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Be A Man, Do the Right Thing

Found this post on Racialicious featuring this video:

Asian American males are often portrayed in the media as less  than”manly”, maybe even asexual. Christian males often are seen as “safe” and “nice”. When combined, Asian American Christian men can often be the most “harmless”  and “nicest” across the spectrum of men. I wonder if some of the behaviors I see in young Asians is largely reactionary to this type of stigma.

I’m not saying that we swing the pendulum the other way into some sort of violent, brutish, testosterone bloodthirsty frenzy, but I wonder does our discipleship require emasculation? Is there repressed aggression under this double layer of church and Asian culture that can take harmful forms in our friendships, relationships, marriages, and other areas even as we might be “high performers”?

Are there ways our churches can serve as places to encourage stronger formation of Asian American Christian men? I understand that the goal of the gospel is not necessarily to create us in some sort of projected image of what we’d like to be, but does the church provide us the means to show transformed lives from what we have seen thus far?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

16 responses to “Be A Man, Do the Right Thing

  1. David, not sure I agree with you totally. I think within the church is often the place where AA men exert their power even more over women. Insecurity? Now I will agree that it may not be in the same kind of “American Man” kind of way, but we can wield power pretty well given the context.

    With that said, yeah, larger society has not treated us well even though Bruce Lee kicked norris’s A$$ every time 😉

  2. You’re right Bruce. There is a strange internal dynamic as well that is dysfunctional. I guess I’m wondering why can’t the church be a place where healthier (not reactionary or suppressed) models of Asian Christ-like manhood can be seen…While some may say that I’m too critical of my own kind, I can’t think of many men in the Korean churches that I’ve attended who have made me admirers of the way they live. Maybe the way the speak or some skill, but not the way they live.

  3. daniel so

    David — I definitely hear what you’re saying about church as a place of intentional formation for Asian American Christian men. We do need men who live holistically a life worth imitating who will lead the way, not loud-mouthed jerks who think watching more UFC will make a man of us yet.

    Our understanding of manhood is captive to both Western and Asian cultures in so many ways — Western culture not only in the ridiculous pro-UFC sense, but even in movements like Wild at Heart which promote a more healthy, but clearly Western, concept of manhood; Asian in the repressed aggression, patriarchy, etc. Can we find a third, and better, way forward?

    Thanks for the video links — I laughed out loud at the end of the second one 🙂

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  5. Joseon ⋅

    The older I get and the more I read the Bible, the more I realize that the only good example for us all is Jehovah.

  6. Joseon, I would agree with you, but I’m not sure the example is that easy. Can you unpack that some more?

  7. Whoa, I didn’t even realize that LT had already blogged on this topic earlier this month, I am so unoriginal. Thanks for the insight LT!

  8. djchuang

    David, LT may have well blogged about it already, but you’ve generated more comments 🙂 But he snagged the pix with Yul Kwon, so for those of you keeping score at home, it’s even steven 🙂

    So while Asian patriarchy (power play) in an Asian context is not ideal, and perceived lack of masculinity among Asians in America is not ideal, and Jesus Christ the (supposed?) ideal for masculinity(?) in any culture, what would “it” look like?

  9. Joseon ⋅

    Hey guys, I should have clarified myself in my previous comment. My first comment was more about who we should look up to for our example in all things and not so much about masculinity.

  10. elderj

    well… you guys are doing a fair shot better than in the Black church… at least you have men in attendance and staying married to their wives and supporting their kids

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  12. L T ⋅

    i’m a slow blogger. thanks for the acknowledgement. i’m glad i can contribute to the conversation. i think it’s something we need to explore more deeply in the asian-american church and in our blogs. it’s a subject that is so complex for us but left for books like wild at heart to inform and shape. and for many of us who are leaders in the church what shape and form are we producing as a result of who we are, what we preach/teach and allow in the life of our churches.

