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Do You Believe in Miracles? The Miracle on Ice at 40

Friends of Padre Steve‘s World,

We all remember tend to remember where we were and what we were doing when various tragedies happened.  No one living can forget where they were when John or Bobby Kennedy or the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated. Likewise few can forget where they were when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up in 1986, or the events of September 11th 2001.

However, in spite of the fact that good news is not always as memorable as tragedy, there was a sentinel event in my life where a group of unknown US college hockey players accomplished something that has never been forgotten, at least by those alive then. If you were alive then, and had some conscious memories, you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when it took place.  Of course I am speaking about the victory of the US hockey team, Team USA over the Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, in Lake Placid New York.

Forty years ago today I was a 19 year old college sophomore in Stockton, California. I had grown up with hockey. When my dad was stationed in Oak Harbor Washington while serving in the Navy, while I was a child from 1965 through the end of 1969 I grew up with the weekly broadcast of “Hockey Night in Canada” on the Canadian Broadcasting Network.  When we moved to Long Beach my dad would take my brother and me to see Los Angeles Kings games, and then when we moved to Stockton, he would take us to see the California Seals in Oakland.

While in Stockton I played in a youth hockey league for a couple of years, playing defenseman, occasional right wing and for 4 games, a goalie when our goalkeeper was injured.  As a goalkeeper I went 2 for 2 in those four games and can tell you that there is almost nothing as frightening as having a 2 on 1 or one or two man breakaway coming at you full bore.  Goalies are a special breed and I don’t think that I would want that kind of pressure on me to make a living, being through combat and dealing with life and death situations is hard enough. Great goalkeepers, be they in hockey or soccer have my utmost respect.

So hockey to a lesser extent than baseball has been a part of my life for a very long time.  I remember watching my first Winter Olympics when I was in Stockton back in 1972.  Back then Team USA was nothing more than a bunch of American college kids playing teams of Warsaw pact professional all-stars from powerhouse teams such as the Soviet Red Army team.  The Soviets had dominated the international tournaments since 1956, and with the exception of the US Gold Medal team of 1960 had won every Olympic gold medal, and in 1980 were once again expected to win Olympic Gold.

But in 1980 times were tough in the United States. The country was suffering from double digit inflation, 20% interest rates, a gas crisis, economic recession, the residual effects of the Vietnam War, and the humiliation that the Iranians were inflicting on the United States on a daily basis following the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran by “students” during the seemingly  unending hostage crisis.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was yet another thumb in the eye of the United States.  As the United States prepared to host the Winter Games at Lake Placid New York there was not much to cheer about.  The country was mired in political crisis, as the sitting President Jimmy Carter was continually at odds with his own Democratic Party and appeared weak in dealing with the Soviets, their satellites, and the Iranians.  When he made his “malaise” speech in July 1979 I was in the UK touring as a spotlight tech with a Christian singing group and the reaction by the Brits and other Europeans was ridicule of the President and pity for the United States.  The United States had hit bottom, despite the fact that he was speaking the truth.

When it came to the Olympic hockey tournament, no one expected much from the U.S. national Team, with the exception of head coach Herb Brooks.  Brooks and his collection of college players, a number of whom would later become stars in the NHL, began their time together inauspiciously conducting a 61 game exhibition tour against teams from around the world.  In the final game on February 9th 1980 the Americans faced the Soviets at Madison Square Garden and were handily beaten by a score of 10-3 by the Soviet team.  The Soviets on the other hand had enjoyed nothing but success against NHL teams with Soviet teams going 5-3-1 against their NHL counterparts, the best professional teams in the world. The previous year a Soviet team had shut out an NHL All-Star team 6-0.

When the Olympic completion began the Soviets, as was expected dominated their opponents in the preliminary round going 5-0 and outscoring their opponents 51-10.  The United States surprised everyone tying Sweden 2-2 with a last minute goal and then stunning a highly favored Czech team 7-3 before defeating Norway, Romania, and West Germany to advance to the medal round.

Brooks practiced the team hard as they prepared for the Soviets who they were scheduled to meet in the opening round of the medal competition. A loss for the Americans would force them to play for Bronze and no one expected the Americans to defeat the might Soviet team. Yet when the day came, the Lake Placid Field House was packed with 8500 fans decked out in Red White and Blue, with American flags displayed everywhere. In the area the crowd was spontaneously singing “God Bless America.” But because the Soviets refused to allow a later start time, the game was not televised live nor broadcast live on the radio in the States.

On February 22nd I had finished work making and rolling pizza dough at Shakey’s Pizza in Stockton, went home showered and then got in my car to head over to Judy’s house.  On my way over I was listening to the radio when ABC radio broke in to air final few seconds of the game live, as Al Michaels made the famous call “Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

The Soviets lead 3-2 at the beginning of the Third Period, and with the lead none of the Soviet players believed they could lose, but in the next ten minutes the underdog U.S. team pulled ahead 4-3 powered by goals from Mark Johnson who scored the tying goal, and team Captain Mike Eruzione, who scored what would be the winning goal with exactly ten minutes left to play, in those ten minutes the Soviets launched a powerful attack and did not stop, but they failed to score.  With the stadium afire with the shouts of USA! USA! American Goaltender Jim Craig turned away every shot. Al Michaels, who called the game for ABC later described the scene:

“The Soviets were putting so much pressure on the American team at the end of the game, and it was a one-goal game, the crowd is going absolutely insane, we were on a platform that was shaking, the production truck was going crazy.”

