Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Lost Tomb of Jesus?" Experts Say, "No Way!"

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Film Director James Cameron made a pretty good movie when he filmed "Titanic." He even recreated the interior of that great and tragic ship down to the last authentic detail giving the movie an eerie authenticity. But even the best of Hollywood craftsmanship and the magic of digital imagery could not fool us into believing that we were watching actual events taking place on the real Titanic. Even the guy falling onto the ship's propeller was a fake. It was all an illusion of reality . . . nothing more than an expensive and incredibly profitable piece of historical fiction.

Now, James Cameron is trying once again to recreate another time and place for us on film. This time, however, Cameron is not only trying to resurrect that same eerie authenticity but he is trying to really fool us into believing that the fictional and illusory magic of cinematic imagination is more real than the reality it attempts to recreate!

Cameron's latest project, titled "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," is an attempt to demonstrate and prove that some ossuaries (bone boxes) found over 25 years ago in a tomb outside of Jerusalem contained that remains of Jesus, his mother, Mary, his wife, Mary Magdalene, their son, Judah and the disciple Matthew.

The film's producers have concocted a statistical theory of "coincidence" that they say effectively validates their claims beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately for Cameron (and the Discovery Channel that is planning to air the film) their hyped-up claims have been torpedoed by the top archaeologists in Israel, including the man who did the original excavation back in 1980.

William Dever, who the Washington Post describes as one "who has been excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years and is widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars" has responded to Cameron by saying,

I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight . . .I've known about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story, because these are rather common Jewish names from that period," he said. "It's a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don't know enough to separate fact from fiction.
The Washington Post added that,
Similar assessments came yesterday from two Israeli scholars, Amos Kloner, who originally excavated the tomb, and Joe Zias, former curator of archaeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Kloner told the Jerusalem Post that the documentary is "nonsense." Zias described it in an e-mail to The Washington Post as a "hyped up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest."
"The Lost Tomb of Jesus" comes in the wake of such pseudo-historical projects as "The DaVinci Code," the "Gospel of Judas" and the "Secret Lives of Jesus." I can only conclude that Cameron (in the tradition of P.T. Barnum) seems to be betting that people are gullible enough to believe anything . . . especially something that, in this case, appears to undermine the legitimacy of the world's largest and most historically researched and validated religious faith.

Apart from all the archaeological bickering over this matter there is this one, simple, fatal flaw in the whole of Cameron's thesis:

How in the name of rational and sane humanity could a contemporary and universal belief in Jesus' death accompanied by a story of an empty tomb and his resurrection from the dead have produced thousands of new believers given that Jesus was still alive, married, having children, hanging out with at least one of his disciples (who was running around telling everyone that Jesus had died, risen and ascended back into heaven as the Son of God) and then later died and was buried along with everyone else in a local tomb with his bones later placed in an ossuary with his name carved into it. As though no one would have noticed this???

James Cameron seems to think so.

My conclusion to all of this is that either Cameron is doing a very shabby job of deceiving us or he is doing a very good job of deceiving himself.

Either way, Jesus and the followers who proclaimed him to be Lord and Savior are, through this production, being publicly accused of being charlatans and frauds and the written records of the New Testament Gospels and Letters to be lies on top of lies . . .

While my Lord and my God can take this foolishness with heavenly laughter, I take this whole affair as just one more personal insult to my own faith, integrity, character and intelligence.

James Cameron is a despicable man and those who are using this inexcusable fabrication to make a profit (including the Discovery Channel) are worth every bit of scorn that honest and decent folks can bring to bear against them.

No doubt Cameron already has an advance on his 30 pieces of silver.

I suppose someone might ask the question, "Does any of this cast any doubts about the fundamental truth of my Christian faith?"

In reply I offer the following headline: "James Cameron & the Discovery Channel Cause the Collapse of Christianity."

As they say in Hollywood, "Get real!"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Amazing Grace--An Amazing Movie

We've all heard the hymn "Amazing Grace." We've heard it in church, or at a Military Tattoo at the Edinburgh Festival or perhaps from Judy Collins (a recording that stayed on the singles charts for an amazing 67 weeks back in 1970-72).

We have all heard, no doubt, John Newton, the former slave-trade ship captain who became a Christian minister, who wrote the hymn.

But this new movie, "Amazing Grace," gives us an insight into how the second half of the 18th century produced a ripple of outrage over the slave trade that, in a span of some 50 years, rose to an overwhelming wave of social disgust over slavery itself . . . at least in Britain. The movie accomplishes this by telling the story of William Wilberforce, a rising star in British politics who became fixated on the subject of abolishing the slave trade and who refused to be worn down by defeat after defeat by the British Parliament.

Slavery did not end with the vote of the British Parliament depicted at the end of this wonderful historical re-creation movie. Only the slave TRADE was abolished. It took until 1833 for slavery itself to be abolished, a bill that passed the parliament several weeks after Wilberforce died. Before his death he was given notice that the bill had been approved for a 3rd reading by the parliament, virtually assuring its passage. Wilberforce died with the satisfaction of knowing that his life's goal had been achieved, at least in law.

