August 26, 2009

Summer Reading Recap

Alas, summer is over (sigh) and it's back to the grind of social work studies, but I'm very thankful to have finished some non-required reading during my "freedom" these past few months:

Kevin DeYoung- Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will (Moody, 2009)

Cathleen Falsani- The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (Sarah Crichton Books, 2006)

Collin Hansen- Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists (Crossway, 2008)

Tim Keller- The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008)

R.T. Kendall- The Sensitivity of the Spirit: Learning to Stay in the Flow of God's Direction (Charisma House, 2002)

C.S. Lewis- Mere Christianity (Audiobook performed by Geoffrey Howard, Blackstone, 2000)

Andrew Marin- Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Intervarsity Press, 2009)

Scot McKnight- The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Zondervan, 2008)

Sara Miles- Take This Bread: The Spiritual Memoir of a Twenty-first Century Christian (Ballantine, 2007)

Richard Mouw- Praying at Burger King (Eerdmans, 2007)

Mark Noll- The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994)

Henri Nouwen- The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (Doubleday, 1992)

Jim Skillen- In Pursuit of Justice: Christian-Democratic Explorations (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004)

August 19, 2009

End Times Gloom and Doom: A Historical Reality Check

I'm told that if you translate "Prince Charles of Wales" into Hebrew and calculate the symbols using an ancient Jewish number system, it adds up to 666. Sound the alarm!

One of my least favorite aspects of being an American evangelical Christian is getting lumped together with peddlers of apocalyptic speculation and escapism of the Left Behind variety. Unlike those who are convinced that a "secret rapture" will occur at any moment or that the current geopolitical landscape is God's cosmic chessboard where brutal dictators, wars, famines and genocide are part of an inevitable collision course to destruction, I'm in no rush to force-fit today's headlines though an end times filter.

So instead of wading into the deep theological waters of eschatology or the Scriptural basis for cultural renewal, I offer the following 3 morsels to chew on. You'll likely need to read them at least twice to capture their full meaning, but it's an undertaking well worth the effort. I should also mention that each selection comes from the pen of a committed evangelical Christian. Ready, partake:

  • "The evangelical predilection, when faced with a world crisis, to use the Bible as a crystal ball instead of as a guide for sorting out the complex tangles of international morality was nowhere more evident than in response to the Gulf War in early 1991. Neither through the publishing of books nor through focused consideration in periodicals did evangelicals engage in significant discussions on the morality of the war, the use of the United Nations in the wake of the collapse of Communism, the significance of oil for job creation or wealth formation throughout the world, the history of Western efforts at intervention in the Middle East, or other topics fairly crying out for serious Christian analysis. Instead, evangelicals gobbled up more than half a million copies of several self-assured, populist explanations of how the Gulf crisis was fulfilling the details of obscure biblical prophecies." -Mark Noll (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Eerdmans, 1994)
  • "The current crisis was always identified as a sign of the end, whether it was the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Palestine War, the Suez Crisis, the June War or the Yom Kippur War. The revival of the Roman Empire has been identified variously as Mussolini’s empire, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Defense Community, the Common Market and NATO. Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler and Henry Kissinger. The northern confederation was supposedly formed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Rapallo Treaty, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and then the Soviet Bloc. The 'kings of the east' have been variously the Turks, the lost tribes of Israel, Japan, India and China. The supposed restoration of Israel has confused the problem of whether the Jews are to be restored before or after the coming of the Messiah. The restoration of the latter rain has been pinpointed to have begun in 1897, 1917, and 1948. The end of the 'times of the Gentiles' has been placed in 1895, 1917, 1948 and 1967. 'Gog' has been an impending threat since the Crimean War, both under the Czars and the Communists. -Dwight Wilson (Armageddon Now! The Premillenarian Response to Russia and Israel since 1917, Baker Books, 1977)
  • "Revelation 21-22 makes it clear that the ultimate purpose of redemption is not to escape the material world, but to renew it. God's purpose is not only saving individuals, but also inaugurating a new world based on justice, peace, and love, not power, strife, and selfishness." -Tim Keller (Christianity Today, A New Kind of Urban Christian, May 2006)

August 11, 2009

Federal Recognition for Native Hawaiians: Will This (Finally) Be The Year?

When it's all said and done, 2009 could be a special year for Native Hawaiians.

