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We stand stronger together – as Americans – many cultures, races and faiths but one Nation under God. –Robert Taft

I fear Washington and centralized government more than I do Moscow. –Barry Goldwater

Good morning Gentle Reader.  As I continue to reflect upon the fraternal twins, Goldwater & Trump, I began to remember the great moderate Republican, Robert Taft.  I thought that it might be helpful to offer you a contrast between Taft and Goldwater (we too often forget our own history).  As you read what follows I also invite you to consider the connection between Goldwater and his twin, Trump.

Goldwater deviated from ‘Taft Republicanism’ – and in doing so he took the Republican Party with him and together they marched to the extreme right.  Goldwater successfully eliminated the moderate conservative wing of the G.O.P.

Unlike Goldwater, Taft came from a family of seasoned politicians and a long family history of public service.  Unlike Goldwater, Taft took an active part on Capitol Hill in framing legislation.  As a moderate conservative Taft modified his views via compromise (one of the major tap roots upon which our two party system was rooted and sustained).  By the by, ‘Compromise’ enables our elected officials to choose for the PEOPLE and not just to choose for their or their supporters’ self-interest.

Taft accepted the idea that the Federal Government should concern itself with ‘seeing that every family has a minimum standard of decent shelter,’ should ‘assist those states desiring to put a floor under essential services in relief, in medical care, in housing and in education,’ should underwrite the states in providing ‘a basic minimum education to every child,’ sustain minimum-wage laws ‘to give the unorganized worker some protection’ comparable to that given to organized workers by the unions, persist in steeply graduated income tax, maintain minimum prices, and through its social security program ‘assure to every citizen 65 years of age and over a living wage.’

These commitments accept the reality of a welfare state; a commitment that moderate Republicans were willing to embrace because it serve the PEOPLE!

For Goldwater, governmental activities in ‘relief, social security, collective bargaining, and public housing,’ had caused ‘the weakening of the individual personality and of self-reliance.’   Goldwater wanted the ‘prompt and final termination of the farm subsidy program,’ declared himself against ‘every form of federal aid to education,’ denounced the graduated income tax as ‘confiscatory’ and asserted that the country had ‘no education problem which requires any form of Federal grant-in-aid programs for the states.’  Goldwater said that the Government ‘must begin to withdraw’ from a whole series of programs that are ‘outside its constitutional mandate,’ including ‘social welfare programs, education, public power, agriculture, public housing, urban renewal…’

Goldwater called for the dismantling of the welfare state.  He said: ‘I fear Washington and centralized government more than I do Moscow.’  Goldwater tilled the garden that produced the fruit of the pseudo-conservative radicals who were convinced that they lived in a degenerate society populated with folks not-like-us and their main enemy became their own Federal Government, which they deemed to be a ‘Welfare Government’ (they conveniently neglected to acknowledge all of the help they received from this daughter of Satan).

Goldwater also departed from a long-standing commitment of the Republican Party.  We will briefly explore this departure next time.  This is a departure that Goldwater’s twin, Trump, continues to embrace and exacerbate today.

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. –George Washington

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[Lincoln] forces consideration upon the mind. –D.D. Donald

My parents were ‘Lincoln Conservatives.’  My mother became an Independent in 1960; she questioned whether Nixon was a ‘true’ ‘Lincoln Conservative.’  My father became an Independent in 1964 when Goldwater was nominated.  My father believed that Goldwater had changed the Republican Party forever – moving it to the radical-right.  I was 20 years old in 1964 and was going to vote for President for the first time.  I was not enamored with Johnson and I became fear-full of Goldwater so I voted anti-Goldwater (Johnson was the lesser of two negatives).

There are many parallels between Senator Goldwater and President Trump.  These past months I have been exploring these parallels and decided yesterday to share some of them with you.  I will be focusing on Senator Goldwater and as I do so I believe that you, Gentle Reader will, if you so choose, be able to discern the parallels with President Trump.  Consider: Without Goldwater there would be no Trump.

As the great historian, Richard Hofstadter, noted: ‘Goldwater’s capture of the Republican nomination (1964) was the triumphal moment of pseudo-conservatism in American politics.’  Goldwater had abandoned and replaced the Party of Lincoln with the radical-right party.  [AN ASIDE: It is crucial to remember that Republican Lincoln was NOT a radical-right fellow; he was a ‘true’ conservative in that at times he supported ‘conservation’ (think: Conserve the ‘Nation’ as ‘One Nation’) and he was also a ‘progressive’ (think: Make ALL truly free and equal).  Lincoln’s Cabinet was composed of ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ (some of both leaned to the ‘radical side’).  Lincoln believed that the ‘political spectrum’ had to be ‘heard’ so that the best decisions for the ‘Nation’ could be made.

