An open letter to Zondervan and to Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, authors of Deadly Viper Character Assassin: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.

Posted: November 3, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Let me begin by stating that I applaud the intent and subject matter of your book.  Integrity and character in leadership needs to be discussed and should be an important part of leadership development.  But the “theme” you have chosen and the application of that theme (particularly in your media clips) reveals a serious insensitivity to Asian culture and to the Asian-American community.

My contention is not about the content of the book itself (i.e. – the material that discusses integrity and character).  It is with the way in which you choose to co-opt Asian culture in inappropriate ways.  Let me cite Edward Said in Orientalism where he states: “Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient – dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style of dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Mike and Jud, you are two white males who are inappropriately co-opting another culture and using it to further the marketing of your book.  You are not from our cultural framework, yet you feel that you have the authority to represent our culture before others.  In other words, you are using what are important and significant cultural symbols to make a sale or to make your point.  It is an affront to those who are a part of that culture.  You’ll notice that there are a number of individuals that take offense at the ways you misuse Chinese characters.  You also confuse aspects of Japanese and Chinese cultures.  These are two very distinct and ancient cultures that you did not take the time to understand before using those symbols as a fun way to market your products.

Here are some examples of the more glaring and egregious offenses:

This video clip is extremely offensive and portraying Asians in a cartoonish manner in order market your merchandise.  Particularly offensive is the voiceover of a white person doing a faux Asian accent: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=35881373178&ref=mf

This image presents Asian as sinister enemies: http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=deadly+viper&init=quick#/photo.php?pid=2233965&id=101311418670

This quote reveals an insensitivity to the Chinese language and mocks Chinese names: “There is a killer called Zi Qi Qi Ren. No, this is not some communicable disease, but it certainly is deadly. This funky Chinese word”

The use of Chinese characters and kanji in a non-sensical manner.

Other offenses:

The confusion and conflation of Chinese and Japanese cultures.

The use of Asian symbols, like a Japanese garden, kimonos, samurai swords in a non-essential manner that does not honor the heritage or culture of Asians.

You are taking a caricature of Asian culture (the martial arts warrior, the ninja, etc.) and furthering the caricature rather than engaging Asian culture in a way that honors it.

The bottom line.  You are representing a culture that you do not know very well to thousands of people.  You are using another culture to make your message more fun.  That is offensive to those of us that are of that culture and seek to honor our culture.

What specific things can you do:

(1)    Issue a PUBLIC apology on your blog and other venues.  To let the Christian community know that you have wounded your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Whether that was your intent or not, that was the outcome.  Admit your wrongdoings and seek forgiveness in a public manner because your offense was in a public setting.

(2)    Immediately remove the offensive material or material that co-opts the Asian theme.  They can be reposted, but with significant edits and after significant consultation with the Asian-American community.

(3)    Drop the entire martial arts theme.  It adds NOTHING to what you are trying to say.  And as evidenced by the outpouring of concern, it distracts from your true message.

(4)    Consult with leaders in the Asian-American community (there are many to choose from) and discuss ways to increase sensitivity (both for the authors and for Zondervan).

I appeal to your sense of Christian brotherhood/sisterhood. Your actions have deeply wounded many of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Lead with integrity by admitting wrong and be willing to make changes to address these wrongs.

I appeal to your sense of integrity to what is the main message of your work. Christians should be above this kind of childish characterization of another culture, particularly, when the topic of your book is on character.  Show the character that you are calling others to emulate.

Take ownership of your actions.  Admit failure. Don’t justify it.  Seek ways to understand those that you have hurt and seek ways to redress these wrongs.  Isn’t that the ultimate expression of character and integrity?

Specifically to Zondervan:-

This is your second egregious offense in the last few years.  Clearly something is wrong with the structure and system of this publishing company that allows and even promotes cultural insensitivity to this degree.  Maybe the answer comes from the pictures in your catalog and your website that show your editorial and publishing staff.  Every single person is white.  Please do not let this learning moment to pass by.  Address the structural issues at Zondervan that allows this sort of offense to continue.

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Comments
  1. Bravo, Professor Rah! I am rarely surprised and always disgusted by Christian publishing houses that do nothing to end the use and abuse of Asian and Asian American culture to shore up whiteness.

    I also saw an advertisement for a book about the “Wasabi Gospel” published by Abingdon. Seriously???

  2. Let me first say . . . woot for the for two comments to be from Presbyterians!

    Okay . . . enough back-slapping.

    Great letter!

    Peace,
    Bruce

  3. mishael53 says:

    Job well done. The ball’s in their court now.

  4. Nathan says:

    Thank you Soong-Chan. Well said, powerfully written.

  5. Again you show why you’re one of my heroes. Keep fighting the good fight. You are in my prayers.

  6. Irene Cho says:

    Awesome!

  7. Corey MacPherson says:

    Thank you, Dr. Rah! Though I have nothing to do with Deadly Viper…I am sorry that I, and other white leaders in the church do not recognize, or raise our voices, when the co-opting of other cultures is taking place. I will try to do better.

  8. Jeff Lam says:

    great letter. looking forward to having you visit Quest in a couple of weeks.

  9. Continue to speak the truth bro. This ship has to turn around someday.

  10. pauline says:

    While I do think the use of Asian imagery is offensive, what’s more offensive to me is that the authors had such a dismissive attitude in their initial responses to Prof. Rah’s concerns. So you didn’t think this would be offensive to people. Fine. Forgiveness and grace can be given; issue a statement and move on.

    Imagine if black or latino imagery were used instead of asian imagery. Imagine the uproar.

    I’ve tweeted FB’d about this. Hoping the 00s of Asian Americans in my social media community catch on and make their feelings known.

    Waiting for a response.

  11. David Park says:

    Thank you for penning this open letter and demanding action. I hope that Zondervan and the authors respond sooner than later.

  12. Helen Lee says:

    Kudos to you for raising the issue and continuing to press organizations like Zondervan to recognize their cultural blind spots. I fully support what you have written here. Thanks for being a great example of an Asian American who won’t just quietly accept egregious behavior that is culturally insensitive and inappropriate. Let us all know how else we can help.

  13. documentia says:

    Great letter. Prompted by david Park and Dan Ra, I have sent a letter to Zondervan and would encourage others to do the same here: http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Company/ContactUs.htm?QueryStringSite=Zondervan

    Below is a copy of the letter I sent:

    I am a white female Christian, and I was pretty appalled by the racial stereotyping and insensitivity on display in the Deadly Viper promotional material. I won’t rehash my objections, as they basically mirror those of Kathy Khang, Soong-Chan Rah, David Park, and many others.

    I don’t think the authors were deliberately racist. The sad truth is, that in a world where European-American culture is dominant, too many of us are raised with no idea of what it feels like to be the other, the oppressed, the stereotyped. Even worse, our churches do not encourage us to be sensitive to those who are out of the mainstream. I once sat in a church that, while making many efforts to reach out to those of other races and cultures, remained largely white and poorly attended. One Sunday, a woman got up and performed a skit that exemplified the worst stereotypes of Hispanic culture. I know she did not mean to be offensive, but she was. And the church wondered why their outreach efforts weren’t working.

    Zondervan, as a leading (if not the leading) publisher of material for the evangelical Christian sphere, has an opportunity to take leadership on this issue and set an example for others by refusing to engage in offensive stereotyping and learning to be sensitive to all cultures. I would ask that you take it, and consider the suggestions made in Professor Rah’s open letter.

    Thank you,
    Rebekah A. Berndt

  14. Ryan Grammatico says:

    I am a HUGE fan of yours! But I think that you missed the mark here. Did you ask Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio to apologize for making Karate Kid or the hundreds of other orient conjuring films? Do you tell Top Ramen to stop making noodles? Do you boycott the radio when “Eevrybody was kung fu fighting” comes on? Probably not, but you attacked white America, the same way that I am sure that you feel attacked. What Mike and Jud have done has been awesome. They have taken a theme and allowed it to be used by God to transform lives. Better to fight the enemy than to fight a brother, sir. (again, these are my two cents)

    • profrah says:

      Thank you Ryan. I am raising the issue because the offense is happening in the Christian community. There are others who are much better at addressing the issues at society-at-large. I believe that Christians should be above this stereotyping. I would also state that stereotypes have both immediate and long-term negative consequences. As some of the responses from Asians have pointed out. Thanks for your input on this Continue to push us towards understanding.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Comments like this, unfortunately, are not inspiring.

      “You attacked white America”? Really?
      I disagree; Prof. Rah simply pointed out that two authors wrote a book whose presentation stemmed from an offensive and ignorant assumption of Asian cultures. Prof. Rah has not, as of yet, alleged that any of the primaries are actually racist; he has not, as of yet, even suggested that white people in general are to blame. He has clearly and concisely related the problems with this attempt at outreach, at how it appropriates foreign, “exotic” cultures that the authors seem to know very little about, without any consideration as to how offensive their usage of the trappings of those cultures might be.
      It’s all too common, as an Asian-American, to already be considered foreign, non-native. Your comment here is another subtle example of that–that he had the temerity to point out that something like this was, at the very least, “uncool”, somehow attacks a white America, as if he somehow isn’t part of what is essentially a multicolored, multi-cultural America.

      “Better to fight the enemy than to fight a brother, sir.”
      And who is this enemy? The enemy I see here is ignorance, not an attack on your racially privileged Caucasian people.

  15. Amy Moffitt says:

    FANTASTIC!! Thank you for doing this. I pray that they listen.

  16. LT says:

    Why do I get a feeling Mr. Foster will not take you seriously? Sorry to say – it has something to do with the way he types. He brushed off your first e-mails, but in the manner of a chat room dwelling middle-schooler.

    I honestly think they had no intention of being offensive, and this I will “grant” them. However, they remain ignorant on the issue and, quite simply, need to be educated. If they choose to maintain their innocence, I hope they lose their entire Asian audience, along with anyone else who empathizes with the situation.

  17. Somebody didn’t just mention Karate Kid and freakin Top Ramen. You have got to be kidding me. This is why we uncover issues like this. Some folks refuse to deal seriously with the issue. They figure its not their issue and just blow it off with some ignorant analogy.

  18. Somebody didn’t just mention Karate Kid and freakin Top Ramen. You have got to be kidding me. This is why we uncover issues like this. Some folks refuse to deal seriously with the issue. They figure its not their issue and just blow it off with some ignorant analogy. I can understand Hollywood doing it but the Body of Christ?

  19. Amy Moffitt says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for giving us a brilliant illustration of the problem. I’d strongly suggest you wikipedia “Critical Race Theory”, or perhaps even “racism”, since this seems to be something of a foreign concept to you.

  20. [...] Prof. Rah’s open letter to authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, and publishers Zondervan–it highlights a number of [...]

  21. Steve says:

    Soong-Chan, thanks for bring this issue to our awareness. I really hope Zondervan will realize the offensiveness of the stereotypes they are perpetuating.

  22. samuel chung says:

    Great quote from Said…it just reminds us that colonial/post colonial paradigms still exist today even in Christianity. This a good example of the control of the Other’s identity (Homi Bhabba) by the dominant colonial culture. Just because one is Christian does not mean that issues of race can be overlooked. We must address racial problems and be bridge makers to build community and equality for all. Social justice demands this.

    Thank you Prof. Rah for standing firm and bring this to the public. I support what you written in your open letter. I hope that we can have dialogue, fellowship, and healing so that we can grow together in Christ. I pray the two authors will practice what they preach and follow up and apologize.

    peace.

  23. Tim LIu says:

    I completely agree with the intention of this post, but feel that it is too harsh. Yes, what they have done is extremely offensive, but if you know anything about the heart and ministry of these two men, you will see that they are genuine Christ followers who have done a great deal for the kingdom, especially for some of the most hidden and unspeakable parts. Even though Mike’s emails were on the rude and defensive side, we should show grace, especially as he expresses desire for conversation.

    The nature of Christian dialogue should be found in communication and understanding rather than a list of demands.

    Thanks Prof. Rah for stepping up on this issue, but please represent our voice (Asian American Christians) with gentleness and respect.

    • SoulaSas says:

      amen. Thank you for your Biblical perspective on this!

    • A quick response. They were not a list of demands. I was responding from a direct request from Mike Foster on his blog asking me for specific ways they could respond. I presented very concrete and specific steps as they requested.

    • Brian says:

      I find it really interesting to see several docile, peace-seeking responses to this situation from many of my fellow Asian-Americans. Neither good or bad, just interesting, as the avoidance of conflict was something I was taught in my Chinese upbringing.

      Soulasas- while I appreciate that you are searching for a biblical perspective and response to this, I keep thinking of Jesus turning the tables in the temple courts- a far cry from what tim liu is recommending above.

      Tim- I don’t doubt that these guys are genuine followers of Jesus. After all- many slave owners in the US once were. While I think I understand what you’re wanting to convey, as a Chinese Christian man- “gentleness” probably won’t elicit change in this scenario. I’m thankful for all the brothers and sisters who “turned the tables” in this blog and have begun to get the authors to think twice.

  24. Adam says:

    I do not consider myself to be an expert on the matters of racial reconciliation. The topic is so complex. I can, however, say that Rah’s letter siting offense and demanding terms of apology does not engender a spirit of reconciliation. Prof. Rah, were you really looking for an opportunity to provide the light needed for reconciliation, or an opportunity to take offense and to expose your brother’s potential mistake to feed your own agenda?

    • Marq Hwang says:

      So, if an Asian-American man points out that what someone’s done is offensive, he’s propagating an agenda now?

      http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/11/refuse-to-see-racism-when-non-white.html

    • Marq Hwang says:

      I’m only asking if the agenda is reconciliation.
      See, I’m not so sure about that. Saying that now is a bit disingenuous, because your line suggested that there was some other motive at work.

      You must realize that “agenda”, particularly when related to such topics as civil rights, is a horrendously loaded word.

      Having heard people talk about the “homosexual agenda” who knows how many times, it’s insulting at best. To lower his concerns by suggesting that they’re nothing more than a thin facade for some sort of radical racial reason…

    • Adam, I’d say that “yes, the purpose is reconciliation.” Reconciliation “in Christ” fully values the diversity of others also made in God’s image, and treats them with the worth that God accorded each of us in the gift of God’s Son. Therefore, pointing out (meant/unmeant) offense in order to build another up in Christ is biblically correct. The majority of comments I’ve read here make no assumptions about motivations of the authors and give grace to them; the authors bring to light the offense and request that the dominant majority by numbers, by opportunity, by financial privilege or by connections, etc. (white, male) hear that the perpetuation of these types of stereotypes hurt Asian-Americans and, therefore, hurt the whole Body of Christ.

      Are we not called to be with one another, as God is with us? The world may carry on in this way, but followers of God-in-Christ should not. Moreover, we should welcome the correction of fellow believers, and even that of non-believers, if that correction is confirmed in God’s truth revealed to us!

    • I’ve seen this word several times now. What does it mean for me to have an ‘agenda’? My agenda is that we would address a very real wound to brothers and sisters in Christ (as is evidenced by many voices that have chimed in). If that’s my “agenda” than so be it.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Honestly, the only times I’ve ever heard “agenda” used in discussions such as these, it’s almost entirely been in derogatory or histrionic terms: “the Communist agenda” or “the homosexual agenda”. It suggests that there’s a secret cabal of the specified, disliked minority group that’s plotting to corrupt and destroy whatever it is the agenda-fearers hold dear.

        I must have missed the memo about the “Asian-American agenda” here, and if you switch out Law and Order with House, this is the only “gay agenda” I have.

      • Adam says:

        Mark, I agree that the word agenda is a strong one, and inappropriate in this case. And when I read my initial post, it comes across (even now to me) as being in a tone that I did not intend. Which is the danger of blogs, I suppose. In fact, when I read one of your posts later on in this stream, you make some points that are more accurately to my point. I think in this very important issue of reconciliation, there is the precarious line that we walk between the desire to reconcile brothers and sisters through admonition, reflection and honesty or to speak prophetically (such as the prophets in the OT) against a grievance and to demand apology. Each of these have their desired outcome (my meaning of agenda) — the one is for reconciliation, the other for exposure. So, I wonder if this letter was in the spirit of reconciliation or exposure?

  25. Please take this comment as the official “signature” of support for Prof Rah’s position on behalf of myself, Little Flowers Community (church) and Youth With A Mission Urban Ministries Winnipeg. As pastor and co-director (respectively), I represent many, many others who are calling on the authors and the publisher to take very tangible, public and immediate action to make this right.

    Peace,
    Jamie Arpin-Ricci

  26. daniel so says:

    Professor Rah,

    Thank you for this letter and for your leadership. You have articulated both the big picture of the problem with co-opting Asian culture for marketing purposes, along with specific instances from the Deadly Viper material. I believe the four action steps you listed in your conclusion provide a clear path for moving forward. Please add my name to the list of people calling for action from the authors and from Zondervan.

  27. gar says:

    Great letter, Professor Rah!

  28. Irene Cho says:

    Just because something was done in the past does NOT make it okay to continually do it. It also doesn’t make it okay if there are some Asians who don’t feel offended with what the authors have done. There were many women who didn’t support suffrage and called people who took that stand radicals. I love Gone with the Wind but the argument in the book that their “darkies” didn’t want to be freed (which many of my friends in the south have attested that their relatives held the same belief) doesn’t make slavery okay. And I do love me some Karate Kid and I don’t easily get offended by such things. But as Dr. Rah has said earlier, this a Christian book on integrity and character and therefore we should be on the forefront of abolishing these stereotypes. This is not a secular, funny and frivolous movie that we’re talking about. We’re talking about a book geared for students and it promotes such ridiculousness. If the authors had taken the true time to research and utilize the various Asian philosophies to apply to their concepts, then it wouldn’t be offensive. But they didn’t which is obvious from the things they’ve said onstage while promoting the book.

  29. dannyyang says:

    mike/jud/zondervan, take action! show us reconciliation means more than compensation…

  30. jeffcstraka says:

    This issue of cultural insensitivity, in my opinion, is a pathetic symptom pointing to an even deeper problem with the evangelical mega-church. It seems to be white male led, heavily ego-centric, customer-domination-driven, hip/groovy/cool, I-have-more-big-screens-and-more-amps-than-your-church, my-church-is-bigger/cooler-than-your-church (like Andy Stanley building a $5 million bridge between his freaking parking lots – see http://letsbuildabridge.com/ – yeah, $5 mil – how many wells in Africa would THAT buy?). Since I am not part of the evangelical movement, I used to not care. But this crap is REALLY giving Christianity a big black eye – and we wonder why people are giving up the the church?

    • Matt LeClair says:

      Copmletely agree, Jeff, and I have left churches for embracing too much of a MONEY philolophy than I care for.

      At the same time, this kind of intra-church fighting doesn’t make people on the outside want to come in either.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I will flat out say that your dismissiveness is precisely the kind of reaction that I expect of those with white privilege; seeing that so brazenly, using the language of religion to clothe it, well, it doesn’t make me, one of the affected minorities, feel welcome.

        And as one of the non-religious, it definitely does not make me feel welcome, nor does it make me want to come in.

    • dewde says:

      Jeff:

      I was an Atheist for a decade until Jesus decided to reach me at Andy Stanley’s mega-church. When I was an Atheist I didn’t donate any portion of my income to build wells in Africa. Now I do.

      You call it a waste. I call it an investment.

      peace | dewde

  31. dubdynomite says:

    I’m curious about some things that I hope can be cleared up (these are honest questions, not an indictment).

    Is the issue that two writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?

    Or is it that two white-guy writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?

    Would it have been okay for two white guys to have written this book, using the cultural references more accurately and more respectfully?

    Are using accurate cultural references off-limits for writers who are not from the culture referenced?

    Had an Asian writer written this book, would we be having this same conversation?

    The feeling I get is that being white disqualifies a person from writing about any other culture but his own.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Is the issue that two writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?
      Yes.

      Or is it that two white-guy writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?
      See above. Their whiteness has little to do with it.

      Would it have been okay for two white guys to have written this book, using the cultural references more accurately and more respectfully?
      Probably. I think so.

      Are using accurate cultural references off-limits for writers who are not from the culture referenced?
      They’re not.

      Had an Asian writer written this book, would we be having this same conversation?
      Probably. Most, if not all, of the major Asian-American political blogs exploded over a what most thought a very poorly done, “satirical” but racist poster… put up by another Asian-American.
      Of course, because of the way most people consume media, it’s not a surprise most people didn’t know of it.

      The feeling I get is that being white disqualifies a person from writing about any other culture but his own.
      Not at all. Bruce Cummings writes on Korea all the time.

      • dewde says:

        Marq Hwang:

        I want your answers to be true, that, as you say, their whiteness had little to do with it. I believe that it is true for you. But many, including Professor Rah, seem to disagree with you outright.

        peace | dewde

    • Irene Cho says:

      So I don’t know how others will respond but I’m going to take a stab because you seem to be sincere:

      Is the issue that two writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?
      Yes…

      Or is it that two white-guy writers appropriated Asian cultural references badly?
      …and yes

      Would it have been okay for two white guys to have written this book, using the cultural references more accurately and more respectfully?
      … and yes again. It would have been better had these guys really studied the culture and applied their concepts accurately. THAT would’ve been respectful and not offensive.

      Are using accurate cultural references off-limits for writers who are not from the culture referenced?
      Not if they’ve done the above mentioned research and have been immersed in the culture. If they did, then they really never would’ve posted the ridiculous marketing videos.

      Had an Asian writer written this book, would we be having this same conversation?
      Probably not. But then again, an Asian writer wouldn’t have done this… so sorry, this is kind of a moot question.

      The feeling I get is that being white disqualifies a person from writing about any other culture but his own.
      Nope – wrong feeling. If the research is thoroughly done and is evident that the material is brought forth with respect, then it doesn’t matter what race you are. But that’s not what happened here at all. And THAT’S what’s offended. Their response has not helped their situation at all.

      I hope this has helped. If others want to correct me, please do so! :D

      • Matt LeClair says:

        So to summarize, you (the reader, not specifically you) are the sole and final arbiter of whether material is offensive or not.

        Using that standard of judgement, I can now claim that I am offended because you state “…an Asian writer wouldn’t have done this…”. Your statement is offensive because you assume that all Asians never offend other Asians, which makes me, as a Caucasian, feel inadequate, and discriminated against.

        Or rather, I would feel this way if I was as hyper-sensitive about my culture and ethnic background as some of the people posting in this thread.

