post-tsunami order, asians in the library, and the multicultural church

there’s been more than one story talking about the calm and order in post-tsunami japan.  columnists are pointing out the lack of looting and lawlessness; kristof even prophesied the strength of japanese society when the earthquake hit.  the unspoken comparison, of course, is what happened five and half years ago in new orleans.  but the most memorable post-katrina quote, courtesy of kanye west, helps us understand why the social fabric of japan is woven differently:  “george bush hates black people.”

japan thrives because of its homogeneity.  and they’re not the only nations.  when the annual list of best nations is published, invariably, homogenous nations like denmark top the list.  and the challenge of the “other” has reached its breaking point all over western europe.  the leaders of germany, france, italy, and the united kingdom have all declared that multiculturalism has failed and is unwanted.

but america clings to the idea that our society is stronger because  of the melting pot salad bowl, or at least we say we do.  until the “other” starts to irritate us… like those asians in the library.

and are things really different in the church?  rebecca kim chronicles how campus fellowships experienced their own white flight when asians started outnumbering them in her book, god’s whiz kids.  church growth experts have consistently warned that the pursuit of diversity compromises growing numbers.  even the utopian church of acts 2 devolved into alarming ethnic strife by acts 6.

but the Bible (well, it’s mostly the new testament) stubbornly clings to this idea that the church should be comprised of all people—gender, race, culture, sexuality, and class.  it would be easier to be monocultural, but the apostles’ solution was not to divide into a jewish and gentile church, nor was it to force gentiles to adopt jewish practices.  if we could just ignore those that don’t look or think like us, it certainly would be more efficient and effective.  but our crucified and resurrected LORD rarely seems to take that route.

#prayforjapan

The heartache and loss of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the tsunami it triggered, and now the potential nuclear meltdown are almost impossible to describe.

Below, the following bloggers offer insight and perspective on this massive tragedy:

When faced with tragedy on such a massive scale (over 10,000 people killed, thousands missing or unaccounted for, 500,000 homeless or displaced, billions in damage), it is easy to turn away or shut down. However, let us not forget the stories of those who are grieving, even as they search for loved ones.

Yomiuri Shimbun /AFP/Getty Images: This woman was calling out the names of her family in the city of Soma in Miyagi prefecture earlier today (March 14, 2011).

How to Help:

  • CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) Japan: “A network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world.  CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be there to help their communities when disasters strike and coordinates Christian volunteers to work with local ministries in the event of a disaster.”
  • Evangelical Covenant Church: “Covenant World Relief is responding to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan with our sister denomination, the Japan Covenant Church.”
  • World Vision: “World Vision plans to distribute relief supplies to meet the daily needs of quake and tsunami survivors. We will also focus our efforts on responding to the emotional needs of children, who are the most impacted after such a traumatic event.”
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: “This designated account supplements the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering to enable a significant response for relief and disasters in Japan.”
  • Asian Access: “Pray for Japan, for the Church and for us as we prepare to come alongside the Church and other partners to deliver aid and respond with well-prepared teams as the opportunities arise.”

Key Series: Why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans

Read this insightful series by DJ Chuang about why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans. It is a powerful introduction to many of the conversations we have here at Next Gener.Asian Church.

As DJ writes in his initial series post:

All to say that our American society needs more Asian Americans to be Asian American. It is to say that at this state of the union, we have too few. We certainly don’t have too many. We’d do well to have a few more to stand up and represent. We’d do well to think through and have more robust conversations about what it means to be Asian Americans. We’d do well to allow the richness of our Asian American’ness to overflow and not hide it under a bushel.

The disclaimers DJ writes at the outset are, alone, worth the price of admission:

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How being Asian American affects theology

Andy Cheung moved to Seattle from Austin and is in the midst of seminary studies at Mars Hill Graduate School. He blogged some thoughts about how being an Asian American could and should affect theology, alluding to how theology is not cultural-neutral [ed.note: emphasis added] –
Andy Cheung
New Perspective

. . . Tied to the dynamics of cultural identity are my understanding of theology and the Church. Being of Asian-American descent, two things have become apparent throughout my coursework: (1) a western perspective dominates our theological conversations and (2) there is a relative lack of Asian-American voices. As a result, I have become increasingly convinced the Church needs to hear the Christian narrative through different cultural lenses. This includes an Asian lens.