If Senator Goldwater is accepted as a conservative, he confuses.  If, on the other the hand he is the standard-bearer of the pseudo-conservative revolt (think: radical-right) he and his ideas clear up the confusion.  Robert J. Donovan, a Republican, (1964) put it this way: ‘What is at stake is whether the Republican Party can learn to make a distinction between the conservatism represented by Senator Goldwater and his supporters and the conservatism that conserves.’

Senator Goldwater (and President Trump) did retain some shreds and scraps of conservatism (yet not the conservatism of Lincoln who always sought a balance between what we must conserve and where we must progress), however the main path of his career puts him squarely in the camp of the right-radical ideologues who were essential to his success.  These r-r ideologues shaped his approach and tactics and their followers responded to his line of argument – his extremism.

Senator Goldwater’s great moment as a party leader (the pseudo-republican party) was marked by a repudiation of our traditional political ways, whose followers were so notable for their destructive and divisive energies, and whose public reputation was marked not with stand-as-we are or excessive caution but with wayward impulse and abject recklessness.  Lincoln Republicanism’s mantra: Ready, aim, fire.  Senator Goldwater’s mantra (and President Trump’s over-the-top mantra): Fire, whenever; don’t aim, and don’t prepare.  Lincoln Republicanism: Be Unconditionally Response-able.  Goldwater and Trump’s pseudo-republicanism: Response-able be damned; just React whenever!

Philosophically, Goldwater did have a Lincoln-Republican challenger.  The ‘winner’ would determine the trajectory of the Party for decades (and, with Trump’s winning the nomination the final split – think: new party – has taken place).  Who was this ‘challenger’?

We are sentenced to live with who we become. –Max De Pree

At our healthiest we are living paradoxes of good and evil. –R. K. Greenleaf

I made a decision when I was 18 years old: ‘I will strive to see the good in each person and in humanity.’  I had discerned that I held a jaundiced view of humanity and that this view did not serve me – or the other(s) – well.  What enabled me to strive in this way was a belief that each of us human beings is truly made in God’s image.  As my spiritual director told me at that time: ‘Consider this, Richard – Even Hitler was a little boy.’ 

Each of us is a gift to the/our world.  Each of us is called to bring our gifts and talents and abilities and potentials to the/our world in ways that nurture more than deplete ourselves and the other(s).  We can bring light, healing, compassion and love to the/our world whether we are rooted in a faith-tradition or not.

I am thinking of those folks who saved lives during the Holocaust.  What was common to those folks was not their religion but their humanity.  If you, Gentle Reader, have been following my blog these past 7+ years you know that I love stories – teaching stories and stories with a ‘moral’ have been a staple for me for close to sixty years.  Telling a story enables me to make a moral point without preaching morality [although I do admit that at times my goal is ‘preaching a story’].

For a number of years I had the privilege of traveling to and serving the people in The Netherlands.  During each of my visits my host would ‘assign’ a person to spend a day with me – a day in which I experienced and learned more about the ‘Dutch History & Culture.’  One day my guide was assigned to take me to The Hague.  While there he took me to a row-house.  He told me that his grandparents had lived there during World War II.  He told me that they were ‘ordinary folks.’

Holland was occupied by the Germans in the Spring of 1940.  It has been estimated that 70% of the Jewish population of Holland was killed outright or sent to concentration camps.  What about the other 30%?  My guide’s grandparents saved two Jewish families.  The first family showed up at their front door one evening and simply said that the Germans were after them.  Without hesitation my guide’s grandparents took them in.  A few days later one of their sons (my guide’s father) showed up with another family (he had heard about them from his friends).  Again, without hesitation my guide’s grandparents took them in.  Both families were hidden for four years.  Most of the 30% were saved because of acts of compassion and courage like this.

This morning I am holding a question: What do we do with those who are escaping violence and who show up at our borders today?  Ah, where are the Dutch when we need them?

We become our thoughts. –Aristotle

Seek and you will find. –Matthew 7:7  

 Today, Gentle Reader, this will be my final posting for our current topic: PROPHETS.  I do have a hunch that we will, at some point in time, return to this topic.  Today, I conclude PART IV with the following ‘Considerations’:

The Prophet is more than a messenger.  The Prophet is a person who stands directly in the presence of God who stands ‘in the council of the Lord [Jer. 23:18], who is not a bearer of dispatches.  He delivers the word of God and he is also a counselor.  For example, when the secret revealed to the Prophet is one of woe, the Prophet does not hesitate to challenge God’s intention: “O Lord, forgive, I beseech Thee!’  When the lives of others are hanging by a thread, the Prophet does not say, ‘Thy will be done!’  No!  The Prophet says, ‘Thy will be changed!’  God’s reply: ‘Okie Dokie!’ Well, this is a poor translation of: ‘It shall not be.’ [Amos 7:3]

A person to whom the Spirit of God comes (think: St. Paul) is radically transformed (transform = a fundamental change in character); the person is changed into another person: the Prophet (I Sam. 10:6).  The gift bestowed upon the Prophet is not a skill.  It is the gift of being guided and restrained, of being moved and curbed.

