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Makoto Fujimura, Charis, 2008

Asian American Christianity

Rick Warren is wrong, and so are all the Asian Americans involved too.

Disclaimer I am a high identity Asian American who isn’t comfortable with the current trajectory of evangelical Christianity among Asian Americans.

Why am I writing about this?

There’s been so much coverage about this already. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. and here. Whew. As an Asian-American I’m hurt by what Rick Warren has done, and how he has chosen to act in light of the damage that has been caused. I’m also hurt by the Asian Americans who have been at the forefront of the so-called “opposition”, those who are bringing this incident to light. But before I get into the details, here are few things you should know about me.

Credibility

Throughout my undergraduate experience, I was part of the Asian American movement. In my sophomore year, I became the youngest Asian American Association (AAA) president to serve with the 30 year old organization. I served on the Asian American Pacific Heritage Month (APAHM) steering committee two years in a row. I was a card-carrying member of the OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans). In my later years I served on the regional level with the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU). I make mention of this not so that I may boast, but to establish my credibility.

If I don’t agree with either side, what do I have to say then?

Again, I don’t agree with Rick Warren, but I also don’t agree with how Asian Americans have taken to this issue. Furthermore, this incident points to something much larger and is symbolic of the greater movement of Asian American evangelical Christianity. Okay let’s break it down:

1. Asian Americans are holding a grudge

So he didn’t apologize, and when he did, it wasn’t all that heartfelt. But when that open letter got released to the public, that’s when it started to get malicious. In Matthew 18 we see that there’s a servant that’s unforgiving. Peter asks Jesus when is the appropriate time to stop forgiving the servant. Jesus responds with “not even seven times, but up to seventy times seven” or in other words, you don’t stop forgiving. The question that’s been going around has been “What does this say about evangelical Christianity when even within our own ranks there’s racism that hasn’t been dealt with?” This is all well and good, and should be discussed, but where’s the question of “What does this public display of forgiveness to our offenders look like?” When was the last time there was a high profile, high volume effort to raise awareness of forgiving an individual or group of people for an offense they committed against us? Furthermore, what does that say about evangelical Christianity when racism is handled in this way? I think the latter has greater impact for the Kingdom than the first.

2. Asian Americans want to be empowered, but to do what?

We’ve been wronged. As a people group, we are repressed in many ways; model minority myth, the over sexualization of Asian females in Hollywood, the effeminate portrayal of Asian males, the international other character type of Asian Americans, the list goes on. Asian Americans have fought for acceptance within their peers for many years. The question I have for Asian Americans; to what end are we fighting to be empowered? So that we achieve normalcy? As a Christian, I don’t believe for a second that our lives were bought at a price so that we would experience normalcy. No! Jesus died and rose again so that we would experience life and life to the full (John 10:10)! We get so hung up on being empowered that we forget that as a Christ followers we have the ultimate empowerment, to be heirs with Christ!

3. Don’t tread on me — or something like that…

If all we do is forgive, and our empowerment is merely spiritual, then that means I should be meek and let people step all over me, right?

4. Asian Americans have reached a pinnacle of high saturation — now what?

An open letter like this establishes one thing: collectively, we as Asian Americans have a base from which we can voice and shape culture. This is powerful. Never in our history as a people group have we had such a powerful stage from which to speak from. We have Asian American politicians, influential people in the private sector, the list goes on. As evangelical Asian American Christians, how are we utilizing our collective place of power to do something that’s truly glorifying the Father? Whether we like it or not, the spotlight is on us when things like this happen. If we react much like the greater non-Christian Asian American populous, by drafting up open letters and calling for referendums, we are no different and are being poor representatives of our Savior and the forgiveness He has extended to us.

5. We have been repressed, how can this be used by the Lord?

As a people group who understands what it means to be repressed, what are we doing to alleviate the repression of other groups of people?

Thank you for making it this far

My intention with this post is not to make anybody look bad. It took a lot for me to write this and to stand behind some of these convictions. As an Asian-American I don’t like the lime light, I don’t particularly enjoy confrontation and would prefer for things to go unsaid. But as a follower of Christ, I feel that it is necessary to obey the Holy Spirit and speak these things. I hope and pray that as the movement of God within the Asian American community continues,that we would be of sober minds and humble hearts, earnestly seeking after the wisdom of God. So that this movement isn’t about the elevation of Asian Americans, but instead is about the people of God, which is people from all nation and tribes, speaking in all tongues, to the glory of God the Father.

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