I have previously written about my Indian friend getting married. At one point he considered moving the date of the wedding to the week of American Thanksgiving so a few more of his foreign friends could come join the celebration. I had earnestly hoped that he would do this. On my first visit to India, I visited Chennai and New Delhi, the next logical place for me to sightsee would have been Mumbai (Bombay), and either before or after Andrew's wedding I hoped to visit there.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I've been unhappy lately, and I've watched a bit more television. Perhaps the findings from this new report give some insight:
While happy people reported watching an average of 19 hours of television per week, unhappy people reported 25 hours a week. The results held even after taking into account education, income, age and marital status.Click on the "link" to read the full article and get a little more insight.
In addition, happy individuals were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read a newspaper more often than their less-chipper counterparts.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
As I reflect upon the past election, I'm really beginning to get concerned about the direction of American society. I appears more and more that Americans aren't offered freedom, but instead offered two terrible choices. The Republicans, contrary to their party platform, are offering safety and security through military and a strong central government. Democrats are offering happiness and security by offering to turn the reigns of the country over to the liberal elite who feel that they can make better choices than the majority. We get a choice between the cold, militant society guided by rumors of violence foretold by George Orwell in 1984 or we get the calm, drug-addicted, sexually-liberated society prophesized by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. I don't feel the need to illustrate the freedom suffocating, fear tactics of the Republicans, and the Democrat plan is easily understood by realizing how many marijuana and gay rights initiatives have been on the ballots in the fifty states.
"That if you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled, and this they will do partly by drugs as I foresaw in "Brave New World," partly by these new techniques of propaganda. They will do it by bypassing the sort of rational side of man and appealing to his subconscious and his deeper emotions, and his physiology even, and so making him actually love his slavery. I mean, I think, this is the danger that actually people may be, in some ways, happy under the new regime, but that they will be happy in situations where they oughtn't to be happy."-Aldous Huxley (1957)
Friday, November 14, 2008
Nick Vujicic, a preacher without arms and legs, spoke at Singapore's Faith Community Baptist Church last week, but sadly I didn't get to see him in person. It is inspiring to think about how someone who has every disadvantage in life can still preach the gospel with hope and joy.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Earlier this week I was walking through City Hall MRT, a train station in the middle of Singapore. I saw a dark skinned man walking down the crowded hallway that was wearing a Camp Redcloud T-shirt. Camp Redcloud is a beautiful church camp located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. I've spent a lot of time in Colorado, and I was surprised to see someone on the other side of the world wearing a t-shirt from this obscure little camp.
I ran up to the man and said, "Hey, have you actually visited Camp Redcloud? Did you like it?"
The man turned around and said, "No, I am from Nepal."
He had gotten the t-shirt in his home country. The person that donated the Camp Redcloud t-shirt and sent it to Nepal should know that it made it to the destination.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
D. James Kennedy's Center for Reclaiming America has closed and Cal Thomas, a conservative pundit that usually leaves a bad taste in my mouth, believes it is a bellwether for the end of the Religious Right in America. A part of me hopes that he is wrong, but another part of me admits that he is being realistic.
Too many conservative Christians have focused on the "seen" rather than the "unseen," thinking appearances at the White House, or on "Meet the Press," is evidence that they are making a difference. And too much attention has been paid to individual personalities, rather than to the One these preachers had originally been called to exalt.
Nothing in the Bible commands believers to reform or redeem society through government and politics alone, or even mainly. Neither is there any expectation that non-Christians will be converted to the Christian point of view, which can vary on some topics, through politics
.Read the rest of the article.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Obama won the White House, and I'm sure that my fellow evangelical, socially conservative, red-staters are ridden with angst. They feel like impending doom has set upon America, and we'll soon see apocalyptic visions of an executive branch that acts more as an activist arm for the ACLU, the Rainbow Coalition, the Socialist Party, and the United Nations, rather than one that executes and implements a traditional government that is "by the people and for the people" of both red and blue states.
