Over-the-Top

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I blame it on the White House Chef.

Saturday morning should have started with a hot breakfast, but it didn’t. The President woke up tweeting over-the-top accusations against his predecessor, whose legitimacy (“not born in the U.S.A.”) he had spent a fortune to undermine, the black one whose two terms were without scandal. Suddenly, before breakfast arrived, the former President had become Nixon and Watergate and all things “sick” and “bad”.

Bugged by President Trump’s outrageous claims, FBI Director Comey immediately demanded that the Justice Department issue a statement that President Trump’s claim about Trump tower being bugged has no basis in fact. The Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions whose unexpected recusal from the Justice Department’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election had just infuriated the President, denied the FBI Director’s request.

The President is out of control – his own or anyone else’s. His fears, imagination, and impulses control him. Someone in the White House needs to tell the White House Chef to bring him his favorite breakfast at 5:00 a.m. before he turns the world upside down with over-the-top conspiratorial tweets or, instead, uses the nuclear codes to one-up Kim Jong Un.

Monday, March 6,  the six Monday of  A.T.* 1, the whole world depends on the White House Chef and kitchen.

*Anno Trump

  • Gordon C. Stewart, eating my Wheaties, the Breakfast of  Champions, Chaska, MN, March 6, 2017.

 

 

Trump Family Conversation 01/21/17

Melania: Donald! Quick. Look out the window! This is bad!

President: I don’t want to! I’m the President!

Ivanka: Dad, you have to. This is serious! There are hundreds of thousands of women out there, Dad, as far as the eye can see, many more than yesterday, and they’re not happy!

Barron: I saw it too, Dad. Don’t look! It’ll turn your hair white. You know how the hair of every president before you turned white. Don’t look! Women don’t know anything, Dad. Don’t listen to Mom – she’s a foreigner! And don’t listen to Ivanka, Dad – she’s a spy!

President: I’m proud of you, son. I’m going across the river to visit with my friends at the CIA. 

  • Gordon Stewart Faux News reporting, Day of the Women’s March, January 21, 2017.

gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

 

A quick dose of humor

This comment on “You will be like God” (VFTE, 01/11/17) is too good to hide. Carolyn wrote, “Your mention of the nuclear arsenals reminded me that we all need humor, so . . . .

The head of the EPA requests an audience with President Obama and says, “Mr. President, why not put the nuclear codes in a science textbook? They will never find them.”

Carolyn and I played in the same sandbox way back in kindergarten!

– Gordon C. Stewart, January 15, 2016

Pinocchio and Pinochle in America

pinocchioWorking in his carpenter shop in Florence, Italy, Geppetto, the marionette-maker, could not have imagined that Pinocchio would become President of the United States of America. Neither could Carlo Collodi whose The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881) painted a more complex, less likable Pinocchio than the Walt Disney film version (1940) that popularized the story in America.

My generation grew up on Pinocchio. How could we not? He was eternally boyish. He was charming. When we told a fib to our parents, we empathized whenever poor little Pinocchio’s nose told on him. Pinocchio was a lovable liar in whom we saw our own flawed but lovable selves without the less attractive dimensions of Collodi’s original Pinocchio who, on the day he is born, cruelly snatches the wig from his marionette maker’s head. From his very first day, Pinocchio has a mind of his own far beyond and quite different from Geppetto’s imagination.

Neither Carloddi nor Geppetto could have imagined that on January 20, 2017 Pinocchio would raise his right hand to take the oath of office as President of the United States. If Geppetto were still able to pull the marionette’s strings, it would not happen. Geppetto would remember his stolen wig. And, if perchance, Geppetto were on the dais when the humanized Pinocchio raises his right hand, he might stretch out his own hand to check whether Pinocchio is wearing his wig.

Pinocchio has a way with words. He calls those who question his integrity ‘liars’ and ‘criminals’ He rallies people with his limited vocabulary. He gropes women and brags about it — it’s not every wooden marionette who gets to do what Geppetto would find deplorable. When he makes promises he cannot keep, his nose grows, but not everyone can see it. It grows slowly, inch-by-inch so that the original image blinds people to its peculiar length.

But there’s another dimension to Pinocchio’s personality that is largely unknown to the general public. He loves to play Pinochle, the game for four that is includes a trump suit, with his family. It’s harder to lie to three family members than it is on stage, and it may be that Pinochle may yet shrink the length of Pinocchio’s nose. Ivanka and Melania didn’t appear in Collldi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio or the Disney version of the story, but their parts in the ongoing story may save us yet.