Unfortunately, slavery continues to be practiced today, especially in Africa and Asia. History can be changed by articulate, persuasive, gifted respected and imperfect men and women such as Wilberforce, Gandhi, MLK jr.

In this movie it was a nice bonus to experience Wilberforce's eccentric quirkiness (his love of animals leading to his founding the RSPCA), his personal friendship with William Pitt the Younger (still the youngest Prime Minister in British history, I believe), the influence of John Newton (who was a very popular pastor of a large congregation and a well-respected preacher as well as the writer of the hymn) and the interplay of world historical events (the American and French revolutions and their aftermaths).The dirty, smoggy, crowded and smelly depiction of 18th century London helps to explain why men and women of means chose to spend as much time as possible in their country homes/estates.

The close-cropped hair of men (and, less displayed, of women) and the wearing of wigs (due to the infestations of lice, etc) is part of the down-to-earth reality of the times that lifts this movie out of the mere ordinary to the level of worth seeing

Where Spielberg's "Amistad" graphically depicted the horror of the slave trade, "Amazing Grace" graphically shows how perseverance, historical timing, moral rightness and political maneuvering can, on rare occasions, make a world of difference.

Wilberforce may have been a moralistic prig . . . but he was right when the rest of the British Empire . . . and the rest of the world along with it . . . was wrong.

His burial in Westminster Abbey next to William Pitt the Younger was no simple nod to sentimentality, either. It was an intentional mark of the respect and esteem in which he was held by rich and poor alike at the time of his death.

The movie is nicely acted, the costuming is ocassionally stunning, and the scenery is fittingly wet, rainy, drab and even dirty. The screenplay bogs down during the lengthy artifice of Wilberforce's narration of events to his future wife and I lost track of whether the scenes were cutting to past or present and what year what was happening. There are no great chase scenes but there is far more action and drama than in anything written by Jane Austen or any given Bronte you might chose.

All in all, a decent movie that is far better than its limited distribution might suggest.

I encourage everyone to see this movie if for no other reason than to grasp the social and political context of the struggle to end the slave trade and slavery itself. The film quitely and wordlessly presents the reality that the moral foundation for ending slavery came primarily from Christian (including Quaker) leaders. The opposition to abolition by other Christian leaders in high authority, however, is not noted. Knowing that the Bishop of Exeter (for example) received over 1,000 pounds compensation for his slaves when slavery was at last abolished outright in 1833 shows how difficult it was for people like Wilberforce to get such legislation passed.

We can all be grateful for the vision and dogged determination of people like William Wilberforce. Slavery was, and still is, a great evil. The fact that more of us know this now than knew it then should make us even more resolute to bring a final and universal end to this brutal assualt on our common humanity.

A good source for current issues regarding slavery today can be found at the appropriately-named and review the partners and coalition sites. Take anyone you can find to see this movie. Then do something besides hum the hymn.

You can also find the full history and evolution of the text of the hymn "Amazing Grace" at Wikipedia.

How'd You Like to Live on "Mutlilated Lizard Street"? You Might If You Live in Hawaii

An updated edition of Rich Budnick's "Hawaiian Street Names: The Complete Guide to O'ahu Street Names Updated" was recently reviewed in the Honolulu Advertiser.

On Oahu/Honolulu Country, at least, all new street names must be given Hawaiian names.

As a result some otherwise-sounding beautiful names have been found to mean something quite different than was perhaps intended.

Take 'Aikanaka Place in 'Ewa Beach. In Hawaiian it means "To eat human flesh!" Perhaps Hannibal Lector is looking for a new neighborhood near to some good local eateries!

Or 'Ilipilo Street in Kailua: "Smelly Skin."

How about Komai'a Drive in Manoa: "Dragging bananas."

Na'ipalaoa Road in Wai'anae? "Whale Genitals" of course!

Na'opala Lane in Kalihi? "Rubbish." Popoi'a Road in Kailua? "Fish Rot." Kaluamo'o Street, again in Kailua? "Lizard Pit."

Hepa Street in Wipahu means "Idiot, Imbecile or Moron." Nalulu Place in Wai'alae 'Iki means "
A Dull Headache" (anyone want to spend their honeymoon on Nalulu Place?).

Then again there is always Hanakealoha Place in Palolo Valley: "Lovemaking" or nearby Pa'ale'a Street: "Pleasure-loving" or Ho'oha'i Street in Pearl City: "To Flirt" or Poli'ala Street in Waimanalo: "Fragrant Breast."

Then again, almost any of these would be preferred to having to live on Kauhako Street in Hawai'i Kai: "The Dragged Large Intestines."

By the way, if the name "Mutilated Lizard" captures your fancy you might just want to move to Kuli'ou'ou. The street you are looking for is called Mo'omuku Place.

Some folks have clearly been having a lot of fun at the expense of us non-Hawaiian speakers! But it all goes to show that a good sense of humor can be found everywhere . . . even hidden in unexpected places.

And when I visit San Francisco's Chinatown (where I once worked for two summers in a Christian Daycamping program) I always pause to pay my respect to may favorite street name anywhere: Wong Way!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited

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My wonderful wife and I just returned from a concert performance by Thomas Mafumo & the Blacks Unlimited at the local JC.