My advice: Cheer Up! It isn't that bad.
While people like myself might be disheartened, here are five undeniable reasons that you should have expected a Republican loss and why a Democratic victory might be the best thing for our country:
1. McCain Wouldn't Have Changed Abortion Policy
Two or three years from now, after a few more Republicans return to the House and Senate, McCain might have been able to nominate a strict constructionist to the Supreme Court, but, given the current make up of the legislative branch, that is one gigantic 'might.' It is possible that no justices will even step down during the next four years.
In addition to this, Bush, as evangelical of a President as America is going to get, didn't do much to change abortion policy. His contribution to the pro-life movement was marginal. He did limit foreign aid to overseas groups that provide abortion and sign the already-passed partial-birth abortion bill. While I acknowledge that implementing pro-life laws should be of supreme importance, if Bush, an admittedly religious man, didn't do much in eight years, then we can safely assume that the fairly un-religious McCain would do even less.
2. McCain Pandered by Picking Palin
Palin was not a good choice for vice president. She has no business making or even discussing foreign policy. She's not highly educated (she seems to have barely graduated from college) and doesn't appear to read legal journals, sophisticated newspapers (i.e. The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times), and she's never left America.
The only reason Palin was picked as a potential VP was to simultaneously pander to evangelical Christians and disenfranchised Hillary supporters. It was a deft political maneuver, but it had nothing to do with her leadership ability or talent.
In my conservative opinion, Palin needs to be back home in Alaska being a good grandmother and mother anyway. As a social conservative, I feel that if a female does ever make it to the executive branch it will have to be a Margaret Thatcher type, an older, wiser person that has finished raising her family and has respect upon the world scene. I realize that statement might be perceived as sexist, but she does have a pregnant teenage daughter and a child with down syndrome.
3. The Current Crop of Republicans hasn't Told the Truth about War
The war in Iraq may have been a sensible, neo-conservative political move. Saddam Hussein was a thorn in the side of international security, and I have no doubt that he used his oil money to support all kinds of violent, extremist, anti-American causes. I truly believe that if the United States didn't eventually attack Iraq, China or Iran would have somehow used the unscrupulous, oil-rich nation to further their interests.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration's policy was to operate with Orwellian double-speak, unnecessary and clumsy espionage, and torture. All the while, they cloaked themselves with a flag of truth and patriotism. The American taxpayers are now in a conflict, that, if handled properly, will carry on as long as the Korean War. The Bush-Cheney team knew that if they told the truth about their complicated hegemonic intentions the voters would say "No Way," so they just lied and selectively choose evidence that sided with their already agreed upon conclusions.
It is possible that Obama will pull out of the destabilized nation and leave the door open for Koran-thumping Iranian militants and their burka-wearing wives to rebuild Saddam's palaces, but I can't believe such a smart man would do that.
Since I started this little piece espousing my adherence to Christiandom, I'll acknowledge that no justification that I've given in point number three has any semblance to orthodox Christian thought. I'm pretty sure that a "Christian view of war" is oxymoronic. According to the Bible, Christians should be a pacific bunch. To substitute convictions with cliche, in this dialogue I'm simply discussing the lesser of two evils.
4. Homosexual Marriage Will Happen with or without a Republican in Office
There is no judicial precedent that allows individual states to deny any type of marriage or divorce granted by another state. If this were not the case, long ago many states would have chosen not to acknowledge all of the sham marriages and divorces that take place in Nevada. In addition to this, lots of blue state homosexual marriages and civil unions have already been granted.
Here's my prognostication: significant parts of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act won't hold up in court. In an act of lexical gymnastics, homosexuals will be granted some type of civil union status, either by the courts or by an Obama administration. Given that the U.S. still has freedom of religion, some places such as churches and Christian charities will still be granted the power to discriminate against homosexuals with loose scrutiny. Schools and other public institutions will be required to adopt something akin to "don't ask, don't tell."
