Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Friday, January 30, 2009

More Stuff White People Like

OK, I've written on this book before but CNN has just a new story on it and I couldn't resist plugging it again. Its's the blog turned hot selling book Stuff White People Like

Whether they're raising awareness, reading the Sunday New York Times, adopting foreign children, or just supporting Obama, White People are on the rampage and coming to an organically grown Farmer's Market near you!

Safe to say, I can't get enough of this book...I'm hopelessly white!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Post election tips for Republicans

For the last 8 years Republicans have had to endure, often irrational, criticism of President Bush. I could rarely engage in serious discussion over policy differences. Often the very mention of Bush caused BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) to suddenly explode out of my colleagues. Dialogues tended to go something like this:

Me: "So how do we as a society balance our civil liberties against the desire for a secure and safe America for her citizens."

You: (Pulse quickening)"Bush has destroyed our reputation in the world. Everyone HATES us!"

Me: "Ah, OK Everyone hates us. Who exactly hates us?"

You: (Eyes beginning to bulge) "EVERYONE!"

Me: "Well China and India who are most of the world's population and future dominant economies don't "hate" us and have maintained a very good relationship with America under President Bush.

You: (Blood pressure soaring) "Steve, your grasping for straws! When I say 'EVERYONE' I mean, you know, France and Germany...and maybe some of those other European countries. The countries that matter"

Me: (Calmly) "But didn't France and Germany elect pro-American leaders who had very good relations with President Bush?"

You: (False calm but veins in neck starting to go) "Even though our European brothers and sisters are much more sophisticated (pencil they are holding SNAPS) on International affairs than the average American, sadly, even they can be deceived. Just as we were in 2000 and 2004."

Me: "So there is no way we were deceived in 2008 as well? I mean history may judge President Bush a little more sympathetically, especially if a stable Iraq is achieved?"

You: (Full onset of Bush Derangement Syndrome) "Ahhhh...Bush gone!!...Guantanamo Bay Closed!!...Torture...Idiot gone...Idiot gone...(Psychotic laugh while exiting) "Obama...Obama...Obama...Obama..."

Me: (Dumbfounded at what just happened) "Ok...right?"

Now, it's important that those of us on the losing end of this election not to fall into this same trap. Because of that, I post the following blog entry from Andy Levy. I couldn't say it better.

My “To Don’t” List for the Right
by Andy Levy

The only thing worse than bad winners are sore losers, and we’ve had enough of them for the past eight years. So with that in mind, in the wake of today’s historic inauguration, here’s my Handbook For The Loyal Opposition, 2009 edition - a “To Don’t List,” if you will. Or even if you won’t.

DON’T question the motives - question the policy. When you disagree with Obama’s policies, say so, and make it clear why. But remember that President Obama is doing what he thinks is best for the country, as President Bush did. Both men love America and want what’s best for her. End of story.

DON’T make it personal. We don’t need another Derangement Syndrome. We don’t need people doing things like emphasizing Obama’s middle name in a derogatory fashion. How anyone would think that’s beneficial to their cause, or to the country as a whole, is beyond me. Also, it’s not even clever. Neither are smushwords like BusHitler, or sillywords like Rethuglicans and Dhimmicrats.

DON’T cozy up to and champion foreign dictators and despots. Sean Penn is an ass. No reason to be like him. ‘Nuff said. (Corollary: Don’t cozy up to and champion foreign dictators and despots and then act outraged when people question your patriotism.)

DON’T pretend you’re being brave when you criticize your government. Not while people in other countries actually, y’know, DIE, when they do that.

DON’T use the word “divisive.” At this point, all that word means is “You disagree with me,” and the English language gets mangled enough these days.

DON’T use the phrase “speaking truth to power.” EVER.

DON’T move to Canada.

DON’T say you’re going to move to Canada and then stay here. (I know it’s too late for Alec Baldwin, but not for the rest of you.)

DON’T apologize to foreigners and say things to them like, “I didn’t vote for Obama,” or “He’s not MY president.”

DON’T say or do everything in your power to drive this country apart and then claim you want unity when it’s your guy in power. This is like the convicted felon who conveniently finds God when he’s up for parole.

DON’T call people un-American one week, and then talk about how “We are not blue states or red states, we are the United States” the next. (This rule may only apply to Tom Hanks, but I put it in just to be safe.)

DON’T automatically think people who disagree with you are stupid or evil. Some of them are, of course. But most of them aren’t, and you might actually learn something if you listen to them.

And finally, DON’T use the fact that many on the left behaved abominably for the past eight years as an excuse to behave the same way. America needs adults. And if it bothered you when they did it, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mr. President

I want to be one of the many out there to offer my congradulations to President Obama. I wrote about this more in detail after the election but as I sat here in the middle of China some 8,000 miles from the action I watched as the new President gave a call to sacrifice.

I relish that!

One of the things that disappointed me during the last 8 years was the lack of message on sacrifice given by President Bush. After 9 / 11 we were not told as Americans how we could participate in a concetrated effort to keep America safe and later how we could support the battles being raged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead we were told to spend! "If we stop spending, the terrorists win."

President Obama's speech will not rank in the annuls of Great Speeches. But it was a good speech that called on Americans to give of themselves.

And thats a pretty good start!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years??

