The Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In October 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared that the fourth Thursday of November the following year would be declared a day of thanksgiving. His words reflect the times. The nation was at war with itself. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers fighting for the Union or the rebellious Confederacy had been killed or wounded in the two and a half years since South Carolinian militia had opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.

When Lincoln wrote the text of the proclamation the war had shifted in favor of the Union. Vicksburg had fallen and Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania had been crushed by the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, and the Emancipation Proclamation had changed the tenor of the war. European leaders, pressured by their own people turned their backs on the Confederacy and brought a new source of manpower to Union ranks, men not motivated by money or simply patriotism, but their own freedom. Even so in the East the fall brought stalemate, and in the West more desperate battles were being fought in Tennessee and northwestern Georgia at Chattanooga and Chickamauga. In the North the Copperheads were agitating for peace at any price with the Confederacy while despite food riots, military setbacks, internal strife between various governors and the central government in Richmond, and the impossibility of foreign recognition; the leaders of the Confederacy plodded on in a war that they could not win.

By November of 1864 the Union military forces were bleeding Robert E. Lee’s Army to death following intense battles in the Wilderness In which Ulysses S. Grant’s armies drove the Confederates into a desperate defense around Petersburg. In the Shenandoah Valley Philip Sheridan’s troops had gutted the breadbasket of the Confederacy, and in the South, William Tecumseh Sherman’s armies had taken Atlanta and were preparing to blaze a path across Georgia and the Carolinas that would devastate those areas even as Admiral David Farragut’s fleet had defeated the Confederate defenders of Mobile Bay.

Lincoln’s words reflect the Union advantage during the stalemate of late 1863 but also look forward to the healing of the nation.

Washington, D.C.

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,

Secretary of State

I think his words are worth pondering in an era where the nation is divided in so many ways.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Thanksgiving Blessings and Perspectives

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I spent Thanksgiving doing what has become our custom, cooking dinner and inviting single friends over to share the meal with us. The first time we did something like this was when I was a young Army Lieutenant in Germany back in 1985 when we hosted some of my enlisted soldiers to our quarters for the holiday.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in a lot of places, including Iraq in 2007 and as we have gotten older I think that we appreciate the time together more when we work together to prepare the house and a meal for people that we love and appreciate. In fact the truth is even if no one came over we would probably do the same for ourselves. It is fascinating to see how well we work together in the kitchen now, especially after returning from a three year geographic bachelor assignment in Camp LeJeune in 2013. I think the most despondent Thanksgiving we shared together was in 2011 or 2012 when I traveled up from LeJeune for the weekend and we ended up eating at Golden Coral. The lines, the impersonal nature, and the poor quality and blandness of the mass produced food compounded by the fact that neither of us were in a very good place emotionally made it something that we would never do again.

There is something about preparing a meal and sharing it around a table with friends that is incredibly meaningful. I think for many people in the rush of the holidays that it sometimes is a lost art. That being said the time around the table, especially when it is unhurried and relaxing is something to behold. It reminds me of time in Germany with our friends Gottfried and Hannelore whether we sit around their dining room table or go to a local restaurant enjoying a meal, some drinks and conversation.

When our guests left I did the cleanup and the kitchen, dining room, and living room are set to begin to transformed on Saturday into our little Advent and Christmas wonderland. Then we relaxed with our Papillons, Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre, who unlike most days got some turkey as I stripped the carcass of the meat after dinner. For Pierre I am sure this was his first experience of this treat and he did enjoy it, as did Minnie and Izzy. We are very fortunate to have such good babies, they were sweet and well behaved the entire time our guests were here.

When we finally settled down we watched Young Frankenstein and Ghostbusters with the dogs on our laps and drinks in our hands.

