawman who forced prisoners to wear pink underwear under the hot sun.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 28, 2017.

All us bastards

Featured

“Rev. Will D. Campbell, Maverick Minister in Civil Rights Era, Dies at 88” read the New York Times obituary. Will Campbell (1924-2013) was more than unusual. He was idiosyncratic.

willcampbellHOF

When the nine black school children walked through the hostile crowds attempting to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, Will Campbell was one of four adults at their side. A civil rights leader, his life was threatened repeatedly over the years.

But there was something unusual about him. Will Campbell was “a good ol’ boy” from the white backwaters of Mississippi who became one of Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, the ONLY white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that led the charge for Civil Rights in America.

In 1964 Will founded the Committee of Southern Churchmen, the successor to the all but defunct Fellowship of Southern Churchmen that had been created in the 1930’s to combat injustices in labor, politics, and race relations.

The Committee of Southern Churchmen created a new journal Katallagate — Greek New Testament for “Be reconciled!”) — which reached a national audience in the conviction that the underlying issues were beyond regional.

With the passage of the Civil Right Act, Will did something few but his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. could have imagined. He re-directed his ministry to the newly defeated hooded enemies of all things good, the Ku Klux Klan.

fc68a5171519678c41618146c96931a9--rustic-porches-country-porchesNo one but Will Campbell seemed to consider such a thing, let alone do it. But he did. Will headed for the rocking chairs on the front porches of the Klan to sip some moonshine and sit a spell. He became the civil rights chaplain to the KKK, returning to his roots as poor white trash raised in the backwaters of Mississippi.

51ZqWjXVehL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Looking back on his life and ministry, he wrote in Brother to a Dragonfly, after the tragedy of his brother’s death:

“I had become a doctrinaire social activist without consciously choosing to be. And I would continue to be some kind of social activist. But there was a decided difference. Because from that point on I came to understand the nature of tragedy. And one who understands the nature of tragedy can never take sides.”

He confused his critics equally – first the Right and then the Left – insisting that his soul did not belong to anyone’s team – racial, political, religious, cultural, national. There was only one team:  humankind standin’ in the need of prayer. There is only one rightful place for a soul: the Kingdom of God.

“We’re all bastards,” he was often heard to say, “but God loves us anyway.”

He meant both things.

The belief “but God loves us anyway” reorganized his hierarchy of values around a non-elitist, non-righteous compassion. It was that compassion that had led him to campaign for racial equality in the Civil Rights Movement, and it was compassion that later led him to sip whiskey with the cross-burners in the rocking chairs on their front porches. His was a ministry of reconciliation, a living, idiosyncratic example of the good news that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s own Self: katallagete!

contentWhile Will continued to drink whiskey on the porches of America’s new legal bastards, Katallagete reached a wider national audience with a “who’s who” of religious, academic, political, and cultural luminaries: Thomas Merton, William Stringfellow, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Vernard Eller, Jacques Ellul, W.H. Ferry, Duncan Gray, John Howard Griffin, Fannie Lou Hamer, Joe Hendricks, Jim Herndon, Christopher Lasch, Julius Lester, John Lewis, J. Louis Martyn, Reinhold Neibuhr, Walker Percy, and Robert Penn Warren.

Although I never met Will Campbell, Katallagete was must reading until it ceased publication, and I’ve been thinking more lately about what Will would say today.  His memory reminds me all these years later how hard it is to be a disciple of Jesus, how hard it is not to hate in 2017. How hard it is to love my neighbor as myself. How hard it is to love the enemies, especially when the neighbor and the enemy is the illegitimate bastard self on the rocking chair of my front porch.

Would that all us bastards were as idiosyncratic as Will.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 27, 2017.

Frame Up! Remembering Martin Sostre

Video

Yesterday Views from the Edge published several posts re: the case of Martin Gonzalez Sostre. Today we post this documentary film that jars the memory and human sensibilities. Martin Sostre speaks on camera about the recanted testimony of Arto Williams and the Erie County Sheriff Department frame-up. Sortre’s appeal was denied in March, 1974.  Seven months later The Christian Century published the sermon “Worship and Resistance: the Exercise of Freedom”; 20 months later New York Governor Hugh Carey commuted his sentence.

This story is especially useful for younger generations whose experience may lend to the belief that the concerns that led to Black Lives Matter are of recent origin.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 2, 2017.

Coming up for air

Hello there!

It’s been forever since we posted something of our own here. For very different reasons.