Those who cringe at the thought of Pinocchio with his groping hands on a nuclear arsenal can always hope Pinocchio’s third wife and favorite daughter will transform the evening Pinochle game as a way to serve the people. In Pinochle the trump suit get spread among the players; no one can dominate. If we’re lucky, Ivanka and Melania will gentle the meanness Pinocchio exhibited when he snatched Geppetto’s wig the day he was ‘born’, keep his nose short, and do for Pinocchio’s what Eva Braun was never able to do: keep his right arm from rising to a salute.

Wounded Pride

Just as the truth was dropped by a pigeon on Steve Shoemaker’s head during a moment of professional aspiration (see “SPLAT”, [published earlier today), it was spoken to me riding the bus after an interview that had gone badly. Steve was a candidate for a deanship. I was one of two finalist candidates for a presidency.

I had left the interview disappointed by my performance, increasingly concerned about the fit, and feeling that it wasn’t right (i.e. it wasn’t “a call”, as we say in the Reformed theological tradition.

With suitcase in hand I got on the bus for the airport and took a lonely seat to lick the raw wounds of damaged pride.

Several stops later a distinguished looking older gentleman dressed in a coat and tie sat down next to me.

“You here for business?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “just visiting.”

“Hmmm… I saw your suitcase. I was just wondering. Usually people dressed like you are corporate executives on a business trip, but they don’t usually ride the bus. What do you do? What’s your line of work?”

“Well…I’m a pastor.”

“Wonderful,” he said, “Where you from?”

“Cincinnati.”

“So what brings you to the great city of Chicago?”

“Well, I came for an interview for a college presidency, but it didn’t go well.”

There was a pregnant pause.

“Hmmm…,” said he, “There’s no higher calling than being a pastor. Why would a pastor want to be a president?”

“SPLAT !!!”

Why, indeed! “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

I flew home to my church strangely comforted by the stranger on the bus, freshly called again to be a pastor.

But vanity is a curious disease that’s hard to heal, as Helen Hunt Jackson knew when she wrote in Ramona (1884),

“Wounded vanity knows when it is mortally hurt; and limps off the field, piteous, all disguises thrown away. But pride carries its banner to the last; and fast as it is driven from one field unfurls it in another.”

Wiping the President’s Tears

President Bush and ordinary citizen

Former President George W. Bush was right there – standing on the corner on Main Street in Rapid City, South Dakota. Most people were ignoring him. He looked lonely standing there all by himself. So I walked over to strike up a conversation.It was the kind of conversation I’ve always wanted to have with George – one where he doesn’t get to talk back or cut me off. I asked questions and made my points. My questions were the same as in the story of the President’s visit to an elementary school. The story goes like this.

The President talks to the children and then opens the floor to questions.

One little boy puts up his hand and George asks him what his name is.

“Billy.”

“And what is your question, Billy?”

“I have three questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the U.N.? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? And third, whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?”

Just then the bell rings for recess. George assures the kiddies that they will continue after recess.

When they resume, George says, “OK, where were we? Oh! That’s right! –
Question time. So who has a question?”

Another little boy puts up his hand. George points him out and asks him what his name is.

“Steve.”

“And what is your question, Steve?”

“I have five questions.  First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the U.N.? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?  Third, whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?  Fourth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early?  And Fifth, what the hell happened to Billy?”

All these years later, standing on the corner of Main Street with George W., I was prepared to ask Billy’s original three questions and a few others. I wanted to ask why his Party was blaming President Obama for what happened under his administration.

I never got to ask. as soon as I asked the question about Iraq, something strange happened.

I thought I saw a tear falling from his eye.

I pulled out a handkerchief and reached up to dry his tears. Only then did I realize: I hadn’t been talking with W. I’d been talking with his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush.

W is standing blocks away at the corner of 5th and St. Joseph, a thoughtful consideration for the older Bush, I thought, by the City Fathers of Rapid City. Here’s George, just like he was after declaring victory in the Iraq War: “Look at me, Dad, I finished the job for you!”

George W: “Thumbs up, Dad!”

Mission Accomplished

Terrorism, Jesus, and “the Dove”

The Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) is in the news again. Scroll down to the bottom to click the link to the Huffington Post story. Or, you’ve time, read this piece that was published by MPR following the DWOC’s threat to burn the Quran.

How a  single voice threatened to spark a forest fire

by Gordon C. Stewart

September 28, 2010

Everyone from time to time feels insignificant. As I did, while watching fires burn across the world, lit by the words of one pastor in Florida. I felt like a spectator in the stands watching the game I care about go terribly wrong, a hostage of verbal terrorism uttered in the name of Christ.

