Insurrection and Faith (Part 2)

Featured

Flashback and Portent — The Epidemic of Gun Violence

Flashing back to February 1, 2013 feels like a flash forward to America in 2021. An evening in a small church in Chaska, Minnesota on gun violence gave hints of what was coming in eight years later. It was a glimpse into the apocalyptic mind and heart that led to the insurrection of January 6.

February 1, 2013 Opening of First Tuesday Dialogues’ series on gun violence

The parking lot was full. Until that night, First Tuesday Dialogues’ attendance had ranged between 35-75 people. Attendance that night was 138.

The threat of disruption and violence did not materialize. Everyone entered respectfully. But there was a storm cloud hovering over the room. I wondered when the thunder and lightning would come.

I welcomed the crowd, laid out Dialogues’ simple practices and ground rules — respectful listening and speaking with no interruption, no cheering, no booing, no clapping.

The evening began with a half-hour exchange between the city’s Chief of Police and the Carver County Sheriff expressing different views on the increase of massacres like the one at Sandy Hill in Newtown.

The tone was set for a respectful conversation.

The Invisible Guest named John

A Q&A with the chief and sheriff was allotted 20 minutes. A woman in the last row was the first to raise a hand. She was handed the microphone and began by expressing anger that we were having such a discussion. The Second Amendment was the Second Amendment. No government was going to take away her guns. She then began reading from a John Birch Society manuscript. Lots of people clapped and shouted their approval.

A woman a across the aisle was in tears. I gave her the microphone. She stood to ask a question. “Has anyone here lost a loved one to gun violence?”

Four or five hands went up, but before she could tell her story, the first speaker shouted at her, “That has nothing to do with the Second Amendment!” Shouts again rang out. I reminded everyone of the Dialogues’ expectations. If you are holding the microphone, the floor is yours. When you are not holding the microphone, you listen. No rebuttals. No clapping. No shouting. No us versus them.

The woman who’d been crying answered her own question. “I have,” she said, and told the wrenching story story from her childhood. Her story was chilling. The wounds were still fresh. The room was quiet.

The Coming Apocalypse

Two voices later voices foreshadowed America eight years later. The first spoke with passion. Obama and the feds were coming to take his guns. The government is going down. The economy will collapse. The dollar won’t have any value. Grocery store shelves would be empty. Those who are not prepared would have no food to feed their families. We need to get ready for the chaos that’s coming.

The man who next held the microphone agreed. The economy is built on sand. It will collapse. It will be “every man for himself.” If you don’t have a secure bunker full of food to last you a year, you’re in trouble. If you don’t have a secure bunker, build one. Now! When your neighbor comes asking for food, too bad. Have your guns ready.

Like the person who had turned the Q&A into a time for monologues, this speaker had a manuscript from which he quoted. His apocalyptic tone and message felt like the street corner preacher’s citing The Revelation to Saint John, the last book of the Christian Bible, shouting about the end of the world, but this apocalypse was different. Real god-fearing patriots don’t rant on street corners. They don’t preach, and they don’t kneel. They rise up to expose and overthrow the communists, socialists and other collectivists who control of the world. Real patriots stand and fight He was reading from the John Birch Society manual.

The evening ended peacefully. There was no physical violence. Gun rights advocates were thankful and looking forward to the next event. Others participants expressed fear of violence or discomfort with the rudeness. They would not be back for the next event in the series.

A Dilemma

If Dialogue’s programs success were measured by attendance, the first evening had exceeded expectations. If drawing people of opposing views were the measure, the evening had been a success. Although there had been raw moments that tested the Dialogues norms, the expressions of opinion had been honest. Nothing was left on the table or kept under the table.

During the days that followed, we learned that an estimated 180 people had chosen to attend a public hearing on gun control at the state Capitol. There would be hearing to keep them away from the Feb. 19 program focusing on the Second Amendment. Those who had been at the Capitol were reported to be less respectful and more extreme. We should expect the crowd to double on the 19th.

Stay tuned for “Insurrection and Faith (Part 3).

Gordon C. Stewart, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), 49 short (2-4 pages) social commentaries on public life. Chaska, Minnesota, February 13, 2021

The Presence in Solitary Confinement

Years before the coronavirus pandemic put us in lock down, Tennessee Williams observed that each of us is condemned to solitary confinement for life, and, long before Tennessee Williams the Gospel of Luke spoke of the surprising presence of the risen Christ at the breaking of the bread.