      • Irene Cho says:

        Please let me re-phrase. The statement was meant to imply that most Asians who are familiar with their Asian culture/heritage/language, would not have mixed up the cultures like the authors did. In fact, it’s one of the grievances that’s high on the list. It’s insulting when you’re constantly asked, “Oh you’re Asian. So you’re Chinese? Ah so you know Karate?” Many of us have spent much of our lives answering these questions: Yes, I’m Asian. No I’m not Chinese. And no I don’t know Karate and Karate is Japanese by the way. So what I meant was that in my opinion, most Asians wouldn’t publish a book that treats Karate, Kung Fu, and Tae Kwon Do as if there’s no difference. A book would not have been published that doesn’t specify the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese writings. And most of all, most Asians wouldn’t have written that someone’s name sounds like a disease. AND even if they did, it’s one thing to make fun of yourself, it’s quite another to have someone else of a different ethnicity say that my language sounds funky or like a disease and mix everything up and treat all the cultures as if they were the same. The question posed wasn’t “Are Asians not racist?” (to which I would answer “Yes, we are all guilty of being racist or stereotyping” – in fact, I shared on the Deadly Viper site an article that came out in the NY Times last week on racial tension/issues in South Korean). However, the question was whether this would have been as offensive if it were an Asian author to which my response meant – it (probably) wouldn’t have happened if the author was Asian. I hope this makes more sense. For me at least, part of the reason the book was offensive was because the authors didn’t even bother to try and take the time to figure out what the differences are – it just seemed slapped together with American pop culture stereotypes. I mean, obviously the mocking marketing video and their initial response of being seemingly indifferent was what really got the fire going. But please know that the confusion of the cultures is hurtful and disrespectful. It sounds like from your other posts that this doesn’t seem like a big deal for you and that it’s difficult to understand why this is so important for many of us who are Asian. But this is part of our identity and the struggles we’ve faced to assimilate into a society that’s implied to us and sometimes outright told us that we’re different and treated us thus. I hope this clarifies my statement and that you’re able to read through the other people’s posts to start hearing what’s going on and be more aware of what’s really bothering us as a community.

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Irene,

        Thanks for your reply (and i apologize for failing to notice it…). That is much more clear, and makes more sense. I suspect that Candians, Australians, and such feel the same way when referred to as Americans. ;)

      • Irene Cho says:

        LOL – yes, my friend shared with me that a bunch of them went to a conference in Toronto and ignorantly (but excitedly) said the registration gal, “Hi! We’re from America!” And to their horror, she corrected them with, “Yeah, so are we…” ;)

    • dubdynomite says:

      Thanks for the replies. I surmised those would be the answers. At least I think those are the correct answers.

      It would seem that they are working from a stereotypical view of the culture, which would lead to the type of issues this blog addresses. Even satire involving cultural commentary is probably going to incite cries of racism from someone, especially in the cultural climate of today’s world – IF it comes from someone outside that culture.

      I haven’t read this whole book (I have read an excerpt), so I can’t sincerely judge the authors’ intents based on the book alone.

      I have read other writings from these guys, and am aware of other things that they are involved with, so I can’t say their intentions were bad, maybe just misguided. I would hope that they would realize that they have offended some people and make an effort to do a better job in the future.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Here’s the problem with satire–it’s very difficult to do well, and it’s very easy to fail miserably. Satire, when done well, uses its outrageous absurdities to call attention to and point out the deeper meanings and truths: the seminal example being Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, which pointed out the utter inhumanity of British policies towards Ireland at the time.

        With Deadly Viper, however, I, and most others, fail to see the satire. It’s using the trappings of Asian culture without understanding them, and instead of lampooning the outrageousness of “character assassins”, it comes across as demeaning the stereotypical Asian culture it uses. What truths the book may contain have virtually nothing to do with their minstrel show version of East Asia.

        It has nothing to do with the skin tone of the writers, but everything to do with the tone of their marketing and the tone-deafness of their initial response. There’s honestly just no satire, and to use that as an excuse is disingenuous at best–anyone could make any number of odious comments and then hide behind the suggestion that it was meant for “satirical”, “comedic” effect.

      • John Dunham says:

        Thanks, Dub, for asking these questions, and thanks, everybody else, for the answers. As a white dude these are some of the diagnostics I guess I needed to hear. And Marq, the satire exposition is right on from my mostly uninformed perspective.

        Confession: I struggle back and forth at which side I feel outrage toward. I KNOW I should be (and am) outraged at the perps of the poor allocation of each of the Asian cultures. But I did have a gut-level (negative) reaction to the outraged tone from my sisters and brothers who were rightfully outraged. But when it comes down to it, y’all are right that continued cultural imperialism needs to stop, whether it’s white people in America today or any point in our history, or Americans and Russians in Korea in the 50s, or Japanese in Korea in the 20s, or any other dynasties that have overrun other cultures throughout history. We all have checkered pasts, and we only have one future that works: unity (not uniformity) in diversity as God’s children through Jesus empowered by the Spirit.

        And one more comment from my prof in Leadership and Diversity: assumed familiarity is always the least helpful way to relate to someone from a different background.

  32. millie says:

    Okay, the first thing I saw/heard from the video interview was that ching-chong, Long-Duck-Dong music. Seriously, guys – you might as well have put your fingers next to your eyes and pulled up real hard.
    I totally understand that the authors were trying to take a very marketable, romantic, hero-worship view and apply it to a real-life battle going on in the daily lives of leaders in the Church. That’s all great. But to package it in a stereotypical Asian culture is completely off. Do you honestly think any Asians serving in the church can sit through this series without, in the least, laughing uncomfortably as their other friends are digging out old copies of ‘Kung-Fu Fighting’ while eating Panda Express? Okay, so maybe that image is a little out there – but it almost seems fitting with the kind of mentality Deadly Viper is trying to create: Let’s immerse ourselves in everything/anything that looks ‘oriental’ so we can really get into this fighter persona.

  33. Silviakim says:

    Word up Prof Rah. Thanks for speaking out and educating folks who are clearly not there in understanding how they continue support the concept of Orientalism and how they materialize that concept through this offensive book. I also appreciate your grace throughout the letter. Something I’m still trying to learn when dealing with ignorant white folks. Much to learn from you.

  34. Ksquared says:

    Kudos to Prof Rah for confronting this issue head on. I think as Christians we need to show grace, but at the same time, this does not mean being a doormat and not confronting injustice and racism.

  35. [...] Angry Asian Man and Professor Soong-Chan Rah are already all over this.  But sadly, I can already hear Zondervan’s apologetic press [...]

  36. Jody says:

    Thanks, Prof Rah, for being a voice in this.

  37. Kyle Reed says:

    When did it turn into an us verse them thing.
    I hate to read all of this. It is really bothering me, both the comments here and on deadly vipers blog.
    I understand you are hurt, and in turn I am hurt that brothers and sisters are being affected by this.
    It just seems counter productive to blog about it.
    Once again, I will apologize for any time an Caucasian has made you feel like you do not belong. I hate that this has to be such a dividing thing.

    • Irene Cho says:

      So please be an advocate and ask that the authors respond appropriately so that the healing can begin.

      • Kyle Reed says:

        I see what you are saying, but I think my view of appropriate and maybe even your view of appropriate (i do not know what that is and do not want to speak for you) is probably different from each other and the authors.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      1. It’s not really an us-versus-them thing. It’s about spreading understanding that some actions hurt-even if it’s unintentional. A stray word by your best friend about how terrible your lunch looks might sting, for instance, even if he or she only meant to make a joke.

      The two authors in question did more than just do use a few stray words; unfortunately, they compounded that hurt by simply dismissing it.

      That’s what’s at fault here.

      2. Counter-productive to blog about it? Howso? If not here, then were would such issues be raised? What venues are there for this sort of thing?

      3. It’s nice of you to apologize on behalf of your entire skin color, but it’s really not necessary; you cannot bear that burden. I will say though that I think we all dislike that something so simple as physical appearance causes so much trouble and divides so many.

      • Kyle Reed says:

        I apologize for myself then, for being insensitive to never noticing this as being a problem. I will say that through all of this discussion I have learned some things and have learned about how my actions can affect others.

        I just don’t think it is appropriate to post up emails that are made private between two individuals, but once again that is the beauty of blogs, they are your space to say what you want to say. I just have some experience with blogging and saying stuff that had some consequences (I was fired for a blog post).

      • dewde says:

        Marq:

        I really appreciate your perspective, not just here, but all your comments on this blog. You are clearly a bridge-builder. You speak in a very balanced, logical, and compassionate manner all while managing to keep our common ground in focus. I wish it had been you that noticed how offensive Deadly Viper was to the Asian culture, and not Prof. Rah. The feeling I get is that you would have called Mike or Jud on the telephone and started a private conversation with them. I think this conversation was much bigger than email and blog posts and the resulting public call to action that took place.

        Mike and Jud unwittingly stepped in it. It is clear that they really did. I stepped in it, too, because I absolutely love their book. It has blessed me. Am I permitted to say that? Am I now contributing to the hurt by being honest?

        I’ve been praying about this stuff since I became aware of it yesterday. I was up late, unable to sleep because my heart was sick over all this discord between believers. I was sick in my heart knowing that a ministry I love and support and respect had caused grief to others. I was sick in my heart for the offended and I was sick in my heart for the offenders.

        Looking at it all I honestly think that both sides have contributed to exacerbating the contention. If that is true, then it will only really be resolved if both sides own up to respective wrong-doing.

        My worry is that, in the end, only one side will.

        peace | dewde

    • veurenou says:

      It’s not an us versus them thing. It’s a “we” thing. As in, we are all one body in Christ. So, let’s seek to reconcile. While it’s understandably upsetting, discomfort is not always bad and can be an impetus for change.

      • Kyle Reed says:

        That is exactly why I said, lets not make this an us verse them thing, but I feel like people are being forced to choose sides. I know I feel that way. And it seems that it is turning from a we thing to a them thing.
        I do understand that this could lead to some much needed change and in return could even have some future stuff done by mike, jud, and prof rah together. We can all learn from this, I know I am. But I just do not want to push my agenda of change on someone else. I kind of feel like that is what is going on here.

  38. Alan Chusuei says:

    Thank you, Dr. Rah, for making this a public issue.

    I realize that for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ this seems extreme, even if the intent of the authors was not to malign anyone. But to not own up to the possibility that the book may have been offensive seems to lack the character and integrity that the book Deadly Viper seems to emphasize.

    Ephesians 4:29 says: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In the same way that we call people to use language that builds each other up, I’d rather be guilty of not being funny or marketable, than to use language or cultural reference that might slight someone else. The tone of the conversation from Zondervan seems to be defending what has been done, versus having an open ear to the Asian community who has serious issues with the presentation of this book.

    As an Thai-American Christian, I ask Zondervan to carefully consider Dr. Rah’s requests concerning the book in question and its marketing material. As a major Christian publishing company and a major influence in the Christian world, I pray that Zondervan becomes an example of a group of people who have the humility to think about what has been said and to take the concerns of the Asian Christian community seriously.

    Alan Chusuei, NY

  39. Rod says:

    Speaking some truth to power!

  40. Nikki T-S says:

    Really important points and conversation have come up. Thanks Pastor Rah for bringing attention to this, as well as articulating the issues so well.

    I’ve had a conversation with Mike Foster tonight. He is interested in a conversation with some members of the Asian Pacific Islander (Christian) community, or others who can bring clarity to this conversation. It sounds like
    their desire is to bring redemption to this conversation. (Note: those are my words…not theirs, so if there’s a problem with that as a desire, I take responsibility for it.)

    I’m trying to get in touch with Pastor Soong-Chan.

    If the conversation happens–what do you think needs to be
    covered and addressed to bring healing, restoration, and movement forward?

  41. jadanzzy says:

    Professor,

    Thank you for this eloquent and direct letter. I stand by and behind it. I’ll stick by any Ra(h) any day! Our tiny clan needs to survive!

    For the detractors among us. Please understand that we’re not just engaging in mob mentality. What you understandably fail to see is the notion of deep-rooted white privilege at work. I don’t want our white American Christian siblings having to tip-toe around race and be hyper-PC. Neither do I hope Asian American Christians become belligerent for the sake of belligerence. What needs to occur is the acceptance of our own subjective limits and an honoring of the other’s life and cultural experience.

    -Dan Ra

  42. [...] to reach out the authors and start a constructive dialogue about how to move forward. You can read his Open Letter to Zondervan here. In his open letter, Professor Rah highlights several specific instances where the Deadly Vipers [...]

  43. SoulaSas says:

    Heavens, child.

    With the love of Christ, I say…. GET OVER YOURSELF.

    What a load of prideful hoo-ha you’ve given us. Goodness, so full of unrighteous indignation, egged on by your ego and a bleacher-full of politically-correct Gen X-ers.

    If you’re so angry about being offended, why not do the biblical thing and go to the person(s) who offended you?

    Ish…seems more about YOU than about anything else. Very unbecoming of a Christian. Worse, very unbiblical.

    And has nothing to do with Christ, imho.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Heavens, child.

      With the love of Christ, I say…. GET OVER YOURSELF.

      What a load of prideful hoo-ha you’ve given us. Goodness, so full of unrighteous indignation, egged on by your ego and a bleacher-full of politically-correct Gen X-ers.
      That is precisely the wrong way to go about this, both in dealing with the endemic problem and speaking with the community that feels hurt.

      Yes, I think there was something in the Bible about ‘turning the other cheek’. Correct me if I’m wrong, though, but I also believe there was something in there about speaking for what’s right?

      In any case, there’s really only so many times you can swallow a slight before your limit’s reached; in the case of pop culture’s appropriation, thoughtlessness, and sometimes outright mockery of Asians, that threshold’s been hit a log time ago.

      It’s like that with a lot of relationships. Irritations, slights, they build up over time, and there comes a point where it can’t just be papered over with a smile, where something must be said, words must be had, for the relationship to grow.

      I don’t think anybody here really thinks the two authors were trying to be offensive; I’m sure most everyone would be willing to forgive them, since they didn’t know what they were doing–but to have that reconciliation, to have that growth, an actual apology, step #4 in that blog entry of theirs, has to be made.

      If you’re so angry about being offended, why not do the biblical thing and go to the person(s) who offended you?
      As far as going to the people that offended them, it’s my understanding that Prof. Rah is doing so.

      Ish…seems more about YOU than about anything else. Very unbecoming of a Christian. Worse, very unbiblical.

      And has nothing to do with Christ, imho.
      My feelings on this matter wouldn’t change if this were secular, Christian, or Islamic. Whether it’s becoming of a Christian or not, I wouldn’t know–nor would I really presume to judge them aloud.

  44. [...] light of “Deadly Viper v. Asian Americans,” I have to confess that I was quite hopeful that all of this angst could be quickly alleviated if [...]

  45. [...] But having said all of the above, I too was disappointed by the marketing behind the book and the recent ramping of the DV cause. I don’t have the energy to list stuff (busy with some exciting stuff at Quest Church & launching One Day’s Wages) but let me share the list that my good friend Soong Chan Rah (professor at North Park Seminary) shares on his blog: [...]

  46. djterasaki says:

    Thank you for thoughtfully, prayerfully composing the letter. Well spoken.

  47. Dave Nagel says:

    I hardly feel qualified to add the conversation, but there are certain things that this topic and dialogue have stirred deeply in me that I hope could be useful. I apologize for what may come across as ignorance in this post. I only wish to convey humility and a desire to learn from people who are much different from myself.

    I am a white, 25 year old, male who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I admit that had I seen any of the Deadly Viper video before reading Prof Rha’s posts I don’t think I would’ve had any objection to the way in which elements of Asian culture were used (although I would have dismissed the material as another gimmicky way for Christians to sell a product. I realize that is for a much different conversation). I admit that not to in any way object to Prof Rha’s post, but to admit to just how oblivious I am to the ways “white privilege” has shaped and influenced my perception and interactions with people of different cultures. I can easily see how other white people could see this conversation as “ridiculous” and/or as an “over-reaction.” I am not saying I agree with that response or even that posture. I am simply saying that I can understand why this conversation would be viewed as such.

    On the other hand, I sadly admit that I can not identify with the other voice in this conversation. I can not relate to the voice that finds offense to blatant insensitivity and disregard for people of Asian decent and their own unique cultures. I admit that, because I have to come to terms with the fact that I live in a society where it is normal to be white where those who aren’t can either integrate and be “like us” or be further ostracized. I know nothing of being called a minority nor have I had to deal with cultural intolerance in my experience or history.

    My point in admitting this is to simply say that I am probably like millions of other white people who don’t realize just how offensive/insensitive/entitled they can be and, sadly, it takes conversations and experiences like these to help some of us see just how deep “white privilege” is rooted in our culture. I don’t wish to wash my hands of guilt nor write this off to somehow feel better about myself. I add this to the conversation to share that I am realizing how crazy it is that I have been oblivious for so long to the ways in which I can cause serious harm to those who are different than me. This conversation certainly will not fix that brokeness in me, but it is a start to redemption.

    So thank you Prof Rha for your boldness and courage and everyone else for sharing your experiences openly and honestly. Your willingness to be transparent is so needed and important. I wish to apologize for my ignorance, but want to add that we, as a white culture, have a lot of undoing to do and need people that are willing to be gracious and patient in helping each other navigate constructively what it looks like to love God and love others. Peace.

    • Silviakim says:

      Hi Dave–

      Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate your effort in recognizing your shortcomings but also humbly asking people of color to give folks like you grace and patience in understanding how to love each other & God. In my own journey, I’m still working out how to not allow bitterness & anger be my identity when a white person makes an offensive statement–that by doing so, i’m already giving any white person the power to define who I am when I should be remembering how God defines me.

      Long story short, my hope is that when you (or any white person) are on this journey in learning how to love God and others well, that you won’t begin to bear the guilt & shame for being a white person. Too often I’ve come across a handful of white folks who hate themselves for being white which is definitely not where God desires anyone to be at. But that doesn’t give any white person the excuse to not engage with the realities of how white privilege and racism continues to impact our communities. Complicated, hard, and painful. But that is the process in learning how to reach racial reconciliation. And thank God that we have a God who proclaims that true and authentic redemption can happen for ourselves and for each other.

  48. [...] “current one” I’m talking about is the controversy surrounding a new book from Zondervan called Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival [...]

  49. Berkana says:

    Well said. Make sure you don’t just post it here; it may be an open letter, but you must make sure they get a delivered copy. Make sure you bring their attention to this.

  50. jeffcstraka says:

    Great video on understanding this topic from Eugene Cho’s blog:

    This is a time to learn/change/transform.

    Racial stereotyping comes from our Western dualistic mind – I am this/I am not that, this person is different from me/I am superior. This mind always want to constantly sort: good/bad, in/out, up/down, black/white. While necessary for daily activities (we could not walk or drive a car with out this mind) Jesus is trying to get us to understand that we have a different “operating system” that is more True – a non-dual contemplative mind – the “Mind of Christ” – that sees the world with a “new set of eyes”: our neighbor AS (or perhaps, IS) ourselves. Both/and, not either/or. And pushing this concept of unity even more, Jesus welds this loving act into loving God (Matthew 22:36-40) – when you do one, you are doing the other. Many Eastern religions have understood this. Early Christianity (the desert fathers and the mystics) understood this, too, but we in the west have lost it.
    (Read Fr. Richard Rohr’s “Everything Belongs”)

  51. [...] many Asian-American Christians to address their concerns about Deadly Viper. He’s written an open letter to the authors and publisher. It’s worth reading along with the comments as Rah lists the many offensive details in the [...]

  52. [...] Soong Chan Rah and anyone else offended 2009 November 4 by Ryan Grammatico Yesterday on Professor Rah’s blog, I made some insensitive comments about Asian culture cncerning the debate of Mike Foster and Jud [...]

  53. I wish my fellow-white brothers and sisters were at least curious about the opposition. (Of course it would have been better if they had a multi or inter-racial writing/publishing team. . . too late for that). But when such a majority of another portion of the body of Christ (race, gender, geographic, economic) sees something differently than we do. . . shouldn’t we at least wonder why?

    When a substantial part of the body of Christ expresses concern, and we refuse to listen, I cannot square that with Character of which the scriptures speak (and the book in question purports to encourage).

    It stings to say and to hear, but this dismissiveness is a categorical example of how white privilege exists. For my friends who constantly say “I can’t really understand what white privilege” is. . . just read the initial email exchange. Those in the position of “control” don’t have to listen. . . its a privilege. . . and in this case it is clearly racial. (Can you imagine them publishing a book by an Asian author that takes such leeway with white evangelical culture? No, only someone who is white could pull this off and get paid, praised, publicized and promoted for it. . . )

    As a white guy who has been sorting through this mostly in the black-white arena over the past decade I have to say to my white brothers. . .

    Guys,

    Please stop and genuinely listen. In Christ you have no reputation to protect, no point of strength and integrity that must be battled for. No great defense must be mounted. If you are fundamentally right, this will be clear. If you are wrong you must know that even the offenses listed are things that can be repented of and grown through.

    But in your listening, if your brothers and sisters within the Asian American community cannot defend your co-opting of culture even with good intent, if you have no Asian mentors affirming what you’ve done, then for the sake of the body of Christ. . . listen and repent.

    From my experience I would suggest that the words spoken in the threads from our Asian American brothers and sisters will be (or at least could be) more powerful for your spiritual growth this year than any accolades you could possibly have gotten for your fine writing abilities, insights and other gifts. This conversation is a gift from God.

    Proverbs 17 says that “Whoever mocks the poor, shows contempt for their maker”. Given that the word poor is about “people who at face value are unlike me, but are created in the image of God” I would say that none of us want to mock people, even unawares. Please be careful here. . . Often in the scriptures we see God’s people blindly doing what they are sure they should be and then the prophets call them out. Sometimes God’s people listen. . . are broken. . . and are healed.

    Brokenness in Christ is a gift. Please listen carefully.

    • samuel chung says:

      thank you, my friend and brother in Christ.

    • Judy says:

      I don’t think most people have any idea about this at all. I guess knowing something happened would be the first step.

      From my experience I would suggest that the words spoken in the threads from our Asian American brothers and sisters will be (or at least could be) more powerful for your spiritual growth this year than any accolades you could possibly have gotten for your fine writing abilities, insights and other gifts. This conversation is a gift from God.

      That is very true. If mainstream Christian publishers weren’t always trying to be so cute in marketing the next book to be consumed, this may have never happened. Who needs another book about leadership? I guess that’s not what this thread is about, but I’ve grown weary of the Christian consumer culture. Repentance and growth is much more useful than yet another Zondervan book.

  54. jonathan says:

    So at first I thought it was silly for anyone to be offended by this, it appeared to me to be nothing more than a parody of Kung Fu/martial arts/dubbed movies – in the vein of Kung Pow or Kung Fu Hustle, or maybe similar to the Wu Tang Clan or Quentin Tarantino adopting that theme in their projects. It seemed like a little harmless appropriation, a little bit of silly fun. (I realize we are discussing the context of Christian culture, not mainstream Hip Hop or cinema.)

    After thinking a bit further, it seems that perhaps those original caricatures of Asians are the main cause of the offense here, and that in following that theme Mike and Jud are perpetuating the offense. Either way, when called out the proper response is to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you…”

    I haven’t seen all the marketing for their campaigns though, so I may be missing some things. And I can understand someone’s offense at feeling reduced to a silly caricature, whether that was the original intent or not. I’m pretty sure these guys weren’t trying to make a statement about Asian history or culture, or Asian Christians, or anything of the sort. It looks like they were trying to have a bit or ironic fun with their marketing, and stepped on some toes in doing so.

