The church shoppers

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According to recent polls the “nones” (people who indicate no religious preference) are growing quickly. It’s an interesting phenomenon explainable in many ways. The causes are many.

Protestant Christian churches once considered “mainline” or mainstream (e.g, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Congregational) have fallen on hard times. Their numbers have decreased precipitously as the more conservative evangelical and fundamentalist churches and the nones have increased.

So what is church exactly in the shopping market of consumer capitalism?

This video offers a delightful, humorous look at a young couple looking for a church that fits their needs and tastes.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, snobby happily returned preacher with shirt still tucked in believer in women in ministry, lover of Bach, Buxtehude, John Rutter, and traditional liturgy.

 

The Smoke Signaler

Long before Europeans landed on the North American continent, America’s indigenous people often used smoke signals to send up messages understood by those who knew the signals.

Much later other signals came to America. Baseball signals – “signs” – from a third base coach sent to the batter: bunt, take for a strike, hit away, etc. Only members of that team knew what the signs – a right hand twice touches the left ear; the left hand scratches the right shoulder; the head nods in a certain way – mean.

1297937479160_ORIGINALWatching today’s U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence my eye was drawn to a man sitting behind the two witnesses, FBI Director James Comey, and NSA Director Mike Rogers. Like a good baseball coach or intelligence officer, the man in the dark yellow tie and the French cuffs was stone-faced. But it appeared he was giving smoke signals or baseball signs to someone on the Congressional panel asking the questions.

There were times when his head nodded slightly in agreement with a witness’s testimony. There were times when his hand went to his nose, his mouth, an ear, or his eyes moved right or left. As the hearing wore on, I became more curious. Who is he? Why is he in the center of the C-SPAN camera?  Why did his eyes just blink twice? Did he just all for a hit-and-run or a stolen base? Why is he pulling on his cuff? Why are his cuffs French? Is he French foreign Intelligence?

Is he there to alert a team – the Republicans or the Democrats – that the witness had just blown smoke, signaling someone on the panel to follow up with another question? Or was he there as the watchdog if the professional U.S. intelligence community, or the President himself, to remind Comey and Rogers who was over their shoulder them?

The Smoke signaler and RogersToday in America there’s a lot of smoke but the meanings of the signals are known only by a few. And those of us who watch a televised hearing as citizens of a democratic republic are left to watch, listen, and smell our way to what’s real and what’s not.

We do so in the hope that U.S. intelligence agencies, the President of the United States, and the U.S House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence use smoke signals we can all understand to inform us whether a witness or a Congressional Representative is sending a secret message or just blowing smoke. Who knows? Maybe the Poker-faced man with the nice yellow-black tie was just one of us. Maybe a member of the press who arrived early enough to get a great seat!  Hope springs eternal.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 20, 2017.

Pure Joy

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Lucinda is a five year old. Barclay is almost four. But Barclay is much older than Lucinda. In the human equivalent to Lucinda’s age, Barclay will be 28 in May.

Here’s a glimpse into Barclay’s playful spirit from when he was two (i.e., 14).

Last night, around the dinner table at the birthday party for the much older 36 year old and the 31 year old, there was lively conversation. But down on the floor, and sometimes under the table, there was pure joy – a little girl and the favorite dog she lives to visit.

Lucinda is a very active little girl. She never stops. She’s here; she’s there; she’s everywhere. She demands to be the center of attention. But she loses herself and gains it with Barclay whose great blessing is that he knows he’s not the center of the universe. He has to wait for others to play with him – and sometimes, on the best of days, the other is Lucinda, the favorite playmate who brings him pure joy for an hour or two.

The smiles on Barclay’s and Lucinda’s faces were as unmistakable as the light from the candles on the cake.

Sadly, moments after Lucinda’s family left our home last night, her cries and screams pierced the darkness on the sidewalk outside. Barclay was very sad, too. But he’s also the older and wiser of the two playmates. Cocking his head and looking up at me, he said, “Poor Lucinda. She’s still very young. She doesn’t understand yet that ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ – Psalm 30, right Dad?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 20, 2017.

 

 

Amazon review disappears!

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Amazon
***** Striking a blow against willful ignorance, March 15, 2017
By Amazon Customer

This review is from: Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Paperback)

This is a powerful book, its essays best absorbed in small doses. I used it as a daily meditation, studying no more than two at a time.

The title suggests a turning inward, a journey toward inner harmony, but it is really a clarion call to informed action against the national perils of collective madness and willful ignorance. The book connects us with threads of thought from seminal philosophers, and my favorite is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Read this book. Talk about it with your friends. It is important. James Robert Kane, author.

The customer review vanished from the Amazon site.

“Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” I’m guessing either Amazon followed James Kane’s counsel by willfully providing customers with a very “small dose” of this customer review (as in one short hour on the site before the dose vanished) or Amazon is ignorant of the disappearance of “A striking blow against willful ignorance.”

It’s hardly a matter of life or death. But it’s enough to drive an anxious author mad  when Amazon lists 10 five-star customer reviews of Be Still! but posts 8 instead of 10.  Where, O where, are the other two? Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! I need to get a grip and be still!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 19, 2017.

