So I was thinking of ghosts past on Monday evening, after getting a notification on my phone from the New York Times that the President had fired the acting Attorney General. I remembered Richard Nixon in particular. Then Tuesday morning, I listened to a song from the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings: The King Returns. This in turn reminded me of my favorite scene in that entire trilogy.
It is the scene where the Gray Wizard, Gandalf, defied and shouted to the menace that sought to destroy him and his company of brave hobbits: “You shall not pass!” and as he pronounced that, he drove his staff into the stone pathway. Where in America is the Gray Wizard? Where is the Republican statesman who will stand up to a presidency that is, in the conservative columnist David Brook’s words, “an ethnic nationalist administration?” The cowardice and silence of the adults in charge is deafening. Senators? Congresspersons? Where are you? It is time to save the nation now. Come out, come out wherever you are.
Monday night in my world religions class at Howard University School of Divinity, I explained the significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha (soul force) for Martin Luther King’s non-violent resistance. You can read Dr. King’s explanation in the essay that appends his book of sermons, Strength to Love. But I told my students, the present may now compel us all to relearn the idea of satyagraha. Indeed, little did I know that the President would fire the acting Attorney General a few hours later. The People must now face this nefarious threat to its democracy.
I know that some would accuse me of being political but I am speaking pastorally at this point because the reality is, the country is being unraveled by a cruel man, a nationalist and bigot of the first order. Not challenging him may lead to untold suffering and God forbid, death. This President—remember this—this President did not confer with anyone in Congress about his executive order that deceptively established a religious test for immigrants and turned back refugees seeking safety. You must ask yourselves then, with whom will he confer when he is tempted to send a nuclear device flying into and crashing a civilization? Steve Bannon. That is the answer and that answer should rouse decent political leaders on both sides of the aisle to recoil in revulsion and then to stand up and draw a line and tell this President, YOU SHALL NOT PASS.