“Legitimacy” on Martin Luther King Day – 2017

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr days before the 2017 inauguration of a new president begs for serious national reflection.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights leader some people once hated was “legitimized” after he was no longer a threat—re-fashioned into a single issue  icon. The real Martin, the disturbing prophetic preacher calling for justice and peace, has been muted —reduced to an icon on postage stamps and in editorials of the same newspapers that scolded him for breaking the law in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, St. Augustine, and Memphis. The real Martin—the real human treasure worth preserving—and his legacy look on our time and ask how we chose to return to the law-and-order-society.

John Lewis and other survivors whose heads were bloodied on Pettus Bridge by the enforcers of an unjust law-and-order society scratch their heads and wonder. They know that Martin Luther King, Jr’s life and witness exceeded the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He was an early opponent of the War in Vietnam, the military-industrial complex, the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, and the propaganda machine that kept the public befuddled and confused about reality.

By the time Dr. King while was shot standing with the striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he had connected all the dots we have yet to connect: white privilege, excessive wealthy, poverty, capitalism, foreign military interventions, and assassinations.

No one can say whether Martin Dr. King would join his voice to his old friend John Lewis’s, the Civil Rights leader become Congressman who has declared the incoming Presidency “illegitimate”, but imagining King’s dismay at the results of the 2016 election requires no great skill. We know enough to say with certainty that the dream for which Dr. King lived and died is no less at stake today than it was the day a bullet silenced him on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968.

Martin Luther King Day 2017 just days before the inauguration asks all Americans what kind of nation we want to be — one that chooses to put out the lights of its real luminaries or a nation that, having seen a bright star on a dark night, walks forward with pink knit hats toward a compassionate Dream worth living and dying for.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 15, 2017

Verse – The Laundromat – Pittsboro, N.C., 1969

She was young, white, and pregnant

when they moved

south. She had worked for Civil

Rights for blacks

up north. So seeing two doors

as she faced

the laundromat obscured

the sordid facts

of legal segregation

just before.

“Oh please, Ma’am, take your clothes

over next door,”

the old black woman said.

“Will you have trouble

if I stay?” “Please, Ma’am,

do as I say…”

The young woman had not

heard “Ma’am” before

from someone older, so

she turned her face —

embarrassed for her race –

and went next door.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Jan. 27, 2015

NOTE: While working on a Ph.D. in Religion at Duke University, Steve pastored two yoked Presbyterian Churches: the 88 member Pittsboro, N.C., (pop. 1,500 then), and Mt. Vernon Springs (55? members) 30 miles west in rural Chatham County. Nadja drove from the Manse in Pittsboro 30 miles north to do Microbiology research at Duke. Son Daniel was born in March, 1970.

Beyond Fundamentalism

The influence of New Testament scholar Floyd Filson

The influence of New Testament scholar Floyd Filson

Conversion at Seminary”

Four years Wheaton College tried
to make a fundamentalist
Christianity the first
and last thought on my searching mind.
Then a liberal McCormick
Dean Filson took a chance on me–
I learned Bible truth could be
much wider, deeper, than mere fact:
changing this world was our call!
From civil rights to stopping war,
social justice cried for more
of faithful love, that holy force
learned by the Apostle Paul
when Jesus knocked him off his horse.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, May 25, 2013

Dean Floyd V. Filson was an internationally renowned New Testament scholar. A prolific writer, Filson published his own original New Testament commentaries and articles in scholarly journal, but he did not operate in a silo. He collaborated with co-authors and co-editors Oscar Cullman, G. Ernest Wright, and other world-class scholars. He also translated Rudolph Otto’s The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man, a book which, like Otto’s The Idea of the Holy represented a landmark shift in the understanding of God and of Jesus’s own consciousness. But more than a scholar, at least for the likes of Steve, was his unfailing kindness and belief in us. If he was aware of his stature in the world of academia, it was never apparent in the classroom or in his office. He was the definition of Christian humility. A ready smile, gentleness, respect for others, and a hearty “Good Morning!” were his signatures.

Monday six McCormick grads on whom Dean Filson took a chance will gather at the seminary for our annual Gathering. Steve and Don Dempsey were Class of ’68; Wayne Boulton, Harry Strong, Bob Young and I were the Class of ’67.

Tribute to Miriam Makeba


Like Nelson Mandella, like Desmond Tut, like Martin Luther King, Jr., like Sojourner Truth…there is only one Miriam Makeba.

“Mama Africa” won a Grammy Award for “the Click song” (a Xhosa wedding song), so unique to western ears, that made her famous in the United States. But in South Africa she was more than a performer. She was a Civil Rights activist, a national hero, who paid a high price in the movement to end Apartheid and bring majority rule to her South African homeland. Her passport was cancelled. Her music was banned from being played or bought in South Africa. She was in exile for 30 years. There is nothing more dangerous than a human voice, and the South African regime knew it. Like Pete Seeger, whose “God’s Countin’ on Me” was posted here yesterday, Miriam was a voice of hope in the struggle for racial justice all over the world. She died at the age of 76 while performing in Italy on November 10, 2008.

Thank you, Miriam Makeba. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Rest in Peace.