Culture

Religion and revolution

OC2Occupy Central, the revolution that’s brewing for almost a week now in Hong Kong, has been front and center in major news outlets. For those unfamiliar with what’s been happening in Hong Kong, this massive protest boils down to the demand for universal suffrage, a right that Beijing has wrested away from voters in this tiny territory that was returned to China in 1997. To get up-to-speed, see this nice summary by the South China Morning Post.

While most media reports have focused on the political aspects of this movement, few have noted the involvement of religion in Occupy Central (originally called Occupy Central with Love and Peace). Many of the movement’s key leaders are Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. In Beijing’s eyes, these Christians are seen as “troublesome gangsters of Hong Kong”. On the streets, churches have opened up their space to accommodate protesters, allowing them to use their facilities. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said every Catholic in Hong Kong “has the right and duty to get involved” in politics. Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old Protestant and founder of Scholarism, has been organizing social movements since he was 15. Christians in China are now the thorn in the side of the Chinese government.
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Fowl language: Thanksgiving, Deadly Viper, and how we got the word “turkey”

turkey3New posts have been noticeably absent here on semaphoric, and it has been some six months since I last updated the blog. What better time for a new entry than this Thanksgiving season. At the risk of disappointing my readers, I will not gush about the things I’m thankful for (even though there is an abundance to be thankful for). Rather, this entry is about origins. This is also about the recent Deadly Viper controversy. Although this controversy has been in the making for weeks, the situation still requires continuing reflection and critique.

Origins is about beginnings. Yet this is not about how we arrived at a certain physical reality. This is about how certain physical reality came to define a linguistic reality and how the interplay between the two strengthens the reality we perceive. In particular, this has to do with what and how we perceive what’s foreign and exotic and how we use words to caricaturize what seems different and strange to us. And this has to with the bird we eat on Thanksgiving, the turkey.

Coincidentally, the bird shares the same name as the country Turkey. Was the bird named after the country or the country after the bird? The answer to this chicken-or-egg question is difficult to ascertain. The word “Turkey” itself probably originated from an ancient Chinese word naming the people living in southern Central Asia. The geo-political entity of Turkey was never known as “Turkey” since demarcation of this country’s boundaries did not occur until the end of WWI. From the 13th century until the First World War, Turkey was simply known as Osman or the Ottoman Empire. However, the modern name for Turkey comes from the Medieval Latin turchia, and by the mid-1200’s, the word turki had appeared in the Old English lexicon to describe people who are part of the Turkic family group.
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Earth Day 2009

Solar powerToday is Earth Day. There are many things we can do to be good caretakers of this planet and to be ever more aware of the impact human activity has on the environment. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of how much electricity I waste in a typical day. With all our appliances, computers, and lights left on and unattended during the day, electricity simply escapes into the ether and is never recouped.

According to Energy Information Administration, the government’s official energy record-keeping office, the average American home uses about 936 kilowatthours (kWh) in 2007. At home, refrigerators are biggest consumers of electricity (about 14 percent of that 936 kWh).There are calculators that estimate how much electricity you use in a typical day. And if you want to measure exactly how much electricity household appliances use, this little gadget does the trick. But one has to wonder whether this device itself would eat up a lot of electricity.

For myself, the largest amount of electricity I use is lighting. Because I’m a night owl, having lights on for long periods of time late into the evening and the morning hours really adds up financially and also contributes to waste. Switching to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) certainly saves energy. I’ve also switched to LED lights for my reading light. Granted, these lights are pricier to purchase, but the initial investment is well worth the reduced footprint on the environment, power production and waste. [….]


Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

There’s an alarming story floating around the blogsphere for the past week about the death of evangelicalism. This story first originated on Michael Spencer’s blog and then was picked up by The Christian Science Monitor. Spencer’s predictions are dire and portentous. Simply put, evangelicalism, as we know it here in the West, is “on the verge… of a major collapse” and will cease to exist within 10 years. This doomsday prediction is partly based on the simple premise that evangelicals are slow to understand, exegete, and adapt to the changing social and cultural landscape and have failed to pass on the fundamentals of Christian faith and spirituality to the next generation. Added to this mix is the encroaching pressure of secularism, and evangelicalism, in Spencer’s view, will not survive such onslaught. In its place, Pentecostal, Catholic, and Orthodox churches will thrive, and Western evangelism would benefit to receive missions from Global South churches. [….]


Introducing Semaphoric

flagSo it begins: this blog was set to launch at the start of 2009 when procrastination took over the better of me. Although this first post dates back to January, it took some three months to get this project off the ground. I’m still putting this blog through its paces — there are a number of content and technical issues being worked out. Instead of having semaphoric launch in entire completeness, I’m planning to fill in the space as the blog progresses. For the most part, semaphoric is off and running.

What is semaphoric? From the Greek word sema for signs, semaphoric simply refers to semaphores, a system of visual signs designed to convey a message. Used primarily on ships and railroads, semaphore is the simplest way to signal and transmit messages.

Why semaphoric? From the obvious — billboards, traffic lights, spam ads, trademarks, to the less obvious —  maps, metaphors, hip-hop artists, a peacock’s plumes, signs are all around us. We make and utilize signs to interact with the world, and in turn, signs influence how we see and understand the world.

semaphoric examines signs of culture and faith and considers how both influence the way we understand ourselves, shape our theology, and how we perceive the world. For the most part, semaphoric is like any blog with its contents reflecting the thoughts and musings of its author.

Who is semaphoric? Entirely conceived by me and one else. I hope you enjoy the great-taste-and-no-filling flavor of semaphoric!

I’ve done my part, and now you can do yours:

  • • Read this blog and comment regularly
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  • • Tell your friends about semaphoric.org
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