Zondervan’s Public Statement: Tremendous Act of Repentance by Zondervan

Posted: November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins”

From Moe Girkins, President and CEO

Hello and thanks for your patience.

On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins.  It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ.  This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.

There is no need for debate on this subject.  We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.

We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart.  In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products.  He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward.  We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God.  We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth.  And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.

It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite.  Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message.  We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side.  This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.

Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion.   We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.

Warmly,

Moe

The above statement was sent to me via e-mail from Zondervan.  It reflects a genunine repentant spirit and a deep willingness to hear and to act.  I am moved by Zondervan’s willingness to act in this decisive and dramatic manner.  Many thanks to the authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite and to Moe Girkins, Zondervan’s CEO and the team at Zondervan that have spoken in a decisive manner with a high level of integrity.

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Comments
  1. Nourisha says:

    This makes me happy. I would hope all publishing houses took this stance when it came to representing the full spectrum of our global community. Good job!

  2. Justin says:

    A good result. Thanks to Zondervan and the authors for their graciousness and humility, and to Prof Rah, E-Cho and Kathy for their outspoken leadership on this (and Pastor Ken too)!

  3. [...] 19, 2009 by thelinkbetween What a move!!!  Way to go Zondervan!  See the apology on Soong Chan Rah’s blog.  (If you don’t know about this controversy, read [...]

  4. Ethan says:

    Pretty cool. Thank you for leading the efforts. And thank you Zondervan and Mike/Jud for doing what is right.

  5. Nicole says:

    Wow. I am very impressed by Zondervan and Mike and Jud. This took tremendous integrity and humility on their part. Hopefully a learning community can develop and thrive under the new leadership.

  6. eliseanne says:

    wow.
    permanently removed.
    wow.

    the work of the Spirit.

  7. Kevin says:

    This is a good outcome for your initiative, PSC. Hopefully Zondervan really will learn from this, and these kinds of battles won’t need to be fought.

  8. I’m going out to buy some random Zondervan products!!

    Seriously though, praise God.

    And Thank you Soong-Chan for your step of faith and courage in engaging the conversation to begin with.

    Joel.

  9. Tony Lin says:

    Thank you Prof. Rah for what you have done.

  10. cyrus says:

    humbled. just humbled. thanks prof rah.

    guess we now need the courage to define ourselves

  11. david says:

    Wow. I honestly was not expecting this, but am glad to hear such a solid response. Thanks for your hard work in helping to make this happen!

  12. dewde says:

    Wow. Just… wow. They took the site down too. 2 years of being a part of a community of other Christians that talked to each other, almost daily, in the comments of the blog posts… all of which were on the topics of integrity and giving other people a second chances. Now that community is gone.

    http://deadlyviper.org/

    I am sad.

    This is me expressing a loss. This is not me saying it should have stayed up. This is not me saying the book should have stayed in stores.

    This is just me expressing a loss.

    peace | dewde

  13. Jantzen says:

    Praise God! The kingdom of God is at hand and reconciliation is at work.

  14. Melody Hanson says:

    For being a lightening rod for justice, thank you.
    For speaking out when at first you were criticized and told you were over reacting, thank you.
    For seeing what others did not see, thank you.
    For your dramatic words that compelled others to act and write and cry and pray, thank you.
    For thinking of your children, and listening to your wife :-), and speaking up when you were wary and weary, thank you.

    Thank you to all four of you and many, many others who spoke up.

    I rest tonight feeling hope for a brighter tomorrow, when we must get up and begin the work of sitting at the table and acting, writing, crying and praying face-to-face with common goals.

    Zondervan impressed me by their leadership, humility, grace and clear understanding of the issues.

    I do hope they remember the women who were equally hurt, dismayed, and broken by the book’s language.

    Melody
    http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ I wrote this morning about the need for apology and forgiveness.

  15. Billy says:

    1) I’m glad I got the book before this went down.

    2) I hope the publicity you gained with playing the race card was worth losing the people who were seeing the love of Christ displayed through the People of the Second Chance.

    As an asian american, the life change of just one individual is greater than saving the face of an entire race. My prayer is that God reveals to you the souls that will not be reached. The love that will not be spread. The message that won’t be shared because a great community is now lost, all because our race got offended.

    Wow.

