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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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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As untouched as the turn signal in an Asian woman’s car

The title of the post probably makes absolutely no sense to you, but once you see it in context I’m sure you’ll understand it. Some of you may even chuckle about it. However, I’m not sure it’s the laughter that I would find offensive. Most-likely, it is the fact that people still have the perception that it’s funny because it is rooted in truth. Before I get to explaining this further, let me take you back about 40 years. Let me share with you a tv commercial from the 1960’s about a baby that wants to eat some glape jerr-o. Again, you probably don’t get what I just described, but after watching the video below you will:

Was it funny? Was it offensive? Are your feelings neutral about it? Continue reading

Top Asian Americans on YouTube

Entertainment is the draw for viewers in the online video world of YouTube. Education, not so much.

The top 4 Asian Americans on YouTube were recently listed over at sublimesilence:

3 of the above are noted as comedians. 1 is a musician. Hmmm.

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Reflections on Christianity from a Japanese-American Painter

An effort to define beauty will ultimately fail, but we can speak of beauty, and point to the source of beauty.

Friends,

In order to prevent any more cobwebs from appearing on this beloved site, I’d like to share a wonderful interview with Makoto Fujimura, a Japanese American painter where he talks about his views on faith, how art reflects the mystery of faith, and the Eastern nature of Christianity.

http://goo.gl/0na0

Here’s an excerpt:

East/West distinction is also a categorization that is very difficult to define. The Bible is an “Eastern” book. The Bible is much more culturally “Eastern” than “Western,” if by “Western” we mean post-Enlightenment rationalism. Certainly, the Old Testament Hebrew culture was far more eastern than what we consider to be western. The Last Supper makes more sense in a Japanese context (that eating and drinking wine can bond a community together) than American. Early theologians like Augustine and Origen were influenced by African and Egyptian culture, which is more East than West, and certainly medieval art and theology has much to do with Eastern influence, while “Western” theology grew out of them. I know what you are asking pertains to our fascination with Japanimation, Eastern New Age mysticism, etc., but I would be careful not to fall into unhelpful distinctions.

Going against the establishment

I’ve found myself going against the establishment most of my life, but only recently coming to realize it. As much as I have done things differently, it’s always been with the goal of becoming the establishment. It pains me today to say that, but I realize it to be true.

  • I worked hard to make money so I could dress like you.
  • I drove a Mercedes, a Lexus, a BMW so I could be respected by you.
  • I owned a big, new house in the suburbs so I could live next to you.
  • I learned your language so I could converse with you.
  • I became oblivious to other people’s pain so I could laugh with you

In the end, I feel ashamed of myself. I was not me, but instead I was a yellow version of you. You were the carrot being dangled in front of me, yet I never realized I had an appetite for carrots.

  • When I was like you, you respected me.
  • When we shared the same dreams, you encouraged me.
  • When we partied and got drunk together you shared stories with me
  • When I parked my car in your neighborhood, you envied me.
  • When I made lots of money you helped spend it with me.

Being in a position of power and privilege feels really great! Every luxury is at your disposal. People drool all over themselves when you offer them your scraps. Everyone wants to be like you. However, there is always a price to be paid for such privilege. For me, that price was indifference. At the time, running with the haves made me care little about the have nots. I started with nothing, to gain all that was mine — and now it’s mine so go out and live the American dream and become a have yourself, rather than trying to take away what I worked so hard to get.

Can you relate to my story? Whether you are privileged to have or unfortunate to not have, you understand this story well. Even if you’re crawling up the ladder of success and in transition on the way to having, you get the story. However, if I make the topic about race rather than money, do you still get it? Consider my perspective as a Japanese-American growing up in California and re-read those points above one more time. Don’t think about money, but think about race in American culture. Does something get lost in translation? It shouldn’t, but I know it will.

    It all comes down to three things: money, power, and privilege.

When one has power and privilege, money is not necessary. If someone had no money, but had beauty and celebrity, you would want to know them. You would want what they have. Money will come to them. When one has money and privilege, power comes their way quickly. Wherever money and power are together, you can obviously see where they automatically gain privilege.

Look at someone like Tiger Woods. At the time of this writing, he is amidst some scandal regarding infidelity. He has lots and lots of money. He dominates the golf world which gives him power. He gets in bed with women who are not his wife because this gives him privilege. Seriously, if Tiger Woods didn’t have money and power, would we be hearing of how he slept with 7+ mistresses and how they all kept it secret? No, he’d be just another black man judged for being a player in a world of player haters. His mistresses wouldn’t have kept the secret, because their chance for privilege or power would come from exposing him to the public.

The establishment has dictated the rules of the game. Either be born of privilege like us, or somehow gain money and power. Otherwise, we are forced to take our game somewhere else.

