• Alaric Mark Lewis

On Hawai'i Pidgin and God


One thing the Internet makes easy is looking at different translations of the Scriptures. If I'm studying or preparing a sermon I always use the New Revised Standard Version, and of course I use the good ol' King James for reading at morning and evening prayer; but every now and then when I just want to look at things differently, I'll find another version to read ... sometimes even in a completely different language. If I'm ever tempted to look at a common text and hunker down into safety and familiarity, a slight change just might be enough to make me look at things a different way.

By far my favourite translation for this purpose is the Hawai'i Pidgin Bible. For starters, the names of the chapters are fantastic. Genesis and Exodus are entitled "Da start" and "Outa Egypt" which sums up those two books quite nicely. In the New Testament we've got "Jesus Guys" and "Jesus Show," which I think we can all agree are superior titles to "Acts of the Apostles" and "Revelation." Even the buttons on the website (http://www.pidginbible.org/Concindex.html)  are brilliant, with instructions such as "go wea dis book start" and "chapta afta" a lot clearer and user-friendlier than many things I've encountered on the Internet.

In this evening's first lesson from Deuteronomy we have a rather solemn passage with fire, clouds, darkness, and a mountain burning with fire. And the King James version - with its thees and thous - makes it seem all the more formidable, which I think is fine for such a solemn scene.

But I think that there is a great opportunity for a more tender look at a part of this lesson, and that is the rapport between God and Moses. In the King James version we hear God saying to Moses "Stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and statues, and judgements ..." and in that language it almost seems like a verbal continuation of the mountain burning with fire. That's why I love the Hawai'i Pidgin translation, in which God says "But you, stay hea wit me, so I can tell you eryting - all da stuff dey gotta do ..." If the more traditional version seems to portray a God who commands, the Pidgin seems rather to show us a God who pleads, who is not giving commandments, statutes, and judgements because of his earth-shaking power, but because he's not just a little enamoured with his people and Moses, his "main guy." Moses, who all the way back in Chapter 3 of Outa Egypt wonders why ever Pharaoh would listen to him. God responds: "Cuz I goin stay wit you, az why!"

I love that image of God, even when at times it seems hard to feel him near. (I suppose I love that image of God especially when at times it seems hard to feel him near.) During my worst days I look around and see so much suffering and inequality and think this God business is not all it's cracked up to be. And I know I'm not alone in sometimes wondering why we bother at all. But then, something happens - some unforeseen and unexpected grace which takes my breath away - and I get the answer to my why: "Cuz I goin stay wit you, az why!"

Or, as Isaiah says: "So no scared, Cuz you guys da one I stay wit. No come bum out, Cuz I yoa God. I make you guys come strong inside. Mo den dat, I help you guys. I no let you guys fall down!" 

Goodness! To that I can only say: Amen!

Or, as they say in Hawai'i Pidgin: "Dass it!"

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