    • Helen Lee says:

      Just to clarify, Zondervan will be working with the DV authors to preserve the content of the book and republish in a format. Even if you did not find the presentation stereotypical or offensive, many of your AA (and non-AA) brothers and sisters did. It is my belief that due to their support of Zondervan’s actions, Mike and Jud have demonstrated that they practice what they preach, and their ministry will only increase as a result, not decrease.

      I know Prof Rah and the other Asian American leaders involved did not raise their voices to Zondervan/DV authors for publicity’s sake. I know many others who have worked behind the scenes to communicate their dismay over DV not for personal gain, but because they were convinced it was the right thing to do. And Zondervan agreed. I can attest to the fact that the leadership did not make this decision to be perceived as being politically correct or to avoid controversy. They ultimately decided to pull the book because they believed it was the right thing to do. Whether you agree or not is your opinion, but it’s not fair to make erroneous assumptions about Prof Rah’s or anyone else’e motivations in raising the issues.

      I, for one, am grateful to Prof Rah and others who have raised their voices and awareness of the DV materials. I’m deeply grateful to Zondervan and the authors for making a difficult choice and having the integrity to follow through on their convictions. And I do believe the church as a whole is better off for our having experienced this controversy than if it had never happened. But that’s just my opinion. You’re entitled to a different one, but I’d ask that refrain from personal and unfounded attacks when you express it.

      • Billy says:

        I would ask then, by your logic, how many people should be offended by the way content id portrayed before we change it?

  16. C.A. says:

    I wonder what the outcome of this will be? This appears to be not about reconciliation, but about power. The “winning” side has exercised it’s power and “won” by getting Zondervan to drop the book and the website to be taken down. But the more likely outcome, rather than understanding and reconciliation, is a sense of proud victory on one side, and a quiet anger and resentment against excessive political correctness on the other side (it has to be quiet or else it would be seen as racist). I don’t think the Kingdom is advanced by these kind of battles, nor is racial understanding.

    • Wally says:

      C.A. – please reread Matthew 23, the 7 woes don’t sound like reconciliation as much as holding the religious system accountable. Also reread Gal 2:11 – Paul did not show much respect for Peter’s hypocrisy.

    • erik says:

      C.A. – I agree about your comment about racial understanding not being advanced. As a Christian white male, I’m a somewhat frustrated with the fact that these two guys have essentially been called out as racists. Now, before everyone reacts to that statement with “we know they didn’t mean this…”, most of the posts on this site related to Deadly Viper has “racism” as one of its tags (and it’s implied in several of the comments). I would hope that the author’s actions would change that perspective. It’s a testimony of the character and integrity these guys have.

      Instead of gaining a better understanding of how to honor Asian culture through this process, I’ve essentially learned that I’d better not think of using Asian themes in communication or in design. Because (1), I’m not Asian and (2) I might accidentally get something wrong and be labeled a racist.

      That second statement may be extreme and a bit reactionary, but that’s how I’m feeling at the moment based on some of the comments I’ve seen here on the site (and on other blogs).

      I’d love to hear some perspective from some of my Asian brothers/sisters here to help balance me out. Thanks.

      • eliseanne says:

        check out this video blog about the difference between calling an action/word “racist” and calling a person a racist.

        http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html

        There is a big difference, and I believe that this pushback on DV was about the designs and portrayals deeply hurting our asian american brothers and sisters, and the non-asians who support them and racial equality. it is a symptom or sign of the racial inequalities that still exists in our world and in the unconscious background of those raised with white privilege.

        don’t be afraid of being labeled a racist. instead, listen to the stories of those hurt by racism that you and i are learning to see. and begin to believe the realities that our brothers and sisters face daily.

        peace.

      • erikscottberg says:

        Eliseanne,

        Thanks for the link to the video it is helpful in putting some things in context. I guess I’m reacting to comments that would indicate that the authors are hypocrites for writing a book on integrity and then use this imagery. The line between “doing” and “being” (as the video puts it) just seems to be blurred a bit.

        In regards to to your comment about “begin to believe the realities”. It seems like there’s an assumption that white people in general don’t believe that racism is a problem. I can’t speak for every white person out there, but isn’t that a bit of a stereotype itself? I’m blind because of my “white privilege”? When I read the “Open Letter” post, I understood some of the offenses (the video and the quote about the Asian name in particular). I also admit that there were other bullet points (like the fact that white people were using Asian themes) that I don’t understand. The point is that I am trying to understand so that I’m not blind. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe it–but sometimes it means I don’t understand it. To me, that’s a big difference. If I understand it, then I can avoid it and help others understand as well.