I can’t say that I had heard of Mapfumo before today but I have already come to admire him as a person and as a musician

Mapfumo is from Zimbabwe and grew up there when it was still white-ruled Rhodesia. During the ‘60s he began performing in popular music venues imitating the British/American styles of Elvis, etc.

By the ‘70s he had created his own musical synthesis combining various musical styles around a form of music indigenous to his Shona tribal culture. Central to this music was the spiritual, circular melodies created by the mdima, more commonly known as a finger harp.

The black Marxist rebels seeking the overthrow of the Ian Smith government captured his vision of freedom. The guerrilla forces were called chimurenga (Shona for “struggle”) and Mapfumo began calling his new sound “chimurenga music.”

According to notes on his life found at,
Mapfumo had become a national hero by singing theme songs for a revolution, his deeper message was really about culture, not politics.
At tonight’s concert, Mapfumo introduced his music in this way:
My music is about freedom. That is all I have to say about my music. It is about freedom.
Having seen the demise of one oppressor and having celebrated the liberation of his country, Mapfumo found himself, by the late 1990s, becoming increasingly critical of the rapidly totalitarian rule of Mugabe. At times his songs were banned outright by the government and, after the opposition party unexpectedly did well in a national election the government began harassing Mapfumo, including filing false criminal charges against him.

In 2000, Mapfumo took his family to Oregon where he now lives in a sort of self-imposed exile. He occasionally returns to Zimbabwe to perform for his many fans. His songs have

Decried alcoholism, AIDS (several of his original band members died from this), domestic violence and people’s devotion to foreign things—all prices that Mapfumo felt Zimbabweans had paid for abandoning their ancient culture.

Since Mugabe, whose iron-clad rule has completely destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy and social structure, is celebrating his birthday this week with a lavish party tomorrow (Saturday) I was curious what, if anything, Mapfumo might have to say about him.

What he said was this:
This song is about dictators . . . . like Robert Mugabe of my own country, Zimbabwe . . . when a man like that dies . . . the world rejoices.
He also introduced another song by saying,
This song is about our youth. There are too many wars these days . . . what if young people refused to go? (applause)
By the end of the evening I had concluded that Mapfumo’s music, with its complex, melodic rhythms (that brought dozens of the audience to the front of the theater dancing) could best be described as “liberation music.”

Even more, as I pondered the themes of peace, of justice, of freedom or health and wholeness that transcended the music that tried, futilely, to contain and tame them, I decided that an even better description might be “Kingdom of Heaven” music . . . music in the footsteps of Isaiah, Amos and Jesus.

I found it easy to relate Mapfumo’s focus on freedom to our own national passion of every possible idealized version of this concept . . . including the musical voices from our own turmoil of the 1960s freedom marches and anti-war demonstrations.

No matter how elusive, impossible or impractical the attainment of this vision of freedom might be there is nonetheless something of God in it: The lion lying down with the lamb; Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom of God; John’s revelation of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.

I sought in vain to find some parallel with Muslim culture . . . an expression within Islamic culture in music or poetry or simply a visionary dream of peace, and joy, and freedom for all. I have no doubt that I will be thinking and rethinking this matter in the days to come.

As Mapfumo ended the concert he thanked the audience for their enthusiastic support and then added,
God bless you.
These simple words, which caught me completely by surprise, seemed to validate my take on his music. True freedom is not provided by ideology or liberation movements. The liberation from one oppressor (White Rhodesia) has turned out to be little more than a slow transition from one form of oppression to another. True freedom will never be attained through the efforts of sinful humanity. Freedom is, above all else, a gift from God that is, as our own nation’s founding documents explain, presented to us all as an endowment . . . an unalienable right for all.

Yes, tonight’s concert was about freedom. And the words, “God bless you,” pointed to the only place we can ultimately turn to find it.

Samples of his music can be found here, here and here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cuban Doctors Defecting From Venezuela

Captain Ed has some things to say about this story

It seems that Cuban doctors have been volunteering to help out with Cuba's friend and ally, Chavez, in helping out his tottering health system. The doctors get paid far more than they would in Cuba but their expenses eat up most of what they earn.

So . . . surprise, surprise . . . instead of quitting and going back to Cuba over 500 Cuban health-care workers and their dependents have chosen to defect instead, no doubt hoping to find some way to enter the United States.

This is where I start to lose consciousness . . .

It seems that many of these doctors are in limbo, hanging out in neighboring Colombia or applying for asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas while the United States carefully investigates each one to make sure that they are not spies for the Cuban government.

While I applaud our government's caution in this matter is seems almost silly to the point of absurdity to compare how we are treating these educated and skilled men and women (who are defecting from a totalitarian government we have been at odds with for nearly 50 years) with the millions of undocumented, unscreened, illegal folks from Mexico and other points south of the border who seem to be crossing back and forth across our border each day with hardly a "how-do-you-do."

A GAO report released early in 2005 estimated that 29% of all inmates in state and federal prisons were illegals. This means that 4% of our population (12 million illegals out of a total population of 300 million) accounts for well over one-fourth of our criminal prison population. That disproportionate statistic should provide at least some impetus to target this particular demographic for special attention!