You know what, I played your game. In grace, I ran to your crumbs and hoped that my gesture would get your attention. That you would see me standing at your feet savoring your scraps and possibly invite me up to the table with you, even if it were just for one meal. In the end, you dropped your crumbs to the floor, made sure I came for the feast of scraps, then picked up your plate, locked me in the dining room and moved out of the house never to look back on me again. You, my friend, are someone of privilege who now has power. Yes, money is coming to you. Don’t you worry. When you play the establishment game you always win. You can’t help it. It’s in your genes.

I don’t want to play the establishment game any more, no matter who I offend. I’m not on that team anymore. I am not like you. It is not in my genes. My hard work should not be so you can take advantage of me and parade me around as I honor you by being like you. It’s time I realize who I am, not who you want me to be. Playing with you isn’t playing to win, it’s simply winning. The game is fixed, the deck is stacked, the bets have been recorded.

In reality, I have come to learn that it is the have nots that are really privileged and the haves that are living in the unfortunate. Because as have nots, they are living in the world of reality and know who they are, while the haves are living for the sake of how others see them. As people of the chance to be haves, some days when you look in the mirror you have no clue who you see.

Trampled Under Foot

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

In Shusako Endo’s absolutely-must-read novel, Silence, Fr. Rodrigues, an initially idealistic Portuguese monk, goes to Japan with his companion in search of a highly-respected monk thought to have committed apostasy. From his arrival in Japan to his reunion with the apostate monk, Rodrigues experiences a serious loss of the long-held notions of his faith as he witnesses the torture, suffering, and death of Japanese Christians who barely had a life to begin with. The triumphant, glorious, and powerful Christ does not provide him respite from all this, despite his pleas for help. This Christ is absolutely silent.

The Japanese leaders demand one thing to save these Christians from oppression. They demand Rodrigues to step on a picture of Jesus. Rodrigues is horrified by the thought of committing such an act before his Lord. However, it is the Christ of weakness, and not strength, that tells Rodrigues, “Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here.”

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[This was a very difficult post for me to write. I am passionately opinionated, at times quick to denigrate, and ungracious with regards to those opinions, theologies, and ideas I find abhorrent. Thus, this post (like many posts) acts like a mirror, exposing my sin. Please keep this in mind, and please forgive my hypocrisy. Kyrie Eleison…]

This will most likely be the 5235th post on Deadly Viper since its birth in the consciousness of already self-aware Asian American Christians. And it was this controversy that birthed a new consciousness about being self-aware Asian American Christians for the first time. Even the flaws of gender stereotyping (an equal problem in this mess) quickly surfaced as an issue. And so began a power discourse.

This incident was necessary for Asian Americans. For much of our modern American existence we were (and still are) seen as the passive, obedient, and over-achieving patch in our multi-colored quilt. If the DV incident did one thing, it made known the fact that Asian American Christians need to be taken seriously as a contingent of the American Christian fabric (no, I don’t quilt). No longer would it be assumed that we would brush off–or even accept–stereotyping or generalizing of our complex cultures by the dominant majority. Or this is what we hope.

There is a fine line between power struggle and reconciliation when it comes to Christian dialogue. And Christians need to be uncomfortable with it. Christians on the left look at the Christians on the right with disgust. I am self-admittedly a left-leaning Christian. And I have looked at a bumper sticker that reads, “The Christian right is neither.with some level of haughty amusement. But when Christians on the left are saying that Jesus would endorse the public option, are we not playing the same game as our siblings on the right? Let’s face it. Christians on either side want a theocracy. The liberal Christians just deny it, while the conservative Christians would love one (which would ironically look like Islamic states). Let’s move a step further. Evangelism could be a discourse of power. Monthly session meetings to determine how to attract more parishioners could be a discourse of power. Zondervan’s marketing strategies could be a discourse of power. In fact, Christian marketing IS a discourse of power… and wealth!

What would Michel Foucault think of this?? I’ll stop lest my cynicism of truly believing “power equals knowledge” kicks in.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but think that Asian Americans, even in our need for this to happen, have won a battle for power, while Mike and Jud patch their wounds. But what else could’ve been done? Was this an exchange of power that needed to occur? I say, emphatically, ‘yes’ because we needed to fight back our stereotypes. But what stereotype of Christianity does this perpetuate? Do we say ‘Jesus is our glorious king!’? Could we say, “Jesus is silent like the silenced, impoverished like the poor, and stereotyped like us”? My emphatic yes finishes off with a wince, like a cheap scotch whiskey.

The call from our fellow brothers and sister is clear. Let’s move forward to reconcile with Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and Zondervan. And not only reconcile, but partner in the kingdom. But if and when we do partner, let’s do it for the broken and silenced Christ. Because our attempts to correct our siblings may end up with a Christ that commanded the angels to destroy his enemies.

This entry is a power discourse.

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The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.