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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dongbeiren, Jiayou!

Five years ago, it was Yáng Lìwěi in "divine/sacred vessel" # 5 or Shenzhou 5. Now, it's Zhái Zhìgāng in Shenzhou 7. I bet the proudest among all the Chinese in this "Great Leap Upward"  fever are the people from Northeast (dongbei) China, home to the provinces of Liáoníng (Liao from Liao Dynasty + ning, "peacefulness"), Hēilóngjiāng  ("black dragon river") and  Jílín ("promising forest").  Why should they be not?  After all, Yang -- the first Chinese in space* -- is  from Suizhong County, Huludao City, Liaoning  while Zhai  -- the first Chinese spacewalker -- is from Longjiang County, Qiqijar, Heilongjiang.

Yang's  monument now shines at an intersection in Suizhong.  I'm sure Zhai's statue will soon rise at the center of Longjiang. Yang, by the way, did not see the Great Wall from up there, thus forever consigning to the "UrbanLegends" vault the decades-old belief that the said structure is the only human structure visible from space.

China intends to put up a spacelab by 2011.  Will a taikonaut from Jilin be in the space team by then?

Anyways, let me just say to our pengyou zai Dongbei, jiayou!

Now, if only Hu Jintao and his government can send all the China-based manufacturers of poison-tainted products to space without the feitian ("flying in the sky") spacesuits...

* might not fully agree to this claim. It names the following astronauts with Chinese roots:

  • William Anders (one flight, 6.13 days total time: Apollo 8), born in Hong Kong on 17 October 1933. Certainly the first person born in China to have orbited the moon!

  • Shannon Lucid, (five flights, total time 223.12 days, STS-51-G, STS-34, STS-43, STS-58, STS-79), born in Shanghai on 14 January 1943.

  • Taylor Gun-Jin Wang (one flight, total time 7.01 days: STS-51-B), born in Shanghai on June 16, 1940, an American citizen since 1975.

  • Franklin Chang-Diaz (six flights, total time 52.91 days: STS-61-C, STS-34, STS-46, STS-60, STS-75, STS-91) born in Costa Rica, with some Chinese ancestors but considers himself a Hispanic-American.

  • Edward Tsang Lu (two flights, total time 21.02 days: STS-84, STS-106), born in in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1963.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Cooking a Goose"

Some debates or discussions among religionists and politicians remind me of this Chinese tale:

A man noticed a wild goose flying across the sky. He was about to shoot it with an arrow, and said: 'Once I shoot it down I shall have it stewed.' His brother intervened and said: 'A goose flying straight ahead is good for stewing, while one which flies in circles is good for roasting.' This squabble continued until they met an old man who advised cutting the goose in half, one half for stewing and the other for roasting. They accepted this suggestion, but when they returned to the original spot the goose was gone.

- Source: Ding Cong, Wit and Humor from Ancient China, trans. Ma Mingtong (Beijing: New World Press, 2000), 112.

Name Game: Senators of the Philippines

The current bickering among some of our honorable senators makes me wonder whether things will change for the better were they to swap names and personalities. Let's see --

Manny Lacson
Panfilo Villar
Kiko Lapid
Aquilino Trillanes
Edgardo Legarda
Benigno Arroyo
Joker Madrigal
Pia Angara
Alan Peter Biazon
Gregorio Cayetano
Miriam Defensor Honasan
Manuel "Lito" Enrile
Juan Ponce Roxas
Richard Escudero
Loren Aquino
Antonio Pimentel
Juan Miguel Pangilinan
Francis Gordon
Jamby Revilla
Mar Estrada
Ramon Cayetano
Rodolfo Santiago
Jinggoy Zubiri

Hay, if only this kind of rigodon could spell governmental reform, 'no?

"Walang Paki" : Centennial Lecture Series @ UP Baguio

Baguio Midland Courier columnist Leonora San Agustin recently commented on the UP Centennial lecture series:

It is my observation among the UP faculty that even if it was a university affair, members of the faculty only attend if their department is involved.  During my times at BCF (now the University of the Cordilleras), if it is a school affair, the school requires all faculty members to attend -- a school affair means that the whole school is involved and not only the particular department in charge.  This ruling prevents embarrassing presentations where there is a smattering of people present.

I also observed that president Emerlinda Roman was present at all the lectures.  If the president of UP, who is based in Diliman, can come up to Baguio to attend the centennial lectures, why shouldn't the chancellor and other members of the faculty in UP Baguio attend also?  But as they say in Tagalog, "wala kang paki!"

Ouch! (sori, Aray! pala).  Of course,  nanang Leonora knows that the UPB Chancellor and the faculty members are not faithful attendees to the lectures for after all she has so far only been able to listen in to two of the 20+ lectures delivered in the past nine months.   She also knows that the three colleges of UP Baguio are so far apart in spirit and in flesh that they don't work together somehow on University-wide projects as this lecture series, especially when the lecture is to be beamed from UP Baguio to other constituent universities of the UP System. She is fully aware also that most of the lectures have been telecast from other constituent universities of the UP System -- which means that the UPB Chancellor has to travel far and wide every time another constituent university  hosts a lecture that  will be broadcast UP-wide anyway, and that she has as much travel privileges/time/resources as the  UP President has.  Finally, it is not a secret to the Grand Old Lady that all those who teach at UP Baguio have all the time in the world to be present in ALL of the lectures for after all, these  active teachers -- just like the long-retired ones -- don't have papers to check, lessons to prepare, classes to teach, researches to make, and kids  or other family members to care for , etc.; don't even make a wee attempt to squeeze several of the lectures into their busy skeds; and can't catch up on the lectures they missed via  (Back when I was teaching at BCF, by the way, I could only attend one or two lectures lined up for the academic school year for there were no monthly schedules of lectures at the time . Don't get me wrong, I am a great admirer of former UC President Pama and former AS Dean Alolor under whose administrative stints I briefly served. :) )

So hoy, UPB pipol, makinig! :) AMANI!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on Family Week

On Weddings

♥ What should impress us more is not the pomp of a marriage ceremony  but the quality of the couple's relationship after their wedding. Some "Weddings of the Year/Decade/Century" have turned out to be "Marital Disasters of the Year/Decade/Century."

