Friday, August 27, 2010

"German Nationalism" in Our Nation

Karl Barth
Writing in April, 1961, Karl Barth recalls the powerful days of the late 20s in Germany:

"I also saw and heard the so-called 'German nationals' of the time - in my memory the most undesirable of all God's creatures whom I have ever met. They had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, and torpedoed absolutely every attempt to achieve the best that was possible on that basis. With their inflammatory speeches they probably made the greatest contribution towards filling to the uttermost a cup of wrath which was then poured out on the german nation over the next two decades." 

As I read Barth's description of the "German nationals," my mind quickly jumped to the likes of Beck and Palin and Robertson and Colson and Dobson and Franklin Graham (trying belatedly to get on the bandwagon of hate) and Hanity and O'Rilley.

They are taking us down a dark road, and filling the cup of wrath, as Barth noted.

At the time, Germany was hungry for their words, the self-affirmation of nationalism and they were ready to purify their nation. And many an American is equally ready and willing to attach their souls to the wagon of national pride and power.

Nationalism, then or now, is all the same. It's vocabulary, always limited. And the results, always the same.

Nationalism is an enemy of God, even as it seeks to co-opt God for its own purposes.

But God refuses, and so nationalism must settle for lesser gods - the only gods willing to slum around in the swill of nationalism.

Yet the living God is present, not with blessing, however, but with judgment.

A judgment that will not restrain the hand, but allows it to proceed - because some things have to work their sad and sorry way through a culture determined to go that way.

But enough of this rambling ... 

I think Barth's memories of the "German nationals" ought to send a chill down our spine.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Islamophobic Pulpit? Oostburg, Wisconsin

In the most recent issue of Time, Pastor Wayne DeVour, First Reformed Church of Oostburg, Wisconsin is quoted, and if the quote is accurate (and I hope it isn't), it reflects the sad state of affairs for this man's ministry and casts doubt on the integrity of his pulpit.

Let there be no doubt - American pulpits across the land are evidently churning out junk right now about Islam and President Obama. I suspect pastors of more sane and truthful understanding are as bewildered by this as I am.

Pastor DeVour likely received a solid Reformed education and would have learned something of church and world history, and to say something as reported, he either has to have forgotten everything he learned or is simply lying to the congregation.

Here's a copy of my email sent to Pastor DeVour today. If you agree, please copy and send a note to him at:

Dear Pastor DeVrou,

Just read your comment in Time about Islam ... "The political objective of Islam is to dominate the world with its teachings ... and to have domination of all other religions militarily."

I surely hope this ISN'T what you said.

But if you did, I'm deeply saddened that a man of the Reformed (Calvin) cloth would perpetrate the lies and ill-will currently being directed toward Muslims in America.

Surely you know the history of the Crusades and how the West has consistently sought to dominate the Middle East, and how Europe and America have sought to "dominate" the Middle East militarily and religiously via our missionaries, many of whom were nothing more than cultural emissaries of Western values.

Surely you know about the Ottoman Empire's rule of the Middle East for a 1000 years - a rule generous toward Jews and Christians, and Islamic Rule of Spain produced centuries of peace and learning. Of course, Islam spread militarily, but so did Christianity. Christianity and then Islam, religions with a high level of missionary zeal, have always had a partnership with the sword, so your comment, if that's what you said, is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

I'm a '69 grad of Western Seminary, a '66 grad of Calvin College ... I presume you're a Western grad, too.

I hope Time's quote was inaccurate, and I hope that your pulpit proclaims the truth in these matters.

Faithfully in Christ,

Tom Eggebeen, Interim Pastor
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Los Angeles

God is found upon many, many, paths, God be praised, but not every path leads to God. Greed and cruelty lead only to dust.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Judge Walker, Prop 8 and the Judiciary

I’m seriously disappointed that the 9th District Court panel has continued the stay on marriage quality, though I am not surprised. I think the court foresees an appeal process all the way to the Supreme Court, and the possibility of a reversal on Judge Walker’s decision, which would put thousands of new marriages into limbo, I suppose.

I suppose.

Though who can measure the pain of love denied.

And though I believe marriage equality will prevail, like racial equality and gender equality have prevailed, in the meantime, it’s an uneasy time for LGBT persons around the nation.

By way of note, when Judge Walker issued his decision, there was a great hue and cry from the Prop 8 people, and who can blame them. They castigated Walker in every way they could, expressing their disapproval of a judge whose singular opinion would fly in the face of the people.

Now, however, I heard a Prop 8 supporter suggest that the panel of judges who ruled on sustaining the stay are “hearing the people.”

I don’t know about you, but these comments strike me as unusual.

Judges don’t pay much attention to the people, do they?

Not if they’re good. Not if they’re honest.

They pay a lot of attention to the law. That’s what we want, isn’t it? That’s why we have three branches of government. That’s what makes us Republic.

If the courts had listened to the people, would America’s schools have been desegregated? Or California’s use of restrictive housing covenants been declared unconstitutional?

Had the President listened to the people,  and the powerful interests of the South, would there have been an Emancipation Proclamation?