    They should say “Sorry ’bout that” and move on. Maybe make a Facebook video cracking on white stereotypes or Christian stereotypes :).

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Jonathan, having never seen Kung Pow, I can’t really comment on it, but I will say that when the ads first came out, my initial reaction was not charitable towards it. Why did I look to it with suspicion instead of humor and warmth, as I did for Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle (at least in their unmolested, original, undubbed state)?

      The latter two movies, for one, were made by Stephen Chow, an Asian. Additionally, with passing familiarity with wuxia/kung fu films, it’s easy to tell that those films are very much a paean to the genre. The caricatures that Chow uses are not of Asians, but of stock characters.

      I’ll admit that I’m not so thrilled with the Wu Tang Clan or Quentin Tarantino’s adoption, but they have, as of yet, not done anything blatantly offensive and demeaning as the two authors did here; none of what I’ve seen in Wu Tang Clan’s or Tarantino’s work approaches what they did in that Facebook video, where it didn’t seem that they were mocking any sort of character archetype, but Asians themselves.

    • Irene Cho says:

      And both Wu Tang Clan and Tarantino did their work out of respect and knowledge of the culture. Tarantino probably knows more about it than many Asians (as I, a Korean, don’t know much about the comic book world). Their work is not done to mock the culture and don’t have cultural misrepresentation.

  55. Mae Cannon says:

    Soong-Chan,

    Thank you for so clearly calling out the details of this egregious offense. I am horrified by the ignorance displayed toward Asian culture. I hope that Zondervan and the authors will really listen to the truth behind the words that you speak. Blessings to you for being willing to speak the truth!

    Mae Cannon

  56. Myrtle Smith says:

    And what was the first “egregious offense” that Zondervan committed?

    • jimmycshaw says:

      Myrtle Smith,

      A couple years ago Zondervan was the publisher of a collection of skits by YouthSpecialties that included a terribly egregious skit involving a Chinese-food delivery man complete with caricature of his accent and behavior. Here’s an excerpt of the skit: http://is.gd/4NevR

      And here’s the apology from Mark Oestricher who was the head of YS at the time… http://is.gd/4NeGY He makes clear that Zondervan was merely the publisher and did not have editorial control. But I think Mark’s apology sets a good standard for ways to handle this kind of offense, and provides some rationale for believing Zondervan might should have learned from that previous situation and put into place safeguards that would’ve prevented a replay.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      This is the first one that I know of: Rickshaw Rally.

    • daniel so says:

      Just for clarity’s sake, Rickshaw Rally was published by Lifeway. Zondervan published the “Skits that Teach” book from Youth Specialties featuring racist stereotypes of an Asian character.

      I think the two cases are instructive here. Lifeway’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing or move toward reconciliation looks even worse in light of Youth Specialities and Zondervan’s actions to issue a public apology, remove the “Skits” books from shelves at bookstores, destroy old copies and revise the book for future editions.

      Hopefully, these kinds of publications will stop altogether. Until then, though, it would be much better to follow the example of YS/Zondervan.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I stand corrected; I’m not familiar with the different Christian publishing houses at all, and I apologize for muddying the waters there.

      • daniel so says:

        Marq – No worries from me at all. Just wanted to put what I knew about the backstory out there :)

  57. [...] An Open Letter to the Authors (Prof. Rah) Just Another White WordPresser Like Me I Found by Googling the Controversy (But he says good stuff) Leave a Comment No Comments Yet so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Click here to cancel reply. Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <pre> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> [...]

  58. Matt LeClair says:

    I am absolutely appalled at the route that this particular argument has gone. SHAME ON YOU ALL.

    Professor Rah is perfectly within his right to feel offended. The Bible very clearly states that if a brother has offended, that we are to go to them and present our problems and work it out with them. It says NOTHING about publicizing and destroying the character of that “other brother” if we don’t get the response we want. We should simply commit them to the Lord in prayer and freaking MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES. In publicizing his private concerns, Professor Rah is doing nothing helpful, just as he feels that the writers of this “offensive” material are failing to be positive in their marketing of their own material.

    Are we all so fragile that we can’t handle another person’s viewpoint differing from our own?
    As Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek. We are called to love one another. We aren’t called to bicker like this.

    This is ridiculous.

    Above this reply, there are NUMEROUS little mini-arguments flaring up, rife with personal attacks and name calling. Is this how Christ wants his church to act with each other?

    Finally, to all of those who so quickly play the race card, knock it off. Paul writes that in Christ there are no Jews nor Gentiles, Slaves nor Free, Male nor Female. Take a lesson from that, and consider yourselves brothers and sisters in Christ. If you feel somebody isn’t doing so, fine, go present your case to THEM. Don’t make a gigantic issue out of it — it’s not your place, your duty, or whatever else you use to justify causing division in God’s church.

    Good Grief. As somebody above wrote, no wonder people fall away from the church, or choose not to enter. With unneccesary strife like this in the public view, how can you blame them? John wrote that non-Christians would know that we belong to God by our Love for one another. This is not Love.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Finally, to all of those who so quickly play the race card, knock it off. Paul writes that in Christ there are no Jews nor Gentiles, Slaves nor Free, Male nor Female.
      I am no theologian, but I’m willing to bet that Paul did not mean that in Christ there was perfect homogeneity, but rather meant to suggest that there was perfect equality.
      What’s being called into attention here is that this equality is lacking; white privilege and unthinking, established racism are very real issues that it would behoove any social group that seeks to improve the world, religious or not, to look into and combat.
      To cheapen it by saying it’s just “playing the race card” is to immediately try to dismiss very real issues that are endemic to all parts of the social fabric, and to expect that all peoples should feel the same way about a particular method of outreach as you do–well, that’s homogeneity, not equality.

      If you feel somebody isn’t doing so, fine, go present your case to THEM. Don’t make a gigantic issue out of it — it’s not your place, your duty, or whatever else you use to justify causing division in God’s church.
      Not to put too fine a point on it, but what do you say about the Schism that led to the Orthodox Church, the divorce that led to the Anglican Church, the 95 Theses, and so on?

      • Alan Chusuei says:

        “I am absolutely appalled at the route that this particular argument has gone. SHAME ON YOU ALL.”

        “Professor Rah is perfectly within his right to feel offended. The Bible very clearly states that if a brother has offended, that we are to go to them and present our problems and work it out with them. It says NOTHING about publicizing and destroying the character of that “other brother” if we don’t get the response we want. We should simply commit them to the Lord in prayer and freaking MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES.”

        1) Unless you have ever been the target of racism, I find this quite unfair. That’s like saying to a woman who has been suffering with cerebral palsy all her life to just “get over it and move on.” Racism has been going on a long time, and brother, we have been the target of it. We are only human, and this upsets us, and more importantly, we find it to be inconsistent with the biblical character. I pray that you can see it from our view. Jesus asked us always to look at others with compassion. We ask that you hear us out.

        2) I don’t think Professor Rah is destroying anyone’s character. In fact, I think Professor Rah (correct me if I’m off, Professor) understands that people do things that are culturally offensive without knowing it, and that the point of addressing this problem in public is not to malign character, but to point out a larger social problem that in part needs to be addressed by all Christians, and yes, especially those who have committed the offense. In fact, Professor Rah praised the author for trying to write a book that deals with integrity, AND he’s calling them to do exactly what their book is asking them to do.

        “In publicizing his private concerns, Professor Rah is doing nothing helpful, just as he feels that the writers of this “offensive” material are failing to be positive in their marketing of their own material. Are we all so fragile that we can’t handle another person’s viewpoint differing from our own? As Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek. We are called to love one another. We aren’t called to bicker like this. This is ridiculous. Above this reply, there are NUMEROUS little mini-arguments flaring up, rife with personal attacks and name calling. Is this how Christ wants his church to act with each other?”

        If there is name calling, then of course it’s not cool. That is not right, and should be pointed out as such. But I find that church is complicit in allowing injustice to occur. Often, the LACK of calling a spade a spade has been just as bad for the church. Is it possible that what you might be perceiving as a personal attack is just someone calling out something that’s out of Christian character? And if it’s the case (which many of us Asians believe it is), then why is it not ok to talk about it?

        “Finally, to all of those who so quickly play the race card, knock it off. Paul writes that in Christ there are no Jews nor Gentiles, Slaves nor Free, Male nor Female. Take a lesson from that, and consider yourselves brothers and sisters in Christ.”

        That is not fair, because I think that ignores the reality of our human cultures as well. We are made in the image of God, AND God made us Chinese, African-American, Irish, Samoan, etc. What most Christians are doing when it comes to racial critique is to make sure that the sociological reality of racial inequality is reconciled with the theological reality that we are all one in Christ. We’re not “playing the race card” just because it’s convenient, to gain a power play. This is a call for justice, to recognize true equality in the eyes of God. It’s much easier to SAY that we are all equal in the eyes of God, but to put that into practice is (I believe) just not as easy as you put it.

        “If you feel somebody isn’t doing so, fine, go present your case to THEM. Don’t make a gigantic issue out of it — it’s not your place, your duty, or whatever else you use to justify causing division in God’s church. Good Grief. As somebody above wrote, no wonder people fall away from the church, or choose not to enter. With unneccesary strife like this in the public view, how can you blame them? John wrote that non-Christians would know that we belong to God by our Love for one another. This is not Love.”

        According to you, it’s unnecessary. Have you thought that maybe the reason that some people veer away from the church is that these issues have NOT been brought up? Is it possible that it could be the most unloving thing to do to dismiss what we as Asians are feeling as just unnecessary? All we are asking for is an ear to hear what we are going through.

        If I may say so, I think many of us Asians, by our general temperament, have actually backed away from arguments like this because of our tendencies toward submissiveness. But for many of us, we realize that decrying injustice is not a possibility, it is our duty AS CHRISTIANS!

        Lastly, “Love” does not always look pretty. Love sometimes must come with a firm (but gentle) word. If the conversation is heated, yes, and for that we do our best to maintain Christian civility. But that should never be an excuse NOT to talk of these things. That is simply to condone the status quo. In our humble opinion, this does not reflect the Kingdom of God or anyone who calls themselves Christian.

    • Brian says:

      Matt leclair- I’d have to respectfully disagree that soongchan is doing nothing helpful here. He certianly isn’t helping white folks with privelege, but as a Chinese Christian, soongchan is actually one of the few Asians who are giving voice to this community. He’s one of just a handful of Christians that have been given a seat at the table in the broader evangelical world nationwide. If not for folks like him, ken fong, and a few others Asians would actually have little to no evangelical voice in the US. That is alarming to me, and I hope it would be to you (1cor12.15-21).

      Have you done much work in the area of racial reconciliation? you seem to have all the answers… I ask b/c honestly, as one Christian to another, your responses don’t seem thought through enough and too simple.

      Marq hwang- you hit the bail on the head, Paul obviously was talking about equality and voice- not actual homogeneity. As a married man, I can assure you that men and women are definitely not actually the same…

      The approach of “going to the person who wronged you” is obviously a biblical way of dealing with interpersonal conflict- but in a lot of these cases, were talking about systems and structures that can be harmful and evil- institutional sin doesn’t fit into the “personal salvation” box so well, so let’s just ignore it, right?

      Matt- I wish you would take a slightly different angle, like folks like Dave Nagel and Joel hammernick (above). It seems like their trying to walk a little in the shoes of others.

  59. Bo says:

    Soong Chan, thank you for your tireless efforts. I know such work is exhausting such that many would simply not bother to engage. Please place my name as someone in full support of this letter.

    Bo Lim
    Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Seattle Pacific University

  60. notaboutcolor says:

    As an asian myself, I am dissappointed not in the authors of the video, but by other Christians who are worried more about the parody than the real intent of the video. When has Christianity become a issue of culture versus culture? We are all God’s children, brothers and sisters in Christ. Have the authors sinned against you??? If you think they have bibilically sinned against you and God, then do the biblical thing and go to them with your grievances.

    M

  61. [...] “current one” I’m talking about is the controversy surrounding a new book from Zondervan called Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival [...]

  62. Marq Hwang says:

    dewde:
    I really appreciate your perspective, not just here, but all your comments on this blog … I wish it had been you that noticed how offensive Deadly Viper was to the Asian culture, and not Prof. Rah. The feeling I get is that you would have called Mike or Jud on the telephone and started a private conversation with them. I think this conversation was much bigger than email and blog posts and the resulting public call to action that took place.
    While I’m flattered by your compliments, in all honesty I cannot say that I believe I would have acted all that much differently than Prof. Rah; in actuality, I’m also pretty sure I’d’ve never actually seen this, seeing as I do not actually follow any Christian literature sites, having only run into this from a blog called Angry Asian Man, whose focus isn’t religious at all.

    Prof. Rah might’ve lobbed a rather incendiary grenade to start the conversation, but I assure you, it was much more polite than mine would have been, as it would have been coming from the point of view of a non-religious person whose opinion of Evangelicals isn’t… sterling.

  63. [...] Mike and Jud have published a book and series of resources called “Deadly Viper Character Assassins” that use blatant Asian stereotypes and references to Asian culture to sell their materials. The materials themselves have to do with encouraging integrity and fighting against allowing sin to control your life. Somehow, Asian stereotypes including ninjas, sumo wrestlers, nonsensical Chinese characters, and even a white guy using a fake “asian” accent in a video have been used to market the materials. Huh? What’s okay about conflating all Asian cultures into a generic “Asian” theme, and using it to market Christian materials, thus incorporating offensive, racist sterotypes alongside the Gospel message. Dr. Rah said it so eloquently on his blog: [...]

  64. [...] But having said all of the above, I too was disappointed by the marketing behind the book and the recent ramping of the DV cause. I don’t have the energy to list stuff (busy with some exciting stuff at Quest Church & launching One Day’s Wages) but let me share the list that my good friend Soong Chan Rah (professor at North Park Seminary) shares on his blog: [...]

  65. Helen Lee says:

    FYI, just to clarify even further, Mark Oestreicher who was the head of Youth Specialties at the time of the Skit Guys incident, said in his public apology that Zondervan had no editorial control over their content and thus was not responsible. I have no idea what the process was for this book but hopefully the company will let us know.

    On that note, yesterday I sent Stan Gundry, EVP of Publishing and Editorial Operations at Zondervan, an email alerting him to the situation and to SCRah’s open letter. He has since read it and says that the company will be looking into this further. I encouraged him to let the public know that Zondervan is looking into it, but things don’t often move quickly in the corporate world, so I want to let you all know that the powers-that-be at Zondervan are aware of this situation and formulating a response. Mr. Gundry had also received an email yesterday from Scot McKnight (http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/) with Kathy Khang’s comments about the book, so he had a heads-up that something was up, but he had not yet seen the open letter. Now he has, so let’s wait to see what emerges!

  66. Jason Coker says:

    I’ll simply add my comment here in the spirit of Jamie Arpin-Ricci above. As a white guy who never would have imagined the depth of hurt this marketing stunt has inflicted, my immediate response is a profound realization that I could have easily been among those who are guilty; in a very real sense, that does actually make me part of the guilty party.

    Prof Rah, you have my support in your protest.

  67. reserve7 says:

    We owe it to our spiritual family, to one another, to care when we hurt with our words and actions. It’s not a case of over-reaction or over-sensitivity. It’s about whether we are sisters and brothers or just buyers and sellers, publishers and consumers.

    This is a relational problem. It’s a wisdom problem. The authors need to do some heavy discernment, repentance and relationship building. It’s humbling, and it’s not easy, but it could make them better authors and teachers to be tempered by this experience.

  68. jeffcstraka says:

    Matt – The necessity and value of this dialog is not only for the authors to be made aware of their offense, but to make others that publish material of ANY public nature – books, blogs, web pages, videos, brochures, etc. – to THINK about what you are doing, and for publishing houses to have a more discerning eye on the material. But even more, it is a healthy exposure for EVERY ONE OF US: against whom do WE feel superior in some way and degrade in some way and make fun of in some way? Educated vs. uneducated, wealthy vs. poor, Democrat vs. Republican, articulate vs. inarticulate, well dressed vs. poorly dressed, cool vs. nerdy… Are we all not guilty in some way of prejudging and accessing?

    I find it ironic that the topic of Deadly Viper is character/integrity assassination, and how to recover. I think another chapter may be needed and it may be one we ALL need to read because I think the assassin lives inside every one of us.

    • Matt LeClair says:

      Jeffcstraka…

      Fair enough, and if this was simply a blog post about some sort of philisophical issue or generic scenario, i would completely agree that it is instructive and even might provide value.

      However, if you read through this thread you see two things. 1) The origination of this discussion is not based on making “others that publish material of ANY public nature” (your quote) think about what they are doing — it’s specifically to call out an individual company and a pair of authors due to a perceived slight (and yes, this truly IS a perception of offense. If you state otherwise, then you are specifically accusing the authors of purposely doing so…if it was done in ignorance, then it means they didn’t mean to do it, from which follows the fact that the offense must be perceived by some end-user…in this case, Prof. Rah). 2) The sheer number of people who have simply jumped on the “racism” bandwagon in this thread rather than thinking about the actual issue and realizing that “wow, there are FAR more important issues concerning race than the artwork on some book that a relatively small number of people will read, and an even smaller number of people will even notice!”.

      You actually make my point for me, to some extent. You are absolutely right — we are all guilty of prejudging, assessing, stereotyping, or whatever. Professor Rah does so in his comments where he specifically labels people as “White”, which has become nearly as loaded a word as labeling somebody “Black”. We are human, and we all do it, intentionally or not. So if we all do this to some extent, should we really be getting up in arms about another person who has unintentionally done the same?

      Remember the example Jesus gave to the Pharisees who wanted to stone the prostitue woman: “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.”

      I’m not saying that the authors or Prof Rah are sinning…at least not yet (they are, though, if their petty argument causes other people to sin in their hearts!!!), but waht I am saying is that the principle still applies.

      If Prof. Rah was truly for racial-equality and/or Social Justice as he has written about previously, then the proper course to take would be to completely ignore the cultural references made by others, because after all, we’re all equal, so there can’t actually be any such thing as a cultural difference. (On a complete aside, Social Justice is just a pretty name for Marxism, and is a huge trap that Christianity is in danger of falling into).

      However, since he did not do so, did make “White” references, and has not followed the Biblical model for dealing with an offense with another brother, I have to suspect that something else is at play.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Wow.

        if it was done in ignorance, then it means they didn’t mean to do it, from which follows the fact that the offense must be perceived by some end-user…in this case, Prof. Rah).
        Not necessarily. “Song of the South”, for instance, wasn’t intended to be racist at all. Yet looking back on it, most seem to come to the conclusion that at the very least, it’s offensive.

        Intent, or lack thereof, only matters as to the severity of the offense. Lacking the intent to kill doesn’t make the death go away; lacking the intent to insult doesn’t make the slur go away. Not knowing proper etiquette doesn’t mean that your faux pas disappear.

        Ignorance is not a defense.

        Almost everybody here seems to be willing to give the two authors here the benefit of doubt, instead, they’re trying to point out their actions have been rude, at the least.

        2) The sheer number of people who have simply jumped on the “racism” bandwagon in this thread rather than thinking about the actual issue and realizing that “wow, there are FAR more important issues concerning race than the artwork on some book that a relatively small number of people will read, and an even smaller number of people will even notice!”.
        Actually, not. Most of the people who’ve commented at length are only pointing to the artwork on that book as an example of the endemic, institutionalized racism that exists.

        As far as important issues concerning race, you can’t get much bigger than that.

        If Prof. Rah was truly for racial-equality and/or Social Justice as he has written about previously, then the proper course to take would be to completely ignore the cultural references made by others, because after all, we’re all equal, so there can’t actually be any such thing as a cultural difference. (On a complete aside, Social Justice is just a pretty name for Marxism, and is a huge trap that Christianity is in danger of falling into).
        Again, I’m no theologian, but I don’t think they were talking about perfect homogeneity, which you seem to be wanting. Homogeneity, or sameness, is not the same as equality.

        For you to say that there’s no such thing as cultural difference is to suggest that there’s no such thing as a different world view, or a different experience when it comes to living life. To lack cultural difference is to suggest that everyone has exactly the same desires and wants, exactly the same gifts and preferences.

        In short, to suggest cultural homogeneity, which is what you’re doing, is very much in line with most of the images of Marxist utopias.

        Equality, however, is not sameness in culture. It’s having the same respect for each other’s differing views, histories, experiences. It’s having the same value and honor for each other’s worth, their skin tone, their personalities. That’s what people are pointing out; there is little respect being given to Asians with this video. Instead of showing how much value Asian culture has, they’ve reduced it to a cheap, knock-off, tawdry faux-sian garnish, like so many Christmas decorations to be tossed out with the coming of the New Year.

        That’s what stings. That’s what’s caused the offense–the fact that they did it, and the fact that they thought nobody would mind–we’re in Post-Racial America, right? We can let all of those stereotypes out, no matter how hurtful, how wrong.

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Marq,

        I think that in the end, I find this to be a relatively minor sort of thing to get all excited about. You certainly don’t see me writing letters to people demanding that they apologize to me because they said “white”, pointed out the White-American’s general lack of culture (which might even be true!), etc. You don’t see me getting angry because somebody who is not white mangles the English language, or any other perception of offense I might choose to employ on any given day. Perhaps this is just a personal viewpoint for me, but I believe that acting on every little insult or slight (actual or perceived) just isn’t productive, almost always doesn’t have any positive effect, and distracts me from what i *should* be focused on.

        Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding for some of us. I really don’t understand *why* this is such a big deal.

        Example: You state above: “It’s having the same respect for each other’s differing views, histories, experiences. It’s having the same value and honor for each other’s worth, their skin tone, their personalities. That’s what people are pointing out; there is little respect being given to Asians with this video. Instead of showing how much value Asian culture has, they’ve reduced it to a cheap, knock-off, tawdry faux-sian garnish”. With the exception, perhaps, of the guy imitating an Asian-accent mangling the English language, the rest is purely marketing gimmick, humor, etc, and reacting to such is hyper-sensitive at best.

        Perhaps you have a case here (its’ certainly great discussion material!!! :) ). Lets flip the coin though. Prof. Rah makes numerous references to things such as “White Dominated” or “White church”, etc etc etc. Do you feel that making such references is disrespectful to white people who have no intention of dominating anything, or is that simply fact?

        On somewhat of a side track, I really can’t stand it when people say stuff like “Post Racial America”. It does a couple of things. One, it paints Americans as racists and slavery-mongers (since the entire American Racism issue is rooted in slavery, and is really defined by the slavery issue). Two, it paints WHITE people specifically, since the term is *never* applied to anyone else. You never hear things like “Post Racial Europe” or “Post Racial Asia”. Lets delve into that a bit more, since it really comes from slavery. Europe held slaves like nobody’s business…oh wait they were white so it doesn’t really count…those evil white people do it all the time. Hmmm…but doesn’t blatant slavery still exist in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East TO THIS DAY (whether it’s legal or simply the oppression of a people by a government). Furthermore, you have ridiculous amounts of racism all over the world.

