You Tyrant!

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Recalling Steve Shoemaker’s post “A Song for Each Kind of Day” after returning to the habit of reading the Psalms each morning, I am stunned by the aptness of the Psalm for today.

The Psalms are existential in nature. They are profoundly personal, but they also address public life. They give voice to the heart’s desire in a given time and place — our thanksgivings, yearning, exultations, lamentations, and cries against injustice. Often they are the poet’s responses to public life in the light of faith.

THAT’S NOT NICE!

You tyrant, 

why do you boast of wickedness 

against the godly all day long?

 You plot ruin;

Your tongue is like a sharpened razor,

O worker of deception.

 You love evil more than good

and lying more than speaking the truth.

You love all words that hurt,

O you deceitful tongue.

 Oh that God would demolish you utterly,

topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,

and root you out of the land of the living!

 The righteous shall see and tremble, 

and they shall laugh at him, saying,

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,

but trusted in great wealth

and relied upon wickedness.”

  • Psalm 52:1-7 (Book of Common Prayer)

Psalm 52 isn’t nice. The psalmist knew nothing of Watergate or the Mueller investigation, or Donald J. Trump. Nor was he imbued with an ethic that told him not to judge, to be kind, to watch his tongue, to believe that all’s right with the world because God’s in His heaven or the claim everything happens for a reason.The psalmist is not a fatalist or a determinist. He holds sacred his personal responsibilty for public life. His life is not his own. He knows himself to be a member of a commonwealth. When the integrity of the commonwealth comes under threat, his heart must speak.


BREAKFAST WITH A PSALMIST

Former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson is remembered for “the Saturday Night Massacre” when he resigned his office, refusing to obey President Richard Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. 

NYTimes_Saturday_Night_Massacre.jpegYears later, Elliot Richardson came to Minneapolis as the featured speaker at the Westminster Town Hall Forum. As was the custom, he moderator and the guest speaker enjoyed conversation over breakfast the morning of the Forum. At his initiation, the convsersation turned to religion. He was writing a book, occasioned in part by the growing public agreement with John Lennon’s “Imagine There’s No Religion,” arguing that, if the slate of human history were wiped clean of religion, we would re-create it in a heartbeat because it’s in our nature. Searching Amazon’s listing of Richardson’s books, it appears it was never published. If we had the opportunity again all these years later, I would ask him if he had crawled inside Psalm 52 before he took the leap of faith that made him a hero of personal conscience and public intergrity.

ONLY A POEM (A PSALM) 

Some things are matters of the heart. Some things in public life pierce the heart so deepLy; some sins against the commonwealth are so egregious; some wealth is so obscene; some abuses of power against the commonwealth so obvious, that only a poem (a psalm) says what we feel. There is a psalm for this kind of day.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, on the wetland, Dec. 18, 2018

A Stormy Night in the Cuckoo’s Nest

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Robert Mueller

Rex Tillerson is out at the State Department. Mike Pompeo is in. So is Stormy Daniels, waiting to tell her story on 60 Minutes. The White House’s email this morning was deafeningly silent about Tillerson’s firing, directing the public’s attention to the president’s visit to the border wall with Mexico today.

As a long time proponent of a foreign policy of respect for the sovereignty of other nations, the pursuit of peaceful solutions to international disputes, and global action on climate change, and a critic of crony capitalism, it is leaves me more than a little disturbed to find myself in the same camp with a former Exxon CEO, the FBI, the CIA, and Generals and Admirals of the U.S. military establishment who refuse to settle down in the White House cuckoo’s nest.

Rex Tillerson is out the day after publicly paying heed to America’s closest ally’s claim that the Russians are responsible for the poisonings in Britain. That the president and Tillerson disagreed on strategic matters is no secret. Nor is the allegation that the Secretary of State called his boss “a ___ moron,” an allegation Tillerson deflected but never denied. Why the president waited so long to fire him has been a head-scratcher explained perhaps by the respect Tillerson commands from Wall Street, multinational corporate leaders, global capitalist free trade proponents, and, yes, even moderate climate change action advocates. All have looked to the former Exxon CEO as one Trump cabinet member who a least understands complexity and respects measured responses and careful planning required before things like a meeting with Kim Jung-un.

170629123255-trump-tweets-assualt-on-brzezinski-1024x576The president often tweets after a stormy night. Perhaps the timing of the Tillerson firing less than a week before Stormy Daniels’ scheduled 60 Minutes interview is an ill-considered attempt to circle the wagons around the cuckoo’s nest before Stormy and the Mueller investigation findings shut off the television in the White House bedroom.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 13, 2018