Why Persist in Our Countercultural Habit?

The story in Exodus 34 narrates Moses on the mountain again, getting a second set of stone tablets from God, having busted the first set in sheer frustration of his people’s preoccupation with the idols of Egypt. This portrait offers the starkest possible contrast to the spectacle we witnessed last week. We’re speaking of course of Donald Trump clearing the streets with teargas so he could walk to an Episcopal Church that didn’t want him there, in order to brandish a Bible he didn’t open. These two images of a man carrying Holy Writ could not be more different. On Sinai we see Moses, a prophet of liberation, ascending yet again to the Source, trying again to bring instruction to a hard hearted people, on whose behalf he begs mercy. Moses is reminded that this Creator is indeed “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness.” This is a story of loving solidarity between God, prophet and community.

In DC, on the other hand, we see Trump descending from the White House, posing for a gratuitous photo opportunity in yet another attempt to weaponize the scriptures—of which he is ignorant, and from which he has never taken instruction—in order to legitimate his war on the citizenry. This is a story of unbridled cynicism. Friends, this is why we persist in our countercultural habit of turning to these ancient texts: because they offer a different narrative with which to counter the fabulations and manipulations of empire. This wisdom born from mountain peaks is how we do battle with the deadly hubris born from ziggurats and Trump Towers. “Our sacred stories,” as the great Indigenous writer Leslie Marmon Silko put it in her acclaimed novel Ceremony, “are all we have to fight illness and death.”

Ched Myers, “For God So Loved The World … A Tribute to Liz McAlister” (delivered on June 7, 2020)

Gandhi’s Gift to Donald Trump

In the strange tale this week of the Trumps’ visit to India, they stopped by Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Trump forgot to mention Gandhi in his speech and in the visitor’s book.

However, Kartikeya Sarabhai, a trustee of the ashram, didn’t forget who Donald Trump was. The ashram chose a very special gift for the Donald. Sarabhai said the ashram gave Trump and engraved copy of Gandhi’s “Talisman,” which he wrote in August 1947.

Gandhi wrote:

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”–One of the last notes left behind by Mohandas K. Gandhi

For more see, Mahatma Gandhi, Last Phase, Vol. II (1958), p. 65, and “Three wise monkeys” statue, book, “charkha” gifted to Donald Trump

8 Tiny Thoughts on the Singapore Summit

Women hold a banner in Paju, South Korea. A group of 30 women activists arrived in South Korea after a landmark crossing of the Demilitarized Zone from North Korea as a symbolic act of peace. (Xinhua/Jiang Ye)

I’ve been working on articles on North Korea and following the recent news closely about the Singapore meeting. I call it the Trump-Kim Summit  because it’s clearly about the two of them–not so much the U.S. and North Korea). Eight tiny thoughts:

  • It could have been much worse.
  • It pushes the nuclear clock back a few minutes.
  • It is a success because it opens dialogue.
  • Both leaders are inveterate liars.
  • The agreement to repatriate the remains of U.S. servicemen is an important symbolic step toward bringing the Korean War to a close.
  • The incentives for both parties are commercial–but worse things have been done for money.
  • The proof will be in the pudding.
  • This Summit is an answer to millions of people’s prayers. Let’s not waste the moment.
    Pax Christi International recommends follow-up talks include these key points if they are to actually lead towards disarmament and a durable peace:

  • Both countries should take conclusive steps towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, not only North Korea. The peninsula is not denuclearised if it remains under threat from U.S. nuclear weapons.
  • Both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and North Korea should rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is part of a five-step proposal for disarmament issued by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which includes Pax Christi International.
  • The U.S. and North Korea should pursue the successful completion of a peace treaty between both Koreas to replace the armistice from the Korean War, also as a follow-up of the historic Panmunjom Declaration of 27 April 2018.
  • The U.S. should raise concerns for human rights in North Korea as a condition to lift economic sanctions. Amongst other human rights abuses, up to 120,000 people continue to be arbitrarily detained in political prison camps. It is imperative that human rights are taken up in future talks, as their protection is intrinsically linked to peace and security.–Pax Christi International

If you ignore all the hoopla, here’s the agreement that Trump and Kim actually signed:

Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the Singapore Summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of a new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peach regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclarization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join the efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panumunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclerarization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DRPK summit – the first in history – was a epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint agreement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world. —The White House

P.S. A pre-edited version of the agreement, hot off the copier to distribute to press, showed the U.S. and DPRK  joining efforts to build a “lasting and stable peach regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

Charles E. Jefferson: ‘Woe to you military experts, blind guides’

One hundred years ago today, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to go to war against Germany and the U.S. officially entered World War I. This evening the U.S. president launched missile strikes from navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea on the airbases of the Syrian government in retaliation for the Syrian president using chemical weapons, likely using sarin gas, on civilians two days ago. Despite the Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907, which forbade the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare, more than 124,000 tons of gas were produced by the end of World War I.