♥ Some marry to satisfy their sexual needs, have kids, and  have lifelong partners; others to acquire punching bags, make money, and possess slaves.

♥ During the veil ceremony in some Christian weddings, half of the veil is cast over the  woman's head and the other half over the man's shoulder symbolizing the woman's submission to the man and the man's responsibility to his family.  Something wrong there, I think. Since submission in a marital relationship is mutual according to Paul (Eph 5.21 f) and family is a shared responsibility between wife and husband,  shouldn't the veil cover even the man's head, instead?

♥ It is a big deal to many whether a wedding rite is civil (court) or religious (church). In fact, some even go to the extent of questioning the validity of a wedding ceremony that is not "blessed" by a priest or minister.  But consider: the judge (or consul, military commander, ship captain, airplane chief, mayor, etc. as the case may be) and the priest/minister are authorized by the same legal code (i.e. Family Code) to solemnize weddings; Paul of Tarsus said that governments are ordained of God and that Christians are to obey governmental laws (Rom 13.1, f); a wedding ceremony done outside any ecclesiastical jurisdiction but nevertheless satisfies the requisites of the Family Code is thus divinely sanctioned.  But why do some religious leaders insist that their members marry "in church"? As a tool of control, perhaps? Or maybe, as a way of maintaining a steady flow of church income?

♥ Witnessing a marriage between very young lovers always reminds me of Jose Garcia Villa's "Footnote to Youth."  This short story tells of a man named Dodong who prevailed upon his father to be allowed to marry at 18.  Six kids down the years taught him his hard lesson on life.  When Dodong's first child, Blas, turned 18, he also asked his father's blessings in marriage and Dodong found himself unable to deny his son the triumph of youthhood.

On Parenthood

♥ Six years into fatherhood, I realized that one can never prepare enough for the challenges of parenthood.  I have made a lot of mistakes already as a father to my children (especially in the area of discipline) and no doubt I will make some more mistakes in the years to come though hard I may try not to.  This is no excuse  though to give up striving each day to give parenthood my best shot.  I always try to keep Jonas Salk's words in mind: "Parents give their children roots and wings -- roots to know where home is, and wings to fly away and exercise what's been taught them." Tough call! :)

♥ Dr. Susan Forward likens nurturing kids to sowing seeds -- a parent sows in the heart of the child either seeds of weeds or seeds of flowers.  Good reminder for me.  Dr. Forward, by the way, classifies Toxic Parents as follows:

The Inadequate Parents: Constantly focusing on their own problems, they turn their children into “mini-adults” who take care of them.

The Controllers: They use guilt, manipulation, and even over-helpfulness to direct their children’s lives.

The Alcoholics: Mired in denial and chaotic mood swings, their addiction leaves little time or energy for the demands of parenthood.

The Verbal Abusers: Whether overtly abusive or sarcastic, they demoralize their children with constant put-downs and rob them of their self-confidence.

The Physical Abusers: Incapable of controlling their own deep-seated rage, they often blame their children for their own uncontrollable behavior.

The Sexual Abusers: Whether flagrantly sexual or covertly seductive, they are the ultimate betrayers, destroying the very heart of childhood – its innocence.

Forward, Susan & Craig Buck. 1989. Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. New York: Bantam Books.

♥ The "Parable of the Lost Son" (Luke 15) tells us that a father must evidence a sense of responsibility no matter what  (he provided for his sons), gives no matter what ("So he divided his property among them), and forgives or loves no matter what ("But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him..."; "The older brother became angry and refused to go in so his father went out and pleaded with him...").

♥ I'd like to spell out motherhood in four letters: M.A.R.Y.  Memorial - mothers always remember their children, and will always be remembered for their sacrifices. Amnesia - sadly, mothers must prepare to be forgotten; many are mothers who, in their dying days,  end up unappreciated and neglected, even blamed by their own children for a host of reasons. Responsibility - motherhood carries with it power and influence as well as risks; a mother has a lot more to face beyond morning sickness and post-partum depression. Yardstick - although good parenting does not always result in good children, many are they who measure the success of motherhood by the way the children turned out to be.

♥ My mother, Anatalia Magkachi Saboy, is celebrating her 75th birthday on 28 September.  I wish for her a smile on her lips as she watches the sun's afternoon glow slowly dimming...

Joseph Smith & "Moroni"

21 September 1823. Joseph Smith reported to have had a vision on this day in which an angel named Moroni appeared to him to reveal the existence of "golden plates"  on which was inscribed in "Reformed Hieroglyphics" an account of  ancient North Americans who supposedly trace their origin to the Middle East. Earlier, sometime in the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith at age 15 (b. December 23, 1805) reportedly went to the woods to pray early in the morning and sees a pillar of light and

"two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air,  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him! (v. 17).  He then asked of them which religious group he should join and was told the he "must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors wree all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (v. 19)."

And so was born another sect in Christendom.

Source: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "Joseph Smith - History," Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,1981), 27-48.

"New Wine for Seniors"

From my inbox:

California vintners in the Napa Valley area, which primarily produce Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio wines, have developed a new hybrid grape that acts as an anti-diuretic.

It is expected to reduce the number of trips older people have to make to the bathroom during the night.

The new wine will be marketed as


Friday, September 19, 2008

Roller Coasters, Trains and Labyrinths: Struggling with Poetry

Taste in poetry, as in other personal things, is an internal matter, an examination of self as much as a reaching out to the voices of others.” – Herbert Kohl

Reading poetry can be a ride on a roller coaster, a travel by train, or a walk in a labyrinth.1

As a roller coaster ride, it takes you to a literary carnival in which you feel a mix of thrill and boredom, fulfilment and frustration.  At times, the ride can turn your heart into a wild piston jerking in an oversized chamber or can make your head spin like a wobbly top.  At other times though, you get so used to the whole thing that you feel like a bored Mr. Bean whose only "excitement" is getting rudely awakened by a watcher long after the machine has stopped running.  It can happen, of course, that the reading experience becomes exhilarating as your creativity is stirred and your world becomes metaphoric, especially when you come across an extraordinary poem after having fed on the "usual" stuff.

