Special Sunday Edition: I’m a Christian Deist (Now that Kavanaugh has been appointed to be a Supreme Court Justice)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.

~ 1 John 4:13 (RSVCE)

Hello everyone,

It’s painful for me to even consider writing this piece—as I know it may be deemed heretical in the eyes of many of my most devout Protestant and Catholic friends and family alike—but over this past summer, I have been experiencing severe psychological, emotional and spiritual burnout. Although I will add that I have been mentally planning to write such an op-ed as this one for at least a year’s time now.

But just a few months prior, many were expecting me to take a magical leap of faith as I had finally decided to go to my very first Confession in a Roman Catholic setting—despite being raised a Pentecostal Protestant. Of course, if Confession wasn’t intimidating enough, then taking the Eucharist should be even more so. Because if there is one thing Catholics are doctrinally right about, it’s that they earnestly and honestly look at the Host (bread) and wine as more than mere symbols of Christ’s body and blood.

THEY ARE HIS BODY AND BLOOD.

Continue reading

Coming Out of the Closet as a REAFFIRMED Progressive Christian Ally (Part 2)

When my first boyfriend broke up with me, I felt alone. I felt that I was unworthy of him, I was unworthy of my family and my church, and most depressingly, I felt unworthy of God. Because I felt as if I was an abomination to God, I attempted suicide multiple times.

One night after contemplating suicide heavily, I shouted out to God, “Why did you put this in me if you’re just going to hate me for it?”  The reply brought tears to my eyes – “I love you.”

~ Aaron Crowley, an excerpt from There is NOH8 in Jesus (November 21, 2012)

The first time I ever heard the words “gay” and “homo” in public was during my freshmen and sophomore years of high school. May 2008 was the first time I had heard of the term “gay marriage”, when a close upper classman of mine—now a soon-to-be first-year grad school student in the fall at UC Berkeley—addressed in an exclusive e-mail on behalf of Youth Alive, my high school’s Christian organization, on how he feels about the gay debate:

Are Christians against gays?

You’ve probably heard this question or you might’ve asked yourselves that also as you watch different protests on TV. We need to clarify the term “gays.” The concept of homosexuality vs. homosexuals. The Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27); it wasn’t God’s original intent from creation. That’s the basic definition of any sin, not part of God’s original plan.

Is God against homosexuality? Yes.

But is God against homosexuals? No.

~ Eric C., an excerpt from Memory Verse: Week 5/19/08—Homosexuality Part 1 (2008)

At the time, I strongly agreed with everything Eric wrote about in his e-mails on homosexuality and homosexual behavior being a dreadful sin, and something that Almighty God would send a person to a fiery Hell for.


JUNE 27th UPDATE: Quick note on my statements above over Eric’s views. After a brief misunderstanding, he wrote me not too long after I originally posted this column online, stating that he is NOT anti-homosexual orientation, and never will be. The views I have expressed are solely my initial thoughts upon first reading his e-mail on the subject over five years ago. I further apologize on both of our behalves if any misrepresentations and misconceptions seem to currently be directed towards the gay and lesbian crowd.

As a person continuously seeking to reform and re-evaluate his previous views on homosexuals and queer culture, I am now here to indiscriminately and unconditionally love homosexuals just as the people all of you are—regardless of whatever church minister or congregation inexplicably has been told and has held against you, and regardless of how they have distorted and misconstrued Christ’s authentic command to “love your enemies and pray for those who have persecuted you.”

A dancer hugs a man in the crowd during the gay-pride themed Capital Pride Parade in Washington

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~ Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)


Now in retrospect, however, I realize how much of a blind fool I was when I was playing the hypocritical Christian card the entire time. On the outside, I was publicly active in taking a hostile anti-homosexual stance, calling out friends and classmates who wanted to vote No on Proposition 8, since I was—and still am—raised to literally believe in the sanctity of one man and one woman in holy, harmonious matrimony. Until I realized these so-called “conservative” Christian leaders were not leading very sacred and harmonious lives at all.

That idealism began to crack and shatter during my junior and senior years onwards.

After vowing to leave that high school club, and all my attachments and associations with it behind, I again was left feeling excluded and ostracized from both family and peers whom I thought were douches for not accepting me as a flawed person—with all these thoughts running through his head, let alone mention his poor work ethic.[1]

Back into my closet of emotional insecurity I went. A closet I psychologically built myself in, so that I didn’t have to face the experience of going through continuous rejection time and time again.

And then something happened…

Fast forward to May and June 2011, towards the end of my senior year. After initially attending one last Youth Alive meeting on a Monday around lunchtime, I eventually left again, shaking my head angrily and thinking, “No. I’ve had enough of this bullcrap.”

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Andrew Kang and I, August 2011

What I didn’t care to realize the moment I quietly stormed out was that a friend had caught me leaving, and within mere moments, he came to console me. “What’s the matter Josh? What’s going on?” I initially was too angry to say how I really felt on the inside, but I gradually released some steam. “I’ve had enough Andrew. I’ve had enough of this Youth Alive shindig! I want out! I’m done!” I wanted to further scream, “I’m through with God” as well, but did not plan to take the matter too far.

Fortunately, Andrew’s been more than sympathetic to hearing about my conflicting spiritual frustrations. He’s been UNDERSTANDING, and to this day, I cannot imagine not having a more sincere and caring friend than him, as a straight bro. 🙂


As for leaving behind this “conservative” brand of Christianity I grew up submissively obeying and adhering to through the end of my high school years, I now honestly view the nuances of meanings behind the Passion story and the significance of the Cross in a new Progressive kind of light. One where all are loved unconditionally by God, and where He only sees the broken sinner in need of healing and reconciliation, not the weight of unbearable sin crushing the sinner.

Progressive Christianity is an approach to the Christian faith that is influenced by post-liberalism and postmodernism and:

  • Proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Savior, and Lord;
  • Emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person;
  • Emphasizes God’s immanence not merely God’s transcendence;
  • Leans toward pantheism rather than supernatural theism;
  • Emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later;
  • Emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell;
  • Emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal;
  • Stresses social justice as integral to Christian discipleship;
  • Takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding;
  • Emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs);
  • Embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery — instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas;
  • Does not consider homosexuality to be sinful;
  • Does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).[2]

Upon a detailed and painstaking scholarly personal investigation of my own now in college, I largely agree with most of these points—except for perhaps the supernatural theism one.

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Moreover, to clarify my now redefining stance on the multi-layered “homosexuality is a sin” argument, I will only say this: He [God] may judge your sins, but He does not judge your sexual orientation, and we need to keep these two separate from now on, socially and theologically. Period.

And for all the conservatively-minded homophobes out there, while I can understand your reasons for hating gays—as I was once as well—in all serious honesty, you’re missing out on some great eye-opening opportunities to witness to and to get to know several of them as the awesome people they are BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE.  And yes, even their faults and sins.

Recently, I sat in my adult Sunday School class while my pastor spoke about grace within the United Methodist tradition. She described how, in the midst of the grace that is always present for all of us, we often find ourselves in profound moments of justifying grace—moments of affirmation when we recognize that we, too, are loved. We, too, are welcomed.  We, too, are forgiven.

For me, my coming out as an LGBT ally has been inextricably intertwined with my experience of justifying grace.  

The irony of my situation is not lost on me. While my coming out as an ally has been so very humbling and faith-affirming, I know that for many, the experience of coming out is anything but. Most of all, I know this has to change.