I also took some time to check the news and found out that that the search for three U.S. Navy sailors who were about a C-2 Greyhound transport aircraft that crashed near the USS Ronald Reagan had been called off. They will probably never be recovered and this Thanksgiving will be one of great sadness as Navy Casualty Assistance Officers and Chaplains show up at their doors. Since when something like this happens Navy Ships set condition River City which cuts off almost all communications from the ships except for the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Command Master Chief, and Chaplain; a situation like this means that families will probably not learn of their loved ones deaths by a Facebook message, or an email. Having made all too many notifications in my career I know that from now on Thanksgiving will be a day of mourning for these families.

I also read the news that the Argentine Navy has basically given up hope for finding the submarine San Juan which was last heard from Sunday. The families and loved ones of those 44 officers and sailors now know that what little hope they might have held out for their loved ones is ended.

I think that puts Thanksgiving into perspective for me. I have been in the military over 36 years and I have been to war, as well as being on other hazardous missions, and situations and come home, changed certainly, but still alive. Likewise it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1985 when Judy and I narrowly avoided being at the scene of a terrorist bombing at the Frankfurt PX. We were on our way there and probably would have been in the blast area had Judy not felt well and asked to go home. Within minutes of getting home in Wiesbaden I was called by my Colonel to put my Ambulance Company on alert because the PX had been bombed. Thirty four Americans were wounded in that attack.

For us, Thanksgiving has become a day to be savored and appreciated. We usually avoid Black Friday at all costs but tomorrow we will be waiting outside Gordon Biersch with many friends for a very special deal on a coupon book for growler fills for a year.

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace and happy Thanksgiving,

Padre Steve+

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What I’m Thankful for this Year

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I my opinion the secular holiday of Thanksgiving is incredibly important in terms of spiritual or emotional health, for that matter maybe even physical health unless you choke on a turkey leg.

While there are a lot of things to be deeply concerned about in our country and the world there are still many things to be thankful for, and today I am expressly staying away for anything political, not that there is much to be thankful for me there anyway, but I digress…

First of all I am thankful for my wonderful, talented, and extremely patient wife Judy who has remained married to me despite how incredibly inept I remain at the art of marriage.

Second I am thankful for my three Papillon dogs, Minnie the Scule, Izzy the Belle, and Pierre. Honestly there is nothing like having three puppies who even when everything else goes to shit still love and comfort you. Minnie is my brat, she channels my inner delinquent and I reciprocate. Pierre is daddy’s boy. I haven’t had a boy puppy since I was a kid. Despite being a mere 4.8 pounds Pierre fills the room with his presence and is all boy. Then there is Izzy, or Miss Iz. She is amazing. She is my emotional support so many times. She can read my moods better than anyone except Judy and I am going to talk with my shrink about getting her certified as my emotional support dog.

Third there is my little brother Jeff, the mature one who has taken on the task of dealing with my dear mom in all of her craziness, up close and personal. Of course I love and appreciate her too when she is talking to me which she hasn’t since I shared a Doctor Pimple Popper MD video with her by email over a month ago. Mom, if your reading this I am not so traumatized by your popping my pimples when I was a kid not to have a morbid fascination watching Dr. Pimple Popper’s work. Honestly I can’t stop watching her videos, even at dinner. So I love you mom and believe it or not I’m thankful for you, which since I’m including this in my thanks to Jeff I am still thankful for you.

Fourth I am thankful for my staff at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek Fort Story Chapel who are simply the best and an amazing group of people to share what I expect my last tour in the Navy before I retire in 2020 or 2021. Since I have been passed over for promotion twice and don’t think I have a bats chance in hell of getting promoted I am okay with that, but if by some chance that happens I do promise to be a total pain in the ass to the system that I am now, after all I’ve got the PTSD stigma and possibly the Mad Cow since I can’t give blood because of living in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. So to Chaplains Amanda Lurer, Dave Peterson, Charlie Mallie, and John Potter, thank you. To my enlisted staff, Chief Petty Officer Tisha Draper, First Class Petty Officers Tiara Spearman, Ralph Oliver, Second Class Petty Officers Melissa Mason, Doug Grap, and Joseph Edwards, thank you. You are the best.