As a train ride, this intellectual exercise can also be compared to a trip to Hogwarts school with the wonderment of a Ron Beasley, exclaiming “Wicked!” at every sight of an idyllic scene or a sudden display of magic. You feast on the poet’s bag of goodies and you look forward to a literary banquet at your destination. The poem leads to a whole new world for you to explore.

As a labyrinth adventure, it compels you to solve a puzzle with several attempts at reaching the center where you gain some form of wisdom. In a way, you become a sleuth looking for clues for the right direction that will make your walk in the labyrinth purposeful.  At times, you get cocky sure of where the clue is leading you, but you end up at a dead-end so you go back and try another passage.  As you decode and discover, you may feel like you’re doing a detective’s work.  And in this kind of preoccupation, you never rest until you solve the riddle or put together the puzzle and finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth where you can, with clear insight, enunciate the “kernel...of [the] poem.”  You then march your way out of the maze with a fresh view of your world and a thirst for more adventure in other complex sets of passageways.

A new dimension to the experience of poetry reading comes alive when you don’t have information about the poet. Herbert Kohl wrote:

“It is wonderful to discover and read a poem when you know nothing about the poet, have never read critical commentary on the work, and have to figure out what the poet is doing with language. [1999, 3]

I agree. On the other hand, it is quite vexing to be unable to find any source that talks of the biography of the author when you have just found meaning in her/his poem. For even as poems expectedly lend themselves to various interpretations according to who reads them, curiosity demands (at least in my case) a knowledge of authorial intent and background. And, notwithstanding the intrinsic-investigation-only approach of the dyed-in-the-wool Formalist, the socio-cultural context of a poem is worth looking into if we are to make full sense of a work. Without this background, the walk to the center of the labyrinth may begin to feel like a ride on the roller coaster or train.

In the final analysis though, what counts most in struggling with the poetic text – whether canonical or not, marginalized or centered -- is the meaning one finds in it. In regard to this, I quote Kohl once more:

Not every poem speaks to me, nor is every poem that moves me extraordinary. There are poems that move other people that leave me cold, and poets with major reputations whose work I don’t enjoy even though I know it is well written and moves other people. That is part of the magic of reading around in poetry – some of it will move you, some will move your friends, and some will simply be put aside. [ibid.]


¹Nancy Malone (2003) likens one’s reading of various genres of literature as a walk in a labyrinth – one that is more like that on the floor of the church at Chartres than that in Crete. I use labyrinth in the sense of a combination of the two – one that has blind alleys but promises a way out after one has found the center.


Kohl, Herbert. 1999. A Grain of Poetry: How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make Them a Part of Your Life. New York: Perennial.

Malone, Nancy M. 2003. Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading. New York: Riverhead Books.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

From "Forbidden Tales of the Bible"

To be sure, the Hebrew Bible includes generous portions of strict moral instruction, starting with the Ten Commandments and bulking up to include some 613 other dos and don'ts.  For that matter, there is little that one cannot find in the Bible, which is actually a fantastic grab bag of law, legend, history, politics, propaganda, poetry, prayer, ethics, genealogy, hygienic practices, military tactics, dietary advice, and carpentry instructions, among many other things,  But... the Bible is also a treasury of storytelling that recounts the lives of men and women who were thoroughly human, which is to say that they were as confused, conflicted, twisted, tortured, and vulnerable to the weaknesses of the flesh and failure of the spirit as any character in Homer, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, or any of the soap operas, bodice rippers, and tabloids that amount to the literature of our times.

- Jonathan Kirsch, The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), 2.

From "Terabithia" to Tabuk

One of the scenes in Bridge to Terabithia that set me to a reflective mode was the one where, after attending church, Jess and May Belle got to talk about religion with Leslie in the back of their homebound pick-up truck. 

The bubbly Leslie says, "I’m really glad I came. That whole Jesus thing, it’s really interesting, isn’t it?"to which May Belle responds, "It’s not interesting. It’s scary! It’s nailing holes through your hands. It’s ‘cause we’re all vile sinners. God made Jesus die."

"You really think that’s true?" asked Leslie.

"It’s in the Bible, Leslie," Jess assures her.

"You have to believe it, and you hate it. I don’t have to believe it, and I think it’s beautiful."

"You gotta believe in the Bible ,Leslie," May Belle ventured.


"‘Cause if you don’t believe in the Bible, God will damn you to hell when you die."

"Wow, May Belle. Where’d you hear that?"

The self-assured girl turns to her poker-faced brother for confirmation. "That’s right, huh, Jess? God damns you to hell if you don’t believe in the Bible."

"Well, I don’t think so. I seriously don’t think God goes around damning people to hell. He’s too busy running all this." Leslie stretches out her hand to everything around her as the car speeds away with dried leaves from roadside trees trailing it.

As they zoomed out of the screen, I began to zoom in on my own  religious experiences.  I first realized that this fictive conversation could be a good starting point for a discussion on theological issues or topics such as theodicy (justification for the acts of God), hermeneutics or bibliology (study/interpretation of the Bible), soteriology (doctrine of salvation), eschatology (teaching about the end-times), or even  homiletics (preaching/sermon delivery).

For now though, let me just recount some of my experiences with religion in childhood. I remember being in a series of Religion classes in Grade 3 taught by  an old Katekista who made for herself quite a reputation among us with her odd way of punishing the unruly ones -- booting  out a boy from his seat by the ear or pinching a girl in the singit (crotch).  Along with her disciplining technique, her dark lipsticks, raspy voice and grave countenance gave a scary ring, rattle and roll to her "Jesus ([and Mary] thing." I think the only fun time we had with her was when every one of us marched from school to the cathedral to offer a pot of flowering plant which we were required to snatch from our parents' garden.   Generally, we   viewed her a killjoy, just as we did each Simbang Gabi (which was a mass at dawn, actually) when our parents had to half-drag us sleepyheads to the cathedral for a soporific ritual during which we either dozed off or gaped at the stained glass images of the suffering Christ.

