If the Answer is “Yes.”

I have resisted the temptation to weigh in more than I already have on the Donald Trump phenomenon because we are saturated. Television news and the newspapers can’t keep their eyes off of him and I confess that I watch the 7:00 a.m. news because I don’t want to miss the latest outlandish thing he has said or done. I am changing my mind about writing because I heard a superb sermon yesterday by the Rev. Shannon J. Kershner, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Shannon skillfully inverted the traditional interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow and unresponsive judge who finally gives the widow the justice she is pleading for simply to make her stop asking and go away. Shannon said that maybe God is not the judge here. We are the judge. God is speaking through the widow, persistently urging and pleading to us for justice and compassion. Then she tied that intriguing suggestion to the matter of sexual aggression, exploitation, and abuse of women. Without mentioning Trump by name she told us that God wants the accepted tradition of sexual aggression and abuse to stop and wants us all to speak up about it. “I am a woman and the mother of a daughter and I cannot remain silent,” Shannon said. The large Sunday morning congregation erupted in long and sustained applause, something that is not exactly routine in Presbyterian worship. Finally someone from within the church had named it and courageously condemned it.

There is much about Donald Trump that I find abhorrent, making fun of a physically disabled reporter to cite maybe the most abhorrent. Last week’s revelation and repeated playing back of a recorded sequence in which he demeaned women in the crudest way possible and then tried to excuse it as “locker room talk” pushed me over the top. I have a wife and two daughters and three daughters-in-law and nine granddaughters, and I cannot remain silent either. Mature men, quite simply, do not talk like that. Spoiled, indulged, immature adolescents do, but not men. I’ve been in locker rooms all my life and I never heard anyone talk like that. Ever. Then, as always, Trump maligned the victims of his aggression, intimating, in a final descent into indecency and plain cruelty, that some of these victims were not attractive enough to warrant his attention.

The great mystery is not how a man can be that grotesque. Christians who worship regularly and pray a Prayer of Confession know about the potential for sin within each one of us. Christians are saddened, not surprised, when it surfaces. The greater mystery by far is why sane, sensible people are still supporting him, actually imagining him presiding at a White House State Dinner, addressing the United Nations, engaging in delicate, critical diplomacy with allies and foes. Sensible, intelligent Republican leaders will carry this cowardice and shame for a very long time to come.

In a new biography of Adolf Hitler, Hitler – Ascent/ 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich, the author revisits the mystery of how a civilized nation that produced Bach and Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller and Luther could have enabled a Hitler to rise to power and authority. After hearing Shannon’s sermon, the last sentence of a review of the book in Sunday’s New York Times, stopped me in my tracks. “What is truly frightening in Ullrich’s book is not that a Hitler could exist, but that so many people seem to be waiting for him.”

Donald Trump has lifted the lid off a darkness in our humanity that always lives in tension with our good instincts, what Abraham Lincoln called our “better angels.” Those good instincts surely include respect for one another, compassion for the suffering, protection for the vulnerable, seeking always for the good and just and noble, working always to attain it and share it with all. Trump has brought into that tension the worst in us: selfishness, arrogance, greed, racism, angry paranoia, bullying, meanness, sexism of the worst sort, crudeness, and consistent dishonesty.

Every one of us must ask ourselves in the next three weeks: Is this what we want, or for some reason will settle for, in our president?

God help us, God help this good and beautiful nation, if the answer is “yes.”

Comments

  1. Thank you, John, for speaking up so eloquently and truthfully. We do need to pray for our country in these dangerous times.

  2. Thank you John for your thoughtful well-expressed words. While I know well where you stand on issues like these, I always appreciate hearing your voice as I contemplate what has gone so wrong in our country that someone like DT can actually be a major party candidate for President.

  3. Lander Bethel says:

    Thank you, John. I read Shannon’s sermon yesterday and was very moved by it. We have an obligation to stand on our faith, protect those who are vulnerable, and speak truth in love.

  4. Bud & Monet Fennema says:

    Amen, and thank you.

  5. Carolyn Grohman says:

    Thank you, John, for speaking out and for articulating so powerfully what so many of us are thinking.

  6. Marijo Hickok says:

    Thank you, John. As always, you are both reasoned and passionate for the common good.

  7. vicki_reynolds says:

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE smartphone

  8. Betty Lou Stull says:

    Appreciated both your commentary and Shannon’s sermon. Lord, in your mercy . . .

  9. Mary Elva Smith says:

    John, Thank you! Though political ups and downs and varied controversies have often clouded our vision, I never imagined that we would come so close to this extreme possibility. Praying for clear vision and wiser thinking in the final approach to the election.

  10. Donald Allerton says:

    As usual, right on the money!

  11. Donald Allerton says:

    Amen

  12. Susan Redfield says:

    So poignant, so perfectly articulated, so depressing. Thank you for taking the high road. So much of our nation has lost its civility, its humility, its compassion. Yesterday I registered Lee’s caregiver to vote for the first time. As a woman and mom of a daughter she knows her 1st vote matters.

  13. Reblogged this on Bound and Nurtured in God's Love and commented:
    Words to help guide and inspire us in electing the next President of the United States.

  14. Amen! I was a member of your church 25 years ago. I have never forgotten the power of your perspective and sermons. Thank you for this. We need to hear it.