Next are my friends, both my local friends and the people who I went to school, church, worked with, or served with in the military who still remain my friends through thick and thin I love all you guys. Even the people who have dropped me from their Facebook friends lists.

To my readers who now number some 700 subscribers to my website and the other whose readership and kind words mean so much to me.

Finally to steal a line from so many sports figures when they win a championship I am thankful to my Lord and Savor Jesus Christ, even if he is no help with the curveball.

So I am thankful for all of you and wish you the best of Thanksgivings.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Tip of the Iceberg: Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Age of Trump

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The Greek father of medicine Hypocrites had as his foundational rule, primum non nocere, or first do no harm. Sadly, it deny theseems that many powerful men have never understood that their actions in regards to women or for that matter men who have no power, political, economic, or sexual must be established on the same basis that Hypocrites understood medicine. Today President Trump basically gave Roy Moore a pass and endorsement for his Senate campaign by saying that Moore denied any wrongdoing. His comments came a day after his Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied that if a crime is not admitted by the criminal it didn’t happen after Senator Al Franken admitted and apologized for his photographed groping of a female journalist while on a USO tour to Afghanistan. Evidently if Trump or Moore deny similar or worse escapades their denial should be believed at face value.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Glenn Trush, and so many more who demonstrated their contempt for women by abusing, harassing, threatening, or demeaning them managed to maintain their power, reputations, and riches. Hopefully that era is ending even as the list of verifiable predators keeps growing, as women, so long afraid of having their careers or lives destroyed by powerful men begin to speak out. Of course if we look back to history so many other powerful and respected men we find that it is littered with the less than commendable deeds of men.

Honestly I do not understand why these men did these things. Perhaps power over others is an aphrodisiac that they cannot resist. But them maybe I am somewhat of an anomaly and not because I am a better man or more ethical person than any of the men I have mentioned. Actually the fact is that I am a terrible shy person, so much so that shortly after we were married Judy walked into the bathroom where I was taking a bath and I said something like “get out, I’m bathing” and she replied, “we’re married.” Honestly I couldn’t argue with her logic.

But the fact is I have always been rather shy, insecure, and terribly respectful around women. When I was in high school and junior high their was a girl named Robin that I so wanted to ask out, she was a sweetheart, but I couldn’t do it. I finally told her that at our 25th high school reunion. We are both happily married now, to other people and I am glad that I never did anything unseemly around her or to her. There was another girl, very pretty, named Janet who sat behind me in one of my classes who told me “you’resuch a Fox,” and being the shy history and ROTC geek that I was said, “ya, like Rommel, the Dessert Fox” at which point she shook her head and kept going.

When I first met Judy in my freshman year of college I was still terribly shy and insecure, so much so that when I asked her out for our first day that she was relieved because she thought I was going to ask her to marry her. It had something to do with how I stammered out the words “will you…” thankfully about five years later did say “I do” to me when we were married, and despite my many fuck ups we are still married some thirty-four and a half years later. I think in large part this has more to do with her character than mine, for even when my ambitions were not sexual in nature they catered to my need for military or academic achievement versus anything dealing with love, emotional, or sexual intimacy. But as bad as those those things were for our marriage they also kept me from doing things that all of these other men did as a matter of how they lived life. Evidently, all of them regardless or politics, ideology, or religion, thought that they could get away with groping, exposing themselves to, harassing, molesting, or even raping women simply because they had the power to do so.

In a way I guess that when it comes to these issues I have to say that I was lucky to be so insecure, prudish, and shy around women. It probably kept me from doing things that had I not been that way that I would have regretted and that women who I (to use the words of former President Jimmy Carter “lusted after”) would have had to deal with the scars of such abuse for decades. My insecurities, shyness, and basic loyalty to Judy kept me from doing things that a young man with a measure of power and ambition, or an older ( or more powerful) man seeking to use sex or position over women to force women into sexual compromises, or worse. I could never do it, even when I was sexually attracted to other women.