At Christmastide, it was not only the klem-bang of the cathedral that signaled dawn but also the Christmas carols which a couple of loudspeakers blared from the Baptist pastor's house, apparently as a counterbalance to the strains and peals issuing from the Catholic church nearby.  And if the Catholics had a Katekista for the public school where we studied, the local (Fundamental) Baptist church also sent to us a "Bible Teacher." And we liked her better than "Ms. Singit" not only because she was a young lady at the time but also because she always had interesting songs to teach and new stories to tell with cut-outs and a flannelgraph to boot. I would grow up with the Baptists after that, spending much of our time at "Pastor Taber's" where we played UNO, chinese checkers, table tennis, and croquet.

But I liked both the American missionary, Pastor Donald Taber , and the Belgian priest, Father Mike Haelterman. It was probably because they were  white foreigners, Amerikano (in our Little "Town" of Bulanao, every white foreigner was an American).  And the American's white hair and nasal tone always interested me, just as the Belgian's large swako (pipe) and queer but fluent Ilocano amazed me.  And they were also family friends.


What makes this "Jesus thing" scary to many people? I can think of two.

Preaching style and subject. Some preachers neglect to balance the  negative content of their messages with the positive messages of the Scriptures. They delight in their Jonathan Edwards-style of preaching and all they talk about is the sinfulness of sin, the danger of apostasy, the terror of hell with real undying maggots thriving in a  literal lake of fire and all these in a region of literal darkness, the horrible days of the Tribulation period where one gets fed to the dogs for refusing the literal Mark of the Beast ("666") on the  forearm or the forehead, or the terrible battle of Armageddon.  Often unconsciously, they deliver these fire-and-brimstone stuff with such self-righteousness as to make the hearers painfully conscious of their inability to attain perfection.

Legalistic and exclusivistic church system.  When one is brought up in a religious environment which teaches explicitly or implicitly that one's salvation is dependent on her/his commitment to 613 or more rules (impeccable Wednesday and Sunday attendance record, regular tithing, tracts distribution  or baptism quota, etc.), s/he may find herself/himself continually living in fear that one mistake (especially at the point of death) or one unfollowed rule will render all her lifelong deeds of righteousness futile.   Some of those who think they belong to the One, True Church tend to view other groups with suspicion and condemnation, and their air of spiritual superiority and narrow, bigoted worldview often scare people away.

Turning Points

A decade after college, I and three lady batchmates finally found time recently to get together for dinner and "videoke."  Aside from our passion for literature, we discovered other commonalities: kids, grad school, teaching experiences, sensitivity to feminist causes (more of the "liberal" than the "radical" form, I guess) and, more importantly, "turning points" in life.

These turning points all have traces of the spiritual or religious. One found greater life purpose in the advocacy for liberating Islamic women from the stranglehold of ignorance, poverty and patriarchy.  This led her to a two-year theological study, a missionary stint in Indonesia and a sustained interest in advanced Islamic studies.

Another found her life-changing experience in her near-death experience in an ICU.  She has had a major surgery and a struggle with a life-threatening illness.  She is making up for her "lackluster" performance in college by an all-A+ rating in all her grad school classes in the U.S.  She has traveled to several countries already, which further broadened her worldview and deepened her resolve to seize the day! And she still finds meaning in her Catholic faith -- perhaps, minus the fanaticism of the folk religionist.

The other, who grew more articulate and wiser as the other two, found a form of liberation in grad school. She also discovered meaning in a Buddhist/Hindu context. Her spiritual quest has taken her to India four times already, her exposure to varies hues of personalities and socio-cultural contexts have given her deeper insights into human relations, and her intellectual pursuits have continually blessed her and those around her.

I, of course, shared instances of my own turning points in the context of Evangelical Christianity and liberal education.  Although a major shift in worldview eventually led me out of an institutional church, it was an institutional church in China, as well as writers and preachers mostly from institutional churches ,  that helped me get back to the Christian faith. Grad school also revived my passion for the literary and reconnected me to my life goals left out years ago in the dustbin of a sectarian chamber.


Most of us will have to come to several turning points in life -- even under what seem to be the most unlikely circumstances. Just like the case of the Samaritan woman who encountered her Messiah by Jacob's well (John 4.6-30).  Her story teaches us that turning points can come

... at a time least expected. It was midday, and the Palestinian heat called not for a conversation on the moral and the spiritual, but for an impulse to rush to Jacob's well for a refreshing drink. The woman went to the well to wash the dust down her throat or off her hands, but ended up having her moral filth cleansed. The Living Water had filled up her empty jar and forever quenched her thirst for meaning. places least expected.  C.S. Lewis found faith in a lonely room, Alexandre Solzhenitsyn in a Siberian prison camp, Charles Colson during the Watergate days, Zhang Boli in a frost-covered shed near the China-Russia border... This woman found her "faith encounter" by Jacob's well.

...for people least expected. She has been the talk of her town chiefly because she has had five husbands, an affront to the sensibility of a society that allowed divorce or remarriage for a max of only three times. Worse, she was living with a man she had not married.  To her neighbors, she would be the last person to get interested in clean living and spiritual pursuits.  But grace finds much meaning in one who has been disgraced.  And it is for the sick that the Great Physician came.  Too, a Samaritan woman getting incorporated into the Messianic Kingdom is unthinkable to a Jew who lives in a society where rabbis thank God daily for not being born as Gentiles, slaves, or women; where teachers of the Law prefer the Torah to be burned than for it to be left in the hands of a woman; where testimonies of women can never be accepted in Sanhedrin proceedings; where Samaritans are regarded as dogs and talking with a Samaritan woman (!?), at the very least,  raises the eyebrows of an all-male band of disciples.  But "turning a new leaf" doesn't require that one grows out of only one kind of tree, does it?

...with results least expected. Her testimony that a Sadducee may not hear in court got a hearing in the dusty streets of Sychar.  Who among her people could have thought her clay water pot would take on a cosmic significance? Who among her people would have expected that a life that has been the subject of gossip would become the focus of a gospel proclamation?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


16 September 1620.  With 102 passengers, the Mayflower leaves Plymouth, England and reaches Provincetown, Massachusetts about nine weeks later.  Caleb Johnson provides comprehensive data on the Pilgrims @

Monday, September 15, 2008

A "Next of Kin" Scam

"Experts estimate that spam makes up 50% of Internet traffic." So wrote Dr. Steve Price in his 2007 book WWW.Stands for "World Wide Whiners": How the Internet is Being Manipulated by the MIFFED (Misinformed, Ignorant, Fired, Failed, Envious, & Desperate. You wonder how much that percentage has increased as of today.

