CT Article – The Story So Far . . .

Posted: October 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Last month’s Christianity Today featured an article on the state of evangelicalism by CT’s managing editor, Mark Galli.  In the middle of the article was the following:

Dealing with Cultural Captivity

Another wonderful development is our increased awareness of the variety of races and ethnicities that make up our world. We’re still figuring out what a multiethnic evangelicalism looks like, but no one is arguing that we shouldn’t figure it out! For this we can thank not only America’s changing demographics but also the prophetic voices and examples of men like John Perkins and Rudy Carrasco.

Yet here too we see a constant horizontal temptation. A leading Asian evangelical has just released a book that seeks to “free the evangelical church from Western cultural captivity.” He begins with what everyone recognizes as entrenched problems: our individualism, consumerism, materialism, racism, and cultural imperialism.

But while acknowledging how firmly enslaved we are, the author repeatedly says things like, “Lessons from the black church or lessons arising out of the theology of suffering can lead to freedom from the Western, white captivity of the church.” And in an interview to publicize the book, he says, “In fact, the more diverse we become, Christianity will flourish.”

As if the flourishing of church depends on our ability to make it diverse. As if liberation from the thick chains of cultural captivity is had by learning lessons from others. As if blacks, Asians, and Native Americans are not themselves captive to entrenched cultural ideologies. Missing here and in many such worthy efforts is an emphasis on God’s power, not human example, to free us from the principalities and powers, and on the good news that it is not we who must build the shalom community but the ones who receive it as gift and promise.

As you may have guessed, the “Asian evangelical” referenced in the article was me.  And in my opinion, the author took my quotes out of context.  At the same time, not citing my name or the name of the book, the reader does not have the option of following up to check the source and refute the author’s take on my book.  On the online version, many readers responded to CT’s approach to my book.  Here are some excerpts:

I have read and reviewed Soong-Chan Rah’s book “The Next Evangelicalism ” (not listed in the book resources above), and feel Galli’s comments demonstrate Rah’s premise perfectly: that the western white church (read: we) has long dismissed the value of the perspectives of the global church by asserting that ‘we’ have the corner on truth.

I am surprised that the article references Soong-Chan Rah’s book, The Next Evangelicalism, without naming Soong-Chan Rah nor listing the book among the other “books mentioned in this essay.” . . . we can learn from others. This truly is the message of Soong-Chan Rah’s book–for the predominantly white Evangelical church to learn from other Evangelicals, especially those from other cultures.

Galli misinterpreted Soong-Chan Rah’s reasons for why the church needs to listen to the stories of Black, Asian, Latino and other Christians outside of the dominant white church. His name or book title wasn’t referenced, but I would encourage readers to check out “The Next Evangelicalism” by Soong-Chan Rah for themselves.

The Asian writer he mentioned–not using his name or even mentioning his book–seems to validate that writers argument that we are still being held captive by a “white evangelicalism”

As a journalist, i was deeply disappointed to see the lack of fair and accurate coverage/criticism of Soong-Chan Rah’s “The Next Evangelicalism” by one of the most influential Christian media voices. But as a Christian, I see this as an opportunity for the columnist to actively engage and discuss with Rah why Sunday mornings at church still remain one of the most segregated hours in America.

Mark Galli’s response on the webpage was the following:

Thank you all for the comments–affirming and critical. This is always helpful for an author. Let me respond to the concerns of the friends of Professor Rah, who seem particularly upset. I did not name him or his book precisely because I respect his ministry (the careful reader will see how I did this at various points in the article with other prominent people in our movement). I did not want to suggest that I am hostile to Professor Rah or his book as such, only certain ideas therein. This is a style of disagreement I’ve learned from C.S. Lewis (see his Abolition of Man, for example), and I think it charitable way to express disagreement–focus on ideas and put personalities in the background. Naturally, if I were to do a full review of the book, that would be different. That being said, it was indeed an oversight that his book was not mentioned at the end of the piece, and we’ll correct that asap. It is a book that expresses well his ideas, and readers should be aware of it.


Responses to Galli’s post:

I do not agree with his reasoning behind leaving Rev. Soong-Chan’s name out of his article. It appears more of an intentional slight (to allow myself some cynicism given the nature of Mark’s criticism) and regardless of what C.S. Lewis wrote, the format is inappropriate to the medium.

