Bob Schwartz

Month: January, 2019

Sarah Sanders Knows God’s Will and Says God Wants Trump

Berry Chapel, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, alma mater of Sarah Sanders

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president. And that’s why he’s there.”
Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, interviewed by Christian Broadcasting Network

[long pause]

[another long pause]

Some people believe that that they know the will of God and that God intervenes in worldly affairs according to that will, in any and all matters. In this view, God exercises preference for particular outcomes—from presidential elections to football games to epidemic diseases. God wants Trump to be president. God wants the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. God wants to punish homosexuals with AIDS. And so on.

Others believe in a non-interventionist God, who has set the scene, given humans a treasure of tools, and expects those humans to make or break whatever they will. Sometimes those humans use those tools for great good, sometimes they act the fools, and sometimes they are monstrously destructive. It’s up to them. It’s up to us.

If, like Sarah Sanders, you claim to know God’s will and know that he wants Trump, consider this. If you sum up all that Trump has done and said so far, in his life and his presidency, does God by his “choosing” Trump endorse all of that? That is, under the Sanders theology, if we know Trump, we know his benefactor God.

Leaving us with this disturbing question: Just what kind of God does Sanders believe in?



Of the ten thousand words
I could wield as weapons this moment
to attack an innocent
(all are as innocent as they are guilty)
I withhold:
the greater for all
the lesser for none


MLK and AJH: Two Friends, Two Prophets

Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr. at Arlington National Cemetery, February 6, 1968.

“Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us. His presence is the hope of America. His mission is sacred, his leadership of supreme importance to every one of us.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

From Two Friends, Two Prophets, Plough Quarterly, by Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Two Friends, Two Prophets: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s easy to forget how unusual the friendship between Heschel and King was in its day. The two came from very different backgrounds – King had grown up in Atlanta, Georgia, while Heschel arrived in the United States as a refugee from Hitler’s Europe in March of 1940 – “a brand plucked from the fire,” as he wrote. Yet the two found an intimacy that transcended the growing public rift between their two communities….

Heschel and King shared a disdain for the popular liberal Protestant theology of the era, and a skepticism for orthodoxies. They mocked Paul Tillich’s definition of God as the “ground of being,” helpless in the face of injustice. Both thought that Karl Barth’s theology left “the average mind lost in the fog of theological abstractions,” as King wrote….

The March on Washington took place in August 1963, with more than two hundred thousand people participating.

“The hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

Their pleas were met by a disappointing silence. President Kennedy did not declare a state of moral emergency, nor did clergy donate a month of salary to housing and education. If anything, the tensions in the United States grew even more dire. Just weeks later, on September 15, 1963, a church in Birmingham was bombed, killing four young black girls. That same day, James Bevel and Diane Nash launched the Alabama Project that ultimately led to the famous march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

The prophets – both Heschel’s book and the biblical figures – drew Heschel and King together. Both men were trained theologians who also knew how to preach. King was the organizer and public figure, while Heschel was the theologian and scholar with the voice of a public intellectual. Prophetic rhetoric has a long public history in the United States, yet it was not only the prophets’ words that stood out. For King and Heschel, the prophets were extraordinary human beings with passionate emotional lives, people who knew how to pray and who created powerful symbolic moments….

The 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery was a major event for both Heschel and King. A few days before the march took place, Heschel led a delegation of eight hundred people to FBI headquarters in New York City in order to protest the brutal treatment of demonstrators in Selma. On Friday, March 19, two days before the Selma march was scheduled to begin, Heschel received a telegram from King, inviting him to join the marchers. Heschel was welcomed as one of the leaders in the front row of marchers, with King, Ralph Bunche, and Ralph Abernathy. Each of them wore flower leis brought by Hawaiian delegates. In an unpublished memoir that he wrote upon returning from Selma, Heschel describes the extreme hostility he encountered from whites in Alabama from the moment he arrived at the airport, in contrast to the kindness he was shown by King’s assistants….

Were Heschel and King the prophets of America? Neither claimed the title, but each spoke of the other as a prophet. In introducing King to the audience, Heschel asked, “Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us. His presence is the hope of America. His mission is sacred, his leadership of supreme importance to every one of us.”