        My belief is that Christians should be above picking out minor issues like this to get excited about, and save that energy for REAL racial problems. Case in point, look at how much time we are wasting today talking about this when we coudl have been doing something FAR more productive for God’s kingdom?

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Matt,

        I think that in the end, I find this to be a relatively minor sort of thing to get all excited about.
        Which is your perogative. You are, after all, not Asian. You are, after all, not offended here.
        However, your initial, phenomenally dismissive and almost downright hostile reaction only fans the flames. For those who only see confirmation that there’s a racist element here, that sort of snide (yes, snide, high-handed, “get over yourself”) reaction only solidifies their conclusions. It betrays absolutely no interest on your side as to whether their concerns are valid, it suggests that there’s absolutely no desire to understand where they’re coming from, it hints that they’re the ones with the problem.
        You can see how that doesn’t help matters at all, I’m sure.
        If I feel I have a legitimate grievance based on a financial matter (say, AT&T deciding to bill me twice), I am not the one at fault, I am not the one with the problem if I call the offender on it. It is perfectly understandable if I am in a sour mood, regardless of whether AT&T intended to bill me twice.
        Similarly, based on what is, quite frankly, a series of offensive slights, I am not the one at fault, I am not the one with the problem if I call the offenders on it, regardless of whether they intended to mockingly portray my kind in yellowface.
        It’s a minor thing, sure, but if one doesn’t stand up for the minor things, one won’t stand up for the major things.

        I’m sure, as a Christian, you feel rather put upon on this country. To be frank, the religion has become a nasty punchline of sorts, some of it undeserved. If someone were to offend you with such a mocking representation, would you not feel compelled to at least say something, say anything?

        The difference between finances, ethnicity, and religion, of course, is that only one of those is immutable.

        You certainly don’t see me writing letters to people demanding that they apologize to me because they said “white”,
        And why should you? Being “white” in this country actually carries with it a whole lot of privilege. People with “white” names find it easier to get jobs, based solely on resumes. People with “white” appearances find themselves not bearing the weight of popular assumptions that they’re thugs, foreigners, or spies. People who speak “white” and look “white” are never complimented on how well-spoken they are, or impress people with their accentless speech, even if they were born here.
        But that’s not what’s at the heart of the matter here. The Facebook video relies on the exoticism, the foreignness, the other-ness of Asians to have its humorous effect. It relies on the assumption that not only are Asians foreign, with accents, but easy to mock. The point, the comparison, that many others have brought up is that had these two authors fashioned their book after thug-life and used blackface in their promotional video, they’d be crucified by everyone, but since they’re using yellowface, it’s okay.
        After all, based on your reaction, you’re suggesting only the Asians are upset, and we’re overreacting.

        pointed out the White-American’s general lack of culture (which might even be true!), etc.
        I’m so sorry that anyone’s ever suggested white America lacks a culture.
        Mostly because that’s patently false, seeing as it is white America’s culture that dominates the airwaves, that dominates the world’s imagination. It’s white standards of beauty that people seek to attain, which is why people of color chemically treat their hair, or undergo painful surgeries to get rounder eyes and more balanced calves.
        When people abroad imagine America, I assure you the movies that they talk about are, more often than not, filled to the brim with Caucasian actors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told about Gone with the Wind whenever I mention I was born in Atlanta in Korea–and I can assure you, that’s not a story that has many minority protagonists.

        You don’t see me getting angry because somebody who is not white mangles the English language,
        Is the assumption that anyone that mangles the English language that they’re not white? Because there’s a former president I’d like to use as a counterexample, and quite a few people from my childhood in the south that I’d like to use as supporting evidence.
        Of course you’ll find non-whites mangle the English language. But it’s telling that’s the first example you reached–that kind of assumption is the very same kind of assumption that led the authors here to think that it’d be okay to make that misbegotten video.

        Perhaps this is just a personal viewpoint for me, but I believe that acting on every little insult or slight (actual or perceived) just isn’t productive, almost always doesn’t have any positive effect, and distracts me from what i *should* be focused on.
        So, in other words, we should just stay quiet, submissive, and silent, like the model minority we’ve always been? Let things like Long Duk Dong go on, because any representation is better than no representation? Allow the misappropriation of our heritage because, hey, any publicity is good publicity?

        Example: You state above: “It’s having the same respect for each other’s differing views … they’ve reduced it to a cheap, knock-off, tawdry faux-sian garnish”. With the exception, perhaps, of the guy imitating an Asian-accent mangling the English language, the rest is purely marketing gimmick, humor, etc, and reacting to such is hyper-sensitive at best.
        But it’s not. It’s a persistent pattern throughout the fabric of society, and for those fellow Asian-Americans of mine who’d made the choice to be Christian, to see that kind of ignorant behavior in what should be, to them, a safe venue for them–
        It’s a betrayal.

        Prof. Rah makes numerous references to things such as “White Dominated” or “White church”, etc etc etc. Do you feel that making such references is disrespectful to white people who have no intention of dominating anything, or is that simply fact?
        Are you offended by it? I’m not an expert on the church, but, I’m willing to wager these facts:
        The country is predominantly Caucasian; if not a majority, then a plurality.
        The vast majority of positions of power, from the financial sector, to the academic sector, to the religious arena: the leadership is predominantly Caucasian, is it not?
        The choice of language Prof. Rah used may be unfortunate, since “dominated” has so many other connotations. I have no doubt that the vast majority of white people have little desire to “dominate” others.
        It cannot be denied, though, that some of the denoted meanings still hold quite true.

        (since the entire American Racism issue is rooted in slavery, and is really defined by the slavery issue).
        No, no it’s not. It’s how some people would like it to be defined, because at least then, it’s just black and white. Slavery is wrong. We’re done with that. We all agree it was wrong.
        But it’s overly reductionist, because it doesn’t take into account all the other shades of gray: housing projects, for instance, or the merits and problems of affirmative action, or everyday prejudices.
        And it simplifies a problem that isn’t just monochromatic, since it doesn’t take into account all the other shades of the skin: if it’s just about slavery, the Native Peoples, the Hawaiians, the Latin Americans, and the Asian Americans–well, we have no part.

        Two, it paints WHITE people specifically, since the term is *never* applied to anyone else. You never hear things like “Post Racial Europe” or “Post Racial Asia”.
        1. Europe, last I checked, is white.
        2. Most of Europe and Asia have terrible issues with race, as well. Homogenous societies like Japan and Korea have been known to be xenophobic, to put it politely; Germans aren’t so welcoming to their Turkish minority, the French are rather rude to their North Africans, the British not always polite to their old colonials.

        Lets delve into that a bit more, since it really comes from slavery. Europe held slaves like nobody’s business…oh wait they were white so it doesn’t really count…those evil white people do it all the time.
        Slaves were, and are, still common around the world. Asia’s had quite a bit of slavery since the dawn of time; anybody with any appreciation of history should understand that Caucasians do not have a monopoly on that sin.
        Only the egregiously ignorant and misinformed would continue to think that.

        My belief is that Christians should be above picking out minor issues like this to get excited about, and save that energy for REAL racial problems. Case in point, look at how much time we are wasting today talking about this when we coudl have been doing something FAR more productive for God’s kingdom?
        Then, for example, what real racial problems should we be discussing?

      • jeffcstraka says:

        Matt:
        I highly suggest you exit this discussion. The more you say, the more you are really exposing yourself, buddy, and it ain’t pretty.

  69. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention, Prof. Rah. Overlooking the offenses seems to be a rallying cry for many who disagree with you, but given our commitment to represent Christ, how is it healthy for us to commend this type of marketing in front of those outside the church? It is sad, too, that these young men seem to cultivate an unfortunate insensitivity to others, given the “mancave” promo video on their site. There was further demeaning “manly” vs. “girly” stereotyping in that video. What happened to Phil. 2:3-5, or may we select the others to whom these words apply? How careless we are with words that fail to build up others and give grace to those who hear us! May you have grace and wisdom to impart in any future interactions you have with them, or with Zondervan, and may they have the humility in Christ to hear.

  70. david says:

    @Matt LeClair:
    You say “social justice is a pretty name for Marxism” and the label ‘white’ “is nearly as loaded a word” as ‘black’? Excuse me, come again? Pardon my shock, but I’d be curious where you’re getting those ideas. I’m not surprised that those ideologies exist (clearly they do as you have exemplified here), but I’m wondering how they come into play in this particular conversation about cultural sensitivity and racial stereotypes in a Christian context. I’m always amused at how evidence of racism raised by people of color is quickly dismissed as “playing the race card” or “jumping on a bandwagon”- the idea that somehow “being equal” erases cultural differences or historical (and contemporary) inequities. Again, you suggest that “there can’t actually be any such thing as a cultural difference” if we’re for equality? Huh? Just because my wife wants equal pay for the same work that men do, certainly does not mean that she forgets she is a woman. Let’s come back to reality…

  71. jeffcstraka says:

    Matt:
    I highly suggest you exit this discussion. The more you say, the more you are really exposing yourself, buddy, and it ain’t pretty.

  72. jimmycshaw says:

    And here’s another … promo for christian leadership conference using a “kung-fu” video dubbed by white guys. http://dirtconference.com (scroll down to video section)

    • jimmycshaw says:

      Just received a very gracious email from the folks at the Dirt Conference. The video I mentioned has been removed. I know they meant no harm or offense and I’m happy to say that they are tracking the impact of this conversation along with the rest of us.

      You really should check out their conference at http://dirtconference.com … The lineup they’ve got and the theme their working looks really encouraging.

      Thanks again to the Dirt guys for your response!

  73. [...] is Prof. Soong-Chan Rah’s open letter to the authors and [...]

  74. Matt LeClair says:

    Jeff–
    Yeah I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to comment here anymore as well, though i’m curious to know what you feel i’m exposing myself as (since your statement clearly shows a desire to label me as something, even though you don’t want to say it directly).

    I’m disappointed that people here seem unable to engage in a conversation without immediately labeling. I suspect if I said that I was asian, i would see a different tone directed to me.

    • jeffcstraka says:

      Damn! You did it again, dude!

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Did what?

        You didn’t answer my first question. I’d be more than happy to take the discussion off of this thread and into email so we don’t keep hijacking the original purpose of this particular post. :)

      • Matt LeClair says:

        After re-reading some of my earlier posts, I do feel i need to take a step back and apologize if I was insensitive.
        It’s obviously a hot topic, and while I can’t completely understand why this would be such a big issue (perhaps because i’m “white”), I can certainly accept that it is an issue for others and be more respectful about their feelings.

        I think what got me hot were repeated references to “white” this and “white” that. Understand, while I may be in some ethnic majority, I get discriminated against as well, due to past actions of “white” people. Because of this, I really get annoyed by being stereotyped or lumped into some bucket that assumes that because I’m white, I get privledges, special treatment, or otherwise. Think of how you would feel if your opinions and comments were frequently demeaned or dismissed by non-white people simply because the color of your skin was white.

        Anyways, I’m glad to see that all parties in the original dispute seem to be satisfied with the outcome of their discussion yesterday.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I think what got me hot were repeated references to “white” this and “white” that. Understand, while I may be in some ethnic majority, I get discriminated against as well, due to past actions of “white” people.
        Nobody’s saying you aren’t.

        Because of this, I really get annoyed by being stereotyped or lumped into some bucket that assumes that because I’m white, I get privledges, special treatment, or otherwise.
        Ah, but you do. Not intentionally, mind you; this is where the nasty thing of institutionalized racism comes into play–the hidden, subconscious biases favor some people over others. For instance, there are several well-regarded studies which show that with even, identical resumes, whose only difference is whether the name at the top is a stereotypically African-American name or a stereotypically Caucasian name, the Caucasian resume will get more callbacks at a significantly higher rate.
        Another, non-scientific study from OkCupid, which mined its own data, suggests the same thing happens in the dating world: Caucasians get the highest rates of interest, with other ethnicities’ desirability falling, in some cases, precipitously.
        When it comes to sentencing for crimes–statistics strongly suggest that Caucasians are often given lighter punishments than other minorities.

        “Privilege”, in this case, isn’t the same as someone granting you specific rights that others don’t have. it is nothing you are doing consciously or intentionally. It’s that the unconscious biases in society benefit you and in some cases harm others, whether you want them to or not.

        It’s an uncomfortable topic, yes, because nobody wants to think of themselves having benefited unjustly at the expense of others; nobody wants to think of themselves having accomplished things just because of their skin tone or problematic bonuses.

        Think of how you would feel if your opinions and comments were frequently demeaned or dismissed by non-white people simply because the color of your skin was white.
        Not to put too fine a point on it, but exactly how you did, not too long ago, to many of the people here, dismissing and demeaning their comments simply because they ought not have been offended, at least in your eyes?

      • dewde says:

        Not to put too fine a point on it, but exactly how you did, not too long ago, to many of the people here, dismissing and demeaning their comments simply because they ought not have been offended, at least in your eyes?

        *gulp*

        peace | dewde

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Because of this, I really get annoyed by being stereotyped or lumped into some bucket that assumes that because I’m white, I get privledges, special treatment, or otherwise.
        Ah, but you do. Not intentionally, mind you; this is where the nasty thing of institutionalized racism comes into play–the hidden, subconscious biases favor some people over others. For instance, there are several well-regarded studies which show that with even, identical resumes, whose only difference is whether the name at the top is a stereotypically African-American name or a stereotypically Caucasian name, the Caucasian resume will get more callbacks at a significantly higher rate.
        Another, non-scientific study from OkCupid, which mined its own data, suggests the same thing happens in the dating world: Caucasians get the highest rates of interest, with other ethnicities’ desirability falling, in some cases, precipitously.
        When it comes to sentencing for crimes–statistics strongly suggest that Caucasians are often given lighter punishments than other minorities.

        I’ll disregard the dating/non-scientific study. =) The sentencing issue, I’ve heard similar studies. I’ve also seen studies that disprove that. Don’t forget — statistics is the practice of making the same set of data mean whatever you wish it to mean. I’m not discrediting the study you are referencing (without citation), just saying that you do have to be careful what you read and throw around as truth…especially when it comes to a statistical study (which all studies ARE).

        As far as the resume call-backs study, i suppose that scenario is entirely possible and does happen. Nobody is saying racism is gone from the face of the earth. You’d have to have your head in a sandpit to think that one. :) However, when this sort of thing is thrown around as an issue, it comes across as if it happens all the time, all over the place. Where I work, my boss is Asian, his boss is Asian, the third level up is Hispanic. Parallel to me are numerous people of all kinds of backgrounds, English speaking skills, etc. In fact, in the group I work in, I’m in the barest minority as a white individual. So in my own personal life, I see plenty of evidence to the contrary. Again, I’m not saying that such things don’t happen here and there, just that it’s not a massive “OMG DON’T HIRE THIS GUY HE”S ASIAN/BLACK/CANADIAN/” everywhere you go.

        Furthermore, for someone to tell me that the job I hold, or the salary I make, is merely because I’m white and not because I work my tail off, or spent my time in college learning something, is offensive at best. Again, it’s possible that it happens. It’s also possible that someone with an ethnic background and lower qualifications gets a job over a white person with better qualifications simply because that company wishes to be perceived as “multi-cultural”, or is forced to by affirmative action laws.

        “Privilege”, in this case, isn’t the same as someone granting you specific rights that others don’t have. it is nothing you are doing consciously or intentionally. It’s that the unconscious biases in society benefit you and in some cases harm others, whether you want them to or not.

        Fair enough, though I don’t see how one would combat this entirely. From a Christian standpoint, there shouldn’t be any such behavior though (and this particular discussion point has zero application to the Zondervan issue, imo).

        It’s an uncomfortable topic, yes, because nobody wants to think of themselves having benefited unjustly at the expense of others; nobody wants to think of themselves having accomplished things just because of their skin tone or problematic bonuses.

        Agree. Though to play devil’s advocate, I wonder if non-white people feel uncomfortable about having received a job or university slot due to Affirmative Action-style policies.

        Think of how you would feel if your opinions and comments were frequently demeaned or dismissed by non-white people simply because the color of your skin was white.
        Not to put too fine a point on it, but exactly how you did, not too long ago, to many of the people here, dismissing and demeaning their comments simply because they ought not have been offended, at least in your eyes?

        Apples and oranges. I am disagreeing with some viewpoints based on the arguments and words, *not* because those arguments were presented by somebody who isn’t white. On the other hand, I’m specifically stating that there are times where my own opinion is discredited by a non-white person *because* am I white. “Oh you’re white and priveledged, so you just don’t understand, because you get it all!” It happens. Trust me (or not!).

        By the way, the tone of this discussion is MUCH more along the way that I feel fellow Christians should debate. :)
        I’m enjoying this conversation (and yes, learning some things as well), and I hope you are as well. :)

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I’ll disregard the dating/non-scientific study. =)
        Link. Again, your perogative, but you’re not helping your case any by dismissing it without even reading it–it is, after all, based on the same statistical mathematics you complain about later. The reason why I don’t call it scientific is because the data is from a single, relatively self-selected source (only OKCupid users), instead of a much broader, randomly selected sample.

        The sentencing issue, I’ve heard similar studies. I’ve also seen studies that disprove that.
        I have not seen any of the latter.

        Don’t forget — statistics is the practice of making the same set of data mean whatever you wish it to mean.
        No, no it’s not. This is frequently used as a canard to discredit actual mathematical models. Yes, the results can be twisted and distorted when reported by others, and if the methodology for collecting the data are flawed, than the result is flawed: garbage in, garbage out. That does not mean that statistics is just making numbers say what you want them to say. This is pretty much the same sort of incorrect use of terminology that leads people to think that a scientific theory is the same as a layperson’s “theory”.

        I’m not discrediting the study you are referencing (without citation), just saying that you do have to be careful what you read and throw around as truth…especially when it comes to a statistical study (which all studies ARE).
        Actually, you are, by calling into question the entire field of statistics. The problem with that line of logic-and you make this point-is that most studies have some level of statistics in them. I’m not disagreeing with your call to have some amount of skepticism, but that kind of denigration of a mathematical field borders on anti-intellectualism.

        As far as the resume call-backs study, i suppose that scenario is entirely possible and does happen.
        Link. It’s strongly suggested that it does. There have been no studies to counter this one.

        Where I work, my boss is Asian, his boss is Asian, the third level up is Hispanic. Parallel to me are numerous people of all kinds of backgrounds, English speaking skills, etc. In fact, in the group I work in, I’m in the barest minority as a white individual. So in my own personal life, I see plenty of evidence to the contrary.
        In the group I work in, I’m the only Asian-American, and all of the people we’ve interviewed since I’ve been here have been Caucasian. The office is entirely white to off-white, and I’m the off-white. So in my own personal life, I see plenty of evidence in favor.
        In other words, you should know that anecdotal evidence is completely useless and irrelevant when arguing against statistical results.

        Again, I’m not saying that such things don’t happen here and there, just that it’s not a massive “OMG DON’T HIRE THIS GUY HE”S ASIAN/BLACK/CANADIAN/” everywhere you go.
        And I’m not saying there is. Institutionalized racism is very different from blatant racism. It’s not the blatant avoidance of interviewing someone based on race. It’s more subtle things, like people choosing to sit next to the white guy three seats away on the bus rather than the black guy right next to you, or telling a young Asian-American second-generation immigrant, born here, that he’s so well spoken without a trace of an accent, and then asking him when he’s going back home to Asia. (I’m sure the guy meant no offense.)

        Fair enough, though I don’t see how one would combat this entirely. From a Christian standpoint, there shouldn’t be any such behavior though (and this particular discussion point has zero application to the Zondervan issue, imo).
        From a Christian standpoint, there shouldn’t be a lot of things going on. From what I understand, though, a lot of the Christian standpoint is in theory (not scientific), and then the individual tries to apply those teachings to real life, to how facts on the ground are.
        The facts on the ground are that subtle racism, like the kind we saw with the Deadly Viper scenario, exists, and needs to be pointed out. How is a Christian supposed to deal with it? Well, so far, I’ve seen a few methods:
        1. Prof. Rah’s method, of calling attention to it.
        2. The author’s initial method, which was to be defensive and dismiss it out of hand.
        3. Your method, which seems to very frequently go back to how terrible it is to be white. (I don’t mean to be harsh here, but that seems to be the lens through which many of your arguments are framed.)
        4. The author’s later method, which is to apologize and try to understand where the offended were coming from.
        (I don’t include mine, as I am not Christian myself.)
        I don’t know what the “Christian standpoint” is, honestly, and I don’t much care–I’m willing to accept that there’s as much variation in that as there are people in the faith, each of them trying to apply their beliefs to make the world better.

        Agree. Though to play devil’s advocate, I wonder if non-white people feel uncomfortable about having received a job or university slot due to Affirmative Action-style policies.
        Why don’t you ask? From your tone and from how you’re discussing these matters, it strongly suggests to me that you do not discuss these issues with any of your minority friends; perhaps they don’t wish to talk about it with you, or it’s never come up, who can say? I can guarantee the answers you’ll get from your polling will vary wildly.
        What you’re failing to see, though, is that Affirmative Action has been an attempt (a rather poorly implemented, ham-handed one, in my opinion) to remedy the institutional racism that still benefits Caucasians far more than any other ethnic group in America.

        Apples and oranges. I am disagreeing with some viewpoints based on the arguments and words, *not* because those arguments were presented by somebody who isn’t white. On the other hand, I’m specifically stating that there are times where my own opinion is discredited by a non-white person *because* am I white. “Oh you’re white and priveledged, so you just don’t understand, because you get it all!” It happens. Trust me (or not!).
        First off, nobody here is disregarding your opinion because it’s white. Maybe that happens in real life for you, but it’s irrelevant here, where we wouldn’t have known if you were white or not if you hadn’t brought up the odd notion of “reverse racism”. That sort of baggage is best left at the door. What we’re trying to point out is that often times, things like white privilege are easily missed until they’re pointed out; the reason why were talking about it here is that in the US, most people are still Caucasian, and the country does have a lot of inbuilt white-privilege.

        Were we in Korea, maybe then you could point out the privilege native-borns have over gyopos, who have it better than the minority Chinese, who have it better than the white servicemen, who have it better than the black servicemen… and the like, but that’s not what we’re talking about now, is it? We’re talking about something that is American, specifically something to do with Asian-Americans and non-Asian Americans miscalculating how they could reappropriate Asian and Asian-American culture.

        That said, it’s not apples and oranges. You may think it is, and you may feel that you’re disagreeing with the viewpoints based on arguments and words, but that’s not how it’s coming across:
        -Replying to Irene Cho on November 4, 8:02pm, in her reply to comment #32, you said:
        “I would feel this way if I was as hyper-sensitive about my culture and ethnic background as some of the people posting in this thread.”
        Why is this not different? It reads like: “Oh, you’re Asian-American and hypersensitive, you just don’t understand it’s a joke, you don’t get it at all.”