I wonder too how many "gullibles" have been duped by these sp/scammers who go by the aliases "Ronny Shaw" & "Adams Robert" whose spam email (known among "419" experts as a  "next of kin" scam; see also ) is pasted below.  In the same book, Dr. Price mentioned a spam king , Ronnie Scelson, who managed to rake in 30-40k USD a month by just mailing  60-70 million spams a day.   Could "Robert and Shaw" beat that? :)

From: Mr Ronny Shaw <>

Reply to: Ronny Shaw <>

To: undisclosed-recipients

Date: Mon, Sept 15, 2008 at 07:39 PM

Subject: For your attention

Mailed by:

I solicit your partnership because I feel you will understand what confidentiality is all about and who has the ability and requirements needed in embarking in this business. I decided to contact you through email as it has remained the only possible means I consider safe to contact you for now. I apologize to have delved into your privacy.

I am contacting you in a non-official capacity and on behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Gustav Krupp a foreigner and an Industrialist I once again try to notify you as my earlier letter was returned undelivered. I hereby attempt to reach you again  by this same email address. I wish to notify you that arrangements have been worked out to make you a beneficiary to these funds.

It is  in the sum of £5,250,000.00GBP(Five Million Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds Sterling) and we do request that you provide either an  existing bank account or to set up a new bank account to receive this  money in trust, even an empty account would serve, as long as you will  remain honest to the transaction.  This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is true and absolutely real.

I am Ronny Shaw, an accountant and business manager with Royal Bank of Scotland, during the course of my auditing, I discovered a floating  fund in an account opened in this bank in 1998 and till date nobody has operated on this account again. After going through some old  files, I discovered that the owner of the account died without an [Heir], Hence the money has been floating and if I do not remit this  money out urgently it will be forfeited.

According to him this money is to support humanitarian activities and  to help the poor and the needy in our society. Please if I reach you,  as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to  enable me conclude my job. I hope to hear from you in no distant time.

I am contacting you as a foreigner because this money can only be  approved to a foreigner with a valid International Passport or Drivers  License as a means of identification.

For your participation, we have two options of payment for you,  firstly you can choose to have 20% of the money for your assistance or  you can go into partnership with us for viable investment of the money  in your country.

Note: You are advised for further correspondences contact me on my personal and private email address:  (

Yours Faithfully,

Mr. Ronny Shaw, ACCA.
Business & Risk Manager.

Adams Robert, Mr.
Principal partner.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Habits are Dangerous

The danger of habits is that a person can become a prisoner of familiarity.  The more often you do something in the same way -- whether it's cooking a meal or managing a project -- the more difficult it is to do it in any other way. You get stuck in how you already think about things.

Roger von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You can Be More Creative (New York: U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 1990), 14.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Amsterdam Weekly Ticklers

Got these from the ads section of the 15-21 May 2008 issue of Amsterdam Weekly :

1. Adjudged as "Ad of the Week": HATE THE ROBOTS. Paranoid male actor aged 25-35 needed for student film.  Must hate robots. Shooting May 24-25 but flexible.  Food for pay. Email: [p. 21]

2. Under "Courses": GOOD GIRL SYNDROME. Are you an independent woman suffering from perfectionism and Good Girl Syndrome?  Join like minded achievers: 1 day workshop, 24 May, Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam.  Covers personal and professional branding, strategic life planning, networking, 200 euros. Email: to secure a place. [p. 22]

3. [p. 23]

Monday, September 8, 2008

Baguio Centennial Conference: "Last Call for Papers"

The Baguio Centennial Conference will be held on 6-7 March 2009 with the theme "Patterns of Change: From Colonial Hill Station to Modern Metropolis."  We received word that the deadline for submission of paper proposals has just been extended. Here's the message from the director of the Cordillera Studies Center (CSC) @ the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), Prof. Delfin L. Tolentino, Jr.:

Please be informed that the deadline for submission of proposals to the Baguio Centennial Conference has been extended to October 15, 2008. Attached is the Last Call for Papers [go to this site for more details - sms]. Kindly pass it on to others who might be interested in the conference. Thank you and best wishes.

Cordillera Studies Center
University of the Philippines Baguio
2600 Baguio City
Tel. (6374) 4425794

If you have any problem sending mail to this address [], please direct your mail to <>. Thank you.

Sambot kakabsat! :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Destruction of Jerusalem

07 September AD 70.  Four years after Jewish patriots staged a major revolt against the Roman procurator Florus, the Roman army under General Titus finally pulverize Jerusalem killing a total of about a million Jews with thousands of them left to rot on crosses outside the city.

Reference: Werner Keller, The Bible As History (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1980), 397. For a complete account of this battle over Jerusalem, read Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus: Complete & Unabridged, New Updated Edition, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1987), 624-772. Recommended online reading: Albert Barnes' "Notes on the New Testament: Matthew 24" available @ Study Light.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lesson on Christian Growth

Suggested outline of a lesson on holistic Christian growth (PPS or PPT file as I originally used it available upon request):

I. Personal Mastery

♦ Key concepts: Intrapersonal, Self-Worth, Values, Life Mission, Goals

♦ Possible texts: Mat 5.3-10, 20; 6.1,19, 24-34

II. Social Skills

♦ Key concepts: Interpersonal Relationship, Empathy, Tolerance

♦ Possible texts: Mat 5.13-16, 7.1-5, 12

III. Doctrinal Competence

♦ Key concepts: Knowledge, Interpretation, Attitude

♦ Possible texts: Mat 5.17, f.; 7.6, 13-27

IV. Practical Ministry

♦ Key concepts: Servant Leadership, Community Service, Testimony

♦ Possible texts: Mat 4.23-25; 7.29; 8.1

Science and Common Sense

...everyday common sense is different from disciplined, rigorous, and systematic methods for posing and answering questions.  Sometimes what you're sure you know is not what's really going on.  Common sense says you see people as they really are, and that you classify them according to true and real categories, like race, religion, and nation, or like occupation, personality type, and age group.  But the real causes and effects that work on the mind are likely different from what folk wisdom says... it isn't just what you are that causes you to think, feel, and do things; it's where you are -- what you see happening around you and how you must relate to it.

