Prologue: This is written mainly for those who aren’t sure how to respond to the matters surrounding the TMT on Mauna Kea and accompanying issues. I pray it serves fellow followers of Christ and the people of Hawaii well. Note: It is lengthy and I don’t have a TLDR version=).
Deuteronomy 1:17 (ESV): “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.”
I have been observing the recent events regarding the TMT on Mauna Kea as well as the responses of various individuals. I wanted to offer the following in hopes it helps some sort out their own response to what’s happening. I’ll do so through a series of statements. So without further ado:
First, I LOVE the people of Hawaii and the Hawaiian islands. While I wasn’t born here, I have prayed for and longed to serve as a minister of the gospel to the Hawaiian islands since I was in high school. So my heart is heavy to see what’s transpiring on the Big Island and the ripple effect it is having on all the islands.
I have remained silent, in large part because I am NOT from here. I do not know enough of the history and am not familiar with many facets of the current project. Therefore, I do not feel adequate or possess sufficient knowledge of the issues at stake to speak wisely or helpfully on the matter. I have a feeling I’m not the only one in the same boat. The scriptures say in Proverbs 17:28 (ESV): “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.” I’ll go with that and restrain my words. The Scriptures also say, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). I want to hear and I want to hear as many sides and facets as I can. Failure to do so if you aren’t familiar with the matters at stake is foolish and unhelpful. Many would do well to heed this advice in any situation, not just the current matter regarding the TMT. In this age of information overload, slanted media presentations, and lack of information discernment, MANY speak too quickly or without knowledge out of a desire to “take a stand” only later to find out additional facts or information that may have called for a different reaction, and yet rarely does anyone backtrack after the fact. Personally, I’d like more information and to hear both sides of the matter before weighing in. Therefore the silence is not reflective so much of choosing a side as much as it reflects a wrestling with the complexities of history, the current reality, general life in a fallen world, and searching the Scriptures to formulate a God-honoring response. This is NOT an easy task or a fast one. So until I can do that, I’ll refrain from taking a position either way. But I am committed to learning and wrestling so I can respond more helpfully in the future.
I will leave the verbal support to those who are from the islands or more familiar with the situation or who are MORE qualified to develop their case then I would be. And I’ll eagerly and discerningly listen and hear their points in order to learn more. Please feel free to point me in the right direction.
We should affirm the following points. Native Hawaiian peoples, or anyone in this country, possess a constitutionally protected right to express themselves and their beliefs through peaceful protests (what some call protecting in this case). It is encouraging to see a commitment to “Kapu Aloha” and non-violence by those protesting the TMT. This commitment is to be further commended in light of the current political climate that so often swings toward unhelpful, unkind, and sometimes hostile or violent extremes. As time progresses, we should pray it continues.
The rights and wishes of indigenous peoples should be respected and considered with regards to various decisions in a proper court of appeal. This would include voices on both sides of the issue, not just the vocal side or the side with the most financial resources. Any systemic historical injustices that occurred in the past should be accounted for and acknowledged. Christians, of all people, shouldn’t be surprised at how sin not only impacts individuals, but nations as well with the result that nations can deal unrighteously, for a variety of reasons, with other nations or segments of people within their own borders. America, for all its strengths, is not exempt from this impact. We should recognize that although we recite in our pledge “with liberty and justice for all” that this liberty and justice has not been experienced in equal measure by all people groups or ethnicities throughout all times in our country. This is historically undeniable. While strides forward have been made, it would be wrong to assume we still don’t have work to do.
What would it look like to acknowledge and account for systemic injustices? I’m not entirely sure. I imagine that would be better addressed by minds more fluent in the political sphere than my own.
Regarding the TMT, the process to apply for permits to build, prior conversations, past history, addressing of concerns, the outcome of various reporting/permitting agencies, and court decisions should be considered to determine whether those rights and wishes have in fact been addressed or whether attempts to address concerns have been satisfactorily made. Often the ability to adequately consider these factors rests outside the scope of social media.
Even if a given course of action is permissible (I.e. a permit is granted), that still doesn’t mean proceeding forward according to the permitted plan is wise. Plans once implemented can and at times should be altered when new information is presented.
We should affirm the role of law enforcement officers to uphold and enforce the laws of the land and appreciate them for their work. These officers are members of the same community on the Big Island and across the other islands. They love Hawaii and the people they serve. They regularly and willingly place themselves in harms way on behalf of the community with little regard and appreciation for their role. These are individuals such as officer Bronson Kaliloa who literally died for his community when he was killed after a traffic stop on the Big Island in 2018. Often, officers are placed in the middle of conflicts involving individuals and on the corporate community level as well. In these instances they are forced to make difficult decisions. They should be supported, encouraged, and prayed for.
When a peaceful protester begins to knowingly and intentionally place themselves in a position to transgress the law in order to amplify their message via obstruction or some other means, they should also willingly accept the consequences of their actions. Law enforcement officers should not be portrayed as the enemy or viewed with hostility for enforcing the law. It is not the role of law enforcement officers to render judgement or advance arguments concerning points of history or other contested ideas/legislative actions on the street. It is simply their role to enforce and uphold the existing laws of the land. They should NOT be expected to get involved in that level of decision making. Those matters fall to different governing entities and those arguments should be advanced in the appropriate venue, repeatedly if necessary. I.e. One group informing or stating their view of current events to a law enforcement officer on the scene with the expectation that the officer will not uphold the existing law is unreasonable and beyond the scope of a law enforcement officer.
