Poverty and Opulence

“Blessed are you who are poor ….”

“Woe to you who are rich [i.e., opulent]. . . .”

According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau Report, 43 million Americans lived in poverty (e.g, annual income below $13,ooo for a one-member household).

Membership fee for Trump National Bedminster – location of presidential transition meetings over the weekend – was $200,000 according to LINKS Golf Magazine.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, trying hard to follow Jesus, November 21, 2016.

 

The Countertenor’s Magnificat

Christopher Holman, Countertenor

strong>” A Blessing for Both”

He sings with flutes about the homeless poor
invited to the table of the rich
by God, by God! They eat their fill and more,
and not like dogs that lift their jaws and catch
the scraps, but guests with vintage wine
to match each course made by the Chef.
He sings
about the rich evicted from their fine
designer homes by God, by God! With rings
that flash and fancy shirts, they leave
their table before food is served! Instead
of feasting, they are empty and will have
no need for trainers, purging, before bed…

(Tonight, Sunday, December 15, 2013 A. D.,
at Holy Cross Catholic Church
In Champaign, Illinois, this ironic aria
will be sung as part of J. S. Bach’s
” Magnificat”– Mary’s song. Directed
by Chester Alwes.)

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, December 14, 2013

Christopher Holman, Countertenor

Christopher Holman, Countertenor

Editor’s Note: Christopher Holman is an American organist, countertenor, and choral conductor, currently residing and studying in Urbana-Champaign at the University of Illinois, whose primary interests lie in the realm of historically-informed performance.

Mitt Romney

Moral Mormon, yes, at Church and home.

Is there, though, a hint that he objects

To the rules that women have the same

Trouble with the Priesthood that kept blacks

….

Restricted out of the Church for years?

Or that Morman kindness to the poor

Might be a good model for the U. S.

Nation?  Can we even up the score?

Everybody knows he’s handsome, smart,

Yes, and  rich–but does he have a heart?

An acrostic verse received this morning from Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL.

I Live with doubt

I live with doubt

A hymn by Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, In honor of John Newton (1725-1807), author of “Amazing Grace.”

I live with doubt:  my faith is weak,
Dark clouds are what I see.
A God of love is all I seek,
Can such a good God be?

The world is full of greed and lies,
Of war and talk of war.
Can any savior hear my cries
And hope and peace restore?

When Jesus met the man born blind,
He touched his eyes with clay.
He bid him wash and he did find
His sight and a new day,

The sun breaks through, I see ahead
My task to feed the poor.
I still have doubts, but grace instead
Of fear I feel much more!

My thoughts and feelings come and go
Like sun dissolves the snow;
But God is firm, and now I see,
That God has faith in me.
Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac”posting on the anniversary of the birthday of John Newton, converted slave ship captain, prompted Steve to write these stanzas in honor of the author of “Amazing Grace.”  Steve’s hymn can be sung to the same tune. The meter is the same.

Who is the poorest person you will meet today?

Written in honor of Dale Robb*.

Who is the poorest person you will meet today?

The senior or teenager who will hand you food

at the drive-through window?  Or tonight when you stay

in a motel, could you leave cash to make the maid

feel good for days?  A tip, gratuity, can let

a worker keep their dignity and pay a bill

as well.  (A teller in a bank, however, can’t

accept a tip–give them fruit, a sweet, they can sell

or eat.)  All folks who earn minimum wage are poor:

be generous, be kind, and share if you have more.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL June 18, 2012

*I asked Steve about Dale. Here’s what he wrote:

“Dale Robb is a retired Presbyterian Pastor. For 25 years he served the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, Illinois. Was a Campus Pastor at Miami of Ohio, & Presbyterian missionary in Asia.  McCormick Theological Seminay Alum of the year in the 1980s, University of Illinois grad (1943),attended McKinley Presbyterian Church, student officer in McKinley Foundation.  Retired to Urbana, he & wife, Arlene, attend First Presbyterian Church of Champaign…..  Member of the Reformed Round Table.

“The first question in the verse comes from Dale.”

Religion and the White House

Gordon C. Stewart          Feb. 14, 2012

Is the religion of presidential candidates off limits?

President Obama’s remarks at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast and Mitt Romney’s statement about the poor and the wealthy resurrect a question regarded since 1960 as off the table.

The religious issue in 1960 was the Roman Catholicism of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. No Roman Catholic had ever been elected President. The question was whether a faithful Catholic would be subservient to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, in matters of state. Finally the question was put to Kennedy himself.

Since that time, with the exception of conservative fundamentalist Christians, American culture has increasingly accepted the separation of one’s religion from one’s politics. Religious faith is regarded as private; political beliefs are public.