In response, King stated that Heschel “is indeed a truly great prophet…. Here and there we find those who refuse to remain silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows, and they are forever seeking to make the great ethical insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage relevant in this day and in this age.”

In America It’s Now Every Man, Woman and Child for Themselves

The founders of America had a dream, fueled by the Enlightenment and by what we might call Christian realism about how people really are.

It would be ideal to depend on the kindness of strangers, but experience has shown that strangers cannot always be relied on and are not always kind. Instead, as a national community, we are committed—by the Constitution those founders hammered out—to “promote the general welfare.”

With many ups and downs, and some real gaps, that has generally worked out during the first two centuries of that American dream. Those days may not be over, but the founding principle is under serious, if not existential, threat.

The Shutdown is just one example, but a glaring one. At best, Trump and his cohort believe that forcing federal workers to work without pay will be taken care of by the private sector. At worst and most likely, they just don’t care.

America has tried political philosophies that leaned to individual self-help and more limited government. But never before has the governing philosophy (if you can call it that) literally pushed Americans—Americans working for other Americans—into forced labor and economic hardship.

Welcome to Trump America, where it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

“Humpty dumpty” was eighteenth-century slang for a short and clumsy person. (Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English)

Through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland), Chapter 6

However, the egg only got larger and larger, and more and more human: when she had come within a few yards of it, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and mouth; and when she had come close to it, she saw clearly that it was Humpty Dumpty himself….

‘And how exactly like an egg he is!’ she said aloud, standing with her hands ready to catch him, for she was every moment expecting him to fall.

‘It’s very provoking,’ Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, ‘to be called an egg — very!’

‘I said you looked like an egg, Sir,’ Alice gently explained. ‘And some eggs are very pretty, you know’ she added, hoping to turn her remark into a sort of a compliment.

‘Some people,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking away from her as usual, ‘have no more sense than a baby!’…

‘What a beautiful belt you’ve got on!’ Alice suddenly remarked.

(They had had quite enough of the subject of age, she thought: and if they really were to take turns in choosing subjects, it was her turn now.) ‘At least,’ she corrected herself on second thoughts, ‘a beautiful cravat, I should have said — no, a belt, I mean — I beg your pardon!’ she added in dismay, for Humpty Dumpty looked thoroughly offended, and she began to wish she hadn’t chosen that subject. ‘If I only knew,’ the thought to herself, ‘which was neck and which was waist!’

Evidently Humpty Dumpty was very angry, though he said nothing for a minute or two. When he did speak again, it was in a deep growl.

‘It is a — most — provoking — thing,’ he said at last, ‘when a person doesn’t know a cravat from a belt!’

‘I know it’s very ignorant of me,’ Alice said, in so humble a tone that Humpty Dumpty relented.

‘It’s a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say….

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Brightness (Li)

Hexagram 30

Li • Brightness

The structure of the gua is Fire above, Fire below. The attribute of Fire is attachment as well as brightness. When two Fire gua are combined, the Brightness is doubled. During times of darkness and danger people should cling to one another. When they do, things get brighter.


Favorable to be steadfast and upright.
Prosperous and smooth.


The attribute of Li is brightness, which symbolizes intelligence and wisdom. Being embarrassed by unresolved problems feels like falling into darkness. Finding a solution is compared to a light that casts out the darkness. This gua, Brightness, sheds light upon the distinction between right and wrong. If one’s attitude is not sincere and wholehearted, one is not able to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

Master Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching

Li • Radiance

Inexhaustible and penetrating everywhere, radiance brings forth wild bounty. Nurture it like the docile strength of an ox, and good fortune will prevail.

Radiance is all beauty, beauty of heaven’s sun and moon, beauty of the land’s hundred grains and grasses and trees.

Sun and moon, fire and fire—using the beauty at the hinge of things, they transform and perfect all beneath heaven. And because the tender assent of this beauty is centered at the very hinge of things, it penetrates everywhere. And so: nurture it like the docile strength of an ox, and good fortune will prevail.