- David Berreby, Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005), 5.

A Proselyter's Zeal

I was recently handed a double-folded religious tract  which has this admonition on its front page: "This is not a Secret and You Must Know About it Today. My friend, tomorrow may be too late." The familiar "Sinner's Prayer" was printed on the back page.

As I stuffed the flyer into my pocket, I immediately recalled those times when I used to stand by a corner of an overpass or a street handing out tracts with a beatific smile on my face and a great assurance of eternity in my heart.  Being ignored or avoided by most passers-by did not dampen my spirit for I kept telling myself that it was my small way of sharing in the passion of the Christ.  From time to time, I got encouragement from a few who snatched what I offered or who even exchanged pleasantries with me and/or contacted me later for a Bible study.

My proselyting zeal extended to my schooling.  While pursuing my undergraduate degrees in a Catholic university, I did "underground work." I preached to my classmates as I found opportunity, and studied my KJV Bible while the rest of my classmates pored over Gamboa's Introduction to Philippine Law or  Nolledo's Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. While some skipped classes for what I saw as their "worldly pursuits," I intentionally missed some classes to do "ninja preaching" in an adjacent university. There, I'd dash in and out of rooms asking for the students' precious "five minutes" during the short breaks between their classes so I could share with them my soul-saving message. My canned sermons included "The Romans' Road to Salvation" and "The Four Facts of Life," each ending with a plea for my hearers to "pray the Sinner's Prayer with me."   Back in my own school, I had always hoped to snatch a few Catholics from the fiery lake mainly by distributing flyers knowing that it was against school policies. I did my ninja moves with these shuriken-like tracts under the noses of the guards but I was  not always quick enough. Once was I caught red-handed by  an alert guard who  triumphantly and promptly brought me to the Associate Dean for Men. Fortunately for me, when the AD got hold of my ID and asked me who my father was he told me that since  my dad was a dear friend of his he was willing to let my subversive activity pass for once.  Before he let me go, he made me swear not to proselyte in the university.  So the following morning, I did my proselyting activities outside the school: I continued distributing some more tracts by the university's main gate.  It was a wonder that I did not find myself kicked out of school for my  anti-Catholic activities at that time.


Sinner. Christian. Gospel. Salvation.

These terms may seem so simple, clearly understood and commonly defined by those who profess to follow Jesus, but from my preaching experience these words can be defined or qualified by believers in different ways according to which theological tradition or ecclesial system they subscribe to. What makes one a sinner or a saint, Christian or infidel, and hell- or heaven-bound in one sect may not be enough for another.  What is gospel to one may be inadequately spelled out when considered by another.

In my case, I had defined these concepts according to the dictates of my church's written and unwritten creed.  As a Baptist, I felt superior to other professed Christians in other denominations.  For after all, we stood as the best representative of the Christian faith.  One of our preachers even contended that since John was  a Baptist and he baptized Jesus, the Messiah must have been a Baptist. And so that oft-referred to "trail of blood" of our martyrs flowed from Jesus to our day.  Our pastor  in the local Bible Baptist  (read: KJV 1611!) church at the time went further by speculating that  when Jesus  establishes his millennial kingdom on earth, Bible Baptist preachers will have the privilege of getting appointed to the higher echelons of power.  Of course, Catholics had no place in this earthly reign for from the very beginning their church system  has borne the Mark of the Beast (according to the film we used to scare "unbelievers" with,  during the "Tribulation Period" the Terminator-like Beast will exterminate all those who refuse to receive the "666" on their foreheads).

When I shifted flags in the mid-'90s and joined the Church of Christ, I embraced a narrower understanding of the terms.  For I became a member of the New Testament Church at last!  The Baptists?  They got closest to the Pattern, sure, but they still needed to shed off their denominational skin so they could be more like us. Contrary to the position of the Baptists who counted the starting point of one's Christian life from the time s/he uttered the Sinner's Prayer, we always argued that one becomes a Christian at the moment of his baptism (and to be valid, this must be an immersion specifically for the remission of sins administered by one of our preachers or members). I shared the conviction of many then that  for churches to be really "of Christ" they must have our external marks  -- a capella singing, weekly giving, multiple cups for the Lord's Supper (and we dare not change the pattern instituted by the Lord: bread must come first before the wine, each preceded by a prayer), plurality of eldership, amillenial view, etc. Any deviation from the established pattern as we saw it was heresy. So only those in our fellowship had the right to be called Christians.  All other believers -- hyphenated Christians -- were  still in their sins, offering a strange fire to God and consequently looking forward to be consumed by the fires of hell as dry wood is fed into a furnace.

A person may go to church regularly, actively promote the tenets of his fellowship, be morally upright in his neighbors' eyes, and participate in civic projects but if s/he belonged to the "wrong" church /he would always be a sinner without the quotes, and a Christian in quotes. And there's just no other way s/he could escape the wrath of God on the Judgment Day but to be one of us.

Oh, and there were those who belonged to our church who also endangered their salvation by violating certain rules of conduct we treasured dearly by, say, being teetotalers or pinikpikan eaters (i.e. those who eat meat that still had plenty of  blood in it when cooked).

Every church has a creed (even those who claim to have "no creed but Christ" do write about the "things most surely believed") to which one must wholly subscribe and with which the subscribers measure and classify the immoral/worldly from the upright and spiritual, believers from unbelievers, Good News from bad news, saved from unsaved.

Consequently, in many cases "converting people to Jesus" actually means pirating genuine Christians from another church -- a shift of allegiance not  really from  the Devil to God, but from one "human kind"¹ to another.

To be fair, I must hasten to add that in many other cases such shifts of allegiance can actually result in genuine moral reform,  intellectual satisfaction, social good, and spiritual fulfillment in the individuals involved.


¹ I am using the term according to how David Berreby defines it in his fascinating opus, Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005): Aggrupations or "labels that define more than one person but fewer than all... whose memberships fall between All and One" (14-15).