Steve is still with us but only writing on CaringBridge and FaceBook to keep friends up-to-date about his daily life with pancreatic cancer. A group of seminary friends will swoop in on the Shoemakers’ from Texas, Colorado, northern Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota to groan and moan together at the September 26 presidential debate.

Gordon is still with us, too, but has been under water preparing Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness for publication by Wipf and Stock Publishers (Eugene, OR). Steve’s poetry is featured in the book as well as Gordon’s essays on religion, culture, and the  news. He hit the “send” button Sunday evening for final submission.

At this moment, Steve is in the hospital, which is both a concern and a hope. He was admitted because he needed immediate medical attention the required surgery. But Steve has joined Jimmy Carter as a beneficiary of the cancer protocol credited with saving Jimmy’s life. Last night he wrote on Caring Bridge:

Family, friends, neighbors, church, Synagogue, mosque,
Club members–what would sick folks do without you?
New friends from nurses, Doctors, aides, who move in with skills, caring, short-term help help, help!
How to say thanks?  $ helps a little.  But who are the poorest of helpers?  Some of the poorest cannot even receive tips, gifts, or gratuities…
Mutual kindness…charity…love…

Hours before Steve’s latest CaringBridge post, the “statement of faith” by Lisa Larges arrived in Gordon’s in-box.

Why mention Lisa, a complete stranger to most Views readers?

The Presbyterian Church (USA), Steve and my church, denied ordination to Lisa Larges many years ago because of sexual orientation. Some changes take a very long time. Lisa’s statement on love itself illustrates love’s forbearance. It speaks of love, as does Steve’s CaringBridge post, and it’s all the more telling because of who said it.

Love wins.

Not indifference. Not fear.

Love wins.

Lisa’s statement will be posted next on Views from the Edge.

Simply Being Kind

If you’re not big on churches, read to the end of Hold to the Good‘s post re-blogged here on Views from the Edge. The author, John Buchanan, is Pastor-Emeritus of Fourth Presbyterian Church – Chicago, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and recently retired Publisher of The Christian Century.

Hold to the Good

One of the occupational hazards of the preaching vocation is that not everyone likes, or agrees with, what we say – particularly when we push on beyond the words of scripture to the behavioral and social ramifications. On occasion, rare to be sure, listeners tell us, in no uncertain terms that they did not like what we said at all. Sometimes it happens during that hoary church custom of greeting the preacher after the worship service, standing in line, shaking hands and saying, “Good morning, Reverend. I enjoyed your sermon.” It is heartfelt sometimes and sometimes it is simply a rote part of the greeting ritual but the sad fact is that we preachers become addicted to compliments however and whenever they come. When someone chooses the occasion to let us know they didn’t like the sermon at all, it hits us like a physical blow and we think about…

View original post 610 more words

Go Set a Watchman: A Review

Watchman-Mockingbird

A Review: Go Set a Watchman 

by Emily Hedges*, September 3, 2015

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird have already heard—Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman (Harper Collins July 2015) doesn’t reflect well on everyone’s hero, Atticus Finch. The timing couldn’t be worse. With the Charleston shootings still on our minds and the phrase “black lives matter” as a rallying cry instead of an obvious truth, we needed him. We needed Atticus’s courage and ethics to be a sign of hope. Maybe that’s why we were all so ready to accept the story of a found manuscript after all these years. We felt the gods were sending us a sign, like Mockingbird was for the Civil Rights South.

Watchman was written and set in the mid-1950’s in the aftermath of Brown vs. Board of Education. Atticus, who was willing to sacrifice everything to defy the racist establishment in Mockingbird, set in 1936, now sees a different threat looming over the South. Grown up Scout returns home and finds Atticus part of the Macomb County Citizens’ Council, an organization he knows is racist, but feels is their only protection against the federal government (and organizations like the NAACP) usurping the community’s right to determine what and how institutional changes are made.

The fact that Watchman is more about state’s rights than civil rights was always going to be disappointing to me and many fans of Mockingbird, but it’s the preachy way it’s done that makes the novel unpalatable. I think this happens because the story is more about groups than individuals. Where Watchman gives us “negros,” Mockingbird gave us Tom Robinson; where Watchman gives us racists, Mockingbird gave us Bob Ewell; where Watchman gives us the Old Sarum folks (poor whites), Mockingbird gave us Mr. Cunningham. I think this lack of compelling, fully developed characters is what forced Lee to resort to long stretches of didactic dialogue to carry her political message. This is particularly evident in Parts V, VI, and VII where Atticus’s brother, Dr. Jack, is portrayed as a two-dimensional interlocutor, a patient, patriarchal figure that forbears Jean Louise’s passionate tirades about race, guiding the exchanges with patronizing questions and long-winded homilies. There is nothing of the tender charm found in interactions between Scout and Atticus from Mockingbird.