This is why I feel so passionately about continuing to push myself to speak up. Even when it is uncomfortable. Even when I have doubts. Even when I’m sharing not necessarily with like-minded members of the faith, but with that same Facebook community which initially brought me to tears.

Above all else, I believe that this message and this experience of grace is for all.

And I want to help proclaim this Christian message.

Even me? Yes. And even you as well.

~ Holli Long, an excerpt from Experiencing Grace: My Journey To Becoming An Ally  (June 17, 2013)

As an additional side note worthy of mentioning, I now also believe 17-year-old Graeme Taylor from Ann Arbor, Michigan is TRULY AN INSPIRATION, not only for standing up for a teacher who was suspended, but perhaps even more so for coming out of the closet (quite literally) and being honest, open and accepting of himself that he’s gay.

Breaking Down the Gay-Straight Duality: Taking a Moderate Stance on Gay Rights

Jesus calls us to have empathy, compassion and an open heart for all human beings. Not just people who follow Him. Not just Christians. Not just believers. Not just straight people. BUT EVERYONE. And this includes gay people. They are your neighbors, too. So if we are to follow what Jesus is asking of us, we MUST demand that gay people have the right to marry. Why? Because to NOT do so would not be loving them as we love ourselves. And that would make us hypocrites pretending to love Jesus.

~ Mastin Kapp, an excerpt from Why Jesus Loves LGBT People and Gay Marriage Doesn’t Exist (July 31, 2012)

IT ALL STARTED WITH A SIMPLE HI AND A HANDSHAKE.

“Hi I’m Josh.”

“Hey I’m Trevor. Nice to meet you.”

Somehow, in a matter of less than two minutes, I mustered up the courage to ask the dire question, “Hey, are you gay?”

A whirlpool of mixed emotions and sweat swirled inside my head and all over my body as I tried to find those four simple words. Intellectually, it’s one of the world’s most easiest questions to ask someone, but in a culture where gays are still being stigmatized and dehumanized as second-class citizens, Trevor was the first gay man I had ever met in person—and by sheer coincidence too.

The day was Monday, September 24, 2012, the time about 12:50 in the afternoon. While touring various booths at my community college’s Transfer Fair event last Fall and after talking to other admissions counselors about their programs, I approached one of the last booths I did not visit yet for the day.

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Alex Randolph and Trevor Nguyen © Rink Foto

Sporting a short, spiky haircut, big eyes, and awesome shiny teeth, and donning a UC Berkeley alumni T-shirt, Trevor reaches out a hand as I proceed to shake it and at first shakily state my name. Noticing the ring on his finger and his slightly falsetto voice, curiosity crept into my mind. Should I come out and ask if he’s gay? What if he’s offended? And what about all those people watching me, how will they react to my question? What if I send the wrong message here and other people start assuming I’m gay?

Unabashedly, Trevor just smiles with an enormous grin on his face and says, “Yeah I am! Are you LGBT too?” The question I expected popping out of the back of my head but dared not want to answer… “No, no, no I’m not,” I exclaim with the sweat already emerging from pores on the back of my neck and body. “I was just curious if you were, that was all.”

Initially, I was hoping to get a photo with Trevor but we ran out of time and he told me he had to go, but in the few short minutes that we did get the chance to chat, he warmly told me he went to this same community college as well and later transferred up to Berkeley, where, in the summer of 2005, met his boyfriend Alex Randolph.

I specialize in business development for local businesses and start-ups, with experiences in business law and real estate. I provide both strategic legal and financial analyses to corporate transactions, business projects, and working groups.

My proudest achievement thus far is to have worked with three successful start-ups in numerous capacities as counsel, manager, or consultant. In all projects, I paint a big picture with fine strokes of small details.

In my spare time, I greatly enjoy networking and being proactive in community organizations providing social services and promoting diversity. I have served and held leadership positions on various community non-profit groups, and continue looking for ways to contribute to my communities. I seek to open doors — and then hold them open for others as well.

Along with my partner Alex Randolph, we now call San Francisco home and seek to help build San Francisco as a beautiful and inclusive place for all.

~ An excerpt from Trevor Nguyen’s Summary on his LinkedIn profile

Since meeting Trevor back in September, I have been personally re-evaluating my views and stances on gay rights in the early 21st century and the LGBT community in general.

In the months that followed, as headlines featured personal scarring stories about gay teens facing constant bullying and death threats appeared, I initially had no comments on what to say or how to act regarding these accounts. Nevertheless, as I later found stories on the pro-gay side of this spectrum, let me be honest: my first reaction was of praise rather than of immediate disgust.

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On Tuesday, demonstrators gathered in 75 French cities to oppose the bill which would allow gay marriage and adoption. The picture was shot during the rally in the city of Marseille and as the two women are seen kissing in the forefront, faces of shocked protesters can be seen in the background.

Interviewed by French gay magazine Têtu the two young women explained they are both straight, but wanted to draw attention to the issue with a pure and simple gesture of solidarity.

The comments on the Facebook page of HuffPost France offer some insight into why the picture went viral.

“To respond to all those homophobes with a gesture of love. Nothing is more beautiful!” a reader wrote.

“Love is stronger than hate,” stated another user.

Romain Pigenel, responsible for the Internet division of the presidential palace, also analysed the success of the photos on his blog:

“This snapshot brings out a simple and efficient mechanism: the one of the opposition between reason and emotion, between the power of the image and the complexity of the slogan. The protesters are holding signs and screaming claims that cannot exist, to make sense, in the instantaneity of the photograph.”

Gérard Julien, the photographer, explains on the AFP blog, “This picture, it’s like the story of the biter bit, a reversal of symbolism without their knowing it. Everyone has been surprised by this shot. The protesters were in shock!”

~ An excerpt from Two Women Kiss In Front Of Anti-Gay Protests In Marseille, France (October 25, 2012)

And with each passing day, the number of stories seem to exponentially multiply.

Proclaiming the Gay Good News on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2013)

Gay Man Confronts Homophobic Subway Preacher, Train Crowd Applauds (VIDEO) (February 21, 2013)

Former GOP state senator: No “evil force” is trying to destroy marriage (March 11, 2013)

Rob Portman Reverses Gay Marriage Stance After Son Comes Out (March 15, 2013)

Dad’s Note To Gay Son About Coming Out Might Make You Cry (PHOTO) (March 17, 2013)

Westboro Equality House: Aaron Jackson Paints Rainbow Home Across From Anti-Gay Church (March 19, 2013)

Amazingly, within a time frame of less than a month, I’ve read these six articles I will prominently feature here and provide links for each of them—and apparently, I have a big guilty pleasure I have to confess to all my readers and subscribers out there: I love articles by The Huffington Post and anything MSNBC related!

But in all seriousness, a while back, as I was surfing around Google, I read one story that I can now say marked a first tender emotional and spiritual milestone in my consideration to love and support gay people and the gay and lesbian community.

Some friends and I, with The Marin Foundation, spent the day at Chicago’s (Gay) Pride Parade. We wore shirts that said “I’m Sorry,” and carried signs that said, “I’m sorry that Christians judge you,” and “I’m sorry the way churches have treated you.” Amidst religious protesters screaming hateful rhetoric into megaphones at participants, we wanted to share a different message.

I loved watching people’s faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day. I wish I had counted how many people hugged me. One guy in particular softly said, “Well, I forgive you.”

