9/11/2020 – a 911 Call to Save the Republic

9/11 Then and Now

“Nine-eleven” is still with us in 2020. But it’s different now. September 11 shook us from head to toe. September 11, 2020 should shake us more.

On this 19th anniversary of 9/11, we remember what we prefer to forget: the scene of highjacked American Airlines passenger planes leveling the World Trade Center twin towers like tidal waves erasing a sand castle.

In Washington, D.C. American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. AA Flight 93 would have struck the U.S. Capitol, if not for the heroic intervention of two passengers who risked everything to stop it.

What we see is horrifying, but it is behind us. That was then; this is now. Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. But only a slash (/) and three hyphens distinguish between the date from the three digit rescue call. Who will answer the 9-1-1 call from the burning house of the American people in 2020?

9-1-1 on 9/11 2020

Fires are sweeping across the U.S.A. Some fires we see. The forest fires in California, Oregon, and Washington are vast and spreading. The governors have sounded the alarm; fire-fighters are responding as best they can. Other fires, like global warming and coronavirus pandemic, are less obvious. Only the devastation they cause can be captured on camera. Those fires have no address. Neither does the arsonist.

Holding the Bag for the President

“He sins as much who holds the bag as he who puts into it,” says an adage from an anonymous source. I had to read that twice. Translation on 9/11 2020: the party that holds the bag for the president’s unconscionable dereliction of duty is as responsible for the president himself.

Bob Woodward’s new book Rage and the recently released recordings of the president’s voice leave no doubt about President Trump’s character and behavior. Republican Party spokespersons can no longer politically afford to ignore what they already knew, but they will find a way, and FoxNews will serve as the party’s public relations firm.

GOP Senators and Representatives are as responsible as the president for his lies, deceptions, misinformation, disinformation, distortions of fact, assault on essential institutions, and the president’s defiance of his Oath of Office to protect the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. They are as responsible as he for stoking the embers of white supremacist lawlessness, shifting blame for police homicides and street violence to their victims and to Black Lives Matter, pushing infectious disease researchers and climate scientists off stage and out of sight, staying mum and turning a blind eye to the Blue states of the Pacific Northwest, and holding the bag for Vladimir Putin’s agenda of weakening public trust.

National Security

Brian Murphy served as the Trump Administration’s Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security from March 2018 through August 2020. Now he is a different kind of public servant. He is the whistle-blower whose complaint is a 911 call to save us from fraud by Homeland Security leaders who undercut national intelligence that showed Russia was working to undermine the United States. Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American (9/09/2020) tells a chilling story.

The complaint also concerns the DHS Threat Assessment leaked yesterday to Politico. Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli—also appointed illegally, according to the GAO—prohibited the release of the threat assessment because it discussed both the threat of white supremacists and of Russian influence in the United States. This, they said, would reflect badly on the president. “Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups.” Wolf wanted to add information about the ongoing unrest in Portland, Oregon.

Murphy refused to sign off on their alteration of the intelligence report, warning that it was “an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program. Wolf ordered it revised anyway. Murphy warned that the final version of the threat assessment would “more closely resemble a policy document with references to ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups than an intelligence document.” This is the document leaked in draft form to Politico yesterday.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, 9/11, 2020

A 9-1-1 Response for a Kidnapped Republic

The Republican Party has some things in common with the terrorists who turned passenger planes into missiles and sent a dark cloud of smoke over America.

The party of my parents’ generation has been highjacked. If we don’t have the wisdom and courage to stop it, the party and country of Abraham Lincoln will disappear like a sand castle.

I have no doubt how my mother and father would have voted in 2020. They knew that “all sin is a kind of lying” (Augustine), and that “the recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation” (Martin Luther). I sense their tears and hear their voices.

“It’s [not] my party, and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to!”

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, 9/11/2020.

A Wilderness Spirituality

Once upon a time a pompous nobleman paid a call to the English Embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia.  He walked into the office and demanded to see the ambassador immediately.  “Pray, take a chair,” said the young attaché, “the ambassador will be here soon.”

The visitor took exception to the off-hand way he had been treated.   “Young man, do you know who I am?” he demanded, and recited a list of his many titles and appointments. 

The lowly attaché listened, paused and said, “Well then take two chairs.”

Pride, vanity, greed, self-deception, and grandiose illusion are part of the human condition…except, of course, for me. 

