Tuesday, April 17, 2007


There is simply no way to make sense of the senseless killings at Virginia Tech. What we try to do is put some sort of sensible explanation on the inexplicable tragedy. Impossible!

I know the school really well and have been there many times and can imagine the pall covering the school like a shroud.


First, there was the convocation; a kind of memorial service. Good idea--let the grieving come to some sort of "life goes on." Speeches, politicians, the President representing America. The highlight was a Virginia Tech professor. At first I wondered why she felt the need to equate the tragedy with most every evil in the world but still, no criticism here. She ended well, "We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies! We will prevail, we will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!"

After her speech, there was wild applause, an outpouring of emotion. I was moved.

No explanation for the tragedy. We live in a very violent society. One of the thoughts among many as I watched and listened to the Memorial Service: in Iraq, the Iraqis experience this every single day. Almost 200 dead Iraqis in the last few days.

THE SHOOTER. Korean. And, based on my knowledge of the Korean people, they literally will be burdened about this in a big way. One of their own, although in America, they will see it as "losing face." Their whole lives are built around the Confucian philosophy. It really is not a religion but a philosophy of living. Kibun is the word which most describes it: means well being. In KoreaTown in Los Angeles, the feelings of shame are rampant. There are over 2 million Koreans in America. No single group of people revere America like the South Koreans. In some ways, it is a love/hate relationship. Based on who they are, older Koreans will be the first to tell you that they would not exist had it not been for the American rescue during the Korean war. Younger Koreans who have not lived through it love the American way of life but not the Americans.

In this tragedy, however, all South Koreans will stand toe to toe in shame. Americans view a tragedy of this nature as sad, useless. They weep with the people. They lament the loss but they do so individually. Not so with the Koreans, as a country, they see that they are shamed by a fellow countryman. They hang their head, even though they have no responsibility in it.


In this tragedy, we are faced with the ambiguities of what the media means to our society. We want news, we are an open society, the media performs a useful function. However, as I watched all the media malaise, I couldn't help but think, what is going on? A circus! And, what we realize as usual is that the media is not interested in the truth, grief, whatever--they are interested in a story. And, they are giving us stories.


Grief is a powerfully consuming emotion without adequate description and feelings for the parents is an empathy that any parent knows. They sent their kids off to college and were concerned about grades, the choices they would make, binge drinking, adinfinitum but safety was not high on the priority list.

Any death is sad and the loss of the physical presence, the ability to call the son or daughter and say, "how's it going?" For those killed, they are gone.

As my seminary professor often said, "Sometimes there is a sympathy for people that is so great that you simply do not know what to say." I am there.

A type of terror came to roost at Virginia Tech and it was in the form of a lone crazy. There is no answer. We second guess. Some use it to push their issues, gun control, lack of response. Whatever. Simply, it is and our hearts go out to the loved ones of those murdered. God help us.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

DON HO--Mr. Slack Jaw

This was a humorous name given Don by a neighbor when I lived in Germany. Don Ho recently transitioned from this life to the next. He's up there singing Tiny Bubbles in God's heavenly choir. I have no doubt.

American GIs on R and R in Hawaii were introduced to Don and in ways big and small, he endeared himself. I remember his talk during his show. It went something like, "I want to welcome all the American GIs from Vietnam to my part of the world and to the show. I cannot begin to tell you how much you mean to me and to all Hawaiians. When I was a little boy I use to marvel at the planes flying into and out of Hawaii. And, I was inspired and joined up. One of my all time best decisions. Thank you for what you are doing and never forget, we love you and appreciate you. God bless you and return you home safely"

There we sat, a little like Lil' Abner's, Joe Btfsplk with a cloud hanging over our heads, never doubting for a moment that Don was sincere. Don eased our pain a little and we've never forgotten him. He was more than an entertainer, he was Hawaii and for a few short days so were we. So long Don, slack jaw or not, our world is a little reduced since you're not in it.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I don't know and it doesn't matter. Happy Easter. What prompted this look anew at my beliefs was a recently conversation I had with someone. She was giving me the typical California view of faith or lack thereof: Jesus was a good teacher, like Buddha or Mohammed or the wind, nature or whatever. I said, no sweat with me. It is fine for you to believe anything you want. What I didn't tell her was that I was raised in Primitive Baptist NC and they basically have a belief that they don't proselytize and so if "you want to go to hell" in their terms, fine with them, choice.