Adam Clarke's Racist Remarks

Methodist scholar Adam Clarke, along with the Presbyterian exegete Matthew Henry (available online @ Study Light), was one of my favorite Bible commentators in Bible school.  I had thought I knew enough of Clarke's commentary until Anthony Herron sent me this quote from this noted scholar's notes on Genesis 12.11 (lifted from this site):

Verse 11. Thou art a fair woman to look upon
Widely differing in her complexion from the swarthy Egyptians, and consequently more likely to be coveted by them. It appears that Abram supposed they would not scruple to take away the life of the husband in order to have the undisturbed possession of the wife. The age of Sarai at this time is not well agreed on by commentators, some making her ninety, while others make her only sixty-five. From Genesis 17:17, we learn that Sarai was ten years younger than Abram, for she was but ninety when he was one hundred. And from Genesis 12:4, we find that Abram was seventy-five when he was called to leave Haran and go to Canaan, at which time Sarai could be only sixty-five; and if the transactions recorded in the preceding verses took
place in the course of that year, which I think possible, consequently Sarai was but sixty-five; and as in those times people lived much longer, and disease seems to have had but a very contracted influence, women and men would necessarily arrive more slowly at a state of perfection, and retain their vigour and complexion much longer, than in later times. We may add to these considerations that strangers and foreigners are more coveted by the licentious than those who are natives. This has been amply illustrated in the West Indies and in America, where the jetty, monkey-faced African women are preferred to the elegant and beautiful Europeans! To this subject a learned British traveller elegantly applied those words of Virgil, Ecl. ii., ver. 18:-

Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur.

White lilies lie neglected on the plain, While dusky hyacinths for use remain. DRYDEN.

Pair this racist slur with his jaundiced comment on the Jews being the earth's "most puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners" and you can get an idea of how fallible a widely read Bible scholar can be, or how even a sage's thoughts on other people can be circumscribed by his time.

Good reminder to all Bible students and preachers out there about not anchoring their positions on certain doctrinal issues on the works of their favorite scholars.

As a naive, overzealous preacher over a decade ago, I tended to swallow hook, line and sinker what our scholars wrote or said about a particular Bible topic.  For after all, I equated our church as the church and regarded our acknowledged champions of the faith as gospel truth advocates.  I joined many in my group in "othering" neighboring Christians by pigeonholing them as "denominationalists" whose teachings, as a rule, were suspect.

Now I know better, I think.  I have come to realize that the ideology - and I use this term in the sense of an umbrella of ideas -- that informs my former church's doctrinal pronouncements is not totally divinely packaged, after all.

Prejudice and Racism

Racism is not the same thing as prejudice.  Prejudice refers to people's attitudes.  Racism is a system of power and privilege; it can be manifested in people's attitudes but is rooted in society's structure and is reflected in the different advantages and disadvantages that groups experience, based on their location in this societal system.  Racism is structured into society, not just in people's minds.

- Margaret L. Andersen & Patricia Hill Collins, "Conceptualizing Race, Class, and Gender," in Margaret L. Andersen & Patricia Hill Collins, eds., Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2004), 81.

"Churya-a, Kidla-a": A Glimpse of the Bontoc Culture

Note: A fellow Igorot in Hongkong (see comments) made the following corrections: The title of the song is "KHAWAN NAN FATAWA," not "Churya-a, Kidla-a" as I mistakenly assumed.  The first stanza should also read:  Khawan nan Fatawa-a, wad-ay nan wanga-a, En ched-che-mang is-sa-a, Nan chey cha’y sin-ag-ya-a, Nan yun-a si Chulya-a, ‘Nuchi na si Kidla-a. Chulya-a, Kidla-a, Chad-ama nan layad cha -- not "Khawan nan fataw'a-a, Wad-ay nan wanga-a, Enched-che-mang is-sa-a, Nan chuwa ay sin-ag-i-a, Nan yun-a si Kidla-a, 'Nochi na si Churya-a, En-asi il-ila cha, Churya-a, Kidla-a, Ya kumchang nan layad cha" as I formerly put. The rest of the song should be corrected as she noted below (will effect all other corrections in the next few days >:  ). Finally, this reader gave a very important detail about the song -- its composer, a certain Roman Catholic nun "Sr. Ludivica."  The relationship of Christianity and Igorot culture has been confrontational in some ways  which has led to the lamentable jettisoning of what should be preserved of the latter, but this song evidences one of the ways in which Christianity has helped preserve and/or refine certain aspects of traditional culture.

I always welcome corrections on any mistakes, misinformation, or misrepresentation anyone can find in any of my posts.  Thanks! :)


I had just played Lourdes Fangki's rendition of "Layad Nen Likhatan" when my mom started singing an ethnic tune I had not heard before.  Although her once operatic voice is now weak and slightly cracked (thanks to a major stroke 10 years ago that that almost rendered her totally hemiplegic), her words came out quite clearly.

"Churya-a... Kidla-a..." She kept going back to these two words and each time, she'd add more words as flashes of remembrance illumined her now fastly fading memory.  More lyrics poured out from her lips and I began to catch on and sing with her.  I took notes fast, knowing that an hour or so later a memory lapse will once again frustrate me from drawing out bits of knowledge from her time. We put the words together, and she began to translate the words as well as to explain several details of the Bontoks' beliefs and customs.

She recalled that it was the mamadli (nuns) who taught her the song "issan kaong-onga mi" (when we were young).  She had lived in a convent as part of her early schooling in Bontoc, and as part of her initiation into the Catholic faith. She paid her school fees and also helped in the daily chores at her school.  At the same time, she was under the parentage of Ama and Ina Dacyon to whom she was entrusted by her father Magkachi when she was a sickly girl of three.  It was a common belief then that a child's prolonged or recurring illness was caused by a malevolent anito (spirit) of s/her clan.  Tapno matago (to give her a greater chance of survival), the child would be taken to a family of another tribe or clan ("ay sabali nan anito da" - which had a different guardian spirit) for adoption in hopes  that the good anito of the foster family would ensure the child's physical well-being.