I could not believe what I was hearing and was screaming in the car. As soon as I got to Judy’s I went in and told her and her parents, who actually were not that interested in the game. When the game was televised that evening, I watched it with undivided attention and to this day I cannot forget that night.  The Americans had beaten the vaunted Soviet team 4-3 and would go on to defeat Finland in the Gold medal game 4-2.  The next day they were guests at the White House and after that the team broke up. Thirteen of the players would go on to NHL careers, and Brooks would lead the 2002 Team USA to a Silver in 2002 before being killed in a car crash in 2003.

The Soviet people and their news media were stunned by the loss. The fact that the Soviet Team won Silver by defeating Sweden 9-2, the team had lost its luster. The Team and its players returned home in shame. None of the team returned their silver medals to have their names engraved on them, and the Soviet Union and its state media was stunned. Soviet forward Sergei Makarov recalled in the book “The Boys of Winter” by Wayne Coffey, “Soviet forward Sergei Makarov recalled in the book “The Boys of Winter” by Wayne Coffey, “the politicians almost wanted to kill” the team when it stepped off the plane back in Russia.the team when it stepped off the plane back in Russia. After the loss the KGB kept a close watch On the team whenever it traveled outside the USSR, but Soviet players began to defect to play in the NHL. Likewise, Marakov‘s teammate Valery Vasilyev blamed the Soviet coach for the defeat. After the Soviet Coach, Viktor Tikhonov relieved legendary Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak at the end of the First Period after Mark Johnson scored to make the game a 2-2 tie at the end of the period, some Soviet players felt an unease. “The whole team was not happy when Tikhonov made the switch,” forward Sergei Makarov told Coffey. “It was the worst moment of Vlady’s career. Tikhonov was panicking. He couldn’t control himself. That’s what it was — panic.”

When the game was over Tikhonov, in a rage blamed the main Soviet stars for the loss, including Tretiak for the loss. Tikhonov pointed to the failure of Tretiak, and of the big line of Petrov, Boris Mikhailov and Valery Kharlamov. One by one, Tikhonov jabbed a finger in the faces of those four players, saying: “This is your loss! This is your loss!” On the plane back to the Soviet Union Vasilyev grabbed Tikhonov by the throat and threatened to kill him, but he was pulled away by his teammates.

Later, Vasilyev recalled: “For me, it was a ‘Mirage on Ice,..I still can’t understand how we could have lost to the Americans. I still can’t believe in that – as if it were a dream…I believed then and I still believe that our dismissive attitude to the U.S. team had led to our defeat,” he said. “We simply hadn’t taken them seriously.” 

Soviet Defenseman Slava Fetisov recalled: “Our team played a good game, but the U.S. team put together team speed, they never give up, and they got great support from their fans, I learned a pretty good lesson: Never underestimate your opponent.” Good advice  for anyone in a competitive sport, politics, or war. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitols, Born five years after that game, and now one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL noted in 2015:

“In Olympics, sometimes you can play great, but just the moment is not on your side, I don’t know what happened there. . . . Maybe they weren’t concentrating. Maybe it was bad luck.”

While the Soviet team remained dominant In international competitions until the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1990, the loss to the unheralded upstarts of Team USA in 1980 was the end of an era.  In the 1989-1990 season six of the 1980 Soviet team players, Helmuts Balderis, Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, and Sergei Starikov were  allowed, to play in the NHL. Today, some 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many Russian players star in the NHL and remain in the United States even after their careers are over.

Forty years later the triumph of Team USA against all odds on that night is remembered as an event nearly unequaled in sports history as well as contemporary American history. It is considered one of the greatest games in hockey history. The game actually marked a return of pride to the country after a decade of discontent, defeat and discouragement.  That team and its members did something that no one expected in defeating the Soviets and going on to win the Gold medal against the Finns.  No one could have expected the effect on the country either. It was a miracle, a miracle on ice.

I don’t know about you, but I still believe in miracles, even in the age of Trump; and no, what Trump is doing is not miraculous, but rather a film flam show, mastering the media, and the most vile and base emotions of his supporters, while doing all he can to destroy the Constitutional and institutional guardrails against authoritarianism which have protected our country from tyranny for over two centuries. We need another miracle, but this time a hockey game won’t suffice.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under culture, History, Political Commentary, sports and life

Unassuming, Competent, and Honorable: George H. W. Bush 1924-2018

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I was working on another article last night and called it quits because I was tired. I’ll finish and post it tomorrow. But as I was settling in for the night my iPhone and iPad lit up with notifications that former President George H. W. Bush had died.

Many others from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to him far better than Incan ever hope to do. I had a lot of admiration for him. He brought a wealth of experience into the White House which paid huge dividends for the nation and the world as the Cold War ended and the world that we had known for forty years changed overnight.

It was a time fraught with real danger. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact brought freedom to much of Eastern Europe, but also unleashed a storm of long suppressed, but ancient ethnic and religious hatreds, especially in the Balkans. Likewise, the system by which the United States and the Soviet Union kept client States in line collapsed. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was but one of these nations.

