Itsara

April 12, 2010

More Protests

Filed under: News,Thailand — Adam Heine @ 6:04 PM

It seems like every two years, I have to post about problems in Thai politics.

If you haven’t heard, there have been some violent protests in Bangkok, with some smaller repercussions throughout the provinces and even here in Chiang Mai.

Really, it’s the same problems as what caused the coup years ago, and the further protests a couple years back. Very, very generally, there are those that support the old prime minister, Thaksin, and those that believe he was corrupt. Thaksin’s supporters, the red shirts, have protested against every opposition government put in power since. Likewise, Thaksin’s detractors (who often characterize themselves with yellow shirts), protest against every government seen to be related to the long-ousted prime minister.

This year, the red shirts want the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to dissolve parliament (or part of parliament; I don’t know all the details), step down, and call for new elections. A few days ago the protests became violent. About 20 people died, and hundreds were hurt.

We’re fine here. The US Embassy has issued warnings, but basically they say, “It’s safe to travel, just be careful.” This week is Songkran, which just makes tensions run higher, but we don’t plan on going anywhere near the city. Hopefully things will quiet down soon, but God only knows.

Anyway, just pray for safety for us, and peace for the country. This mess isn’t doing any good for an already shaky economy dependent on tourism.

March 5, 2009

Pollution in Chiang Mai

Filed under: News,Thailand — Adam Heine @ 10:28 PM

I’m interrupting the essay on science and religion basically to complain. The pollution here in Chiang Mai is really bad. I’ve been sneezing all day. Sandra’s PE class won’t let them actually exercise for more than 10 minutes at a time. The kids’ noses have been running for days (hint: they aren’t sick).

To give you an idea of how bad it is, look at the mountain in these two pictures. The first picture was taken during the rainy season when we moved in. The second picture was taken today. When an entire mountain disappears, you know it’s bad.

December 5, 2008

The Thailand Crisis

Filed under: News,Politics,Thailand — Adam Heine @ 10:03 AM

So today (Father’s Day), the king was too sick to deliver his traditional birthday speech, and a lot of Thais are really worried. Not so much about the speech or the king (though they are), but about the whole crisis in general. This article is a good summary on the whole situation.

What is interesting to me is how democracy just isn’t working here, how it may not be the cure-all we thought. I don’t know the whole truth of the situation, but here’s what it sounds like. Thaksin, the old prime minister, was supposedly corrupt. So a bunch of people protested until he left. Then someone else got voted in, but he was (supposedly) just another front for Thaksin’s corrupt group. So they protested even harder, airlines were closed, people were killed.

Now there’s going to be another election, I guess, but folks are afraid that the same people will just get into power again, because one of the main ways they get into power is by buying the votes of the poor.

And here’s where democracy fails entirely. The protesting party wants to change the voting system so that “a majority of lawmakers would be nominated by professional and social groups instead of being elected [by the people].” It sounds undemocratic, and it is a little, but the problem is that vote buying is real. There are a lot of poor people in this country, each one with a vote, and to them it doesn’t matter who is prime minister. Changes in the government make no difference in their lives, but 100 Baht in their hand makes a huge difference. It means they get to eat for a few weeks.

Like I said, interesting. There’s no easy solution, and I don’t envy Thais the work they will have to do to create a strong, stable country. But to me this whole situation just highlights the fact that politics – even democracy – can’t fix a broken world.

Hm, that was another note I wrote from reading Blue Like Jazz.

America’s rules can’t save mankind. Mankind can’t save itself.

August 29, 2008

On Repentance

Filed under: News,Religion — Adam Heine @ 1:22 AM

Last time, I mentioned Mike Guglielmucci’s big lie. Our pastor made a great point about it this week, though. It’s so easy for us to condemn those who sin in big ways like this, especially when we ourselves never have. The thing is, it is not our place to condemn. It is certainly our job to point out sin and call for repentance, and as a church I think we’re really good at that. What we’re not any good at is accepting those who repent after something like this. We don’t know how forgive someone we can no longer trust, but Jesus didn’t give us any options to not forgive.

Lest we think there might be exceptions for extreme cases, look at King David – a supreme pillar of faith, mentioned as such throughout the Bible, beginning to end. Yet the man lusted after another man’s wife, abused his position as king to sleep with her, lied to her husband, and then killed him when he was too upright to accept the lie. That’s not the only thing he did, but it’s easily among the worst – not to mention worse than what most of us, or our modern fallen priests and pastors, have ever done.

God punished him for it, yet he also used it for good. He didn’t kill David or Bathsheba. He didn’t remove David from kingship or the blessing of the Messiah via his lineage. He even allowed Bathsheba’s second son to become, not just the next king, but the richest and wisest king who ever lived. If that doesn’t say that God still loves the guy, then I don’t know what does.

And that’s the problem – we don’t love. We’re really good at rules and rewards and punishments and marketing and manipulating and judging and condemning, but we suck at forgiveness. In order to forgive someone, you have to love them. In my own struggles with this, I’ve learned that it is possible to love someone you don’t completely trust. In this job, I have to punish-yet-love every single day. If I don’t love, then the punishments only serve to drive my kids further away – they do more harm than good. At the same time I know better than to leave money lying around, you know?

So with Mike G, and other pastors like him who have made big mistakes, we need to give them room for repentance and, when they do, forgive and love as if nothing happened to breach the relationship.

Though I would ask for a second opinion if he says he’s dying again.

August 21, 2008

Heart of a Songmaker

Filed under: News,Religion — Adam Heine @ 6:23 PM

At the church we go to, I learned this great song about faith in the midst of terrible struggles. It’s called “Healer”, and it’s a fairly major Hillsong hit. Here’s an excerpt:

I believe you’re my healer.
I believe you are all I need.
I believe you’re my portion.
I believe you’re more than enough for me.
Jesus, you’re all I need.

