Friday, December 2, 2016

From the Pulpit: Minister says President-Elect 'crossed a moral/ethical and political line'

Excerpts from a Sermon by the Reverend Thomas H. Yorty
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo

November 20, 2016

Last Sunday, … I made some comments about the recent election and the moral courage and vision churches, this church, will be called upon to summon in the days ahead.

The rhetoric of the campaign revealed less about policy than it did about personal character and the blatant disregard by the president-elect for women and a long list of minorities including veterans and disabled persons. That hateful rhetoric is now being translated into the governing structure of the new administration with the appointment of senior advisors and agency directors who will chart the course of the nation.

Given the proud alignment of these advisors with white supremacist nationalism and xenophobia that brands whole groups like Muslims, Mexicans and African Americans as dangerous criminals and worse – I want to devote some time this morning to reflect on our role with regard to the new president and his aim to redefine America.

I do not remember in my lifetime or the past century such unabashed racism, misogyny and Arian ideology in a soon to be sitting president.

Here is a short list of some of the items on his agenda: the dismantling of Medicare and approval for the Keystone Pipeline—issues about which I grant reasonable people might disagree, but then there is the proposed the mass incarceration and deportation of Mexicans; the registration of all Muslims; the transfer of protected federal lands for commercial use and mining; backing out of the Paris climate accords; exposing our NATO partners in the Baltic to Russian annexation; and nullification of the Iran nuclear agreement opening the door to renewed efforts in Iran to build nuclear arms.

Since the levers of control in possession of the new administration include a GOP majority congress, the likely appointment of at least two Supreme Court justices and two thirds of state governorships and legislatures this agenda could be quickly enacted.

We are well beyond talk about ‘wait and see ’or ‘give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt.’ He has crossed a moral/ethical and political line that violates the principles of our faith expressed by Jesus in the greatest commandment and in the Bill of Rights and in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

What makes America special, indeed what makes America great is that we are the first people to conduct an experiment in multi-cultural democracy. Two hundred and forty years later, with few exceptions, we can say that experiment has been a success.i

America is not natural. Tribalism is natural. Democracy is not natural. Warlords and dictators are natural. Democracy takes work. Pluralism takes brave and visionary leadership –its goes against the grain of thousands of years of history.

America is the exception and is exceptional because we forged freedoms in the crucible of our War of Independence and fought and died for those freedoms against the forces of darkness–forces that have reared-up again.

I did not plan on preaching on what appears to be our soon to be endangered rights and freedoms or the appointments of the president-elect. It is hard to identify a time when so many of the essential operating principles and core values of our democracy have been challenged not just by incendiary rhetoric but now by the appointment to positions of formidable power individuals who espouse views that until ten days ago were considered marginal at best.

What seems in danger of taking hold, if it has not already, is a broad-based malevolent, fearful, potentially violent turning, not just inward, but against one another. So we need to talk today, as a church.

Click here to view the full sermon.

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