Monday, December 16, 2013

Confessions of a Gospel "Brute"

If you're an Asian American Christian who has been in touch with the news on the internet you'll know that as of late there has been a lot of controversy surrounding race.  In particular the race issues that stem from two recent incidents involving the prominent pastor Rick Warren and a conference featuring a video depicting ministry as "Karate Kid" style training.

In response, you can see there have been a myriad of blogs, statements, and even a letter written and signed by various "leaders" of Asian American Christianity.  However, as I reflect upon these events I cannot help but wonder if this latest reaction to racial insensitivity is, in no small part, a result of our own doing.

To be sure, this issue between Asian Americans and White Americans has been stewing for quite some time.  Recently, there was that racist Texan on "Big Brother" who told some Asian girl to "make some rice".  Then there was the "Chink in the Armor" incident with Jeremy Lin.  There was also the John Piper incident some years ago when he said was astonished that the "Asian face" was the face of missions.  And of course, the list goes on and on and on...

As of late, it seems that Asian Americans are starting to find their voice in American Christendom and they're not afraid to use it.  Personally, I think that it can be a good thing... yet, it's also a dangerous thing.

Historically, Asian culture has been a point of fascination for Americans as well as humor.  Early on there were a lot of racially charged overtones.  No one wants to remember that the railroad was built on the blood and sweat of Chinese migrant workers.  No one wants to remember that the immigration of Chinese was at one point limited by the US Gov't because they feared the overwhelming swell coming into the country.  No one wants to look back at the internment camps of WWII where many Japanese American families were displaced and often looted of their property.

Asians have been caricatured by White Americans in film, often made fun of by slurring accents and exaggerated "Asian" features.  Yet, by the same token Americans are drawn to the mysteries of the East.

Bruce Lee was really the first one to effectively import the culture into the US as a culture of beauty, mystery, and exotic.  Through dynamic action sequences, his brilliant film work, charismatic nature, and suave move to really mystify the culture Bruce Lee was able to build a bridge with North America.

Soon to follow were Kung Fu films, Eastern medicine, and many other distinctly "Asian" things being imported into the country.

Yet in the move to mystify Asian culture, the bad came with it:  2nd Generation angst.  Asian Americans, born in this country seeking a distinct identity could not be embraced by their native North America nor could they themselves fully embrace their Asian roots.

As a result, many Asian Americans are divided among themselves.  They are a people without a country, land, or place of complete belonging.  They are a people longing for an identity.

But, that's why I love the gospel.  It has provided the answers to these questions we're looking for.  Being a Christian, the answer is clear.  As Revelation 21 tells us, this will all pass one day for the New Jerusalem.

In other words, I don't have the confines of culture to define me... I have Christ.  I have a country:  the high countries.  I have a place of belonging... with my own kind... Christians.  And I am satisfied.

When I was in college I was part of a fellowship called Asian American Christian Fellowship.  I have many fond memories of that time, but since then I found the moniker insufficient to describe the person I am.  In fact, I prefer the label Christian Asian American.

My citizenship is in the Kingdom of God.  And though I still get upset over issues of race, it is not because I am yellow in skin tone, it's because of sin in this world and the lingering injustices that lay to waste my LORD's original intentions for this world.

Revelation 21 carries many of the great mysteries and wonder I desire to focus on.  A city adorned as a beautiful bride.  It's a city which is complete; 12 giant pearl gates open to all the nations of this world, 12 gates which never close to me, 1 focus and source for light in Christ, and there shall never be an unending banquet table.

In the mean time, I am still a brute.  I am one who is easily swayed by much of what is in the world.  I get upset and frustrated with the battles going on with Asians and whites, especially with this Christian infighting and lack of decorum... but I am reminded by my African brother Augustine, "Semul ustes et peccator"...

I am a sinner and a saint... until eternity comes and the righteousness of Christ allows me to find His comforting presence and peace away from all this.

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