        I’ve got a lot more I’d like to add, but I fear that this forum probably isn’t best suited for it, simply because of complexity of the issue and of how things can be misunderstood (and the near novel-length of this comment!). I’m in dialogue with some of my Asian American friends to further understand the issues here.

        Again, thank you for your comments and I truly hope we are all better off because of this.

        erik

      • eliseanne says:

        @erik

        you’re pretty fantastic. respectful and open dialogue is so essential as we journey through this.

        thanks for being encouraging in that way.

    • Tony Lin says:

      I agree that racial understanding was NOT advanced. I disagree with winning. There were no “winners” here as expressed by some of the comments here. It’s bittersweet even for those who wanted the material removed.

      I don’t think anyone won here and I still believe that the authors did the easy thing. I still don’t think the authors should be let off the hook so easily. Instead of just taking their website down, the Christian thing would have been to edify the church by teaching why this was wrong. They could have used their platform to teach and explain why this was not some PC nonsense. The way the website was shut down and the statement they put out leads one to believe that they were faithful Christians who were shut down by angry asians with PC agendas. No one won here…

      • dewde says:

        @Tony:

        “I don’t think anyone won here and I still believe that the authors did the easy thing. I still don’t think the authors should be let off the hook so easily. Instead of just taking their website down, the Christian thing would have been to edify the church by teaching why this was wrong.”

        I do not see how the outcome you desire could have happened within 2 weeks. I’ve been thinking and growing and trying to understand, as much as possible for someone “institutionally racist” because of my “white privilege”, for 2 weeks. I’m closer than I was before, but I am nowhere near “there”. And if me, a spectator and auxiliary member of the Deadly Viper community haven’t had time to fuly comprehend, appreciate, and understand… how could I expect the guys that are truly, personally invested?

        I don’t think it is possible for these 2 guys to become the teachers you desire. Not in such a short timeframe. And if that’s true then, in the interim, what would you have suggested? Leave the site up and cause more hurt? Take the site down and issue an apology?

        What I saw from the Asian community, and especially Professor Rah, was public outcry, call to action, and the expectation of swift decision-making for the authors and Zondervan. It is my opinion that these things do not provide the margin required for the thoughtful, forward-thinking strategy you have laid out.

        peace | dewde

      • Tony Lin says:

        Dewde: I agree that 2 weeks is a very short time to change worldviews. But I think it would have been tremendously helpful for Mike and Jud to work that out in public. To humbly confess their ignorance and cultural insensitivity and show their blog readers how they are growing and the questions they are asking. I think that could have been very helpful to others. As it stands right now, there are a lot of White Christians (mostly males based on the blogs I’ve read) very angry at Asian-Americans. But keep in mind that neither Prof. Rah nor any Asian American asked for this. DV brought this out but now the authors are gone, their book is pulled and fuel has been poured on the fire… who is going to put it out?

  17. Judy says:

    Praise God!

    Thank you for your leadership on this issue. Truly thankful for (and frankly a little surprised by) the outcome.

    Sweet!

  18. Meredith says:

    I cannot express my thankfulness in Zondervan’s brave choice in the matter. Although I will admit, I am proud of the Asian American community’s action on this matter, I am even more proud of Zondervan’s response. It is much easier to express one’s concern than it is to admit one’s mistake. This is not about “winning” or “losing” – it is about creating an inclusive community.
    As a Quaker, I rarely peruse the Evangelical Christian marketplace, but the conversations that have taken place over the course of this controversy and Zondervan’s laudable remedial actions have motivated me to look beyond my own practice of faith and check out the greater Christian book and blogsphere. As I have read the authors of this blog, dissenting blogs, and even the Deadly Vipers, I have been touched by the conversations. Although our theology might not always match, I have found great spiritual nutrition that I never would have otherwise experienced.
    Again, thank you Professor Rah and all involved for reminding us that being a Christian does not mean never being offended. Thank you Zondervan, Mike and Jud for welcoming me back into your community as a Christian, an Asian American woman, and most importantly, as a human being.