I would imagine that the Rev. Terry Jones and his small congregation also had felt insignificant before they announced the 9/11 Quran burning, and that they were stunned when their pastor’s voice, although terribly misguided, lit the forest on fire without ever burning a Quran.  One of their own, one who had felt insignificant, had raised his voice and now had the ear of a commanding general, the secretary of defense and the president of the United States.

The difference between the Rev. Jones and most people is that he has a pulpit.  On any given Sunday he speaks and a few people actually listen.  Most of us do our ranting and raving in the shower, at the water cooler or with like-minded people at the coffee shop, but we don’t much expect anyone to listen.

But as the Jones story developed, those of us with pulpits were feeling no less beside the point.  Then, as I prepared for worship, I was drawn by some old lines about spiritual arson. “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is a fire … a restless evil, full of deadly poison” and “the seeds of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace” (Letter of James 3).

The thought crossed my mind: We could invite a Muslim friend to join me in the pulpit, perhaps my neighbor Muhammad or Abdi or one of their children, whom I meet daily while walking the dogs.  I decided to invite Ghafar Lakanwal, a Pashtun Afghan-American cultural diversity trainer, a Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen, to bring greetings of peace and share some passages about peacemaking from the Quran in our Sunday worship on 9/12.

Our little church in Chaska welcomed Ghafar, and his words about the spiritual “obligation to learn, not burn” still ring in our ears. Our service drew media attention, and Ghafar’s words were heard on the evening news  and noticed by a stranger in Australia, who sent a message through the church website. “I was touched,” he wrote, “when I read about your recent Sunday service in the news. …  I for one can testify that it has certainly comforted a far away Muslim to know that there are neighbors who will stand together in difficult times.  My salaam [to you].  May we all grow together to attain Allah’s pleasure.”

“Ah!” someone will say. How can any Christian rejoice when the author uses the name “Allah” for God?  But the reaction to the “name” is misbegotten.  It is not the name of God; it’s the Arabic word for what we in English call God.   The forest fire lit in defense of “God” in advance of the anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that two kinds of religion potentially exist everywhere people gather to practice their faith. One kind burns. The other kind learns.  One hates; the other loves.

As James, writing to those who would follow Jesus, put it: “With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).  We can set the forest ablaze with our small spark or we can use it to light a candle of hope and peace. But, after the events of this month, none of us can again think that what we say is insignificant.—-

When will we ever learn?  Click HERE for the whole story and leave your comment.

Same-sex Marriage

 “What does Obama’s announcement {supporting same-sex marriage) mean to you? Will it make any difference in your life?” asked CNN’s blog this morning

Here’s how I responded:

“The President’s declaration has not changed my life, but it has moved it one step closer to leaving behind the trail of tears the church has inflicted on its own members. I am a pastor. My family and church are straight and gay. I have shared the tears and listened to the sobs and shouts. I have cried their tears and shaken my head and wanted to make a fist.

“Here in the state of MN a referendum to amend the State Constitution –  similar to the one that just passed in NC – will be on the ballot.  I cringe that the proponents of the amendment – the opponents of marriage equality – often do so “in the name of Christ,”  ignoring the fact that we have nothing to indicate any statement by Jesus on this issue, while at the same time they ignore the Beatitudes and other teachings of The Sermon on the Mount that clearly oppose the church’s endorsement of and participation in state-sponsored violence and war. It saddens me.

“My family makes no distinctions among us. Orientation is orientation.  Families, churches, and cultures change slowly, and sometimes tumultuously

“My professional life will change when both the church and the state celebrate the commitment of two people, regardless of their gender, to the estate of marriage. Until then… every heterosexual wedding celebration will also remind me of those who cannot celebrate the same.

“A comedian once asked why GLBT folks shouldn’t be allowed to be as miserable as we (heterosexuals) are. Misery and joy do not reside within the lines we draw between “us” and “the other.” My gay son pays little attention. He’s not married, and, although his state permits it, he has chosen otherwise. But, in the event he decides that the blessings and miseries of marriage are for him, the choice should belong to him and his partner of 12 years. And, in the event he should so choose, the church should be there to celebrate and share the cake. When that day comes, my life will have changed.”

How would you respond the CNN question? Leave a comment to generate the discussion here.

And, if you’re looking for a welcoming church, stop by Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska Sunday morning at 9:30. Whatever your opinion, or any other source of division – no matter who you are – you’ll be welcome.

Mitt Romney: Never Aplogize…EVER

This afternoon I was surprised to learn that Mitt Romney campaigned yesterday in my home town, Broomall, Pennsylvania. Click HERE for the video and my quick “comment” posted on Unedited Politics. I now live in Minnesota.