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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Do You Have a Flag?

I recently wrote a few posts back about the developing problem of territorial claims in the South China Sea. Well, it just keeps getting more interesting and for those of you outside the Asia Pacific region, you should keep reading for two reasons:

1) Conflict in this region will probably affect the world on a near global scale

2) Because as a Beyond the Pale reader you will be much more informed and be able to impress your friends at dinner parties when the topic comes up

Anyhow, a Chinese scientific submarine, exploring unknown terrain at a depth of 3,700 meters in the South China Sea, planted a national flag before returning to the surface.

Now, that in and of itself is not a big deal. The Americans left their national flag on the moon when they made their voyages there in the 60's and 70's. Obviously, it was not a territorial claim but a statement of achievement declaring, "We were here!"

If that were the Chinese submarine's motive, it would be understandable. I mean descending to over 10,000 feet is a huge achievement, and if it were me, I would want to leave a memento.

(Eddie Izzard explains the strategic use of flags!)

However, given the political climate in the South China Sea the last few weeks, the quote in the Hong Kong newspaper by Zhao Junhai, the submarine's engineer, that, "It might provoke some countries but...the South China Sea belongs to China. Lets see who dares to challenge that" might not be the best public statement to calm the situation.

This foreign relations mastermind goes on to say, "The closer to the Philippines, the deeper the sea. We'll put down national flags all the way until we reach their border, and then we'll go beyond and aim for the Mariana Trench."

The South China Sea is a vital economic conduit for the Asia-Pacific region and over half the cargo shipped by sea last year went through it at some point. It is perhaps better if Mr. Zhao not speak so much and that the countries in the region work with China for the mutual benefit of all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Conviction & Compassion: or What to do with my Democrat, Muslim, and Gay friends

I recently had dinner with a new friend here in Hong Kong. We had been talking about different cuisines and I had been bemoaning the fact that my favorite Lebanese restaurant had closed. When I told him of how much I missed the place and my love for Arabic and Mediterranean food his eyes lit up. "Steve, I am going to take you and Tammy to a Lebanese place you will really enjoy."

And did we! And as we conversed over lamb, humus, hot pita, and red wine he mentioned that although his family had emigrated to the West when he was a boy, he was in fact Palestinian originally and born in Jerusalem.

"Wow!" I thought. I have had a lot of of diverse friends but I had never had a Palestinian friend.

The evening turned out to be full of great conversation and it really got me reflecting. See, I'm a big supporter of Israel. Ever since I read Leon Uris' Exodus in high school I have been behind the establishment and defense of the modern Jewish homeland...and because of that, and knowing emotions can get passionate, I kept my mouth shut. Why?

Because he's my friend...

I think some of the vitriolic talk and bombastic assaults on different people groups, be they religious, ethnic, or social, come because often people don't have friends in those groups.

I'm a Republican...but the reason I don't join in on mindless banter slamming the Democrats is because...I have Democrat friends.

I don't support homosexuality or a homosexual lifestyle...but one of the reasons I rarely, if ever, blog on the issue is because I have gay friends.

I am a Christian and desire to share my faith with Muslims across the globe but the reason I don't engage in demeaning talk about Islam is because I have Muslim friends.

Its a shame some people believe if they show compassion, they sacrifice conviction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compassion legitimizes conviction.

Jesus gave us the example. The Bible says he was friends with "publicans and sinners" He was friends with people whose lifestyles he wouldn't necessarily endorse or approve of. He didn't protest them, harm them, or even start a radio talk show claiming the end of the world if their evil agendas were allowed unchecked.

Instead, he loved them and became an example of a better way. His conviction was never lost in his compassion. He didn't tell the woman caught in adultery, "Your sins are forgiven, now follow your heart and if you really love this man, go and be happy." No...he forgave her (compassion) and told her to "Go, and sin no more," (conviction).

Now anyone that knows me knows I love good argument. I am quite happy to debate political, social, and religious issues just about anytime and anyplace...but I refuse to join the mob and too much of the American political landscape has been overrun by a mob mentality. Intellectual discourse has all but disappeared...and much of the reason is the balkinization of society into groups where people are only surrounded by other people that think like them.

Both sides of the political spectrum, Left & Right, are equally guilty but I have a solution...

