Christmas: He has scattered the proud!

This Christmas we share a chapter from Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017, Wipf and Stock) first aired on MPR’s “All Things Considered” during the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Today there is no Occupy Wall Street. There are no tents. No camps. No protests. But Mary, and the hope she sings in her Magnificat, will never goes away.

Mary of Occupy

He has shown strength with his arm; 
 he has scattered the proud 
 in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful 
 from their thrones,and lifted up the lowly; 
 he has filled the hungry with good things, 
 and sent the rich away empty.
 - Gospel of Luke 1:53-55
 

in other cultures, and other times, the young woman would be called a peasant. But here and now, she is a protester, one of a dwindling number of ragged young people on the government plaza. She moves among the occupier sleeping bags and protest signs in the cold of winter, singing her song of hope and joy.

She makes no demands, which is confusing to some. Hers is a different way: a bold announcement that the old order, symbolized by Wall Street, is already finished. Her purity and her message are impervious to the game of demand-and-response that serves only to tweak and tinker with the old system of greed and financial violence.

She simply affirms the great new thing that will come to pass. to her it is more real than much of what she sees.

A song like hers is being sung this season in churches through- out the world. The song rejoices in a new world order about to be born. The “same old, same old” world, the one defined by who’s up and who’s down, by social pride and social humiliation, by the overfed and underfed, by extremes of extravagant wealth and pov- erty—that world is over. The mountains of greed are brought down and the pits of desperation are raised up to the plain.

The song celebrated in churches is the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, a composition of the Gospel of luke. it has special meaning to Christians who believe that Mary bore in her womb the savior of us all. But the Luke story also serves as a metaphor for the compassionate character of a new society about to be born.

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” sings this peasant girl living in the time of the Roman empire’s foreign occupation. She is full of the One who “has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts,” who “has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of low degree,” the leveling God of mercy and justice.

Imagine for a moment an opera house. At one end of the stage stands Mary, the voice of prophetic madness, her tender voice softly rejoicing in the hope growing inside her. At the other end stands a massive chorus, in tuxedos and gowns, thundering its hymn of praise for the market, for its grandeur, for the preservation of the status quo.

“He has filled the hungry with good things,” the girl sings, “and the rich he has sent empty away.” Her voice cannot compete in volume. But in its clarity, it drowns out the mighty chorus.

As Mary’s song is read in churches this Sunday, some anonymous girl will slip unnoticed into the back pew. She will listen to the reading of luke’s Magnificat, and she will hope, like Mary, that the world will hear the message.

Merry Christmas from Views from the Edge.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska MN, Dec. 25, 2019

Elijah shares his pizza

ELIJAH SHARES WITH GRANDPA

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” – Ruth Reichl

Turn up the volume to hear Elijah, Grandma, and Grandpa

Elijah’s pizza

THE FULL VALUE OF JOY

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” — Mark Twain, Notebook (1935)

Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, celebrating Elijah at Elijah’s house, Dec. 16, 2019.

Author Interview – Gordon C. Stewart – “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” (Poetic Theological Essays on Politics, Pop Culture, Economy and Much More)

David Ellis (an English award-winning poet, novelist, writer, and host of “Too Full to Write”) reached across “the pond” following publication of “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness”. Thank you, David.

toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

Howdy folks.

So happy that you could make it to through to Friday, our favourite day of the week, in one piece 🙂

For tonight’s author interview extravaganza, let me introduce to you all my good friend, theologian and author Gordon C. Stewart, as he regales us with his writing experiences, his engagingly witty collection of essays blended together in a volume for our reading pleasure and what ultimately influences his writing thoughts and processes.

Enjoy the show and have a fantastic weekend packed full of fun, food, drinks and frolics galore, thanks for reading 🙂

Hi there Gordon, thank you for joining us to discuss your written works, writing experiences, passions and influences.

Let’s start with debut anthology “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness”, a collection of poetic essays based on a variety of topics such as politics, economy and popular culture to name a few. Can you elaborate more…

View original post 4,032 more words

English Translation

Trump in ceramicsHere’s the English translation of the French Cro-Magnon chorus posted yesterday as The Cro-Magnon Chorus:

“You think you are superior (to us). You are very stupid. Your intelligence and behavior insult your Cro-Magnon ancestors. We never changed the climate!”

Confession: I had to use an online French to English translator to understand the message of the Cro-Magnon Chorus. I wasn’t trying to be superior!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, still in France, June 16, 2016

 

Verse – Mary’s Bastard Child

It’s dark and drear on the way
to Bethlehem where relatives
abound with rooms to spare
to welcome our coming.

Why are the lights all out,
the doors locked, the knocks
unanswered, no candles lit for
us from out of town?