The old adage that the way to best assure civil tranquility is to steer clear of religion, sex, and politics is good advice at family reunions and the like, but does it serve the public interests of an informed electorate in a democratic republic?

It should not go unnoticed that then-candidate Obama’s faith was brought into the national spotlight when his political opposition sought to paint Mr. Obama as un-American because of comments made by pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The unspoken journalistic rule that “religion is off-the-table” was set aside by ABC’s investigative reporting into 500 hours of sermon tapes by Mr. Obama’s pastor and its decision to air a one-minute excerpt from one of Mr. Wright’s sermons.

It made no difference that the sermon from which the excerpt came was biblically-based and in the bold African-American preaching tradition of Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman that thunders the Hebrew prophet’s voice in scripture as it apply to today’s news. Nor did it matter that the statement about the chicken’s coming home to roost on 9/11 came after a long recitation of the history of American violence at home and abroad. Mr. Obama’s religion was on the table.

The public wanted to know. Was the President a Christian? Or was he, as some of his opponents claimed or insinuated, a Marxist, a secret Muslim, or un-American?

Mr. Obama eventually denounced the excerpt from Rev. Wright’s sermon, resigned from the church, and used the controversy to spell out his own views in a brilliant speech in Philadelphia on race in America called “A More Perfect Union.”

So here we are in 2012.

Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), a Mormon. His statement about the very poor, the middle class, and the wealthy became the center of media controversy. “I’m in this race, he told CNN following his primary victory in Florida, “because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the  90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” To be fair, his statement, like the Rev. Wright’s ignoried his earlier remarks. Nevertheless, the statement deserved careful scrutiny.

At the same time, President Obama’s religion was in the news again because of heavy criticism for connecting his faith with his public policies at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast  where he described his motivation as “living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need.”  “These values,” he said, “they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.”

In doing so, Mr. Obama voiced a conviction central to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The belief goes to the heart of the Christian faith – the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgment in which Jesus tells his listeners that, if they want to know where to find “the Son of Man,” they will find him among the poor and destitute (Matthew 25:31-4.).”Insofar as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me.”

Mr. Obama’s view came under attack from a number of quarters. One response came in the Washington Times with the headline “President Obama misrepresents the teachings of Jesus at National Prayer Breakfast,” arguing that “Jesus did not teach that wealthy people should give more money to the government or charity than others should.” And on CNN on-line, the public comments re: the President’s position ran heavily against his view.

At the same time, Mitt Romney’s stock was rising. So is his religion. Years ago Leo Tolstoy asked the American Ambassador to Russia about the new religion in America, the Ambassador pleaded ignorance, Tolstoy described Mormonism as “the quintessentially American religion” that would one day catch fire and be unstoppable.

Is religion on the table or off the table in 2012? If it’s on the table for discussion, as in Mr. Obama’s Prayer Breakfast statement, the question about the “quintessentially American religion” should also be on the table. How would Mr. Romney’s religious views affect his public policy decisions? What difference would it make to his conduct of foreign policy that his religion is American-centric, believing that “Christ  appeared in the western hemisphere between his resurrection and ascension to heaven; that the State of Missouri is the site of the Garden of Eden as well as the site where Jesus will return at the Second Coming? “For this and other reasons, including a belief by many Mormons in American exceptionalism, Molly Worthen speculates that this may be why Leo Tolstoy described Mormonism as the “quintessential ‘American religion'” (Wikipedia).

One does not need to be a partisan opponent or a despiser of religion to ask whether a candidate for the Presidency believes that America is sacred, God’s chosen people, and if so, what the implications are for how he would use American power and influence in a world that is always just one step away from nuclear holocaust.

It was the pernicious idea of American exemption from the way of the nations that got us into Iraq, and it is the rejection of that idea that has allowed us to begin to pull back into a more humble and realistic way of being America. The idea of American exceptionalism is widespread across party and religious lines in America, and, most sadly, an electorate that fears the future may fall for whichever candidate continues the illusion that America is God.

If I could ask one question to those who aspire to the White House, I would ask them to reflect, line by line, on the Clifford Bax’s hymn (1919):

Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.
Old now is earth, and none may count her days.
Yet thou, her child, whose head is crowned with flame,
Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,
“Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.”

Earth might be fair, and all men glad and wise.
Age after age their tragic empires rise,
Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
Would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,
Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.

Earth shall be fair, and all her people one:
Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
Peals forth in joy man’s old undaunted cry—
“Earth shall be fair, and all her folk be one!”

Melody from The Genevan Psalter