Likewise, China responded to calls for democracy by crushing the peaceful demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Some leaders of Warsaw Pact nations whose people began to push for democracy and freedom were tempted to use force to crush their protestors, but none did. Credit has to be given to President Bush for how he used his knowledge, influence, and diplomatic skills to help bring down the Berlin Wall as Communist regimes collapsed all across Eastern Europe.

When Saddam Hussein brazenly invaded Kuwait, it was Bush who worked with the United Nations to build a true international coalition against Hussein and to ensure that Iraq was unable to split that coalition, which included many Arab nations, when it began shooting SCUD missiles at Israel.

At home he wanted a kinder and gentler country, something that we could sure use today. He was despised by Right Wing Republicans and Conservatives for not being “conservative enough.” Of course, the kind of conservatives they wanted in government were the uncompromising, yet morally bankrupt men like Newt Gingrich, and ultimately Donald Trump.

Bush’s political problem was one of hs greatest strengths. He was a decent man who brought humility to his office and did not make the Presidency about himself. He was gracious in defeat and went on work with the man who defeated him in 1992, Bill Clinton, on a number of humanitarian projects.

He was the last member of what has been termed “the Greatest Generation” serve as President. As a nineteen year old he put college on hold and became the second youngest man commissioned as a Naval Aviator. While serving with VT-51 (Torpedo Squadron 51) based on the USS San Jacinto, his TBM Avenger torpedo bomber was shot down over Chuchi Jima. With his aircraft’s engine on fire from hits from Japanese anti aircraft fire, Bush piloted his aircraft away from land to enable his crew to bail out. One went down with the aircraft, the other’s parachute failed to open. Bush landed in the ocean. U.S. fighter aircraft circled overhead and four hours later he was fished from the sea by the crew of the submarine USS Finback. Upon his return to the San Jacinto, Bush rejoined his squadron and flew until the squadron was rotated out of combat. He flew 58 combat missions and was received the Distinguished Flying Cross and three awards of the Air Medal.

Of the Presidents that served in the Second World War, only Bush and John F. Kennedy came so close to death serving in the Pacific. Gerald Ford served in combat operations about the Light Carrier USS Monterrey, a sister ship of San Jacinto for a year and a half. Richard Nixon volunteered for service even though being a Quaker he could have claimed consciousness objector status. He applied for sea duty but was assigned to various logistics and administrative assignments in the Pacific throughout the war. Lyndon Johnson served in the South Pacific, interrupting his congressional term to personally report on the situation to President Franklin Roosevelt. During his tour he got himself aboard an Army Air Force B-26 Marauder which was on a combat mission. There are differences in what happened during the mission, but alone among the crew Johnson, was recommended by Douglas MacArthur for, and awarded the Silver Star. Of course, Ronald Reagan, who had become a Reserve Officer in 1937, never left the Continental United States and was engaged in making training and recruitment films. Jimmy Carter entered the Naval Academy in 1943 but was commissioned too late to see service in the war.

Bush epitomized public service as an elected and appointed official, serving as a Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Envoy to the People’s Republic of China, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, before becoming Ronald Reagan’s Vice President.

As President he surrounded himself with competent professionals who were up to the challenges that his Presidency had to deal with. Unlike his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, there was no shady Iran Contra scandal, or Bill Clinton’s descent into extramarital forced fellatio with White House Intern Monica Lewinski and his lies about it. Neither can his response to Saddam Hussein’s Invasion of Kuwait in 1990 be compared to the criminal invasion launched by his son against Iraq in 2003.

Unlike many of his predecessors and successors he could not only take a jokes and parodies, but became a friend with one of his most successful imitators, Dana Carvey, from Saturday Night Live. Carvey’s parody of the President inspired me to learn to imitate him, Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, Bob Dole and others. Most people who have heard me think that I do Clinton the best, some say that my impersonation of him is scary, but I digress. At his final White House holiday party before he left office, Bush secretly invited Carvey. They became lifelong friends. But that is who George H. W. Bush was, and why I can appreciate him so much.

He was a devoted husband and father. He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara and daughter Robin.

May he Rest In Peace.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under History, leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary, shipmates and veterans

Look for the Liberal Label: My Journey to the Left

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A couple of days ago I received a comment on my Political Commentary tab from an old baseball player who played with the Detroit Tigers in the 1960s. He made some comments that I took to heart as he noted some of the apparent contradictions in my actions, words, and beliefs over the years. He said that I was about as “liberal” as Ricard Nixon. Sadly what he commented on had not been updated since 2009 so I was still in the initial stages of my transformation from being a lifelong Republican to a progressive (liberal) realist in Wonderland.

I am definitely a liberal or progressive now, though I think that I am pretty moderate all things considered, and no I don’t think that my views are particularly Nixonian, though when it comes to foreign policy dealing with the Soviet Union and china he was pretty sharp, his record in Vietnam was quite the opposite.

However my views are probably more like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, or John F. Kennedy. Of course saying that means that I will certainly contradict myself at times and that is part of life. That being said that while I was a Republican for 32 years of my life (1976-2008) I have been on an ever more progressive trajectory since 2008 and somewhere along the path from conservatism, to moderation, to progressivism I got labeled.