Watching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified. My favorite though was a gentleman dancing on a float. He was dressed only in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them. Then it clicked. Then he got it. He stopped dancing, became very serious, and jumped off of the float to run towards us. He and his beautiful sweat drenched abs hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”

IMG_0996_JPG_scaled980Before I had even let go, another guy ran up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a bear hug that nearly knocked the wind out of me. This is why I do what I do. This is why I will continue to do what I do.

I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride. Sadly, a lot of religious groups want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most people won’t even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.

However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. There are churches that say they accept all. There are businesses that say they accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance. Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness and unity….

I hugged a man in his underwear. I hugged him tightly. And I am proud.

~ An excerpt from I Hugged a Man in His Underwear – And I am Proud, originally written by Nathan Albert; Reblogged by Jonathan Williams (December 30, 2010)

That was only the first strike, but several months ago, it left a deep impression on me, and how I would gradually come to embrace a form of love and acceptance that my fellow gay and lesbian friends would want to expect from a non-gay person—and stop the bigoted faggotry. There would be multiple times where I would actually lie awake in bed at night, or have some quiet time to myself during the day, and sit there and actually ponder, “If I was gay, wouldn’t I want to be loved and accepted as a person by my closest friends and family, and a forgiven sinner by the grace of God?” with an almost immediate resounding “Yes!” in my head every single time that particular question would come to mind.

As I once wrote in Scared and Wounded…and Yet, Somehow Still Hoping back in December 2011, I grew up in a strictly anti-gay background and was raised to believe to oppose all homosexual intercourse—and therefore, homosexuality as an orientation in itself—because they’re “unnatural.” But, looking past the sex for a brief moment, I still realize gay people are not just GAY PEOPLE but PEOPLE too. If Christians and believers of other faiths were to blindly follow right-wing propaganda and only bash on gay people just because of their sex lives, from a liberal perspective, that does seem to be demeaning and superficial. From a conservative perspective, however, they only tend to do most of the gay bashing as a result of living in a constant state of fear that the sanctity of heterosexual relationships, and heterosexual love, in effect, will be permanently altered and damaged by the legalizing of this ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE.


I understand if viewing this Newsroom clip will anger many people, as it had angered me as well. Nevertheless, I still withheld that initial wave of anger as Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) accused Sutton Wall (Damon Gupton) of being a black and gay man, whom Mr. Rick Santorum would proudly find “disgusting” and immediately disapprove of. Sutton’s ending speech won me over this time, however, not McAvoy’s blatant accusations. At one point, McAvoy even acknowledges he pushed the argument too far but could not help it.

Still, I believe Will got the lecture he deserved to hear because his accusations seemed to certainly reach a tipping point where he sounds like he is literally demonizing Santorum and the entire Republican Party because they don’t fit Will’s political preferences or ideologies.

Then again, I am not here to demonize all right-wing belief as I still hold my views on abortion and on gay marriage/civil unions very personally.


Back to the topic at hand, I hope this documentary video will provide the perfect sense of closure for all my readers, no matter if you support gay rights and equality, leaning, neutral or not in favor.

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter everyone! Jesus loves you ALL and God bless! 😀

Celebrating Taiwan’s (and the Republic’s) Ups and Downs: 66 Years On and Counting

We live in the present, we dream of the future and we learn eternal truths from the past.

~ Madame Chiang Kai-Shek AKA Soong May-Ling/宋美齡 (1898 – 2003)

In 1895, after China suffers a major defeat in the first Sino-Japanese War, as part of the agreement, Imperial Japan annexes the island of Formosa (Taiwan) into its growing empire—inevitably to become one of its most valuable colonies. Half a century later, as the tide of war turns and the Japanese surrender to Allied forces, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek states in an August 15, 1945 address to a now post-WWII China:

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I am deeply moved when I think of the teachings of Jesus Christ that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us and love our enemies. My fellow countrymen know that “Remember not evil against others” and “Do good to all men” have been the highest virtues taught by our own sages. We have always said that the violent militarism of Japan is our enemy, not the people of Japan. Although the armed forces of the enemy have been defeated and must be made to observe strictly all the terms of surrender, yet we should not for a moment think of revenge or heap abuses upon the innocent people of Japan. We can only pity them because they have been so sadly deceived and misled, and hope that they will break away from the wrong-doing and crimes of their nation. Let all our fellow citizens, soldiers and civilians remember this.[1]

Within approximately six decades, Japan went from the image of a mighty Asian imperialist aggressor to a humbled yet honorable people, as the late President speaks with pride and assurance for his beloved country. And as I have thought and written in January’s column, “I don’t hate the country or the people—except those individuals involved in the actual brutality. I only hate what the Japanese have done in the past, but I am also equally hoping they will also be willing to come forward and apologize as much as we would want to.”

Continuing with this ongoing idea of re-examining history’s woes in search of truth, February 28th unfortunately marks a dark and dreadful day for the Taiwanese people. On this very day sixty-six years ago, a disagreement between rogue parties—in the midst of a major transition of political power from the Japanese to the Kuomintang—gradually erupts into full-scale revolution across the island, culminating in the KMT’s infamous White Terror period of martial law, interrogation and imprisonment of thousands.

While I am aware many people today may form differing opinions on who or what is to blame for the actual 228 Incident, I do not intend to go into much detail on the events leading up to the uprisings. Preserved historical records can dictate exactly what happened but will do no justice as to blaming one party completely without giving all participants an equal voice in the matter.

Shooting workers near the Winter Palace January 9, 1905 (Расстрел на Дворцовой площади 9 января 1905 года ) by Ivan Vladimirov

Shooting workers near the Winter Palace January 9, 1905 (Расстрел на Дворцовой площади 9 января 1905 года ) by Ivan Vladimirov

I will draw a slight parallel, however, between this Incident and that of the 1905 Bloody Sunday incident in former Tsarist Russia where thousands of peaceful demonstrators and spectators met heavy gunfire and the sabers of the Imperial Guard outside the gates of the Winter Palace.

An old man named Lavrentiev, who was carrying the Tsar’s portrait, had been one of the first victims. Another old man caught the portrait as it fell from his hands and carried it till he too was killed by the next volley. With his last gasp the old man said “I may die, but I will see the Tsar”.

Both the blacksmiths who had guarded me were killed, as well as all these who were carrying the ikons and banners; and all these emblems now lay scattered on the snow. The soldiers were actually shooting into the courtyards at the adjoining houses, where the crowd tried to find refuge and, as I learned afterwards, bullets even struck persons inside, through the windows.

At last the firing ceased. I stood up with a few others who remained uninjured and looked down at the bodies that lay prostrate around me. Horror crept into my heart. The thought flashed through my mind, “And this is the work of our Little Father, the Tsar”. Perhaps the anger saved me, for now I knew in very truth that a new chapter was opened in the book of history of our people.

~ Father George Gapon, an excerpt from The Story of My Life (1905)[2]

As the demonstrators in Russia pleaded for greater social and economic reforms from their beloved Tsar Nicholas II, so too did the initial crowd of people in Taipei on that one day as well.

Despite all of the tragedies that may have occurred, the survivors are here today to stand and honor the deceased while simultaneously moving forward to build a better future for all Chinese, Taiwanese, and even Okinawans.

Many Okinawans whose ancestors had once lived on Heping Island also attended the ceremony — among them was Shiosei Yashumoto, whose great-uncle, Chouzou Uchima, lived on Heping Island from 1905 to 1945, and was the model for the fisherman statue.

