God above God

A visit to Tillich Park in New Harmony, Indiana, inspired these lyrics. Unfortunately, the blog editing continues to erase the stanza divisions. Each stanza is four lines.

God above God, Source of all Be-ing,

You Whose Name is above all our names:

Help us to kneel; Break down our fences;

Shine through the dark clouds religion has made.

Source of all life, Ground of all Be-ing,

God of the a-corn, the seed and the rain –

Send now your grace, seasons and har-vest,

Circle of life that our hearts have disdained.

Mother of nat-ions, Father of pe-oples,

Known as Allah, Adonai, El-o-him ~

Known, yet not known, Be-yond all perception

But for your grace in all cultures revealed

God of the cross, Life to the pla-net,

You Whom we cross with our gods and our ways –

Raise us to life, breathe now Your Spirit,

Restore us to life as the kin to all Life.

God above God, Source of all Be-ing,

You Whose Name is above all our names:

Help us to kneel; Break down our fences;

Dispel the dark clouds our religions have made.

– Gordon C. Stewart, November 4, 2005

Sung to tune “Dexter”  4.5.7 D with Refrain


“God above God” is the language of Paul Tillich for whom God is not a being among others – an object of finitude – but the Ground of Being Itself, the Ground that remains when all of our concepts and idea collapse.

The source of this affirmation of meaning within meaninglessness, of certitude within doubt, is not the God of traditional theism but the “God above God,” the power of being, which works through those who have no name for it, not even the name God.


“Man and nature belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.” – Paul Tillich monument, Tillich Park, New Harmony, Indiana.

The Language of Demagoguery


Words are POWERFUL! Sometimes those who preach wonder whether our words matter. But reading this paragraph in Timothy Egan’s NYT, “Deconstructing a Demagogue,” reminded me of just how powerful they are:

Back in 1994, while plotting his takeover of the House, Gingrich circulated a memo on how to use words as a weapon. It was called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” Republicans were advised to use certain words in describing opponents — sick, pathetic, lie, decay, failure, destroy. That was the year, of course, when Gingrich showed there was no floor to his descent into a dignity-free zone, equating Democratic Party values with the drowning of two young children by their mother, Susan Smith, in South Carolina.

Today, if you listen carefully to any Gingrich takedown, you’ll usually hear words from the control memo.

And that’s just the beginning of the story of how language is used and abused for purposes of social manipulation. Gingrich knew that language is “A Key Mechanism of Control.”  Those who are well-schooled in theology and politics know that language is the primary mechanism of mind control: truth becomes falsehood and falsehood becomes truth; beauty becomes ugliness and ugliness becomes beauty; goodness becomes evil and evil becomes goodness, twisted by the language of innuendo and word association.

The cynicism that pervades the American electorate is due, in part, to this demagogic use of language. Words are precious things. Holy things. Sacred things. When they get twisted, they become vulgar and profane, one might even say ‘demonic’ in the sense in which Paul Tillich defined ‘demonic’: the twisting of the good. “The claim of something finite to infinity or to divine greatness is the characteristic of the demonic” (Paul Tillich, “Life and It’s Ambiguities,” Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 102).

Paul Tillich, “The Courage to Be”

Words are sacred. And those who abuse them enter into the darkness of the demonic twistings that led James Russell Lowell to write the hymn lyrics I sang as a child:

Once to every man and nation Comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood…. Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet t’is truth alone is strong; Though her portion be the scaffold, And upon the throne be wrong;, Yet that scaffold sways the future, And, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadows, Keeping watch above His own. – James Russell Lowell, 1945, “Once to Every Man and Nation”

– Gordon C. Stewart, January 30, 2012