The Prophet is a witness and a messenger.  The Prophet’s charge is to deliver the word of God and as a witness the Prophet must bear testimony that the ‘Word’ is Divine.  As a Messenger-Witness the Prophet conveys and reveals.  The Prophet reveals both God and God’s ‘Word’ to the people.  This is the marvel; this is the miracle: In the Prophet’s ‘Words’ the invisible God becomes visible.  The Prophet does not coerce, nor does the Prophet seek to convince.  The Prophet does not seek to prove anything nor does the Prophet invite and participate in argument (think: Socratic argument).  The Prophet’s words simply reveal. What do they reveal? The Presence.

For the People of the Book there are no proofs of the existence of the God of Abraham.  There are only Witnesses – God’s Prophets.  The Prophet is a Witness and the Prophet’s words are a testimony – to His power and judgment, to His justice and mercy.

The Prophet does not offer us clarity; more often than not the Prophet offers us contradiction.  There is a bond – hidden from our eyes – between the ‘Word of Wrath’ and the ‘Word of Compassion,’ between ‘Consuming Fire’ and ‘Everlasting Love.’

As human beings, at our healthiest, we are living paradoxes and living contradictions; we are both virtue and vice, good and evil, light and darkness.  The Prophet deals with the relationship between God and Us and hence contradiction is inevitable.  As living contradictions we strive to escape from God and we seek to return to God.  We are contradictions and hence contradiction is inherent in prophecy.

The Prophet knows that above the contradiction – above God’s judgment resides God’s mercy.  God, through His Prophet, seeks us out in order to remind us that His compassion and love are contained within His judgment (talk about a paradox – I call it ‘God’s Parental Paradox’ for as a parent I begin to understand the Divine Paradox).

You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. –Jeremiah 29:13

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy…-Amos 8:4

The Prophet is not popular; the Prophet is a lonely man.  The Prophet does not endear, the Prophet alienates.  He alienates the wicked as well as the pious and self-righteous.  He alienates those who trample upon the needy.  He alienates the unbelievers and the believers, the clergy, the judges and the false prophets.  To be a Prophet means to challenge, to defy, to remind us that God is a righteous Judge and, paradoxically, to cast out fear as the Prophet also reminds us that God is Compassion and Love.

The charge and challenge of the Prophet is to be faithful to God’s word it is not to be effective.  Ezekiel reminds the people that whether they hear or refuse to hear…they will know that there has been a prophet among them.  The Prophet’s duty is to be a disturber of complacency and a reminder of God’s Love.

The Prophet is called to declare our transgressions, to remind us that it is evil and bitter to forsake God and to call us to return to the path of compassion, love, healing and reconciliation.  Jeremiah reminds us as to how challenging all of this is for the Prophet: For twenty-three years…I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.  You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear…you have not listened to me says the Lord.

For me, one of the most surprising things about the Prophets of Israel is that they were tolerated at all by the people.  To the patriots, they seemed harm-full; to the pious, blasphemous; to those in authority, provocative.  Isaiah captures this: Cry aloud, spare not/Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Declare to My people their transgression… How can people support and endure the Prophet who proclaims in the name of God: I will send a fire…And it shall devour [you].

I strive to imagine how it was for a people to whom the names of Sodom and Gomorrah were charged with extreme insult would tolerate a Prophet who did not hesitate to address them as ‘you rulers of Sodom…you people of Gomorrah [Isa. 1:10].

The Prophet is called to embrace a number of roles.  At times the Prophet is a ‘watchman,’ a ‘servant,’ a ‘messenger of God,’ an ‘assayer and tester’ of the people’s ways.

It is important for us to remember that the Prophet’s eye is directed to the contemporary scene; the society and its conduct are his main concern/focus.  The Prophet’s ear is always inclined to God, not man.  The Prophet is able to hold God and man in a single thought – they are inseparable.  The Prophet knows that it is man who has separated from God; God has not separated from man.

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds…-Amos 8:7

They abhor him who speaks the truth. –Amos 5:10

For the Prophet, God’s presence is not a comfort; God’s presence is a challenge – an incessant demand.  The Prophet reminds us that God is compassion, not compromise; God is both Justice and Mercy.  The Prophet is not infallible for the Prophet’s predictions can always be proved wrong if people change their conduct.  What is certain, however, is God’s unceasing compassion and love for all.

