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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Christian Movies: They're getting better!

If you were a Christian during the Jesus Movement of the 1970's you may have seen (some may say subjected to) films such as A Thief in the Night or The Mark of the Beast. The basic premise of these movies was to show us Christians banding together to stand against the Anti-Christ, predicted in the book of Revelations, as he rises to power.  Although some may hold a nostalgic sentimentality for these "youth group movie night" favorites, they are largely derided now as the pinnacle in "End Times" cheesiness.

(I remember coming out of the movie A Distant Thunder  as a 14 year old determined never to take "the mark of the Beast" even if it meant getting my head chopped off)

Even newer installments in Christian apocalyptic film making such as the Left Behind series showed that there was an untapped market for Christian films that did not star the Anti-Christ.

Anyhow, Tammy and I were flicking through the channels about 6 months ago and one of the Christian stations had taken a break from its marathon of talking heads to show a feature film called Hidden Secrets.  It was starring John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard & Smallville) as well as a number of other celebrities famous enough to know we had seen them before...we just couldn't remember their names.  The movie was surprisingly good centering on a number of friends coming back together after the suicide of their friend and youth pastor.  The group has to deal with a number of their own issues during the process...think a Christian's version of The Big Chill.

Afterwards I researched the production company that produced the movie which turned out to Pureflix, a Christian entertainment company and one of its founding partners David A.R. White.  The son of a Christian pastor, White decided not to follow in his father's footsteps and go into ministry but to up and move to Hollywood to become an actor.  (Which resonated with me as I did the opposite in 1989 when I gave up moving to Hollywood to be an actor for going into ministry)

White has gone on now to produce, direct, write, and star in a number of Christian themed movies .  On our trip to the States this last summer I bought a handful of these films on DVD including one we just watched this week called What If? starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) & Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Its the classic story of an angel (played by John Ratzenberger) who shows a selfish man the life he could have had with a few better choices. 

As parents with a teenager its a relief to watch a movie with a good story, acting, and humor that doesn't, without warning, take a sudden turn into the gutter.  So check out some of these movies...the more people that watch, the more a message is sent that there is a market for movies with a message.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Belief - o - Matic

On my brother's blog he posted the results of an online test at Beliefnet that matches your beliefs with a number of different religions.  I was curious and although the nuance of some of the questions left some areas  of confusion, I tried to answer the questions as honestly as possible.  Here are my results:

  1. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%)
  2. Orthodox Quaker (87%)
  3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (87%)
  4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (80%)
  5. Seventh Day Adventist (71%)
  6. Jehovah's Witness (71%)
  7. Eastern Orthodox (68%)
  8. Roman Catholic (68%)
  9. Baha'i Faith (67%)
  10. Islam (55%)
  11. Orthodox Judaism (55%)
  12. Liberal Quakers (55%)
  13. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (49%)
  14. Jainism (46%)
  15. Unitarian Universalism (43%)
  16. Reform Judaism (36%)
  17. Mahayana Buddhism (33%)
  18. Theravada Buddhism (33%)
  19. Sikhism (31%)
  20. Hinduism (31%)
  21. Neo-Pagan (30%)
  22. New Age (28%)
  23. Secular Humanism (28%)
  24. Taoism (27%)
  25. New Thought (26%)
  26. Nontheist (24%)
  27. Scientology (23%
Not surprisingly 100% of my beliefs match those of mainline conservative protestant.  Whats fun though is to see what percentage of beliefs come after it.  I was surprised that my next closest was Orthodox Quaker??   # 3 was Mormon??  Mmmmmmmmm
Check out the test here and then let me know your results.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hong Kong divided on Permanent Residency for Domestic Helpers

If you live in Hong Kong you know the hot political topic de jour is the debate on whether Permanent Residency and Right of Abode should be extended to imported domestic helpers.  Although the Hong Kong Constitution (The Basic Law) dictates in Article 24 that Permanent Residence can be obtained
"by Persons not of Chinese nationality who have entered Hong Kong with valid travel documents, have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years and have taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region"
policy rules have denied foreign domestic helpers ( primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines) who come on said contract from obtaining Permanent Residency status after the obligatory 7 years.

However, then comes along little Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino who has been serving as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for the last 25 years, (or for history geeks, since Sir Edward Youde was Governor)  and says she'd like to apply for Permanent Residency.


Now advocacy groups are lining up on both side of the argument.  Supporters say that if these women toil away for years of cleaning our houses, walking our dogs, and raising our children why shouldn't they be rewarded with the right to stay like any other people group.

Detractors such as Joseph Law who heads up an association for the employers of domestic helpers says, "Almost all our members are against granting abode rights to foreign domestic helpers Our government does not have enough medical, educational, housing and social welfare resources for domestic helper immigrants and Hong Kong people."

