This year, Easter celebrations and the Paschal season are being “welcomed” in a remarkably different way: millions of people practicing social distancing, bathing and washing their hands regularly—and while many of us are staying home for longer periods of time—we are all connected by that great, invisible network that is the World Wide Web (Internet).
I do have to say one thing though: despite the convenience livestreaming/digitally recording church services brings to all of us honoring the stay-in-place policies mandated by our state governments—there is indeed a “God-shaped” hole in the hearts of the Faithful who long to experience the Mass in person. In other words, for the world’s billion Catholics and the over 260 million Orthodox Christians, many of us are prohibited from receiving the Holy Eucharist and being in His literal presence in churches everywhere.
Due to the—you guessed it—spread of COVID-19.
Despite the Easter-related messages and letters I have received in my inbox stating that this pandemic too shall pass—nevertheless, my mind, heart and soul doesn’t feel at peace about the situation this planet is literally in at this very moment (and will be for at least another year, many experts are now advising the public).
The only way I feel truly at peace, I find, is when I attend the Mass and stare longingly at Christ on the cross (crucifix)—His eyes and face contorted, full of utter pain and sorrow, and yet…there is something else too.
To be honest, I feel as though the world’s Catholic and Orthodox Christians are more spiritually inclined than most Protestants I know (especially of the “Evangelical,” “Baptist,” “non-denominational,” and “Pentecostal” types).
(More on this later…perhaps even in a future article.) 😉
But I have yet to see a fellow “fundamentalist” Protestant not be humbled by such realistic and gruesome imagery as the sculptures and stained glass windows created by the hands of devout Catholics.
That goes double for the atheists and agnostics out there. You know who y’all are. 😜
Therefore, in my very long and continuously winding journey towards the Roman Catholic Church (again, for those who don’t know, I’m converting over from my childhood-reared Pentecostalism)…I can only now understand why the Crucifix is such a powerful statement to certain Christians, more so than others.
A close Protestant friend of mine once asked me whether Catholics believe in the Resurrection. We were teenagers, and she had just accompanied me to Mass. I realized how striking and maybe even disturbing it might have been to her to be confronted with the gigantic, realistic crucifix up front, which I was so used to I hadn’t even thought to forewarn her of. I think she wondered how, if we believe in Christ’s Resurrection, we could be putting so much emphasis on the disturbing image of His dead body.
Later, when it began to dawn on me what the crucifix meant, there was a period of months in my life where I found it almost too hard to look at one directly. Even now, on a bad day, it can be hard. Christ is just so exposed, so vulnerable, and I don’t like to be reminded that “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. (Jn 12:26).” And where He is is exactly where I don’t want to be. I want to be His servant, sure, but I don’t want to go all the way to the Cross. But, of course, there can be no resurrection without death first. It’s no good hoping for one without the other.
In other words, we cannot and should not be thanking and praising Jesus as THE Lord and Saviour of all if He never took the punishment that we lowly sinners deserved—as evidenced time and time again in the Tanakh (Old Testament).
This is why, in the Western world, Catholics are often associated as being the “people of the Cross (Crucifix).”
But at the same time, Protestants shouldn’t be hogging the Resurrection story and the Empty Tomb either—personally speaking as someone growing up with a devout, fanatical Pentecostal convert (originally from Taiwanese Buddhism) of a mother.
Being a Christian isn’t just about showing up at church, reading the Bible together, singing a few songs, say some prayers, watch some VeggieTales™ or Superbook™ …and then see ya next week.
It’s so much more than that.
Because the truth of the matter is: you ought to be as passionately filled with the love and devotion of and to Christ (and finding His Real Presence in the Eucharist) as much as Pastor Francis Chan here:
So, in the midst of this time of anxiety, depression and great suffering, may we always remember that Christ is King, keep one another in service and in devoted prayer; and to quote Blessed Saint Pope John John II here:
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
And more importantly, for those who still want to vote for Trump in November: keep in mind of the @#$%&! he’s been continuously pulling since January 20, 2017 (the very day he was inaugurated into federal office)…and then tell me if you still wanna support him this upcoming November.
Happy New Year! My sincerest apologies for being inactive on this blog for a little over a year. My last official “column” if you will, debuted back in December of 2018. Since then, I have been applying to jobs and taking online classes in order to 1UP my skill set in the meantime—and to show off my resume. 😉 Alas, after many months of continuous rejection and disappointment, I gradually experienced a combination of psycho-emotional burnout/fatigue, depression and “backsliding” in regards to what my original career goals were. In fact, I even started to forget what was my motivation for looking for work in the first place. Continue reading Updates (on my life) and Redefining the Blog
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name. (KJV) ( Amos 4:13 ) If you haven’t noticed lately, we are surrounded […]
At night, as he sat in the dark listening to the sound of the turtle-dove in the trees, he felt the face of Christ looking intently at him. The clear blue eyes were gentle with compassion; the features were tranquil; it was a face filled with trust. ‘Lord, you will not cast us away any longer,’ he whispered, his eyes fixed upon that face. And then the answer seemed to come to his ears: ‘I will not abandon you.’ Bowing his head he strained his ears for the sound of that voice again; but the only thing he could hear was the singing of the turtle-dove. The darkness was thick and black. Yet the priest felt that for one instant his heart had been purified.
~ Shusaku Endo, Silence (an excerpt from Chapter 6)
In my last piece for this blog, I had very clearly stated that I was moving away from mainstream Christianity and “becoming” a deist. Here, I want to clarify further by what I had written and published a little over 2 months ago:
One sunny Friday back in April of this year, I did not expect to be welcomed again by the Roman Catholic students at UC Berkeley. But that is exactly what happened—not only did I feel welcomed by the group, the ladies tabling that day out on Sproul Plaza were amazed not only by how much knowledge of the Church and its teachings I have committed to memory; but also led to one of the girls (also my former classmate from 3 years prior) to exclaim that it was “a sign that God has appointed you to be here.”
Truer words had never been spoken, because within a matter of weeks, I started going back to Mass more, praying the Holy Rosary and even going to my first Confession.
But just when everything looked like rainbows and butterflies, tragedy struck home when our last male cat, Lennie, was seized by Animal Control authorities and euthanized on June 2, 2018.
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 4:1‒3 (RSVCE)
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
You got yourself another fan and an honorable ally Graeme. I’d hug you and kiss you as well if we ever have the chance to meet in person!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Before 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! 😀
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:
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.
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.
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)
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)
And quite contrary to popular belief, there are even positive stories that can come out of such a horrible tragedy as this one:
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.
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.
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.’
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…
I 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)
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.
I’ll see you all again later this month. God bless and take care. 🙂