Daily Archives

2 Articles

Layman's Walk

The Enigma Who Was Alan Turing

Posted on

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie The Imitation Game on Netflix.  It’s the story of Alan Turing, the man who lead a team of Brittish mathematicians who broke the Nazi encryption system known as Enigma.  This group’s work was top secret in the highest degree and the story wasn’t declassified until the 1970s.

I’d definitely recommend you to watch this show–the acting is great. The plot is exciting.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Mr. Turing is outstanding.

One thing the movie strikes on, sadly, is how poorly society treated this incredibly gifted and talented hero–because he was gay.  During the World War II era, homosexuality was illegal in Great Brittan and after the way, Mr. Turing was convicted of this “crime” and was forced to undergo chemical castration.  Side effects of the treatment and the torment he faced eventually led Alan to take his own life.

And because his mission was top secret, no one knew of his contributions to the Brittish and the Allied Forces.  No one knew it was he who was responsible for bringing down Enigma.

Great Brittan had persecuted a man that no one realized was a national hero for a wholly unworthy reason.


Pope Francis recently stated that Christians should apologize to gay people and others that the church has historically oppressed.  I hope you were as happy to see this as I was.  Christians owe that apology to any who have been hurt by the church.  It’s exactly the opposite of the church’s mission.  Christians are called to love others, not to condemn them.


But how often do we do similar things to others?  I have often wondered:

“How many wonderful people have I overlooked for reasons that were immaterial, petty, or just plain stupid?”

“How much talent has our society missed out on because we have ostracized people for ‘a good reason?'”

“How much greater could our world be if we were to focus on inclusion and the merits of each individual, rather than excluding that which we see as different or strange?” 

I know I’ve done this myself.  I see it happen in the world around me.  Have I missed out on a rich friendship because I overlooked someone for foolish, petty reasons?  Have people with the potential for greatness been shut out, denied rights or opportunities because he or she were deemed “unfit” by society?


In the 1940’s, the Allies were fortunate to have Alan Turing–a genius ahead of his time–to crack the Nazi Enigma code.  Alan’s work is often given credit to enabling the Allies to shorten the war, save millions of lives, and even to ultimately prevail over Nazi Germany.  (Forbes, NYT ).


The machine he made that broke Enigma became known as the first “Turing Machine.”

Today we call them “computers.”





Layman's Walk

Jekyll and Hyde

Posted on

Back in, oh, probably 1997 or so, a student-teacher of either my chorus or band director introduced me to the soundtrack from the Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde.” (I think his name was Josh? Maybe? Heck, it’s been twenty years.)

The following year, our high school chorus took a trip to Chicago to see the show. While the soundtrack had already sold me on the show, actually seeing it cemented it as one of my favorite musicals.

The score was driving, fast-paced, largely in minor keys, and gave the lower-registered instruments of the orchestra a lot of the focus. It really did a great job of highlighting the darkness and evil associated with the J&H story. Interspersed within the dark musical themes are brief bursts of excitement, joy, anticipation, hope, love, and even lament that are sung in bold anthems and passionate ballads by the lead characters.

In this version of the story, Henry Jekyll is an impassioned physician who is desperately seeking a cure for his father’s dementia while trying to balance the life he has with his fiancee, Emma.  Upon having his proposal for treating his father’s illness rejected by the Board of Governors, he decides to inject himself with the solution as a test candidate.  This results in an extreme change in Dr. Jekyll’s behavior as he “becomes” another person, Edward Hyde.  Mr. Hyde is someone who has no qualms about sinister behavior and operates solely on his primitive impulses and desires.

The musical highlights the duality of humanity, as expressed in the characters of Jekyll and Hyde in a theme that is heard throughout the show:

There’s a face that we hide
Till the nighttime appears,
And what’s hiding inside,
Behind all of our fears,
Is our true self,
Locked inside the façade!
So, what is the sinister secret?
The lie he will tell you is true? –
It’s that each man you meet
In the street
Isn’t one man but two!
Nearly everyone you see –
Like him and her,
And you, and me –
Pretends to be
A pillar of society –
A model for propriety –
And piety –
Who shudders at the thought
Of notoriety!
The ladies and gents here before you –
Which none of them ever admit –
May have saintly looks –
But they’re sinners and crooks!
One or two
Might look kinda well-to-do –
Hah! They’re bad as me and you,
Right down they’re boots!
I’m inclined to think –
Half mankind
Thinks the other half is blind!
Wouldn’t be surprised to find –
They’re all in cahoots!

As the lyrics imply, it’s not only Henry Jekyll who is fighting a battle within himself–good vs. evil.  In fact, it’s the battle that takes place within each of us–conflicting desires and wants, knowing right from wrong and still consciously making the wrong decision, or even simply unconscious behaviors and habits that are based on selfishness, greed, passion, or anger.

I bring this up because this idea of “each man you meet on the street is isn’t one man, but two,” is precisely one of the recognitions of the Christian faith, particularly as defined by Martin Luther.

It is high time that we as Christians not only recognize this truth but ensure it is applied to our lives and our congregations–and in how we treat other people.  Luther held that a Christian is someone who is “saint and sinner at the same time.”  Yes, the idea is a paradox, but it makes sense.  We are both at once saved by the grace of love of Christ, yet continue to exist in an imperfect universe, with imperfect minds and bodies that will continue to be disobedient, regardless of how much self-discipline we possess.  This understanding is not to be taken as an invitation to engage in immoral behavior.  However, it does illustrate that those who profess a faith in Christ will still screw up, sin, do wrong things, have lustful or hateful thoughts, hold grudges, and otherwise exhibit behaviors that are “unChristian.”

It is critical that this idea is at the forefront of our minds as we deal with others.  When we as Christians exclude the “other,” we are not drawing a line between “them” and “us,” we are drawing a line between “us,” and Christ.  Remember that Christ came for the sinner–the thief, liar, the adulterer, the murderer.  He did not come for those who held themselves in high regard; in fact, he repeatedly spoke against those people.

When we selfishly draw lines between “us” and “them,” Jesus will always be with “them.”

When we look at someone and judge them harshly, we must remember that we are no better than they are.  Whatever the other person’s “problem” is, we have plenty of our own baggage as we are most certainly still sinners while we strive to be saints.

The fact is, we are “both evil and good.” Wearing a “facade” and pretending otherwise is foolish and wrong.

Even as Christians, we are still both Jekyll and Hyde; Saint and Sinner.

And so is the rest of humanity.