Truthfully, this is okay. We don't need community leaders and minor public figures like teachers talking about their sexuality. Public institutions don't ask civic job candidates if they cheat on their spouse, look at pornography, or cross dress in their free time. Yet, if any teacher or scout leader dares make more than a cursory whisper of these private, morally-dubious activities with my future kid, I would want them fired.
I sincerely hope that with an Obama presidency the gay rights issue will be settled and it will stay that way for at least the next fifty years. The outcome that I have predicted is a compromise just as likely to happen with McCain as Obama. Gay rights movement over, bring on the next distraction.
5. Obama's Presidency Marks the End of the Civil Rights Era
Given Barack Hussein Obama's diverse ethnicity and exotic, terrorist-sounding (to ignorant American ears) name, and recognizing that he authoritatively won the highest office in the land, minorities will now have less credibility when they holler "discrimination" and "playing the race card" now looks idiotic. Good.
When we talk about help that should be given to the poor and disenfranchised, we can now have rational discussions about the pros and cons of tangible solutions instead of fretting about the fading legacy of attitudinal barriers constructed in a by-gone era.
There you have it, five reasons for social conservatives to not get too upset about the election. I hope that everyone is happy.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I found this via digg-
Our lives are full of 'thingummys', 'thingamajigs' and 'whatjermecallits' -
those everyday items we should know the word for, or were once told but have
since forgotten. Now, a collection of them has been compiled for a fascinating
Read the rest and learn 35 new words.
Monday, November 03, 2008
In my experience Singtel is by far the best ISP in Singapore. M1 is disappointing and Starhub has high quality cable TV. Yet Sintel's internet isn't perfect.
The soft underbelly of Singnet has to be the DNS servers. Some website won't load properly or Singtel just can't seem to find them. There is a solution and it involves tweaking your manual proxy configuration.
Claudia.sg has an article that provides detailed instructions.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
For quite some time, the subtitle of this blog has been "Bridging the gap between Asia and America," but lately I attempted to avoid that topic. If I make too many comparisons between the East and the West, it will seem like I'm grasping at straws trying to construct non-existent connections. If I make too many evaluations, I sound like a white, narcissistic cultural imperialist. Most of the time my blog post ramblings divert into an alternate reality that takes the form of an absurd, socio-political cyber-circus.
Today I'm going to throw discretion to the wind and risk having those negative, myopic labels attached to me as I evaluate and compare the American process of marriage with the Indian process of marriage. And when I say "Indian," I'm talking about the across-the-Pacific, dots-not-feathers variety.
You see, over the weekend I had one of the greatest honors in my life. I was able to serve as the best man in a wedding for a friend that lives in Chennai, India. He used to be my employer's IT guy, and during his tenure he was the only other single male that worked in the building. Every day after work, we'd spend a little bit of time talking about our day and shootin' the breeze. At a time when we both found ourselves in the foreign culture of Singapore, we'd help each other out of scrapes, pray together, and play pick-up games of ping-pong.
Given that I've been a groomsman and usher in other weddings, what made this wedding simultaneously special and unique? It was the fact that it was an arranged marriage. I'll say it again- it was an arranged marriage. The bride and groom were only allowed to meet each other one time, with the supervision of their mothers, before making the decision to marry. At the altar, the extent of the couple's knowledge of one another was limited to a handful of phone calls and a few face to face meetings.
Except for some older Indians (i.e. the groom's parents) that I might have bumped into, I had never knowingly met anyone that has been a part of this type of union. However, as I was sitting and chatting with other wedding guests in the dusty courtyard where the couple had their wedding reception, I slowly came to realize that nearly all of the 800 guests had marriages that were arranged. When I applied for my Indian passport visa and explained the purpose of my trip, the man at the counter said, "India has maximum arranged marriage." I guess I believed him with my head but not my heart.