Get more friends!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hong Kong Tragedy in the Philippines

On Monday evening 21 Hong Kong tourists were taken hostage in the Philippines by a disgruntled former policeman hoping to get his job back. An 11 hour standoff with a Filipino SWAT team left 8 of the Hong Kong residents, as well as the gunman, dead.

At our school's assembly this morning we began with a moment of silence and a short prayer. All Hong Kong seems to be in mourning and flags are flying at half-mast. Under the sorrow and mourning though, a real anger has been unleashed. Because the entire situation was shown on live TV, serious questions about the police handling of the incident have been voiced...loudly!

Protests have begun, lawmakers have demanded answers, and even China, who typically lets Hong Kong handle issues like this on its own ,have stepped in to apply pressure on the Philippine government for an accounting.

Stories coming out suggest that the gunman was not intending to hurt anyone, that he was only using the hostages as a bargaining chip in his grievances against the government. The feeling people have here was no one had to die ; and that the responsibility of those who are dead rests at the feet of the Philippine officials in charge.

Normally, I tend to side with law enforcement in these types of situations. I can't appreciate being in such a life and death situation so I usually want to give the police the benefit of the doubt. But as stories come out, and with what I've seen with my own eyes...well, I'm joining in with a little anger myself.

But even more distressing is to see some people in Hong Kong taking their anger out verbally on the Filipino population here in Hong Kong. Over 100,000 Filipinos work in the city, most employed as domestic helpers. The newspaper this morning reported some Hong Kong people taking out their anger by firing their Filipino maids.

Ok, we can be a little angry...but lets not get crazy. Even famed Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, fearing retribution against Filipinos in the city has publicly asked people in Hong Kong not to translate their anger into hate. Says Chan, "We already have so many natural disasters-typhoons, tsunamis, everything! We should be united and not kill or hate each other."

Lets not make a bad situation worse Hong Kong. Rather, lets ask for God's peace and to remember the victim's family in prayer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary

Hard to believe its been 20 years since Twin Peaks first aired. Twenty years since half America stood around water coolers discussing the question du jour; "Who Killed Laura Palmer?"

Twin Peaks, for the uninitiated, was an ABC drama that focused on the murder of a homecoming queen in the Pacific Northwest. But any similarity to a TV cop show stops there. Instead, the surreal story involved among other things, a giant, a dwarf, Tibetan and American Indian mythology, and a lady who talked to a log. It was weird and quirky long before it was cool to be...and I loved it!

Put it this way, without a Twin Peaks, there is no X-Files and no Lost. David Lynch had made TV hip again!

I always thought the main protagonist, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle Maclachlin) was one of the coolest TV characters ever. Instead of using logic and reason to solve the murder, Cooper would use dreams, visions, black coffee, and cherry pie. How cool is that?

Anyhow just before I first went to Hong Kong in 1990, Twin Peaks was re-running the first few episodes to catch everyone up for the new season. I got hooked and made my friend Tom tape every episode I missed for the months I was away.

When I returned in June 1991 Tom gave me two video tapes loaded with the remaining episodes. Nowadays getting a whole season on DVD of a show and doing a marathon is pretty standard stuff...but not in 1991. I spent a day or two glued to the screen watching one episode after another. And did it get a little scary...rare is the show that can "freak" me out. Twin Peaks did

True story: right after my marathon of Twin Peaks I made another marathon of sorts by driving 19 hours from Detroit to Tulsa to visit my then future wife Tammy because I had a bit of a crush on her...and guys do crazy things like that when they are in love! Anyhow, I pulled over in a rest area at about 2:00 AM just to sleep for an hour or two. I put clothes on hangers in the window for a little privacy...but all I kept picturing in the window was the freaky killer BOB from the show. I hardly slept a wink...

(A montage to Twin Peaks's love of Black Coffee)

Anyhow, Twin Peaks broke the mold for TV. The writers would introduce some element in the show that would only become relevant 3-4 episodes later. Gone were the self contained episodes that tied up the plot so neatly at the end of the hour.

Twin Peaks is also a cautionary tale. Once the Laura Palmer murder was solved, ratings plummeted and the show was cancelled after the second season. X-Files fell into the same trap of not knowing how to "end it". Lost's writer's learned from these misfires. They told their story...and quit!

But Twin Peaks still resonates on the TV landscape showing that a great story can be told on the small screen. So Happy Anniversary Twin Peaks...I'm off to have a black coffee and a piece of cherry pie in your honor!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Curries, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers

After being back in Hong Kong now for 8 months I can say, "I love it!" And if you ask why, I'll probably say, "something to do with Curry, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers!"