Over the weekend the family and I spent a night in a hotel room in Qingdao. I always enjoy that as I get to watch the BBC World on TV rather than just clips on the internet. I'm also glad my 11 year old son loves to watch it with me. Off topic, if you need to know what news source to view:

* FOX News: If you want to know what town no longer hosts a Nativity creche
* CNN News: If you want to know the latest on Paris Hilton or other celebrities
* NPR: If you want to know what evil things the United States is up to.
* BBC World Service: If you want to know pretty much what is going on in the world

Anyhow, the BBC broadcast a debate from the Intelligence Squared series with the issue, 'Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years'. The debate is available on You Tube or the audio is available here. I really recommend you take the time to listen to it. I have had issues with the Bush presidency, but there seems to be an irrational derangement syndrome that comes over many people that I think is unfortunate.

The debate covered a broad spectrum of policies the Bush administration has been declared guilty of. Probably one of the issues that stirs a lot of passion from many on the left (after the invasion of Iraq) is the issue of civil liberties abuses and threats to the Constitution. The following clip is an interesting rebuttal to these charges. The clip also shows what happens when accusations are just thrown about without serious analysis as panel member Simon Jenkins his public embarrassment.

The proof to the resolved issue is found in the audience poll. The audience is polled on the issue before and after the debate with the following results:

Moderator: John Donvan

For the motion: Simon Jenkins and Jacob Weisberg

Against the motion: William Kristol and Karl Rove

Before the debate: -------------After the debate:
For the motion: 65% -----------For the motion: 68%
Against the motion: 17% -------Against the motion: 27%
Undecided: 18% -----------------Undecided: 5%

Those against the motion were declared the winner and I was not surprised. Those undecided voters moved mostly against the notion when presented with a rational defense. I found I had some of my opinions changed by the debate as well. If honest, I was not immune to the sweeping tide of anti-Bush sentiment that is so popular today. It was good to see an intelligent defense of many of the Bush policies of the last 8 years. You may not agree with the policies, but you can at least see that they were not made behind some evil smoke so often is portrayed.

Part of the debate focused on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center which many shout loudly needs to be done. The reality is, however, that the hundreds of detainees there are not going to be released on to the street. So where do they go?

President-Elect Obama admitted to George Stephanapoulos in an interview this week that closing Guantanamo Bay is not going to be as easy as he first thought. I don't blame Obama for the admission but see it as a smart man that realizes the campaign rhetoric he delivered during the last few months will increasingly come into conflict with the responsibilities he will have as President to keep the American people safe in a post-9/11 world.

Is Bush 43 the best president of the last 50 years? Probably not.

Is Bush 43 the worst president of the last 50 years? Certainly not.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More on Rick Warren's Invocation

The invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to give a prayer at the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama continues to generate controversy. Rep. Barney Frank, one of three openly gay congressman, has led the charge of disappointment with the incoming administration for including the homophobic Warren in the day's planned events.

Says Frank,
Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair.

Wait a second?? Stop the presses! Hasn't the argument by gay rights advocates over the last few years been that loving relationships between consenting adults be above any critique or question? If Barney Frank were intellectually honest, he could not be offended that his intimate relationship between consenting adults would be compared to another intimate relationship between consenting adults.

Instead he adopts the same intolerant attitude that he accuses Rick Warren of having. Makes me wonder if someone in an incestuous relationship would be offended with Warren as well that their intimate, loving relationship would be compared to homosexuality.

I mean hey, at least they have biology on their side...

I say all of this a little tongue in cheek as I obviously find both types of relationships in the "here be dragons" side of the ocean. But if Rep. Frank, along with many of the shrill voices denouncing the Warren invocation, could see that many (if not most) Americans see his relationship on the same plane as the one that so deeply offends him, perhaps he would be a little less angry.

Just a thought...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Santa: It's a kind of Magic!

Sorry, for the delay in posts but I just returned from Christmas holiday in Hong Kong.

And what was special about this Christmas? Well, it's the last Christmas (most likely) that my 10 year old son Gabriel (Who just turned 11 this week) will be looking to Santa Claus to bring his presents.

Granted, he has had his doubts the last year or so. But something magic happens at Christmas...and he wants to believe. A couple days before Christmas, we went to Disneyland. When Gabriel saw the Santa Claus there and the long line of children waiting to sit on his lap, he said, "Papa, that's not the real Santa Claus." I thought, "Wow, he really does believe."

On Christmas Eve Tammy and I were with a group of friends enjoying a wonderful dinner party with good wine and good conversation. About 11:30 PM my son came up and tugged on my sleeve, "Papa, we need to get home or Santa is not going to come to our house." I told him he was right and we soon made our way by cab across Hong Kong to our lodging. Gabriel kept looking out at the Hong Kong skyline (which is one of the most beautiful in the world) looking to see if Santa's sleigh filled the moon light.

We were staying at a friend's apartment while they were away in South Africa and Tammy had arranged a small Christmas tree on the kitchen table along with some stockings and decorations. The cab arrived at the apartment complex and I hurredly paid the driver and rushed with Tammy and Gabriel to get to our temporary home before Santa did. (It's so cool that Santa always knows where we are).

Gabriel had been sleeping on the couch but tonight we insisted that he sleep with us in our bedroom as he couldn't be out in the living room when Santa came.
I watched Gabriel carefully prepare the plate of cookies and milk for Santa not forgetting a carrot for Rudolf.

And then it hit me...

This would be the last Christmas my son would go to sleep knowing Santa Claus was on his way. Yes, he was 10 years old and had begun to question the notion...but tonight was Christmas Eve...and at 10 years old there was just a little magic still left in the air...and because of that, tonight, for one last time

... Santa Claus was coming to town!!