The Christian Faith of Hawaii’s Queen Lili`uokalani

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The last reigning monarch in the history of Hawaii was sustained by a vibrant Christian faith, learned from the missionary families who betrayed her.

The Kamehameha dynasty of Hawaii ended with Queen Lili`uokalani in 1893. At that time the “Missionary Party” desired annexation to the United States, but to her detriment, she dismissed them as just a petty minority.

Queen Lili`uokalani in the State of Hawaii

As a child, Queen Lili`uokalani attended the Royal School, which was run by Christian missionaries. Her teachers were Amos Starr and Juliette Montague Cooke, and her fellow students were her royal siblings and relatives.

In her classes, she learned Scripture and how to apply it to life. As a young princess, she abandoned the superstitions of her ancient forebears to embrace the Triune God of the Bible, and in her book “Hawaii’s Story,” she said, “There is no other nation which has made such rapid progress in civilization and Christianity.”

History of Hawaii: Queen Kapi’olani, the First Christian Convert

Queen Lili`uokalani had great respect for the legacy of her great-grandaunt Queen Kapiolani, one of the first converts to the novel faith in the Lord Jesus Christ espoused by the haole ministers. Up till that time, the islanders lived in abject fear of a ferocious goddess of their imaginations named Pele, who supposedly lived inside Mt. Kilauea on the Big Island.

When the volcano erupted with lava, the superstitious Hawaiians believed Pele was angry and needed to be appeased. Around 1820, Queen Kapi’olani put her faith in Christ and then did something very bold and courageous for her time. To show the people that Pele was not a god at all, she went to the “forbidden place” on Hawaii, now Volcano National Park, and lived to tell about it.

At the rim of the caldera, she ate Pele’s sacred ‘ohelo berries and threw stones into the molten lava, in essence “spitting in Pele’s face.” Amazingly, nothing happened to Kapi’olani. She survived the encounter, proving Mt. Kilauea was merely a geologic wonder instead of a demoness. Pele was a fake, and the door opened for her descendants and the common people to trust Christianity.

Queen Lili`uokalani Appeals to America’s Christian Conscience

During her lifetime, Queen Lili`uokalani supported many different churches on Oahu, including the original Congregational church, the Kawaiahao Church near the Palace, and the Anglican Church, among others. And on her trip to the East Coast of the United States, she also made sure she attended church services. In Washington D.C., she received many representatives of all denominations, including the Methodists, Episcopalians and Sisters of the Holy Cross.

When Queen Lili`uokalani was put under house arrest at the Iolani Palace in 1893, she correctly assessed the futility of fighting the U. S. Navy, and yielded her authority to those who wanted to overthrow her monarchy to annex the islands into the United States. She trusted that justice would be hers at a later date, and put pen to paper to appeal to the American people.

“Oh honest Americans, as Christians hear me for my downtrodden people!” she wrote. “Do not covet the little vineyard of Naboth’s, so far from your shores, lest the punishment of Ahab fall upon you, if not in your day, in that of your children, for ‘be not deceived, God is not mocked.’ The people to whom your fathers told of the living God, and taught to call “Father,” and whom the sons now seek to despoil and destroy, are crying aloud to Him in their time of trouble; and He will keep His promise, and will listen to the voices of His Hawaiian children lamenting for their homes.”

Although Hawaii’s destiny was taken from her hands, Queen Lili`uokalani remained steadfast in her belief in God, not allowing mistreatment to savage her faith. Whether it can be satisfied or not, her haunting plea for restitution still echoes over one hundred years later.

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