        -Your comment #62, November 4, 7:52pm
        “Are we all so fragile that we can’t handle another person’s viewpoint differing from our own? As Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek. We are called to love one another. We aren’t called to bicker like this.”
        Why is this not different? It reads like: “Look, you and me, we’re just the same. Can’t you get over this? It’s a difference of opinion, po-tay-to, po-tah-to! He didn’t mean anything by it!”

        -Your reply to Jeffcstraka, comment #72, November 4, 10:34pm
        “If Prof. Rah was truly for racial-equality and/or Social Justice as he has written about previously, then the proper course to take would be to completely ignore the cultural references made by others, because after all, we’re all equal, so there can’t actually be any such thing as a cultural difference.”
        Why is this not different? It reads like: “Look, we’re all one and the same, don’t you get it? Or do you not understand that in Christ we’re all one homongenous, undifferentiated group?”

        -Your reply to me, also in comment #72, November 5, 12:08am
        “My belief is that Christians should be above picking out minor issues like this to get excited about, and save that energy for REAL racial problems. Case in point, look at how much time we are wasting today talking about this when we coudl have been doing something FAR more productive for God’s kingdom?”
        Or, in other words, “You just didn’t get the joke, you don’t understand. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, just get over yourself!”

        -Your comment #78, November 5, 2:25pm
        “I suspect if I said that I was asian, i would see a different tone directed to me.”
        Or, in other words, “They’re not white, they just don’t get what I’m trying to say.”

        -Your reply in comment #78, November 5, 7:00pm
        “Think of how you would feel if your opinions and comments were frequently demeaned or dismissed by non-white people simply because the color of your skin was white.”
        Or, in other words, “You angry Asian-Americans just don’t get it. How would you feel if your opinions and comments were demeaned and dismissed by white people simply because you’re not that important?”

        In each of those cases, you were disregarding the anger and the hurt by saying you didn’t understand it and that it didn’t matter anyway.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Matt, I do hope that I’m not coming across as too strident or too harsh in my replies to you; please know that that is not my intent.

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Marq,

        No, I don’t feel that you are coming across too harsh (maybe a tad strident. ;) )…in any case I strongly believe that many great debates and/or discussions fizzle before anything of actual merit can be said because the parties involved get so wrapped up in the personal aspect of it that they fail to stay open minded to an effective argument.

        To that bent, if i had to judge this conversation as a debate, you are certainly winning it. =) I have even had a couple of eye-opening moments that have allowed me to say “ok I can get that…”. =)

        This is getting incredibly long…feel free to shoot me an email to my junk-mail account “leclairm@hotmail.com” and I’ll forward you along to an account i actually use…it’s making my eyes bleed trying to work in this 10-line-high editing box. :)

        If you don’t wish to, i’ll certainly continue to make attempts to reply in here. :) It’s a good conversation :)

    • Irene Cho says:

      Matt,

      I’ve replied to your response to my statement from Nov 4th, as I wanted to clarify what I meant to say and that I didn’t intend to insinuate anything.

      From this stream, I would like to respond to your statement, “I’m specifically stating that there are times where my own opinion is discredited by a non-white person *because* am I white. “Oh you’re white and privileged, so you just don’t understand, because you get it all!” It happens.”

      It does seem from many of your posts that you’re coming to the table to make everyone aware that this is not a one-sided issue. I don’t disagree with you. I stated in my above reply that we’re all guilty of this and I’m sorry that you’ve encountered being discredited simply because you’re “white”. I had a discussion with a “white” missionary who works in the inner city that expressed confusion, hurt, and frustration the first they heard Soong-Chan speak on the white-colonization that goes on in minority churches/ministries. They basically felt that they were being told that they’re not needed and they have nothing to contribute because they were “white”. It was a really difficult but in the end great conversation in which all parties grew. I don’t discount that their feelings were valid. But in the conversation I pointed out that what they were feeling at that moment was probably the first time they’ve really been able to identify with the very people they were ministering to. Before I expand, let me share a different example. Another friend of mine (who is “white”) shared how she was asked by her black friend, “tell me what it’s like to be white.” She said she had absolutely no answer to give because she didn’t understand that question. Her black friend pointed out to her that, that right there is what white privilege is. Marq explained it very well in his above response. Again, it’s not that my friend is racist (not at all!). It’s that she never had to think about what it meant to be a Caucasian. Whereas her black friend informed her that everyday she wakes up, she knows that she’s black because she’s reminded, told and treated of it. It’s the same for many of us.

      I hope you can take your experience of being discounted in your work place as a reference point to begin to understand that minorities experience that and HAVE experienced that almost every day. And that I think that it’s great. Not great that you’ve been discriminated against or discounted, but great that you can start seeing the world in the eyes and experiences of others. Your experience allows you to to start asking the question of what does it mean to be “white”? You can start understanding that YOU have the choice, at the end of the day when you clock out, to leave your multi-ethnic workplace and rejoin the majority and not think about such things for awhile (“white” privilege). Those of us who are of the minority aren’t allowed that (unless you work in a place that’s homogeneous to your ethnicity but then again, those of us who’re born in the States still experience separation – but that’s a whole other can of worms). We leave and still face discrimination when we go to the market, bookstore, etc. Now I’m lucky – I live in LA. So I’m surrounded by different ethnic groups all the time and work in a place where these things are discussed and talked about. But many of my brothers and sisters share with me that this is not the case in most of the country. Again, I’m not at all condoning racism. I’m just saying that your experience can begin to take you into the sphere of awareness and that’s a good place to be. Your experience can help you be part of the reconciling process. Many, many “white” people are not given such an opportunity. Last sharing – another friend of mine from Indiana (who’s white) shared how he started to realize his own “white” privilege when he began discussing his HS experiences with his adopted sister (Korean) as an adult. He realized that they went to very different high schools (they went to the same high school). He went to a high school in which he was the majority, was in the inner crowd and never ever experienced feelings of being different (ethnically speaking – not that he didn’t experience teenage angst). His sister, on the other hand, went to a high school in which (although she had great friends) was constantly reminded how different she was by most with their certain questions or the way some people acted and looked at her, etc etc.

      So I guess I’m just saying that awareness starts the process and I think that you’ve experienced something rare. And it might have been hurtful, but it can definitely be beneficial. So I hope that through all this dialogue and your experiences, you can bring awareness to your work team of these issues and that you can all begin to start the healing and reconciliation there.

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Irene,

        Very well written and thoughtful — thank you for sharing. =)

        I can see what you mean (to some extent) in your High School example, although I wonder if it’s fair to point out that the school environment is where humans learn how to band together in groups and ostracize or otherwise demean other groups. It may happen along racial lines, it may happen along social grouping lines (band geeks, nerds, jocks, cheerleaders, etc), it may happen on gender lines (boys have cooties! girls have cooties!), etc.

        Oh, and I don’t get to check out at the end of the day either. My wife is Korean, and we have two darling little kids. I get questions from both White and Asian people asking if they are mine…i get questions from both White and Asian people asking if I adopted them…I get served last at Asian restaurants…I get to be the only person at a table full of my family and our friends that is given a fork along with their meal (nevermind that I use chopsticks better than some of my Asian friends who grew up in the USA!!)…my wife is asked by other Asians where she’s from too (White people don’t have a monopoly on this open-mouth-insert-foot faux pas!). I get funny looks from Asians when I go to the market with just my kids, as if they’re wondering who I stole the kids from.

        I feel like I do have some perspective on some of the issues raised above…and I tend to just show a thick skin to such things — i’m confident in who I am and in my status with the Lord, and with those two items, I don’t concern myself with how others view me (for the most part). Maybe I shouldn’t place my own expectations of how I behave onto others…:)

        Matt

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I feel like I do have some perspective on some of the issues raised above…and I tend to just show a thick skin to such things — i’m confident in who I am and in my status with the Lord, and with those two items, I don’t concern myself with how others view me (for the most part). Maybe I shouldn’t place my own expectations of how I behave onto others…:)
        I don’t think it’s so much that–growing up, one has to develop a thick skin just to function in society.

        That said, for me, at least, I tend to get indignant when I see things like that Facebook video go around; as a 2nd generation immigrant, first-born son, I end up having a slight sense of alienation both from the place of my ancestry and America, and yet a strong sense of connection to both. When I do feel like something’s unjustly harshing on either of them, well–it’s only natural to want to push back?

        Oh, and I don’t get to check out at the end of the day either. My wife is Korean, and we have two darling little kids. I get questions from both White and Asian people asking if they are mine…i get questions from both White and Asian people asking if I adopted them…I get served last at Asian restaurants…I get to be the only person at a table full of my family and our friends that is given a fork along with their meal (nevermind that I use chopsticks better than some of my Asian friends who grew up in the USA!!)…my wife is asked by other Asians where she’s from too (White people don’t have a monopoly on this open-mouth-insert-foot faux pas!). I get funny looks from Asians when I go to the market with just my kids, as if they’re wondering who I stole the kids from.
        Actually, it’s amusing to me that you have these examples–these are actually perfect for helping to elucidate the concept of privilege. In the microcosm of Korean restaurants, and even other Asian ones, I do get a sort of privilege. It’s completely unconscious, but I find that the staff is generally more attentive to me, doesn’t assume that I need forks, makes the food spicier, and the like. It’s not that they don’t value you as a customer any less than they value me; it’s that because in that world, I’m part of the majority, a lot of things that you need to specify, I end up taking for granted.
        It’s often brought more to light, too, when I go with different groups; with my Asian-American friends, the servers don’t automatically zoom in on me, expecting me to order and help them run the table; with my Caucasian friends, I’m the one both the servers and my friends end up mediating between.

      • dewde says:

        Irene, Matt, Marq:

        I just grew a little. OK, maybe more than a little. Thank you all for that.

        I could relate to what Matt wrote about being confident in himself and developing thick skin. I could relate to doing it, because I have, and I could relate to expecting others to do it also. I went to an inner city high school in South Georgia where white kids were in the stark minority (I wrote about some of that on Inauguration Day of this year: http://bit.ly/U3P0P ). I spent 4 years in England and I’ve even lived in Korea twice (albeit briefly).

        All of this is true and yet, because of these conversations here, I can say with certainty that it is impossible for me to “get what the big deal is”. I’d have to live as an Asian American, all the way, 100 percent, in order to ever, truly, “get it.”

        In the absence of getting it, instead, I choose to believe what I have been reading from earnest, consistent, patient, and compassionate Asian bloggers and commenters. Like Eugene Cho, his commenters, and of course all y’all here willing to “debate” in a public forum so that lurkers like me could benefit.

        peace | dewde

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Dewde/Marq,

        Thanks for your comments. I think Dewde sums up nicely what the take-away from this entire discussion should be (at least for those of us participating in the discussion. ;), and I have taken it to heart.

        Marq,
        You actually made sense to me in pointing out what might often by meant by others when they squawk about “White-Priveledge” using my own experiences with my non-white wife. =)

        In the end, I still feel like people tend to over-react about such things (and in doing so, continue to perpetrate racial issues, in some cases (not saying in this case)), but I think that I can view such situations with a bit more understanding now. Complete understanding? Probably never, as Dewde points out…but more than when we started this discussion? Certainly. :)

        To everyone else, I would like to point out to you all that if you can set aside your knee-jerk personal reactions (which are understandable) when somebody says somethign you disagree with (meaning me), and engage in an actual discussion without attacking that person, you really can accomplish changes in their viewpoints (again, meaning me!!!). You accomplish MUCH more by debating in love and clarity rather than dismissing others because they can’t possibly understand, or because they’re white, or priveledged, or whatever.
        I am proof that people *can* change their viewpoint. :)

        God Bless, everyone. :)
        I thorougly enjoyed this debate, and actually learned something (and changed my viewpoint some)…which is the entire POINT of a debate.

  75. jeffcstraka says:

    Update on Deadly Viper Blog entitled “Towards Reconciliation”:

    http://www.deadlyviper.org/blog/?p=1975

  76. [...] Asian American leaders (Cho and Rah) asked for apologies. Edward Gilbreath also offers clarity and empathy. At first one of the makers [...]

  77. Chad P says:

    Professor Rah,
    Although I have not read the children’s book mentioned in your blog, I most certainly agree with many of your conclusions and how it offends Chinese and Japanese heritages along with all those who practice the art of Kung Fu. I especially appreciate your point that the “kung-fu/asian” content of this material adds nothing to the actual vibrancy of pursuing character. It is sad to see the state of the church and how the canonical story of redemption is not enough for our children. One thing however, troubles me with the nature or your emails and even your recent book that highlights this current subject throughout. In regards to character and how one practices it, the nature of your tone leads one to believe (at least me) that you are ungentle, condescending, and self righteous. I’m speaking as a white person who agrees with your message, yet, because of the nature of your tone and the complete lack of objectivity, it rubs me, and I’m sure many others, the wrong way. As you allude to in this blog, when it comes to marketing, we should never let our character falter so as to promote our material. In my judgment, which I acknowledge could be wrong, I fear that your abrasive tone is a marketing tactic to draw attention to your message. In reality, I believe you are doing the same thing which you accuse the writers of this book, in that, your message has taken precedent over your character. As you work on your tone, I truly believe your message and ministry will greatly enhance the dialogue you are trying to achieve, especially with white brothers and sisters. Until that changes, I fear that your tone will drive many away. Thanks for your work and your ear. I pray that the church is sharpened in every way through this dialogue…or rather, tirade.

    • profrah says:

      Chad, Thanks for your comments. I believe we know each other. (If it’s the same Chad I’m thinking about, then very directly). We’ve met on a number of occasions. Do I strike you as an unreasonable person? Would our mutual friends say that I am an unreasonable person? I’m wondering if there is a serious misunderstanding of my tone on your part? (For example, on a blog post, it’s very hard to tell if I’m raising my voice in the previous three questions — I’m not. If we were in person, there would be a smile, a hand on the shoulder, even a wink :). Which obviously does not translate in the written form. I’m just raising the question. For example, if Shane Claibourne or Bart Campolo said the same things as I have (and in fact, I know that they have), would you say that there is a problem with their tone? I wonder in our attempt to be prophetic, do we have to dilute our passion? Again, I am hearing what you are saying, but I’m pushing back a bit to help us think through our expectations of one another.

      I do understand where you are coming from, but I do feel the need to balance your statement with those in the Asian-American community who affirm that I am speaking out in a manner that may be uncharacteristic of Asian-Americans but may be appropriate given the circumstances.

    • dewde says:

      Chad:

      Only Asian American Christians are permitted to critique the appropriateness of a response by an Asian American Christian that feels victimized. If anyone else does it, then it only compounds hurt and victimization.

      You and I can wish that this wasn’t true, but it is. As white Christians (a term I have never used until this week) we ultimately have a choice to make here. We can either focus on bettering ourselves or we can exacerbate the problem.

      I’ve heard many Christian leaders remark about how much they respect Professor Rah as a Christian leader. Therefore, I trust that he has people in his life that hold him accountable like all Christian leaders do.

      A realization I arrived at (all too slowly as usual for me) was that this isn’t *my* responsibility.

      peace | dewde

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Only Asian American Christians are permitted to critique the appropriateness of a response by an Asian American Christian that feels victimized. If anyone else does it, then it only compounds hurt and victimization.

        Um…if Asian American Christians (this term irritates me just as much as White Christans — aren’t we all just Christians!?!) truly believe this, then they are participating in the same type of disrespect that Professor Rah is requesting to be addressed by the Zondervan folks! They are disrespecting equally valid opinions of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because of the color of a White Christian’s skin.

        I’m not saying that both “groups” might differ in their opinion, but to preclude any discussion simply because one group is Color X and another group is Color Y?

      • Matt, God created diversity. All diversity – in gender, in race, in experiences, in climate (!!) – affects how we perceive the reality we live within. Unless each of us have lived as a minority race, or a minority in language, or in position of lesser power, we really cannot “know” what Asian-Americans or African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans experience. Our experiences and knowledge are limited to our individual bodies and our individualized, unique experiences. To speak theologically, 1 Cor. 12 is about the need for the Body of Christ to honor one another’s diverse gifting, as from the Lord. You cannot know what it means to be an Asian-American, just as you cannot know what it means to be a woman. You may analogize your experience as a minority white in your workplace to try to gain an understanding of their experiences, but a minority is a minority everywhere, with only the home or the neighborhood, or the workplace as a component of life. Their experience and feelings don’t constitute an “opinion”, but your perception of their experience is an opinion! Your perception cannot be based in what they know through their bodily experiences. Biblically, wisdom is not head-information or intellect or thoughts, it’s bodily grounded.

        I have had the privilege of being the only Caucasian working among African-Americans. When I was interviewed, they asked me if I had any problems working with minorities. I said, “no, I just left Africa a month ago, and being a minority was eye-opening, even though I was brought up by a parent who marched with MLK, Jr., and had Asians and Africans living in my home the whole time I was growing up.”

        Your comments seem to me incredibly unknowledgeable and naive, and this tends to come across as presumption or arrogance (in my view). Dewde pointed out, aptly, our ignorance can exacerbate others’ sense of alienation, or our fellowship with them affirms us together as worthy of honor in the Body of fellow Christians.

        Please hear these brothers and sisters in Christ, and receive their correction unto life and reconciliation for the sake of the whole Body. You don’t and can’t know what they know, so please join us in prayer and advocacy for them and with them.

      • sorry, the html turn off tag got deleted in my editing somehow! I’m not that bold. :)

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Haha, yeah i was thinking, wow she’s really emphatic about that point! :)

        Your post is well written, and I don’t really disagree with any of the points that you make, and I can even accept your perception of me as unknowledgable and/or naive. Perhaps I am. I apologize if you really do feel that way about the way I have come across. I tend to feel that people should assume the best about another person and chalk up initial perceptions to miscommunication (especially in a forum where we cannot actually speak face to face, show facial expression, body language, etc. As we all know, writing the phrase “you are a moron” looks pretty harsh…however if it was in person, tone, expression, and a dozen other unquantifiable factors would help us to understand taht the person is joking, or being friendly, or maybe really being harsh!).

        I have a question for you. These are quotes from Professor Rah’s book “The Next Evangelicalism”.

        “So there I was, sitting in another workshop led by yet another blonde-haired, perpetually twenty-nine, white male with a goatee…”

        Wow, that’s mildly stereotypical, and could be considered offensive by some white people.
        But maybe that was isolated…though I still don’t understand why he felt the need to obviously describe the person as a white person, when what he actually disagrees with is that person’s point of view.

        In response to why he was silent during a panel discussion (he was a MEMBER of the panel), Rah stated:
        “White people talking to other white people about a problem white people created in the first place — why would I care about that conversation?”

        Wow, I don’t have to think about that one at all — that IS offensive, and smacks strongly of a superior attitude. Regardless of the underlying issue he’s TRYING to speak to (which is a valid issue that should be addressed by today’s Church), his wording and racial slur of white folks is counter-productive at best. (And to top it all off, he DOES care about the problem — his entire premise is that the current church needs to pay more attention to the non-whites that are in it, yet he pawns this one off as a problem for white people to deal with!?)

        So here’s my question:
        Given my feelings (stated above) about these two quotes, how do you feel that I should respond to Professor Rah?
        (Note, my own personal view that I just let it lie and stay focused on the Lord rather than creating an issue out of it).

      • Matt, it’s interesting to me that you find those 2 quotes from Rah’s book offensive. [I write strictly from my POV, and don't pretend to be able to speak for Rah.] The offense seems to be taken by you, rather than given by Rah. I hear a description of the speaker in the 1st quote; I certainly don’t hear any offensiveness. I don’t have the context of that description, but given the subject matter of the book, and what I believe about our personal abilities to know another’s journey, it is presumptuous for any person from a position of power, privilege and majority status to speak to the situation of those who are poor, minority, disenfranchised by race, ethnicity, education, opportunity, language or economics as if that speaker knew that situation.

        I am keenly aware as I write here that my brothers and sisters in Christ who are Asian-American, or African-American, or who have experienced oppression of any type, may disagree with my assessment. I pray that they give me grace (as they have given you – just in case you didn’t notice!). I also hope they gently teach me where I’m off-kilter. At best, when speaking on behalf of another, I can ensure in Christ that my attitude is humble, graceful and always seeking the others’ input.

        I come from an intensely academic heritage and training. All too often, academics pretend to be authorities based on head knowledge, information, studies and reading books. (They are taught according to our educational model that makes that pretending the norm, the standard and the goal, and they may not even recognize the pretense.) Does it not seem as bizarre to you, as it does to me, that they don’t turn to their neighbor and say, “you know this, would you please teach me?” It is much easier for us to read information in books than it is for us to sit next to people who don’t look like us, don’t have the same body odor, don’t share our accent, our food preferences, our hair, or our education. We believe this fable that a higher academic degree or credential makes us above that human need. NOT!

        Because I pass an academic test doesn’t qualify me to love others, to know their hearts, to have the privilege to walk with them.

        My gut response to those 2 quotes is compassion, anger at those experiences and people who’ve elicited Rah’s sense of disconnections within those contexts, and the urge to advocate for change. I’ve frequently had my voice dismissed simply because I’m female, so I have some ability to empathize as well as analogize. Contrary to your reading of Rah as being superior, I hear him as observing how superior the whites he’s surrounded with seem to be and are probably unconscious of being. If these whites are talking about race relations, why are they not soliciting his perceptions and those of other minorities? By dint of being white, educated, and privileged by majority status, we simply are not connected to the knowledge of non-white, less-educated, less-privileged. We need to put ourselves in the humble position of learning their pain, their hearts, and their humanity with us. We need to sit at their feet, not they at ours. This, it seems to me, is exactly what our God did for us in Jesus Christ. He “…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

        So, because we paler-skinned Americans are still the majority and the ones in power within this nation, the paler-skinned Americans are called “in Christ” to die to the power in our paleness and to honor and serve those who are not privileged and given as much authority in the world (cf. 1 Cor. 9). “Listen, my brothers and sisters, has God not chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and the heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2)

        I hope you sit at their feet with us, Matt. Their faith in God may well surpass most of what you will find in any white suburban church.

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Matt, it’s interesting to me that you find those 2 quotes from Rah’s book offensive. [I write strictly from my POV, and don't pretend to be able to speak for Rah.] The offense seems to be taken by you, rather than given by Rah. I hear a description of the speaker in the 1st quote; I certainly don’t hear any offensiveness. I don’t have the context of that description, but given the subject matter of the book, and what I believe about our personal abilities to know another’s journey, it is presumptuous for any person from a position of power, privilege and majority status to speak to the situation of those who are poor, minority, disenfranchised by race, ethnicity, education, opportunity, language or economics as if that speaker knew that situation.

        Precisely my point! The standard of offense as given to me by others above is in the eye of the beholder, *not* in any sort of mutual understanding between two parties. Neither does it seem to be rooted in any sort of benefit of the doubt given to the offender. There is plenty of extro-vision that analyzes “what was done to me”, and zero intro-vision that analyzes “should I even care? am I being too sensitive?” Perhaps the answer is that no a person is not in a certain case, and yes in others. Again, I’d like to note that I choose not to take actual offense at the words I quoted above, yet I am sure that others could certainly do so, and have *equal* footing in their offense as the offense presented to Zondervan by Professor Rah. Both issues arise from the same basic premise — X said/did/wrote something and Y feels offended by it, regardless of intent.