I got labeled with the “L” Word. no, not the Lesbian one, the other less socially acceptable one, the Liberal label…and to tell the truth though I consider myself a moderate in terms of my progressiveness I actually fall on the Liberal side of most parts of the political and religious spectrum; both in domestic and foreign policy.

It actually surprised me when I figured out that I had become a liberal. To tell the truth I don’t know how it happened. I cheered the demise of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis and even Al Gore. I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as much as I could. During his first term and early in his second I was defending “W” against what I thought were unfair assaults from the left.

But a funny thing happened between 2004 and now. It was a place called Iraq, where I began to question the unquestionable questions of conservative orthodoxy in a number of forums. I became a moderate and a passionate one at that, although truthfully I am probably better described as one of those nasty liberals.

I think being a moderate or a liberal, for those who really are moderates or liberals, is really a tricky thing. Back when I was in seminary during the pre-Fundamentalist takeover of Southwestern Baptist Seminary I remember hearing a big name Fundamentalist preacher say that “middle of the road moderates were only good to be run over.”  One of my professors who would be a casualty of the takeover of the seminary said that for many in the Southern Baptist Convention of the time that “Liberal means anyone to the left of me.”

Now I do have to confess, unlike a lot of people when they get older and become more conservative I have become more “liberal” in the way I do life. I am more accepting of people different than me. The late great manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Earl Weaver noted: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” That is a fact.

Because of that I am more willing to accept things that back in the days when I knew everything that I would attack without exception. When I worked up the guts to openly state that I questioned political conservative orthodoxy almost eight years ago I got thrown out of the church that I was first ordained as a priest.  That was less about matters of actual Christian doctrine than political orthodoxy masked in religious language. But despite that experience I still believed that I was somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum but I was obviously wrong. In fact today what I considered based on my more traditional Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy beliefs was no longer moderate but radically liberal and progressive, especially on social and economic issues.

So let me without equivocation in this age of Trump state:

I think that racism is still alive and well and that Jim Crow lives, thus the job of the Civil Rights movement is not done. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” has not been fulfilled and it is in danger.

I think that gays and lesbians should have the same right to marriage and civil rights that heterosexuals have and that those constitutional rights should not be abridged based on the religious beliefs of their opponents.

I think that the bankers and the Wall Street people who practically destroyed the economy back in late 2008 should be in jail and I think that neither Congress, the Obama administration, and especially the Trump administration have done or will do enough to prevent the next economic implosion.

I think that multinational corporations that enjoy the benefits of all this country offers and that the taxpayers provide should pay their fair share of taxes instead of being allowed to make their money here and shelter it offshore. Sadly, because of the Trump tax reforms they will be able to do more of this.

I think that the environment matters and that we should do all that we can to protect it. Unfortunately the Trump administration, the GOP dominated congress, and their Evangelical Christian sycophants are doing their damnedest to promote the destruction of the environment.

I believe that the poor, minorities, the elderly and others with no power need the help and protection of the government from predatory businesses, banks and others that would seek to impoverish them even more.

I think that there is a place for strong organized labor to protect the rights of people who either produce the goods or provide the services that make others rich and this nation prosperous.

I think that the leaders of the Bush administration who took us to war in Iraq are war criminals and would have hung at Nuremberg if Justice Robert Jackson had had them in the dock. Likewise I think that the opposition of the GOP and the Trump administration to the International Criminal Court (ICC), other international organizations, and to our partners and allies around the world and cooperation with dictatorships and authoritarian regimes beginning with Putin’s Russia is damnable.

 

I think that Fox News lies when it calls itself “fair and balanced” and that much of what it airs is nothing more than political propaganda designed to help its political allies and keep people riled up against that black man in the White House.

I think that the crass social Darwinism of the followers of Ayn Rand is evil, needs to be called what it is  and condemned by those who call themselves Christians.

Likewise, speaking of Christians I think that many American Christians have sold their faith to political hacks that call themselves pastors or religious leaders while pocketing the money of their followers laughing all the way to the bank. This is especially true of their relationship to President Trump.

Finally as a Christian I don’t think that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and in that I am backed by the Founders and their Christian allies like Virginia Baptist leader John Leland. I think that we as a society have a responsibility to care for the least, the lost and the lonely.

So while I am moderate in the way that I do life, I am certainly a liberal, a progressive, and a realist.  I am okay with people that disagree with me because it is a free country but that being said I won’t be bullied.

So where did I go left?

Peace

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under civil rights, culture, faith, Foreign Policy, History, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

Remembering the Miracle on Ice

We all remember where we were when tragedy happened.  No one can forget where they were when John or Bobby Kennedy or the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated. Likewise few can forget where they were when the Space Shuttles Challenger or Columbia, blew up or where they were during the the events of September 11th 2001.

Tragedy we remember well, but good news not so much.

But, despite the fact that good news is not always as memorable as tragedy there are some good news stories that make a lasting mark.

Back in 1980 there was one of those sentinel events. I am sure that if you were alive back then that you remember it well.

I am speaking about the victory of the US hockey team, Team USA over the Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid New York. Some might be prone to dismiss this as merely a sporting event with little relevance, but the context of an event makes all the difference. English historian and military theorist Colin Gray wrote “Wars are not free floating events, sufficient unto themselves as objects for study and understanding. Instead, they are entirely the product of their contexts.” 

