Be Still! Departing from Collective Madness

Writing Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (scheduled for release by Wipf and Stock Publishers in January), I had a growing sense of its prescience. The subtitle “departure from collective  madness” is anchored in the works of Elie Wiesel and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, and the Gospel of Matthew’s story of the Wise Men (sic) who “departed” for their own country by another way.

As the date for final submission of the Be Still! manuscript drew near, I saw a madman running for the highest office of the land but underestimated the extent of the collective madness that would be drawn like iron to a magnet. The billionaire television personality who puts his name on everything his hands have touched, gave voice to people who have felt groped by the system.

Michael Moore, a champion of America’s forgotten working class, saw this coming. He was in touch with the many sources of anger that found a voice in Donald Trump, and he warned the Democratic Party to get in touch with it before it was too late.

Now it is history. I felt sick Wednesday morning. By yesterday evening, I was able to calm down. Today’s sense of nausea is worse than yesterday’s after reading “Meet Trump’s Cabinet-in-Waiting” – a cabinet which will put the country back into the hands Wall Street, big oil, climate change-deniers, and the likes of Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Rudy Gulliani (Attorney General candidate), loose-talking groper Newt Gingrich (Secretary of State candidate), and CEOs.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have called for the country to unite for an orderly transition. I believe in orderly transitions. I applaud them. A democratic republic depends upon such transitions. I support that. But I will not be united behind a madman or absorbed into a collective madness that bodes evil. I will not turn over cars. I will not stop traffic. I will not burn things. I will write. And write. And write knowing, as this election has reaffirmed, that words DO matter.

I will do my best to be still. I will follow the example the biblical Wise Men (sic) who “being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, . . . departed into their own country another way”[Matthew 2:12 KJV]. Herod was a strongman in whom there was no refuge. There was and is another way.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

[Psalm 46]

Amen. May it be so.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 10, 2016




Author Madness

Had I known it was this complicated, I might have thought twice about publishing a book. Yikes! I like to write. Securing copyright permissions, adhering to the publisher’s requirements for final manuscript submission, converting from Apple’s Pages to Microsoft Word, and completing the marketing survey are much more complicated than auth0r vanity imagined.

Be careful what you ask for. (You might inadvertently end a sentence with a preposition.)

September 10 is the date for final submission of “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness,” in the once vain hope of making the NYT Best Sellers list. The author’s life is way too complicated!

The Daily Post’s invitation to write something on the word “complicated” is responsible for this waste of your time.

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, August 14, 2016.








Orlando and Madness



Orlando is the latest locale for an outbreak of madness. It was committed by an individual claiming allegiance to ISIS, but it was nevertheless evidence of a larger collective madness, a frame of heart and mind angry because reality doesn’t accord with what we believe the world should look like: like, a world without LGBTQ people. A world without blacks…or whites…or Latinos…or Gringoes…or Jews, Christians, or Muslims, or men…or women…or children.

Investigators and journalists are telling us about the Orlando shooter.

But no one can really tell us why. Most of what we hear frames the picture of horror from the righteous outside, ignoring the ironic madness of onlookers’ gasps and sighs, bound together by our hatred of the hater, the shooter, assuring ourselves that we’re not haters, that we’re not shooters.

Life is always both simpler and more complex than we can grasp. Meanwhile, the imagined division into the saved and the damned metastasizes. It takes many forms.

In my tradition the crucifixion exposes the malady — the anxious fear that creates a scapegoat; the competing claims of goodness according to one ideal or another, and the death of man and God at the hands of the righteous. In this view there are no clean hands. Or, to put it differently in the terms of the cartoon, we’re all in the same leaking boat. There is no place from which to proclaim from on high that the boat is leaking only on the other side.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Beynac, France, June 13, 2016

Robin Williams and Us

Few people made so many laugh or cry as Robin Williams. Today we’re not laughing. We’re crying.

What Robin’s world inside his own skin was like no one else really knows. His sudden death strikes us with an equally sudden sadness. It punctures a hole in our perceptions, brings to a screeching halt the presumption of dailyness and the ordered worlds in which we wrap ourselves in a society whose madness Robin himself helped us to transcend.

We are not among the few who knew him intimately. As in the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death, we are left to pause and pray for his family and closest friends and to consider again the greater tragedy of violent social order where reason and kindness are as alien as Mork was to this strange world.

The stories in the next days will feed public curiosity, appealing to the need for some cause on which to pin the tragedy, like pinning the tail on the donkey, some manageable explanation for why a man so funny and gifted would apparently take his own life. We will hear that it was clinical depression or bi-polar disorder or drugs or alcohol or some other diagnosis that explains his death.

But will they address the bigger human question to which Robin gave his life in comedy and in drama: why is the world so in love with death? Why is the world we have built for ourselves so cruel? Why does it take an alien named Mork with an innocent young woman named Mindy to deliver us from the love affair with a collective madness for which there seems to be no cure? And how do we, when we bump up against an inexplicable death like Robin’s, pause appropriately in his honor to give thanks for him in both his laughter and his tears?