Viewing former NASA Space Shuttle Pilot Mark Kelly‘s video this morning, the day we face the possibility of another government shutdown, inspires hope for a wiser future. NASA photograph of Earth as the Blue Marble invites us to recognize we’re all in this together.
Click Full Speed Ahead for Mark Kelly’s announcement of his candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2020. Mark Kelly is joined by his wife, former U.S. Congressional Rep. Gabby Giffords, whose formal public service came to an abrupt end with a near-fatal shot to the head on January 8, 2011. Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly became leading voices for responsible gun control in the U.S.
What goes around comes around. And some things going around now will come around sooner or later. No one knows when or how. We live between what is coming around and what is now going around.
I’ve been reading a gift from son-in-law Christopher that leads me to break the recent silence on Views from the Edge. It’s the result of investigative journalism that zooms in on one of the most prominent figures of American life.
What’s My Line?
Years ago What’s My Line?, featuring celebrity guests like Groucho Marx and a brilliant panel, took over my family’s living room. Moderated by John Charles Daly, members of the panel, which always included Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf, were blind-folded before the mystery guest came on stage to answer the panel members’ questions. The mystery guests disguised their voices, and provided the blind-folded panel a tidbit of information as a clue to their identities.
All these years later, What’s My Line? is gone. Now I listen to Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!Wh
His purpose is power and his strategy to “keep his name in the papers at all costs.”
Patient research into the techniques of his campaigns results in the conclusion that his one all-dominating consideration has been to win at any cost.
To achieve his ends he has failed to repudiate support from . . . some of the most disreputable, hate-mongering, fascist-minded groups in the nation on the far right.
Our danger is that ____ism will gradually grow into a homespun variety of totalitarianism, and will destroy our liberties as surely as Communism would. The antics of ____ism are made to order for the propaganda purposes of international Communism. I am sure that ——ists are not intentionally aiding the international conspiracy of … Communism, but if they were Communist agents they could not be doing a more useful job, from Russia’s viewpoint. The wider ____ism grows, the weaker they leave America, and the stronger the possibility of international Communism.
The Senators unanimously concluded that the ____ election “brought into sharp focus certain campaign tactics and practices that can best be described as. . . destructive of fundamental American principles.”
It was, the report continued, a “despicable back street type of campaign which usually, if exposed in time, backfires.”
Removing the blind-folds
Now we remove the blind-folds. Each of the above clues is a quotation cited in the 92 page 45th Anniversary edition of The Progressive, April 1954 on Senator Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism. “McCarthyism: A Documentary Record” concludes with these words of counsel:
We of The Progressive are convinced that our best chance to keep the lamps of hope and liberty burning brightly in a world hungry for light and leadership is to deal head-on with the conditions which create the doubts and fears on which McCarthy and Malenkov thrive. The first great step down that road of hope must be to replace “The Big Lie” of Communism and McCarthyism with “The Big Truth” of a working democracy.
What goes around comes around. The Big Lie and the Big Truth come and go with the tides of history.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might! Powers and dominions lay their glory by; Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight; The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
“Tell Out My Soul” rang out across the world yesterday, the last Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of the government shut-down in the USA. The third stanza (above) expresses a timeless and timely hope.
In the immortal words of Timothy Cratchet (Tiny Tim) to Ebenezer Scrooge’s “Bah, humbug!” (A Christmas Carol): “God bless us, every one!”
“Darkness cannot cast out darkness. Only light can do that” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you’re longing for some light and for change, watch and listen to Buddy Guy leading Playing for Change. Skip the ad, and think of Ezekiel’s hope for a nation of the dry bones.
The story of Ezekiel’s vision for the valley of the dry bones is timeless and timely 10 days before the American electorate goes to the polls November 6.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – The promise for the dry bones in the Valley of the Bones (Ezekiel 36:26).
The language is from an earlier time in America culture. Monday, October 8, 2018, the sentiment is on the cutting-edge.
Walter Rauschenbusch, “father of the Social Gospel Movement”
We beseech thee for those who are set to make and interpret the laws of our nation. Grant to all lawyers a deep consciousness that they are called of God to see justice done, and that they prostitute a holy duty if ever they connive in its defeat. Fill them with a high determination to make the courts of our land a strong fortress of defense of the poor and weak, and never a castle of oppression for the hard and cunning. [Walter Rauschenbusch, Prayers of the Social Awakening, 1910].
In times like these, I often turn to the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 90 from 1719. Today I turned to it again for solace and hope. All the singers are white, but, hey, so am I, and there is hope even for the likes of I.
Psalm 90 in its entirety is a song of lament, but hope — and a call to personal responsibility — rise from despair.
Years ago I was given a copy of The Book of Psalms and Scottish Hymnal (1879) with the cursive signature of the man who used it: “John Campbell, Blair Mill, 1886.” (My middle name is Campbell.) I dusted it off this morning to read it through. The rendition of Psalm 90 John Campbell sang in 1886 ends with a prayer that recognizes our own responsibility for “the works of our hands”:
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: Our handy-work establish Thou, establish them each one” (Psalm 90:17).
Gordon Campbell Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 7, 2018.
“You have to be hopeful; you have to give them hope.”
“Okay,” I said, “but I can’t give anyone else hope. Hope comes from within.”
