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.

Inflammatory Rhetoric

INTRODUCTION

After posting “The Incendiary President” yesterday, someone with better memory than I remembered the guest commentary aired by Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered 10 years ago. Some things don’t change. The audio has vanished, but MPR’s archives preserves the text. In 2020, we are reaping the harvest of what we’ve sown.

When political rhetoric poisons . . .” – All Things Considered (MPR), March 29, 2010

Our nation is being poisoned by inflammatory rhetoric. How else does one explain the sending of a used condom to a Minnesota congresswoman, or the phone message left on Rep. Keith Ellison’s answering machine: “Timothy McVeigh said dead government workers are good government workers. Goodbye, Sambo”?

And that’s just here in Minnesota.

The success of a democratic republic depends upon the civility of its citizens and their respect for the offices of public servants, regardless of who occupies the office. Unless we clean up the language of our civil discourse, we are inviting unimaginable tragedy.

According to a Harris Interactive Poll taken this month, “more than 20 percent believe [President Obama] was not born in the United States, that he is ‘the domestic enemy’ of whom the U.S. Constitution speaks, that he is racist and aynti-American, and that he ‘wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.’ Fully 20 percent think he is ‘doing many of the things that Hitler did,’ while 14 percent believe ‘he may be the anti-Christ’ and 13 percent think ‘he wants the terrorists to win.'” 

Though I distrust the percentages of any poll, whatever the real percentages of such views, this cocktail is lethal. But it is not new. The acrid taste is familiar to my generation We grew up in another time when the civil discourse was being poisoned.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy was dumping poison — instigating a national witch hunt for communists and communist sympathizers in government, the entertainment industry, and labor unions. In the spring of 1954, McCarthy’s crusade of insinuation, innuendo and guilt by association was brought to an end by journalist Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welsh, attorney for the U.S. Army.

Sharpening his teeth to devour his adversary by character assassination, McCarthy snarled and reminded Welch that one of Welch’s colleagues had belonged to an organization suspected of communist sympathies. Welch replied with words we all need to hear again: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Welch’s words took our breath away back then. They still do. A sense of decency is the only thing that will strengthen us to escape the politics of assassination and allow us to seek solutions in a difficult time. In Murrow’s words, “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from the fearful.”

Painting the president of the United States or members of Congress with McCarthy’s sloppy brush as domestic enemies — let alone as the Antichrist — gives deranged minds a license to send used condoms or hateful voicemails. Or even to plot an assassination.

I am a pastor. The use of Christian scripture to stoke the fires of fear and hate are the hardest to take. The Christian life takes evil seriously, but there may be no greater evil than ill-informed, loud spirituality. All the great religions hold some version of the essential tenet expressed in the First Letter of John, which, incidentally, is the only place in all of Christian Scripture that the idea of the Antichrist appears. “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.”

Where are the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welsh now? We need them again.

———————————–

Gordon C. Stewart, Minnesota Public Radio (91.1 FM), March 29, 2010. Re-posted September 4, 2020.

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Five men in a living room

Funny how things come to consciousness slowly over time until, in a flash of light, what should have been obvious all along comes clearly into view.

Learning that “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not air as expected on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” because of its length, I went back to read it and hear it again over morning coffee.

Hearing the ending again –“three men in a living room — two Americans and on dead Japanese….” — I realized there were more than three. There were five.

Without the influence of the missing two, “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not have been written. It was as though the pen I had thought was in my hand had been in theirs. They had written the piece.

Who were the missing two?

My American father, the former World War II Army Air Force Chaplain on Saipan, and Kosuke Koyama, the teenage Japanese survivor of the American  firebombing of Tokyo.

My father, the Chaplain, on board ship to Saipan, WW!!. RIP

A father casts a long shadow over a son’s life.

Except for a poem he had written on Saipan about the flames of war lighting the night skies of the South Pacific, Dad didn’t talk about the war. During his 18 years as pastor of the Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall, Pennsylvania, Korean and Japanese students from Princeton Theological Seminary were frequent weekend guests in our home.