Nothing is impossible for you.
You hold my world in your hands.

I was even more blown away when I found out that the song was written by a guy who had terminal cancer. Now that’s some amazing faith!

Then I found out he made the whole thing up.

Why would someone do this? Money? Fame? And why would a worship leader do this? I wonder if he thought people would forget about the song, or maybe he could say “I’m healed!” after a while and throw a big party. I bet he didn’t think it would get as big as it did, but who knows?

I don’t understand people like this. People who live a lie. I can understand lying to hide sins, though it takes a bold (or cowardly) man to do it for a long time, but an intentional lie? In my mind it falls into the same category as atheist theologians, or students who go to seminary because it’s a good career path. It’s like they’re missing the point. Our pastor likes to tell the story of the conference he spoke at where over 300 pastors gave their lives to Christ for the first time. That’s just sad.

And it’s a good song. Can we still worship with it? Does the heart of the writer taint the song? I don’t think so. Some of my greatest worship experiences have been with “Bring Me to Life“, despite what Evanescence says about the song’s meaning. What matters is the heart of the worshiper, not the songmaker. Unfortunately, the Lie is all I can think of now when I hear the song. Maybe one day I’ll forget about it, but for the now the song is tainted in my own heart.

What’s worse, I can’t get it out of my head.

May 1, 2008

Check It Out

Filed under: News — Adam Heine @ 5:10 PM

My brother got himself in the paper. San Diego Union Tribune: http://www.signonsandiego.com/entertainment/street/2008/05/street_people_from_guns_in_ira.html.

September 20, 2006

No Worries

Filed under: News,Thailand — Adam Heine @ 8:25 PM

As some of you have no doubt heard, there was a military coup in Thailand last night.

That sounds scarier than it is. Nobody got hurt (so far as I know), no shots were fired. Guns were just held that said, “We’re in charge now.”

That also sounds worse than it is. They didn’t take control because they’re mean and power hungry (though the fear is that they will become that). They took control because they, and many other people, really didn’t like the current Prime Minister (Thaksin) and had no other way to get him out.

But you don’t need me to be your news source. There are other, more qualified channels for that. Here are some articles I found informative: Thailand’s king gives blessing to coup and Q&A: Thailand’s coup impact.

But don’t worry about us. We’re fine. We’re all fine here, now. Thank you. How are you?

May 4, 2006

A Birthday Wish Come True

Filed under: Geekery,News,Personal — Adam Heine @ 10:20 PM

Normally I wouldn’t bother you with geek news, but this is important. Two years ago, I made a wildly fanciful birthday list. It was noted that I might be disappointed by my demands, but today I discovered that demand #2 is about to come true. Behold! This September: Original Unaltered Trilogy on DVD!

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you’ll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

Apparently it will only be available from September 12th to December 31st, but rest assured that my leftover Amazon money will be put to good use during that time. Now I’m just waiting for Spider-Man to meet up with Venom…

April 23, 2006

Christian Alternatives, Part II

Filed under: News,Religion — Adam Heine @ 9:40 PM

Some other things have happened that may distract, so here’s a brief summary of this discussion. A couple of weeks ago, there was a press release for a computer game based on the Left Behind series. We then began discussing why we need Christian games at all, where I brought up two possible reasons and explained why I didn’t really like either of them.

Then we talked about a third reason: to provide a wholesome alternative to secular media. I mentioned that this reason has two basic assumptions behind it: (1) we should be able to consume entertainment and (2) we can’t because we are Christian. I talked about how the second assumption wasn’t necessarily true. In cases of addiction or unquestionable sin, the second assumption applies, but otherwise “…everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

What is and is not okay for Christians to consume is certainly debatable. It has been debated (often heatedly) for centuries. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that nearly all of secular media is not okay for us to consume because we are Christians. If that is true, then we need to ask whether or not we should be able to consume entertainment in any case. Certainly God intended us to enjoy life here, right? I think that’s true, but I don’t think that we need a Christian version of everything in our attempt to enjoy what God has given us. (more…)

April 18, 2006

Eternal Forces Previews

Filed under: News,Religion — Adam Heine @ 12:13 AM

I found a couple of previews with more information on Eternal Forces. If this discussion of Christian media, especially games, has interested you at all, go ahead and check them out. There’s one at GameSpy and another at GameSpot. Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

From the GameSpy article:

Players aren’t competing to kill the enemy army — rather, they’re trying to save them, and each person killed represents a failure rather than a success. “We found that adhering closely to Biblical philosophies made the game more interesting rather than less,” Lyndon[, CEO of Left Behind Games,] said.

Peppered throughout the city, the player will come across scrolls, each marked with a Biblical verse…. In my demonstration, I watched an angel descend and take the scroll’s figurative Biblical quote (1 Corinthians 15:37 “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.”) and translate that into a gift of money — which, all things considered, made him the coolest angel ever.

As for the violence in a game built from a Christian perspective, Lyndon doesn’t shy away from that either, pointing out that the Bible itself is quite a violent book. “The point of morality is that people have a choice in how they react to situations — and one of those choices is always going to be violence.”

From the GameSpot article:

The game will feature biblical facts between levels, accompanied by tracks from Christian rock groups…. Troy Lyndon, the CEO of Left Behind Games, told us that you can quickly skip over this by hitting the continue button, but they’re also putting in a button to learn more if you’re intrigued.

It’ll be interesting to see how well the game does when it ships…. Lyndon says that the company plans a grass-roots outreach to churches to generate buzz, similar to those used for Mel Gibson’s movie and last year’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

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