        I come from an intensely academic heritage and training. All too often, academics pretend to be authorities based on head knowledge, information, studies and reading books. (They are taught according to our educational model that makes that pretending the norm, the standard and the goal, and they may not even recognize the pretense.) Does it not seem as bizarre to you, as it does to me, that they don’t turn to their neighbor and say, “you know this, would you please teach me?” It is much easier for us to read information in books than it is for us to sit next to people who don’t look like us, don’t have the same body odor, don’t share our accent, our food preferences, our hair, or our education. We believe this fable that a higher academic degree or credential makes us above that human need. NOT!

        Completely agree!

        So, because we paler-skinned Americans are still the majority and the ones in power within this nation, the paler-skinned Americans are called “in Christ” to die to the power in our paleness and to honor and serve those who are not privileged and given as much authority in the world (cf. 1 Cor. 9). “Listen, my brothers and sisters, has God not chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and the heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2)

        I hope you sit at their feet with us, Matt. Their faith in God may well surpass most of what you will find in any white suburban church.

        Entirely possible (on the issue of faith and suburban churches). I do not believe that as Christians we should be worrying about such distinctions though. Talk about a major distraction! The verses you cite above refer to Jesus commanding us to serve each other and be humble. We are called to sit at each other’s feet, serve each other, edify one another, and grow together in Christ (yes, that’s smashing together a couple of verses, but i think you get the idea).

        Are “White” churches good at this? I certainly don’t think so (which is why I try to stay away from “dead” churches), but it’s unfair to apply the “white” moniker across the board. Are “fully ethnic” churches (like the all Korean church a couple of blocks from my house…if it didn’t have a Cross on the front, any non-Korean wouldnt’ even know it was a church!) good at this? They probably aren’t either, just like the white churching doing the same thing (failing to be multi-cultural). Frankly, we fail to recognize a SIGNIFICANT truth here…the church is not a building or the specific group of people that you worship with. The church is literally the body of Christ — that is, it is the overall collection of individuals who are Christians in truth. We all get SOOOO caught up in who attends where, whether the music is boring, exciting, or whatever, whether the format is too “white” or the lack of format is too “post-modern/emergent”, etc. We get SOO nitpicky about the human details taht we lose all sight of the entire purpose of the church — JESUS CHRIST! Rather than coming together on the commonality we all share in Him, we fly apart over trivial matters of the flesh.

        Wow, ok now I’m getting all academic. :)

        If you would like to continue, i’ll submit the same as I did for Marq…shoot me an email at leclairm@hotmail.com…email is so much easier to do long replies in! :)

        Matt

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Are “White” churches good at this? I certainly don’t think so (which is why I try to stay away from “dead” churches), but it’s unfair to apply the “white” moniker across the board. Are “fully ethnic” churches (like the all Korean church a couple of blocks from my house…if it didn’t have a Cross on the front, any non-Korean wouldnt’ even know it was a church!) good at this? They probably aren’t either, just like the white churching doing the same thing (failing to be multi-cultural).
        I will say that when I was much younger and went to Mass with my family, we went to an almost entirely white church; as I got older, I’d occasionally feel like the token–not because of anything they did, but because my was the only off-white family. We did try Korean churches for a while, but I didn’t like them all that much; there was too much a sense of exclusivity, which, at the time, was more due to the cliques that invariably arise with teenagers. (Their more conservative bent didn’t help either, but.)

      • Matt, I don’t really have anything else to add. From my perspective, a paradigm shift or a reorientation might be helpful for you to hear what a number of folks have been saying.

        In a nutshell, it seems that you think you see a speck in Prof Rah’s eye. You’ve focused on that speck. It’s really real to you. You seem to have the perception that only you can see it, and you’ve pointed at it over and over again.

        What others and I have said is that we, whites/ Caucasians/ lighter-brown folk, have logs in our (individual or corporate, literally [Zondervan]) eyes. The only way that any less-empowered person/group will know that greater-powered person/group is committed to be their brothers and sisters in Christ is if we publicly confess and openly take the logs out of our eyes. (We sin when we refuse to recognize that the worldly systems that benefit certain privileged groups also harm others.) Then, and only then, may we get close enough to love and be received as brothers and sisters, united in Christ. Perhaps, once we are that close, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may earn the trust to speak and act gently and tenderly enough to remove any speck that may truly be in the eye of the one who is now our brother or sister and ask them to help us with specks they see remaining in our eyes.

        Let us remove our own logs, and mature in Christ so that our love may be perfected so that we may trust each other with whatever specks may remain. If any of us won’t deal with our own logs, however, we can’t expect any others to allow us close to them. I hope you perceive how graciously and tenderly people have treated you. May your family not be as hurt by racism and stereotyping as so many of these commenters have been.

  78. [...] and insensitive ways. It was obviously offensive, and a number of us in the Christian community pointed out that offense and asked for an apology. I fully affirm that an apology was needed to my Asian [...]

  79. [...] and insensitive ways.  It was obviously offensive, and a number of us in the Christian community pointed out that offense and asked for an apology.  I fully affirm that an apology was needed to my Asian [...]

  80. [...] Jud Wilhite, Mike Foster this little book had so much cool potential, but has understandably caused quite a stir among asian american christians (and others). it gave me flashbacks to the skits that teach [...]

  81. Babies Cry Less. says:

    You want us to me multi-cultural but when we get it a little wrong you throw a fit.

    Sorry this jewish white guy isn’t apologizing anymore. I’m not sorry your offended by a sub culture propagated by your own people. I’m not sorry your offended by my pop culture interest and love for anime, manga, kung foo movies, ninjas, video games with flying stars, chinese knick knacks, bonsai trees, samurai swords, sushi, kanji, karate kicks to the head, mauy thai, top ramen, buying figurines from Little Tokyo, chinese cookies, and wa taaaaaaa hai yaaaaaaaa HAAAA DOOOOOKEN!!!!!!!! Tiger Uppercut!!!!!

    This is America jack, joe, francisco, pablo, sigfried, wong, chong, kinte, yoshiro, rudvich, vladimir, radislov, yurial, amos, shlomo, etc. etc. etc. this is how we do it. Its not China, its not Japan, its definitely not europe. This is our American culture, we come here from many different places to become one, E Plurubus Unum, people bring their food, their dances, their ways, their culture, we take from the world, and we make it our own, we mix it up, we mash it together, and we make it fun, entertaining, and look damn cool. We make it AMERICAN.

    Join the party, or go back to your beloved land. When your here you’re ameircan. We aint perfect, but were trying, and this is the only place that is gonna take you with open arms, and where you become part of the party no matter your background. We’ve had some ugly history with racism, it was dumb, it happened, get over it, move on, take up the mantra, we’re all men, we’re all brothers, we’re all created equal.

    So stop with the sensitivity. You’re Americans first, asian is just the wrapping paper you come in. If you want to be asian, go be asian in asia. You want “white boys” to get your culture right, go to where the culture originates. These white boys are God fearing people loving Americans who did the American thing and took something they thought was cool, awesome, and intriguing and used it in their american way to teach some people. All your racial sensitivity does is continue the segregation and separation that is a weakness for this country. Stop being Asians first, and start being Americans first who happen to have ancestors from Asia. No one cares. Get over yourselves.

    Your people tend to be short, so do mine, your people like food, so do mine, your people had some awesome wars, so did mine, your people made cool art, built cool buildings, so did mine. Then one day your people decided to come to this great experiment called the United States, the only country where the foundation was built on God’s truth, E Plurubus Unum, From Many, One. That is us, from many, one in christ. Bring your culture, hopefully with food, and I will bring mine, we can enjoy each others, we can laugh at each other and we can embrace each other. Its a lot easier when you don’t come with a chip on your shoulder, when you bump into people it usually falls off and you get pissed, Instead come with the chip in the bowl and bring your favorite Chinese dip, and I will bring my favorite Jewish dip and we can laugh at how my people tend to have big noses, and how we all talk a little funny, look a little silly, and love the same things: Life, liberty, and the right to pursue happiness.

    If I offended you, get over yourself, the narcissist is the one who takes offense when the intent was never malicious. This liberal narcissistic childish self absorbed Christianity is nauseating. Little children find things to be offended about, its time to stop being so childish, grow up, get over ourselves, and be adults. Crying is for babies.

    • profrah says:

      I am allowing this response to be posted because it reveals the level of ignorance we are forced to deal with. I pray that this perspective does not reveal the breadth of evangelical Christianity. I ask the question: “Is the posting above a good example of Christian witness?” And how much do stereotypes and insensitivity by Christian leaders and publishers feed into this type of thinking exemplified above.

      • Matt K says:

        He does claim to be Jewish, not an evangelical Christian. Just a “troll” (internet speak for someone with no stake in the conversation who enjoys riling people up) with too much time on his hands. I wouldn’t connect his comments with the folks at Zondervan, YS, or Lifeway to any degree.

      • Babies Cry Less. says:

        You don’t laugh much do you?

        Please share with me oh enlightened sensai, where does my ignorance life Profrah-son.

        I’ll go eat a bagel while I await a response from your high and mighty edumicated smartsy head.

      • It is wild… He took up a lot of time doing this. Must have nothing better to do. We’re with you, Prof… Keep at it.

        White Guy in Oklahoma. :)

      • nicole poirier says:

        I agree with Matt. There is another question though. Dr. Rah, you already know me and know that I stand with you on this issue. I’m wondering though, how is the issue of racial righteousness related to the issue of religious sensitivity? i.e., it’s getting harder and harder for young kids to live out their faith in school for fear of offending a handful of students that actively practice a different faith. If white america receives this more as racial sensitivity and political correctness rather than reconciliation and a foreshadowing of Rev 7:9ff, are we fighting the battle the best way? Or are we inadvertently causing more problems for ourselves in other arenas?

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I’m wondering though, how is the issue of racial righteousness related to the issue of religious sensitivity?
        Personally, I’d think they’re related.

        i.e., it’s getting harder and harder for young kids to live out their faith in school for fear of offending a handful of students that actively practice a different faith.
        This, I will disagree in. I was in the trenches when this first cropped up in the media, being a high schooler. I was in one of the more liberal counties, DeKalb, of metro Atlanta. I can assure you that the Christian students had no problems meeting, that nobody ever bothered them or slandered them, that they were as free to practice as they would. This was, of course, in the late 90s, but my brother’s experience at the same school in the 00s seems to have been similar–and he actually went to some of those meetings.

        Now, if you’re talking about the level of temptation kids have these days that are making it hard for them to stay with whatever faith they have, well, that has probably gotten worse–but that also has almost nothing to do with religious sensitivity; the same proscriptions the Christian church has on certain behaviors, you’ll find are in the other Abrahamic faiths and in the Eastern traditions as well.

        As far as sensitivity goes, I do think there are ways of bringing up religion without offending people. Unfortunately, and having been a teenager once and having seen my brother go through it as well, I’m fairly certain that most of us at that age come across as arrogant, idiotic, preening, tactless fools. They have the innocent cruelty of little children, the vocabulary of adults, and just enough education to make us cocky but not enough to know that we’re still ignorant, and well, that’s just a bad mix, so.

        That said, however, it’s the knowledge that’s the key. Knowing and educating oneself about the different religions, the different cultures, will necessarily make one’s approach to them a lot less offensive–one won’t be basing their words off of stereotypes, they’ll know where to draw the commonalities in thought. They’ll know when to push and when not to, and generally become a lot more sensitive to other cultures and faiths.

        If white america receives this more as racial sensitivity and political correctness rather than reconciliation and a foreshadowing of Rev 7:9ff, are we fighting the battle the best way? Or are we inadvertently causing more problems for ourselves in other arenas?
        I will confess to not knowing Rev 7:9?

    • Dan Wheeler says:

      In response to Babies Cry Less, I would simply like to say that as Christians our identity first and foremost is in Christ. I am a child of God. My being an American is a sub-identity to my Christian identity. Because of that, I am called to live a life that lives out that identity which means that I have a higher responsibility to my words and actions toward others no matter what my ethnicity is. If one of my brothers or sisters in Christ, or any other person for that matter, is denigrated and hurt by my actions or words, it is my responsibility to reconcile with them. This responsibility is not an option–it’s not “if” I am to love my neighbor and love God; it is to be done period. That is not to say I am perfect at it; I am in the process of growing in my faith and life. If we all lived more honestly and lovingly with each other, who knows what God could do through His church. Thanks Soong-Chan and the authors of Deadly Vipers for allowing this to be an open and public demonstration of striving toward reconciliation.

  82. Amy Moffitt says:

    Honestly, Professor Rah, I don’t think I’d waste any more time. Definitely a troll, not a serious commenter.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      I will agree that it seems like a troll.

      That said, depending on the version of WordPress, it should have logged that IP. You can do some investigative work, if you really wanted to, but he doesn’t seem to be worth the time?

      Of course, he’s not the only nut out there, as this guy points out, about a blogger named Pat.

    • dewde says:

      Amy and Marq:

      When you write off BabiesCryLess entirely, you are (inadvertently?) writing off people who feel similarly but are considerate enough not to say so in such a divisive manner. I am more sensitive about this stuff than I was before all this happened. And I’m thankful. And while I don’t appreciate BabiesCryLess’s disrespectful and abrasive tone, much of what he/she said resonated with me. I’m not saying that to be hurtful. I’m saying what is true because I feel that this has been a fruitful dialog so far.

      BabiesCryLess:

      If you’re here to speak your peace, you know, so that you can feel better, then you’re probably doing everything perfectly. If you’re here to educate, you’re letting your words stand in the way of what you have to say.

      peace | dewde

      • Amy Moffitt says:

        Dewde, I appreciate your perspective and applaud your desire to think the best of him, but I honestly think this guy is here just to stir things up, not to add a legitimate voice to the argument.

      • Irene Cho says:

        I agree with you and feel that no one’s argument or push back has been written off. But I also feel like this is the first commenter that’s brought the tone of mockery to this discussion. Everyone’s been respectful (IMO), even in the midst of their passionate arguments.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        When you write off BabiesCryLess entirely, you are (inadvertently?) writing off people who feel similarly but are considerate enough not to say so in such a divisive manner. I am more sensitive about this stuff than I was before all this happened. And I’m thankful. And while I don’t appreciate BabiesCryLess’s disrespectful and abrasive tone,
        Dewde, you have a point, and I’m not trying to be hypocritical with what I’ve argued in this thread or in the past.

        I’m still trying to gauge whether I think he’s a serious poster or not, but my initial gut reaction is that he’s a troll, given his posts thus far? The reason why I think this is because of posts like this:
        You don’t laugh much do you?
        Please share with me oh enlightened sensai, where does my ignorance life Profrah-son.
        I’ll go eat a bagel while I await a response from your high and mighty edumicated smartsy head.

        It strongly suggests that he’s trying to be funny while being dismissive (“don’t laugh much…”), with the deliberate misspellings (“sensai”, “-son”), conflation of cultures (Prof. Rah isn’t Japanese), amping up his own (“bagel”). He’s trying to get a rise with the handle he’s chosen. His original post was too forced, in a sense, to really ring true; it reads almost like a “satirical” screed that fails on the satire part.

        I mean, I’ll revisit that gut reaction if it does turn out he’s a serious poster, but for the moment…

        much of what he/she said resonated with me. I’m not saying that to be hurtful. I’m saying what is true because I feel that this has been a fruitful dialog so far.
        I know you’re not. And there are gems in what he’s said: in this country, we are all American, out of many we are one. But to say that we can’t be Asian here is tantamount to telling us that we’re only half a person here, maybe less. I don’t mean in terms of rights, or liberties, or anything, but of the basic constitution of who we are.

        I can only speak to the experience of being a 2nd gen immigrant; I’m ethnically full-blooded Korean. I was, however, born and raised here. I am, to paraphrase Amy Tan, the son that grew up drinking more Coca-Cola than sorrow (or Han, for that matter). What ties I have to Korea are, at best, attenuated.

        To tell me that I can’t cherish what little of that ancestry I can still clutch, that I should dispose of it because I’m American and shouldn’t care where I came from? It’s like asking me to excise part of myself. This is not to say that my ethnicity is the fundamental part of my identity; it is to say that when some people can point their heritage back to when their ancestors disembarked from the Mayflower, I can point back to the flight my mother took to get here, with the layover in Honolulu. I can point back to the city where my grandmother was born, where my grandfather fought for the independence of his country, one that he later wanted to model after America.

        We are not born isolated.

      • dewde says:

        I composed my response before I read this part:

        “You don’t laugh much do you?
        Please share with me oh enlightened sensai, where does my ignorance life Profrah-son.
        I’ll go eat a bagel while I await a response from your high and mighty edumicated smartsy head.”

        That was flat-out classic trolling. Agreed. Sorry about that, I completely missed it. Also, I don’t believe that anyone should be expected to dismiss their own heritage or culture, or that they should not be able to regard their heritage as sacred.

        Clearly I am not going to change how I think about all this entirely, in the span of a week, and in a single blog post. Belief is rarely a light switch for me, and more often resembles the application of paint. The more coats applied, the better the result.

        But I am committed to not being defensive about this issue, listening more than speaking, and believing my fellow Americans (Asian and otherwise) when they bring a felt hurt to my attention.

        peace | dewde

      • Matt LeClair says:

        To tell me that I can’t cherish what little of that ancestry I can still clutch, that I should dispose of it because I’m American and shouldn’t care where I came from? It’s like asking me to excise part of myself. This is not to say that my ethnicity is the fundamental part of my identity; it is to say that when some people can point their heritage back to when their ancestors disembarked from the Mayflower, I can point back to the flight my mother took to get here, with the layover in Honolulu. I can point back to the city where my grandmother was born, where my grandfather fought for the independence of his country, one that he later wanted to model after America.

        Hey, we get to re-open this discussion, lol! =)

        Whether that person above is trolling or not, as Dewde stated originally, he does express some nuggets of truth, regardless of their packaging. To dismiss everything out of hand simply because one doesn’t like the presentation isn’t the right way to go, though understandable in the reaction to it. :)

        In any case, nobody is stating (well, maybe the troll?) that you need to abandon your heritage. Having that heritage is what makes America such an interesting place — everybody has something different going on in their background. What we’re attempting to say is that heritage is a great thing to have, but you should strive to identify as an American if you truly want to live here and be a part of this nation. It’s not for somebody from the outside to come to America and impose their culture on Americans but rather to embrace the American culture as much as they can (i know, much harder in practice!).

        You also raise something interesting that I hadnt’ really thought about before, until you mentioned your own shortened ethnic heritage. Perhaps one of hte reasons that Americans tend to ignore or “disrespect” other cultures is because our own roots lie in departing from our original culture in pursuit of something newer and better….and when others follow in similar footsteps but then rail against us for some perception of dishonor or disrepect that we just can’t see, it confuses those people because their own path was so similar! They think “we left our culture to come here and be Americans, why can’t you?”…and even now, 200 years into this experiment of a country, I suspect that sort of mindset still prevails…it is seldom something driven by true animosity…

      • Matt LeClair says:

        I wanted to extract this particular quote from our rough-around-the-edges friend up there, as while his presentation isn’t very polished, he has a good point:

        These white boys are God fearing people loving Americans who did the American thing and took something they thought was cool, awesome, and intriguing and used it in their american way to teach some people. All your racial sensitivity does is continue the segregation and separation that is a weakness for this country. Stop being Asians first, and start being Americans first who happen to have ancestors from Asia.

        One of the things that rubbed me the wrong way with this particular issue (the Zondervan/Rah issue, in case any of us have forgotten at thsi stage of this blog post!!) was that I felt like there was no attempt at understanding the authors’ intent or purpose. There was no attempt at “respecting” American culture, which frankly, our troll did a pretty decent job of describing. And when it was pointed out that the authors’ probably didn’t mean any perceived slights intentionally, that was merely dismissed due to ignorance on the part of the authors.

        Here’s another interesting thought. Let’s accept that Professor Rah is correct, that the authors’ use of Asian imagery deeply hurt many Asian Christians sensibilities in regards to their EARTHLY cultural background. Continue that with the already in-progress removal of such imagery from their materials. Now consider that as stated above, Americans tend to view interesting cultural references such as ninjas, karate, etc as “cool and awesome”, and may have been more inclined to purchase the Zondervan material and actually learn something about God. Now that the marketing gimmick (yes, that’s what it is…) has been removed and replaced with something else, will they still sell as much and impact as many people?

        So while I can understand the argument that as Christians, we should be extra careful about being respectful to our brethren, at the same time, as Christians, should we place our own cultural sensitivity in front of a work that will further the Kingdom of God? It’s hypothetical, but a valid question. :)

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Ooops, forgot to add my conclusion, LOL! That’s what i get for blogging while at work!

        Anyways, in conclusion, I wanted to point out that while we don’t actually know what the fallout from the the Zondervan/Rah conflict will be (in terms of number of Asians or others that feel slighted, number of people that will or will not be impacted with a Godly message via the Deadly Viper material, number of people in the future that Zondervan will fail to reach because they had to spend budget on re-marketing the Deadly Viper material instead of moving on to another project, etc), there really are potential negative ending states to this.

        Is it really worth risking the opportunity to reach others for Christ or edify current members of the Body for one’s own personal sense and sensibilities?

      • dewde says:

        Matt:

        This is sort of a side-note but I don’t think that Zondervan will “re-market” the book. I’m friends with Mike Foster and I got to see this book start off as an idea that was birthed while Mike and Jud were hanging out and watching old episodes of Kung Fu on TV. The book was a labor of love that they created and worked on over time, getting help from friends and designers, pulling in a cornucopia of Asian and oriental references from Hollywood and American pop culture on purpose. The fact that this book was a Frankenstein monster of Asian cultures glued together very little rhyme or reason was not incidental. It was almost the point.

        I believe it was even self-published at first, and later picked up by Zondervan.

        I know these two men really wanted to make a book on integrity and leadership, while paying homage to something they love… Asia’s influence on American pop culture. This includes Ryu and his uppercut, Kung Fu the TV series, The Karate Kid and Mr. Miagi, etc. etc. The marketing direction was not an afterthought. It was half the idea for the book.

        If Mike and Jud do anything, it will most likely be to improve the book by changing the designs and the content to make it more authentic and honor the Asian influence on our American culture, instead of perpetuate stereotypes that hurt others.

        peace | dewde

      • mhwang says:

        In any case, nobody is stating (well, maybe the troll?) that you need to abandon your heritage.
        Yeah, it was just the troll. And it was a response, even if I don’t think it quite merited one.