 

Kosuke Koyama – RIP

Kosuke Koyama, who had been a student at Princeton Seminary during my teenage years, came into my life decades later in 1996 when he moved to Minneapolis following his retirement as John D. Rockefeller, Jr Professor of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

Might Ko have been a guest in our home way back when?

That my father and Ko might have known each other is a happy thought.

But, whether they occupied the same physical space is not as important as the large space they opened in the inheritor of their influence. Two invisible men in a living room brought the other three together in the bonds of sacred silence and the hope of something better for us all.

Funny thing! If the recording had aired yesterday on “All Things Considered”, I might still be in the dark!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, in honor of Kenneth Campbell Stewart and Kosuke Koyama, May 30, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

My, O, My! How things (don’t) change

Returning from a week with thoughtful speakers from The Nation magazine, including Vegans Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich, took this  guilty but yet-to-repent meat-eater back to a guest commentary that aired on Minnesota Public Radio inelizabeth_harper_kucinich 2010.

Back then, the Affordable Care Act had just become law. My, O, my, how things do change! And not always for the better, although Elizabeth still hopes it’s a matter of time before the world wakes up to the industrial agricultural devastation that contributes to climate departure. As for health care? Who knows?

Click Commentary: Processed foods making us sick to listen to MPR’s “All Things Considered” guest commentary of May 22, 2010 when we assumed believed passage of the Affordable Care Act had put the national health care issue behind us.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Winter Solstice, December 21, 2016

 

 

 

All Things Considered commentary and audio

Click HERE and then click the audio link on the Minnesota Public Radio website to hear yesterday’s commentary on the classical spiritual-philosophical-ethical premise we need to remember. This piece was written two days BEFORE the President delivered his speech yesterday at Knox College.

    EXCERPT:

The English word “economy” comes from the Greek work “oikos” – the Greek word for house. The word “economics” derives from the Greek word “oikonomia”- -the management of a household.

Before it is anything else, economics is a perspective, a frame of reference. Before it decides anything about household management, it knows that there is only one house. Good household management – good economics – pays attention to the wellbeing of the entire house and all its residents.

The President’s Speech on the Economy

Aired earlier today on All Things Considered (MPR, KNOW, 91.1 FM).

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN.

Paul Tillich quote in Tillich Park, New Harmony, IN.

Today President Obama began a series of speeches about the future of the American economy. I hope he takes us back to the basics of what an “economy” is.

Economics is about a household and how to manage it. The household is a family, a state, a nation, a planet.

The English word “economy” comes from the Greek work oikos – the Greek word for house. The word “economics” derives from the Greek word oikonomia–the management of a household.

Before it is anything else, economics is a perspective, a frame of reference. Before it decides anything about household management, it knows that there is only one house. Good household management – good economics – pays attention to the wellbeing of the entire house and all its residents.

In America and elsewhere across the world, we are coming to realize that the planet itself is one house. What happens in one room of the house – one family, one city, one nation – affects what happens everywhere in the house. Paul Tillich caught the clear sense of it when he wrote that “Man and nature belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.” That is to say, there is only one house.

The essential question of economics is not about systems – capitalism, communism, socialism, or something else. The essential question is spiritual, philosophical, and ethical. It’s whether we believe that there is only one oikos, one house; the subsequent question is about how best to manage it for the wellbeing of all its residents and the fragile web of nature without which the house of the living would not exist.

Very often what we call ‘economics’ is not economics. It’s not oikonomia. It’s something else. It assumes something else, and when we forget what an economy and economics really are, we enshrine greed as the essential virtue, ignoring and imperiling everyone else and everthing in the one house in which we all live.

I dream that the President will preach the old Greek common sense: that in his own way, he will reclaim the essential premise of an economy and the ethical task of economics. By bringing the Greek origins to our television sets, headsets, and iPads, he can call us to move forward out of the partisan houses of nonsense.

