Second Siege — Martin Luther King Weekend

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Capitol Sieges during Martin Luther King Weekend

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will be different this year. “Stop the Steal” mass gathering are scheduled to convene in state capitols, as well as returning to the nation’s capitol.

After Twitter’s shut down Donald Trump’s Twitter account, The Washington Post published “Capitol siege was planned online. Trump supporters now planning the next one.” “Twitter said it was particularly concerned about contributing to a possible ‘secondary attack’ on the U.S. Capitol and state government facilities the weekend of Jan. 16-17.”

Time will tell whether this weekend will bring a secondary attack, or whether history will regard the second attack as primary. News coverage since the January 6 insurrection has focused mostly on how the U.S. Capitol was left so unprotected — a plan said to have “failed” because of a series of miscommunications, or whether the plan had succeeded, pointing the finger of blame higher up the chain of command on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Washington Post

Less attention has been paid to Martin Luther King weekend with which the “Stop the Steal!” campaign coincides. Competing events will ring the bell for freedom: MLK’s call to “Let freedom ring!” from shore to shore for all God’s children, and DJT’s call to “Stop the Steal!” that will ring out from the clank of a bell crafted by a despot’s lies.

How Could This Happen?

Dutch philosopher of religion Willem Zuurdeeg was driven by a question that deserves our attention again. What is it about being human that led Germany to salute and fall in line behind a madman? His work offers insight into how and why people, religions, and nations become fanatical. Views from the Edge will turn to Zuurdeeg’s understanding in the weeks to come.

For now, the call for deeper reflection by each of us leaps from the final paragraphs of his description of fanatical claims and the “fanatical situation”:

Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness acknowledges Zuurdeeg’s work as “the indelible ink in which Be Still! is written.” Be Still!‘s essay “Our Anxious Time” (p.16-18) looks through the lenses of Zuurdeeg and Paul Tillich. Little did I know that the week before and during the 2021 Martin Luther King weekend observance the clanking bell would ring again or that I would be so ready to surrender to my own rampage of rage.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN. January 11, 2021

The Storm Is Passing Over

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What’s happening to America and Americans?

The storm that blew through the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday has not passed. What America will be and who we will be in the midst of the storm are always the questions on Martin Luther King Day, but this year the choice will be clearer.

Life on the stormy sea

Thunder and Lightning on MLK Weekend

If intelligence reports come to pass, the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Aryan Brotherhood, and other well-armed White nationalist groups will again storm through the nation’s Capitol to “liberate” their country, as did the Wolverine Watchmen who gathered in Lansing, burst into the Michigan Capitol, and would have kidnapped, tried, and executed Governor Gretchen Whitmer had the FBI not foiled the plot with advance intelligence.

Freedom and the Covenant of Mutual Responsibility

Will we be a people preoccupied by the pernicious insistence on unaccountable individual freedom? “You can’t make me wear a mask!” Will we confuse liberty with freedom from restraint, or will we place freedom where it belongs — within the context of a social covenant, a Constitutional republic — that holds the indivisible tension between freedom and responsibility for our neighbors?

The Blue Note Gospel and the Storm Passing Over

The Black church in America lives out that tension of freedom and covenant, individual liberty and community. It has a history and tradition few others share. The descendants of slavery can teach us about living in the storm while the storm passes over. They neither deny the storm nor succumb to it. As Otis Moss III describes it, the Black church preaches “the Blue-Note gospel” born of the cross of Jesus and can “Shouts the Gospel shout” because it knows the blues.

This morning, we share the soulful sound of resilience in the midst of the storm.

The Storm Is Passing Over, Detroit Mass Choir

Martin Luther King and the Storm

This Martin Luther King Weekend the storm of America’s original sin will sweep through, and the resilience of the Blue-Note Gospel will carry us through.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 10, 2021.