Such arguments are worth considering since estimates suggest that about 100,000 domestic helpers would be eligible to apply for Permanent Residency and if they all brought family members with them the total could be as much as 400,000.  Whether such a large amount could actually emigrate to the city is highly doubtful however given the high cost of living in Hong Kong. 

But one may also wonder whether racism plays any part in people's thoughts on the subject.  I think its important to remember that in many countries and at various times the Chinese have occupied a similar "outsider" position seeking to gain recognition and acceptance for hard work in a new land.

Consider that between 1950 and 1970 more than 2,000,000 Mainland Chinese refugees came to Hong Kong under the British government's very liberal "Touch Base" policy.  Essentially any Mainland Chinese that could make it to Immigration Tower and register became a resident of Hong Kong.  The Hong Kong Government was hardly prepared at that time to absorb such a large amount of people...and yet they did and Hong Kong is the better for it.

At one time in America we had the Chinese Exclusion Act which ended the ability of Chinese to immigrate to United States.  Americans were quite happy to have Chinese build rairoads, work the mines, and do other jobs they didn't want to do...but allow them to become Americans?  Never! 
Now that horrible episode in American history is cosigned to the waste bin of history and even this week the very first Chinese American, Gary Locke, assumes the role of U.S. ambassador to China.  A fitting nail in the coffin of that hateful policy.

In 1996 Australian Member of Parliment, Pauline Hanson began complaining about the large amount of Chinese immigration to Australia and claimed her country was being "swamped by Asians".  The Hong Kong community (and the International community) was rightfully indignant and the government was even considering deterring Hong Kong University students from applying to universities there if that was their attitude. I remember Hong Kong Chinese friends that were furious at the political accusations directed at them by the "land down under".  Cooler heads prevailed ultimately but do certain members of the Hong Kong community really want to parrot Pauline Hanson and use scaremongering tactics suggesting that Hong Kong would be overrun with Filipinos and Indonesians?

I think Hong Kong has a right to determine for itself who becomes a Hong Konger...and who doesn't. But its a debate that should be decided by Hong Kong people and ruled by through their courts.  For that reason I would disagree with people like Rita Fan Hsu Lai-Tai and Elsie Leung Oi-sie who have suggested bypassing the Hong Kong Courts and going straight to Beijing for a ruling.  (People like them don't like to use the courts unless they know what the ruling will be in advance).  To do so would seriously undermine Hong Kong autonomy.

Part of living under the Rule of Law is sometimes its messy.  Under the Law people become equal...and thats a very scary proposition for many.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Video Games, Porn, and The Demise of Guys

Just finished watching a fascinating TED talk by Philip Zimbardo about the struggles men face entitled The Demise of Guys.  Turns out that all of those hours in front of a computer video screen are really bad for people in general and boys specifically. 

Consider first these statistics from the talk:

  • Boys are 30% more likely to drop out of school
  • Girls outperform boys at every level from elementary school through graduate programs (There is a 10% differential in the area of BA & Graduate degrees awarded)
  • Two thirds of students in Special Ed. remedial programs are boys
  • Boys are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls

Zimbardo goes on to give his suggestion that these increasingly alarming figures are the result of over stimulation and addiction to the internet resulting in what he refers to as Social Intensity Syndrome. He says it is
" a social awkwardness like you're a stranger in a foreign land.  They don't know what to say, they don't know what to do, especially one-on-one with the opposite sex.  They don't know the language of face contact, the verbal and non-verbal set of rules that enable you to comfortably be able to talk to someone else, listen to someone else."
The difficulty with the internet and long term usage which boys are more prone to than women is that it creates arousal addiction.  Unlike drug addiction where you just want more, Zimbardo explains that arousal addiction means you always need something different.

Consider these further statistics:

  • The average boy by the time he is 21 will have played more than 10,000 hours of video games (most of that in isolation)
  • The average boy watches 50 porn clips a week on the internet. The American porn industry is the fastest growing industry in America
  • For every 400 Hollywood movies made there are 11,000 pornographic movies produced
When one considers that porn is available at a finger touch from any computer, iPad, or cell phone you realize why more and more men are forgoing the complexities of building real relationships of love with women for the quick thrill of a imitation erotic moment.  Cindy Gallop says,
"Men no longer know the difference between making love and doing porn." 
 At the end of the talk Zimbardo laughs off the fact that he doesn't have a solution, he's just brings the problem to light...
... but I do have a solution.

  The Grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ.  Romans 3: 21 says: "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.... and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Once Christian men grasp that they are really Sons of God and have taken on his righteousness the desire to view 50 porn clips a week on the internet will fade away!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dylan Ratigan's Rant and President Obama's failed leadership

There is a Shakespearean sentiment that is brewing within America.  Republicans and Democrats alike have been completely ineffective in dealing with the economic crisis that is beginning to jeopardize, at least the perception, of America's place in the world and for that reason the American people seem to be unified in declaring " A Curse on both your Houses" towards their elected representatives.