What I mean by that...simply... is Hong Kong has everything!

Take for example last week. The teachers at our school decided to head out on a Friday night for drinks and dinner. The evening started at Joe's Pool Hall in Knutsford Terrace. The 8th floor establishment complete with billiard tables, dart boards, and cheeseburgers could be found on any given street corner in the U.S. or Britain....not what one normally associates with Hong Kong, and yet part of the fabric here none the less.

After shooting some pool I was starving as I was purposely holding out eating until we made our way to Chung King Mansions. If you are unfamiliar with Chung King Mansion, wikipedia correctly describes it as, " guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, and foreign exchange offices. It often acts as a large gathering place for some of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, particularly South Asians (Indians, Nepalese, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans), Middle Eastern people, Nigerians, Europeans, Americans, and many other peoples of the world."

Whenever I enter Chung King Mansion the line from Star Wars where Ben Kenobi says, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, we must be cautious" pops in my head.

We settled on the Taj Mahal restaurant and as Indian waiters began unloading platters of samosas and poppadoms (sp?) I was struck by the diversity even at our table; British, Aussies, Kiwis, Hong Kong Chinese, and Americans raising a glass together to toast the new academic year. Pretty soon debates began such as:

* who is the more conditioned athlete, an Aussie Rules footballer or a player from Rugby Union?

* whats going to happen in the South China Sea between the U.S. and China?

* who will win in the upcoming Australian election; Liberal or Labor?

* will David Cameron re-energize the Tories or will his austerity plan cripple Britain?

Discussions like that I could never have with a group of Americans back home hanging out at an Applebees!

Before I left Chung King for the night I stopped by a DVD stall and had the South Asian shopkeeper recommend a couple Bollywood movies for me to take home. Tammy and I have grown to really enjoy Bollywood movies...on occasion :)

Even last year when we were still in Qingdao I was asked why I came back to Asia. I responded, "here we are at the Olympic Sailing Center where my son is learning to sail from a French teacher and a Chinese teacher. I'm sitting here chatting with a Dane on my right and a South African to my left on a dock where an Olympic competition was just held...thats why I'm back."

In Hong Kong, the crazy blend of East and West is always display. Even though it is no longer a British colony, the judges here still where white judicial wigs while in court. Police divisions have ceremonial wings complete with bagpipers. Street stalls with very fresh seafood can be just a few blocks down from some of the most expensive designer boutiques in the world. One evening I may be sitting on a rickety stool outside having a bowl of traditional Cantonese claypot rice and the next evening having humus and spicy lamb at a posh Lebanese restaurant.

And while America frets over the building of a Muslim Cultural center in New York, I see how relaxed people here are in a melting pot of religious freedom. On Nathan Road, one of the main arteries in downtown Kowloon, the Masjid and Islamic Centre sits prominently on one side of the street, and across the way is St. Andrew's Anglican church. No fights, no protests, everyone getting along for the most part. The rest of Hong Kong is full of Christian churches, mosques, Chinese temples, synagogues and every other place of worship you might think of. Given the possibly volitile mix, there is a marvolus lack of protest, violence, or bodycount that the residents here I think tend to appreciate.

So what's the secret to all this social harmony? My two cents...Its probably the Curries, Fried Rice, and Cheeseburgers.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You have to watch "Centennial"!

Ok, but first you should read Centennial.

In 1999 I decided to tackle James Michener's celebrated novel about rugged Colorado...if for no other reason than I was getting ready to move there in just a few months. So, while on vacation in Malaysia I spent about 4 days where I scarcely left the hotel pool.

My routine would be a dip in the water, then walk back to my deck chair, light up a cigar (ah, the glory days of when I was still able to smoke them :) and lounge in paradise while being mesmerized by one of the best pieces of storytelling I had ever read.

When I finished reading the book my mom (who was also a big fan) bought me the complete NBC mini-series done back in 1978. At over 20 hours in length, the Centennial miniseries has been the only attempt to capture one of Mitchner's novels in its entirety on film. As a family, we probably watch it every 2-3 years but recently the whole series has been put out on DVD. So, I decided it was time to retire the videos...