Back to the song. This responsorial melody talks of a man (Kidla-a, representing the village of Samoki) and a woman (Churya-a, representing the village of Bontok), beckoning each other to wade across the wanga (the Chico river) that separates  them. Although as arranged here the man speaks first, it may have been the case that when first sung it was the woman who would call out first since in the old Bontok society it was the woman who initiated courtship  by going to the house of the man, taking with her a love token  which may come in the form of a bundle of pakhey (rice), sweet potato tops, and others.  As further evidence of her commitment to him (and, perhaps, her readiness for the responsibilities of motherhood), "nan fafai umey en'ange' wenno tumulong iska afong nan lalaki (the woman gathers camote tops and helps in the other chores of the man's family).

Later, due to the influences of Western and lowland Philippine cultures, men began to do the courting first, a behavioral or cultural shift reflected in the change in the "modern" arrangement of the song where Kidla gets to invite Churya first to cross the river over to Samoki.  This is supposed to be a romantic song, but the idea that a sin-ag-i (brother and sister) are lovers is an affront to the taboo system of the Bontoc society  in which among blood relatives, siblings did not marry although first cousins did.  So if it is to be treated as a love song, "Churya - a, Kidla-a" must be about courting cousins. On the other hand, it may be seen simply as a playful  exchange of invitations between two friends or siblings.

Note that the first line hints at the ethnocentric worldview of the Bontoc society. This mindset is partly illustrated by some old folks regarding Fabfey, a sitio in Bontoc, as the home of the "pure-blooded" ifontok while denigrating neighboring Luk'ong as the place for the "mixed people" -- the kaili (outsiders), tap-ina ay takho (other people) -- like the iyappay (of the Aplai tribe) or isadanga (of the Sadanga tribe).


Khawan nan fataw’a-a

[in the middle of the world]

Wad'ay nan wanga-a

[there is a river.]

Enchedchemang issa-a

[facing each other]

Nan chey cha’y sin-ag-ya-a,

[are two siblings]

Nan yun'a si Chulya-a

[the elder/brother being Chulya-a]

‘Nuchi na si Kidla-a

the younger/sister being Churya-a]

Churya-a, Kidla-a

Chad-ama nan layad cha


[Kidla-a speaks:]

Churya-a, Churya-a

Alika ad Kidla-a

[come to Kidla-a]

Liwid ko ad Churya-a

[my friend from/of Churya-a]

En asi lal-ayad ta

[and we will be loving each other]

[Churya-a replies:]

Liwid ko ad Kidla-a

Ad'i kagchang nan wanga-a

[the river can’t be crossed]

Chakchake nan chanum ya

[the river is swollen]

Maanod'ak issa-a

[I may be taken away by the flood]

Alika ad Churya-a

[come to Churya-a]


Tak'en mo siyassa-a

[even if that is so/the case (i.e., that the river can't be crossed)]

En asi il-ila/lal-ayad ta

[we will see/love each other anyhow]

Liwid ko ad Churya-a

[my friend at/from Churya-a]


Churya-a, Kidla-a

Ya kumchang nan layad cha

[their love wades/crosses over (either bank)]


Ke ka sumasanga-a

[why be glum/why look so listless]

Et ta ensasag'en ya

[we're beside/near each other, are we not?]

Alika ad Kidla-a

[Come to Kidla-a]

Liwid ko, kumchang kas na.

[My friend, come over here]


Churya-a, Kidla-a

Ya kumchang nan layad cha

[their love is crossing over]

* Corrections are welcome :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dominion or Domination?

We have no liberty to do what we like with our natural environment; it is not ours to treat as we please. 'Dominion' is not a synonym for 'domination', let alone 'destruction'.  Since we hold it in trust, we have to manage it responsibly and productively for the sake of our own and subsequent generations.

- John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today: New Perspectives on Social and Moral Dilemmas (London: Marshall Pickering, 1990), 121.


Man, whether civilized or savage, is a child of nature -- he is not the master of nature.  He must conform his actions to certain natural laws, if he is to maintain his dominance over his environment.

- Tom Dale and Vernon Gill Carter, quoted in Stott, ibid., 120


[Sustainable Development] 'is defined in Our Common Future as development which 'meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'

- Stott, ibid., 117

Fighting for a forest park

Hundreds of rallyists led by UP Baguio Chancellor Priscilla Supnet-Macansantos and Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon ringed the one-hectare forest park at the Baguio Convention Center area this afternoon to dramatize their resolve to protect one of the city's remaining pine stands from commercialization.

It is recalled that last May, SM Prime Holdings, the country's undisputed "largest mall operator," bared to the city government its plan to erect a condominium complex in the said lot,  intending to shave off more than 300 pine trees in the process.  Five years ago, SM generated protests from alarmed citizens when it reportedly cut down more than a hundred pine trees at the former Luneta Hill to pave the way for the rise of the mall that now commands upper Session Road.

After forming the "human barricade," the throng decided to make a "Jericho march"  around SM Baguio  via  Governor Pack Road but were blocked by a team of SWAT policemen at the traffic circle just below  SM's first guardhouse.  Failing to negotiate for an unscheduled pass around the commercial complex, the protesters  -- many of whom were drenched by the light rain that accompanied them -- eventually dispersed.

Back at UP Baguio, Chancellor Macansantos delivered her final speech for the day in which she noted that even though the march was halted, the message against the condotel plan was at least clearly made especially that the activity was adequately covered by local media.


Posters courtesy of Junley Lazaga

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Patternism" Debate

I consider Al Maxey as one of the most sensible preachers among the Stone-Campbell churches today.  His well-reasoned "Reflections" are a treasure trove for those interested in Christianity in general and in the  issues among the acapella wing of the Stone-Campbell movement.  He is currently engaged in a  written debate with a fellow preacher on the issue of "Patternism."  Most religious debates turn me off for sure, but Al's level-headed polemical engagements are one of those that I read and reread in my spare time.  This online discussion @ is a must-read for all members of the American-born Churches of Christ.


Those keenly interested in religious discussions might find this site worth frequenting Betony Lloyd of the London-based Debatewise Ltd. says that the site aims "to become the Wikipedia for debate and become an arena where opinions from all across the internet are hosted and battled against each other."