Having said this, I would like to see our government take at least the same measure of caution in checking the vitae of 12 million illegals as they are taking with these Cuban defectors.

Otherwise, in all fairness, they should simply transport the Cuban doctors to the Mexican side of the U.S. border and tell them to just walk in and make themselves at home along with everyone else.

Cunard's QE 2 & QM 2 To Rendezous In Sydney Harbor

The two largest world-cruising passenger liners will greet each other in Sydney Harbor, Australia, on Tuesday. It will be reminiscent of the time back in 1942 when the Queen Elizabeth (1) and Queen Mary (1) met in the same harbor when they were serving as troop ships.

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I have my own personal memory of these ships having seen the two "2s" dock in Honolulu just about a 30-minute drive from where I live in Hawaii.

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QE 2 & QM 2 in NY 2004

More unique, however, I had the experience of seeing the original "1s" docked end to end in Southampton in 1966 during a British dock workers strike that had both ships empty and going nowhere fast.

My parents and I had just completed our own passage across the Atlantic on the SS Rotterdam, a new ship back then. Because the two Cunard liners were plying only the North Atlantic in those days, the Rotterdam, which also cruised in the Pacific, was considered to be the largest world-cruise ship at that time.

As we entered Southampton Harbour every passenger was on deck to enjoy the excitement of docking and disembarking. The bonus was moving at slow, slow docking speed past the two majestic and mammoth grand dames of passenger liners . . . one after the other.

As a 15-year old I remember being suitably impressed and overwhelmed by their size. Next to them the Rotterdam seemed to be a mere toy as we craned our necks upward at the great stacks and soaring superstructures of the original Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I.

At the slow speed we were moving it seemed like it took nearly forever to sail past those two ships. It was a wonderful and memorable way to arrive in England for the first time.

I have no doubt that the folks in Sydney, Australia, will be enjoying their own sense of awe and wonder with the latest reincarnations of the the golden days of luxury passenger liners.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Utah Skier Survives Avalanche In Style

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It's not a very big avalanche but it is enough to fear the worst for the Utah ski-boarder who gets swallowed up by it. Watch the video here and see what happens. Cool! In more ways than one!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

St. Valentine's Day

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting St. Valentine's Day has an uncertain origin. The Saint whose day was once set by the Roman Catholic Church as February 14 also has an uncertain origin.As usual, Wikipedia gives as good a summary of the subject as any place you can go.

Sometime, however, it doesn't really matter why a holiday exists (take a look at Kwazaa or Mother's Day for examples of "holidays" created out of thin air) and Valentine's Day is one of those times.

It's simply nice, for whatever reason, to be encouraged (even by social peer pressure and the greeting card & flower industries!) to say "I love you" to someone special.

My wife packed up Valentine's Day gift boxes for our two daughters (#1 & #2) who live in the Mainland diaspora and one for our still-at-home-but-not-for-long Daughter #3. I added a single pink rose for her when I picked her up from school today.

Hopefully, the card I sent to my mother will arrive on time along with a small orchid plant.

Fortunately, I also remembered to show some appreciation to my wonderful wife. We'll have dinner out, too, but the gifts we may exchange with each other will remain fully confidential!

At our church preschool, children also exchanged gifts and held class parties that included at least some of the children's parents. As a Christian preschool it never hurts to encourage the idea of "love" . . . even when it comes in the form of a cupcake or small bag of Hershey's Kisses!

All love comes from God, of course, and our human efforts are just a case of imitation being the highest form of flattery.

According to the Christian faith, God sent his own personal "Valentine" to us in the person of God the Son, who "emptied himself" and "became flesh" and "dwelt among us" for a brief span of 33 years.

I John adds these words, "This is love: not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."

The Christian Bible also explains why God did this: "So that whoever believes in him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life."

As St. Paul put it, "If God is for us then who is against us?"

I'll put my faith in God. How about you?

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Barak Obama vs. John Howard--No Contest

Here's my read on the recent verbal exchange between Australian Prime Minister John Howard and U.S. Senator Barak Obama. It's as though the little boy in the famous "Mean Joe Green" Coca-Cola commercial chewed Green out for being a wimp and added that he could do a better job of it on the field. B.O. would then try to get Howard's "jersey" while keeping hthe Coke for himself, too!

Howard has taken many political bruises and beatings for his firm and uncompromising stand against Islamist terrorism. Obama has, to date, suffered nothing for his positions on anything. The one man holds the highest elected national office in Australia. The other . . . well . . . should know better. The two men are not even in the same league.

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If you don't recognize the photo then click on it and watch what has been voted one of the best (if not THE best) television commercials of all time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Obama Declares for Presidency--Outdoes Biden in Glib "Mis-speak"

When Senator Joseph Biden announced his candidacy for President last week he immediately wrapped his mouth around his foot by delcaring that Senator Barak Obama was,
the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
Since declaring his own entry into the Presidential race on Saturday, "Mr. Clean" Obama has bitten his own foot twice.

The first was at Iowa State University, on Sunday, when Obama averred that,
We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged--and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.
Later, in an interview, he apologized for the remark by saying,
The sacrifices (troops) are making are unbelievable. I meant to say that those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy and diplomacy needed to be successful in Iraq.
Call me a skeptic, but I find it hard to believe that Obama accidentally and inadvertently dropped 20 or more words of clarification from his comments at Iowa State.