“My great uncle lived in Taiwan from 1905 to 1945. He was a good friend of Taiwanese, he taught them some fishing techniques unique to Okinawa and gave his Taiwanese friends fish during wartime when the [Japanese colonial] government prohibited selling fish to the Taiwanese,” Yashumoto said through a translator. “He was even arrested for that, but he was released by arguing that he didn’t ‘sell’ the fish, rather, people took it from him for free.”

~ An excerpt from Statue honors Okinawans who died in 228 Incident, published December 2011 in the Taipei Times (台北時報)[3]

And quite contrary to popular belief, there are even positive stories that can come out of such a horrible tragedy as this one:

Ding Ming-Nan (丁名楠)

Ding Ming-Nan (丁名楠)

The district head, Ding Ming-Nan, was the nephew of the then Administrator of Taiwan, Chen Yi. He had always taken good care of the people in his district; spent his own money to buy text books and story books for the local kids. The residents in the district revered him. When the 228 Incident broke out, the young people took to protect him. They promised him safety if he did not leave his residence. When the 21st Division arrived, he was very worried because he heard the soldiers started shooting people as soon as they landed. He asked the young troop members to give up their weapons and promised their safety. But they were in a high state of agitation and thought he was threatening them because of the imminent arrival of government troops. They raised their guns, switched off the safety, and were going to shoot him on the spot.

Ding Ming-Nan’s tears rolled down unbidden. He pointed at his own chest and said, “If you want to shoot, please go ahead. I mean well. You do not know the brutality of war. It is a horrific experience to kill people. I am just trying to spare you!”

These people who had undergone Japanese military training were moved by his words. Calling him an enemy worthy of respect, they let him go.

Later, Ding Ming-Nan kept his promise. When the army arrived, he assured them that there had been no conflict in the Tsenwen district, and they should move on. The locals suffered no casualty and were grateful to him.

~ An excerpt from Chen Yi (陳儀)’s Nephew Ding Ming-Nan (丁名楠) Saved the Tsenwen (曾文) District.[4]

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“President Ma Ying-jeou bows to the family members of a 228 Incident victim, yesterday, after apologizing to the public over the violent event on behalf of the government. Ma then returned the government-documented private letters written by the victims to their families, and presented certificates to restore the name of the victims. (CNA)” Source: The China Post

Since 1995, 228 has been widely discussed with the Taiwanese public, and, beginning with Lee Teng-hui, public commemorations and apologies to surviving members and descendants of people who have experienced the events of the White Terror era firsthand are initiated on an annual basis.

I acknowledge that Taiwan and its people have been through much strife in the past, and I too would like to humbly step forward and apologize—on behalf of the country of my forefathers and mothers, on behalf of the President’s namesake, and on behalf of the Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party.

May we all learn to forgive the wrongdoings of the past, and forgive the people involved in such incidents.


On an unrelated but very optimistic note, I heartily congratulate and commend filmmaker Ang Lee for his Oscar nomination for Best Director for the film Life of Pi!

I believe his acceptance speech shown below speaks volumes of not only the love he has for Taiwan, but the love that I have for the island too. 🙂

Ilha Formosa…In Memoriam of 228. We will never forget.


My Reforming Christianity

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

~ Proverbs 3:5 – 6 (NIV)

‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’

~ Jeremiah 29:11 – 13 (NIV)

BACK IN NOVEMBER 2011, I wrote a long column titled Showing Gratitude and Rededication (and Returning to the Church) in which I have first presented only an inkling of the pros and cons of church religious experiences I have personally encountered growing up, and that of what my family has encountered.

But in that particular column, I did not have the bare guts to fully express what 20 years of “growing up Christian” really looked like through my pair of eyes. For a long time—and I must admit, it’s been far too long—I too was caught up in trying to fit in, trying to assimilate into what I have always pictured to be the ideal church community.

And what was that picture you may ask?

In all honest retrospect, it would probably look like something out of a Sunday School lesson: Jesus is the great man-Savior who came to planet Earth to act as the substitute for humanity’s utter faults (our sins), and that if we accept his atonement, we will be granted eternal life through this one demi-god figure. In addition, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to act as the divine counselor and protector in the modern world today.

Now, to clarify what I have meant when I previously wrote:

I recognized, late on Saturday night, that I was still as stubborn and selfish in my ways as before—that I still deeply despised the Church and the creeds for which it has stood for, and more importantly, that I still let the deeply scarring wounds of my family’s past experiences with the Church continue to haunt me, in the form of open wounds, wounds that I have to continued to let open time and time again, so that even I will never forget the pain…

StoningOfStephenI did not intend to solely make such a statement because I was merely angry about the fundamental creed, which I have described above.

No, I do not hate Jesus or God the Father or the Holy Trinity.

I hate the narrow-minded structure of human-made and human-operated churches. What I hated was the judging and the criticizing and the “holier-than-thou” self-righteousness stance other members tried to impose on my family over the years as we hopped around various churches, and as I gradually became aware of this great flaw in the system, I also made up my mind. Enough was enough.

If anyone in my family, my beautifully fractured family was to be treated this way, I will not have it or stand it any longer. So I vowed to leave these churches—eventually culminating into an idea that encompassed all churches—never to set foot in any of them ever again.

Until the moments I would see the flaws in me as well…

My initial “hatred” of these so-called institutions did not settle too well with many of my practicing Christian high school classmates and friends, teachers, and eventually even my own parents, whom I have believed as a younger teen that I was defending their honor in “desecrating” and exposing the criticisms of the very people who have hurt them.

That is, until I realized I had become the very hypocrite I believed I was on a destined mission to topple and defeat.

In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

As Siddhartha Guatama had once awakened his own inner Buddha, I have been continuously re-examining my own views of the Christianity I once literally grew up with versus a Christianity that the rest of the known world observes from an outsider’s perspective.

And now as a college sophomore, I can most assuredly say I will continue to accept that fundamental creed that Jesus is Lord of all humankind while alternatively rejecting and reforming other “creeds” political conservatives have been preaching to the masses since only God knows when, and brainwashing them into accepting their way of thinking and their way of life.

First of all, I clearly do not believe Jesus advocated the right for the average person to freely carry firearms in the public square as he or she pleases. Nor do I accept that Jesus stood for any particular social class or ethnic group.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

~ Galatians 3:26 – 28 (NIV)

Jesus did not stand for any particular political party or social issue, other than helping the poor, needy and downtrodden.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

~ Matthew 25:35 – 36; Matthew 25:44 – 45 (NIV)

780620120_orig

Jesus Healing the Leper

As illustrated in the famous Good Samaritan parable or The Samaritan Woman at the Well, Christ wants all to come to him in awe, reverence and humbleness. And he who ever takes up his cross and follows him will gain eternal life.

This gift of a spiritual ever-lasting salvation is available to ALL PEOPLE, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

And yes, I will clearly advocate right here and right now that Jesus loves homosexuals as much as heterosexuals, regardless of whatever the Christian Right loudly screams in your ears.

I may attempt to cover various Christian and non-Christian views on homosexuality and “the church” in further investigative detail in a later column.

But for now I would like to say, through my experiences as a believer looking from within and outside the box that represents the broad spectrum of modern American Christianity in the 21st century, I can now say and believe with the utmost confidence that God Almighty does indeed unconditionally love every person on this planet, including those souls in the afterlife, and like that Jay Park single, He seriously wants to know your name.


He respects all your opinions and beliefs, and will not hold fast to your will or your decision-making.

Only let thy Kingdom come and thy will be done, on Earth as in Heaven.


Amen.