From what I have seen in media portrayals of circumstances on the Big Island, it appears that mutual respect is being shown when arrests are being conducted. This is also something we should be thankful about and rejoice over.
Christians and churches should be EAGER to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3). The early church was very acquainted with cultural and racial injustices and hostilities (Israel was under Roman occupation when the New Testament was written and had their most holy site destroyed in A.D. 70). It was nothing short of a divine miracle to see Jews and Gentiles worshipping the same God together as one church! Think of ALL the cultural differences that had to be worked through to make that happen! Even having a meal would require great displays of love and humility at virtually every turn! Yet, this was the reality. And that reality is possible for our churches today as well and should be strived for. Many have strong feelings about a whole host of issues at stake regarding the TMT. We must be cautious to not allow these issues to take us away from our primary mission and identity. As followers of Christ, our primary identity is not our ethnic identity. It’s who we are in Christ and our blood bought citizenship in heaven. That doesn’t mean we ignore our ethnicity, but it does place it in proper perspective and can bring our emotions and responses in line with it. Remembering our primary identity can serve as a powerful reminder that, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Is there anything I can say or do to be helpful then? Yes, although the immediate helpfulness may not be visible initially. I offer 5 points of helpfulness: Pray, weep with those who weep, get educated, engage wisely, and point confidently. I’ll explain each below.
1. Pray earnestly over the situation. I make requests for at least 4 groups. I pray for native Hawaiian people currently protesting. I pray that any injuries or systemic injustices done to the people of Hawaii will be brought to light and addressed honestly and correctly. I pray for perseverance in their commitment to “Kapu Aloha.” I pray for the law enforcement officers present on the Big Island from all over Hawaii. I pray for their protection and for wisdom as they execute their responsibility with integrity in this sensitive matter and for their families that are currently operating without their loved one present. And I pray for our governor, mayors, and other decisive governing entities to govern with wisdom, compassion, fairness, integrity, righteousness, and with an eye to the well-being of the whole community. A fourth thing I pray for is that God would raise up one or a few with a sound and extensive grasp on the truth of the Scriptures, the laws of the land, the history of the people, the position to make a difference, and a God-given ability to speak in such a way that brings clarity, healing, and unity to the community as a whole moving forward. Perhaps that last request is a tall order. If it is, then, may the Lord send back the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, who alone can bring healing to the nations.
The next points I offer with encouragement from my friend and fellow gospel-laborer, Rocky Komatsu, pastor of Waiehu Community Church.
2. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” We should cultivate a response of the heart that sees fellow members of the body of Christ suffering (or anyone) and seeks to identify with and understand where their pain is coming from rather than simply dismissing it. Often, a callous response can arise from people that is cold, harsh, and only desires to air its own opinion rather than understand the pain they’re in. These types of responses will do little to advance the gospel, encourage the hurting, or bring peace to the community. This doesn’t mean you’ll agree with everything. It is possible to disagree on these matters and still be loving and helpful toward those who are working through it IF you respond in patience and love.
3. Get educated on the history and culture in which you live. This will take time, energy, and effort, but it’s hard to be truly helpful or effective without it. Not only will you learn some really interesting things, but it will also help you see more accurately than you would’ve otherwise. For instance, who was Keōpūolani? What happened in Sand Hills that was historically significant on Maui? Who was King Kekaulike and why would they name a high school after him? All of these have fascinating back stories and learning the answers along with many other points will help you gradually understand the current landscape in which we live. More importantly, understand His-Story.
4. Engage wisely. Isaiah 1:17 gives the exhortation, “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression...” We should think carefully about what is “good” and “just” in any given circumstance and strive for it. Christians have historically been VERY engaged in helping correct what sin has distorted. I’d encourage all to think about how believers can tangibly seek justice and correct oppression as the opportunity arises. For some it may mean considering a serious bid for public office, for others it may mean getting a degree in law or history, and still for others it may look like something else, or simply being faithful in the path they’re on.
5. Point confidently to the true, lasting, and impenetrable hope found only in the good news that Jesus Christ, because of His death, burial, and resurrection three days later offers life eternal and a kingdom with no end to all who turn from their own way and place their faith in Him. Many long for, hope for, and labor for a restored Kingdom Of Hawaii. Whether that actually happens one day, or whether it would be as great as many think it would be is a different conversation. However, the longing for an established kingdom is a good and right longing. We should long for a King and for a Kingdom and part of the good news of Jesus is that it has come in part. The prophet Isaiah foretold that a King would come (Isa. 9:1ff). The gospel of Luke records that the King came (Luke 1:32-33) in fulfillment of Isaiah 9. And Revelation 11:15 looks forward to a day when heaven resounds with the proclamation: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever!” Only through Jesus will the longing for renewal, restoration, and reformation come.
Ultimately, I make my appeal and place my hope in a greater court than the Supreme Court of Hawaii, remembering that “many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice” (Prov. 29:26).
Seeking His Kingdom,
Randy Pauley, Pastor
Kahului Baptist Church