When Obama uttered the word "wasted" he meant it as a rhetorical device to stir up the support of the anti-war crowd that had gathered to hear him speak. As he spoke that word he was not thinking of the bravery of our troops or of their sacrifice. He was not thinking of the mission that they are committed to achieving in Iraq or the value of their sacrifice to our nation or to their families.
Whether intentionally or not Obama slipped into demagoguery as he played to the Iowa crowd. A person aspiring to the office of President of the United States should not allow him/herself to become that undisciplined.

A slip such as this does not disqualify Obama from his candidacy, of course, we all have found ourselves using a word that we later wished we had not spoken. It is, in part, a human mistake and should be forgiven.

Insofar as it allows us a small glimpse into the inner-workings of his deeper convictions, however, it does not bode well for the good Senator from Illinois. Mel Gibson allowed some of his inner demons to emerge during a DUI arrest last year and was widely condemned for what he said.

Obama, from what I can tell, was not drunk at the time he supposedly "mis-spoke" at Iowa State.

A second, but more telling moment came with Obama's response to a unfortunate and inappropriate international personal slam from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who (in the midst of his own heated national election campaign) stated,
If I were running al-Qaida in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats.
(Memo to Mr. Howard, You are a great friend of the United States and a bold and courageous ally in our united fight against Islamist terrorism. Having said this, however, please keep out of our domestic politics. How would you like it if an American President made public comments attacking your re-election ambitions, huh?)

Obama's retort to Howard was as follows,
I would . . . note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is ... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric.
I'd say that it is a grave sin of an over-inflated ego for Obama to think himself either equal or superior to John Howard as a political heavyweight.

Obama somehow diminished himself with this reply both by his failure to demonstrate proper respect for a head of state (and an strong American ally at that) and by his gratuitous dismissal of the political, military, financial and personal sacrifices of Australia and Australians in their own struggle with this vast and complex matter.

If Barak Obama hopes to become President of the United States someday, he would be best advised to begin speaking as though he was already the President of the United States . . . at least insofar as is necessary for him to prevent the undermining of the same diplomatic and respectful dialogues with other nations (both friend and foe) he so passionately claims to advocate.

There may well be a true and noble greatness in Barak Obama. But it is clear that even at his best (and this past weekend must be viewed as a sincere attempt for him to be his best) he is still more than a little "rough around the edges" and in need of some grinding and polishing before he will be truly ready for prime time.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Offering Prayer at the Hawaii State Capitol

Marilyn Lee, my local Hawaii State Representative to the Hawaii legislature called a few weeks ago to ask if I would be willing to open today's session of the House of Representatives with an invocation. I have done this at least twice before for the House and twice for the State Senate. My schedule was clear and so I said, "Yes."

I arrived a little early and was greeted by Anne, Marilyn's office manager, who gave me a ti-leaf/kukui nut lei. After being escorted onto the House floor I was introduced by House Speaker Calvin Sey.

After a few words of greeting I then offered the following prayer (Note that the Hawaii State Motto is "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono" a quotation taken from King Kamehameha III which translates as, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" and, yes, the King was a Christian):
Almighty God, it has been truly said that “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” We who are gathered here today are fortunate to live in a land that no doubt holds a favored place in your creation. We are blessed but the “life of the land” is suffering from hearts that have grown cold and minds that have become distracted by the lure of power, the temptation of privilege and the preoccupation with money that accompanies access to the vast wealth of a state treasury

By your Holy Spirit, enter this place and restore your righteousness to those who seek to act wisely and well on behalf of the people of Hawaii. Open their ears to the cries of the homeless; open their noses to the reek of pollution that spills into our coastal waters; open their eyes to the sprawl and congestion of our freeways and open spaces; open their hands to touch the hands of the children the elderly, the infirm, the abused, the vulnerable and the disabled who are reaching out to them in hope this day.

Bring these servants to their knees in a common humility as they respond to the needs of a land in need of your righteousness. Save them from the temptation to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.

Free them from any inclination to serve their own needs and, instead, encourage them to put the needs of others above themselves.

And place in them the wisdom to do only what is necessary for them to accomplish and not anything more or less.

In this alone, there is righteousness.

Bless every good and useful bill that passes through this chamber. And doom the rest. For, in the end, you are the judge of all things.

I give thanks to you for these who serve on my behalf. May this be a good day . . . for each of them . . . and for the people of Hawaii.

I ask this prayer in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Earlier I had informally spoken with one of the greeting staff at the Hawaii Senate Chamber on the other side of the Capitol building. This man, who was also a Christian, shared with me the prayer he would ask if he were to be asked to give the invocation. He then put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me, asking that the Lord would use my words to bring unity in common purpose to the legislators.

James 5:16 says that, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." I trust that this was, in some small way, true for me today.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

British Security Forces Led by Keystone Kops?

Gee, they are getting good press all the time: British security teams break up one terrorist plot after another, saving the airport, saving power plants, saving the necks of Muslim soldiers in the British Army. Or so it seems.

