Thursday, January 31, 2013


Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly before the
 Senate Judiciary Committee (Susan Walsh/AP photo)  
        I watched some of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on gun violence yesterday, including the moving testimony by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was granted the opportunity to address the Committee at the very start of the hearing, before the swearing in of the five witnesses who had been invited to testify. In case you missed it, click HERE. Gabby and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly, both of whom are gun owners, stressed the urgent need for Congress to act to curb gun violence in America.
        Having already stated my views on this subject (see my post of January 12), I simply want to share a few impressions of the hearing. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy's rational and bipartisan opening statement was followed by ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley's opening remarks. He started off mildly enough, but then launched into a harsh criticism of President Obama, which in my view was totally uncalled for and hardly the way to begin a reasonable discussion of such an important issue. Whether he was throwing sops to the Tea Party or stating his own position, his castigation of the President was entirely inappropriate. But that's the kind of political posturing we have come to expect from Republican leaders these days.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Sen. John Kerry (
        Kudos to Senator John Kerry for his masterful opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, and for the way he responded to questioning. His statesmanlike bearing and his obvious grasp of the broad-reaching and strategic leadership role of the United States in world affairs and in the community of nations, reflected his long years of experience as a member and as chair of that powerful and extremely important committee.
        Senator Kerry tactfully resisted the attempts of some committee members to create any separation between his views and those of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who had given one of the three very strong introductory endorsements, the other two coming from his newly elected Senatorial colleague from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, and from his long-time Republican friend and colleague, Senator John McCain. Senator Kerry also made it very clear that he will advance the President’s foreign policy, which he skillfully defended against the insinuating questions of some of the Republican committee members.  
        President Obama’s nomination of John Kerry should have no difficulty winning the approval of the Senate. He will make an excellent Secretary of State.
        So much for kudos. Now for the cat-calls, which today go to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid for caving in to Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republicans on filibuster reform. He had repeatedly declared

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Sec. Hillary Clinton -
       After listening to Hillary Clinton’s testimony yesterday before committees of both Houses of Congress and her exchanges with her Republican critics, I was more impressed than ever with the intelligent and capable leadership of our soon-to-depart Secretary of State.
       Mrs. Clinton  made it quite clear that the Republican controlled House of Representatives must bear their share of the blame for any failure to protect our overseas diplomats, by refusing to provide the funding needed.
        The questioners made fools of themselves by their unwarranted accusations, and I was left with the impression that it is Congress, not the State Department, who should be held accountable for their total lack of support. They ought to be answering questions rather than asking them. The arrogance of Rand Paul was appalling. From now on that word should be spelled with a “u”!
        The Republicans’ witch hunting betrayed their obvious political agenda, which was to damage the high reputation of the person who could well be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016.
        Despite their attacks, Secretary Clinton won the day. She was the “adult in the room.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

        After listening to Senator Mitch McConnell’s and other Republicans’ reactions to President Obama’s inaugural address yesterday, I can’t believe they’re talking about the same address I heard.
        Worst of all was tonight’s angry diatribe against the President by Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association.  His false accusations and misrepresentations were typical of the kind of fear mongering we have come to expect from the NRA, 74% of whose members disagree with their leadership’s opposition to sensible gun legislation.
        Not all Republicans were disparaging of the President’s speech. David Brooks in his op ed column in the New York Times this morning called it one of the best of the past half century. Too bad the GOP politicians have to take their cue from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Wayne LaPierre instead of David Brooks.
        I thought President Obama’s speech was masterful. He covered all the bases, as he challenged us to work together to make the American dream possible for all people. In my view his speech was a beautiful blend of idealism and realism, appealing to our higher instincts while acknowledging the challenging practicalities. I heartily agree with his commitment to issues of social justice, equal opportunity, the need to address the impact of global warming, and his desire to end our years of involvement in wars and to find ways to resolve our differences with other nations peacefully, while maintaining our support for the cause of democracy.
       Having listened to and having read his address carefully, I can find nothing in it that should upset any fair-minded person. One has to read into the President’s words one’s own political agenda to condemn the address as vociferously as his Republican opponents are doing. Is the way they are misrepresenting his words and impugning his intentions an ominous indication that they still haven’t learned their lesson from the recent election and that the same spirit of opposition and obstruction prevails?
        We’ll soon find out, as the Senate addresses the issue of reforming the rules concerning filibustering.
Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

Friday, January 18, 2013


        With all the disturbing news we have to listen to every day, including the outrageous responses of right-wing Republicans to President Obama's broad plan for reducing gun violence, it's easy to become quite bitter and cynical.
        In case you're feeling that way, here's something that's guaranteed to make you smile. I had forgotten all about this video, which I saw for the first time about twenty months ago. I enjoyed it so much I watched it over and over again.
        For some reason it came to mind today and I watched it again and enjoyed it just as much as ever. So I thought I should call attention to it on my blog for those whose spirits may need a momentary lift.
        Click on the following link, turn the volume up, and enlarge your screen: JA

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


        I want to address the issue of same sex marriage from my Christian perspective. I said “my” Christian perspective, not THE Christian perspective, as if all Christians could agree on such an issue! Christian churches and individuals differ widely in their theological beliefs, in their liturgical practices, and certainly in their political and social convictions and involvements.
        A brief background sketch will help to explain how I got to where I am today on this issue. I was baptized, confirmed, and raised in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition. I was a church-hopping Episcopalian, when I had a “Damascus Road” experience (see A Sense of Being Called) that changed my life and set me on a path to becoming an ordained minister. That path led me through some miraculous twists and turns to Princeton Theological Seminary, and since my wife was a Presbyterian and we had been worshiping in a Presbyterian Church, I decided with the encouragement of the rector of my boyhood Episcopal church, to become a Presbyterian.
        The more I studied and learned about the Reformed tradition the more confirmed I felt in my decision. Fast forward to 1980, when I found myself on the Faculty of the Seminary from which I had graduated twenty-two years earlier. As a new professor, I faced the daunting task of preparing six courses I had never taught before, two of which were Presbyterian Polity courses, one for UPC (USA)[1] students and one for PCUS[2] students.
        Teaching those courses necessitated intense study of the history and the constitutional documents of those two denominations. When they reunited in 1983 to become the Presbyterian Church(USA), our one course could focus on the new Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), consisting of The Book of Order and The Book of Confessions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


        The NRA’s response to the Newtown massacre is infuriating to me, but to be expected. Their solution to the widespread gun violence in America is more guns! Why should anyone be surprised by the number of gun-related killings in the United States, where there are almost as many guns as people?
        I’ve never owned a gun, but I grew up handling guns. From the age of seven till I was twenty-three I wore a uniform most of the time. Like most other young boys I enjoyed shooting at tin cans with a bee-bee gun, and I liked shooting targets at amusement parks.
        I spent eleven years at McDonogh, a military school near Pikesville, Maryland. At Princeton University I joined the ROTC unit, but later enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to a V-12 unit. Following midshipmen’s school I eventually served aboard the USS Chandeleur (AV-10). As Disbursing Officer and later Supply Officer I was issued a 45-caliber automatic pistol, which I wore whenever I was transporting funds ashore, accompanied by two well-armed seamen. I was once actually wounded slightly by one of my fellow officers in an accidental shooting that occurred in the armory of our ship, of all places! But that’s another story.
James Yeager
        I share this bit of my background as a preface to what I have to say about the present situation in America, where gun violence has become a way of life and gun ownership is viewed as a sacred right. Gun owners bristle at the very mention of the term “gun control.” Witness the wild rantings of James Yeager, who declared, "I'm not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people!" If you can stand his foul language, check out his YouTube video.