I like what Gray said, but I think that we can expand it to other historical events, not just war. If this was just a stand alone hockey game with would have little meaning. There are times when underdogs win championships and defeat heavily favored perennial champions. Most of those times, except for the devoted fans these events pass into relative obscurity and pop-up from time to time on an ESPN special. This event is much more important than a remarkable sporting event.

080624-gaslines-hmed-4p.grid-6x2

Back in 1980 times were tough in the United States, recession, double digit inflation, 20% interest rates, a gas crisis, as well as the residual effects of the Vietnam War created a specter of anxiety for many people.

Even as the domestic economic lurched from crisis to crisis the United State was reeling  and the humiliation that the Iranians were inflicting on the United States on a daily basis following the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran and a seemingly unending hostage crisis. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was yet another thumb in the eye of the United States.

So as the United States prepared to host the Winter Games at Lake Placid New York there was not much to cheer about. The country was mired in political crisis as the sitting President Jimmy Carter was continually at odds with his own Democratic Party and to all appeared weak in dealing with the Soviets, their satellites or the Iranians. When Cater made his “malaise” speech in July 1979 the reaction around the country and world was I was less than positive. I was in the UK touring as a spotlight tech with a  singing group and the reaction of the Brits and other Europeans was ridicule of the President, and pity for the United States. It seemed to many that the United States had hit bottom and was not coming up any time soon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fztlLwgSFCg (highlights and live call)

In 1980 Team USA was nothing more than a bunch of American college kids playing teams of Warsaw pact professional all-stars from powerhouse teams such as the Soviet Red Army team.  The Soviets had dominated international hockey since 1956 and with the exception of the US Gold Medal team of 1960 had won every Olympic gold since that time. In 1980 the Soviets were once again expected to win Olympic Gold.

When it came to the American hockey team no one expected much, with the exception of head coach Herb Brooks.  Brooks and his collection of college players, a number of whom would later become stars in the NHL, began their time together inauspiciously conducting a 61 game exhibition tour against teams from around the world.  On February 9th in the final game leading up to the Olympics  the Americans faced the Soviets at Madison Square Garden and were blown out by a score of 10-3 by the Soviet team.  In the lead up to the Olympics the Soviets toured North America and played against NHL teams. The Soviet team went  5-3-1 against their NHL teams.  The previous year a Soviet team had shut out an NHL All-Star team 6-0.

When the Olympic completion began the Soviets as was expected dominated their opponents in the preliminary round going 5-0 and outscoring their opponents 51-10.  The United States surprised everyone tying Sweden 2-2 with a last minute goal and then stunning a highly favored Czech team 7-3 before defeating Norway, Romania and West Germany to advance to the medal round.

Brooks practiced the team hard as they prepared for the Soviets who they were scheduled to meet in the opening round of the medal competition. A loss for the Americans would force them to play for Bronze and no one expected the Americans to defeat the Soviets. Yet when the day came the Lake Placid Field House was packed with 8500 fans decked out in Red White and Blue, American flags displayed everywhere and the crowd spontaneously singing “God Bless America.”  Unfortunately because the Soviets refused to allow a later start time the game was not televised live nor broadcast live on the radio in the States.

On February 22nd I had finished work making and rolling pizza dough at Shakey’s Pizza in Stockton, went home showered and then got in my car to head over to Judy’s house.  On my way over I was listening to the radio when ABC radio broke in to air the last minute of the game live. I was listening as Al Michaels made the famous call “Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

I could not believe it and was screaming with joy and wild abandon in the car. As soon as I got to Judy’s I went in and told her and her parents When the game came on I watched it with undivided attention and to this day I cannot forget that night.  The Americans had beaten the vaunted Soviet team 4-3 and would go on to defeat Finland in the Gold medal game 4-2.  The next day they were guests at the White House and after that the team broke up.  13 players would go on to NHL careers, Brooks would lead the 2002 Team USA to a Silver in 2002 before being killed in a car crash in 2003.

The Soviet people and their news media were stunned by the loss and the fact that the Soviet Team won Silver by defeating Sweden 9-2 the team had lost its luster.  While it remained dominant until the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1990 it was the end of an era.  Today many Russian players star in the NHL and live in the United States even after their careers.

That team and its members did something that no one expected in defeating the Soviets and going on to win the Gold medal against the Finns. No one could have expected the effect on the country either. It was a miracle, a miracle on ice.

Thirty-five years later the triumph of Team USA against all odds on that night is remembered as an event nearly unequaled in sports history as well as contemporary American history.  That game actually marked a return of pride to the country after a decade of discontent, defeat and discouragement.

Some people, especially those on the political right in their Reagan myth, mistakenly give Ronald Reagan the credit for turning around the attitude of the country in the 1980s. I don’t think that they could be more wrong. It wasn’t Reagan or any other politician, it was the 1980 American Olympic hockey team that made us believe again.

That is why this event meant so much more than a a game.

