Monday, November 21, 2022

Today on the show, we head to the mailbag to fulfill the request for a story about a Hawaiian Chiefess.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***


It is the 21st of November, 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


Hey- it’s Monday- Let’s go to the mailbag. I got a kick out of this one: it reads:


Dr. Dan van Voorhis, Esteemed Prof. of Ecclesial History, Esq., etc., etc. ~~


As an almost-native of Mr. Gillespie’s West Lafayette, Indiana (I’m in compass-neutral Lafayette, IN, on the other side of the Wabash), I figure that I should have a virtual guarantee of being chosen for a Monday Mailbag. If it helps, Lafayette is also the hometown of Jeremy Camp, Axl Rose (my wife’s cousin by marriage), and the burial place of Emmett Kelly.


Knowing, again, that I have this silver bullet of a town in my back pocket, I have stayed awake many a long night pondering whom to suggest you cover. In the end, I cannot decide between Samuel Kaboo Morris and Kapiolani (who died in 1841, not the later 1899 gal), so I will leave the final decision up to you.


Looking forward to your ruling ~~


Ok, Jason in compass-neutral Lafayette (nice reference to Emmett Kelly- the circus man, trapeze artist, and sad clown)


Let’s tell the story of Kapiolani- the Chiefess who died in 1841. If you remember, we used to make a running joke where I would avoid the history of Christianity in Hawaii- it was really a stalling technique so I could read up more on it-


The story starts in 1778 with Captain Cook coming to the Islands- Henry Opukahaʻia going from Hawaii to Yale in 1809, where he would inspire local missionaries, and then in 1819 when King Kamehameha had just died after uniting the Islands- the first missionaries arrived in 1820 led by Hiram Bingham.


Kapiolani was born in 1781- she was related to Kamehameha, and her father was a high priest in Hilo. In 1824 she met missionary William Ellis who then sent James Ely and his wife Louisa to her in Kealakekua. Here we have a story often told, even immortalized by Alfred Lord Tennyson in a poem-


Inspired by the prophet Elijah and his challenging the prophets of Baal, she decided to challenge the notion of the powerful goddess Pele. The local Kahuna had put a curse on her husband on account of his wife’s faith, and She would go to the Volcano where Pele is said to have dwelled with her family at Kilauea.


She walked to the volcano over the course of a few weeks- and with her crowds gathered, partly to see what she was going to do and mostly to warn her of her impending doom should she challenge Pele. One missionary wrote, "Along the way to the volcano, she was accosted by multitudes and entreated not to proceed. She answered, 'If I am destroyed, then you may all believe in Pele, but if I am not, you must all turn to the true writings.’" The writings are a collection of hymns and parts of the Bible translated into the Hawaiian language.


Upon coming to the volcano, she was stopped by a priestess who warned her to stay back. Kapiolani is recorded as saying, 'I shall not die by your god. That fire was kindled by my God.' She then personally consumed the berries offered as a sacrifice to the Goddess and then descended down a path where she stood at the lip of the lava- she threw stones into the lava and said a prayer to God- as she came from the volcano, unhurt, it is said the power of the myth of Pele was broken- many, including Kapiolani, were baptized. She would help to build a church there, from whence she would preach and minister to the poor.



Later in life, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and a friend and biographer noted that she had cancer cut out without anesthesia. But, according to the same biographer, she contracted erysipelas from a walk in the hot sun and died in that same year in 1841.


Here’s a bit from the Tennyson poem:


Noble the Saxon who hurled at his Idol a valorous weapon in olden England!

Great, and greater, and greatest of women, island heroine Kapiolani

Clomb the mountain, and flung the berries and dared the Goddess, and freed the people

Of Hawa-i-ee!


So there we have it, Jason- the story of Kapiolani- the “greatest of women” according to Alfred Lord Tennyson.


Send me your questions, requests, and favorite salsa recipes at


The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Revelation 21:


22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of November 2022, brought to you by 1517 at


The show is produced by a man from that troublesome and schismatic “West Lafayette” (Jason knows what I mean). He is Christopher Gillespie.


The show is written and read by a man who could go for some Spam Musubi- it’s really good! I’m Dan van Voorhis


You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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