And what's great about the series:

The story: Its the story of America...warts and all. It spans almost 200 years starting with the late 1700's and ending in the 1970's. You get to follow beloved characters as youngsters, watch them marry, raise families, grow old and finally die. You see it all; the settlement of the American West, the tragic displacement of the American Indian, the range wars, the cattle drives, famines, storms, immigration...the story of our country. Its no surprise that the series is sometimes shown in high school American history classes.

The Characters James Michener writes some good novels, and I've read many of them, but in Centennial he outdoes even himself. From the French Trapper Pasquinel to the Scotsman Alexander McKeag, the Mennonite Levi Zendt to the potato farmer Hans Brumbaugh I get caught up in the lives of these characters like few other stories. It brings one back to a primal time when two men's bonds of trust were cemented because they approached each other "without fear."

The "half-breed", Jaq Pasquinel is perhaps one of the most interesting characters portrayed. Horribly brutal one moment, merciful the next...he is caught between two cultures and not fully accepted by either. One moment I "hate" him, the next, I pity him. The complexity of the character defies sterotypes.

(A good scene from the movie with an aging Pasquinel (Robert Conrad) and his now adult son, Jaq)

The Actors For a guy like me whose formative years were honed on 70's and 80's television, the actors who bring Centennial to life are a "whose who" of the times. Richard Chamberlain as McKeag, Robert Conrad as Pasqunel. There is Lynn Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Gregory Harrison, and Robert Vaughn. A baby faced Mark Harmon stands out when he defies orders to gun down innocent Indians, invoking a court martial in the process. Watching Dennis Weaver play the tough but fair cattle man R.J. Poteet, I'm struck by the thought of what the world could be if men like him actually existed.

But what shines most is Michener's story of the human condition. Innocent people sometimes die, the criminal sometimes goes unpunished, hard work is not always rewarded but through it all, good does shine through.

I encourage you to get a copy of Centennial which you can do here and spend a few evenings watching a great story about America.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Robert Mugabe in Hong Kong

There are few places left in the world that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is still welcome...and those places that still welcome him tend to not be places one would want to visit...except Hong Kong.

On Saturday afternoon the South China Morning Post caught up with the Mugabe entourage as they shopped at Ocean Terminal in TST. The Mugabe's often come to the territory both for shopping excursions and because their daughter, Bona, is enrolled at City University. The family even owns an apartment in Hong Kong.

Its unfortunate that the red carpet is rolled out for a dictator whose policies have nearly destroyed his country. Its painful to think that the money he is squeezing out of his bankrupt, starving citizens is being used to purchase designer handbags and shoes in Kowloon. Last year Mugabe's wife Grace was arrested by Hong Kong police for assaulting a photographer who snapped a picture of her on a shopping binge, but she pleaded her diplomatic immunity and all charges had to be dropped.

The 86 year old dictator was once the world's darling when he assumed the presidency of a newly independent Zimbabwe in 1980. Expectations were high that the bright and charming new leader of the resource rich country would usher in the beginning of an African Renaissance. Instead, it became the beginning a nightmare for most of the nation's citizens.

I've been interested in Africa for a number of years. Not only is my undergraduate degree through the University of South Africa, but in my years overseas I have met an befriended a number of South Africans and Zimbabweans. Particularly from my white Zimbabwe friends I have heard the tragic stories of farmers intimidated, beaten, and killed in order that their lands could be confiscated. The country, which used to be an exporter of food, now has to import to try to stave off starvation.

A good book I read recently called, Dinner with Mugabe attempted to analyze how this intelligent man, who at first wanted only the best for his country, descended into a paranoid madness that has wrecked untold havoc on millions.

Hey, but he's still welcome in Hong Kong where tailored suits, expensive shoes, and fancy jewelery await. But when you see them...avoid taking pictures, it could be painful.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Living on Park Island

When Tammy and I moved back to Hong Kong last Christmas we had a decision to make...Where to live? We had lived for a number of years in different places around the territory from the early days in Fanling near the border with China, to six years living in a mountaintop Shatin village home, to finally ending up down in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island.

During Christmas 2008 we visited Hong Kong from China where we were living and stayed with some friends at their home on Park Island, Ma Wan. Ma Wan for years had been a small Island with a fishing village and not much more. Then the Tsing Ma Bridge was built as part of the new airport project and suddenly this inaccessible section of Hong Kong was connected to the rest of the territory.

