Showing posts from June, 2013

My toast at Elena's graduation party

Today, we are celebrating the successful completion of twelve years of schooling by Miss Elena Umland. She has had the privilege of enjoying most of her education tutored mostly by her mother. Her education fit her well, as she drew most of it's lessons from literature. She was born to reading parents, educated in a literary curriculum, yet still finds pleasure in books.

But she's not just a bookworm. She's an artist as well. She dances. She plays two instruments. She sings. She acts. She pursues the creative life, seeking to contribute to the world's beauty. Yet, there's this deep, deep well inside her that has only just been tapped. She was born a mature soul.

Before she was even a year old, Elena could give a "thousand yard stare." Sixteen years ago our friends at church would come up to us and try to get a baby fix, but Elena would not play their game. Tickles from strangers? "No thank you," her stare would say. If she wasn't into you, s…

DOMA is a don'a

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) revealed today their majority opinion on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996. In particular, section 3 of the act prevented homosexual spouses from receiving federal marriage benefits. The SCOTUS found this section violated the 5th Amendment's Due Process clause, which made the law unconstitutional. I support the effect, although I don't understand the legal methodology, see the court's opinion in PDF.

I support this ruling because I'm proudest of my country when it helps minorities. I'm also terribly ashamed of it when it hurts minorities, see yesterday's ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

I believe, and I used to believe differently about this, that wanting my gay neighbors, friends, and co-workers to be treated fairly under the rule of law, to not have any fewer benefits than I do for no crime on their part, aligns with Jesus' Golden Rule. Treating others the way I want to…

book response: The Quest for the Creed by Longenecker (2012)

Sometimes, when I drive to work, that familiar route is driven by my subconscious auto-pilot and I'm not even aware of the scenery. It's as if I teleported from my house. The same thing happens to those of us who use the Lord's Prayer or the Apostles Creed regularly. These are gifts to aid us in worship, to get us from earth to heaven, but the familiarity with them actually hinders their utility. Father Dwight Longenecker invites us to look at the scenery in the Apostles Creed behind every phrase. The tour guide makes the difference on the tour, and he is a rambunctious, hilarious docent who brings the creed to life.

How can you not expect a fun ride from a guy who graduated from Bob Jones University then became an Anglican priest and is now a Roman Catholic priest. He knows how to make fun of himself and fellow believers and church while keeping all his love and devotion to God. I enjoyed his presentation of church history as it relates to one line of the creed, "...…

book response: Stalin's Curse by Gellately (2013)

When I was in high school in the late 1980's, I worried about Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.). The commies in Reagan's 2nd term were the bogeymen, and  our very real fear had to do with our proximity to a nuclear attack submarine base in Groton, Conn. I trace my fascination with Russia back to an elective class I took when I was a high school senior called Modern Russia. I keep coming back to this fascinating nation. It's history is full of horribleness. Stalin contribution to the horror is unmatched. His paranoid war against his own people, in pursuit of a utopian communist world, cost as many Russian lives as his war with Nazi Germany, 25 million each. It's this body count in World War 2 that has also attracted my attention.

As I've read more World War 2 history, and as Russian archives have been opened to Western historians, my understanding with the war's center of gravity has shifted east. The Nazi Reich's defeat came on the Russian front. The war…