I don’t know about you, but I still believe in miracles.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under History, Political Commentary, sports and life

The Poisoning of American Politics by Radical Christian Dominionists

dyer-hanging

Religious Liberty in the Massachusetts Bay Colony…the hanging of the Quakers…a model for the Dominionists

“When the pretended friends of religion lead infidel lives; when they carry religion to market and offer it in exchange for luxuries and honors; when they place it familiarly and constantly in the columns of newspapers, manifestly connected with electioneering purposes, and when they are offering it up as a morning and evening sacrifice of the altar of political party- these men are placing a firebrand to every meeting house and applying a torch to every Bible” Abraham Bishop in an oration at Wallingford CT on 11 March 1801

“See, the problem is, is that Satan has had too much of his way in our society because he has a government! And the only way to overthrow a government is with a government. It won’t happen otherwise.” C. Peter Wagner

Every time that I hear a politician of any party invoke God or quote scripture my stomach turns.  In our modern era this really began with Jimmy Carter. For better or worse the man wore his faith proudly. The Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher from Plains Georgia let it all out when he talked about his faith, sin, lust and adultery in a Playboy Magazine interview in 1976.

There was actually nothing wrong with what he said or that he identified himself as a “Born Again Christian.”  But Carter set a precedent and brought a previously apolitical part of the population into the political process in a way never seen before.

Urged on by politically motivated preachers like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, John Hagee and James Robison Evangelicals like the young Michelle Bachmann rushed to the polls like flies to a honey trap.  Before long posturing political preachers were in the became a staple of conservative politics and the core of the Republican Party base.

Now 35 years later we have radical preachers openly clamoring for a Christian theocracy and brazenly advocating the complete dominion of Christians over all areas of life. The theory is called “Dominionism” or “Seven Mountains” theology.  Many of these preachers are openly allied with a number of high profile Republican Presidential candidates in a take no prisoners campaign to destroy their opposition within the Republican party and nationwide.

C. Peter Wagner a Professor of Evangelism at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena California is one of the most prominent proponents of this political theology and he wrote:

“Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is nothing less than seeing God’s kingdom coming and His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.” Letter dated 31 May 2007

Of course by 1980 Carter was tossed aside by his Evangelical supporters like cup of boiled peanuts gone bad. The preachers who once supported him disappointed with him over the Panama Canal treaty and the economy ditched him and whipped up Evangelical  support for Ronald Reagan.  Reagan wiped Carter off of the electoral map like Sherman marching to the sea.

With Reagan’s victory the now emboldened preachers pressed for more power.  Groups like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition became major supporters and contributors to conservative candidates and politicians as did James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the American Family Association.

Now Reagan to his credit talked a lot about faith and God but he certainly could not be considered one of the real Evangelical Christian faithful.  He was divorced and a sparse attendee of the mainline Presbyterian Church USA.  He was married to a woman who brought mediums into the White House to conduct séances.  He cut taxes but raised taxes when he needed to. He withdrew U.S.Forces from Beirut after the Marine barracks was destroyed with the loss of 241 American lives and he became Soviet Premier Gorbachev’s buddy.  Before he was President he raised the sales tax in California and signed one of the most liberal and permissive abortion laws in the nation. That was well before the Roe v. Wade decision.  In short if he was running now for any office he would already be out of the race as a Republican.

Since Reagan departed the Presidency the preachers and politicians are aided in their struggle for control by the third member of the Unholy Trinity the pundits such as serial divorcee Rush Limbaugh, the Talibanesque team lead by Joseph Farah at World Net Daily and a host of others.

Now to be fair Democrats were and are not above using preachers and scripture for their own purposes.  Some seeking to capitalize on the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other early civil rights pioneers not only used their pulpits to further civil rights which I have no issue with but to promote themselves and a place at the table in the Democratic Party and its policies. Others minsters mainly from liberal denominations used their pulpits to promote all sorts of other agendas that were called liberal, socialist or left wing, even though most had decent scriptural support and in some cases were supported by the social teachings of both the Roman Catholic and some Protestant denominations. However Liberal politicians have never used these preachers over the years as brazenly as conservative politicians use Evangelicals, Charismatics and other conservative Christians including Roman Catholics.

Bill Clinton was a master of using scripture in his campaign as well as in enunciating his policies.  He got everyone going with his “New Covenant” acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention which was a masterful speech though it brazenly co-opted a Christian theme as its own.  Initially some of the current radical preachers we Clinton backers as the felt that President George H.W. Bush was leading the United States into the New World Order. 

What tickles me is that one of the leading Seven Mountain’s “prophets named Paul Cain spoke at my church after the election and said that “God told him that Bill Clinton would be elected and that it was because of Clinton’s “humility.” Joyner wrote in Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Prophetic Bulletin in 1993 “The Lord said that He was giving us a new president who is better than we deserve. He represents a reprieve from a New WorldOrder that the Church is not prepared to face at this time…” 

I love it when self appointed prophets catch themselves on their own tangled web of lies.  Of course the real reason had nothing to due with the Christian faith but the fact that Cain and his ilk didn’t like George Bush and believed that he was ushering in a “New World Order.  This was shameless, but then that is nothing new.  