There is only one house.

The Worship of Death, MPR

“Sandy Hook was a symptom of the American tragedy: our worship of safety — arming ourselves to the nines — turns out to be the death of us.  The idolatry of safety is the worship of death itself.” – guest commentary, GCS, MPR (91.1 FM, Dec. 20, 2012)

Click HERE for the entire commentary on safety and the worship of death aired yesterday on “All Things Considered” (Minnesota Public Radio, MPR, 91.1 FM)  The page you will see includes an audio link to listen.

The MPR site also provides opportunity for readers and listeners to chime in with your point of view to generate further discussion of safety, guns, death, and American culture.

On the day the world comes to an end, thanks so much for choosing to drop by Views from the Edge for a definitive, final word from a completely reliable source of all wisdom and truth. Later this morning I meet with a group of students to discuss the Mayan Calendar hoax and the misreading of the New Testament Book of Revelation  …assuming, of course, that we’re all still here at 9:30 A.M. Central Standard Time :-).

In that same vein – or is it “vain”? – last Sunday’s sermon at Shepherd of the Hill on the tragedy of Sandy Hook in light of the biblical tradition will go up on Views from the Edge. and the church website.

“All Things Considered” (MPR, 91.1 FM) This Afternoon

The Tragedy of Sandy Hook is scheduled to air this afternoon between 5:25 and 5:50 CST, but as one of the producers reminds us, “the time is always subject to change. To be safe, listen to the whole show.”

Thanks to the good folks of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR 91.1 FM) for publishing the piece.

Latest “All Things Considered” commentary

During campaign season, maintaining serenity is a good trick

by Gordon C. Stewart, “All Things Considered” guest commentary (MPR)

Aired August 20, 2012

Click HERE for the Minnesota Public Radio publication, including an Audio link. Here’s the text.
.

Some days are brightened by a trip to the nursing home.

Take last Monday, for instance.

The members of the group that meets every Monday at 10 a.m. shuffle in on their walkers, or roll in, in their wheel chairs.

Ninety-seven-year-old Frances (not her real name; nor are the others to follow) walks in without assistance. Her 78-year-old son is dying of cancer. Another relative, 30 years younger than she, is next door in the memory care unit. “Good morning!” she says.

Georgana has been confined to a wheelchair all her life. But her mind is as sharp as her sense of humor. Gwen, who’ll be 90 this week, is coming to the end with hospice care. Pat, recently moved from Assisted Living to the Care Center, is in a wheelchair. All 12 of them smile and offer each other greetings: “Good morning!”

This morning I’ve watched too many campaign ads brought to my computer by Unedited Politics, a website that republishes campaign ads and political speeches without editorial comment. I’m all stirred up.

The 12 people from the nursing home have been drawn here by their desire for light. “Rejoice!” says the reading for the morning. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation ….”

I ask: How do you rejoice in a nursing home? What is the secret of being content when your body and your mind don’t do what they once did?

Listening to their reflections reminds me of how small our footprint is on the larger world. They share my distress about the news, but their years have taught them to recognize light wherever it meets them and to relish the little things of daily life: a smile, a kind word, the cardinal and the squirrels playing outside their windows, a sense of inner peace, a strange contentment. I hope to be more like them — to pay more attention to the things that are beautiful, admirable and lovely.

While they shuffle out on their walkers and roll out in their wheelchairs, Frances, Georgana, Gwen, Pat and the rest of the ad hoc community at the nursing home thank me for coming and wish me a good week. They have lightened my step. I’ll still pay attention to the news, but I’ll listen and watch with a greater lightness of being.

A Visit to the Nursing Home: Staying Sane

Click During campaign season, maintaining serenity is a good trick to read last Friday’s guest commentary published by MPR. The commentary will also air on All Things Considered, “the most listened-to, afternoon drive-time, news radio program in the country”.