None of this makes me a better person than any of the men that I named at the beginning of this article. I guess that I am lucky that I was so shy, insecure, and prudish. I am blessed to still be married to a woman who I not only love but also respect, and the women that I didn’t use my person, position, or power to manipulate or abuse because of my introverted, insecure, and shy nature to cause harm to over all of these years.

But that leads me to an interesting question. How can I excuse the nefarious deeds of men whose policies and politics I admire when I condemn their counterparts on the other side of the aisle for the same deeds, regardless of whether they are admitted or on the same scale of moral bankruptcy as the men that I admire? Honestly as a Christian I can’t. I can believe in grace and God’s forgiveness of sins, but as painful as it may be to my politics I cannot let men who I otherwise admire like Al Franken, a man that I could have otherwise supported for election to the Presidency in 2020 because of their policies get a free pass as some many of Trump and Roy Moore’s religious supporters give them.

That doesn’t mean that I believe in a one punishment fits all system. Like any crime or infraction of justice there is a gradient of evil. Some people are sociopaths who have made a lifetime of abuse, others were simply occasional dumb shits and idiots. That being said I think that the punishment must fit the crime and not all cases are equal, even so it is important that in each case the appropriate justice be meted out. That might mean criminal charges, firing from lucrative employment, voluntary resignation, or some kind of censure. All of the accusations against them are deserving of a full public airing and if that leads to criminal, legal, financial, or public censure that is fine with me and I don’t care if they share my political or social beliefs.

Can there be redemption for these individuals? Yes I do believe that, especially for the people whose actions were simply lame, stupid, or ignorant; but for those who are pathological abusers, liars, and sociopaths whose actions were so obviously premeditated and heinous there is little likelihood of reform I think that redemption is a likely option. Such people, even when they “repent” tend to revert to their old behaviors as soon as the spotlight is off of them. Psychologist Judith Herman wrote:

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

Over the years too many women or in some cases men have been silenced. That can’t be allowed to continue. The voice of those previously silenced needs to be heard and those accused need to be exposed and held accountable.

Personally I have no problems with the crimes or abuses of such men, and yes even women in some cases being exposed so that other people will not be victimized. If this scrutiny ends up helping to change our culture it is worth it. The culture that accepts rape, sexual assault, abuse, and intimidation has to be changed, and that will not happen if these crimes remain blanketed in silence.

I think that many more powerful men, politicians, business leaders, actors and Hollywood moguls, and even religious leaders whose lives which have involved the serial abuse of women, or in some cases men will be exposed, and that is not a bad thing. Sadly, in the case of some men, particularly the current President I don’t think justice will be done. A poll released today indicated that the vast majority of members of his political party don’t think that the issue matters when it comes to retaining political power.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Recommitting to A New Birth of Freedom: The Gettysburg Address at 154 Years

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In November 1863 President Abraham Lincoln travelled to Gettysburg Pennsylvania yards behind the temporary to attend and say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers Cemetery where the remains of the Union dead who had not been recovered by their families and taken home for burial were being interred by local laborers. When Lincoln arrived the process was barely halfway complete. The ground on West Cemetery Hill was still scarred by the battle that took place barely four and a half months prior, a battle that was the deadliest in United States military history in which the Army of the Potomac under the command of George Gordon Meade defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s storied Army of Northern Virginia.

Lincoln was not the primary speaker, that honor went to Edward Everett, former Secretary of State, Senator, and Representative from Massachusetts. Everett, an academic from Harvard was also a leader in the Greek Revival and the Rural Cemetery movement in the United States. Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery, less than 100 yards behind the temporary structure from which Everett and Lincoln would speak was a legacy of the movement that Everett had helped to begin. Now Everett was the primary orator at the dedication of of this cemetery dedicated to the Union dead, and Lincoln, the President there as more of window dressing.