I’ll see you all again later this month. God bless and take care. 🙂

Painful (But Achievable) Reconciliation: Post-Newtown Edition

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

543181_505193899521473_959485276_nSIX NIGHTS AGO, I had a conversation with Neil MacIntosh—a Facebook friend I have thankfully gotten to know through another Joshua Chen living in North Carolina—that first started from a thread of comments about a pristine photograph he took of Niagara Falls but over the course of the following day, eventually somehow diverted to current political issues such as gun control and reviewing the actions of past tyrannical dictators, namely Hitler and Mao Zedong.

Interestingly enough, I believe we have gotten to know each other just a little bit more as he shared with me his love and passion of history (a History major at American University in our nation’s capital Washington, D.C.) and I my love of history, psychology and journalism (I’m a current Psychology major at Ohlone College in California). From the moment we began discussing our family backgrounds and relations, I knew we would hit it right off—and hit it off we sure did!

I have a quick confession to make here to all my readers and friends: I love history and I sure do love my country and my heritage. As I may have once briefly mentioned in a previous column, I am culturally and ethically American Taiwanese—but frankly, I find that label to be a huge misnomer.

Taiwan is not officially a sovereign nation recognized by the international community, even though our government does function independently from Beijing’s government in mainland China.

In fact, on a website I have read several times over the years Matt Rosenberg lists eight main criteria a country is supposed to have before it is accepted as an independent, sovereign country:

1. Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).

Somewhat. Due to political pressure from mainland China, the United States and most other significant nations recognize one China and thus include the boundaries of Taiwan as being part of the boundaries of China.

2. Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.

Absolutely! Taiwan is home to almost 23 million people, making it the 48th largest “country” in the world, with a population slightly smaller than North Korea but larger than Romania.

3. Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.

Absolutely! Taiwan is an economic powerhouse – it’s one of the four economic tigers of Southeast Asia. Its GDP per capita is among the top 30 of the world. Taiwan has its own currency, the new Taiwan dollar.

4. Has the power of social engineering, such as education.

Absolutely! Education is compulsory and Taiwan has more than 150 institutions of higher learning. Taiwan is home to the Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain.

5. Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.

Absolutely! Taiwan has an extensive internal and external transportation network that consists of roads, highways, pipelines, railroads, airports, and sea ports. Taiwan can ship goods, there’s no question about that!

6. Has a government that provides public services and police power.

Absolutely! Taiwan has multiple branches of military – Army, Navy (including Marine Corps), Air Force, Coast Guard Administration, Armed Forces Reserve Command, Combined Service Forces Command, and Armed Forces Police Command. There are almost 400,000 active duty members of the military and the country spends about 15-16% of its budget on defense.

Taiwan’s main threat is from mainland China, which has approved an anti-secession law that allows a military attack on Taiwan to prevent the island from seeking independence. Additionally, the United States sells Taiwan military equipment and may defend Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.

7. Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.

Mostly. While Taiwan has maintained its own control over the island from Taipei since 1949, China still claims to have control over Taiwan.

8. Has external recognition. A country has been “voted into the club” by other countries.

Somewhat. Since China claims Taiwan as its province, the international community does not want to contradict China on this matter. Thus, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations. Plus, only 25 countries (as of early 2007) recognize Taiwan as an independent country and they recognize it as the “only” China. Due to this political pressure from China, Taiwan does not maintain an embassy in the United States and the United States (among most other countries) has not recognized Taiwan since January 1, 1979.

However, many countries have set up unofficial organizations to carry out commercial and other relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is represented in 122 countries unofficially. Taiwan maintains contact with the United States through two through an unofficial instrumentalities – American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

In addition, Taiwan issues globally recognized passports that allow its citizens to travel internationally. Taiwan also is a member of the International Olympic Committee and this sends its own team to the Olympic Games.

Recently, Taiwan has lobbied strongly for admission into international organizations such as the United Nations, which mainland China opposes.

Therefore, Taiwan only meets five of the eight criteria fully. Another three criteria are met in some respects due to mainland China’s stance on the issue.

In conclusion, despite the controversy surrounding the island of Taiwan, its status should be considered as a de facto independent country of the world.[1]


taiwan-1049788The Republic of China, which now maintains control over the island of Taiwan and several smaller archipelagos, has officially been considered a de-facto government since the 1970s when most of the world’s nations began recognizing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government based on the mainland.

Taiwan’s political status has also been miserably reduced to being called “Chinese Taipei” when represented in more recent Olympic Games, evidently pointing to mounting political tensions from mainland China who wishes to unify the island under the PRC banner.

As a prideful and patriotic American Taiwanese, I too am appalled by the Chinese Taipei label—and while I do subscribe to the idea of eventual Chinese reunification, I wholeheartedly believe the Kuomintang government should still represent the “legitimate China” and be welcomed back to the mainland with open arms.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I do not intend to solely document and reflect on the Chinese Civil War in this particular column, although that time period is just one of the many examples in world history where wars have continuously shaped our lifestyles.

Therefore, I have two major points I want to cover for tonight’s column:

  • Each of our relations to historical events both past and present
  • Humanity’s much-needed time for forgiveness and reconciliation with these events

Going back to my conversation with Neil, we evidently would start baring a part of our family heritages as we dived back into forgotten memories of WWII—I bringing up the Japanese occupation of China and the Nanjing Massacre at several points.

Neil: I don’t know, I guess it’s strange to me to put so much emphasis on historical feuds.

Josh: Cause it’s not just a book my friend. Real people were affected by these events.

Neil: I’m aware; and there were some awful things that were done to my ancestors, as well.

Josh: …Which of course leaves many descendants angry about the past.

Neil: I don’t know, I just don’t feel as strong a connection to it. But I think that’s more of a cultural thing…

Josh: Yes, it is cultural.

Neil: I view it as like something that happened several generations ago and didn’t involve me; and that I shouldn’t blame the descendents of the people who did it, because they’re just as innocent and uninvolved as I am. But I realise that other cultures have a different approach to it. Like I’m always a little surprised that the Germans are still apologising for WWII and the Holocaust.

Josh: My dad has taught me this Neil: If the Germans can apologize for Hitler’s regime, then so can the Japanese.

Neil: Oh, yes, definitely; and I’m not saying the Japanese shouldn’t apologise for the things they did…

Josh: The Japanese should. Their country’s leaders.

Neil: However, I also think that if the French and the Danish and the Polish can get over it and forgive the Germans, then the Chinese and Koreans can forgive the Japanese. Yes, the Japanese need to apologise, but then the people they hurt need to forgive it and move on, in my opinion, anyway.

But also, part of it is pride for the Japanese. The Americans completely humiliated them after the war. So they’re trying to hold onto whatever pride they can salvage.

It is at this point that I realize that I cannot continue rebutting Neil because I have to acknowledge he does have a point. We Chinese have to take that initial step forward and start the process of forgiveness, no matter how heavy our hearts feel or how much pride we devote to our people and our culture. The same goes for the Japanese as well.

Which I follow up with my statement to Neil:

It’s not that I hate HATE the Japanese. I hate what they did.

Tribute to the Nanjing Massacre victimsI don’t hate the country or the people—except those individuals involved in the actual brutality. I only hate what the Japanese have done in the past, but I am also equally hoping they will also be willing to come forward and apologize as much as we would want to.


Leading up to more current events, this WWII-era pain is once again revealed in the recent animosity and dispute of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as people on both sides of the Pacific Ocean I believe are preparing for what may appear to be another direct confrontation between our nations and peoples.


Concurrently over here on the American front, we sadly mark the one-month anniversary of the Newtown shooting, which has also sparked controversy over gun usage and politicians in Washington fiercely debating our country’s current gun control laws.