It strikes me as disingenuous for you to claim you did not mention Soong-Chan Rah’s book out of respect when you had no difficulty citing other books and authors. It would have been a greater mark of respect to mention the author and the book and to give people a chance to decide for themselves whether his work is accurately described and evaluated. Leaving him out renders him invisible–a state very familiar to persons of color in the Evangelical world. Thus Dr. Rah’s book.

So here’s the response I sent to CT. (Hopefully it’ll be published in the next issue).  I have also had some e-mail contact with Mark Galli and with permission will post some of his e-mail comments.

While finding many notable challenges in Mark Galli’s article, I have two significant concerns regarding the article.

Mr. Galli misrepresents my perspective by taking a quote from my book and my interview out of context. While I believe that diversity is an important part of the growth of the church in the United States, my perspective is that God is bringing that diversity and that the church needs to live into the work of God.  A more careful reading of my book would lead to that conclusion.

In addition, by not mentioning my name or my book, it does not allow the reader to find this out for him/herself.

Your thoughts?  What more should be said?

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Comments
  1. Wayne Park says:

    wow. what more can be said. I think our argument stands vindicated; the omission within the article and the bibliography is both part and parcel of the inherent problem; it seems to be exactly the problem.

    Thank God for the sharp readership quick to pick this up, call it out, and name it for what it is; cultural captivity.

  2. JP Paulus says:

    i think you should really detail with Biblical references the problems/errors Mark Galli made.

    For white evangelicals especially, the Bible is suppsoed to be the utmost authority, far surpassing mere logical or anecdotal arguments.

    He can excuse other things, but he can’t honestly go against the Bible if presented accurately.

    Also, it should be emphasized that no one is trying to take down Mark Galli, but rather making sure we all all fully aligned with God’s will and character, and to also be thankful for the dialogue (where other Christians who have been similarly confronted have simply shut down).

    i am definitely interested in the fruit of this…

  3. David says:

    Here was the most problematic part for me from the Galli article, which you quote above,

    As if the flourishing of church depends on our ability to make it diverse. As if liberation from the thick chains of cultural captivity is had by learning lessons from others. As if blacks, Asians, and Native Americans are not themselves captive to entrenched cultural ideologies. Missing here and in many such worthy efforts is an emphasis on God’s power, not human example, to free us from the principalities and powers, and on the good news that it is not we who must build the shalom community but the ones who receive it as gift and promise.

    Are we to understand that God’s power is demonstrated apart from our humanity? That we somehow receive this “gift and promise” without engaging in the tangible act of loving our neighbor? Galli is right, of course, that all people and cultures are bound to cultural ideologies. I’m just not sure how this negates the overall thrust of your book which, as I read it, calls for the power of God to be seen where it is already active among all of God’s people.

  4. profrah says:

    Yeah. The whole tone of the article was really disappointing. I think when you start any sentence in a major periodical with: “As if . . .” you come off sounding pretty snarky.

  5. profrah says:

    JP, I am hoping for further dialogue on this. I’m afraid that with the issue now about a month old, Galli and CT will move on quickly and think that it has all blown over. I mean wasn’t part of the problem in not naming the author an unwillingness to really engage directly in a conversation with me?

  6. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. Thank you for continuing to be a prophetic voice for us. Your book was so helpful in my continued understanding of racial righteousness. It does seem really wrong to me to reference you without referencing you. “A leading Asian evangelical…” Sheesh.

  7. For what it’s worth, Soong-chan, I don’t think that Rome reacted well when Luther published “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church” — which is what your comment about “the Western, white captivity of the church” made me think of. Criticism is always hard to take, but especially for those who are comfortable with the status quo.

    Keep up the good work.

    p.s. Galli’s comment about Lewis’ “method” really strikes me as clueless. Not naming your adversary is a way to bury him without giving him a chance to be heard on his own terms. There is a time and place for that, but this is not it.

  8. eliseanne says:

    Huh. I definitely agree that the “as if” comments sound …immature, border-line condescending.

    What my people tend to do when we are uncomfortable and dont want to face the possibility of agreeing with others, is to pick on one part of the argument. So he critiques your work for not recognizing the cultural captivity of other ethnic groups. The reality is, you do mention that in the intro at the very least, and, most importantly, that is not the point of the book!