Everett spoke for nearly two hours providing an impressive narrative of the battle. When he ended his speech, which was not long by the standards of his day it was left to Lincoln to say a few words. Those few words are now part of the lexicon of American secular scripture along with the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the United States Constitution, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech, andDr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

His words are the antithesis of what is so often heard in American political discourse today. The fact is that while many Americans give lip service to all of these speeches, we have to admit that there is a significant portion of our population that not only give lip service to their ideas but actually oppose them, instead valuing theocracy, racism, authoritarianism, and militarism more than the ideals that the United States was founded upon. Despite that, they remain something that we must strive to pursue until this nation actually experiences the new birth of Freedom that Lincoln ended up dying to see established.

Lincoln’s words which he penned over a number of days were not long, and while some like Everett himself thought that they eclipsed his own words, many politicians and members of the press thought little of them. However, those words probably encapsulate the ideas of the founders better than any words outside of the Declaration of Independence. I will leave you with those words. So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

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Resisting Catastrophe and Looking to Resurrection: Faith in the Trump Era

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sophie Scholl, who played a pivotal role in the White Rose resistance movement wrote: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”

The more I see the ways that many Christian pastors and leaders are prostituting their faith to defend the indefensible actions

‘of men like President Trump and Alabama candidate for the U.S. Senate, Roy Moore, the more I am convinced that regardless of whatever political power or success that they achieve, that have forever destroyed the credibility of the Christian Church in the United States. They have aligned themselves with White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and sexual predators in ways not seen since the German Christians threw away their faith for the cause of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s.

What was especially discouraging was the rally where a number of Moore’s clergy supporters joined the candidate to hail him as a hero and martyr in his stand against the rights of LGBTQ citizens, Flip Benham who told Moore that he gets “the applause of heaven.” Even more discouraging were the comments of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, also a conservative Evangelical Christian said while she “has no reason to disbelieve” Moore’s female accusers said that she will vote for Moore because “we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions,”

My friend Father Kenneth Tanner, a conservative Priest wrote: “No. It is never OK to turn a blind eye to multiple and credible witnesses against a leader running for public office because utilitarian politics are more important than principles and human decency.

It matters not one wit if a presidential agenda or a senate majority or the makeup of the Supreme Court or any other grave moral challenge—like the precious life of the unborn—hangs in the balance.”

Today Andrew Sullivan wrote: “The Christian right’s support for a sociopathic, cruel, and vulgar pagan was inevitable, in other words, from the moment the Moral Majority was born. If politics is fused with religion, and if your opponents are deemed evil, then almost anything can be justified to defeat them. Sooner or later, you’l find yourself defending the molestation of a minor. Which is why I have long refused to call this political movement Christian, but Christianist. It is not about faith; it is about power.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The German pastor who would be murdered at the command of Adolf Hitler in April 1945 wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

Sadly, I don’t think that what passes for Christian in the United States can do this. It would be better that what passes for Christian would collapse under the weight of its own lies and misrepresentations in the pursuit of temporal power than for it to continue in this rotten state. It has sold its soul for a prize that can only destroy it. The good thing is that Jesus the Christ is still engaged in bringing new life to the dead and that he works through people who know their inadequacy in order to bring it to the world. As Juergen Moltmann wrote:

“Believing in the resurrection does not just mean assenting to a dogma and noting a historical fact. It means participating in this creative act of God’s … Resurrection is not a consoling opium, soothing us with the promise of a better world in the hereafter. It is the energy for a rebirth of this life. The hope doesn’t point to another world. It is focused on the redemption of this one.”

So in spite of my pessimism in regard to the state of what Sullivan calls Christianist I still believe in the energy of resurrection and rebirth in this life and world. I believe that I have to be part of that even if it offends the Christianists who would use the power of the state to persecute and kill those they despise, the same people who Jesus defended.