Has news of the coming illegitimate
child scared them off, driven them
way inside bolted doors named fear
and blame and shame?

Has the buzz been mean, the
relatives praying to stay clean
of bedsheets soiled of a bastard
birth and bloody after-birth?

Have the men in town gathered
stones and the women
shrunk back from mid-wifing
Mary’s child into life?

A flop house on the other side
of town welcomes us with fires
outside the barn for black
sheep guests from Nazareth.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 7, 2016

Verse – Bending Down, Looking Up

As readers of Views from the Edge (VFTE) may know, Steve Shoemaker, my poet colleague on VFTE has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His sense of humor remains strong. This verse recalls a moment with Steve and four other seminary classmates following a rare Cubs’ win at Wrigley Field in Wrigleyville, Chicago.

wrigley-field-2014

BENDING DOWN, LOOKING UP

A towering 69 year-old figure standing
six-feet-eight, Steve saunters slowly
through the post-game crowd outside
“the Friendly Confines” of Wrigleyville
like a watchtower on skates, looking
far and near for who knows what.

A very happy young woman as high
as he is tall pulls on his sleeve, asking
a question only he, bending far down,
can hear. He smiles but shakes his head
to whatever offer threatened to bring
him down to a lower happiness high.

Two years later at 72, he might be
looking again for the Wrigleyville fan
for something to ease the pain, settle
his stomach, give some relief from
the newly diagnosed cancer, a pill
or toke or two to raise him back up
to the watchtower, now six-feet-seven.

We who couldn’t hear the question
now smile, bend down low, and look up
beyond Steve’s lofty height with prayers
for courage, strength, whatever will keep
him tall in the game where everyone wins
and loses, and quite unexpectedly,
feels a gentle tug on an old shirtsleeve.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Dec. 8, 2015

Do prairie grasses ever get depressed?

 

Prairie grassland, Photo by Kay Stewart

Prairie grassland, Photo by Kay Stewart

Each alone and
all together
planted on
the prairie plain
we go nowhere
in sleet and snow
wind and rain
scorching heat
and frigid cold
sun and drought
quarter moons
half moons
three-quarter moons
full moons
no moons
starless nights
and starlit nights
we stay and wait
for nothing in
particular knowing
who and where
we are — a prairie
grassland sown
for us to be our
own true selves
together and alone.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary near Bassett, Nebraska, September 23, 2015.

Blameless and Exasperating

“Blameless people are always the most exasperating.”– Mary Ann Evans [pen name, George Eliot], Middlemarch,  A Study of Provincial Life, 1871.

Blamelessness and exasperation have characterized both sides of a recent conversation on Views from the Edge. Not blamelessness exactly, but certainty, positions that seem to each party to be apparent and true beyond a doubt. Each of us has become exasperated with  the other.

Jesus’ word to the harsh critic of others – “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”- is forgotten or ignored. Claims to righteousness and suspicion of the other replace self-criticism and magnanimity.

We live increasingly trapped in separate bubbles of survival in the war of ideas, convictions, platforms, moralities, religions, and ideologies in the search for security.

Instead of bubbles, Dennis Aubrey’s A Patron for Prisoners uses the metaphor of prison, quoting a sage from the 5th Century C.E., Saint Léonard of Noblat, the patron saint of prisoners, whose “Song” (based on Psalm 107) describes a hope for liberation from the prison cell whose doors we have locked from the inside.

“A Patron for Prisoners” opens with The Song of Saint Léonard of Noblat (5th Century):

He has liberated those sitting in darkness and shadow of death and chained in beggary and irons,
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses,
He brought them out of the path of iniquity,
For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder,
He hath liberated those in bindings and many nobles in iron manacles.

– Song of Saint Léonard, quoted by Aymeri Picaud, translated by Richard Hogarth

Saint Léonard’s Song ends with the release of the nobles, the only class of people named among the liberated throng.  It is no mistake that he includes them among those to be blessed by release from iron manacles. We are all bound in the prison cells of logs and specks, blameless and exasperated, fearful of our survival on the other side of the release.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 19, 2015.

America – In Search of Wisdom

Though we Americans disagree profoundly on many profound matters, we are often united by a deeper conviction regarding good and evil.

Today in America we’re taking sides. Left-Right. Democrat-Republican. Christian-non-christian. Religious-nonreligious. good-evil. All of the splits have something to do with perceptions of the dichotomy of good and evil, the good guys and the bad guys.

Wisdom is always the victim. Wisdom is crucified by the race to goodness. It sits in the middle of dichotomous thinking, a way of life that Danish Philosopher-theologian Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1838), who was anything but a joiner, called double-mindedness.