Lately, it is the accumulation of bumbling, bogus and befuddling busts that has been getting my attention.

How can we forget the young man who police shot dead on an underground carriage when they mistakenly took him for a fugitive terrorist.

Then there were the two brothers last July whose apartment was attacked in broad daylight with one of the men being shot by police as they supposedly attempted to break up a terrorist ring. Both men were quickly released after the police could not provide any evidence to a court that they were guilty of anything.

Now, after making international headlines over having supposedly breaking up another terror plot to kidnap and behead a British soldier who happens to be a Muslim, it appears that once again the noose is unravelling before our very eyes.

Today, two of the nine Muslim men arrested as suspects in the beheading plot were told by a judge to go back home. It seems that, after seven days in police custody, the men had only been interrogated for two hours and that the police had never even questioned them about reason for which they had been arrested.
The same judge has given police only 72 more hourse to present evidence against the other seven men or else she will probably let them go, too!

And to think that these arrests were described by the British Home Office as being part of a "major counterterrorism operation" with the arrests representing "the foothills of a very major investigation."

Is British intelligence making "mountains out of molehills?"

What next, cream pies and fire hoses?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

U.S. Jet Pilot's Video Released in Accidental Death of British Soldier In Iraq

The incident occurred back on March 28, 2003 but the video was just released yesterday. It shows the two American pilots debating whether to attack the British tank force or not. They could see the orange roof markers that indicated that the force were allies in the coalition. The higher-ups that they turned to for orders, however, assured them that,
That is an affirm. You are well clear of friendlies.
In the end, having been told there were no friendlies in the area, they decided that the orange markings were rocket lauchers.

At least one of the U.S. A-10 jets opened fire, killing the British convoy's leader.

"Moments later," according to today's AP story, "they learn that there are friendly forces in the are and that one person is dead another is wounded."

Pilot 1: "I'm going to be sick."
Pilot 2: "Ah f---."
Pilot 1: "Did you hear?"
Pilot 2: "Yeah, this sucks."
Pilot 1: "We're in jail, dude."

I have one thought on this matter:

What a shame that, in the midst of combat, the second thought to enter the mind of a warrior after a incident like this (the first is horror), is that of being prosecuted and going to jail.

On the plus side, it shows that the members of our military are well-trained in the responsibility they have to act wisely and well in all circumstances. We possess perhaps one of the most ethically and legally-grounded militaries in world history.

On the negative side, however, it means that in the heat of battle a moment of hesitation or uncertainty could lead to the failure of a mission or the endangerment of other American or allied troops.

Although I have never served in the military or visited a war-zone I cannot imagine that every situation can be as clear-cut as a Dürer etching. The "fog of war" leaves a lot to the training and intuitive response of the warriors involved. If we cannot trust these men and women with this responsibility and give them our 100% support and backing when they err then we have no right to send them into such a situation in the first place.

Court-Martial Hearing for Watada Underway--Now Declared Mistrial

To my surprise it appears that the court-martial hearing for Lt. Ehren Watada will last only two or three days.

Watada is charged with refusing to obey an order to deploy to Iraq with his unit. Watada has publicly defended his actions by claiming that the order to deploy was illegal because the war itself is immoral and illegal.

One reason his hearing is expected to be so short is that his primary defense (the moral or legal status of the war) was held to be inadmissible.

Today's story also stated that a plea-bargain that would have sent Watada to prison for 18 months was turned down by the defense.

My guess is that it might have been a good thing to have agreed to that plea-bargain insofar as I cannot imagine him receiving a sentence of less than two years. He could be sentenced to as much as 4-years in prison with a dishonorable discharge.

I have previously offered my opinion on the case in a post, Lt. Ehren Watada's Court Martial.

UPDATE: The hearing has been declared a mistrial on the grounds that Watada may did not intend to admit guilt when he signed a document refusing to obey the order to deploy. Assuming the trial reconvenes in mid-March as the Judge has recommended, it may be that Watada will be allowed to present his reasons for believing the order to deploy was illegal and that he was morally and legally obligated to disobey that order.

It would then need to be determined as to whether the U.S. Military's presence in Iraq was legal or not in order to either vidicate or convict Watada. I cannot imagine such a matter to be within the pervue of a military court-martial hearing. How this will be resolved within the military justice system I have no idea.

Even so, as one who supports the role of conscience in all areas of our lives I am glad that this aspect of Watada's defense will be given a hearing. I believe it is his right. Regardless, of course, he should still be held responsible for his decision.

Strange Story of the Day: In Palestine Blood Is Thicker Than . . . Well . . . Blood

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis little AP story appeared today complete with a photo taken by Khalil Hamra:
Palestinian Hamada al-Ottol, 19, below, and his brother Tahseen, 22, recover in their family house in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. The brothers were both badly woulnded in a recent clash between Hamas and Fatah. They fought on opposite sides.
I hope their family "cease fire agreement" lasts longer than the others Hamas and Fatah have made lately.

Final Verdict on Television News Shows--Crosswords Never Lie

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWoe to the crossword editor who puts in an answer that is incorrect or misleading!

I mention this after doing this morning's "New York Times Crossword" edited by my personal games hero, Will Shortz.