Hope seems harder in 2018 than it was when Kosuke Koyama advised the younger preacher to stay positive. Years later, it was to Dr. Koyama that Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness was dedicated for many reasons. Maintaining hope was one of them. His humility was another. His characteristic kindness and compassion reached out when friends were scarce. But nothing became more impactful than the statement he made over lunch: “There is only one sin: exceptionalism.”
Years before his death in 2009, Koyama (“Ko”) had begun to view the environmental crisis through the lens of humankind’s presumption: the mistaken belief that we, the human species, are the exception to Nature. For Ko it was a form of idolatry.
In light of this week’s avalanche of news, I’ve wondered what Ko would say. He still would bless us with his smile. He would encourage us to resist the claim of American exceptionalism, the confusion of nationalism (worship of country) with patriotism (love of one’s country), any border policy that takes children from their parents arms in the name of national security, every energy policy that feeds the coffers of the fossil fuel industry (“God is green,” said Ko), every exaltation of greed, every distortion of truth, every tax policy that keeps the poor poor while lining the pockets of the 1%, and any President and Congress that reminded him of Emperor Hirohito and the cult of national exceptionalism he grew up with in Tokyo. The god of empire, he observed, never says no. The God of the Bible says no: “You are a stiff-necked people!”
But amid all the issues that deserve our attention, I believe Ko would urge us to keep our eye on the biggest of sin — the mega sin — the sin against Nature that imperils the planet as we know it. His legacy invites us to bow our stiff necks to that which is bigger, longer lasting, and more encompassing than ourselves. Everything less is built on sinking sand.
Ko spoke in metaphors and parables. I believe he would remind us of Jesus’ parable of the wise man who built his house upon the rock versus the foolish one who built his house upon the sand. “And the rains came down, and the floods came up, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
NASA satellite photo of clouds created by the exhaust of ship smokestacks.
He would rally behind Bill McKibben’s declaration that “climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.” The only way to stop it is to turn from the the mega sin — the idol of human exceptionalism, the worship of ourselves.
“[T]hrough endurance, to feel that life is surrounded by the warm approval of God, will that not be the experience of hope? Hope is in spite of troubles. There is not hope apart from troubles. There is no automatic hope, no easy hope. Hope is hope against all odds.” — Kosuke Koyama, Three Mile an Hour God.
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 25, 2018.
Elijah and Bumpa (i.e. Grandpa) are talking after the Vikings-Packers game.
Bumpa, what’s faith?
Why are you asking about faith, Elijah?
Mom just said it. She said that word again, just like she did last week.
She said “You gotta have faith.” Maybe you should turn up your hearing aids.
I see. Mom was talking about Bumpa’s attempt to lose weight.
Yeah. I hate to wait!
Well, waiting is different but it does require faith. Bumpa can’t just wait to lose weight. I have to work at it.
You’re drivin’ me crazy! I asked you a simple question: “What’s faith?”
Okay. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
It’s a little like confidence, Elijah. Or believing things will turn out well even when everything looks bad.
So that rookie kicker needed faith, right?
Yes. He lost his faith right there on the football field…THREE times. He lost his confidence. He didn’t believe it was going to turn out well, and he blew nine points. Nine points!!! All because he lacked faith.
Yeah, his coach lost faith in him and he lost faith in himself, right Bumpa?
Right. But faith is about more than football, Elijah. It’s about life. It’s the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.
What’s conviction? So we believe in ghosts?
No, Elijah. Remember when Barclay let you play with his ball and didn’t bite? It’s a little like that. Faith is trust. I hope you never lose your faith!
Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that celebrates the birth of humankind with the blowing of the shofar (AUDIO LINK).
Rosh Hashanah’s meaning takes me back to last week’s Jewish wedding in Boston Symphony Hall, the kind of joyful occasion that’s good for the weary soul. Although I might have anticipated meeting a Holocaust survivor in his/her 90s, I did not expect the survivor to be my age.
Stephen and I were born two months apart in very different words — the Warsaw ghetto under Nazi occupation, and the U.S.A., respectively. Stephen and his mother survived. His father and the rest of his family died in the gas ovens of Auschwitz. His father arranged for two-year-old Steve and his mother’s to escape and survive under the clandestine protection of Polish Christian. How Stephen’s father made the arrangements is a mystery lost in time and the ashes of Auschwitz.
Rosh Hashanah is marked by the blowing of the shofar that starts the 10 High Holy Days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
What is Rosh Hashanah all about? In addition to its meaning as the “head of the year”, we also refer to it as the “Day of Judgment”. What, in fact, did the Rabbis tell us to do on Rosh Hashanah? Curiously, there is virtually no mention of our own personal judgment in the Rosh Hashanah prayers. Instead, the prayers are all about the general condition of the world. – Rabbi Asher Resnick.
The Jewish sense of time is different from the dominant understanding of time in the West. Time spirals. It loops back and forward. Rosh Hashanah cycles back in order to spiral forward. It is, like every other Jewish holiday, “a metaphysical window of opportunity” (Rabbi Asher Resnick).
Meeting Stephen, the retired doctor in Princeton, New Jersey, in Boston at a Jewish wedding opened a different kind of metaphysical window of opportunity. The rapport was immediate, the window of opportunity opened between us as if we were long-lost friends. Such times redefine time. They spiral back to fetch hope for a new humanity and carry it forward in another dark time. This Rosh Hashanah I sound the shofar for Stephen, his family, all victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and the Polish Christian family that protected Stephen and his mother until the horror was (more or less) over and a mad world repents.
the shofar (ram’s horn)
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 10, 2018.