Unlike God, the Prophet does not speak in whispers.  The Prophet’s word is a scream in the night.  While the world is asleep the Prophet is awake, aware and disturbed.

The Prophet faces a coalition of established authority, and undertakes to stop a raging river with mere words.  Too often we forget that a major purpose – perhaps ‘THE’ major purpose – of prophecy is to change the inner person and thus to change the nation.

There have been and continue to be many false-prophets.  Those pretenders who predict peace and prosperity…if only…  Those offering cheerful words.  The true prophet predicts disaster, pestilence, agony and destruction.  Jeremiah was clear: You are about to die if you do not have a change of heart and if you do not cease being unheeding of the word of God.  Pretty stern stuff!

I am not a scholar but it seems to me that none of the Prophets were actually enamored with being a Prophet.  What drove Jeremiah, for example, to be a Prophet?  Let’s hear what Jeremiah said:

Cursed be the day
On which I was born! . . .
Because He did not kill me in the womb,
So my mother would have been my grave, . . .
Why did I come forth out of the womb
To see toil and sorrow,
And spend my days in shame?    Jeremiah 20:14, 17, 18

Being a Prophet is often more of an affliction than a distinction.  The mission is distasteful to him and repugnant to others, no reward is promised him and no reward could temper its bitterness.  The Prophet bears scorn and reproach.  He is frequently stigmatized as a mad-person by his contemporaries; some modern scholars view the Prophet as abnormal.  Amos (5:10) reminds us: They hate him who reproves in the gate/They abhor him who speaks the truth.

Jeremiah was mocked, reproached and persecuted.  He thought, more than once, of casting away his task:

If I say, I will not mention Him,
Or speak any more in His name,
There is my heart as it were a burning fire
Shut up in my bones,
And I am weary with holding it in,
And I cannot.   –Jeremiah 20:9

Now, it is also important to remember that the Prophet is never abandoned by God.  When Jeremiah was chosen to become a Prophet the Lord said to him: ‘And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land.’ [Jer. 1:18]  Later on Jeremiah is reassured: ‘They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you.’ [Jer. 15:10]

 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear…–Jeremiah 25: 3

Few are guilty, but all are responsible. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Good morning Gentle Reader.  During these past few months I have been thinking about ‘Prophets.’  Many people believe that there are no more prophets.  Some of us, on the other hand, believe that God will continue to provide us with the Prophets we need – our charge is to be open to ‘hearing them;’ to keep open a space for their voices to be heard and then to hear their voices; perhaps even to heed their voices.

My goal in the next few posts is not to convince you, nor convert you to my belief.  My goal is to remind us of the Prophet’s charge and given the charge to then decide whether God does, in fact, continue to provide us with the Prophets we need.  As always, all I invite you to do is simply ‘consider’ what I have to offer.

Traditionally, the Prophets are charged with reminding us of the moral state of a people, a Culture, a society, a Nation.  As Heschel reminds us: ‘WE’ are responsible, even though only a few might be guilty.  This is why the Prophet addresses the community and not individuals.  To put it another way: An individual’s crime discloses – reveals – society’s character (both her virtues and more importantly her vices).

Consider that in a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned with God and with every person, crime would be infrequent rather than common.

The Prophet is called by God (sometimes directly by God and sometimes by God via another ‘voice’ – a ‘voice’ might be an experience, a situation, spoken words or written words).  The person called (being a Prophet is a ‘calling’ and not a ‘career’) is gifted with prophetic sight and to the prophet most others seem blind.  The prophet discerns God’s voice and to the prophet most others appear to be deaf.

The prophet despises the approximate and shuns the middle road.  The prophet knows that we must live on the summit in order to avoid the abyss.  For the prophet there is nothing to hold to except God.  The prophet is carried away by the challenge, the challenge always includes challenging folks to mend their ways.  For many the prophet is strange, one-sided, uncompromising and is also an unbearable extremist.  No wonder few folks are open to the prophet and the prophet’s message.  Over the centuries how many prophets have been deemed to be ‘insane’?  I am thinking of Dostoevsky’s ‘The Grand Inquisitor.’

We humans are often terrorized by an awareness of our existential aloneness.  The prophet is whelmed over by the grace and grandeur of the Divine Presence (the Divine Presence, for example, that the prophet experiences residing within each person met).  The prophet is incapable of isolating the world.  This alone is a burden that the prophet must carry.  Like all prophets, today’s prophet often cries out: Why me, Lord?  I am not capable of doing what you ask.  The prophet does not go gently when it comes to embracing the ‘Call.’

Men do not accept their prophets and they slay them, but they love their martyrs and worship those whom they have tortured to death. –Doestoevsky