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Laying down tracks

For those of you who have been reading NG.AC for the last year or so might know where I stand on issues of conservatism negatively affecting the Asian American church. And in a most real way, it’s taking a toll on me…

I feel pretty lonely, ecclesially speaking, but I feel guilty for it. And it might be the Asian conscience within me telling me to “put up or shut up” but I just don’t know where to turn to. Although I would feel more of a theological connection to a mainline church, I honestly feel no ethnic, emotional, and social connection to what is usually a mostly white American congregation. Although I would feel an ethnic, emotional, and social connection to an Asian American church, I don’t find much theological affinity with them.

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Can you relate to a nerd?

Tony Kim loves to go to Comic Con. This is his 5th time going, to celebrate all things nerdy. He made this audition reel for an epic documentary film that’s in the works about Comic Con, being done by the same guy that did the Super Size Me movie.

Tony mentioned that one of the many reasons he auditioned was because: “… hardly any Asians auditioning and I hope to represent”. Thanks for stepping up, Tony!

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When a father’s love goes unexpressed

This USA Today commentary by Ray Wong, In death, assumptions about Dad melt away, seems typical of a child’s (or more specifically, a son’s) yearning for the blessing and love of a his Father. And it’s not really limited to Chinese or Asian cultures; it’s a common thing in many (most? all?) cultures for a son to want his father’s approval.

I didn’t think my father cared about me. I left Hong Kong at age 5, when my mother divorced my father in 1968. My father never contacted me. I lived in America. He lived a world away. …
…. After I married my wife, Quyen, in 1998, I visited Hong Kong again to introduce her to my father. When Quyen and I had kids, I heard through my mom that he wanted to see our children. So I invited him to the U.S., told him I would pay for his plane ticket and that he could stay with us. But I never received a response. I didn’t think he cared. So I went about my life.

… my father suffered a stroke and died. … my father’s younger brother brought my father’s possessions to me. … My father had kept every item relating to me and my family. … As I looked upon the pictures of my family with tears in my eyes, I knew I was wrong.

Read the full article.

Love unexpressed and love that doesn’t connect with the “love language” of the person of affection is love lost. What healing and joy there could be when love can freely flows, especially across cultures and generations.

Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part Two

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Daniel DK Kim’s journey of worship and justice has led him and his family to commit themselves to fighting human trafficking in Mexico City for the next two years. They left today (with answers to prayer from the very start). Read the second part of our two-part interview with DK:

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What is the connection between releasing your new EP thefirst and your family’s commitment to fight human trafficking in Mexico City?

This EP is my first-ever studio project and I am still baffled and dumbfounded that it is complete, in print, on sale and in the hands of people who love it. It has been a dream come true and the way it happened was so sudden and unexpected, I can once again say that it’s because of God’s goodness this came about. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part One

Daniel DK Kim just gave up his dream job.

As the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California, DK has been living out a personal dream.  And yet, on June 15th, DK, his wife Sadie and their young son Micah will be moving to Mexico City for two years, “to do our part in the abolition movement while working with and raising up a generation of indigenous artist/activists in the city to lead the charge… until we see the end of slavery.”

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  As you can see from DK’s story, which we will share in two parts, this awakening to the intimate connection between worship and justice is both beautiful and challenging.

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How would you describe the connection between worship and justice in your life? What have been some pivotal moments in shaping your understanding of worship and justice?

Photo by Scott Hodge at The Idea Camp in Irvine, California

I’ve been a worship leader since I was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until recently, in 2007, that I began to feel discontent in the way that I viewed and experienced worship.  So much of our worship can become self-focused and self-indulgent if we forget about the call beyond the mere words of any song. I began to discover the synonymy of worship & justice in a few key passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 58 is a huge one for me: the challenge to consider what true fasting is made me think about what true worship is. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I began to see that my worship was just ritual if I didn’t take it outside of a fifteen-minute set list.  I wanted desperately to do something about this unfolding realization but didn’t know where to start.  All I could do was pray.

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