Now as a disclaimer as a 16 year old I worked for Gerald Ford’s campaign and voted for Reagan twice.  Since I became a Republican because of the radicalism espoused by George McGovern in 1972 when my dad was in Vietnam surrounded by the North Vietnamese.  This made me a very pro-military and anti-Communist.  It was  because of Carters foreign policy flubs and weakness that  I supported Reagan. I was and still am a  Christian, but I didn’t vote for Reagan or any other Republican because of their faith or the faith of their opponent.  Now I do like it when men and women that I vote for represent the best of their faith and don’t lord it over those that are not of their faith. When I vote I vote the vote for a candidate based on what I see as their qualifications for the office and not their religious views.

Unfortunately there are a number of prominent candidates and their supporters that seem to want Theologian in Chief.  Politicians can see that and that pander shamelessly to their religious supporters often to the exclusion of all others.  If I want a theocracy I’ll go to Iran or Saudi Arabia thank you, but I don’t and you shouldn’t either unless you are planning to convert. But that is the plan of the Dominionists.

However those pursuing the radical Seven Mountains Dominionism actually want a theocracy will use any party or any President to establish it. Clinton didn’t give it to them so they went to the Republicans.  Their rhetoric is scary. Rick Joyner who is one of the big supporters of this movement within the Tea Party and Republican Party said something  that should give anyone that has a hankering for religious liberty and liberty of conscious chills.  Perry is not simply a ranting nut but a nut that has the ear of viable Presidential candidates.  Back in 1996 Joyner wrote about what was going to happen to Christians that didn’t agree with his understanding of his prophecy threatening to change “the very definition of Christianity….for the better….”

“On February 23rd of this year I was shown for the third time that the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethens’ strongholds in the church … this will in fact be one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war brother will turn against brother like we have never witnessed in the church before … this battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church and for the church then to come into unity that would otherwise be impossible … what is coming will be dark. At times Christians almost universally will be loath to even call themselves Christians.Believers and unbelievers alike will think it is the end of Christianity as we know it and it will be through this the very definition of Christianity will be changed for the better.”  Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin May 1996

Cindy Jacobs another one of these politically connected prophets made this claim on the internet back in 2000:

“For there is a radical sound that I have issued – there is a sound that has come from heaven, and it even now has come to earth. And the Lord says, these are going to be days where I am going to trouble the enemy through you. These are going to be different days than you have ever known, and I am going to require sacrifice of you that you cannot imagine. I am going to require a sacrifice of your children, says the Lord. And the Lord says, I’m going to shake everything that can be shaken…” and that “There are churches that will be command posts for revolution, and to these command posts I would say, I am going to bring a revolution. Look and see; I am calling radical revolutionaries to the church.”  http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/85

If you ask me that is a threat to all Americans. One of Joyner’s friends the late John Wimber who founded the Vineyard Churches said of his neighbors at Calvary Chapel “Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word.”  That is something Wimber criticized Christians that he saw as too heavily oriented to the Bible.  Simply being a Bible Christian is not good enough for the Dominionists, theirs is an all or nothing take no prisoners approach that discounts 2000 years of Christian history, theology and tradition in favor of their alleged “words from God.” 

This is not about theology or faith at all.  It is about power and money. Leading Dominionist C.Peter Wagner wrote: “nine of the components of GAN {Global Apostolic Network} are on my heart, but especially those related to wealth and wealth transfer. I am in touch with 17 potential wealth transfer brokers, some of them expecting release momentarily. It is hard to comprehend, but some of them go to multiple millions, billions, and more. My task is to prepare a high integrity infrastructure for distributing these funds when they begin to flow. Zion Apostolic Network and The Hamilton Group are in place as agencies to carry this out. Our motto is “Sophisticated Philanthropy for Apostolic Distribution.” Letter from Global Harvest Ministries dated August 20, 2007

The original Dominionist was R. J. Rushdoony who was very open in what he believed:

“One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.” R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law p.100

Rushdoony’s son-in-law Gary North was even more blunt about the ultimate goal of Christian Reconstructionism:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

This is the real goal of Rick Perry’s The Response prayer meeting of 2011 and the perverted gospel that these preachers use to get politicians to fulfill their agenda and Perry obliged them well. If it was simply a day of prayer then others that were not Christians would have been welcome. It has been made manifest in now countless examples of political brinksmanship motivated by uncompromising politicians, pundits and preachers who have adopted an almost “Talibanesque” view of life, faith and politics.

Some of these preachers are not above advocating or praying for death of their political opponents. There was a whole campaign of prayer against President Obama led by the discredited and court-martialed Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt. He and others advocated praying the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms including Psalm 109:8 which says: ‘Let his days be few; and let another take his office.’ Massachusetts based preacher Scott Lively advocates killing gays overseas and supports laws in places like Uganda to legalize that. Unfortunately the list can go on and on.

Old Abraham Bishop was right; these people are setting fire to every meeting house and putting the torch to every Bible.  Unfortunately most of their supporters will either ignore or quash what I and others write about these people. Truth doesn’t matter to them.

I had that happen to me.  Sometimes even from people that know me or have served with me at the altar.  Facts didn’t matter, all that mattered were the talking points and the agenda.  The founders of this country did not as these people say desire anything like this.  In fact Thomas Jefferson said “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.” (letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813)

God help us all.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Fighting for the Dream at 50: Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Faith and All that Is, Can and Will Be True About America

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“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

Note: The complete text and video of Dr. King’s speech can be found here:http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm 

It is hard to believe that it has been 50 years since Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and other pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement marched in Washington. I am always inspired when I see the films of Doctor King speaking or read the text of that speech and so many other of his speeches and writings. He was a prophet who was not welcome by many, but his words and actions have reverberated through the decades. Though martyred, cut down by the bullets of James Earl Ray in Memphis his spirit lives on and is part of our country.