It didn't take long before land developers saw the potential and within no time "Park Island" was born. Residential towers, swimming pools, clubhouses, restaurants sprung up from seemingly out of no where and the tiny population of Ma Wan which had previously been a few hundred jumped to over 10,000.

We loved our visit in 2008 so when my new job promotion took us back to Hong Kong, the first place we started house searching was on Park Island. After looking at a number of places, we had our heart set on one flat. 3 bedroom, 21st floor with a seaview and a balcony. 1,075 sq. ft. Understand in Hong Kong, housing sq. footage is like gold and everyone here seems to know at any given time what the market rate is in a particular area.

We had set ourselves a budget of not paying more than "X" for a place and preferring to keep it at "X" - HK$ 2000 (US$ 260). Because of the recent spike in prices due to investment money coming in from the mainland, the landlord of our proposed flat would only agree to "X" + $HK 2000. We hemmed and hawed and Tammy and I pored over our budget plan on Excel to see how we could tweak things to get it.

Of course...we made it happen and for the last 6 months we've been enjoying our "Island" life. The commute is a little long as I have to catch a shuttle bus off the Island to the MTR (subway) and then the train right to Kowloon Tong. Door to door is 50 minutes.

Another plus is the fast ferry that takes us to Central (downtown) in just 22 minutes. I like to be able to live in a quiet peaceful place where cars are not allowed and then in a few minutes be right down "where the action is".

And having a 12 year old, the fact that Park Island has its own beach, 4 swimming pools, 3 clubhouses, tennis courts and bowling ally means there is often plenty to do. There is even a built to scale "Noah's Ark" attraction here.

Food wise in addition to the Chinese restaurants, there are Italian, Indian, German, and Thai and those are all right on the beach. There are few things more relaxing than sitting outside over a fine meal with the sea and the Tsing Ma bridge in the background. True, the Park and Shop supermarket here is not as diverse as Discovery Bay or Central, but having just moved from Qingdao China, its a culinary gold mine :)

Anyhow, we thank God for bringing us back to Hong Kong...and to Park Island!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hong Kong's Paris Hilton

The news in Hong Kong the last few days has been fun to watch. The niece of a prominent judge named Amina Mariam Bokhary was pulled over by the police for drunk driving and during the course of the encounter she slapped the cop.

Turns out this isn't the first, but the third time this incident has happened with Ms. Bokhary. Given the 3rd offense and the assault on a police officer one could imagine a little jail time for the Hong Kong socialite.

Not so...

The presiding judge suspended her sentence and gave her a HK $8000 (US$ 1000) fine. For those not familiar with Hong Kong, that was probably the equivalent of her drink tab for the evening.

Due to the public outcry the case was reviewed and, not surprisingly, upheld. Everyone seems to be asking if she were not the niece of a prominent judge, would she be spending some months behind bars?

Take a look at the video clip. Even though the commentary is in Chinese, Bokhary speaks in English, and well, the actions say it all. Pay extra attention to the way the cop reacts after being slapped.

Definitely NOT the guy I want backing me up in a street fight!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Balance of Power: The South China Sea

Balance of Power politics are back! Recently China had re-iterated its sovereignty over the entire South China Sea as being one of its "core interests". Such a declaration upped the International stakes as it essentially lumped the disputed area in with its other "non-negotiable" sovereignty areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

In response to China's assertion, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Association of South East Nations in Hanoi last month declared the South China Sea territorial disputes to be both a "diplomatic priority" and a U.S. "national interest".

Although most nations acquiesce to China's claims over places like Tibet (much to the chagrin of the people of Boulder Colorado) the claiming of an entire sea (and one in which half of the world's shipped cargo tonnage passed through last year) served only to create a collective gasp from other nations in the region. One appreciates the chutzpah of China's claim when you realize that, in their view, anyone bathing in the beaches of Borneo have just entered the territorial waters of the People's Republic.

China has been working behind the scenes to resolve disputes in the South China Sea with the various nations involved through bilateral channels and attempting to avoid internationalizing the situation. Consequently, nations such as Vietnam, Japan, and Malaysia have been pressuring the United States to engage itself in the issue to offset the alarm the region has felt over China's ever increasing military buildup.

Clinton's remarks in Hanoi infuriated China but some analysts suggest it was a payback for the lack of support China showed in the recent incident whereby a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan was sank by North Korea killing 42 people on board. A five nation investigation confirmed that the attack was perpetrated by North Korea but China refused to recognize the report choosing instead to support its long time ally.