My friend said something like, "I don't see how anyone can possibly believe in all the illogical things that Christians do: heaven, hell, adinfinitum." Well, it is called faith and by its very definition, it cannot be proven. And, in fact, it is why it is called faith. Faith is, by the Christian Bible definition--the substance of things hoped for but not seen.

CNN had a series of specials, well, two I saw that examined Christianity. It was what most of us know if we think about it: Christians are as varied as there are people, especially how we practice. For instance, there are the Catholics that are wedded to Canonical law and rules and regulations. There are some things that you have to do and be in order to be a "good" Catholic. For the rest of us Christians, with something like 150 denominations, what it boils down too essentially is faith. It is what makes it faith--cannot prove it, touch it, know for sure what it is. It just is. And, for the person who follows all the ideas of the Bible as well as the person who sees God in nature or pizza dough, it is all about faith.


And, I mostly say, I am a Christina and it is my faith that makes me so. I don't have a need to be logical about it, prove it, have a theory--simply my faith that comes mainly from the Bible, especially the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These gospels are what Jesus said and did: the rest of the New Testament is interpretations of what He said and did. Consequently, you can put on your own interpretation.


What I strongly believe in is the "conversion" experience. Most Christians don't get it and simply, people's experiences are all different. And, no one can say a person's experience is invalid. They might say they don't believe it, see it another way or that you are a fool; however, they cannot say it is not your experience. For instance, the conversion may come like the Apostle Paul who was struck down on the Damascus Road and blinded according to the Bible. But, all "conversion experiences" do not come like this. For some, the conversion might be shrouded in mystery, wrapped in logic or the "still" quiet voice. For instance, I was "saved" as a 12 year old at a small rural Church during the annual Revival Meeting. Saved is one of those Christian "buzz" words, part of the language. And, as I look back on it today, there's an enormous amount of humor in it. Regardless, it was my conversion, I remember it like yesterday and believe in it. From then on, it is a matter of wrestling with life.


Sin is one of those wonderful but misunderstood words. When I read that someone has sinned, i. e., so and so is a sinner, I always say, "says who?" Jesus has the best metaphor: when asked by his enemies what should happen to a woman taken in adultery where the usual punishment was stoned until dead. He used the word sin--one of my favorite scenes, he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. The completed picture to the story is when he says to her, "where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you, "go and sin no more." Sin (actually sins) in this case was powerful and loving, not condemnatory. Jesus was the original renaissance man.

What few modern Christians understand is the basic difference in sin and sins. Sin is really the mystery of what Jesus did for us on the cross. And, it is all that surrounds the mystery: the language of religion: saved, redemption, blood, all of it. And, the conversion is when we accept what He did: the suffering, the dying on the cross, and the Easter message of His life--the resurrection--however it may be or however it may have happened is almost beside the point. And, in my faith, it never has to happen again. The sin is taken care of forever--you accept.

The rest of life is lived in dealing with the "sins" the living in the flesh. It is part of being human, whatever that may be. And, every single individual has to deal with the handling of the sins on his/her own. That is faith. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't. And, then of course, there are all the beliefs surrounding that: heaven, hell, etc.; part of the faith is believing in all of it regardless of how illogical it might sound. It is faith.


I've never been much for interfaith meanderings. It doesn't do anything for me personally. People can believe what they want and as a buddy of mine once jokingly said to me, "don't say God bless you. Say,'may the God of your choice bless you.' " Well, I don't believe in all these faiths and that we are going to be OK. I am a Christian, I am comfortable in my faith. I don't know about these other people. I don't know what their fate in life is and it is not my job to find out. I don't have any doubts into the claims of my faith. So, there you have it. A last thing: my basic mantra about Christianity is that it is at its core, a faith of peace. Jesus constantly talked about peace. When he said, I have not come to give y ou peace but a sword. To me, he was talking personal, no doubt about it, the dealing with the flesh and wrestling with sins. The most violet thing He ever did was throw the money changers out of the temple. "I will not have you making my father's house a den of thieves. I like it. God bless you.