Despite Quakes, Church Keeps Praising

Screenshot of 'site closed' message

Hawai’i’s 6.6 and 5.8 magnitude earthquakes yesterday morning shook many, but not churchgoers at New Hope Christian Fellowship, one of the state’s larger churches, with a typical weekly attendence of 12,000 spread across five services. New Hope’s web site was down as of the time of this post. Instead, a front-page story describes a scene which sounds much like business-as-usual:

During the 7 am service, worship leader Tiffany Thurston was speaking about worshiping through restrictions. Just then, the electricity in Farrington Auditorium went off. Lights, sound, cameras, everything all at once ceased to work. But instead of panicking, a collective chuckle rose from the congregation.

Teams at the church passed out flashlights to the congregation and jury-rigged a sound system using portable generators and other supplies on hand. The 9 AM service was also held “normally.”

As luck would have it, I was at service yesterday, and missed all the fun this morning. The church often has people roaming with portable camcorders. Hopefully, some of the footage will make next week’s service. Service times are Saturdays at 5:00 and 7:00 PM, and Sundays at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 AM (all Hawai’i Standard Time).

I’d encourage you to check out this dynamic church if you live on O’ahu, or watch the live webcast. They make sure every attendee (including me) is surrounded by positive role models of the impact a life centered on Christ can have on one’s self, family, and the larger community. Their mantra, “Doing Church as a Team,” doesn’t begin to describe the true feeling of ‘ohana you feel there.

Restraining Monks

The Bible didn’t survive until the 21st century by accident. It took the commitment of thousands of monks who chose to study the scriptures over the centuries by hand-writing new copies of the manuscripts. The process was tedious and time-consuming, but for these monks it was an act of devotion. It wasn’t until Gutenberg’s printing press that the Bible could truly be distributed to the masses.

Today, monks are no longer needed to ensure the Bible’s availability, but there are scholars that continue to study the Word and find new interpretations to share with others. One of those people is Sean Boisen. In addition to maintaining his blog, Boisen takes information about the Bible from a variety of sources, analyzes it, converts it into modern, standards-compliant formats, and distributes the results at no charge on his web site, Semantic Bible. The beauty of his work is that it extracts concepts from the text and formats them in a way that computers can use to draw conclusions and find patterns.

Boisen has lofty goals, but in a blog entry he posted yesterday, he expresses his frustration with a license on an e-Bible that prevents him from developing anything based on it.

I understand his disappointment. I’ve also found that copyright has become a stumbling block rather than a means to encourage innovation. With the exception of large companies, I think many people who create find ourselves stymied when we want to share or improve on the ideas of others. It’s sad, but society in this age compartmentalizes information through laws like patents and copyrights to such an extent that improving on them is usually out of the question.

One of the underlying causes for the problem is the length of time that copyrights are valid. While copyright has a purpose, it’s been abused and lengthened far beyond what’s needed to stimulate progress – and arguably, progress has been eliminated altogether because very few copyrighted works have expired in the last 70 years. I think that it’s very disappointing that books written in the 1930’s still can’t be used freely today, and yet the ideas contained in them are being lost forever due to damage, theft, and other causes.

We are fortunate to have a plethora of English translations of the Bible that make it accessible to everybody. The publishers of these translations provide a useful service, and they should be paid, but 100 years is too long to keep a translation locked up. (I blogged my thoughts about Christian commercialism in 2003.)

The irony of all this is that the original texts these scholars worked from would probably be inaccessible today if copyright law prevented the monks from hand-copying them over hundreds of years.

Gutenberg was extremely excited about the possibility of using the printing press as a tool to enable copies of the Bible to spread:

Religious truth is captive in a small number of little manuscripts which guard the common treasures, instead of expanding them. Let us break the seal which binds these holy things…

I won’t be surprised if Gutenberg’s trend of “breaking the seal” reverses itself very soon. We’re already beginning to see lots of content, including Bibles, protected by digital restrictions management that threatens to take the bits that hold our culture and faith together as hostages.

I truly consider Sean Boisen a 21st century monk. Our society needs to loosen the chains of copyright law so he can accomplish the work he’s been called to do.

Bible Gateway Relases New Beta

Bible Gateway has released a new beta version of their online Bible service. The site features a new layout, an RSS feed and web service for the verse of the day, the ability to save search preferences, and more.

After a cursory look, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. I know that a lot of people were really hoping for a web service that allows open Bible searches, like the English Standard Version provides.

They still have one of the most complete selections of translations on the Internet, but that’s where my excitement ends. Sorry, guys.

RFC: Choosing a Church

In the Internet world, a RFC traditionally specifies technical information like “protocols, procedures, programs, and concepts.” In my case, I have a specific non-technical question I’d appreciate answers to.

For about two years, I’ve been one of the unchurched. (Irene, it’s great that you’re looking for a new home so quickly!) I don’t want to say where, or for what reasons I left.

God has blessed me repeatedly with many talents, but extrovertedness isn’t one of them. There’s lots of seemingly good ideas on choosing a church, but I don’t know how to narrow the field down.

My question is thus: How did you find the church you’re in now? I’m hoping to get a lot of comments that will help me (and possibly even a visitor) get plugged in to the body of Christ again.

At the moment, I only have one requirement. I believe I’m supposed to be using my gifts of understanding technology and multimedia for ministry. Wherever I go, I think this will need to be a ministry I can join.

Like Irene, I’m asking for your prayers, and your advice. Mahalo.

Reaction to The Passion

Mel Gibson’s new movie, The Passion of The Christ, has been generating a lot of media noise since it was initially announced several years ago. Now, the completed film is right around the corner from being shown in 2,000 theaters across the U.S., an astonishing opening for what is considered an indie film.

In Hawai’i, the film has gone from an opening in Consolidated Theater’s Varsity Twins to a more mainstream release of 13 theaters between Hawai’i’s two chains, Consolidated and Signature.

Tonight, ABC devoted an hour to interviewing Gibson, who directed the film. I found the interview very soulful. Clearly, Gibson was speaking to Diane Sawyer from the heart.

Despite the large opening, The Passion still has a large uphill battle. From the start, critics have accused the film (and Gibson) of being anti-semitic. Others have been skeptical about the decision to present the film using the languages of the time – Aramaic and Latin, without any subtitles. (It seems that there will be subtitles in the final version.)

Can’t say whether I’m going to see it yet. From the reviews, I’m confident it will be a faithful rendition of the Gospels. I just don’t know if I’m up to seeing visuals that I have only been exposed to through imagination. The photo on the movie’s web site was graphic enough for my tastes.