Blessed are the not so pure

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There is a kind of purity that is not pure: partisan purity, which bears no resemblance to the purity of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart . . . .”

The U.S. Senate is poorer today because of partisan purity on both sides of the political aisle. Politics is a brutal game made more civil by rules that seek to set boundaries on partisan purity. The 60-40 rule was one of those long-standing Senate rules that helped insure some measure of long-term wisdom by the 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

The onus of responsibility for weakening the Senate – lowering the bar for simple majority votes on matters once believed to be of such gravity as to require a higher threshold – falls to both purist parties. The one for pushing the envelope knowing the consequences, the other for rescinding the rule. From now on, whichever party is in the majority shall rule without restraint.

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) asks officers to promise “to further the peace, purity, and unity” of the church in recognition that though, in an ideal world, peace, purity, and unity are in accord, they are often in conflict in the real world.

This week the U.S. Senate exercised a different kind of purity that violates all three values – peace and unity, as well as purity – leaving the country the poorer in restraint and wisdom.

Blessed are the not so pure.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 7, 2017.

 

 

Gabby Giffords and Gabby Hayes

Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder. Other times I don’t wonder at all. I’m amazed, disappointed, and chagrined. Today was one of those as the Senate’s refused to pass legislation that would have indicated a modest degree of sanity and freedom from the gun lobby.

gabbyhayeswestern17My generation grew up watching Gabby Hayes and others in the Westerns that dominated our TVs.  The law of the Old West was the law of the gun-slingers. We played cowboys and Indians with pretend guns and bows and arrows, re-enacting America’s westward expansion sometimes wondering whether the ones with bows and arrows were more civilized than those with guns.

Gabby Giffords book photo

Gabby Giffords book photo

More recently a different Gabby – Gabby Giffords, a vibrant U.S. Representative from Arizona – was shot and nearly killed, joining the growing numbers of victims of gun violence.

This later Gabby sent an email expressing her disappointment after today’s Senate’s refusal to adopt simple, common-sense legislation.

Moments ago, the United States Senate voted on two measures that would have strengthened our gun laws and helped keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally ill, and known and suspected terrorists.

And in the wake of yet another mass shooting — the deadliest in modern American history — the Senate chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.

Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.

Well, I am a fighter and I am not going to give up now. This won’t be easy, but we’ve made great progress over the past few years. And I know that if we continue to stand together, we are going to pass legislation that saves lives, or we will elect a Senate that will.

… I am sure we’ll hear platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue,” but this was neither. These senators made a decision based on fear and calculations about the gun lobby’s influence. But I can promise you their fear is nothing like the fear my constituents felt years ago, or the people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando felt last weekend.

 

Sometimes I wonder. What will it take for those we elect to office to become clear?

Until they act, the Gabby Giffords of this world and those she represents will continue to fall because someone believes, or wants us to believe, that the old world of Gabby Hayes is the real America.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 20, 2016

 

Term Limits: solution or problem?

Would setting limits to the number of terms a Congressperson can hold office help solve the problem in Washington, D.C.? Term limits is one proposed remedy for fixing Congress. Get rid of the career politicians! Fresh faces would be closer to the people they represent, set a new tone, and get things done.The idea has its appeal.

We’re tired of gridlock,but is putting fresh faces in the U.S. Congress – or the White House – all it’s cracked to be?

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) rode into the Senate on a high horse, penned a letter to the government of Iran opposing the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts with Iran, and secured the signatures of 46 of the 53 Republican Senatorial colleagues. In March 2015 the newly elected Senator appeared on Face the Nation to make his case for Iran’s creeping influence in the Middle East, declaring,

“They [the Iranians] already control Tehran.”

Did he say “Tehran” – the capitol of Iran, the Tehran of the Persian Empire dating back 5,000 years?

Yes, he did. Either the Senator came to the Senate clueless about geography, history, the sensitivities of a tense geopolitical world, and the traditions of how foreign policy is conducted in the United States, or, worse, he just doesn’t care. Neither is acceptable for a member of the United States Senate. The Senate is the body with the longer terms (six years compared to 2 for the House of Representatives) because of the Founders’ wisdom. Those who wrote the Constitution knew the value of continuity, as well as change.

In the much more complex world of the 21st Century, the case for longevity, not term limits, is an argument for wisdom.

Citizens who have served as city councilors, state legislators, or board members of local organizations, colleges and universities know how long it takes to get up to speed. Those who are most effective learn to keep their mouths shut while learning how to drive a vehicle they’ve never driven before in the company of more experienced drivers who know the rules of the road.

The advantage of long-standing service in the U.S. Congress or of a Presidential candidate with longer experience and long-term memory is that they’ve been around long enough to know the history, however differently they interpret it on different sides of the political aisle.

And then…there’s Donald Trump who has NO experience in elected office. If you need a nudge to think about it, remember the ambitious Senator Cotton on Face the Nation.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 25, 2016

A Prayer for the U.S. Senate Today

Homeless children and a society that didn’t care were the subjects of this century-old prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch, father of the Social Gospel movement that Glenn Beck loves to hate.

The language is dated. The substance is not. As the Senate sets about its debate of universal background checks and other measures to improve public safety, the children of Sandy Hook and their families also come to mind as those who find themselves “homeless” in a violent, uncaring world.

O Heavenly Father, whose unveiled face the angels of little children do always behold, look with love and pity, we beseech Thee, upon the children of the streets. Where men, in their busy and careless lives, have made a highway, these children of Thine have made a home and a school, and are learning the bad lessons of our selfishness and our folly. Save them, and save us, Lord. Save them from ignorance and brutality, from the shamelessness of lust, the hardness of greed, and the besotting of drink; and save us from the greater guilt of those that offend Thy little ones, and from the hypocrisy of those that see and see not, whose sin remaineth. Amen.

Out of the Mouths of… #1

Edward Everett HaleEdward Everett Hale was asked if he prayed for the Senators. He replied:

“No. I look at the Senators and pray for the country.”

The Reverend Mr. Edward Everett Hale (1822 – 1909) served as  Chaplain to the U.S. Senate. He was appointed to the position because of his outstanding public ministry as Minister of South Congregational (Unitarian) Church in Boston. He proposed a public retirement pension system for both women and men long before there was Social Security.

First Church Boston’s website provides this account of his  ministry.

Thanks to Caroll Bryant for capturing our attention with her blog’s publication of the witticisms famous historical figures.