For all its faults and disappointments, it’s almost worth reading Watchman just for Scout’s childhood flashbacks, a few precious scenes where we can once again romp through a lazy, hot summer afternoon with Scout, Jem and Dill. It’s like watching deleted scenes from your favorite movie. In these moments especially, and throughout the novel, Lee’s voice visits you like an old friend. Passages like this:

“Alexandra had been married for thirty-three years; if it had made any impression on her one way or another she never showed it. She had spawned one son, Francis, who in Jean Louise’s opinion looked and behaved like a horse, and who long ago left Macomb for the glories of selling insurance in Birmingham. It was just as well.”

I think it’s obvious that Watchman was the place Lee fine-tuned her characters and worked through plot and point-of-view. For that, we should appreciate that Watchman helped make Mockingbird a masterpiece. Appreciate it, but don’t publish it.

There was just too much money to be made. More than 1.1 million copies sold in the first week. As a recent New York Times op-ed pointed out, it’s no coincidence the manuscript was “discovered” within months after the death of Lee’s old protector (her sister Alice Lee) by her new protector, a woman who worked in Alice’s law office. Supposedly Lee, 89 years old and suffering from dementia in a nursing home, granted consent.

Since publication everyone has wondered, and worried, how Go Set a Watchman will taint the legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Many have said they don’t think it will, but I don’t agree. I can’t help feeling like a character from my other favorite American novel, The Great Gatsby, a character whose “count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” I wish I could go back and un-read this book. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel guilty of shooting a mockingbird, because Atticus was right—it is a sin.

*A native of Muskogee, OK, Emily Hedges is a published writer in a master’s program at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.  Emily lives in Lebanon, NH with husband Joe and three beautiful children. Thank you, Emily, for setting the bar for insightful literary criticism and for trusting Views from the Edge to publish your work. – Gordon

 

 

 

President Obama’s Letter to the NYT

President Obama’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times today responds to a thoughtful NYT article by Jim Rutenberg on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Click HERE for a link to the NYT’s coverage of the President’s letter and the article that inspired it.

Views from the Edge posted the following comment on the NYT website:

Arguments that the key provision of the Voting Rights Act are no longer necessary are what the President says they are. State decisions to remove the Confederate flag demonstrate greater sensitivity to the continuing presence of white supremacist assumptions than is apparent in the U.S. Supreme Court and among the Republican caucus in the U.S. Congress. The President persistently keeps before the American people the historic aspiration “in Order to form a more perfect Union” and, in so doing, does the nation a great service. This president is balanced, historicaly-informed, philosophical, articulate, and personally grounded. After years of swallowing his tong in hopes of reaching bi-partisan solutions, President Obama is making use of his last years in office in ways that will place him among the greats of American history.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 12, 2015.

Bible a key to murder case

A friend called to tell me about the murder of his friend Earl Olander soon after it happened. Hollis knew the victim, 90 year-old Earl Olander, mercilessly beaten in his Carver County farm house.

Why would anyone would do this [i.e., tie him up, beat him with a shotgun, ransack his farm house, leave him half-dead] to a sweet-spirited old man like Earl?

A new use for the Bible appeared as the lead headline on the front page of this morning’s StarTribune:

“Stolen Bible leads police to suspects in death of 90 year-old Carver County man: After 90 year-old man was beaten to death, his stolen Bible led police to two suspects.” – StarTribune

Though a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, charges have been brought against the two suspects based, in part, on the discovery of the victim’s large European Bible containing two savings bonds a cleaning agent found in a vacated apartment in Saint Paul, MN.

The Bible has many uses. It speaks of grace, of sin, of homicide, of betrayal, brutality, denial, mercy, and more. Now, in the murder of 90 year-old Earl Olander that defies explanation, it serves as the primary piece of evidence in a court of law.

“Before the attackers fled,” says the StarTribune, “they ransacked Olander’s home and stole the Bible, as well as coins, old silverware, and two-dollar bills.

“[A neighbor of Olander] said he found it ‘quite ironic that it was the Bible’ that helped investigators make the arrests. ‘Think about that.'” [Star Tribune story]

“The book to read is not the book that thinks of you, but the one that makes you think.  No book in the world equals the Bible for that. – Harper Lee, author, To Kill a Mockingbird

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 14, 2015.