  13. you’re killing me, elderj. didn’t Jesus tell a parable about the dangers of piety by comparison (“Lord, I thank thee that I’m not like that guy over there…”). i’m Black and married and fathering my children in every sense of the word. 80% of my male friends are as well, the “breakdown of the Black family” notwithstanding. your statement is needlessly stereotypical. i wish i weren’t the first to call you on it. i’ve come to expect better of you.

    the problem all around is that we stay indiscriminately committed to Western stereotypes even in a post-colonial world, even between cultures of people of color who recognize the number the Western world has done on each of us. and we don’t have to! if the persons of Asian decent i’ve been privileged to know practice the martial arts, they’ve never told me, and in a post-colonial world, i no longer have to assume that they do. i can get to know person of Asian decent for who they are and appreciate them for the parts of themselves they reveal as they get around to revealing them. and if they resemble the stereotype, that’s cool too. i still don’t have to see them as a stereotype.

    sadly, even in a post-colonial world, white folks are still our frame of reference, so we judge the value of our images (of manhood or anything else) on how they compare to a white “norm”. what we fail to realize, however, is that what we are taught to consider the “norm” is a myth. as long as whites make up 70% or so of this country’s population, there will continue to be more whites on welfare than any other group–although the typical picture of a “welfare mother” we see in the media is Black. as long as the doors of “legal” immigration remain disproportionately open to Western nations, the number of persons from Western countries who overstay their time or access the US “illegally” will equal or exceed the number of undocumented persons who cross the southern boarder–though undocumented Latinos, who are not even half of the undocumented persons in this country, are scapegoated. (by the way, my folks were never given documents either. were yours?) and, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, the mere economics of it suggest that there are more drugs in Buckhead than down on Bankhead. the only thing that makes these realities counter-intuitive is that we are complicit in the Western propaganda matrix.

    i get wanting to be portrayed in media in a positive, balanced light. trust me, its no picnic being assumed hyper-sexual, hyper-aggressive and criminally-minded either. but don’t get too caught up in trying to correct the colonial caricatures of who we are. even acknowledging them gives them power. just BE (and while you’re at it, BE… for the good of others as Jesus demonstrated), and in so doing, force the rest of us to appreciate you for who you are, on your own terms.

  14. elderj

    Melvin, thanks for the words brother. I apologize if my the tongue in cheek nature of my comment was to obscure. I resonate with what you’ve said and don’t wish to “perpetuate the stereotype” which has had all too muchg play already in our racist and thoroughly racialized society.

    My ill chosen words aside, my larger point was that it is all too easy for us (meaning ethnic minorities) to play the comparison game against a White norm, in which case we always come out poorly. But as scripture says, and as you remind us, “when we compare ourselves with ourselves, we are not wise.” The standards to which we adhere must find their first roots in Christ whether our standards of personal piety and ethical practice, or our standards of cultural masculinity.

    All too often however, the tendency is to begin the conversation with all the ways we are failing rather than affirming the God honoring realities that are present in our cultural or social groups. Thus AA men needn’t start from a posture of self critique, but of saying, “here are some ways that we are doing well and honoring God. How do we build on that? The same is true for Blacks as well.

    Hopefully I’ve cleared up my intent, though I fear I’ve only further confused the issue.

  15. Rafa ⋅

    Please, please, do not be offended, but personally…I find Asian-Americans way “nicer”, as you say, than the average American, male or female. Even American society, I must confess, makes with cringe with unease at times. However, as American society, filled with many different groups of people as it is, is naturally inclined to deem all such “nice” males unacceptably feminine for some reason, I fear such behaviors shall not change socially any time soon. Good day.

  16. Rafa ⋅

    Oh, and I’m a Christian, too, just so you know. Guys, just a note: I personally am of the strong opinion that there is no “right” or “wrong” demonination in Christianity. The Bible itself said, “A house divided against Itself cannot stand”, a quote used by Abraham Lincoln almost two millennia later. Call me crazy, but I get this really intense feeling that if the two houses of Christianity do not unite some time soon, it will cause very great trouble. Just saying. May God watch over us all. Amen.

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