Sandy Hook Family: “We’re Still His Parents”

While I can mutually respect people who believe they have a Constitutional right to personally bear firearms, I cannot and will not acknowledge the alleged creed that pro-gun activists swear to abide by—the right to bear arms for self-defense. That is pure NRA propaganda.

“643”

– The number of Americans who have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook shooting. Number of tyrannical governments overthrown by gun-toting Americans in that same time period: zero.[2]

It’s bad enough that the tragedy at Newtown has once again divided the country. This time around, it has reawakened all of us to the grim reality that everyone is affected when there is a shooting—not just the victims themselves or even their families, but also the survivors and everyone from Capitol Hill to Beverly Hills to Telegraph Avenue.

The nation grieves for the dead. And as difficult as the pain may be to overcome, life still goes on:

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we can say good-bye for the present.”

Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same, and they looked for a long moment into each other’s faces.

~ An excerpt from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Chapter 35) by J.K. Rowling

I’ve seen the Deathly Hallows Part II film several times already and I am still moved by Dumbledore’s words in this one scene—when Harry’s soul crosses into Limbo or Heaven and it is here that Harry converses with his beloved headmaster and mentor.

In fact, this scene has inspired me to spiritually communicate with family members and friends who I’ve once known here on Earth who have also passed on, and like Harry, I know the dead are not really gone but are always with me residing in spirit.


And it is here that we are to mend the wounds of the past—hopefully, once and for all.

For if we do not admit that each of us once made mistakes in our own lives and that each of us has experienced our own share of shortcomings in life—luck or no luck, hard work or no hard work, God or no God—then who will?


Forgive me if I am leaving you with some very hard-hitting questions tonight my fellow readers, but let us all pray that the world will get better and that the human spirit will never extinguish, no matter how many atrocities afflict us and no matter how many barriers we have to overcome in order to get there.

Forgiveness towards one’s enemies is hard but doable—reconciliation with one’s past harder but achievable still.

In the words of the Apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

~ 2nd Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

I salute you my fellow compatriots and friends. Always remember to keep the faith. Never lose hope in humanity, ever.

Thank you and good night.

In Memory of the Newtown Victims

In Memory of the Newtown Victims

Reaching Out to the Japanese People In the Midst of Strife

I agree with you that the past should be forgiven. But that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten so the same mistake won’t happen again. Neither should history be denied.

Just like you, I want to be with friends with people from different backgrounds. Sure I’ve met some “bad apples” in particular groups of people, but if you think about it, there are even worse people in my own group of people as well (and same goes for every background).

I’m not going to judge an individual because a group of people are rotten tomatoes.

~ A Facebook comment from Yoshi Shirokawa at YoshiEatsWasabi

Senkaku Islands © Jonah M. Kessel Photography

“TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS”, an old adage reads. But its universal message of mutual forgiveness and putting one’s differences aside for the greater good—however idealistic that may sound—has once again come to another stalemate. Over the summer, tensions have once again been brewing in East Asia as three nations—China (the People’s Republic), Taiwan (the Republic of China) and Japan—go head-to-head—quite literally, I might add—over the possession of a small chain of islands known as Senkaku (尖閣諸島) to the Japanese and Diaoyutai (釣魚台) to the Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The islands’ location is right smack-dab in between Okinawa Prefecture and Taiwan, which should explain a lot in itself, for those of us interested in studying East Asian affairs. The ongoing rivalry, as I have been reading the latest headlines for the past month, first started over noticing potential oil and mineral deposits found underneath and around the islands as well as commercial fishing vessels of all three nations wanting to have the autonomy to fish there.

American, Chinese and other international websites alike have been reporting news on the occasional Taiwanese or mainland Chinese fishing boats being sprayed at and publicly “denounced” by the Japanese Coast Guard over the past two months. And at this point in time, both sides have yet to come to a well, thought-out and genuine compromise.

To the best of my knowledge, a lot of social networkers have been continuously posting derogatory remarks towards either party on sites like YouTube, Facebook and ChinaSmack—several who want to instill nationalistic pride towards their own respective country by claiming either side is displaying a fierce warmonger stance or the likes of it.

Now, I do not mean to belittle anyone but I am proud to be an American Taiwanese. When I first read news reports of Japanese Coast Guard vessels attempting to shoo away Taiwanese ships near the islands I will be honest: I did start tensing up a bit in a fit of inner rage.

But as international headlines continue to document the growing anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in the region since August and September—with numerous protests erupting in mainland China, targeting Japanese car manufacturing companies and thousands of Chinese chanting “The Diaoyu Islands are Ours!”—across the sea in Japan, many fervent Japanese are also taking to the streets booing China’s Communist government and allegations of internal political strife as Premier Hu Jintao is currently stepping down from office.

In the context of the times, although I am proud to proclaim I am ethnically Chinese and nationally American, the growing sentiment that is currently taking place half way around the world gave me some time to reflect on the potential possibilities of actually talking to some Japanese Americans in open dialogue about the issues at hand. See how they view the whole ordeal.

Lo and behold, I have had the wonderful opportunity to do so in the past few days this week. Among the handful I have managed to briefly talk to though, most of their responses usually were something along the lines of, “It’s a sensitive issue so I sort of feel uncomfortable to really talk about it.” Which I, deep down, can totally understand.

Add historical tensions into the current dispute, with many claiming the Japanese not having fully pardoned their imperialistic intentions during the Second World War… well, it just adds dissent on top of an even larger and wider ongoing dissent spanning eight decades of history.

Whether friend, foe, or neither, my Japanese acquaintances advise me to look not so much into the past in order to recall where our disputes between our two countries and peoples started from, but to look to a future of peace and hope. And frankly, I can’t really disagree with them solely on that point either.


AFTERWORD:

Coincidentally, I decided to compose this column today in honor of the 101st anniversary of the Wuchang Upising, an event commemorated by both Chinas across the Taiwan Strait. It was on this very day one hundred and one years ago, discontent lit the spark that would eventually culminate in a series of events that would lead to the successful overthrow of the Qing dynasty, and thus, the Republic of China was founded upon the ashes of the former imperial government.

Even sixty-seven years after the end of World War II, our once erstwhile adversary is now a friend to Taiwan (for the most part).

While meeting my new dentist on Monday, Dr. Walter Hashimoto cheerfully exclaimed that the Taiwanese love Japan as I politely nodded my head. But I think I got through to the old man’s heart when I mentioned the late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s name, since Chiang apparently is still respected in Japan, especially among the older generation.

Hashimoto replies with a broad smile on his face, “We [Japanese] call him Shō Kaiseki (蒋介石)” as I’m pretty sure Walter starts to notice the glow on my face as well.

台灣(中華民國)101歲生日快樂!

May the Republic continue to prosper and God bless the Generalissimo! 😀


Bringing The Nation’s Attention Again to Colorado…

I have come to the conclusion that the main difference between Conservatives and Liberals is how much fear we decide we are going to live in. Liberals don’t normally hoard guns and ammo, because we aren’t afraid of the world. We all live in the same world, and there are bad things out there to be afraid of. Liberals have just decided that fear is not the thing we are going to focus on and we aren’t going to allow it to control our lives. I’m beginning to think that this applies to all sorts of issues as well. I heard two conservative (white) friends talking today about the fact that in a few years, white people will be the minority. They were terrified of this possibility, while my reaction was “So what?”.