Two Epiphanies: the Return of the Wise

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An epiphany is the manifestation or unveiling of what is not obvious to the naked eye. Today is Epiphany on the western Church calendar celebrating the epiphany of the Magi (the Wise). One does not expect to find anything of much value in an animal shelter, let alone a child wrapped in cloth whose crib is an animal feeding trough.

Stefano di Giovanni (1392-1450) Journey of the Magi

Returning to Our Own Country by Another Way

If the appearance of the Magi (wisdom figures) bearing expensive gifts to an animal shelter far from the levers of wealth and power calls for special attention, the refusal of these wisdom figures to return to Herod represents the wisdom of the wise of all ages.

Those who are Wise refuse to be informers of a schemer. The Magi do not return to Herod, as Herod has instructed. Instead “they returned to their own country by another way” — and so must we this Day of Epiphany.

Two Epiphanies — Two Unveilings

This Epiphany there will be two epiphanies, two unveilings or manifestations, one the celebration of good news to all, the other the recognition of Herod’s scheming. “And when you have found him (the new-born king), return to me that I too may worship him.”

In the churches of Western Christianity, hymns will be sung to a babe destined to be buried the way he was born — in a borrowed place. Meanwhile, a Herodian crowd with guns drawn will gather at the Capitol In Washington D.C. while a group of Senators and Representatives, whether fearful of Herod or acting on their own ambitions to become him, will continue the schemes that threaten to leave their country in ruins.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Congressman John Lewis’s pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, will take the Wisdom of his predecessor, at Ebenezer, Martin Luther King, Jr., to the U.S. Senate floor.

Rev. Rafael Warnock on Death Row

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Georgia voters today render a verdict on Rafael Warnock. Verdicts are more familiar to Rev. Warnock than they are to most of us. Some verdicts leave a person standing. Others verdicts end a life by state execution.

Troy Davis

Troy Davis was one of the latter. The eve before his execution by the state of Georgia, Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered aired this personal reflection on capitol punishment. CLICK HERE to open the MPR site; then click the AUDIO to listen to the commentary on Troy Davis in light of Innocent Project pro bono appeals attorney Joe Margulies who represented Betty Beets.

The pastor on Georgia’s death row

The Rev. Dr. Rafael Warnock, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, minister on death row

Nine years later, reading his guest article on mercy in an alumni journal, I leaned the name of the pastor who became the death row pastor to Troy Davis. Rafael Warnock is not a showman. No matter whether in the public eye as the latest successor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the home church of the late Hon. John Lewis, or out of sight standing by a condemned man on death row, Rafael Warnock has the heart of a pastor.

Georgia verdict today

Today the people of Georgia are rendering a verdict on his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Tomorrow, Jan. 6, as the Proud Boys “stand by” a treasonous defeated president on the streets of Washington, D.C. with guns drawn, another verdict on who we are, and who we will stand by in America will be debated on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

I wish Troy Davis could vote today!

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 5, 2021.

It’s all there in the Christmas story

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It’s Christmas Eve 2020. The issues have not changed much in the last seven years. The gospel is like that! Economics and politics are spiritual matters. I’m no longer in the pulpit, but, thanks to the generous people of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, some of the sermons are preserved.

A Sermon: It’s All There in the Christmas Story

Season’s Greetings

May you find confidence in the light, walk in the light, and hold to the good,

Grace and Peace,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN December 24, 2020.

Meeting Diabolos (the Diabolical)

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Prefatory Note to readers

This commentary has been in process for days. It hasn’t been posted here because I find it impossible to keep up with the news –anything I might say is already passé — or because sources like Heather Richardson’s daily Letters from an American do what I attempt to do better. But this period of social turmoil has led to me to see what should have been obvious. I write from a faith perspective that seeks to writeI from a faith perspective but not to a faith perspective. I write as a public theologian; write for anyone who cares to listen.

Encountering the Diabolical

You don’t have to believe in a Devil with horns and a pitchfork to recognize the diabolical. The Greek word in the New Testament is diabolos. The diabolical is “characteristic of the Devil, or so evil as to be suggestive of a Devil” (Oxford online dictionary). Synonyms include fiendish, heinous, hellish, vicious, vile, cruel, wicked (Thesaurus.com). Like the calls to action from Conservative Direct that confused me for a friend.

