The Shadow of Fred Trump

150202142706-new-york-times-profit-780x439To a degree greater than his Oval Office predecessors, President Trump is waging perpetual war with the press, especially the New York Times.


Like Father, Like Son

Sons who reflect deeply on what makes them tick eventually wade in the muddy waters of their relationships with their fathers.

Although psychotherapists warn against armchair diagnosis, especially by those not trained in the DSM and diagnostic practice, some things have always been in the public domain of human wisdom. Among them is the existential relationship of a father and a son.

It’s taken 75 years of self-reflection to reach the little clarity I have about my father and me. Along the way I have listened to men, young and old, wrestling with — or refusing to wrestle with —their fathers.

Sometimes the fathers are alive. Sometimes they’re dead. But a father never dies. He lives on in the son who looks to him for approval, for legitimacy, for love.

The Story of Jacob

Although we are not trained in clinical diagnosis like our psychology counterparts, rabbis, priests, ministers, and imams, rabbis, priests, ministers, and imams are privileged to wade in these sacred waters with other waders and wrestlers.

We are schooled in a companion tradition to the DSM, the ancient wisdom passed on from generation to generation by the Torah like the story of Jacob wrestling with the night visitor by the ford of the Jabbok.

The back story of Jacob’s night of wrestling is Jacob’s tricking his blind father Isaac into giving him the father’s blessing meant for Esau and Jacob’s crafty theft of Esau’s birthright.

“After that Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing from Isaac. He thought to himself, ‘My father will soon die, and I will be sad for him. Then I will kill Jacob.’” [Genesis 27:41.]

Esau’s fury has sent Jacob into flight fearing for his life. Now, after years of running for his life, Jacob is about to meet the brother he assumes intends to kill him.


Jacob wrestling with the angel – Eugene Delacroix 

It is the night before Jacob’s encounter with Esau.

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” [Genesis 32:24-31 NRSV.]

Jacob’s dark night of the soul appears at first to be his unresolved sin against his brother Esau. But beneath the obvious, what the Genesis narrator sets up as a life-and-death moment between the two estranged brothers is a night-dream resolution of Jacob’s very being — his grounding in God . . . and his father.

Jacob is not the only one who has wrestled alone in the night. No night is bleaker than the absence of love, and the darkest of them come when the absence comes from one’s mother or father.

The memory of a father like Isaac casts a long shadow over a man like Jacob. No matter how far Jacob runs from his brother, he cannot walk outside the shadow of Isaac’s disapproval. So long as we run, we miss the holy limp that results from the wrestling.

Perhaps in the light of a son’s relationship with his father we see something much deeper than politics in the behavior and speech of Donald j. Trump.

Walking with a Limp

Jacob’s night of wrestling leaves him permanently injured. Forever after he walks with a limp. After his night by the ford of the Jabbok and the next day when Esau embraces him against every expectation, Jacob and Esau join together to bury their dead father.

For Donald Trump’s sake and for all the brothers and sisters the president has managed to estrange across the world in 2017, one can pray, and hope against hope, that Fred Tump’s heir would finally bury his father’s fight with the New York Times.


  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 21, 2017.


Wild Child Takes Charge

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review op ed by Maureen Dowd’s includes this paragraph on the new president who’s captured the world’s full attention:

To Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, the new president conjured the image of “a guy on a pogo stick in the Rose Garden bouncing around with a TV remote control in his hand trying to decide what to respond to in the next 30 seconds on Twitter.”

He can’t watch as much television because he now has to get to work by 9:00.

Click Wild Child Takes Charge to read the piece.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 29, 2017

Elizabeth Warren Speaks

As presidential candidates scramble to win Iowa, Senator Elizabeth Warren, in this opinion piece in the New York Times, reminds voters why the choice is so important.

Click “For whom does the government work? Presidents decide.”

President Obama’s Letter to the NYT

President Obama’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times today responds to a thoughtful NYT article by Jim Rutenberg on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Click HERE for a link to the NYT’s coverage of the President’s letter and the article that inspired it.

Views from the Edge posted the following comment on the NYT website:

Arguments that the key provision of the Voting Rights Act are no longer necessary are what the President says they are. State decisions to remove the Confederate flag demonstrate greater sensitivity to the continuing presence of white supremacist assumptions than is apparent in the U.S. Supreme Court and among the Republican caucus in the U.S. Congress. The President persistently keeps before the American people the historic aspiration “in Order to form a more perfect Union” and, in so doing, does the nation a great service. This president is balanced, historicaly-informed, philosophical, articulate, and personally grounded. After years of swallowing his tong in hopes of reaching bi-partisan solutions, President Obama is making use of his last years in office in ways that will place him among the greats of American history.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 12, 2015.