  19. gar says:

    Impressive statement!

    Thanks Prof. Rah for your leadership and your willingness to dialogue with Zondervan and others about this.

  20. [...] 20, 2009 by Edward Gilbreath In case you didn’t hear it yet, Zondervan made a major announcement yesterday regarding the Deadly Viper Character Assassins book that was the source of so much anger [...]

  21. Phil B-D says:

    Wow – that was unexpected; right, correct, true, Godly, but unexpected…

    Thanks, Prof Rah, for yours and others righteous and forthright leadership regarding this important issue.

    – Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. (MLK)
    – Justice anywhere is justice everywhere (PBD)

  22. Melody Hanson says:

    Marian Wright Edelman said:

    “If you as parents cut corners, your children will too. If you lie, they will too. If you spend all your money on yourselves and tithe no portion of it for charities, colleges, churches, synagogues, and civic causes, your children won’t either. And if parents snicker at racial and gender jokes, another generation will pass on the poison adults still have not had the courage to snuff out.”

    And I’ll add, if you’re too scared to stick up for yourself, your kids will be afraid too.

  23. Amy Moffitt says:

    This is very, very encouraging. I really hope the way forward is smooth for all who were involved in this situation.

  24. Steve says:

    So glad to see Zondervan respond to this. Is it too much to also ask for an apology from Zondervan for starting a new series of Tim LeHaye’s Left Behind books?

  25. Mary Nelson says:

    So glad that such things are brought to light and exposed by Soong Chan and others. We need that reminder of how easily we fall into racial stereotypes and harm relationships. Glad for the apology.

  26. Ksquared says:

    Wow…It’s very encouraging to see Zondervan respond in this way.

  27. ObserverBill says:

    I have a different take on this whole debacle. I think it is Prof. Rah who is the guilty party.

    Racism is seeing the world from an egocentric perspective and judging all events/actions/statements by the measuring stick of one’s race. It is a disease that suppresses the sufferer’s sense of humor, and renders him/her incapable of (a) letting others speak freely and be themselves, and (b) acknowledging and embracing cultural differences.

    A racist seeks to eliminate racism by expecting all references to racial differences be eliminated from public discourse. He/she seeks to abolish racism by demanding all others be “sensitive” to matters of race. Above all, a racist demands not to be treated equally, but in a superior fashion — with kid gloves and trepidation lest proper words or near-royal deference fail to be observed.

    In short, a racist doesn’t celebrate diversity; he/she builds walls between the races by placing all comments about race under an unblinking, unforgiving microscope. He/she is a vivisectionist, as insidious as a slow-acting poison. Encountering such a person in the “world” is bad enough. But in the Body of Christ it’s unconscionable.

    Incidentally, the proof of your own (perhaps subconscious) racism is revealed in the closing words of your original rant: “Maybe the answer comes from the pictures in your catalog and your Web site 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 allow this sort of offense to continue.”

    Wow. Do you honestly believe that just because people are white they are, de facto, incapable of anything other than racism?

    Can you imagine the crap-storm that would ensue if a white person looked at a company’s employee roster and concluded that just because its employees are black or Asian that there’s something inherently wrong with the company, that it can’t possibly be anything other than racially insensitive?

    Double wow.

    This was a travesty and an injustice — against Zondervan and two of its authors…*not* against Asians in general and you in particular. It is *you* who should should have apologized.

    • Jesse says:

      I humbly submit that your definitions of “racist” and “racism” are a bit off.

      Racism is not “seeing the world from an egocentric perspective” – that’s more “individualistic worldview” – nor is it “judging all events/actions/statements by the measuring stick of one’s race” – a racially-centered worldview. Different from racism proper. The first casualty of racism is not sense of humor. And racism as an ideology does not necessarily require the suppression of the First Amendment (letting others speak freely).

      Additionally, a racist does not ever seek to eliminate racism. That’s just nonsensical.

      I could go on, but the point is this: it is clear that you are attempting to construct a definition of “racism” and “racist” that would indict the actions and ideologies you perceived from those who pushed back on Deadly Viper – actions and ideologies that you find offensive. You’ve missed the mark, but you did succeed in inventing entirely new meanings for those terms – meanings that exist nowhere else besides your head. Some time spent with a few academically reliable dictionaries would yield much fruit here.

