10. Keith and Lincoln Steffens

Keith and Lincoln Steffens

[The problem Sarah Palin has, someone just said,
is that she doesn’t KNOW what she doesn’t know].

Keith Olbermann has delivered two rants ("Comments")
in the last couple of weeks that are truly works of art.

One was on "real" Americans.

The other – on Monday – was on LOVE, the
Califonia ban on gay marriage, and Christianity [see below].

.

On this subject I would compare Lincon Steffens on Christian love and the McNamara brothers:
When the McNamara brothers, union leaders,were put on trial for dynamiting a newspaper building in Los Angeles in 1911, with Clarence Darrow as their lawyer, there was at least as much outrage as at 9/11/2003. Seeing that his case was in trouble Darrow was interested in a settlement and Lincoln Steffens offered to try to get community and business leaders to support such a settlement.
He did this successfully – including the notoriously anti-Union Chandlers of the Los Angeles Times. Everything was going forward until the Sunday before the settlement was to be announced. At which point Christian churches all across the country called for the death of the McNamara brothers.
   Steffens argument to the leaders for accepting the
settlement was the effectiveness of the Christian ‘golden rule’.
    He regarded his effort as an “experiment” to see whether the righteous – not just “sinners” – could accept the message of Jesus.
“Mercy” (and forgiveness), he said, “is scientific.”



    “I read the New Testament to discover the vision and plan of Christ. It was astonishing, radical, complete, but when I went to the churches I did not hear it preached, and of course the Christians did not practice it.
I preached Christianity and the effect was a shock to the congregations. I preached in Christ’s spirit, too, quietly, literally, with none of the force with which I had heard Christian ministers proclaim righteousness and denounce sinners. My sermons were as loving as the Sermon on the Mount for, verily, I believed then that the righteous can be and must be saved . . . not only the sinners.
No use.
The regular members of the Christian churches, thinking they have Christianity, can no more get it than the righteous, thinking they are good, can be made good
— for anything. Christianity will not work with Christians.
    But as Jesus learned by hard experience and taught so clearly, Christianity does work with sinners. I proved that for myself.
I preached Christianity. Whenever I wanted to get something done I appealed to sinners for help, and the help came.”
(Lincoln Steffens, ;An Autobiography , page 670.)

I cannot tell the whole story of what happened. But I can urge you to read Steffens wonderful chapters, pages 658-689 of his Autobiography
(your public library? – soon the copyright, hopefully will run out, and we will be able to read it on the internet, as we should have been able long ago. No one is making money on this book. It should be in the public domain.!!!!!)

Keith makes clear that the stand of the churches on the Gay Marriage ban was also a failure to understand Jesus’ and other people’s message of Love. Christianity as HATE has got to stop. Keith’s “comment” on this should somehow be sent to EVERY church and Christian organization, and to such Christians as are known in the U.S..

Here are his remarks

SPECIAL COMMENT
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, ‘Countdown’
msnbc.com
updated 9:13 p.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 10, 2008

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the
passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California,
which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry,
and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to
coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn’t about yelling,
and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really
just about Prop-8. And I don’t have a personal
investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to
think of one member of even my very extended family who
is, I have no personal stories of close friends or
colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades
their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because
this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics.
This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny,
so be it.
If you voted for this Proposition or support those who
did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some
questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why
does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of
impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these
people over here want the same chance at permanence
and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to
deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away
from you.
They want what you want—a chance to be a little less
alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can’t have it
on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave.
If they don’t cause too much trouble. You’ll even give
them all the same legal rights—even as you’re taking
away the legal right, which they already had.
A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage,
and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if
somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage. If this
country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still
couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws
on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States
couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states
of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse
than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage,
some black people still couldn’t marry black people.
It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts
of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not
legally recognized, if the people were slaves.
Since slaves were property, they could not legally
be husband and wife, or mother and child.
Their marriage vows were different: not
“Until Death, Do You Part,” but
“Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.”
Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are
not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men
and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite
sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or
just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and
women who have lived their lives in shame and
unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves
or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and
children, all because we said a man couldn’t marry
another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman.
The sanctity of marriage.
How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace
their expression of love. But don’t you, as human
beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is
barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and
against those very few and precious emotions that
enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-
50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and
how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just
that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having
that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so
much meaningless division, and people pitted against
people for no good reason, this is what your religion
tells you to do? With your experience of life and this
world and all its sadnesses, this is what your
conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor,
seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in
favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart
tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want
to honor your God and the universal love you believe he
represents?
Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only
     “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love.
All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don’t have to help it, you don’t have to applaud
it, you don’t have to fight for it. Just don’t put it out.
Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at
first look like that love is between two people you
don’t know and you don’t understand and maybe
you don’t even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember
of your love, for your fellow person just because
this is the only world we have. And the other guy
counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself
concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing
plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.
But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of
this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of
the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge.
It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision.
I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the
hearts of all:
    So I be written in the Book of Love;
I do not care about that Book above.
Erase my name, or write it as you will,
So I be written in the Book of Love.”

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