 ~ Daniel J. Roe, Facebook commenter

JULY 20, 2012 will perhaps be another day that will live in infamy in early 21st-century American history as everyone woke up to the startling reaction of yet another shooting incident—this time in a movie theater in a town called Aurora, Colorado.

As I got out of bed that afternoon, my mom was shocked to see the news reports flash on the TV: “at least 12 dead and another 51 or so injured.” What was even worse after hearing the announcers utter those words was the life story surrounding the alleged gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes.

In the past forty-eight hours, I have been following the stories—and the more I’ve uncovered, the more scary the situation gets. Turns out, Holmes graduated from what-could-have-been-my-alma-mater, the University of California at Riverside in the spring of 2010 with high honors with a B.S. degree in Neuroscience.

Despite my family’s worries and pleas, I am planning to pursue a Neuroscience-related degree perhaps several years down the road as well, since I also love to study the mind, and currently have selected my primary major in Psychology at a local community college I now attend in my time away from Riverside.

But my heart does sincerely go out to my Highlander family down there, as the nation now mourns for the families of the Aurora victims and as this recent tragedy now casts another spotlight on the rise in gun violence and firearm-related crimes.

While browsing my Facebook News Feed on Saturday afternoon, I spot an Internet meme-type picture posted on The Christian Left page (https://www.facebook.com/TheChristianLeft) that sports the label in large block letters “MEANWHILE, IN AMERICA.”

This meme portrays a white American male lying on his bed watching the primetime news broadcasts surrounded by what appears to be an arsenal of guns and ammo. A quick mouse scroll through the comments and I know the debate’s on between those individuals who support stricter gun control laws (such as myself) and those who claim such said laws will inhibit the rights of Americans to freely sport weapons, as established by the Second Amendment.

Coming across a paragraph also quoted in the preamble of this column, I have to say I fully agree with what Mr. Roe here has to say. For many years now, I have absorbed and reflected on the values, beliefs and morals of what many figures have taught me growing up…and the older I am getting, I realize that I continue to lean to Left-wing political views, simply because I cannot agree with what is going on with the GOP and the Tea Party.

Of course, I might as well apologize in advance if I may come across as being hateful of Republicans or something. I do not mean to directly insult or bash any individual who holds to conservative beliefs, for I should know better. I was also spiritually raised as a conservative Christian believer from a young age. But nevertheless, that does not mean I should not be able to think for myself and to be able to express my opinions on the InterWebs either. And so, I do.

I do express my heart, my mind and my soul—in every piece I compose and type. And I am glad my readers are able to see that part of me so genuinely as well.

Back to the matter at hand though, as Jefferson Bethke has stated so firmly in the opening lines—and rings so, so true to my heart—in his viral YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus:

What if I told you JESUS came to ABOLISH RELIGION?

What if I told you VOTING REPUBLICAN really wasn’t His Mission?

What if I told you REPUBLICAN doesn’t automatically mean CHRISTIAN, and just because you call some people BLIND doesn’t automatically give you vision?

I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?

Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor?

Besides having a catchy, addicting rhyme to Jeff’s poem, I truly believe many non-Christians who troll on videos like these and intend to bash on them either to get a good laugh out of the whole ordeal for doing so or for merely getting attention—they just don’t understand the underlying message of his speech.

He isn’t trying to attack “religion” head-on and calling it bad. He’s saying, “Stop being so legalistic with the church and start being real. Be a real patron of Christ. Show mercy, show love, show compassion…and then say, ‘Hey, it isn’t necessarily me that’s showing you love. It’s Him.’ ”

See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness,

But now that I know Jesus, I BOAST IN MY WEAKNESS.

Because if grace is water then the Church should be an ocean,

It’s not a museum for good people,

It’s a HOSPITAL FOR THE BROKEN.

What really touched me personally was when Jeff proclaims, “I don’t have to hide my failure. I don’t have to hide my sin.” Something I’ve been doing for my whole life, I’ve often wondered.

Like Severus Snape in the final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows Part Two, this theme of hidden shame and guilt does not just merely speak to me—it speaks to the whole wide world in its entirety.


 

And most people perhaps don’t know no matter how objective we all have to be in the business sector—no matter how many times you have to don a suit and tie and act “professionally”—I for one do believe that there is subjectivity in whatever people discuss. And more importantly, that there is a tragic hero side in all of us.

Pointing back to the Aurora shooting, perhaps most of us will simply remember the events being reported as the passing of grief—and for the families of the victims, an unfortunate deeply imprinted loss—but as the nation is again humbled in such a critical time, even President Obama is taking a stand to speak and share some of the pain, putting aside some of the heat he is still getting from the Right-wing and Romney’s campaigning.

Politics or not, we must not live in fear as Daniel Roe writes. Although we are aware of societal harm and the possible mass hysteria that could arise because of our fears of the unknown, I too realize we as a people must continue to push on through. Persevering and achieving. And while the general public may not completely begin to comprehend the inner workings in the mind of Mr. Holmes and what motivated him to dye his hair red, wear full body armor and open-fire into a crowded and packed movie theater, one thing we do know: Out of every tragedy we emerge stronger than before.

Amen?

Putting the Ability in “Disability”

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

 ~ Nelson Mendela (1918 –) quoting Marianne Williamson

LAST YEAR, a bill was passed through the U.S. Senate recognizing and establishing an important milestone for disabled individuals—and aimed specifically at individuals living with the neurophysiological condition cerebral palsy.

Now I will be honest here.

I am well aware of the stereotypical images of paraplegics and the likes portrayed in mainstream media, and while it is true that these individuals may be intellectually slower than others and have more difficulty moving around, I am not here to openly criticize anyone with cerebral palsy.

I should know. I have it too.

I know what it feels like to be teased by other kids my age just because I live with this disability, but I also admit I’ve done it to others years ago too. And I apologize for all of that because I should and I do know how that feels.

Moreover, living with cerebral palsy is no small or easy task, but—with patience, time and lots of physical therapy—CP is overcomeable.

But allow me to elucidate on what the condition looks like for everybody who doesn’t know what it is. Cerebral palsy, according to medical sources, is “a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth.”[1] In other words, it’s a condition that affects one’s muscles, making it harder to walk, sit, stand, run, jump etc; and it is also very true that it can develop shortly after birth and can be diagnosed within a few short years. I was diagnosed at three months, with a secondary diagnosis of spastic diplegia at three years.

And even though I used to think I was the only one dealing with these issues, once I started searching, I gradually found millions of stories about millions of kids who all have what I have and that’s why I aim to be another avid cerebral palsy advocate.

Earlier this month, my curiosity to find other CP stories peaked yet again, when—after stumbling through pages upon pages of Google search results—found one story from overseas in Fuyang, Anhui Province, China.


As you will soon find out, the kid’s name is Yuan Weiwei, and man, just to see him walk around and smile reminded this 19-year-old veteran of his own childhood when he did the same. And the video almost brought me on the verge of crying tears of joy a few times because I soon realized, this is my story too. Almost.

Part IV of this series was the hardest of the videos. It also turned out to be my favorite.

The task immediately became a bit daunting when we found out our subject who we were meant to be profiling — couldn’t talk much.

While Weiwei was not afraid of the camera, his speech and dialogue were not developed enough to get entire sentences out of him. He also was not the most mobile of our subjects. He had trouble getting around, which made our filming locations limited.

However, even given these limitations the story developed in front of us into a rather heart warming story. The camera ended up turning to his mother to help drive the narrative, while Weiwei would maintain the visual story.