Thanks to President Obama's recent endorsement of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (S.1011), better known as the Akaka Bill, Native Hawaiians are closer than ever to gaining federal recognition status comparable to Native American tribes and Alaska Natives. Once Congress returns from its August recess after Labor Day, the bill is expected to clear the Indian Affairs Committee to be voted on by the full Senate. In addition to Mr. Obama and all four of Hawaii's Democratic representatives in Congress, the bill is supported by a diverse range of public officials and organizations here in the islands including our Republican Governor, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the editorial boards of both the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin.

[If you're not familiar with the Akaka Bill, here's a helpful article and timeline from the latest issue of Maui No Ka 'Oi magazine summarizing the nearly decade-long efforts of Senator Dan Akaka to pass this bill, as well as the opposition coming both from conservatives who say it goes too far and activists who don't think it goes far enough.]

As someone who interacts daily with low-income families receiving public assistance on Oahu's Leeward Coast, I can personally attest to the disproportionate socio-economic hardships experienced by the Native Hawaiian community. Measurements of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, obesity, infant mortality and other indicators of well-being reveal that Native Hawaiians are at a clear disadvantage in relation to other ethnic groups comprising Hawaii's multicultural landscape. But this isn't about pity, class warfare or bleeding heart sentimentalism. It's about acknowledging a systemic social injustice and creating a framework for reconciliation. It's about respecting the history, culture and dignity of an indigenous people group who inhabited these islands long before America's manifest destiny came ashore.

Being a locally-born hapa haole, I understand that while Hawaii is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the nation, we are by no means "colorblind" to the beauty and diversity of many cultural heritages. So how exactly are Native Hawaiians different from Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Filipino-Americans and hapa haoles like myself? The answer is quite simple: They are indigenous. They are the original inhabitants of lands that later became part of the United States. You cannot say the same about any other people group in the islands today. It is a simple historical fact that a fully independent monarchy exercised sovereignty in Hawaii centuries before it became a U.S. territory. As I see it, this places Native Hawaiians in the same category as Native American tribes and Alaska Natives. If you disagree with this comparison, you will probably oppose the Akaka Bill.

But given the reality of federal recognition for 561 Native American tribes (Cherokee, Sioux, Navajo, etc.) and Alaska Natives, there are only three positions available if you are opposed to the Akaka Bill:

1) You could argue that indigenous people groups are no different from other ethnic minorities and therefore none of them (Native American tribes, Alaskan Natives or Native Hawaiians) deserve any special federal recognition. This view would require Native Americans and Alaska Natives to be stripped of their semi-autonomous status, including the right to form domestic dependent "nations within a nation." In addition to losing their powers of self-government, 561 tribes would be denied access to benefits, services and protections currently in place. Or...

2) You could argue that Native Americans and Alaska Natives deserve recognition, but Hawaiians somehow do not. This view would require you to ignore the similarities between the lands taken away from Native American tribes and the overthrow of Hawaii's monarchy in 1893, in which power was seized at gunpoint from a self-governing indigenous people group. The U.S. government's 1993 Apology Resolution admitting wrongdoing in the overthrow of Queen Lili'oukalani makes this argument even harder to defend. Or...

3) You could argue that in order to turn back the clock on the injustices of American imperialism, everyone should be sent back to "wherever they came from." This all-or-nothing view would presumably require Caucasians to be sent back to Europe, Asians back to Asia and so forth. Some Hawaiian sovereignty advocates are demanding the United States to completely withdraw from Hawaii, but this essentially requires secession from the Union, something that is neither realistic nor beneficial in my opinion.

Since I disagree with all three options above, I support the Akaka Bill. It is not a silver bullet solution to the complex disputes over ceded lands and entitlement programs, but Native Hawaiians are far better off with federal political recognition than without it. Until they are validated on par with other indigenous people groups, attempts to improve conditions for Native Hawaiians (through Kamehameha Schools for example) will always be threatened by lawsuits and accusations of "race-based" discrimination. The way forward through these convoluted realities is not an endless barrage of litigation, but the establishment of a legal framework allowing Native Hawaiians to form their own nation within a nation (while still under the authority of federal and state laws) so that a new dialogue can begin.

Enacting the Akaka Bill is not the final goal, but the starting point.