Following Clinton's remark, the U.S. and South Korean navies engaged in a week long series of war games off the South Korean coast officially as a signal to North Korea but with the secondary message to China that the U.S. intends to remain fully engaged to its regional commitments.

China, seeing their bet called, raised the stakes by announcing the deployment of an anti-ship misslebase in Guangdong province with the capability of striking both ships and mining platforms across the entire South China Sea.

What is frightening is that now, more than ever, cool heads must prevail in the region. If there is a spark that could truly ignite a regional, if not a World, War it would be in this key geographic area.

Balance of Power politics seem to be back in vogue... whether we like it or not!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

(Rest spoilers in the review :)
Christopher Nolan's new psychological thriller, Inception, combines the best of earlier "dream" movies such as Dreamscape and Brainstorm, mixes it with the complexity of his own Memento, and bakes it with special effects even George Lucas would drool over to give us a Matrix for a new decade.

Leonardo Di Caprio plays Dominic Cobb, a man who specializes in infiltrating people's dreams and, in a creative form of industrial espionage, steals their most secure corporate secrets. In the story though Cobb is approached by Mr. Saito (Ken Wantanabe)for a more complex assignment; to plant a secret rather than steal one. (Called "Inception") Di Caprio's character then assembles a "Mission Impossible" style dream team (no pun intended) to pull off the job.

The film then goes all Matrix explaining how dreams can be manipulated, the "rules" of how things operate in "dreamland", and the nature of what is real...and what isn't.

Where as Inception lacks the spiritual allegory of The Matrix it attempts to make up for in the discussions of human nature, primal motivations, and just what makes us tick. Through it all I was impressed by the sheer ambition of the script. Layers of dreams each with their own worlds, threats, and complexities will be a treat for moviegoers who like a little mental gymnastics mixed with their cinema. If there was a weak point in the film it was in the car chase, mountain slope action sequences which only served to detract from the surreal plot I actually cared about.

The casting was superb even sporting a small role for Michael Caine. And although I have never been a big Di Caprio fan I must admit he is coming into his own as an actor. Maybe its in the fact that he's starting to show a couple small wrinkles around the eyes that help give him the gravitas I always thought he tried to portray but never had.

And Joseph Gorden-Levitt who plays one of Di Caprio's trusted sidekicks looks so much like Heath Ledger's younger brother I had to check IMDB to make sure they weren't related. (They're not)

The real winner in Inception though is writer / director Christopher Nolan who has cemented himself as not only a great filmmaker but as a master storyteller.

So go see Inception... in a summer of lukewarm films, it shines pretty brightly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Anne Rice and Christianity

The blog-o-sphere seems to be lit up lately with the news that author Anne Rice has left Christianity. The news though isn't all bad as she declares an unswerving faith in Jesus Christ...its just some of his followers that have her a little befuddled.

No worries Anne...we've all been there!

I for one was not surprised when the famed author of The Vampire Chronicles converted (back) to the Christian faith. I have been a minor fan for years and when I finished reading Memnoch: The Devil back in 1995 I left a note on Anne's website stating that as a Christian pastor, I may not always agree with some of her theological points, I nevertheless appreciated her story and the Christian angle she brought. In essence, I saw the heart of someone seeking God and was not the least bit surprised when she found Him. ( Anne kindly responded to my post thanking me for the appreciation I had for the story's theological aspects)

However this week on Facebook she announced: "For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

At first I was disappointed but then I thought, "Hey, that has been me at different points of my Christian walk."

When I first was out of high school I hardly entered a church for 3 years mainly because I was so disillusioned with the people who were there. Not once during that time would I think of denying Christ...but some of his followers? That was a different story.

But now I see things differently...

Perhaps some of the change comes from living outside of America where, it now seems, so much of Christianity is painfully fused with politics. Living in Asia I get to see Christians in a different light.

I see Christians feeding the poor and clothing the homeless.

I see Christians running an orphanage that takes in the special needs children that are often left abandoned on their doorstep.

I see Christians volunteering to help those living with AIDS.

I see Christians running youth programs and teaching English as a Second Language.

I see Christians opening safe homes and promoting education initiatives to stop the child sex trafficking running rampant in Asia and Africa

I see all of this and so much more being done by Christians in Christ's name and for that reason I can safely say, "Don't worry Anne...keep the's going to be OK."