We are creatures of the wilderness, wanderers and sojourners in time who have here no lasting city to dwell in.  And so, as in the legend of the Genesis 11, we come upon the Plain of Shinar…or some other place to settle down and rid ourselves of anxiety…and we settle there as though we could build something permanent that would be a fortress against the uncertainties of the wilderness and the knowledge of ultimate vulnerability and ultimate dependence.  We build our own cities and towers of Babel.

Yet there is something about us that still loves a wilderness. Something in us that knows that refusing the nomadic wilderness –“ and as they journeyed, they came upon the Plain of Shinar, and settled there”  – is fraught with greater danger and social peril. Something in us knows better than to settle down on the Plain of Shinar to build something impervious to the dangers of the wilderness and time.  Something in us knows that the brick and mortar will crumble, that the projects of pride, vanity, and greed will fall of their own weight, and that the high towers we build with the little boxes for God at the top of them  are little more than signs of a vast illusion, the vain acts of species grandiosity.  For in the Hebrew tale of the tower of Babel with its “top in the heavens,” God has to come down to see their high tower.

Every society and culture has its own version of the city and the tower of Babel.  In every society there is at least the memory of the wilderness, a sense of call to recover our deeper selves as mortals who keep traveling beyond the politics and religiosity of pride, vanity, greed, self-deception, and grandiose illusions.

Perhaps that is why John the Baptist heads out to the wilderness – “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” –away from delusions and distractions of the city of Babel.  And the people also went out to the wilderness and the Jordan River to go under the muddy Jordan waters to rise to the hope of a fresh beginning on the other side of the formative influences of Babel.

After the authorities have imprisoned John, Jesus asks the crowds what had drawn them to John in the wilderness. “What did you go out to see,” he asks them, “a reed shaken by the wind?  A man clothed in soft raiment? No. Those who wear soft clothing live in kings’ houses.  What then, did you go out to see?”

Perhaps that is why Jesus begins his ministry in the wilderness. After submitting to John’s baptism, the Spirit grasped him and called him into it –  “drove him into the wilderness” – away and apart from all distractions and illusions – back to the place where humankind lives before it “settles” to build the political-economic-religious tower, the impervious fortress and monuments to itsel fn the Plain of Shinar.

Those who wish to follow Jesus and those who would learn the lesson of the legend of the people who settled too early on the Plain of Shinar are called to go out into the wilderness to restart the long spiritual journey that stopped too early.

For the fact we deny is that underneath all our steel, glass, and technology, we are still animals – mortals subject to the most primitive yearnings, vulnerable creatures who possess nothing.

In his poem “The Wilderness” American poet laureate Carl Sandberg realized a great truth long before it came into vogue.

There s a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery  for eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from salt blue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where; it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

Jesus walked in our wilderness to live authentically and faithfully as a human being with all the beasts that were part of his nature and are part of our nature.  When in the wilderness of John he had gone down into the waters of the Jordan and the voice from heaven declared him “my beloved Son in whom I take pleasure,” immediately the spirit drove him into the wilderness. And he was there for forty days among the wild beasts, and angels ministered to him.

By God’s grace and power, may it be so also with us.

The Sacredness of Time

A Sermon at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, Minnesota.

EXCERPTS

“I have always been bemused by time and place. I am a toddler on a train listening in the night to the eerie sound of the train whistle and the constant click-clacking of the wheels. Where were we? Where are we going – and why, just my mother and I?”

“We are all in transit. But from where to where and from when to when have become less and less my questions.”

Verse – Towers

Of course a tower is built by starting from

the bottom.  Strong workers and machines make

a joint to earth with wet, grey gravel–form

with time a foundation almost like rock.

Orange steel is welded, riveted, and made

to stand naked pointing skyward.   Then blocks

and bricks are hoisted slowly up the side

providing covering flesh the tower lacks.

Small children make towers in trees, and these,

though only made of rotting boards, still stand

as proudly strong in little children’s eyes

as those from which much older men descend.

But both kind of towers still seem to say

with their builders:  we look down on the sky.

[from The Anglican Theological Review, early  1970s]

Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL

Two kinds of prayer :-)

Verse — Sanky Reed

Standing in the center aisle
of the small church, she told her friend
about a thief the night before
(while she was sleeping) broke into
her shed and stole her new chainsaw.

Agnes said, “Well, we should pray
for him–we are in church.” Sanky
said, “Let’s pray he cuts off his leg!”

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL