An Unusual Request

Two weeks ago, I went into the Verizon store at Harvard Square, and I asked a sales person to help me downgrade to a dumb phone. I had an iPhone 5 at the time, and I asked if I could trade it in for a flip phone. The sales person told me to buy a used phone and said that if I sold my iPhone, I could easily make $500+. After presenting what seemed to her a compelling case, I insisted that I do the trade in, and to do it then and there. She explained to me again, as if I didn’t understand the first time. I repeated my decision. Looking frustrated, she handed me off to another sales person. I repeated to him what I wanted, and he said, “You know, this is an unusual request. But you’re the boss. So we’ll do what you want.”

Why did I get rid of my iPhone 5? I have been a loyal iPhone user since 2009. The iPhone was the first and only smartphone I’ve owned. I really like the iPhone. So what happened? In very condensed form, there were two reasons: 1) to simplify my life; 2) in seeking sexual integrity, to block access to internet pornography. I will focus only on reason 2 in this post, and I hope to explain in more depth how I got here. To visualize my thoughts, below is a diagram.decision diagram Continue reading An Unusual Request

Protecting what?

I’ve been reading a Chinese novel titled 駱駝祥子 by 老舍. It’s been a while since I’ve read Chinese, but it’s also been a while since I’ve thought about Chinese etymology. While I was reading, a word popped out at me, and I realized I never wrote about it. The word is 护(s), 護(t), (hu4), which means “to protect.” I will reference two previous posts which will explain some concepts that I’ve written about before. “What is love?” talks about how when the Chinese Communist Party simplified the Chinese characters, they also changed the etymological structures of the words. “Pitiable Fish Scales” talks about how the sound component of the word can also provide meaning.

One of the first things you will notice is that the simplified version and the traditional version of this character don’t have any shared radicals. In fact, they are completely different words, etymologically. Let me explain what this means, and we will start with the traditional, then the simplified.

護 (hu4)
| __
言   |
蒦 (huo4)
| __
又   |
雈 (huan2) Continue reading Protecting what?


oblivion-tom-cruiseThe plot is very much identical to Moon. So nothing new there. The graphics and technology design was pretty impressive and innovative. The drones looked both good and evil at the same time. The landscape was not as apocalyptic compared to other movies, and it doesn’t show the city being destroyed, like The Day After Tomorrow. It was more sad and forlorn. Tired and weighty. Most of the structures were covered under sand and soil of some sort. And it doesn’t feel creepy like zombie movies. A little detail, the boundaries set up for radiation zones that keeps Jack inside his area, reminded me of a similar concept in the movie Gamer. [spoilers coming up]

What is interesting is that half way through the movie, it forces you the completely change your view. At first you think the drones and the repair team are working for the humans. Then you learn that they are working for the alien force. In terms of meta-narrative, what I found most striking is that it combines a Christ figure who sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity, but at the same time puts it right next to a pseudo-reincarnation theme moderated through clones and a hint of new age spirituality, with a spark of humanity in all of us. And this all comes together at the last minute of the move. Let me explain. Continue reading Oblivion

Luke 19 – “Slaughter them before me”

There are a number of passages in the Bible that are difficult to stomach. Last night during our bible study, we hit upon one of them. It was lodged in my mind and I have not yet put it to rest. It is the last verse of the Parable of the Ten Minas, “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me,” (Luke 19:27). Below are a few translations of the verse. They are all pretty consistant. Below the translations are some commentaries trying to explain what this text means. Some feel more satisfactory than others, but it still did not rest my mind. So I will offer some of my thoughts in seeking to understand this verse. First, I want to make a few comments about parables. Second, I will focus on the structure of The Minas. Third, I will briefly compare The Minas to two other parables so that we can gain a little wider context, and I will offer a suggestion in terms of how to sit with this difficult verse.
Continue reading Luke 19 – “Slaughter them before me”

My Reflection on Easter

2013 marks my sixth Easter as a Christian. It is significant because this is not where I expected to be. Working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is not what I had in mind when a freshman at Harvard. But as I look back over the past six years, without a doubt, my decision to follow Jesus was the most significant turning point. I did not do it because it was vogue. In fact, historically, it has never been so. I did not do it because I was coerced, for genuine faith cannot be forced. And I did not do it to fit in, because what happened was quite the opposite.

It was never easy for me. I faced opposition from my family. I feared rejection from my friends who weren’t Christian. My decision was seriously challenged as I encountered a number of faith crises along the way. I was a geology major so I had to wrestle with the Bible, creation, earth history, and evolution. I got entangled in a Christian cult that manipulated me and taught me inaccurate and potentially damaging theology. I struggled to understand how Christianity interacted with other religions, especially Buddhism and Islam. And as I interacted with my same-sex attraction and explored my sexual identity, I was puzzled, troubled, and intrigued with what Scripture had to say about it. All the while, I wondered, “Was I captive to the brainwashing of a false institution?”
Continue reading My Reflection on Easter

Luke 10 – “Don’t take anything with you”

A few weeks ago, we looked at Luke 10:1-24. It was too long for us to cover in an hour, but one thing that did stand out to me was question that one of the students asked about verse 4, “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” He asked, “Why do you think they were sent out like this?” A follow up question was, “How would you respond to someone who came to your door with a suit on? Or plain clothes? Or with armor?”

I then saw something significant in the passage: the place from which we share about the kingdom of God is crucial. It is with a certain meekness, not weakness. It is with a certain confidence without arrogance. It is with a boldness that is gentle. And what I saw was that even as they were sharing about the kingdom of God, these messengers were very much in need themselves. They had much to offer but at the same time were utterly dependent. It was from a place of humility because in not bringing anything, they were aware that they had nothing to offer but God. It was not about how clever they were or how charming they could talk. They didn’t even really have themselves to offer. They were just heralds and messengers of the one who was to come.

So I think about how Christians evangelize today and how Christians share about the kingdom of God today. How often do Christians approach others with spiritual arrogance and pride, thinking that they are better? How often do Christians mock the worldviews of others? How poorly do they communicate God’s love?
Continue reading Luke 10 – “Don’t take anything with you”

Luke 5 – “He saw their faith”

I’m constantly amazed by how much information is present in even small portions of Scripture. The past week, we looked at Luke 5:17-26, just 9 verses, but it is chock full of interesting questions and subjects. It touches on the topics of faith, miracles, sin, forgiveness of sin, Jesus’ claim to divinity, and one’s response to the miraculous. And in order to understand these topics well, it will require extensive study and reflection which an hour bible study cannot afford. Each time I revisit these familiar passages, I see something new and I see something that I have not seen before. Of these various topics that I mentioned above, I wish to focus in on the matter of faith, because this passage shows us something about biblical faith which can be give us some new perspective in our current culture.
Continue reading Luke 5 – “He saw their faith”