Today’s Christian magazine, a publication of Christianity Today, just published this interview with Soong-Chan Rah entitled, “Speaking Up for Asian Americans.” [h/t to DJ for the heads-up on this interview]
In the interview, Soong-Chan gives a brief overview of the recent Youth Specialties/Skit Guys controversy and the LifeWay Rickshaw Rally debacle. More importantly, he is able to discuss some of the larger, underlying issues regarding race, faith and the church. For example:
Why do you think this type of incident happens in Christian circles?
We’ve simplified issues of race so much in the American church that we fail to see some elements, some larger issues of race. It’s not just individual prejudice, but larger racial injustice. Sometimes, these are issues we don’t talk about in the Christian community. American society is changing; there are more non-whites. Yet in leadership, those writing and reviewing Christian books still tend to come from the white community. It limits the point of view.
We assume if we’re Christians, we are all the same, equal. That’s not the way life operates.
Though many of us are probably going through a bit of “Skit Guys” burnout, I am glad to see that the larger issues at play here are still being discussed. It would be too easy to say we’re sorry, make nice and then pretend like nothing ever happened. Sort of like those “last night of the big retreat” testimony times where one sibling tearfully apologizes to the other for using a shovel to bash in the other’s nose and then, upon returning home, immediately reengages the same lifestyle patterns. Reconciliation is slower than we’d like, most costly than we might imagine and messier than we plan, but can we pursue anything else?
Because of DJ’s glowing review, I
am hoping to pick up went out and picked up Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath in the near future today. I am encouraged to see, both in his book and on his blog, that Edward has raised in voice in support of the Asian American community. So often, we treat racial reconciliation as a zero-sum proposition — if one racial ethnic group advances, it must be at the expense of another. During my seminary days, there was a series of ugly racial incidents. Most involved African American students, but one was directed at an Asian American student. During the ensuing fallout, I remember feeling that the Asian American incident was lost in the shuffle. Looking back on it, I realize that this was due to the lack of participation of Asian American voices — not the strength of other voices. I don’t know if we were too wrapped up in balancing studies and ministry, or if we gave into apathy, but in the end we abdicated responsibility for justice and reconciliation to others. This could have been a powerful witness of solidarity with our African American sisters & brothers, as well as speaking out on behalf of our own community.
That’s why I am also challenged by Edward’s post linking to the aforementioned article. While it is a significant step for us no longer to play the role of the quiet, passive Asian American and to let our voice be heard, it is also vital for us to speak in solidarity with other members of the body of Christ. While some in the majority culture might be tempted to brush us off if they perceive our indignation to be self-serving (which is not right, but it happens), it is an extremely powerful witness for us to stand up for those who might not be members of our communities.