Today's clue for 26-Down was, "More and more of news shows nowadays."

The answer left me ROFL:
A good reminder as to why I have not watched a network evening news show in 15 years!

Thank you, Will Shortz, for bringing the truth about TV news programming into the mainstream!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dungy Witnesses to the Christian Faith as Colts Win Super Bowl XLI

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingI don't know if I can remember his exact words . . . but Tony Dungy, holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy on national TV as the Head Coach of the Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis Colts said something like the following,
We (he and Bear's Head Coach Lovie Smith) are both Christians . . . and I am proud to say that we won this trophy the Lord's way.
Whatever the exact words were I had the sense that, had the Chicago Bears won the game, Coach Smith would have said much the same thing.

As a Christian Pastor I did not view this as a cheap attempt to get a plug in for Jesus. There was something far more substantial in what Dungy was trying to tell the American Super Bowl audience.

Dungy was saying that the Christian virtues of humility, self-sacrifice, putting others ahead of yourself, forgiveness, mercy, love and striving for excellence in all things for God's glory can make for a winning and successful life.

Dungy and Smith both coach like Christians and, whether their players are Christians or not, expect them all to live up to the highest standards and values that the Christian faith represents.

Both men are gracious, polite, selfless and always deflecting credit for their successes to either God, the players and other coaches on their teams or both. They are "class acts" by all accounts. They are men who their players look up to. They are role models for the youth who idolize their teams and they are men who make the cities of Chicago and Indianapolis seem like good and decent places to live.

As part of a pre-Super Bowl promotion, both men, and members of their teams, compiled a website to witness their common faith in Jesus Christ to the world. The site can be found at beyond the

I encourage you to visit the site and read what these two coaches and others who play and coach for the Bears and Colts have to say about their faith in God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives.

Today we all saw a great football game played by two great teams lead by two great Head Coaches. As both Smith and Dungy will tell you, however, what makes them great is not their success on the field but, rather, the saving love of God in their lives.

Whether you are a Head Coach of an NFL team or not, you can share that same measure of greatness with these two Super Bowl coaches. Check out their site and consider what they have to say.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts on their 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Prediction

Here it is for posterity:

Indianapolis will defeat Chicago by a score of 23-14.

The first half will be very close with a good chance of the score being tied or Chicago leading by four points.

Vinateri will kick three field goals that will be the margin of victory for the Colts . . . and vindication for his being traded away by New England.

Of course, I could be wrong!

"Laughter Yoga"--Celebrating the "Lighter" Side of Life

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingA small article in today's Honolulu Advertiser caught my eye this morning. The headline read,
Free Session of Laughter Yoga .
After giving the where and when the article went on to explain,
Laughter Yoga is a worldwide social movement that aims to promote peace through laughter, based on the philosophy of "acting happy."
Now this is one philosophy I already subscribe to . . . along with subscribing to the Joyful Noiseletter, the monthly publication of the Fellowship of Merry Christians!

Humor and health go well together. Even in politics I will generally be inclined to support those who "do not think more highly of themselves than they ought to think." Those who take themselves too seriously are usually people who ought to be avoided at all costs . . . and should never . . . ever . . . be given too much power over anything important.

Our greatest presidents, for example, almost always will also show up on the list of "most humble" (such as Washington) or "best use of humor" (such as Abe Lincoln, Ronald Reagan or JFK).

The more laughter in the world, the better.

I hear very little humor from the Islamist leaders who foment so much hatred, death and destruction around the world. This in and of itself should be a red flag for their beliefs. I want none of it! The same holds true for unsmiling Christians or anyone else who has forgotten how to laugh.

So, I'm going to give a big, fat, hearty, wholesome two thumbs up for "Laughter Yoga." Perhaps if we could get President Ahmadinajad and President Bush to sit on the floor, do a little stretching on a yoga mat and then say "Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha" before breaking into spontaneous laughter, the world might just begin to look both a little safer and a little saner.

British Teacher "Sacked" for "Upsetting" Students With a Fact They Didn't Want To Hear

According to BBC News,
Andrew McLuskey was sacked from Bayliss Court Secondary School in Slough after a Religious Education lesson discussing the pros and cons of religion.

Pupils at the predominantly Muslim school claimed Mr McLuskey said most suicide bombers were Muslim.
The article concludes with these surreal paragraphs:
"I think I should've been given the chance to respond to the allegations and not in effect be ejected from a job without the chance to defend myself."

The school authorities denied they were being heavy-handed and said their first priority was pupils' welfare.

"I don't think it's important what I think," said the school's deputy head teacher Ray Hinds.

"It's what the pupils think that were in the classroom at the time. And they were very upset."
So that's the new standard for employment in an English school these days . . . if the students don't like what a teacher says . . . if they say that they are upset . . . the teacher gets fired . . . whether the school administrators feel it is fair or right or not.

Gee, if I ran my house that way when my three daughters were growing up I would have been "sacked" myself!

I guess, in England at least, it is now only safe to teach the facts that the students want to hear.