  15. Amen! I was a member of 4th Pres 25 years ago. Jobs took me away from Chicago but I have never forgotten the power of your perspective, sermons, and the community you built. Thank you for this. We need it.

  16. write on, John — we took in near tears at the 8 a m service. we did not do the applause except in our hearts. Sonja was quite “UP” for that sermon from Shannon.

  17. Denita McCoy says:

    I respect what you have to say, I know this is a difficult time for all. I too am a victim of sexual assault. BUT, I feel that Hillary is a more dangerous person because she sheltered and stood by her husband for YEARS knowing that he was actively participating in degrading and taking advantage of his power and abusing many women right under her nose. SHe not only stayed with him, but degraded the women as well, verbally. I am ashamed that our country only has these two people that we can truly choose from. I am frightened of the alliances that Hillary has within the “world stage” and I do not see her as an option. WHile this makes wonderful discussion points…… I also feel that the church should remain UNBIASED in the choices and in the publicity for the candidates….. WE SHOULD HAVE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. When I attended a Presbyterian Church with my mom I believe it was Oct. 4, 2001, an interim pastor presented the Morning prayer about protecting us from the “Evil Islams”. It took EVERYTHING in my power not to walk out of the church and never go back. We as Christians need to be politically active, we need to be able to express ourselves, HOWEVER, I do not think that persons of “power” should degrade or mention specific candidates from the pulpit. It puts people who can justify and rationalize different choices with the same conviction on the defensive and is an abuse of power itself. In closing….. yes , Trump is an ass, bombastic, and brash. He should not have spoken in the way that he did.. but there is much more about the Clintons that is frightening and even more disgusting with their abuse of power with people, including suspicious deaths that surround their politics. ….. Peace.

  18. Reblogged this on Views from the Edge and commented:
    Fourth Presbyterian Church-Chicago Pastor Emeritus John Buchanan stood with other worshipers to applaud Shannon Kershner’s sermon calling for people to stand up and be counted in this election year. The sermon “The Persistent God” was posted here yesterday.

  19. timjweaver says:

    Your November 2014 post, “Some Thoughts on Gratitude and a Prayer of Thanksgiving” introduced me to the poetry of Mary Oliver. I’m now occasionally turning to Mary’s work as I attempt to maintain my sanity during this exhausting political turmoil. I’m praying that on November 9th we’ll have much to be thankful for. For some reason, this bizarre Trump carnival that we’re living through reminds me of the title of one of Hemingway’s short stories — “The Three-Day Blow”. Except in the case of Trump, it’s been The Three Year (or arguably Thirty Year) Blow. Hopefully the blustery wind will subside soon.

    “The rain stopped as Nick turned into the road that went up through the orchard. The fruit had been picked and the fall wind blew through the bare trees. Nick stopped and picked up a Wagner apple from beside the road, shiny in the brown grass from the rain. He put the apple in the pocket of his Mackinaw coat.”

  20. Thank you, John. I posted Shannon’s sermon yesterday on Views from the Edge. It was one for the ages. Her flipping of the roles of the judge and the widow continued the Reformed tradition’s insistence on preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Your reflection on the rise of Hitler is sobering, to say the least. If Trump ends up in the most powerful office in the world, he will not have gotten up there by himself. “If you see a turtle sitting up on a fence post, you can be pretty sure it didn’t get up there by itself.” As you say, God help us all.

  21. Amen!

  22. Jared C. Jacobsen says:

    This is a stunning missive! I am so proud to know you John.

    Warmly, Jared

    Jared Jacobsen Organist and Coordinator of Worship and Sacred Music The Chautauqua Institution P.O. Box 74 Chautauqua, NY 14722

    619-339-2554 cell

  23. John, You “yelled” at me when I started the applause for one of your sermons in the past.
    ps
    It is very troubling times as both candidates are unworthy. Perhaps why you see very little bumper stickers supporting either.
    Here is a comment from Cardinal Dolan:

    NewsCatholic Church, Politics – U.S.Wed Oct 19, 2016 – 5:30 pm EST
    Ahead of Al Smith Dinner, Cardinal Dolan says Hillary owes Catholics an apology

    2016 presidential election , hillary clinton , john podesta , tim kaine , timothy dolan , wikileaks

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, October 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to disassociate herself from anti-Catholic statements made by her campaign chairman and said the remarks were “extraordinarily patronizing and insulting to Catholics.”

    Asked about the anti-Catholic comments after speaking at The Bishop’s Respect Life Dinner on Monday night for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Cardinal Dolan suggested that had other faith traditions been the target of the prejudiced remarks, there would have been a swift apology and absolute disavowal of them.

    But as far as an apology from Clinton for the remarks demeaning Catholics, “Hasn’t happened yet,” Cardinal Dolan said.

    Emails released last week by WikiLeaks showed Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta and Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, both Catholics, in conversations with activists from two left-wing organizations. In the emails, Catholics were debased, with their beliefs being called “severely backwards.” Conservative Catholics also were accused of “an amazing bastardization of the faith,” and Rupert Murdoch was mocked for baptizing his children as Catholics in the River Jordan.

  24. Ann Forshey Frontain says:

    Yes, John

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