I had some good dialogue with Mike Foster yesterday and then a conference call later in the afternoon with Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite (Authors), Chris Heurtz (Director, Word Made Flesh), Soong-Chan Rah (Prof., North Park), Kathy Khang (InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Ministries Director), and Eugene Cho (Pastor, Quest Church). The conversation was facilitated by Nikki Toyama-Szeto (Urbana 09 Program Director).While I had to click out about 40 minutes into the hour conversation, I was encouraged by the honest conversations from everyone involved and the shared conviction that we did not want this to be a one hit (one chat & out) wonder a la Men at Work (remember them?).
I long for, and work toward, the day when we — as the church — live out the Kingdom with such fierce grace, sacrificial love and willingness to carry each others burdens that these kinds of incidents don’t occur in the first place. As my friend LT put it so well,
We’re called towards oneness. Our vision is shalom.
But that’s the tension of living in the already/not yet Kingdom of God, though, isn’t it? We’re not there yet. We’re all broken. This comment from Eugene’s blog is still killing me:
Thanks, Pastor Eugene, for your accurate, thoughtful and gracious response. There are many others that can much more eloquently voice why this is offensive. All I can say is that when I clicked through the pages and graphics of the book on the publisher’s website, I had a strong emotional reaction that made me feel ashamed when I had done nothing wrong to have that feeling put upon me. Yes, please trust us. It’s offensive.
It breaks my heart that my daughter has had to endure the same kind of ignorant racism that I grew up with. At times, it causes me to border on despair — thirty years later and people still pull back their eyes to mock Asian people? So until the restoration of all things, when we hurt one another, may we be quick to listen, slow to anger, and speak with honesty & grace.
Beauty From Brokenness
There are ways in which I see God bringing good out of what could have been extremely ugly (beyond some of the concrete steps I hope to see Mike, Jud & Zondervan take). I am deeply encouraged that many of my Asian American sisters & brothers in Christ have raised their voices and told their stories.
While there might have been an occasional angry Asian rant out there (more on this in a moment), most of what I’ve read from the AA Christian blogosphere has been extremely gracious, open and willing to work toward reconciliation.
[A quick word about "angry" Asians: Eugene Cho said it well in his post about why he chooses, on occasion, to be an angry Asian man. When others expect silence & compliance, they might perceive us as "angry" when we raise our voices at all. However, for many Asian Americans, I think the need to express what we're really feeling with honesty & openness (and, of course, grace) trumps our need to worry about offending someone else.]
Telling Our Stories
I deeply appreciated Charles Lee’s post, Lessons from Deadly Viper, Professor Rah, and the Internet. I’m looking forward to seeing how Charles develops his thoughts about how we, as Asian American Christians, can tell our stories more effectively:
We need to tell our story better to the masses. Although we are not at fault for many of the misperceptions, I wonder if we should make more of a concerted effort to tell our narrative better (whatever that may be). I think one of the ways we could prevent some potentially hurtful depictions would be for us to form perceptions via the arts, media, and social media. I know many are working hard at this, but I think the Asian American must participate more intentionally than ever before.
My friend Dave Ingland’s post, Don’t disrespect me because I’m Asian!, is a great example of storytelling and truth-speaking.
David Park, Laurence Tom and I are trying to work through some storytelling ideas over at Next Gener.Asian Church — as that journey unfolds, we would love to highlight the beautiful stories of sisters & brothers in Christ from the Asian American community that are waiting to be told, especially those who might not otherwise have a voice.
Wisdom For The Way Forward
Many people have pointed out that much of the controversy here stemmed from attitudes that seemed dismissive, arrogant and unwilling to listen. I have appreciate insights from various folks who have used this incident as a springboard for discussing how we might learn to communicate with one another in healthier ways.
Here are few highlights from Charles Lee:
- The internet is a powerful tool so watch what and how you say it.
- Do your homework: Whether it’s culture, ethnicity, gender, politics, or faith, all of us have blind spots. We need to take the extra step of making sure our work receives appropriate counsel from its stakeholders
- Principle of charity
- Defense is NOT a good offense.
- Always try to deal with conflict offline first even if it takes awhile
- Seek the counsel of diverse perspectives that will surprise, challenge, and even unsettle us
- Make “listening” our first response to critiques of racial insensitivity.