There are days where I miss Hawaii more than I normally do.
I always miss Hawaii.
It’s the place I’ll always call home.
The closest friends I have live in Hawaii — or at the least, the friendships were formed in Hawaii.
I got married in Hawaii.
When we moved out of Hawaii (and I knew it was for good), not only did I leave a piece of my heart in Hawaii, but also a piece of my soul.
I hope to be able to visit Hawaii real soon and introduce my son to the beauty of Hawaii — though both my wife and son might not want to leave. I’ll just remind my wife of the cost of living in Hawaii…
When I really get homesick, I start listening to songs that reminds me of Hawaii when I used to live there, like Bruddah Iz; Na Leo; Keali’i Reichel; Jake Shimabukuro — and even Pure Heart (lol); Don Ho (nah, just joke)…
(Although, in 2017, there was Terrace House: Aloha State on Netflix which served both as the cause and remedy of missing Hawaii…)
I picked up a book that was recommended to me by a good friend, Paul Richards-Kuan: Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible: Acts by Willie James Jennings.
It has opened my eyes, heart, and soul to see the Book of Acts in ways I never saw before. I mean, the guy opens his book with:
The book of Acts speaks of revolution. We must never forget this.
Is it because I’m some sort of church nerd that that sentence is super exciting for me?
I never thought of the book of Acts as a revolution and now, halfway into the book, I can’t unsee the book of Acts as a revolution and how we, as American Christians, have watered down the revolution.
(Fair warning: there will be many blog posts that will reflect the things I’ve learned from this commentary.)
I’m writing this because I have pangs for Zippy’s Korean Fried Chicken, chili, and Zip-Packs; spam musubi; plate lunches; poké; ugh — Boot’s & Kimo’s and their pancakes with macadamia nut sauce; Curry House — man, I really want something from Curry House…; Leonard’s Malassadas; … okay maybe I don’t miss Hawaii as much as I miss the food we can only get in Hawaii…
And that starts the rabbit hole of missing Hawaii.
So I found a bunch of Hawaiian songs on Apple Music and was listening to it as background music while reading the Acts commentary.
As Aloha ‘Oe came on, I got to the section about language and Pentecost in the book.
[Language] is the sinew of existence of a people. My people, our language: to speak a language is to speak a people. Speaking announces familiarity, connection, and relationally…
… The gesture of speaking another language is born not of the desire of the disciples but of God, and it signifies all that is essential to learning a language. It bears repeating: this is not what the disciples imagined or hoped would manifest the power of the Holy Spirit. To learn a language requires submission to a people.
… Anyone who has learned a language other than their native tongue knows how humbling learn can actually be.
The person that manages our yard — his young daughter does all the phone calls and translates for him. We had a little incident where one of our windows cracked because of a rock that was launched from the mower. She’d call me, we’d have a short conversation, and then she’d hang up so she can communicate with her dad was at another work site.
I have so much respect for that young girl — being that bridge from the old world to the new world; from the Mother language to the new one.
It’s not an easy bearing the responsibility of communicator for the family.
I had that role all throughout my childhood in the States.
(I still have that role today. The only difference is, my Korean has gotten worse as the years have gone by.)
It’s a role many of us– children of immigrants — have placed upon us out of necessity.
But that line — “to learn a language requires submission to a people” struck a nerve.
When we tell someone to “Speak English because this is America” what we are reaching into is the heart of colonialism and demanding the other to submit to us Americans.
The ancient challenge is a God who is way ahead of us and is calling us to catch up. The modern problem is born of the colonial enterprise where language play and use entered its most demonic displays. Imagine peoples in many places, in many conquered sites, in many tongues all being told that their languages are secondary, tertiary, and inferior to the supreme languages of the enlightened people. Make way for Latin, French, Gemran, Dutch, Spanish, and English. These are the languages God speaks.