I have come to realize that the offense I take against the notion of a Christian Nation promoted by Roy Moore and his supporters and their idol President Trump is that they prostitute the Gospel for the filthy rags of unrequited political power. I have come to realize more and more that my faith, as small and insignificant as it so often is, is the source of my politics. That is why I must resist as Bonhoeffer noted:

“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Sophie Scholl and her friends in the White Rose circle, Bonhoeffer and others resisted when others who called themselves Christians either wholeheartedly supported Hitler and the NSDAP or chose to remain silent during the Nazi era. Traudl Juergen who served as Hitler’s Secretary from 1942 until his death in Berlin struggled with her roll in the war and how after the war it occurred to her that she could have done more:

“All these horrors I’ve heard of during the Nurnberg process, these six million Jews, other thinking people or people of another race, who perished. That shocked me deeply. But I hadn’t made the connection with my past. I assured myself with the thought of not being personally guilty. And that I didn’t know anything about the enormous scale of it. But one day I walked by a memorial plate of Sophie Scholl in the Franz-Joseph-Strasse. I saw that she was about my age and she was executed in the same year I came to Hitler. And at that moment I actually realised that a young age isn’t an excuse. And that it might have been possible to get to know things.”

I cannot remain silent.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Downfall: Misplaced Loyalty

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I decided to watch again the film Downfall which is about the last ten days of Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich.” After the film was over I watched the special features which included a segment on the making of the movie along with interviews with the actors portraying Hitler, his entourage, and the defenders of Berlin. The film and commentary is in German with English subtitles but is probably the best film that deals with the subject ever made.

Since it is in German and since I speak German I do my best to try to listen rather than watch the subtitles and in doing so I pick up on some of the nuances of the language that do not necessarily come through as well when translated into English.

It is a hard film to watch because the producers, directors, and cast strove for historical accuracy. Since I have studied the people, the era, the ideology, and the battle for years I already feel like I know the people involved. The fact that the cast does such a good job portraying them is remarkable, these are not your typical cookie cutter depictions of Nazis seen in so many other films.

But what really struck me tonight was the absolute fanaticism of so many of them, and one of the actors noted in his interview that his character, SS General Wilhelm Mohnke, was a fanatical Nazi even at the end, something that was common among many of the Hitler entourage and the SS. The actors managed to put a human face on evil, that is hard to do in film.

As I watched the devotion of Hitler’s entourage and loyal SS soldiers I could only think of the devotion, fanaticism, and moral blindness shown by so many supporters of the American President today. The motto of the SS was Meine Ehre Heisst Treue, or My Honor is loyalty. The motto could be applied to President Trump’s most devotee followers in their Make America Great Again ball caps.

I just shake my head when I hear and see some of the things said and done by the President’s most fervent supporters. The President was right about them. When he said “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” he was absolutely correct. Despite the myriad of lies and untruths, the actions that are absolutely contrary to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and for that matter the Gospel, his followers, many conservative Evangelical Christians dig in deeper to defend him even as he leads them to destruction.

It is the same kind of cult like devotion engendered by Hitler in his followers, who like the followers of Trump were conditioned by years of right wing propaganda to believe everything he says because he says what they already believe. I can understand them because from 1989 when I first started listening to Rush Limbaugh, until I deployed to Iraq and came back a changed man in 2008 I absorbed every bit of the same propaganda, that of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and Fox News that the most steadfast followers of Trump did. But when I came back from Iraq I was like the German soldiers who returned home in 1942 or 1943 and realized all that they were fighting for had been a lie.

I think that one of the most disturbing things that I see is that the people who I was most like in the late 1990s until 2007, Conservative Evangelical and Catholic Christians seem to be the most loyal to Trump. That is disturbing because I think of the words of the German pastor Martin Niemoller who wrote:

“I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”

Niemoller realized his mistake too late as I fear many well meaning people who follow Trump will as well. For Christians, to surrender honor, truth, and self-respect all for the sake of political power is to cease to follow Jesus. To do so may be an act of religious devotion, but it is not to God, it is to an idol.

Anyway, I recommend the film.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, History, Political Commentary