        What we’re attempting to say is that heritage is a great thing to have, but you should strive to identify as an American if you truly want to live here and be a part of this nation. It’s not for somebody from the outside to come to America and impose their culture on Americans but rather to embrace the American culture as much as they can (i know, much harder in practice!).
        What makes you think we aren’t? What makes you say that having pride in ancestry necessitates that we somehow don’t identify as American? If anything, I’d wager to say that most, if not all Asian-Americans consider themselves American first, and Asian second. It’s right there in the term; “Asian” modifies “American”, not the other way around. Paraphrasing that Amy Tan line again, when we get here and live here, we end up drinking more Coca-Cola (or Pepsi) than the sorrow that our parents and ancestors had, who came here with the best of intentions.

        We think we’re American. It’s non-Asian-Americans who often assume we aren’t. It’s right there in your language–suggesting that we should consider ourselves “American” when we already do. We romanize our names (often poorly). We adopt Western names, sometimes to humorous extents. We try to speak in as flawless English as possible, we read and breathe and watch American pop culture.

        How can we be more “American”? The simple fact that we may occasionally have the temerity and the gall to maybe say that, “Hey, I know you’re not trying to be mean, but don’t make fun of my heritage?” somehow equates to imposing our culture on you?

        Don’t be ridiculous. If anything, the simple fact that we’re speaking up proves that we’ve assimilated. We’re individualists here. We take pride in ourselves.

        Don’t you dare suggest that we should become more “American” in your nebulous terminology when we already are.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        So while I can understand the argument that as Christians, we should be extra careful about being respectful to our brethren, at the same time, as Christians, should we place our own cultural sensitivity in front of a work that will further the Kingdom of God? It’s hypothetical, but a valid question.
        I will posit this.
        The book may work on those already converted. They are, if you’ll pardon the pun, already preaching to the choir.

        Now take someone like me. Non-religious, with zero intention to convert.

        Seeing a book like that, which I find in poor taste at the very least, do you think it’ll actually help in any efforts to proselytize to me? I am, after all, American, with some familiarity with foreign cultures. That book puts you in negative territory. And that’s just me–the other (also, admittedly, liberal, non-religious) Asian-Americans I mentioned this to smirked and rolled their eyes (as if to say, “Christians! What can you do? *shrug*”), which I would not take as a positive sign.

        Or do I not count because I’m not “American” enough? Do I not have enough innate “American-ness”, because I still have some connection to my ancestry? Am I still one of the foreign other, that Yellow Peril, that hasn’t yet accepted the word of the Founding Fathers and converted to the Gospel of the Constitution to the satisfaction of those whose skin tone matches those of Ben Franklin and George Washington? Who is the arbiter of what is American enough, that I may speak Shibboleth with them to prove my loyalty?

        Because I can tell you, that Facebook video immediately set me against the group; seeing examples from the book, even if they were taken out of context, immediately made me react in a fashion that was less than charitable. I’ve had to rewrite a great many posts here before submitting them because it’s difficult for me not to want to write off all Evangelicals, washing my hands of them–which I will admit would be a grave error and a disservice if I did so.

        So I ask you: if the effort is truly to spread the word of god, shouldn’t you, y’know, try to find some methods which don’t offend potential members of your flock?

      • Matt, Marq responded to your quote as a non-believer.

        I’ll respond as a believer.

        You said, “So while I can understand the argument that as Christians, we should be extra careful about being respectful to our brethren, at the same time, as Christians, should we place our own cultural sensitivity in front of a work that will further the Kingdom of God? It’s hypothetical, but a valid question.”

        The apostle Paul already answered your question with a resounding “wrong question!” (Cf. 1 Cor. 9) This issue of cultural sensitivity is critical to understanding that good news is not good news if we fail to honor others as loved & created by the One God within their cultural and experiential context. So, we who know the good news and long to proclaim it, DIE to our own cultural predilections and preferences, DIE to our positions of power over others, and “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” We give up all our rights/authority naturally ours in the world (the Greek, “exousia”, can be translated either way) in order to become “a slave to all, that [we] might win the more.”

        Cultural sensitivity and the work of the gospel aren’t chronologically successive to one another, and they’re not exclusive of one another. Love is primary. If I love others as God loves us, empty myself as God emptied Godself, serve others as God served me, then I will hear them (and I hope they’ll hear me, too) in hurts and sensitivities and disenfranchisement and betrayals and hopes and fears and longings. Together, we’ll seek to build what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.” There is little that is more offensive to someone who’s been betrayed and injured than to hear another say, “oh, get over it” or “you’re just too sensitive.”

        God’s power is revealed in “power with” others and in the visible serving of others. So, Caucasian American Christians should die to our own cultural INsensitivity which is ours by dint of being the majority culture, and we serve others who are different in all ways (race, ethnicity, gender, language, economic or educational status, etc.) in Christ. We never pick and choose whom to serve because God will certainly put some-other-one in our path who challenges our commitment to the cross. We will think, “to that person I don’t want to die, speak graciously, act kindly or give up my natural [majority or worldly power] rights and serve him/her.” The Holy Spirit will certainly testify otherwise!

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Marq,

        I didn’t intend to suggest that anyone become more American as you claim that I am doing — if I came across that way, understand it was not my intention.

        I’m not attempting to dictate to anyone here, but rather to help some see the other side’s viewpoint as well.

        Here’s an example from your post: “Asian-American”. You say that this is a way of identifying as American. Perhaps it is. However, white people don’t go around calling themselves White-Americans or Caucasian-Americans. We just say Americans and leave it at that. To add a modifier onto American makes some of us feel like being American isn’t good enough or that tacking on an ethnic modifier to American allows you to somehow distinguish yourself from the “regular old white” Americans.

        “Why is the modifier necessary?” is a question many of us ask…it makes us feel like the race/ethnic item in the term is more important to the person utilizing it — else why would they put it there?

        Ann,

        If anything, 1 Cor. 9 seems to back up my own point more than anything else. You are stretching it from what I can tell (though please feel free to explain how you arrive at your point using that chapter, by all means!)? In this chapter, Paul is referring to some sort of right to be taken care of as part of his work in ministering to the Corinthians (and others). He tells them that he continually refuses to accept any form of charity (essentially the right he is referring to) so that it will not hinder the Gospel. Reading between the lines, I suspect that some people were calling out some of the apostles for being too free with that right, or “freeloading” on the church. Paul tells them that he refuses to collect this right even though it is certainly his due (“Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat (what) belongs to the temple, and those who minister at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?”) because he does not wish for anyone to attempt to besmirch his message.

        (before I continue, I actually just convinced myself that Zondervan did open the door to having their message besmirched…)

        Now back to my regularly scheduled commentary, lol. :)

        So, we who know the good news and long to proclaim it, DIE to our own cultural predilections and preferences, DIE to our positions of power over others, and “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” We give up all our rights/authority naturally ours in the world (the Greek, “exousia”, can be translated either way) in order to become “a slave to all, that [we] might win the more.”

        Ok that’s a fair statement, and more or less backed up by scripture. Why do only whites have to worry about this though? I don’t see you pointing this out to Professor Rah — only white people. There is no effective argument that removes this same responsibility from him and only places it on the Zondervan crowd.

        At the same time, I suspect that your response would be that it’s not up to me to question that — in effect trotting out the “log/plank” statement from Jesus again. So I’ll ask you (since you seem to be acting as somethign of a 3rd party in this discussion. :) )…why does this only apply to the white people?

        This issue of cultural sensitivity is critical to understanding that good news is not good news if we fail to honor others as loved & created by the One God within their cultural and experiential context.

        I have to completely and utterly disagree with this statement. The Gospel of Christ doesn’t change just because the person giving it is sinful — after all we are ALL sinners! Remember what JEsus said…one plants, another waters, but God gets the harvest. By makign the statement you made above, you are essentially saying that the Word of God and the Gospel are held hostage by the presentation of innately sinful people, and not at all under the power of God himself!!!! If that is the case, then how has anyone become saved after the time that Jesus left the earth (the only sinless man?).

        THanks again for this debate guys — i really do enjoy this, and i hope people are still learning, as I am. :)

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Here’s an example from your post: “Asian-American”. You say that this is a way of identifying as American. Perhaps it is. However, white people don’t go around calling themselves White-Americans or Caucasian-Americans. We just say Americans and leave it at that.
        Ah, but you do. Maybe not you, personally, but living in Chicago, everybody’s got a history. They’re Irish-American. Italian-American. Polish-American. Russian-American. I will venture to say – and I may be going out on a limb here – that all four of those are generally, at least in the modern days, considered “White” and Caucasian.

        To add a modifier onto American makes some of us feel like being American isn’t good enough or that tacking on an ethnic modifier to American allows you to somehow distinguish yourself from the “regular old white” Americans.
        So, it boils down to an insecurity about innate American-ness, so much so that those would rather us forget our roots? What’s wrong with distinguishing oneself? The myth behind the American is, after all, one of spectacular individualism; our heroes tend to be the ones that did distinguish themselves from “regular old white” Americans somehow.
        This country isn’t about homogeneity; it’s about equality. Everyone is American, everyone has the same fundamental basic rights, but everyone does not have to be the same, and saying that it’s bad that some of us want to distinguish ourselves as specific kinds of Americans strikes me as odd, in the very least.
        I’m not part of the majority here, so I suppose I don’t quite get it. But I will say this–even in dramatically homogeneous societies such as Korea, one of the first things people do is distinguish themselves; in marriages, clan ancestry proves crucial at times (Andong Kim? Or some other kind?); they’ll tell and ask what part of the country one comes from and judge that.
        So here, in the States, what is ethnicity but simply a matter of classifying oneself, distinguishing oneself?

        Ok that’s a fair statement, and more or less backed up by scripture. Why do only whites have to worry about this though? I don’t see you pointing this out to Professor Rah — only white people. There is no effective argument that removes this same responsibility from him and only places it on the Zondervan crowd.
        One could argue that the Asian-Americans already have. After all, Christianity is not native to Korea, as it is an Abrahamic faith. They already live here, in a nation that assumes most of them are a foreign other. I don’t know about Prof. Rah’s ministry in any great detail, but I’d presume that it’s welcoming to members of all ethnicities?

        I have to completely and utterly disagree with this statement. The Gospel of Christ doesn’t change just because the person giving it is sinful — after all we are ALL sinners!
        I don’t think she’s arguing that it changes. I think she’s arguing that the method of spreading it matters greatly. As I pointed out–this book sets me against the religion. A book that instead tries to point out how religion and science can go hand-in-hand? That might actually get me to read it, even if it doesn’t convince me. A group or screed that attacks who I am, or one that however unintentionally insults or demeans me or my intelligence, will push me away.

        Remember what JEsus said…one plants, another waters, but God gets the harvest. By makign the statement you made above, you are essentially saying that the Word of God and the Gospel are held hostage by the presentation of innately sinful people, and not at all under the power of God himself!!!! If that is the case, then how has anyone become saved after the time that Jesus left the earth (the only sinless man?).
        I do remember a parable about the farmer casting seeds. Some were lost to weeds, others to ground that was too hard, and so on.
        I’d like to extend it. Much as you wouldn’t plant a seed by taking a hammer and smashing into the ground, nor should you try to reach people by offending them. I’m sure this book works on the faithful.
        For those who aren’t? Especially if they feel a mite insulted by it?

  83. [...] will be first in a series of posts from different academics that I’ve asked to reflect on the Deadly Vipers / Zondervan controversy. They are scholars from different fields that will be drawing from their research to speak to the [...]

  84. [...] awhile now, and I’m wondering if anyone else can shed some light on this.  In following the Deadly Viper controversy that emerged last week, I was reminded once again, that when Americans refer to [...]

  85. Marq Hwang says:

    In any case, nobody is stating (well, maybe the troll?) that you need to abandon your heritage.
    Yeah, it was just the troll. And it was a response, even if I don’t think it quite merited one.

    What we’re attempting to say is that heritage is a great thing to have, but you should strive to identify as an American if you truly want to live here and be a part of this nation. It’s not for somebody from the outside to come to America and impose their culture on Americans but rather to embrace the American culture as much as they can (i know, much harder in practice!).
    What makes you think we aren’t? What makes you say that having pride in ancestry necessitates that we somehow don’t identify as American? If anything, I’d wager to say that most, if not all Asian-Americans consider themselves American first, and Asian second. It’s right there in the term; “Asian” modifies “American”, not the other way around. Paraphrasing that Amy Tan line again, when we get here and live here, we end up drinking more Coca-Cola (or Pepsi) than the sorrow that our parents and ancestors had, who came here with the best of intentions.

    We think we’re American. It’s non-Asian-Americans who often assume we aren’t. It’s right there in your language–suggesting that we should consider ourselves “American” when we already do. We romanize our names (often poorly). We adopt Western names, sometimes to humorous extents. We try to speak in as flawless English as possible, we read and breathe and watch American pop culture.

    How can we be more “American”? The simple fact that we may occasionally have the temerity and the gall to maybe say that, “Hey, I know you’re not trying to be mean, but don’t make fun of my heritage?” somehow equates to imposing our culture on you?

    Don’t be ridiculous. If anything, the simple fact that we’re speaking up proves that we’ve assimilated. We’re individualists here. We take pride in ourselves.

    Don’t you dare suggest that we should become more “American” in your nebulous terminology when we already are.

  86. jeffcstraka says:

    Kind of off the main topic, but underlying it for me anyway:
    Just curious if any one else is bothered by the male-only, “high testosterone” (man-cave, battle images, high-techno), personality-driven leadership bent that the evangelical church (as a whole) is on? If women were “allowed” to be pastors/elders in the evangelical church, what would the typical church/worship look different, would a “Catalyst” conference have less of a “Red Bull” feel, and what would leadership books then look like (might they not even involve fight-images)?

    Deadly Viper (and those like it) seem to be bent on preserving that image/status – keeping “your game on”. It seems to me Jesus was NOT about that – he was about self-emptying and pushing away titles, power and status.

    I am personally NOT an evangelical and this whole current “man-cave, male-only club” vibe to the thing is one reason why I could never be. Just wondering if it bothers anyone else…

    • LOL, yeah, Jeff, it certainly bothered me. I mentioned it in one of my previous posts. Worldly male power, from my perspective as a woman called to ministry, is one of the powers that Paul “emptied” himself of 1 Cor. 9, and testified to in Gal. 3:28. Unfortunately, IMHO, Paul is routinely mistranslated and misinterpreted by men who haven’t died to their gender and don’t realize they’re reading into his words what isn’t there. I also didn’t realize that I, too, was also overly defensive with Paul (in my female gender) because of the way his words had been used against me until I was in seminary and dedicated myself to reading and understanding him in the original Greek. It was only when I stopped reading him defensively and chose to consider him as my brother in Christ that I started “hearing” him well.

      • jeffcstraka says:

        Mainstream scholars now generally agree that 1& 2 Timothy and Titus were NOT written by Paul and so that would impact the commonly used passage against women pastors (1 Timothy 2:11-15). I guess most conservative scholars cling too much to the “inerrancy” thing to be open to any new evidence of non-Pauline authorship. See http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb3.htm and http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/The%20First%20Paul.htm

        Even beyond that, I don’t get why all the OVERTLY macho themes with little or no evidence of the feminine. I think when that is employed in worship, conferences and books, it not only alienates 50% of the population, it disconnects us from the real Jesus and is a disservice to us all! I agree with Fr. Richard Rohr’s description of Jesus when he says he “had a male body but a very feminine soul” (see http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/fr-richard-rohr-gets-it-right.html ).

      • Matt LeClair says:

        Not referring to Zondervan, but I know what you mean Jeff. My family and I recently left a church because we just couldn’t handle the focus on building multi-million dollar buildings with completely unnecessary accoutrements, and now attend a similar-sized church (in terms of number of attendees) with a much more outward focus.

        The trap, of course, is that some Christians will look at a church like that and say “oh man, I’m so glad that i’m not like THEM!” and commit the same sin that the Pharisee did when he prayed about not being like the sinners! It can be very appealing to be prideful in one’s apparent humbleness (whether personal or institutional).

    • Jeff, I’m considerably more conservative than Crossan and actually studied Greek w/ one of the scholars who upholds the usual (complementarian, male-ruled) interpretation of 1 Tim 2. However, he and I read the Greek very differently in manners reflect our gender strengths (and weaknesses), and regarding one passage we debated he agreed with my interpretation. I think it’s much harder for men to hear women’s interpretative POV than v.v., but that’s reflective of Gen. 3, not of Paul’s words in the context of Paul’s ministry with men and women. The interesting thing is that Paul does a lot of wordplay in the Greek that just does not come across in translations and even paraphrases can’t “get” it. Unless scholars are committed to making that type of evidence available to the pastors and laity who can’t access the Greek, it is tough to present why 1 Tim 2 is completely misunderstood in a forum such as this. If I had the time and someone supported my doctoral work…LOL!

      FWIW, Matt’s comments on 1 Cor. 9 are illustrative of our natural way of reading, which usually turns Paul on his head. (Matt, that’s not an insult, it’s an observation! I’ll respond to you in another post.)

  87. Peter Nguyen says:

    I just noticed that Deadly Viper stripped away some of the Kung Fu flair… the kangi that said ‘ninja/warrior/assassin’ … wow, congrats on watering down a great message that was actually reaching people. Unbelievable, those guys are too nice and gracious. ALL of my Asian friends are embarrassed by what you guys have done. You could have educated them, shared our culture with them, taught them better ways to respect it, instead you horded it like little kids. Unbelievable.
    I didn’t bother proof reading this post since you sensor these posts… unlike Deadly Viper, they were posting everything, even if it didn’t agree with them, they do actually have integrity.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Actually, it’s not censorship if he lets it show up. And as far as “watering down the message”, has the actual content lost anything because the fauxsian flair has been toned down? I’d think not, since it didn’t seem like it was an absolutely critical part of the effort.

      • Peter Nguyen says:

        Marq… he has sensored all of my other posts as well as posts by a lot of other people who are outraged by his actions.

  88. [...] 5, 2009 by thelinkbetween Just stumbled upon this blog while reading some feedback about the Deadly Viper controversy – very thoughtful perspective, as well as some excellent links to ‘the collision of [...]

  89. [...] racism: the cost of doing the right thing. 23 11 2009 So I was only peripherally aware of this situation until I saw the “resolution” and decided to read more. Let’s see if I can briefly [...]

  90. [...] American community has blown up the blogosphere with their thoughts. You can read some written by Professor Soong-Chan Rah, Eugene Cho, DJ Chuang, Dave Gibbons and Kathy Khang. Then later I was quoted HERE by DJ [...]

  91. [...] protest was led by Soong-Chan Rah, author and associate professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary [...]

  92. Los says:

    Prof rah need to lighten up). You are too sensitive and have an inferiority complex. Where was the outrage over kill bill??? Im not white btw everybody loves ninja and if i was japanese would consider it a compliment. How hilarious the prof is not even japamese hahahah

    • Los, in conflict analysis, it appears that Peter Nguyen, you, and “ALL” of Peter’s friends have constructed a false “law” that if you aren’t offended, no one else in the A-A community should be. According to your law, those who are more sensitive, careful and respectful of Asian culture than you are should be ashamed of themselves. Furthermore, if you decide they are not sufficiently ashamed of making a fuss over nothing (“nothing” as defined by your law), you will use demeaning words and unsubstantiated claims (“inferiority complex”, “little kids”, equating “integrity” with posting everyone’s remarks regardless of content) in demeaning attempts to make them ashamed of themselves.

      Perhaps Peter and you are not Christians. If you do identify yourself as a follower of Christ, however, these tactics betray Christ. Prof Rah is calling fellow followers of Christ to live, speak, write and act according to our shared faith in the self-emptying God who was crucified because of love for all of us. This is appropriate and godly action. (cf. 1 Cor. 8:11-13 about the sin vs. Christ if we wound others whom we consider “weak,” for any reason [the issue, then, was about eating meat; the issue, now, is about inappropriate co-opting of culture in marketing and packaging] The point Paul made to the Corinthians is that our so-called knowledgeable, legal determinations about who is weak/inferior and who is strong/superior are beside the goal in Christ, which is LOVE. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.”

      • peter nguyen says:

        i never said ‘no one’ could/should be offended… but just because it offends, we censor it?

        When talking about acting in Love – really, being condescending, calling people out as being ‘not Christians’… isn’t that like calling out the spec in my eye?

      • Marq Hwang says:

        The question that should be asked is whether it drives people away or not. This book? It offends me enough to drive me, an areligious person, further away, which it seems to me would be counterproductive to the goal of spreading your religion. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way about the book.

        As far as “not being Christian”–might I point out that there are a good many comments that are “on your side” that already make that allegation? I’m not saying two wrongs make a right, but I am saying that if both sides are being accused of the same thing, then it’s a useless criticism.

        I’m glad you’re not offended. But saying that I’m wrong here, by simply dismissing it without even trying to argue my points? That’s almost as offensive.

        Were this a more contentious, brutal, and unforgiving argument, the phrase “Uncle Tom” might be bandied about.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        You know, perhaps the last line in that comment was unduly harsh.

        But Prof. Rah did not suggest he spoke for the group as a whole, and he’s let quite a few voices and beliefs to the contrary through on this comment thread. For you to suggest that he’s censoring things, and being quite dismissive of the points that have been brought up…

        Well, I’ve not been feeling generous lately, which explains my dismissiveness.

      • Peter, you asked,
        i never said ‘no one’ could/should be offended… but just because it offends, we censor it?
        Using the word, “censor,” avoids the understanding that Jesus’ call to his followers is to “serve” and “be a slave of others”, just as he was. Paul contextualized what that means in 1 Cor. 8-9. So, the answer to your question, I believe, is appropriately contextualized in this way: “Yes, we should censor our words and imitate Paul, ‘Nevertheless we have not made use of this [American] right [of so-called "free" speech], but we endure anything rather than put any obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.'” (1 Cor. 9:12)

        Then, you wrote this, Peter:
        When talking about acting in Love – really, being condescending, calling people out as being ‘not Christians’… isn’t that like calling out the spec in my eye?

        You may interpret my words as being condescending, or as indicating that a caring sister in Christ is seeing something that doesn’t honor the Lord whom I serve, and whom you may also desire to serve. If you look at my words, again, you’ll note that I didn’t say either Los or you were “not Christians.” I said that such tactics of demeaning those with whom you disagree betray Christ. My observation was that you demanded Prof Rah and everyone who agrees with him to bow to your law of insensitivity to culturally-insensitive packaging. My observation is my discernment of what you’re doing; this is not judgment. (Biblically, judgment is both discernment AND the imposition of consequences. Therefore, when you discerned that Prof Rah and those sensitive to Deadly Vipers use of A-A culture were in error, according to your “law,” AND you imposed the consequences of demeaning words and tactics, you were engaged in the act of judging others.) Paul described an act of judgment which harmed others who wouldn’t eat meat in 1 Cor. 8:11-13. The people who were “strong” and said that it was ok for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to (nonexistent) idols were wounding the “weak” who were more sensitive to not appearing to be idol-worshippers. His response was to call the strong to let go of their puffed-up “superior” knowledge in Love and serve their brothers and sisters. “So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food [or speech, or marketing!!!] is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat [or speak without care toward others, or misappropriate another’s heritage for my gain], so that I may not cause one of them to fall.”

