Faux reality on Maundy Thursday

Views from the Edge re-publishes this piece from March 24, 2010. In November 2016 the American people were sucker-punched by an alarmist apocalyptic spirituality underlying the alt-right politics of Rush Limbaugh, Steve Bannon, and the candidate for president who led and funded “the birther movement”.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday call for sober reflection on the difference between faux-reality and reality. We republish it here without updates or edits – except for a new title – for the sake of historical perspective. – GCS

Ecce homo -  "Here is the man" Albrecht Durer

“Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man), Albrecht Durer

Something from the Christian tradition – the idea of ‘the Anti-Christ’ – is lifting its ugly head, a word and concept that could trigger unthinkable tragedy unless we clean up our civil discourse.

According to Harris Interactive Poll taken between March 1 and 8, “more than 20% believe [President Obama] was not born in the United States, that he is ‘the domestic enemy the U.S. Constitution speaks of,’ that he is racist and anti-American, and that he ‘wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.’ Fully 20% think he is ‘doing many of the things that Hitler did,’ while 14% believe ‘he may be the anti-Christ’ and 13% think ‘he wants the terrorists to win.”

The poll reflects what we all know: our civic health as a nation is being poisoned by inflammatory rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle. This toxic disregard for truth lies behind the results of the Harris Poll. Trigger words like ‘socialist,’ ‘communist,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘anti-American,’ and ‘the Anti-Christ’ and the allegation that America’s first black president is the nation’s chief domestic enemy take us beyond the McCarthyism of the ‘50s. This cocktail is lethal.

As a Christian pastor I rue the use of Christian scripture to stoke the fires of fear and hate. The Christian life – or spiritual life of any sort, for that matter – is a life of discernment about the powers that shape ordinary life. It is not blind to evil. But loud spirituality is an oxymoron. We need to be reminded that all the great religions hold some version of the essential tenet expressed in the First Letter of John. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still” and “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.”

Labeling the President of the United States ‘the Anti-Christ” gives deranged minds a license to kill . . . in the name of the non-violent, crucified Jesus. If some deranged American patriot like the Marine who plotted to assassinate the President should succeed . . . God forbid! . . . the blood will be on the hands of all who remained silent when the hate speech was being poured into the public stream of consciousness. And if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, get yourself to church Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to ground yourself again in the love that conquers hate and fear.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Maundy Thursday morning, Chaska, MN.

“Share your story with the President”

Funny thing happened to my computer last night after replying to an unexpected whitehouse.gov email with the subject line “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story“.

I did.

“Obamacare meant that members of the congregation I served for eight years received insurance coverage for the first time in their adult lives. It meant that children under 26 were covered by their parent’s health insurance. It meant that the American working poor were part of a movement toward having in the Unites States what all other industrialized western nations regard as a basic right to be honored.

I write this because Whitehouse.gov asked me how Obamacare “impacted” me. Although far from perfect and needing improvement, the proposals to improve the Affordable Care Act met with iron-clad resistance from a party intent on destroying it rather than improving it.

Now, today, it is estimated by reputable sources that 20,000,000+ now-insured Americans will lose their health insurance with repeal. Shame on you. In the name of Jesus and all things compassionate and merciful, shame on you! Do the right thing and stop the blame game.

Having completed the submission and click with the mouse, the President’s voice spoke through my computer, thanking me for my support and going into an extended attack against Obamacare which, he said, was getting worse even as we spoke.

When I clicked again to silence him, my computer cursor went mousey, jumping all over the screen beyond my control.

An hour or so later I watched KellyAnne Conway explaining how I could be surveilled through . . . my microwave, and I wondered whether I’d just fallen into a dark alternative universe with KellyAnne, Steve Bannon, and their boss.

Today, just in case, I think I’ll get rid of the microwave.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 13, 2017.

The Hoax – an Exceptional Performance

“He became President of the United States in that moment, period,” said Van Jones, one of the President’s harshest critics, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper following the President’s Address. Jones was referring to President Trump’s recognition of Carryn Owens, the young widow whose husband Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid in Yemen, the first American soldier casualty in his Administration.

“That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics,” Jones added.

It was that. But did anyone else recoil at the scene and the President’s remarks? Watch her eyes and face closely. “Than you. Thank you! But then, after it went on too long, “Can we please stop now?”

She was a prop. And she was abused in her grief. Her grief was FRESH. Her husband was killed 30 days before in a raid, authorized while the President was sitting at dinner in his Margo-Lago Dining Room – a long way from the White House “Situation Room” where Presidents, Secretaries of Defense and State, and other Presidential advisors gathered for other high-risk attack like the one that killed Osama ben Ladin.

Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens’s father, Carryn Owens’s father-in-law, had called for an investigation into the raid and had refused to meet the President upon return of his son’s body at Andrews Air Force Base. Click HERE for the NPR report.

Last night’s excessively prolonged applause from the floor of Congress was “a record,” declared the President, after he used the “heroic” Navy Seal and his widow’s grief, against William “Ryan” Owen’s father objection, to establish himself as the nation’s Pastor-President, declaring that the aggrieved widow’s husband was looking down on her, and that he is “very happy. His legacy is etched in eternity.”

Are we happy now?

“That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics,”said Van Jones. It was extraordinary. Truly an exceptional performance.

It’s a hoax, folks. It was a hoax.

-Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 1, 2017.

 

Not good! Not good!

Learning to trust my eyes and ears took years. But now, I’m old, and I do.

What I see looking at the President’s face and body language and what I hear from his mouth send chills down my spine. I’ve seen and heard it before . . . inside the gates of  locked down psychiatric institutions.

As the President said during Friday’s press conference to shut up a reporter:

“Not good! Not good! Not good!”

Lord help us all.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 18, 2017.

Should we pray for the President?

“Should we pray for Trump?” asks The Washington Post Saturday Opinions piece by Colbert I. King.

While it’s well worth the read, we draw your attention to After Presidential power shifts, Episcopalians ask: How should we pray? which looks deeply within a single Christian denomination for a look at the meaning of prayer for the President in this time of deep national division.

Over the last eight years of ministry in a Presbyterian (USA) local church, we often used the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer‘s Prayers of the People. It became our practice to pray for the president, governor, and mayor by their first names, not because we voted for them, liked them, agreed with them, or approved of them, but because the public trust was in their hands; they, like us, were human – weak and frail, and in need of guidance; and, even though we may have despised one o them, we were called to pray for our enemies.

Increasingly I sense beneath our new President’s bravado a deep insecurity and fear, a deeply troubled, as well as troubling man. I see a lonely little boy desperate for approval playing with some very big toys. I’m doing my best to pray for him even as I pray for the world. I cannot pray for the world without praying for him. In the end he’s just Donald, and I’m just Gordon, and only God is God. God, help us all.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 11, 2017.

 

 

Barack Obama after the Presidency?

Quote

Ever wondered what President Barack Obama will do after he leaves office? 

The President’s 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” speech in Selma, Alabama is a masterpiece in the tradition of the Church of the Bridge (see earlier post “The Church as Bridge” on Views from the Edge). Think of the President as pastor-preacher in the prophetic preaching tradition that speaks truth to power, celebrates hope, honors courage, and preaches a gospel that calls us all to cross the Pettus Bridge toward the world for which our hearts yearn.  The President’s speech was, in fact, a sermon rooted in Hebrew and Christian Scripture, freely quoted from memory.

Click HERE to hear the President on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.