December 10, 8:42 A.M.
 
 Friend,

 We will not bend.
 We will not break.
 We will not yield.
 We will never give in.
 We will never give up.
 We will never back down.
 We will NEVER, ever surrender!
 
We are Americans, and our hearts bleed RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
 
The Left is trying to TAKE the White House from YOUR President, and, for the sake of our Country’s future, I need YOU to step up and help us SECURE THE SENATE!

 THE LEFT WILL TRY TO STEAL THE ELECTION!
 PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS YOU TO FIGHT BACK

 [photo of angry DJT]
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 Thank you,

 Donald J. Trump
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The gift of Mistaken Identity

I don’t know how Conservative Direct put me on its email list, but I’m glad they did. Now I know. The emails to Donald Trump’s “Friends” and “BEST Supporters” provide a look inside a narrative that helps explain how good people get caught swept up in what the Bible calls the demonic, the diabolical, the satanic twisting that turns goodness into evil.

I meet diabolos every day. in heinous tweets and news clips. The list of the diabolical speech and action is long and endless. (“It’s a hoax. The coronavirus is a Democrat hoax,” he says to the American public while telling Robert Woodward he knew but didn’t want the American people to panic. “I don’t know the woman. I’ve never met the woman. You’ll have to ask Michael.” “I don’t know anything about that. Ask Rudy.” “There’s no quid pro quo.” “I won the election! It was stolen.” Iconic Civil Rights leaders Elijah Cummings and John Lewis go unacknowledged while the First Lady drapes the medal over Rush Limbaugh to loud applause from the Right side and the silence of disbelief from the other. And that’s doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Echoes from Narcissus and Joe McCarthy

The Conservative Direct emails call conscientious patriots to fight against Leftists — people like me — while echoing the desperate cry of a thirsty Narcissus in the snarly tone of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn whose early ’50s campaign saw Communists like Pete Seeger hiding in the entertainment industry, the U.S. military, and government offices until Army defense counsel Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy with the rebuke that rang out across the American public in Edward R. Murrow’s nightly news broadcast.

Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.
McCarthy Hearing photo of Sen. Joseph McCarty (R) and exasperated Army Counsel Joseph Welsh (L)

Earlier that same day, Welch had challenged Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s staff attorney, to give the FBI and Department of Defense McCarthy’s list of 130 alleged subversives “before the sun goes down.” McCarthy fired back, claiming that Fred Fisher, a young member of Welch’s law firm, had Communist ties. Welch called out McCarthy in words that many American citizens wish we could say to the President and elected representatives of the GOP who fear being on Mr. Trump’s hit list:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”

Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy sullied the character of Fred Fisher.

Roy Cohn later tutored a young Donald Trump and signed on in the capacity later held by Michael Cohn. Like Michael, Roy was thrown under the bus when he was no longer useful.

Diabolos and Democracy

A week ago the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the frivolous lawsuit alleging fraud in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 2020 election. The Court’s unanimous decision without comment was a sharp rebuke by all nine Justices, included Mr. Trump’s three appointments to the Court. Yet the public relations legal charade did not end there. The narrative continued with the Texas Attorney General’s suit against the States of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Seventeen other GOP State attorneys general filed amicus briefs and 106 GOP Congressional Representatives put their names on the Trump support list knowing full well that no state has legal standing to challenge another state’s election process, let alone void other States elections.

Tonight the Supreme Court put an end to it. The U.S. Supreme Court — six Justices appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democratic presidents — did its job. They exercised their oath to maintain the rule of law in faithfulness under the U.S. Constitution.

The president refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He is delusional. So is his party. Every member of the U.S. Congress — every Senator and Representative — owes it to the American people to fulfill their oaths to uphold the Constitution — not to seditious Commander-in-Chief or his party. To stay silent while the president eviscerates the institutions on which democracy depends, firing competent public servants and replacing them with incompetent sycophants loyal to him is to be guilty of aiding and abetting treason.

A Leech and a Wrecking Ball

Every day that passes is another day we hear the clanging of the wrecking ball. Every day we wonder whether you, the members of Congress, hear it too. We hope against hope that you stand up for us, for democracy, and for yourselves, that you have the courage to remove Diabolos, the leech that is sucking America dry. That you will do what the president has failed or refused to do: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic.” You will be on the list, but you will stand tall as a patriot. No foreign country has the power to incite violence on American soil or to invoke Marshall Law to restore law and order to void an election. Only a domestic enemy can do that.

It’s not over til it’s over

The Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Wolverine Watchman, Aryan Brotherhood, other well-armed white supremacist, and, God forbid it should become so, Blackwater Xi, the private for-hire mercenary “security” operation whose employees former U.S. special forces personnel — click here for Views from the Edge’s previous Minnpost commentary on Blackwater Xi — are staying back and standing down, waiting for the whistle to take the streets.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Wipf and Stock, 2017) and host of Views from the Edge.

ADDENDUM: PRIORITY ACCESS TO MILANIA TRUMP’S 2020 CALENDAR

Dec. 10 9:00 P.M. SPECIAL INVITATION

Friend,

 I have something special for you.

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The sound of the trumpet in the morning

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Campaigns in the 2000s have a way of repeating themselves. So do sermons, like this one from the week before the 2012 election that draws on a Jewish legend about Satan’s sense of loss after being expelled from heaven. What he missed the most was the sound of the trumpet in the morning.

This moment in American history is like no other. We are living under the cloud of the diabolical. The New Testament word “diabolos” gets translated as “the devil.” I’m not into the Devil but I encounter the diabolical reading the news every morning. I find hope listening for the sound of the trumpet (the shofar).

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 4, 2020.

Sheep and Goats — A Timely Sermon

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Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats is not what it seems. It is not a crystal ball, an early peek into the end of time and history. A arable is an act of imagination that draws listeners into the substance of the story. It invites us to see life differently; it brings us up short. In his sermon “Sheep and Goats,” Adam Fronczek, Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, interprets the parable for today.

A Sermon: Sheep and Goats

“First They Came …” — Martin Niemoller during Nazi reign of terror

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Martin Niemoeler, German pastor

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 29, 2020.

The Clear Call of Conscience

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There is no innocence in staying silent when evil stares you in the face. Silence may come from cowardice. It may indicate the absence of conscience. Sometimes silence is complicity. GOP Georgia election official Gerald Sterling broke the silence yesterday.

Conscience, Confession, and Courage: the enduring witness of Martin Niemöller

German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller supported Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich before his eyes opened to its horror in the late 1930s.

For his outspoken opposition, he became a prisoner in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1938 to 1945. His poem “First they came…” still calls silent acquiescence to account.

First they came…

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

Who’ll be a witness?

Martin Niemöller was not without sin. Nor is Gerald Sterling. They were and are no less flawed than we who carry the burdens of conscience and complicity. Because they are no more saintly than we, their witnesses to truth and goodness remain long after the silence was broken.

“I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this, and every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.

“Someone’s going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed!

“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up.”

Gerald Sterling, GOP Georgia Department of State official, December 1, 2020

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 2, 2020.

Endurance in the Divided House

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Words do not come easily to old preachers in the aftermath of the 2020 election. When we are dumbfounded, some of us have the blessing, or curse, of finding our voice in recorded sermons.

This video begins with the reading from the Gospel of Luke (printed below) and a brief story. To go straight to the substance of the sermon, move the cursor to the six minute mark.

All Saints Day sermon “Endurance in the Divided House, “Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, Chaska, MN

Text

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
 father against son
     and son against father,
 mother against daughter
     and daughter against mother,
 mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law,
     and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

--Gospel according to Luke 12:51- 59 NRSV

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 23, 2020.