Sermon “The Presence” — Tennessee Williams and the breaking of the bread.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon (May 24, 2020)

About Gordon

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart is a public theologian, author, Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017, Wipf and Stock), former Pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska; guest commentator on “All Things Considered” (MPR), MinnPost, Presbyterian Outlook, Star Tribune, Sojourners’ “Blogging with Jim Wallace and Friend” and Day1.org.

Warning: Danger Ahead

If you’re interested in a homiletic case consistent with Bernie Sanders, check out the Rev. Ed Martin’s sermon at Shepherd of the Hill Church in Chaska, MN. It’s superb.

If I second guessed

the decision to retire November 7, this sermon by guest preacher Tabitha Isner last Sunday at Shepherd of the Hill convinced me my time is up. Wonderful sermon.

 

The Mother of Mercy

This sermon was preached at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN the Sunday following the first anniversary of the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School and seven years after the Amish forgave the shooter who had killed and maimed their children in a one-room Amish school house in Pennsylvania.

Tower of Strength

Why Atlas, Samson, Hercules, Paul Bunyan
and Superman aren’t with us anymore…
and why the latest SuperHero won’t last.

He was strong. Unlike some men his size
power pulsed, constrained–there was no fat.
He stood tall. His eyes looked down on those
passing by who turned and stared, impressed.
He would smile. He joked when asked his height,
Five feet…twenty!” Childhood awe returned
(big is best, is boss.) Authority
is imposed. The strong do what they want.

He had never been a little child–
young, but never small. Assumed adult,
he was proud to grapple, fight and hold,
lift and shoulder, carry, guard, protect.
Work was good, but work was never done.
Satisfaction was postponed. Trials like
cancer cells dividing, unrestrained,
overwhelmed him. Tasks enough to make
gods despair. Then buildings built decayed,
bridges fell, and wars blazed in the land
he had calmed before. He went to bed.
The world’s weight will break the strongest man.

-Steve Shoemaker
[Published in Response, Journal of the Lutheran
Society for Worship, Music and the Arts, No. 3,
1976.]

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies to Steve for the formatting. The first three lines were originally centered. The blog hasn’t cooperated this morning. Art fell victim to technology. BUT without te3chnology “Tower of Strength” would not have come your way.

Join Steve at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN Tuesday, October 1 at 7:00 p.m. for a Tuesday Dialogues program featuring Steve’s poetry.

Atlas and St. Patrick Cathedral

Atlas and St. Patrick Cathedral

Hide-and-Seek: Oysters Can’t Hide

Oysters can't hide!

Oysters can’t hide!

The subsistence fishers who have inhabited Isle de Jean Charles since 1830 see things differently from BP and the mainline press.

‘Come to Louisiana. Everything is fine’ say the BP ads. Well, they’re not fine. There are no oysters. There are no shrimp,” said Chief Albert Naquin of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw during a recent three hour conversation in Chaska, Minnesota.

Chief Naquin and Kristina Peterson were on route to Duluth for a consultation of American indigenous people focusing on the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in Louisiana, the site of the vanishing traditional home of the Isle de Jean Charles tribe.

Kristina is a professional community disaster recovery specialist who splits her time between the University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology (CHART) and the Blue Bayou Presbyterian Church in Gray, LA, where she is the Pastor. Kristina had come to Chaska, MN two years ago as speaker for First Tuesday Dialogues: examining critical public issues locally and globally, a community forum of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church.

For three hours we discussed what was happening three years after the ecological tragedy America has almost forgotten.

ABOUT ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES

The people of Isle de Jean Charles have been there since 1830. They re-settled there after fleeing the U.S. government’s forced re-settlement program, leaving their native lands in search of a place where they could continue their culture and live together in hiding.

The place that became home was a piece of solid land hidden deep in the freshwater marshlands of the Louisiana Delta. When they settled there, the island measured 10 miles long by five miles wide.

From there they fished the coastal waters abundant in oysters, crabs, shrimp, and fish. They grew their own vegetables and fruit trees, and used its green pasture for horses and cows. The members of the tribe in hiding shared their seafood, dairy products, chickens, and produce with each other in a barter economy.