    We majority folks have a really hard time taking criticism of ourselves and not realizing that minority groups get it all the time from us already.

    Keep the faith!

  9. jimmy says:

    Soong-Chan

    I applaud your efforts to engage with Mark Galli. I thought it was pertinent first as you are his Christian brother, so it follows if you are offended in the slightest way, that legitimates the discussion. From this stance, the discussion should be engaged, because others witnessed the offense, and were violated. i was violated b/c once again, the issues you mentioned are trivialized and peripheral to the ” more important” issues of the Gospel. Maybe we should really write a unabridged version on how long and vast this type of offense has gone on. I would agree that it is systematically satanic to not inform the believers in the Kingdom, either those who history and experience is not appreciated i.e. Blacks, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans and how it diminishes the community and fellowship we can have with our White brethren who could possibly see us as partners who have contributed to the expansion of the Gospel and not always as recipients of charity.

    I believe you are seeking brotherhood and sisterhood of a deeper kind than what has been experienced or discussed. if this could happen, then maybe CT would consider it newsworthy.

    Jmc3

  10. Peter Park says:

    It sounds like that other person feels hurt in some way. Often times where we are angry it’s because of some past/current pain. Perhaps he has been down this road before about multiculturalism and just got burned. Who knows?

  11. Kathy Khang says:

    There is another part of Mark Galli’s response that I did not appreciate. He writes “Let me respond to the concerns of the friends of Professor Rah…” I’m not reading into the comment intent, but my initial reaction to that comment was to feel a bit dismissed. Those responding to the original article may have been your friends (but how could anyone know if any of those responders were your personal friends?), Prof Rah, but what does that have to do with their concerns?

    Mr. Galli’s response also mentions that he did not intend to communicate hostility directed at you: “I did not want to suggest that I am hostile to Professor Rah or his book as such, only certain ideas therein.” Isn’t that part of the problem? He clearly communicated a strong disagreement with misrepresented certain ideas without citing source but pointing out your ethnicity. Perhaps in private you may want to ask why he chose to pull full quotes out of the book and then only identify you as a “leading Asian evangelical”. Why not simply “leading evangelical”?

    It’s a huge cop-out to say he left your name and book title out of the original article out of respect and because it wasn’t a full book review. Shame on CT and Mark Galli for such poor journalism.

    • Ed Hsu says:

      Well said, Kathy! Many could jump in here and say the same for what other Christian publications (not necessarily CT) have written about an “Asian worship leader” or “Asian speaker/author”, etc.

  12. jarrod says:

    It’s so easy to get angry, isn’t it? To magnify slights and perceived disrespect. To insist upon being treated the way we want to be treated. And to lash out on a blog when you aren’t cited in a criticial review.

    I would encourage you to rise above the temptation to express your anger publicly, and to incite further anger and sympathy for your injury.

    That doesn’t exactly model how to encourage diversity in the church.

    • Kathy Khang says:

      BTW, Jarrod,
      The original article written by Mark Galli was not a critical review.

      How does your comment encourage diversity? Perhaps you could show us?

      Isn’t asking a publication like CT to uphold some degree of journalistic integrity appropriate?

    • Wayne Park says:

      based on your reasoning Jarrod, MLK jr. should have contritely bowed his head to the establishment then.

      Is there no place for anger in your theology? It must be tough to be you then.

  13. SallyB says:

    From this blog, it looks like “The Next Evangelicalism” will be just like the last one–touchy, sensitive to slights, and eager to pick a fight.

    Yeah, this book and the blog conversation here are exactly why I don’t like evangelicals, either the last ones or the next ones. Goodbye and good riddance, Evangelicalism.

  14. profrah says:

    Jarrod,

    If you would actually read the post, you would see that most of it is citing the CT website. I am wanting folks to give their feedback and reflections. Could you point to a place where I am actually “angry”?

  15. Horton says:

    Someone once said, “The reason academic debates are so vicious, is because so little is at stake.”

    That’s what I see happening here. A book wasn’t cited correctly, and the offended party goes public with oh-the-pain-of-not-being-treated-right-and-I’ve-never-liked-that-publication-anyway.

    More proof that just because you have an education doesn’t mean you’re more Christ-like.