In the Bible wisdom is personified as female.  In the Book of Proverbs Wisdom is like a concerned mother calling to her children who prefer simpleness to insight:

“You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says,

“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.

“Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Provers 9:4-6

Wisdom is maternal. Wisdom calls her wayward children – the simple ones — to “turn in here” to her house. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Wisdom’ children are mature.

Could it be that the beatitude of Jesus “blessed are the pure in heart” is a call to return to Wisdom’s house of insight where the unity of all things is unbroken, instead of a call to simpleness? Simplicity of heart, then, is not simplicity of mind but rather to will one thing only: the goodness of wisdom (unity), as described by D. Anthony Storm‘s comments on  Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing Only:

God is presented as “simple”. I use this term in the same sense as Aquinas. God is singular of nature, and is not divided or contrary in any way. By this, I do not refer to unitarian versus trinitarian theology, but simply that Kierkegaard sees God as a unity of thought, will, and being. The nature of God is changeless (see The Changelessness of God). Man, on the other hand, is divided by nature. [Italics edited for purposes of emphasis]

Wisdom holds all things together, honoring the unity already present in the nature of reality itself. It seeks the simpleness or singleness with is God, not the simple-mindedness of the warring children of light and darkness, joining the right “side” in a battle of good versus evil. The heart of Wisdom recognizes and celebrates goodness, justice, and truth in whatever venue they appear.

“You that are simple – those without sense, you that are immature – turn in here!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 16, 2015

 

Speaking very clearly

 

I’m going to speak very clearly now Gordon, in the form of a single question.

How in the name of God can you claim to be a Christian and a Democrat in the same breath?

I don’t know the person who put the question. We’re complete strangers.  We’ve never met. We live in different worlds.  Our understandings are foreign to each other, so strange that suspicion and name-calling, or the fear that the other is calling the other “a nut job”, undermines the possibility of real discussion.

I … read a few of your other posts, needless to say; everything I read merely confirmed my original “understanding” of who you are. In other words Gordon, (and I say this with both respect and disdain) You do not fool me, I knew you from your first words, your Credentials simply confirmed what was obvious from the start. Take that as you will.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that you are convinced that I am some sort of zealot or just another “right-wing nut job”, but in truth I am just another American. A Christian American.

I’m going to speak very clearly now Gordon, in the form of a single question.

How in the name of God can you claim to be a Christian and a Democrat in the same breath?

The writer was responding to Views from the Edge‘s post of Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama’s speech on Hiroshima Day, 2006. Nothing in that post would lead a reader to assume, or to conclude, knowledge of my political party affiliation.

I asked myself how to respond. I pondered not replying at all. I chose to respond in writing as best I could, assuring the writer that I don’t call people right-wing nut jobs, and addressing other sections of the comment. After an exchange of blog comments and an email inviting a phone conversation, we shared some of the milk of human kindness over the phone long distance.

In further reflection I realized that the writer’s question articulates a point of view that rarely speaks so clearly. It assumes that Christian faith and the Democratic Party are polar opposites. Others on the left assume a Christian cannot be a Republican. Parts of America we are living in two separate worlds – on two different sides without much clear speaking. It’s not surprising that the “Nones” – those who now declare no religious affiliation in national polls – are growing in America.

The writer’s comments repeatedly refer to “the real war” in heaven and on earth, spiritual warfare between Satan and God. Until “the real war” is over, the argument goes, there will be cruelty and wars because of the fallenness of human nature, and there’s nothing we can do to change. In the midst of time we must chose which “side” we are on.

Views from the Edge’s first Hiroshima Day piece and the one that followed it had called attention to the hubris of all claims (Japanese or American) to national exceptionalism.

The writer therefore, as best I can tell, concluded I must be a Democrat, i.e. someone who doesn’t love his country, someone who thinks that America is not a Christian nation. Someone who might be a …. “You don’t fool me.”

The commenter was right that I’m a Christian but mistaken in assuming I’m a Democrat. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are, in my view, the left wing and the right wing of a single American party. Both wings belong to Wall Street. They march in parades on Main Street at election time, but the parades are funded by Wall Street and America’s wealthiest 1%. We do not live in a democratic republic. We are living under an oligarchy.

Jesus has a few things to say about that.  J.J. Von Allmen (A Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, 1958) makes a powerful case that Jesus’s teaching about money is original to him. He is the first to call money “Mammon”: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus choice to personify wealth stands out as an exception to his normal way of speaking. Mammon and its distribution are at the heart of Jesus’s preaching and teaching. There is the Kingdom of God and there is the Kingdom of Mammon. One cannot serve both.

Had the commenter’s question been “How can you be a Christian and a socialist?” the answer would have been easy.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 15, 2015