… Imagine peoples largely from this new Western world learning native languages not out of love, but as utility for domination. Imagine mastering native languages in order to master people, making oneself their master and making them slaves. Now imagine Christianity deeply implicated in all this, in many cases riding high on the winds of his linguistic imperialism, a different sounding wind. Christianity was ripe for this tragic collaboration with colonialism because it had learned before the colonial moment began to separate a language from a people. It had learned to value, cherish, and even love the language of Jewish people found in Scripture — but hate the Jewish people.
I know that’s a lot of verbiage that might pique no one else’s interests but mine.
Would it be surprising to you if I told you that I don’t have a favorable view of colonialism?
And I don’t like the acts of colonialism hidden by the motive of “spreading Christianity.”
For the most part, it wasn’t really about spreading the word about Christianity, but more about exerting dominance over a people viewed as inferior and primitive so that lands and resources and people can be taken — oh, all in the name of Jesus.
Granted — there are some who really lived out to be the feet that carry the good news of Christ:
Thankfully this is not the only story of Christianity in the colonial modern. There are also the quiet stories of some translators, and the peculiar few missionaries who from time to time and place to place showed something different. They joined. They, with or without “natural language skill,” sought love and found it in another voice, another speech, another way of life. They showed something in their utter helplessness in the face of difference: they were in a new land to be changed, not just change people into believers.
Weaved into the history of Hawaii (that we learn in school) is the conquered people of Hawaii — that fact can’t be ignored. Even if there’s an attempt to white-wash it. There were texts that implied it was God’s divine will to save the Hawaiians from their savage and primitive ways. It was for their benefit; it was a blessing; it was a good thing; the Europeans were doing the Hawaiians a favor.
But in whose eyes and view?
Primitive and savage to whom?
Who considered it a benefit, a blessings, a good thing, a favor being done for them?
It’s always interesting to see how the oppressor attempts to redefine the narrative of the oppressed. Or — how the majority tries to change the narrative of the minority.
Because it happens more than you think.
Here’s why many churches will not be multicultural (for those that are aiming to be diverse):
Because they do not understand the difference between being truly diverse and tokenism.
Most churches settle for the latter.
Tokenism is easier. It requires the minority to relinquish their identity so that they can be absorbed into the majority and becoming “one of us.”
Basically, be like us without looking like us.
So when the minority in that community voice their pains and concerns — or simply when they use their voice, they are met with:
…stop trying to make everything a race-thing.
…that’s more on you because we’re all discriminated against in one form or another
… this is not the place or time to bring up such things
Basically — something is wrong with you.
It’s another version of learn our language as a submission to us, the (“Speak English, this is America!”):
Just be like one of us and you wouldn’t feel this much angst because we want to help you by having you think like one of us and become like one of us.
It’s always the one in power; the abuser that tells oppressed; the abused; the affected: ‘shhh… it’ll be okay.’
In the heart of the Hawaiian history is a people whose identity and way of life were stolen from them and a foreign way of life was forced upon them under the guise that this new way was the better, right way of living.
Aloha ‘Oe was originally written by Queen Lili’uokalani — the last monarch of Hawaii — when she witnessed a farewell embrace given by a colonel to a local woman.
But it’s also the song that she used to bid farewell to Hawaii as Hawaii lost its independence and identity to join the US.
Farewell to thee… until we meet again.
Yea — I’m sure that none of this are related to one another.
This is simply how my mind works, some times.
From Hawaii to music to language to colonialism… yea, typical Friday morning at Pearland Coffee Roasters…
What a complicated web we are all entangled in.
It becomes even more complicated because the oppressed are not as free to share their narrative as people may think.
In the words of Sho Baraka:
Like why, when I share my faith it’s called intolerance
But when they share their hate it’s called scholarship
Haʻaheo e ka ua i nā pali
Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko
Pua ʻāhihi lehua o uka
Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace
A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again
ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai
Ke hone aʻe nei i
ʻO ʻoe nō kuʻu ipo aloha
A loko e hana nei
Maopopo kuʻu ʻike i ka nani
Nā pua rose o Maunawili
I laila hiaʻia nā manu
Mikiʻala i ka nani o ka liko