Although I am not a big fan of predictive Biblical prophecy I must confess that the words and warning of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 seem to have come to pass:
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Promotion to Commander

My good friend, Mark, was promoted to the rank of Navy Commander yesterday morning. Here are a few photos of his promotion ceremony that took place at Pearl Harbor. The lovely lady is his wife, Cathy. My contribution to the event was to photoshop a promotion poster for Russel Crowe's movie "Master & Commander" and insert Mark's picture and name. Cathy used the photo for the cake at the reception.

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Mark is now off to DC where he will continue to serve with distinction. We are blessed as a nation to have such men in our military service as Mark.

U.S. Military Saving Money Through Beer Sponsors?

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While at a command post at Pearl Harbor yesterday I spotted this banner hanging on the wall. I asked the office Commander if I could take a photo of it. He said, "Sure, why not!"

I then asked him if the Navy's budget was so tight that they had to resort to seeking sponsorship funds from Budweiser? He laughed and said that someone must have gotten a good deal on the banner from somewhere.

Soon, I expect we will be seeing that familiar Nike "swoosh" on our military uniforms!

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Super Bowl Quote of the Day

From Troy Gorda of Springfield, Ill (a corporate travel agent) who is looking forward to Sunday's Super Bowl:
It's like Christmas or Thanksgiving without all the hassles of family.
LOL & Amen!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My Thoughts On Global Warming and Human Responsibility

1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its preliminary report today and concluded that global warming is "very likely" (meaning 90% sure) caused by human activity.

2. Here is my uneducated opinion.

3. Global warming is real.

4. No one really knows whether this is a long-term trend (leading to glacial melt and loss of all ice caps....which would be catastrophic) or a short-term trend that may slow or reverse itself as a minor variation in global climate stability.

5. It is preposterous to say that the earth has a stable climate . . . research shows that the earth has always fluctuated in surface temperature, weather patterns, etc....sometimes with great variations lasting for many centuries (ice ages, etc.) or smaller variations lasting for shorter periods of time.

6. Until recent history (the past 200 years . . . from the beginning of the industrial revolution) the impact on human activity on climate change would have been zero. Yet climate change occurred even without human interference.

7. Are there other natural circumstances besides human activity that could explain the current warming trend? Yes. Sun activity, tectonic plate movement, volcanic activity, shifting of the earth's magnetic poles, etc.

8. Do I believe that human activity is responsible for 90% of the worlds temperature increase? No. But I am 100% sure that it is a contributing factor . . . perhaps even a significant factor. But nowhere near the 90% factor cited in the report.

9. Do I believe that we should attempt to reduce the pollution and atmospheric emissions that contribute to this warming trend? Yes. But not precipitously. As with pollution in the LA basin some things take time. Our nation's release of "global warming-related) pollutants have declined as a percentage of our total national energy and industrial production. Auto emissions have also declined per automobile. This is good. But does not remove the problem. It only keeps it from being worse than it already is.

10. Rapidly developing nations such as Russia, China and India not account for the largest increase in global-warming emissions. These countries, and others like them, have not yet introduced the high-technology and expensive additions to the production output that would in any way reduce the "bad" emissions to anything remotely comparable to that of the United States.

11. As one writer to the BBC put it, " Who is going to tell a billion people that they can't have air-conditioning or an automobile?"

12. Should we, either as Christians or simply as concerned and responsible citizens of the world, do anything in response to this? Yes, of course. From the simple acts of recycling, purchasing more fuel-efficient cars, using our air-conditioners less frequently and at lower settings, eating foods that require less processing and transportation and the like will collectively help in this problem.

13. As Christians, we should be concerned about our "stewardship" responsibilities in a world of God's own making. After all, we believe that "the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein." In judgment we believe that we will be held accountable for our behavior in this matter as well as in other moral and ethical areas of our lives.

14. Is there any scientific model, either supporting the Intergovernmental report or contradicting it, that offers any hope or practical solution to this matter of global warming? None that I have seen. Whether this warming trend is caused by human or natural causes there is little evidence that very much can be done about it in a comprehensive way. The world, the number of human beings and the growth of industrial consumption is simply too vast to bring under any sort of practical control.

15. What then, will happen? Who knows. Ocean levels may continue to rise, flooding low-lying coastal areas, islets and atolls. Entire nations may disappear (Micronesia and Kiribas come to mind). The reduction of global ice caps and the glacial ice of Greenland could produce accelerated warming or actually slow it down according to the various models I have seen. Areas currently arable may become deserts and desert areas may become arable. Major cities in certain climes may become too expensive to maintain large populations. Populations may actually shift globally to accommodate the climate changes. Shipping routes may even change if trans-polar shipping become feasible. Some national economies may suffer terribly. Others may actually benefit. The balance of world resources may also shift, affecting national alliances and balances of trade and economic markets. Political power will also shift along with the climate.

16. Is all this going to happen in our lifetimes? Some of it, yes. But, if the warming continues at the present pace it will be our children's children's children who will probably have to face the reality of major change in lifestyles and geo-political-economic transitions.

17. Is what you are saying true? Or have you just made it all up? Not being an expert I am simply expressing my current understanding of the situation based on what I have read. What this means, of course, is that I have mostly made it all up. On the other hand, for all their intellectual fire-power, so has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.