Below is an excerpt from What the War is Teaching, a collection of addresses given by Rev. Charles E. Jefferson at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1916:

“This then is the work of the Christian minister in the present world crisis. He must resist with every ounce of his strength the power of the military experts. Jesus met the hierarchy of his day without flinching. His followers must do the same. Let ministers and laymen all say:

‘Woe to you, military experts, blind guides. You bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne upon men’s shoulder’s, and you do not move them with one of your fingers.

‘Woe unto you, military experts, blind guides, you shut up the kingdom of God against nations, and you open up the empire of suspicion and fear and hate; nations are feeling after righteousness and peace and joy, and you block their way.

‘Woe unto you, military experts, blind guides, you devour widows’ houses and other women’s houses and men’s houses, you devour the proceeds of industry, and the resources of nations, you devour the money which might be spent on social uplift and for the fighting of the evils which sap the life of mankind.

‘Blind guides and fools, you work everlastingly on the outside of the cup and the platter and turn men’s attention away from that which lies within. You talk unceasingly about the material defenses, fortifications made of concrete and steel and neglect those interior and spiritual defenses without which a nation is doomed ….’”–Charles Edward Jefferson, What the War is Teaching (1916)

Charles Edward Jefferson was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on August 29, 1860. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University. He was ordained by the Congregational Council in Chelsea, MA, September 29, 1887. He found a home as pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York City from 1898 to 1929, then was honorary pastor from 1929 until his death in 1937. His writings are archived at the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston.

Trump’s Museum Christianity vs Jesus’ Inflammatory Gospel

11-jesus-donaldIn a 2012 CBN interview, Trump said fans often send him Bibles. He keeps every one of them “in a very nice place,” he said.

“There’s no way I would ever throw anything, to do anything negative to a Bible,” Trump said. “I would have a fear of doing something other than very positive, so actually I store them and keep them and sometimes give them away to other people but I do get sent a lot of Bibles and I like that. I think that’s great.”


Matthew 10:34: “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God.” (The Message translation)

Which one will you follow–Trump or Jesus?

Rev. Graylan Hagler: ‘What Does Mr. Trump Bring to the Public Altar?’

Rev. Graylan Hagler, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Graylan Hagler, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Graylan Hagler has a good response to navigating the waters of the call to “heal.” Worth reading.

“How can one be healed when the rhetoric targeted at one group or another attacked the humanity and very lives of those groups? I would like to be healed but the damage has already been done, and so how is the damage undone? The call for healing right now is as if you still have the disease or infirmity in your body but choose to ignore its presence and the damage that it is doing or has done. We cannot be healed while still being ravished by the destructive elements of the disease. We cannot be healed while the disease is still in the body. I cannot be healed right now because the one who brought the disease, exploited the disease, and advanced the disease has done nothing to eradicate the disease.

In scriptures, when people came with a sin offering, a thanksgiving offering or the first fruits offering it was without blemish and it was significant. It was such a significant offering that is meant something economically and psychologically to the offerer.

I have heard the rhetoric of Trump and I have to believe him at his word, and so since his words threatens me and many of my friends in their personhood and humanity I have to ask what will he bring to the altar of the public arena that there might be healing.”–Rev. Graylan Hagler, America Needs to be Healed!

Elizabeth Warren: Trump v ‘Equal Justice Under Law’

This is an important half-hour speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“Donald Trump chose racism as his weapon, but his aim is exactly the same as the rest of the Republicans: pound the courts into submission for the rich and the powerful.”–Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren Remarks at American Constitution Society Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren harshly criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his comments against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel who’s overseeing a lawsuit against the now defunct Trump University. Warren called the real estate mogul a “thin-skinned, racist bully” and a “wannabe tyrant” who should never be president of the United States.

She lays out a Republican attack on the U.S. judiciary system, reminding that judges cannot publicly defend themselves against attack. So the rest of us must defend them. She gave these comments at the annual national convention of the American Constitution Society in Washington, D.C. The ACS is a progressive legal organization formed in 2001 in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the Gore-Bush election.

(FYI: She got a standing O.)

For the full video, go to CSPAN.