Church approves gay marriage

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved an amendment to its Constitution that re-defines marriage as a covenant between two people.

As a Presbyterian pastor since 1967, this debate has been a matter of long-suffering disappointment, prayer, and hope. At long last, the church opened its heart to all of its members. Questions of how to move forward in ways that do not disparage the conscience of dissenters and how to prevent further withdrawal of dissenting PC(USA) congregations provide no ready answers. Perhaps the fifth of the PC(USA)’s Historic Principles of Church Order (approved at the founding General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1789) may yet guide the church today and in days to come.

…[W]e… believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good characters and principles may differ. And, in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance towards each other. [Book of Order, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Forbearance is an increasingly foreign attribute in the church, the nation, and the world.  One prays and hopes that forbearance would prevail as we work our way through the thistles and nettles of the spiritual, ethical, national, and geopolitical issues of conscience that trouble and divide us.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 18, 2015

Marriage – a covenant between…

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – PC(USA) – approved amending its constitution to define marriage as “a covenant between two people.

Click THIS LINK for the New York Times story, “Largest Presbyterian Denomination Gives Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage”.

Many, such as I, welcome this change after many years spent in local and national discussion and debate over the nature of biblical authority, biblical interpretation, and the nature of human sexuality.  This morning passersby on State Highway 41 and Engler Boulevard in Chaska, MN will see two flags flying high at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) flag and, beneath it, a rainbow flag signifying God’s welcome of all.

The church’s re-definition of marriage adds one more enlarging freedom to the Apostle Paul’s list in the Epistle to the Galatians:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, [gay or straight]; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.“- Galatians 3:8 {NRSV].

Thanks be to God.

– Rev. Mr. Gordon C. Stewart, Honorably Retired, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Chaska, MN; March 17, 2015.

The Meaning of Fulfillment

“At 66, I find myself feeling fulfilled. I didn’t expect this, and don’t know quite what to make of it.”

The words belong to Emily Fox Gordon in the October 25 New York Times. Click HERE to ponder “The Meaning of Fulfillment” for your life and the lives of others.

Gabbie Giffords: “they looked over their shoulders”

“I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done,” Giffords wrote. “… I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. … I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say, ‘You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.'”

The former Congresswoman (AZ) is still recovering from the assassination attempt that left her with serious brain injuries and caused her to vacate her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The quote above is from her Op Ed piece in the New York Times. Click “A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip” to read the entire piece. Here’s a further excerpt:

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.

The People of Lesterland

Click We the People and the Republic We Must Reclaim for Lawrence Lesssig’s TED discussion of the electoral process and what he calls “Lesterland” (the U.S.A.).

Here’s what TED says about Lawrence Lessig:

Why you should listen to him:
Lawyer and activist Lawrence Lessig spent a decade arguing for sensible intellectual property law, updated for the digital age. He was a founding board member of Creative Commons, an organization that builds better copyright practices through principles established first by the open-source software community.

In 2007, just after his last TED Talk, Lessig announced he was leaving the field of IP and Internet policy, and moving on to a more fundamental problem that blocks all types of sensible policy — the corrupting influence of money in American politics.

In 2011, Lessig founded Rootstrikers, an organization dedicated to changing the influence of money in Congress. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he shows just how far the U.S. has spun off course — and how citizens can regain control. As The New York Times wrote about him, “Mr. Lessig’s vision is at once profoundly pessimistic — the integrity of the nation is collapsing under the best of intentions –and deeply optimistic. Simple legislative surgery, he says, can put the nation back on the path to greatness.”

“In [Republic, Lost], Lessig … details how money came to corrupt our government, how our broken system hurts both the Left and the Right, and what it will take to return American democracy to its rightful owners – the people.”
Rolling Stone blog, October 5, 2011

The Worm

the worm

unknown insinuated itself in-

side the mind of the communicator,

insistently removing all the in-

formation that was thought to be secure.

the end

of facebook, youtube, ibm and e-

mail now is certain:  malware winning o-

ver anti-virus systems– the old e-

vil adam-lurking where there is no prayer.

[Chinese Hackers Infiltrate

New York Times Computers 

Jan. 31, 2013]

– Steve Shoemaker, Jan. 31, 2013


NOTE: Click HERE for the NYT story.