        Perhaps Los and you are embarrassed because I point this out in this open forum, but please know that I’ve tried to do so in a redemptive way, not with any judging of either of you in words, actions such as gossip, or thoughts.

        Does it not concern you, Peter, that Marq dismisses Christ Himself because of our human errors and refusal to serve those who are hurt by our lack of caring about what they value?

      • Marq Hwang says:

        Does it not concern you, Peter, that Marq dismisses Christ Himself because of our human errors and refusal to serve those who are hurt by our lack of caring about what they value?
        As far as dismissing a Jesus figure: I’m convinced that there’s enough evidence that two thousand years ago, Jesus did exist. By all regards, he seemed to be a decent fellow who said nice things. The reason I left the church, however, is not really because of the people, but for a host of other reasons.

        I generally try not to judge and assume things about religions based on the people that practice them; otherwise, I’d’ve written off all of Christianity (and a few others) by now. I generally also try to think that religion is generally a positive force. “Human errors”, “refusals to serve”, and so on, though, often make it difficult for me to maintain that train of thought.

        It doesn’t help that often the most audible segments of the religious are also among the most… problematic.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Prof rah need to lighten up).
      Perhaps you should lighten up. It’s just a book. Why even bother replying?

      You are too sensitive and have an inferiority complex. Where was the outrage over kill bill???
      You didn’t bother to read the comment thread.

      Im not white btw everybody loves ninja and if i was japanese would consider it a compliment.
      You’re not Japanese, though. Or Chinese or Korean, I’d presume. Don’t tell those who are Asian what to consider compliments, and we won’t tell you what to consider a compliment.

      Indeed, it is the height of arrogance and self-absorption to even consider yourself an expert on what other groups that you’re not a member of should and should not take offense at.

      • Peter Nguyen says:

        Marq,
        You’re missing my point entirely, i’m not saying you are wrong, or that you aren’t offended. People will always be offended, Jesus offended. Thousands (i believe ~25,000) of people have purchased the book over the last 2 years and not a single offense was brought up to the authors until now. Oh yes, on Prof. Rah’s claims, looks like they are posting replies, so here’s my take on his ‘issues’

        1) He says, “The Video clip is offensive because it is done in a cartoonish manner with a voiceover of a white person doing a faux Asian accent”. Have you never heard of Anime? This whole style is something that has been around for decades. The white guy faux accent – that is a part of a film style that came out of Hong Kong & Taiwan during the 60’s & 70’s, the idea is that you can understand what’s being said, but it’s still ‘oriental’- The stereotypes these white guys are being accused of buying into is produced by our culture. We are still putting movies out with these tactics.

        2) He says, “The images present Asians as sinister enemies”.
        http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=deadly+viper&init=quick#/photo.php?pid=2233965&id=101311418670 They are ninjas! Aren’t ninja’s assassins? Portraying them as bad people is offensive? WHAT!?

        3) He is upset that they “quote and name Zi Qi Qi Ren”. Ok, yeah, this sarcasm is poking fun at a funky Chinese word. So what? We poke fun at the English language all the time.

        4) He thinks “the use of Chinese characters and kanji is done in a nonsensical manner.” They were ‘Ninja’, ‘Assassin’ and ‘Warrior’ in Kanji. That’s the theme of the whole book. I believe he stated he read it off of a previous unverified quote on the internet… wow, great research.
        In doing a bit of research you would find that almost half of the design team on the Deadly Viper project (book and website) is in fact, Asian! Prof. Rah actually had them remove a picture off of the home page of an Asian guy with a samurai sword, who is in fact, one of their web developers (who built the website) because it mis-represented Asians… what!?

        They have thousands of ‘fans’ -their material has helped A LOT of people realize they can be strong leaders. If you don’t like it, don’t support them… but Rah’s push on Zondervan to drop the book based on cultural insensitivity is in fact – censorship, why can’t they publish something, even if it is offensive, this is America still isn’t it?

      • Marq Hwang says:

        1) He says, “The Video clip is offensive because it is done in a cartoonish manner with a voiceover of a white person doing a faux Asian accent”. Have you never heard of Anime? This whole style is something that has been around for decades.
        The video clip is nothing like anime. Anime is a distinct animation style which originated in the 50’s and 60’s in Japan, and while it did originally use many tricks to cut costs, these days few widely-distributed series suffer from this problem. Additionally, the faux Asian accent you’re thinking of?

        That comes from the dubbed versions, not the originals.

        The white guy faux accent – that is a part of a film style that came out of Hong Kong & Taiwan during the 60’s & 70’s, the idea is that you can understand what’s being said, but it’s still ‘oriental’-
        Again, comes from the dubbed versions and bad subtitles, not the originals. Just because the Hong Kong version of Shaolin Soccer or the pirated version of Episode III is filled with Engrish doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly okay to “buy into” those stereotypes.

        The assumption that English made chop-suey is somehow “oriental” is, actually, a bit offensive, to boot, since it plays up the foreign-ness, the other-ness that Asian Americans already have to deal with. (Add to it the fact that “oriental” should these days, in America, refer only to objects and not people…)

        The stereotypes these white guys are being accused of buying into is produced by our culture.
        Just because in the past, some African-Americans put on blackface doesn’t make use of blackface okay.
        Just because some foreign Asians are releasing poorly subbed/dubbed movies doesn’t suddenly make it okay for Asian-Americans or non-Asian-Americans.

        Two wrongs do not make a right.

        We are still putting movies out with these tactics.
        Do you have any examples? Most Asian-American film, while not getting major releases, often gets released in the theaters. I have yet to run across one example where the whole movie deliberately uses Engrish in the same fashion that their original promo video used.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        2) He says, “The images present Asians as sinister enemies”.
        http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=deadly+viper&init=quick#/photo.php?pid=2233965&id=101311418670 They are ninjas! Aren’t ninja’s assassins? Portraying them as bad people is offensive? WHAT!?

        Yes, ninjas are assassins. Aren’t ninjas exclusively Asian, specifically Japanese? In that picture, aren’t all of them Asian? Isn’t portraying one ethnicity as bad people offensive?

        I mean, outside of Executive Order #9066, where we knew all of them were traitors. Or the Exclusion Acts, since we didn’t want the Yellow Peril on our shores.

        When that picture has a distinctly propaganda-like look to it, with all of the people shown looking to be one ethnicity, it suggests that it’s not just ninjas, but those who look Asian are going to imperil your character.

      • Marq Hwang says:

        4) He thinks “the use of Chinese characters and kanji is done in a nonsensical manner.” They were ‘Ninja’, ‘Assassin’ and ‘Warrior’ in Kanji. That’s the theme of the whole book. I believe he stated he read it off of a previous unverified quote on the internet… wow, great research.
        Actually, no. If you’d bothered to actually do any research into this topic, you’d find this:

        http://www.hanzismatter.com/2007/11/deadlyviperorg.html

        http://www.hanzismatter.com/deadlyviper.org.pdf

        Yes, at certain portions of the book, they did use those characters–on the cover of the book, if I recall correctly. But anywhere else, it did not seem as they even bothered to try.

        I believe at this point, I should be the one saying, “wow, great research”?

        In doing a bit of research you would find that almost half of the design team on the Deadly Viper project (book and website) is in fact, Asian! Prof. Rah actually had them remove a picture off of the home page of an Asian guy with a samurai sword, who is in fact, one of their web developers (who built the website) because it mis-represented Asians… what!?
        Your point? African-Americans in blackface.
        Asian-American web developers perpetrating yellowface.

        We all got rent to pay, don’t we?

        They have thousands of ‘fans’ -their material has helped A LOT of people realize they can be strong leaders.
        Which it seems like they’re showing the fabric of their character by actually listening to Rah and replacing this mistake with something better.

        If you don’t like it, don’t support them… but Rah’s push on Zondervan to drop the book based on cultural insensitivity is in fact – censorship,
        No, no it’s not. Professor Rah was not seeking legal remedies to squelch the book, nor was he really in a position of power to censor it. Instead, he appealed to the creators’ and publisher’s better judgement and integrity to change aspects of the book which were offensive, once they understood how it was.

        If asking someone to retract an error they made is censorship, as you are suggesting, then even the simple act of asking someone to correct your name on a guest list is “censorship”–an absurd misuse of the term if there is one.

        why can’t they publish something, even if it is offensive, this is America still isn’t it?
        Again, Professor Rah did not say that they couldn’t publish it, it’s that they shouldn’t. The former would be censorship, if Prof. Rah had authority over them; if not, simply an agitator wanting to censor them.

        Instead, he chose to point out that what they published was offensive and wrong, and that they should apologize and modify it to eliminate the offending segments. It’s not censorship in that case.

        Additionally, if you’re going to argue something as trite as “free speech”, then what Prof. Rah was doing qualifies for protection just as well–he’s perfectly within his rights to decry any book which lampoons ethnicities, or anything else that might offend his sensibilities.

  93. Marq Hwang says:

    3) He is upset that they “quote and name Zi Qi Qi Ren”. Ok, yeah, this sarcasm is poking fun at a funky Chinese word. So what? We poke fun at the English language all the time.
    To use your logic, “ching chong” shouldn’t be offensive, either, because both can actually be words.

    You also seem to be falling into the pattern of, “If we do it, so can they.”

    Two wrongs do not make a right.

  94. [...] a 70s kung fu theme.  Two full years later, the book is withdrawn and repudiated by its authors for images and themes offensive to Asians.  Seems strange to carry on for so long (till sales dried up?) before seeing the light, especially [...]

  95. Dave Watson says:

    See the article below – I have a question for Dr. Rah. You say: Specifically to Zondervan:-

    This is your second egregious offense in the last few years. My question is: What was there first offense?

    http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2009/12/zondervan_makes_critics_book_r.html

    Zondervan makes critic’s book required reading after flap over portrayal of Asians in ‘Deadly Viper’ book
    By Julia Bauer | The Grand Rapids Press
    December 04, 2009, 6:29AM

  96. Coburn says:

    My (white, college-age, passionately Christian) son is fascinated by martial-arts-themed fantasy, like movies and games.

    Not only is this an international cultural trend, it is as big a spiritual challenge to the modern church as racism. From Star Wars to The Bulletproof Monk and The Last Airbender, these media wonders are sugar pills laced with detailed discipling in Buddhist and Hindu mysticism. I’m not smart enough to predict where it’s all headed, but it’s huge.

    Prof. Rah, I agree 111% with your call for repentance. I’m enjoying reading TNE. But I think in this case there is another facet to the issue that’s important.

    I think Zondervan might be just trying to connect with kids where they’re at, using symbolism from international (not specifically Asian) culture. Yeah, they were unintentionally lowbrow. Oops.

    Sometimes I think fear of racism, or rejection, is just as debilitating as overt racism itself. Nothing frustrates me quite as much as an angry young black man who has that cold, suspicious look in his eyes. He may be a Christian, too — probably is — but he thinks I’m too prejudiced to build any kind of relationship with him.

    Maybe (and I’m reminded of Dumbo and his magic feather) the best course is to just get out there and use whatever cultural advantage we have to express the Gospel in down-to-earth terms to a world that is sated with substitutes but starving for substance. To stop expecting others to change, and just be the example.

    If we agree with Ms. Frizzle that we need to “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get dirty!” maybe critiquing one another for the racist overtones of each other’s criticism of critical people is kind of, um, Deadly.

    ‘Nuf said. Keep up the good work.

  97. Paul says:

    So what can we learn from this?

    #1) Only if you are from a particular culture can you write or even mention it. Yes, you should completely ignore or reject that cultural characteristics even exist to begin with.

    #2) I should be extremely offended by Larry the Cable Guy given the location I live and my cultural background.

    #3) Since cultural stereotyping is absolutely wrong; Christ needs to repent for stereotyping the Pharisees and Sadducees by their religious culture of the day.

    Yeah, it’s that stupid.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      So what can we learn from this?
      Apparently, in your case, not much.

      #1) Only if you are from a particular culture can you write or even mention it. Yes, you should completely ignore or reject that cultural characteristics even exist to begin with.
      Actually, several times throughout the comment thread, the point was made that you don’t. Rather, you need to treat it with respect, not mock it. As far as “ignoring or rejecting cultural characteristics that even exist”, that’s actually precisely what the Deadly Vipers writers had done, something which was also repeatedly pointed out.

      #2) I should be extremely offended by Larry the Cable Guy given the location I live and my cultural background.
      Well, I would say yes, largely on account of the fact that he’s actually a terrible comedian.
      But I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue here. Are you pointing out the fact that the “Larry the Cable Guy” is a character played by an actor who actually grew up in a middle-class household in such places as Palm Springs, and thus is neither blue-collar in heritage nor current station, and thus actually offended? Or are you pointing out the fact that (and here I am assuming) you are white and blue-collar, and the character is white and blue-collar and making fun of white, blue-collar people, and a sardonically “offended”?
      If it’s the former, then you should at least understand why some Asians were offended; if it’s the latter, it doesn’t apply, as it’s pretty evident that the writers were not Asian, but being rather reductionist of Asian culture and mocking it in a way that can very easily be seen as dismissive, insulting, and denigrating.

      #3) Since cultural stereotyping is absolutely wrong; Christ needs to repent for stereotyping the Pharisees and Sadducees by their religious culture of the day.
      I thought that it was bad form for a religious person to demand that their Lord and Savior repent for their behavior?
      Well, that’s between you and your god.

  98. Superman says:

    As a Superhero I’m certainly offended! Cultural insensitivity goes well beyond racial. I can’t believe the authors were willing only to present these assassin murderers and ignore those efforts in defeating the forces of evil and upholding truth, justice, and the American Way. The theme and the application of that theme reveal a serious insensitivity to Superhero Culture and to the greater Hero Community as a whole. I praise you for the content of the book, we need to raise up mortal humans, like yourself, not to become cronies to the diabolical forces of darkness that continue to corrupt our metropolis. But the way in which you choose to co-opt Superhero culture in inappropriate ways is not acceptable.
    Due to the fact that you are mortals and not Superheroes, you have no business exploiting us in the marketing of your book. What gives you the authority to represent our culture as solely full of venom and diabolic? Don’t forget us good guys at the Hall of Justice, the most powerful forces of good ever assembled! Now, I perfectly understand that nobody will read it; certainly, no juvenile human male would dare to crack the cover, but can’t you just write a status quo book on character? You’ll notice that there are a number of Superfriends that take offense at the ways you misuse the category assassin. While there are Assassins from the Legion of Doom, there also exist Assassins of Justice that partner across the cosmic reaches of the universe to save the day! You also confuse aspects of the Superfriends Justice League with the X-Men. These are two very distinct and ancient cartoons that you should have taken the time to understand before using as a fun way to market your product.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Unlike the superheroes you’re using in your rather weak argument, which can be empirically proven to be an American invention from the first half of the 20th century, there is actual, verifiable historic data on the Samurai, Ninjas, Kung Fu practicioners, the traditions they represented, and how enormously different they were, and how many of them were entwined with other religious and philosophical traditions.

      And, even on that point, your sardonic attempt at making this look foolhardy fails. Do you not think that if superheroes existed, that they would not be indignant at being used as nothing more than dressing and marketing flair for products that they did not believe in, did not have a say in, or don’t even know about?

      Do you not think Obama is slightly indignant at the Chia pet in his likeness? Do you not think DC Talk or whatever the big Christian pop groups these days would be offended if they were used to promote Muslim texts? Do you not think Superman would be slightly put out if he were used to promote a body-building supplement made of creatine and other such shady “antioxidizing vitamin-enhancing boosters”?

  99. [...] Professor Soong-Chan Rah wrote an open letter to Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite and Zondervan stating publicly his offense at the book, “Deadly Viper [...]

  100. [...] blogosphere has been blowing up this week with posts and comments flying left and right regarding a new book from Zondervan [...]

  101. Nathan Clancy says:

    I find this article offensive and disappointing, because the author who is Christian, seems to be communicating racism in his critique.

    “Mike and Jud, you are two white males who are inappropriately co-opting another culture and using it to further the marketing of your book. You are not from our cultural framework, yet you feel that you have the authority to represent our culture before others.”

    While I think that is it is acceptable to be upset that particular cultural symbols are being misrepresented, the author’s “whiteness” should have nothing to do with the complaint. That fact that it does clearly portrays a not so sublte racism being communicated by Prof Rah . If an Asian or Asian American person, or anyone misrepresented particualr cultural symbols in the a similar way, would it then be acceptable? The focus of the offense should be on the misrepresentation, and not on the race of the people misrepresenting.

    And why does someone’s race and cultural background inherently limit them from speaking knowledgeably and accurately about cultural backgrounds no their own, so that it is offensive if they speak of them at all? Again the focus of the offense should on the misrepresentation of culture, and not on the cultural background of the person speaking. That is irrelevant. People are quite capable of communicating correct and accurate representation of other cultural ideas and symbols. The fact that Rah point to that authors culture and race as the reason that they have no “right” to speak about other cultures, is what I find to be so incredibly racist and offensive.

    I believe that Prof Rah should apologize for his racist remarks, while at the same time, still desire that particular cultural symbols be accurately portrayed, regardless of what race and cultural background the person is who communicates them.

    The other extremely offense remark is made in the last paragraph:

    “This is your second egregious offense in the last few years. Clearly something is wrong with the structure and system of this publishing company that allows and even promotes cultural insensitivity to this degree. Maybe the answer comes from the pictures in your catalog and your website that show your editorial and publishing staff. Every single person is white. Please do not let this learning moment to pass by. Address the structural issues at Zondervan that allows this sort of offense to continue.”

    Again, Prof Rah seems to be saying that Zondervan’s problem with cultural misrepresentation is owning to their “whiteness”. This is an unjust and racist assertion, that there whiteness is the problem rather then there ability to correctly understand cultural symbols. It’s very racist to assume that Zondervan is unable to do this because they are white. Pro Rah should encourage Zondervan to learn and seek a correct understanding of other cultures, but not villainize the staff for the color of their skin or ethnicity, More then anything, this is very disappointing. Prof Rah main point and message is lost when he makes these racist remarks. I would hope that he would see that a person’s being “white” is not the problem, and instead just focus on the problem being a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of facts, symbols and culture.

    As Christians it is important to identity racism of all kinds, so that may seek to love one another a Christ has commanded us to.

    • Marq Hwang says:

      Regarding quote number 1. If you had actually read the back history of this, Nathan, you would have realized that when an Asian did confront them, politely, and suggested that what they were doing was offensive to Asians, it was those very same white people who told him that it was all in good fun and with all due respect and he should not worry about it at all.

      How is that not racially disrespectful?

      Regarding quote number 2. What Prof. Rah said was not racist; rather, he simply stated the fact that Zondervan’s staff is predominantly white, and their past behavior suggests that they did not, in fact, have any knowledge or understanding of the Asian cultures they were misappropriating.

      Now, if you’d like a racist comment to compare his words to, I’ll provide this one:
      Your defense of racist behaviors, by alleging that those pointing out racism are themselves utterly and wholly racist?

      I’ve only seen white, often Republican, “Christian Conservative” people use that defense to try and divert attention from matters at hand. I’ve only seen white people use it against any number of minority efforts for better representation. I’ve only seen white people say they’re utterly colorblind and then in the same breath start talking shit about other races, only to turn to me and say “But you’re one of the good ones.”

      • Marq Hwang says:

        I fully admit that I am stepping egregiously over the line with those comments. I’m using them, however, to point out what *is* racist and what *isn’t*.

        Pointing out someone is engaging in racist behavior and explaining just how it’s racist, and highlighting the fact that they are missing it because they are not of the same ethnicity as those they’re insulting? That’s not racist. That is what Prof Rah did.

        Judging or misrepresenting a whole group of people based on trivial similarities? That’s racist. That is what I did in my last statement about your non-defense.

  102. Nathan, Prof Rah pointed out 2 facts: the authors of Deadly Vipers are white males, and the authors inappropriately co-opted Asian culture. Each fact compounds the other fact’s offense to Asian Americans. There is nothing racist at all in Prof Rah’s factual remarks, in my white female’s perspective. I wonder why it is you find his statement of facts offensive… If any of us pretends to speak from or use non-native cultural imagery w/out knowledge and understanding, why should we be surprised if those within that culture object? The authors’ “whiteness” is, indeed, irrelevant to Prof Rah’s point; except that it indicates the authors are likely not native to Asian understanding by race. I didn’t see any place where Prof Rah said that no one is ever able to speak truthfully about another culture, but it seems obvious that each one of us who does so needs the humility to embed our understanding, insofar as is possible, in love & service of our neighbors. You quote Prof Rah and then misuse his words immediately thereafter. Prof Rah did not say, “because you are white males, you inappropriately co-opted another culture…”, but that’s what you, Nathan Clancy, interpreted him as writing! (Others who commented made the same error.)

    Regarding Prof Rah’s remarks to Zondervan, he made a suggestion (“Maybe…”) from the facts that Zondervan has been culturally insensitive in its marketing prior to this Deadly Vipers incident, and that their catalog and website reveal their staff to be white. It is a wise strategy for a publishing company to involve other cultures, races, economic classes, & genders in editorial decisions in order to mitigate our naturally myopic, single-culture/race/class/gender perspective.

    I won’t call your own comments “racist” or claim that you’re “villainizing” Prof Rah, Nathan, but I will point out that, from my POV, you exhibited illogical reasoning and an inability to understand Prof Rah’s points appropriately, above. You certainly cast the aspersion of “racism” upon him. It would seem that you chose to be offended instead of reading carefully & well, in my opinion.

  103. [...] Best Writing 20 OK – here we go. Things have been stewing lately, not to mention the whole Deadly Viper controv, but also things I’ve been observing about the academic / ecclesial establishment. A [...]

  104. Holly Baldwin says:

    I have attended Central Christian Church in Las Vegas (Jud Wilhite’s cult) on numerous occassions. I have found that the Church also makes fun of other ethnic groups, the Latinos and Italians, in their videos. During one of the Christmas videos, they even portrayed Italians tieing up one of their family members, duck taping his mouth, and throwing him the truck of a car. I tried to address the issue with the powers that be. All I got was a backlashing from them.

  105. [...] recent days a controversyhas arisen around the reckless co-opting of Asian culture within the curriculum, videos and books [...]

  106. [...] Viper Character Assassin: A Kung Fu Survival Guide For Life and Leadership; questions that prompted Soong Chan Rah to write an open letter as well as have a few guest posts about the Orientalism (white privilege) [...]

  107. […] and this and this brought back not-so-fond memories of Deadly Viper on a few […]

  108. […] they are called out after multiple blog-posts. This is exactly what happened a few years ago with Dr. Soong Rah Chan and the Deadly Viper saga. It’s the cycle of linguistic violence, Sinophobia, and anti-Asian/Pacific racism that […]

  109. […] racism and privilege in the Evangelical Church? Yeah, it’s a real thing as seen here, here, here, and here, to name a […]

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