 

Antidisestablishmentarianism 2017

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It’s a big word with a special history, namely, the 19th century dispute in England between the establishmentarians, their disestablishmentarian opponents, and, finally, the antidisestablishmentarian supporters of the establishmentarians, the opponents of the disestablishmentarians!

Back then the issue was whether the Church of England should be the constitutionally “established” church of England. The conservative establishmentarians had answered yes; the more liberal disestablishmentarians argued against the establishment of religion; the antidisestablishmentarians whiplashed the disestablishmentarians back into line. There was no separation of church and state.

In the United States it is different. Because the founders were disestablishmentarians, there is  no established religion. They enacted what was later described as “a wall of separation” between the state and religious institutions. Yet in 2017 the American version of the English establishmentarians speaks and acts as if there.

The American alt-right is a curious mixture of religious antidisestablishmentarianism and governmental disestablishmentarianism, i.e., the strategic elimination of governmental institutions overseen by alt-right White House Strategic Advisor Steve Bannon.

The White House has announced the “re-organization” of the executive branch of the U.S. Government, one of the three branches of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a curious cocktail of religious establishmentarianism without government – but you can’t have an established religion with a disestablished government. Or can you?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 18, 2017.

 

 

“Share your story with the President”

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Funny thing happened to my computer last night after replying to an unexpected whitehouse.gov email with the subject line “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story“.

I did.

“Obamacare meant that members of the congregation I served for eight years received insurance coverage for the first time in their adult lives. It meant that children under 26 were covered by their parent’s health insurance. It meant that the American working poor were part of a movement toward having in the Unites States what all other industrialized western nations regard as a basic right to be honored.

I write this because Whitehouse.gov asked me how Obamacare “impacted” me. Although far from perfect and needing improvement, the proposals to improve the Affordable Care Act met with iron-clad resistance from a party intent on destroying it rather than improving it.

Now, today, it is estimated by reputable sources that 20,000,000+ now-insured Americans will lose their health insurance with repeal. Shame on you. In the name of Jesus and all things compassionate and merciful, shame on you! Do the right thing and stop the blame game.

Having completed the submission and click with the mouse, the President’s voice spoke through my computer, thanking me for my support and going into an extended attack against Obamacare which, he said, was getting worse even as we spoke.

When I clicked again to silence him, my computer cursor went mousey, jumping all over the screen beyond my control.

An hour or so later I watched KellyAnne Conway explaining how I could be surveilled through . . . my microwave, and I wondered whether I’d just fallen into a dark alternative universe with KellyAnne, Steve Bannon, and their boss.

Today, just in case, I think I’ll get rid of the microwave.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 13, 2017.

I wanna be an Orangutan!

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I wake up too early this morning. The first thing I see is an orangutan making a hammock in his zoo cage. I identify with the orangutan.

The orangutan has always been my favorite animal. Those eyes. That mouth. Those teeth. That smile. Okay, so she needs a groomer, but, hey, so do I. How can you not love an orangutan? So smart. So . . .  human. So . . . technological!

Not only are they endearing personalities; they don’t make bombs or burn coal. They use their creative resources to make hammocks to rock away the day and turn their world upside-down . . . or right-side up. They invent. They make it up. They play.  They have no need of the smoke and mirrors of the zoo keepers’s world.

I wanna be an Orangutan!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 7, 2017

A quick dose of humor

This comment on “You will be like God” (VFTE, 01/11/17) is too good to hide. Carolyn wrote, “Your mention of the nuclear arsenals reminded me that we all need humor, so . . . .

The head of the EPA requests an audience with President Obama and says, “Mr. President, why not put the nuclear codes in a science textbook? They will never find them.”

Carolyn and I played in the same sandbox way back in kindergarten!

– Gordon C. Stewart, January 15, 2016

Steve Shoemaker and his hearse

Searching through the archives following Steve’s death last Monday, his verse “Kissing in a Hearse”- originally posted July 1, 2016 – cried out for republication. Knowing of his eventual demise with pancreatic cancer, his humor was always bigger than a hearse, a continuing gift to his family, friends, and readers.

Verse – Kissing in a Hearse

1947 Pontiac hearse

Steve’s Hearse

Only college seniors were allowed
cars on campus in those ancient days.
Four guys, Juniors, searched car lots and found
just the thing, a ’47 hearse,
Pontiac, straight 8, just fifty bucks
each. A Senior said he’d claim the beast
legally was his. Quadruple dates
were the thing: one couple in the seat,
driving, six would lounge on pillows where
caskets usually rode. Of course, at times
two young people would kiss, death be damned.

Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 1, 2016

  • Reposted October 13, 2016 in thanksgiving for Steven Robert Shoemaker (December 19, 1942 – October 10, 2016).

What every New Yorker knows about Donald Trump

For a good dose of both truth and humor, click What every New Yorker knows, a Washington Post piece about the presidential candidate whose name we ruefully deign to mention.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 22, 2016.