David Hinton, I Ching: The Book of Change

Li • Fire

Sun and Moon
Are attached to Heaven.
The Hundred Grains,
The grasses and trees,
Are attached to Earth,
To the soil.
Double Brightness
Is attached to Truth,
Which transforms and perfects

This Hexagram is formed by doubling the Li Trigram: Fire, Light, and Sun: also warmth, radiance, and clarity; Outer and Inner Illumination; and Attachment.

What is Illumination? It is the ability to see “with continuous clarity” the original Strength or Essence of things. This Vision itself comes from Inner Strength, from Sincerity at the Center of Being, reaching out and connecting with the outside, with “the Four Quarters.” Nothing can deceive it. It sees things as they are. It sees that everything, everywhere, to left and right, is the Tao, Connected, Attached. Illumination itself spreads like Fire. It is a chain reaction. Fire is not a substance, it is an event, an interaction.

John Minford, I Ching: The Book of Change

Li • The Clinging, Fire

What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine.

Thus sun and moon cling to heaven, and grain, grass, and trees cling to the earth. So too the twofold clarity of the dedicated man clings to what is right and thereby can shape the world. Human life on earth is conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility. By cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.

Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day. The two together represent the repeated movement of the sun, the function of light with respect to time. The great man continues the work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.

Wilhelm/Banes, The I Ching or Book of Changes

Three Ways Through a Wall

Three Ways Through a Wall


Fists feet and head
bruised from banging
barely a crack


Build an opening in a wall
a wall around an opening


Walk through
what wall?


The Clash: The Band That Still Matters

Spotify says that The Clash has 7,231,128 monthly listeners, making them the world’s 422nd most listened to artist on Spotify.

Glass half-empty, half-full, as there should be far more. The good news is that people are still listening in substantial numbers, and with about 2 million artists on Spotify, 422 is more than respectable.

From their first record in 1977 to their disbanding in 1986, they combined inspired, catchy and hard-driving pop music with aggressive messaging. During some dynamically difficult times, particularly in the UK, they called themselves “The Only Band That Matters.” They still do.

There is pop music today that actually is, or at least fashions itself to be, aggressive and transgressive, particularly on the hip-hop side. But it takes a peculiar brand of artistry to hit the sweet spot between mass popular appeal and in-your-face call for revolution. An iron fist in a somewhat velvet musical glove. That was The Clash. We could use some of that today.



William Barr: A New General in the Next American Civil War

William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the Senate considers his nomination to be Trump’s Attorney General. The Democratic Senators asked some specific and incisive questions about his independence from Trump and about his willingness to allow the Mueller investigation and report to proceed unimpeded. The answers were often ambiguous and weasely. In any case, it does not practically matter. The hearing was pro forma, as his confirmation is assured.

It is a cliché to say that America is more divided than it has ever been in modern times. This is an inadequate understatement. However it has happened, America, including some leading figures in the legislative and judicial branches, has sorted itself into two diametric sides. Despite some feeble attempts to equivocate this as “good Americans on both sides,” the fact is that an unequally large number of Republicans have decided to abandon many of the virtues we have long assumed are basic not just to America but to good governance and American life in general.

Unlike the earlier Civil War, whole states won’t withdraw from the republic. But a minority of Americans will, or rather, they will support remaking core institutions and values until the republic—and the working world order—is more to their liking.

This Civil War won’t have a Fort Sumter, but it will have a series of moments. The current shutdown is one of those. The possible withdrawal from NATO is another. Then there will be the end of the Mueller investigation, including a report and additional indictments. There is now every reason to believe that the report will not be made public and that indictments in the works will be stopped, along with any collateral FBI investigations. Assume also that if House committees call administration officials to testify, those officials will refuse on the basis of executive privilege. Pardons, of course, will follow all this.

So it goes. What will happen next? How will it end?

In the 1850s, it looked increasingly possible that there would be some radical upshot to a deep divide on substantial moral and political questions. Yet a real civil war was still a shock, and ultimately a brutal solution. Now, rather than a divide based on momentous issues, some are merely fighting to protect the power of a corrupt and amoral American autocrat. It may be a petty platform they are standing on, but make no mistake that they will stand firm, and there will be injuries in this civil war—to people, to institutions, and to the republic itself.