“My mother told me every time I went out to play, ‘If you see a stranger, hide.”’

THE 1940s: OIL CANALS

As Chief Albert tells the story, the accelerated erosion of the Gulf coastlands dates to the early 1940s. Big oil received a license from federal, state, and local authorities to dig canals through the Delta marshlands in search of oil. The new canals cut every which way, often crisscrossing, in search of liquid gold. And as they did, the marsh began to disappear. The salt water of the Gulf of Mexico seeped further and further into the Delta.

Chief Naquin and his people do not forget. They have long attention spans. They remember that oil canals were created by licensed permission under specified conditions. They remember that the licenses had time limits The time limits have long since passed. They remember what others have ignored or conveniently forgotten: the terms of the licenses required the oil companies to remediate the land at the conclusion of the license period.

The reclamation never took place. The Chief remembers. Click HERE for BP’s online promotion of its work to restore the Gulf of Mexico since Deep Water Horizon. There’s nothing about the canals or the licenses that required reclamation of the Delta.

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES TODAY

The island that once measured 10 miles by five miles has shrunk to two miles long and one-quarter mile wide. The island will not survive.

Chief Naquin has been working to negotiate a suitable substitute for their ancestral home. The Army Corp of Engineers offered an alternative site that would have kept the tribe together, preserved their way of life, and helped bring income to the tribe by means of a visitor center for tourists.

A condition of occupying the new land, however, was that 100% of the tribe’s members vote Yes on the proposal. The vote was 85%. The 15% minority are mostly older people who have lived their entire lives on Isle de Jean Charles and insist they will go down with the island.

“When’s the last time any city, any nation, any group, any organization was asked for a vote of 100%?” asks Chief Naquin. “It’s impossible. We had 85% but it wasn’t enough.”

There is no hiding place. There is no lasting hiding place.

CHASING DOWN THE STRANGER: SURVIVAL BEYOND HIDING
Perhaps survival beyond hiddenness is the lesson of Isle de Jean Charles. Not just the Chief’s people who once hid from hostile powers in the Louisiana Delta, but all of us who hide from the harsh reality of the crony capitalism that grants a permit to oil companies to cut their canals through our fragile ecosystems and then allows those same companies to disappear into hiding from the initial terms of the licenses.

They call the oil rigs “rigs” for a reason. The whole thing is rigged.

If we see a stranger on what used to be Isle de Jean Charles; if we see canals still crisscrossing through the marsh; if we’ve seen the fires of Deep Water Horizon light up the Gulf of Mexico and slick the waters and estuaries with black gold; if we’ve seen the evidence of breaking-and-entering in the house of the Gulf Coast waters, if we see empty oyster shells where once there were oysters; if we’ve heard about the oil companies hiding without anyone playing seek, we can ignore the game or we can seek and find for the sake of survival.

There is a stranger on our island. The fire of Deep Water Horizon lit up the horizon to expose his hideout. The blazing fire in the Gulf of Mexico three years lit up the world with a previously hidden truth that called us to embrace the more transparent future we share with the shorebirds, shrimp, crabs, and oysters.

The oysters can’t hide. Will we, who can make moral choices, hide, or will we seek and call to account the strangers on our island?

The Deeper Silence of Boston

Video

This sermon was preached at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN the Sunday following the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It draws on Red Sox player David Ortiz’s nationally televised statement “This is our (expletive) city!”; Richard Rohr’s “Finding God in the Depths of Silence” (Sojourners, March, 2013), and the Epistle of James’ insight that the “tongue” (i.e., speech) is “a restless evil” ready to curse others even while it blesses “the God and Father of us all.” “Brothers and sisters,” writes James, “this should not be so!”

The sermon calls for engagement in the inner silence that moves down into the undivided reality that words so easily and quickly divide and destroy. It ends with the Pie Jesu from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem and the invitation “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Sermon: The Man of Silence

A sermon for Palm Sunday/ Passion Sunday at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN, reflecting on the passion of Jesus in light of the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Commentary: Church cancels gun violence dialogue series – Chaska Herald: Commentaries

Editor’s note: This column, submitted by the Rev. Gordon Stewart and Bill Tisel, clerk of session, on behalf of the Shepherd of the Hill Presb…

via Commentary: Church cancels gun violence dialogue series – Chaska Herald: Commentaries.