After a couple different versions of the script, we finally settled on the version you see here.

The story in itself is actually quite sad. However, the mother’s continued support and optimism is pretty inspiring.

~ Jonah Kessel, an excerpt from Part IV: Hello, My Name Is…ǀ Normadically Curious Visual Thoughts

As tragic as it is to experience the hardships one disabled child has to go through and how much one family has to pull together to make it through, thankfully, it’s not all too bad once you get the hang of it. Trust me, I also have years of experience under my belt.

And thankfully, I’m not alone either.

In Oklahoma, I found another great cerebral palsy brother.

Allow me to introduce David Fraser.

Fraser was a premature baby born in a hospital without a single incubator. He was rushed to the nearest hospital equipped with an incubator immediately after he was born. During this 15-minute drive, the lack of oxygen in his brain caused permanent damage — mild cerebral palsy, a condition that alters a child’s physical development and motor skills.

In the midst of vulnerability, Fraser displays independence. He picks up things off the floor and opens doors for the ladies, assuring all that he is not as needy as strangers may think. “People relate [to] me [by] how I see myself,” Fraser said. “How you perceive yourself and how you put yourself across, people will relate to you back.”

It’s been 26 years of prayer and faith — a lifetime filled with extra walking effort and extra attention. He still lacks answers, but he is certain of one thing. “I have to take the Word of God and filter it to a place where [my limitation] no longer becomes my identity, and He becomes my identity,” Fraser said.

He admits it’s a struggle, having everyone know his prayer and see it unanswered. People fighting with inner battles can easily hide their pain, but Fraser’s struggle cannot be masked no matter how hard he tries. “With me, it’s on the sleeve,” Fraser said. “There is no hiding it. It’s either it’s there or it’s not there, so it always made me feel like I’m seen that way.”

 ~ Sarah Al-Khaldi, an excerpt from Handicapped Student Walks in Faith, Hope

I met David back in March 2011 when I took a college orientation trip to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma and having the chance to sit down and chat with David one late Friday evening was all it took for us to bond. Turns out, despite having cerebral palsy, he serves as one of the student chaplains on his floor and in his wing and yes, he does take the time to help out his able-bodied friends just as they do vice versa for him. He even offered to grab me a doughnut halfway through our nearly two-hour talk and prayer session, and I thanked him for that as well.

Most importantly, I could tell we both got plenty off our chests detailing our life stories from premature births until the present day, and expressing the joys as well as the agonizing frustrations we similarly experienced despite growing up states apart from each other.

Shout out to John Chau too for introducing me to David in the first place.

God bless you both! 🙂

And so, I would like to take the time to send a message to all the people out there living with cerebral palsy: you are certainly not alone in your struggles. Never think you’re on a one-man journey. Because hey, take an honest look around. There are many others all going through what you’re going through right now too.

And together, we can all overcome cerebral palsy and learn life lessons from it as well.

Weiwei, David, and I certainly have and our time here is certainly not over. We will keep living the way we live until we all go into the ground being our own advocates to those around us and to keep telling others, “It’s not over. Just keep holding on. And when you do, that’s when life is really worth all this.”

Happy National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, and don’t forget to wear that green.

I’ll see you all soon.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

An After St. Patrick’s Day Treat

The artist brings something into the world that didn’t exist before and he does it without destroying something else.

~ John Updike (1932 –)

JUST HOURS AGO, I stumbled upon the music of a young violinist, Lindsey Stirling while browsing through YouTube trying to find that piece of music that would elevate my soul unto my own level of sacredness, paraphrasing psychologist Jonathan Haidt from a TED talk he gave on called Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Transcendence. And how I even found one of Stirling’s pieces online is in fact a story in itself.

Therefore, this column will be a story within a story, or “story-ception”, as I’d like to call it.

So let’s go back to the very beginning of how I stumbled upon Stirling in the first place.

I was re-watching another YouTube video by a younger classmate of mine, Lucy Shen—who is a high school junior this year—perform a cover of Call Me Maybe (originally performed by Carly Rae Jepson), and right there in the middle of the Related Videos section was a screenshot of a girl holding what appeared to be a violin and a banner that read “Electric Daily Violin – Lindsey Stirling.”

Intrigued by the title—and way more intrigued with its over 2 million views—I clicked on the icon and was redirected to the following video here:


Within seconds of hearing Lindsey play, the tune simply reminded me of a cross between classical Chinese music (probably because of the association between Asians and the musical stereotypes that occasionally run through my mind) and that of an Irish jig—or in this case, a more revamped, contemporary one. Nevertheless this piece is something much more out of the ordinary I should say, because although there are numerous violinists out there these days, Lindsey’s style and choreography attracted my attention and the way she will occasionally kick her legs in the air at certain moments both resemble Irish folk dancing and doing the cancan.

But I am very impressed with the fact that she can almost seemingly strut across the scenery and play the violin simultaneously—and thinking in the back of my mind how much practice she must have done in order to achieve this.

After all, devoting long periods of time to practicing a passion doesn’t just require skill. It also requires that tedious, painstaking effort to perfect an art.

TO BE HAPPY, to be successful, to have a meaningful life, having a passion is mandatory. A passionless life is an empty life.

Yet, “passion” may be the most widely misunderstood and incorrectly used English word. It doesn’t mean what most people think it means.

This becomes a huge quality-of-life problem when kids grow up without a passion because they don’t understand what passions are (and aren’t).

One thing they often aren’t is enjoyable. I enjoy eating and sleeping and reading on the beach. I enjoy watching football and basketball and going to the movies. But these aren’t passions. They’re pleasures, and pleasures don’t require effort. Passions do.

A lot of time, we hate our passions. Even though they can provide massive joy, they are equally capable of causing searing pain.

A passion is an intense emotion, but not always an enjoyable emotion. Passion can be anger and suffering. The Passion of Christ was not about Jesus having a good time.

The aggravated artist who punches his imperfect painting and stuffs it into the trash is passionate about his work. So is the angry ballerina who slumps in front of the mirror, tears of passion trickling down her cheeks. And don’t forget the dedicated accountant, working alone, late into the night, determined to make the balance sheet balance.

The lesson every kid desperately needs to know is that sometimes — oftentimes — the thing they love the most is the same thing they’ll hate the most. That if what they think is a passion really is a passion, they should have a yin/yang, love/hate relationship with it.

~ Jaime Richards, an excerpt from Understanding the Meaning of Passion (2010)

Most things we will do in life will involve a constant pain/pleasure relationship, as Jaime clearly states here—things like going to school, paying the bills, computing taxes, doing laundry, even raising children (on behalf of all the parents out there). It will never be easy, but it must be done. “That’s passion”, according to Jaime.

And it’s also a passion, according to me as well.

I’m not only motivated by people like Lindsey Stirling by what she does. I’m motivated to get up and tap to her beat every time I hear her music.

And even though I just missed St. Patrick’s Day, Electric Daisy Violin is a soul-moving instrumental and melody that can speak life into hearts and souls—and as for me, I find my soul-moving passion in writing columns and hoping that by doing so, other people will be enlightened and will have eye-opening experiences when they read not only my words, but essentially the words of all six billion people on this planet.

And I also seek to continue to tell one little piece of a story which actually fits into a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of what humanity is like. In other words, one little piece of my story, a human story.

Be inspired, be motivated, be productive, but most of all, you must “be true, be true, be true” (The Scarlet Letter).

Now get out there and “see the blue” (Richards). Go out there and find a passion.

Happy belated St. Patty’s Day too.

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.