If Congress has listened to the people, would there ever been the great Civil Rights legislation of the Sixties?

The genius of the American Republic – that’s what it’s all about. And whatever our moral or religious proclivities might be, there’s no doubt, we win some and we lose some. But however it shakes itself out, we entrust ourselves to one of the most ingenious systems of government ever defined.
And the next time, you’re grateful for a win, remember, it’s the law that wins, not you.

And the next time you lose, remember, it’s the law that still wins.

Let us pray that Justice be blind! Always!

And deaf, as well.

That we will continue to have good judges – women and men invested with a profound love and respect for the laws of the land and the foundation of all our law – The Constitution. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good News in CA

Thank God we live in a Republic rather than a Democracy ... a Republic in which elected and/or appointed officials are empowered to make decisions for us.

As in the case of fair housing in CA, early 60s, the courts determined that restrictive housing covenants were unconstitutional, despite the fact that 65% of California voters wanted to retain them in Prop 14.
I think, too, about Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage ... it was the leadership of the courts that helped us break free of the past and shed the chains of structural racism and discrimination. Yes, both yet exist in practice and attitude for many Americans, but without official approval. That's a huge step to take, and today in CA, another huge step was taken for civil right and Marriage Equality.

And it looks like the legal arguments are in place - whatever perspective some may personally hold on LGBT persons and practices, there can no longer be a constitutional prohibition on their marriage and the rights that pertain thereto.

For a detailed examination on why the proponents of Prop 8 feared a trial such as has just been concluded, check out the following article at HuffingtonPost. In a nutshell, the "legal arguments" against Marriage Equality simply do not stand up in an American Court of Law.

I have many friends who oppose Marriage Equality and ordination for practicing LGBT persons, and though I cannot agree with them, I cannot deny either their feelings or opinions.  Yet they are beginning to realize that moral and theological arguments against Marriage Equality cannot be translated into civil law.

As for me, I long for the day when I will be able to officiate at all weddings. That day is coming, I believe, and it will be a good day for all of us.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Palmer Raids - a Lesson from History

Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, in the full swing of America's Red Scare, forecast the imminent revolt of left-wing radicals who would, "on a certain day…rise up and destroy the government at one fell swoop." 

Though Congress was reluctant to grant him the requested funding, he proceeded to raid suspected organizations, making labor unions a particular target. As part of his effort, he got an injunction against a planned strike against the coal industry by the United Mine Workers.

August 1, 1919, he appointed a 24-year old to oversee and develop a new division in the Justice Department, The General Intelligence Division. Oh, by the way, the 24-year old was one J. Edgar Hoover.

With a new Secretary of Labor appointed by President Wilson, Palmer's methods came under scrutiny, including a predicted "radical uprising" on May Day, 1920. But when said event failed to materialize, his support wained.

To read more of this fascinating, and frightening, time in America, check out the Wikipedia article under Palmer Raids and on Palmer himself, a Quaker and a one-time progressive. 

As I read about the Palmer Raids, I found myself thinking of what's happening in Arizona and the suggestion of some politicians to rewrite the 14th Amendment.

Call it xenophobia ... call it whatever you want ... I call it sick!

Palmer quickly moved outside the law, and though the law eventually caught up with him and undid his ferocious work, Palmer, with his appointment of Hoover, insured that a dark stain of xenophobia would have a secure place in the American heart.

Like those who followed him, Fr. Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy, Palmer cried wolf again and again, fueling hatred and suspicion across the land, accusing Congress of failing to defend the Constitution against enemies within.

A tried and true technique, to be honed to perfection by Adolf Hitler.

A tried and true technique embraced by today's radical conservatives.

In tumultuous times, fear-mongers and hyper-patriots gain the ear of millions. 

In the end, they will have run their cycle; those who drink deeply at the wells of fear and hatred always do themselves in, becoming increasingly ridiculous in their claims and proposals, driving away most of their adherents. 

Radical conservatives can and will damage America's heart, but saner voices will prevail.  

Lessons from history.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

News from Holland - MI, that is

A good friend writes the following from Holland, Michigan:

Update.  I don't have to send a letter to Western Theological Seminary urging them to rebuke one of their large donors Mr. Jack DeWitt for his reprehensible ad in the Holland Sentinel.  The ad. was an anti-gay diatribe.
Request Foods, I'm sure due to pressure from Campbell's Food, had a retraction in the paper this morning.  They repudiate the ad.  It wasn't Request Foods; it was the primary investor in the company who used the company name instead of his own.  While Request Foods isn't naming the person everyone knows it is Jack DeWitt.
Good letters continue to appear in the paper opposing the advertisement.
There is still hope for Holland.
Additionally, Pete Hoekstra, US Congressperson from Holland, running for Republican nomination for governor LOST!  The Republicans chose a social moderate and fiscal conservative instead.  Who woulda thunk?  Two rightwingers split the vote allowing the moderate to win.
Also, the local right wing candidate who is the regional director of the Family Research Council, cosponsor of the dreadful advertisement, lost in his bid to take Hoekstra's congressional seat.
It's a good day in Holland.