  16. profrah says:

    Some of you are seriously overestimating this blog. I have maybe 150 readers here. Christianity Today has a readership of 300,000. All of the above has already been posted on their website read by tens of thousands. What is the point of name calling and characterizations? Who has the power here and is wielding it in a manner that does not honor the body of Christ? A major publication that does not abide by basic rules of journalism or a small blog that posts what is already posted on another website?

  17. Dave Clark says:

    Horton and Jarrod,

    Did you honestly read Prof Rah’s post and think he communicated “anger” or a “woe is me” attitude?! You honestly got that?! I guess my next question would be, have either of you read the book?

    I appreciated you Prof Rah. I was at CCDA this past weekend, and was encouraged and challenged by what you shared. Be encouraged brother!

  18. T. C. says:

    Why does somebody have to be “angry” to point out an obvious truth? Dr. Rah points out the obvious truth that evangelical Christianity in American is culturally captive and people call him “angry.” Then CT writes a jab at him without mentioning his name or the book, he copies and pastes their comments to his blog, and gets called “angry” again?? What is “angry” about anything Dr. Rah has said or wrote?? Can somebody show me??

    Isn’t all this anger talk just projected fear? Maybe someone will call me angry next for pointing out the obvious truth that Dr. Rah needn’t be angry to write what he’s written.

  19. Rod says:

    To commentors like Jarrod and Horton, I can only quote Martin Luther:

    “I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.”

  20. JMorrow says:

    Just reading the article in question and I believe those who were disappointed with the content and delivery of Galli’s statement have a point.

    Content-wise, his “As if..” statement is puzzling at best, and without more context risks being condescending toward the gifts of ethnic minority peoples. Yes we all have cultural captivities, but we also have cultural gifts and callings that often stem out of our cultural backgrounds. I can think of some well regarded Reformed theologians who would affirm that (Luther, Calvin, Kuyper). It’s also I think the point of Soong-Chan’s book: removing the log from our own eyes so that we may see clearly our own gifts and the gifts of others that are brought to the Body of Christ.

    When it comes to tone and delivery here it just makes sense to cite works and authors who you are engaging, other wise its not really engaging others or offering dialogue. It seems like a case of shooting from the hip to me. And that style of writing usually causes more problems than it solves. Too bad.

  21. Eric "Angry-Halfrican" Iverdad says:

    I am so angry. I can’t believe it. And I mean it’s as if you can’t even understand how angry I am. It makes me wanna holla. I think the question posed by the great civil rights leader of the 1990’s fits here, “Can’t we all just get along?” I mean really, really What would Jesus Do? I am so glad he wasn’t a prophet and went around making everyone angry. I mean come on, really.

    P.S. who is that hot guy introducing you on your talk from CCDA that I saw on youtube? He did say that you were angry at one point. But that was Boston and this is now.

  22. Andrew jones says:

    I was considering doing a review on “the next evangelicalism” which I thought had great points (cultural bias and analysis of mcgavran’s church growth) but also a poor treatment of the emerging church which seemed to have all the ethnic ec people removed and placed on the other side of the argument. And I don’t see Korean churches and black churches as amy more multicultural as White churches. However, Reading through this thread, well . . . I think I will just shrink back and say nothing, being a white boy and everything.

  23. JMorrow says:

    Andrew,

    What particularly do you find disagreable or disconcerting in this thread?

    I’ve read your blog before and appreciate your perspective (particular on mission and 4th sector stuff), but its kinda disappointing when you use the “white boy” line to back away from a conversation about cross-cultural matters I’d rather see someone like you in my own emerging age group engage in.

  24. Andrew jones says:

    Maybe the lack of an objective non-emotional tone that would allow someone like me to point to inadequacies in the book’s claims (only 150 emerging churches???? – I twittered today about up to 3000 in uk Anglican scene alone) while not getting myself into a race riot.

    Seems best to leave it alone or at least tackle it when this storm blows over.

    Do u think I should speak out anyway?

  25. [...] for Asian-Americans to speak in a strong and forceful manner. Our voices have often been ignored 0r silenced. The fact that this is the third (actually more) time that a major Christian publishing company has [...]

  26. [...] can see the Soong-Chan Rah debacle here. And this article was written by Christianity Today’s managing editor, Mark Galli! Wow. In [...]

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