That sentiment was expressed admirably (and quite passionately) by MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan where he exploded in a video clip that has gone viral on the internet:

Those of you that follow Beyond the Pale know that I have tried to be a Republican that refrains from bashing President Obama simply because he exists. In fact I often take a bit of heat from my GOP cohorts for not seeing past his nice guy, family loving, reasonable mannerisms smokescreen to the Kenyan born, socialist / fascist anti-Christ he obviously least to them.

But I gotta say it... America needs a leader right now and President Obama just ain't doin what needs to be done.

When President Reagan talked about America being the greatest country on Earth and that our best days were ahead of us he meant it. It oozed out of the very fiber of his DNA and we all caught what he had. Like the classic line from When Harry Met Sally we looked at the Gipper on TV and said, "we'll have what he's having."

When President Obama talks about American greatness however it seems like its something he knows you want him to say and although he'd like to help, see... his hands are tied.

I wrote in 2008 that one of my fears of Obama was that we were electing another Jimmy Carter. Carter was a nice guy but an ineffective President who created a depressed state of affairs for America. Likewise, Obama has that nice guy thing which really helped get him elected (as did Carter) but is increasingly demonstrating the lack of ability to lead the American people with any sense of conviction or urgency.

Mike Barnacle on the MSNBC show Morning Joe says it best in this short clip where he seems perplexed and frustrated by Obama's apparent inability to say and do what needs to be done:

For all of our sakes, lets hope the President and the Congress get their acts together soon...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

USA Trip 2011: New Orleans Lousiana & Boulder Colorado

Just got back from a couple weeks in the United States.  When Tammy and I used to visit the States in the 1990's, we split the time between Detroit (my home town) and Louisiana (Tammy's home state).  Now though our years in Boulder Colorado has thrown another destination into the mix and with the time I had to be away from work limited, something (Detroit) had to get cut. 

Had a great time catching up with family and friends.  Some of the highlights included:

The National World War 2 Museum:  My dad and mom came down from Detroit to spend a week with us in New Orleans with Tammy's family.  My dad turned 70 during the visit so Gabriel came up with the idea of us "boys" taking "grandpa" to something we would all really like: The National World War 2 Museum which you think would be located in Washington DC but is actually to be found in New Orleans Louisiana.  It was the PERFECT birthday present for my dad; to walk with his son and grandson through an
amazing display and multimedia presentation of both the European and Pacific theaters of war.  On top of that there is an amazing 4D movie, Beyond all Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks that should be mandatory viewing for all Americans.  What is it about Tom Hanks and WW2 that makes me fight the impulse to stand up and salute?

White Water Rafting in Colorado:  My friend Tre had the good idea for his boys and Gabriel and I to go on a daylong white water rafting trip during our time in Boulder Colorado.  Actually, we drove about 2 hours west into the Rocky Mountains to the town of Buena Vista and from there hooked up with the Buffalo Joes rafting company for a trip down the Arkansas River through Brown Canyon.  We spent the day shooting rapids, diving off rock outcroppings, and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery God felt fit to place on Earth.  For lunch our guides cooked us the most delicious steak, along with corn on the cob and salad right alongside the river.  Incredible!

A Colorado Rockies Game at Coors Field:  Just before I returned to Hong Kong I had, what is for me, the cherry on top of the dessert; a baseball game at Coors Field.  When we lived in Boulder, we spent many a summer night at Coors Field watching the Colorado Rockies.  I love baseball and would joke that in going to Coors Field I was visiting "my other church."  When Gabriel was a young child he would play on the children's jungle gym while I kept an eye on him, and the game, from the left field foul line.  My game last week was wonderful and the highlight was as I was holding little Ethan George in my arms wearing his little # 2 Tulowinski Colorado Rockies t-shirt, the cameraman caught his cuteness and broadcast us on the giant Jumbotron for 40,000 fans to see.  It was quite a night.

Some other highlights:

  • Teaching Gabriel, along with his grandpa and Uncle Trent, how to shoot a gun for the first time
  • Hanging out with my brother and his family who trekked 10 hours from Salt Lake City to spend a day with us.
  • Eating Chipotle Mexican Grill burritos
  • Cajun Fish Fry with Tammy's family in Louisiana
  • Going with Tammy up to Flagstaff Mountain overlooking Boulder with breakfast burritos and coffee like we did when we lived there
  • Spending quality time with our church friends in Boulder while drinking Friar Smith's Agent Orange I.P.A.
  • Spending 3 hours on the tarmac as United maintenance crews tried to fix our plane before my flight to Hong Kong.  They were unable to and I spent the night, courtesy of United Airlines, in San Francisco
 Well, now I'm back in Hong Kong while Tammy and the boys still have ANOTHER WEEK in Colorado.  Yes, one of us has to get back to work...can you guess which one?