Now there are many today as there were then who want not only to keep blacks in thier place but other minorities, racial, ethnic, religious and even on the basis of gender or sexuality. Some may want to argue that point but the actions of some people and groups who vociferously fight against the rights of anyone that they disagree with to have the same rights as they have, be they political, religious, economic or legal demonstrate that this is the case every day.

Yesterday tens of thousands gathered in Washington on the anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr King’s I Have a Dream speech. I caught bits and pieces on the news, radio or Twitter as I made my way across country. I was inspired by the words of speakers, President Obama, Representative John Lewis, and former Presidents Carter and Clinton.  In my hotel room tonight have had some more time to reflect on this day the remarkable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other remarkable leaders of the Civil Rights Movement including all of the martyrs who gave their lives not just for blacks but for all Americans, the great and the small alike who gave their lives and offered up themselves that this country might have yet another new birth of freedom.

The struggle is not over until every American and those who want to be Americans have a place at the table. How can we fear the collective good of seeing freedom reign in this land that we sing as the sweet land of liberty? What do we have to fear of individual Americans of every race, creed, color, male and female, straight or gay, rich or poor enjoying the same legal rights and protections under the law as well as the same opportunity to succeed? What do we have to fear?

I actually think that what many of us fear is that if others that we think less of succeed that we will lose our place of privilege or even worse that maybe our political, religious or economic philosophy that undergirds our beliefs about others might be proven wrong.

But faith is the opposite of fear and Dr. King knew this. In that speech which still echoes today he said:

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

The dream that Dr. King espoused is that of the prophets of old. It is the dream of those that championed liberty at the cost of their lives and freedom in dictatorships. It is the dream of those who struggled in every place and clime where injustice reigned knowing that the dream would not be accomplished in their lifetimes but had faith to labor so that others one day would enjoy the fruit of their life’s labors. As Dr. King said 50 years ago:

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And now since I am coming up on almost 24 hours of travel with little sleep I bid you a good night hoping that one morning we will awake to a new dawn. A dawn where people are judged by the content of their character and where we all can at last exclaim with the spirit of Dr King and so many others who died without seeing this come to pass: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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I am the “L” Word…No, Not the One You Are Thinking

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Somewhere along the path from conservatism to moderation I got labeled.

I got labeled with the “L” Word. No, not the “Lesbian” “L” Word which is actually kind of cool, but the other less socially acceptable one, the “Liberal” label.

I remember back in 1981 when I saw my first Lesbian couple walking together at California State University Northridge. I was sitting on the lawn outside of the office that I worked and they walked by. As a typical male I was enthralled by what I saw, but that enthrallment was short lived as when I walked back into the office I heard that my hero, President Ronald Reagan had been shot and that retired Army General, former Nixon aide and now Secretary of State Al Haig was now in charge of the country.

To tell the truth I don’t know how the transformation from Conservative to Moderate (read Liberal) happened. When I was in college I cheered the demise of Jimmy Carter. After college the same was true about Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis. Al Gore and even John Kerry. I listened to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Neil Boortz as much as I could. Not even 7 years ago I was defending “W” against what I thought were unfair assaults from the left. I enjoyed liberal bashing. It was fun and as the people that knew me back then could tell you I was quite good at it.

But a funny thing happened between 2004 and now. I think it was a place called Iraq, where I began to question the unquestionable questions of conservative orthodoxy in a number of forums including both politics and religion. I became a moderate and a passionate one at that. Since “moderate” is a very misunderstood term let me explain. If you are a conservative it means that I am a Liberal. Some Liberals assume that I am a conservative but on the whole the word moderate is now associated as being Liberal.

I think being a moderate is really a tricky thing. Back when I was in seminary during the pre-Fundamentalist takeover of Southwestern Baptist Seminary I remember hearing a big name Fundamentalist preacher say that “middle of the road moderates were only good to be run over.”  One of my professors who would be a casualty of the takeover of the seminary said that for many in the Southern Baptist Convention of the time that “Liberal means anyone to the left of me.”

Now I do have to confess, unlike a lot of people when they get older and become more conservative I have become more “liberal” in that I am more accepting of people different than me. I was talking with a dear friend the other night who is proud of his Tea Party affiliation and he mentioned that when he was young that he was a Liberal but now older that he was a Conservative.

For me it is a bit of a conundrum. I have friends who are way to the Left or to the Right of me who I respect and who I care for, we agree to disagree. The fact is that in reality I am a very pragmatic person and I would rather see people work towards compromise and cooperation so that the vast majority of people can prosper in freedom. So I choose to be friends with people far different from one another and who disagree with me. But we are still friends.

However there are times that I feel that I am pissing into the wind when I watch those that we all have elected to office in Washington DC and our various State Houses behave. I am probably not alone in this feeling and do hope that the hard liners on both sides of the political spectrum can get their collective crap together before the plunge us into the abyss like the politicians of Weimar Germany did in the late 1920s and early 1930s. We all know how well that turned out.

So until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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