Elie Wiesel has died. Reading the obituaries, the thing that astounds me is the thing that has always astounded me: how young he was. Eighty-seven now, in 2016. I’ve been burying World War II veterans throughout my years of pastoral ministry. How could Wiesel only be 87?
The day after Valentine’s Day, the BBC offered the world an unexpected and unusual love story. Nearly 40 years ago, two Polish-born philosophers began a correspondence, one that continued for more than 30 years and ended with a visit the day before one of them died.
The shooting that rocked California last week raised questions about treating the mentally ill and why there are so many semi-automatic weapons on our streets. But what caught the nation's eye this time around was that the shooter made clear his motives: Twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger hated women. He wrote a manifesto announcing his intention to reap vengeance on women for denying him the sexual attention he believed was his entitlement.
In a guinea pig memoir, the intrepid narrator tries on a practice for a period of time, often a year, in the hope that the project will lead to personal or prophetic insight, renewed hope for the future—and a book deal.
Americans are not very good with failure. We take it personally; we draw lines in the sand and cast blame. And the Chicago Public Schools are, for the most part, failing—failing to provide an environment that fosters teacher excellence, failing to provide a physical environment in which kids can learn, failing to graduate kids with the basic skills to succeed, failing to graduate kids at all.
Tom Stoppard’s wonderful play Rock N’ Roll covers the period between 1968, when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, and 1990, when the Rolling Stones played the city. It’s Stoppard at his near-best: warm and funny, romantic and revolutionary, dedicated to ideas.
At the heart of the play is the reluctant dissident Jan. In Prague, says Jan, “there is only one agent of truth. That is not human—humans disagree with each other.”
I once went on a blind date. He was a law student, a friend of a friend, and I was a seminarian. We met for drinks.
He was nice, funny. He was a self-identifying Christian--the first one, actually, I had ever gone out with. We were talking about our chosen professions; he was, as many are, fascinated by the idea of a call to ministry. My call story is not exactly dramatic, but it has a social justice edge, forged on youth group mission trips and in researching poverty. “I want to make the world a better place,” I told the date.
The future lawyer looked at me and asked, “But isn’t the world a fallen place?”
As I kid, I was scared of monsters. Specifically, the Star Trek Salt-Vampire and Hans Christian Anderson’s Death, sitting on the Emperor’s chest. (I slept on my side for years after reading “The Nightingale.” Death couldn’t get you, I reasoned, if you declined him a seat.) But I was never afraid of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, the best-known book by Maurice Sendak, who diedonTuesday.
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church convened in Tampa last week. I’m not one of the 988 delegates who have descended on Florida to do the work of our church, nor of the 4,000 hosts, bishops, pages, translators and myriad lobbyists there to help. My participation is limited to following the proceedings from 1,000 miles away.
Still, my emotions have been all over the place. And judging from Twitter and Facebook, this roller coaster of highs and lows is almost universal among those who are there. The stakes feel high this year, higher than usual.
My parents' marriage began with
a betrayal. My maternal grandfather was in the army, so my mom's family moved
around a lot. She was shy and introverted, and she struggled to make friends
and establish roots. As an adult, all she wanted was a single place to call