Since I was the only Caucasian in a crowd of hundreds, I stuck out like an over-used cliche in a work of innovative prose. The Indians, having seen almost as many Hollywood movies as most Americans, that I talked with knew that America has an altogether different system; and several of them thought it was fun to come and quiz me on the differences between how Americans and Indians meet their brides. A few older men even came up to me and unabashedly touted the superiority of arranged marriage.
I was required to give several explanations and justifications:
"We don't have arranged marriage in America."
"Okay, maybe a small, small number of immigrants still have arranged marriage in America, but not many. An insignificant number."
"No, I'm not married and my parents probably won't be picking my bride."
"Americans usually date for a year or two and then make a decision about marriage."
"A Christian would believe that sleeping with people before marriage is sinful. Non-Christians will not believe this. I am a Christian."
"Yes, America has a high divorce rate, and, I know, India has a low divorce rate. But I think the numbers are skewed because a small number of Americans get married and divorced over and over again."
However by the end of the weekend, I began to see that there may be a significant level of wisdom and superiority in the arranged marriage system. Yet the reasons their system may be superior have more to do with the cultural values that created the system, and much, much less to do with who actually selects the bride and groom. Unlike India, if two American parents tried to arrange a marriage, the relationship would probably fail like a wooden boat in a lava flow.
The problem is in the values. In America the selfish values of the individual reign supreme. People getting married need to be under the delusion that they are marrying "the one," their soul mate made specifically for them that no one else could love. People try to find spouses to meet their needs and their likings. When the people in a marriage don't get what they want, it is socially acceptable to go pay a lawyer for a divorce. This even filters through to parents that give advice. If the parents are even asked to dispense advice, the parents think about their own needs and who will take care of them.
The result in America is rampant consumerism, spoiled children, sexual perversion, and broken families.
In India, especially among Christians, the church and the family is seen as more important than the individual. Parents search for mates for their children that share similar values and lifestyle expectations. When the children learn about each other and consent to the marriage; the whole community turns up at the wedding as a show of support for the newly married couple.
When two Indian Christians wed, the ceremony is nearly identical to the American Christian wedding ceremony. I noticed only two significant differences. The first difference is superficial. The couple doesn't kiss at the end of the ceremony. (Remember, they don't really know each other.) The second difference is more significant. When the couple cuts the cake at the reception, an older woman, usually a close family friend, helps them with this task. In my friend's case, it was the minister's wife. The purpose is to symbolize that any solid marriage needs support and help. Indians know that over time, interests will wane and people will change, but with the help of the older and wiser a marriage that honors God and produces God-fearing children can be had. The Indians that I met realize that loving is difficult, but it is most rewarding when the well-being of the family comes before the desire of the individual.
Would I agree to an arranged marriage? Almost certainly not. One of the elements that makes an arranged marriage work is a shared cultural heritage. In each culture, there are common expectations about what the couple will eat, how the children will be disciplined, the roles of the husband and the wife, and how the home will look. It is bittersweet and slightly disconcerting to say that anyone that shares my culture would simply be too selfish for an arranged marriage.
What I also glean from my reflections on arranged marriages is that failing American marriages are almost without excuse. Indian Christians have a much lower divorce rate and make the same vows as Americans, and they don't even pick their spouses. God has allowed Americans the freedom to pick their spouses, but statistically many still don't keep their promises to one another. How would they explain this failure to their Indian brothers and sister in Christ?
What also impresses me about the Indian Christians is how they seek God in their choices. One of the miraculous things about my friend's marriage is that a senior minister of his church and my friend's father both independently arrived at the conclusion that this marriage should happen. After meeting each other, the mother and the bride both prayed and agreed as well.
I've never seen my friend happier than I did this weekend, though he and his wife understand that there will be trouble and differences. Yet I also know that with the help of God, the church, and the extended family, they will create a happy, loving home and family that will seek God in purpose, and honor Him in all that they do.