      But before that, I urge you to embark on a journey of reconsideration and reflection, not unlike the one that led Zondervan and the authors to their current course of action.

      And please, save “travesty” for those who didn’t get to eat today, or who won’t last the year because they don’t have clean water.

  28. Regina Trammel says:

    Awesome! I’m so encouraged by Zondervan’s response.

  29. [...] Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins” [...]

  30. MA says:

    Somehow, in the Christian community, any attempt to be kind is considered PC. It is not about PC. It is about living at peace with others as long as it is up to you (Paul) and about becoming as a servant (Jesus). White people do not understand what it is like to be Asian and as such cannot write for Asians. Neither can they understand how to be Black or Hispanic because they are not. What should happen should be a multicultural staff so that characters of color can appropriately depict their heritage without falling on old stereotypes and negative, humiliating depictions of ethnic groups. I am a Christian and I think this is a Biblical response. I am offended by the white Christian who somehow thinks any attempt to be sensitive to creating positive racial stereotypes is PC. Hollywood, who Christians criticize so much about being “PC,” is one of the worst offenders of using whites to depict people of color , because they care more about box office (note the spray tanned Persians out now or the non Asian Avatars). Let’s not be like them. Let’s come at it from a perspective of caring and respecting all cultures. P.S. I am NOT saying it was done or intended to be racist. It was done from lack of knowledge. But that doesn’t mean it does’t need to be fixed.

    • ObserverBill says:

      Seriously, MA? Do you truly mean “White people do not understand what it is like to be Asian and as such cannot write for Asians. Neither can they understand how to be Black or Hispanic because they are not”?

      If that logic were true, Hollywood could not have made movies about Hobbits without being a Hobbit, could not have made movies about Jedi Knights without being a Jedi Knight, could not have made a movie about being on the Titanic without actually being on the Titanic, and could not have made movies about being a Mafia don without being a Godfather.

      Along those same lines, the Apostle Paul could not have preached the Gospel to non-Jews, Christians could not preach to non-Christians, women could not preach to men (and vice-versa), the old could not preach to the young, and blacks could not ever hope to preach to whites.

      Your sentiments may be noble. But your logic is deeply flawed.

      I *love* different cultures. I adore ethnic food. I love music and movies from other cultures. I love different accents. I am thrilled when I visit other countries. True, I could not possibly understand what it’s like to be French because I’m not French. However, I know one thing for a certainty: I am a human being, just as those from other races, countries, ethnic groups, and genders are human beings. That unites us all and absolutely shatters any perceived racial barriers.

      I thank God not all people believe what you seem to believe. If they did this world would be a far lonelier, colder place than it already is.

      • Hannah says:

        LOL!!!!! Bill, did you just compare Asians to Hobbits? O.m.g…that was hilarious. I’m an Asian American woman who just laughed out IN DISBELIEF at your comment. I can tell you’re clearly offended by MA’s line you quoted, but I have to say I agree with MA. Being a part of a racial, ethnic or cultural group is *not* like being Christian, Jew, or Catholic. (Well, maybe Jew because it’s both an ethnic and religious identity). With faith, we have a *choice.* (Unless you’re of the Reformed tradition. All power to Calvinists, I’m dating one.) With our appearance as people of color, we do not have a choice about looking different and getting made fun of for it, my friend. And, just fyi – in my personal view, I include White as having a color and a culture. The issue I see is that so many White folks don’t. It’s undeniable that White people are in positions of power and privilege as the dominant racial group in America; White people can afford to ignore color lines and pretend they live in a color-blind society. (Disclaimer: Saying white people have “color” and culture is different from including White people in the term “people of color” because it has a certain sociopolitical meaning that came from a history of struggling and community organizing as minorities in this country.)

        I have to point out that your Hollywood metaphor is flawed and irrelevant. Fictional movies made for entertainment about fictional (or even historical) characters are nothing like using stereotypical Asian symbols, characters, and images to communicate a message that is unrelated to Asian culture…unless we speculate that the DV writers were using Asian culture solely for entertainment purposes…which would be even worse, because they’re not Asian. (You almost act as if you know nothing about the history of Asians in America. Try this for a start – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Exclusion_Act ) Sorry man, but it’s a failed metaphor you’re trying to use. Your logic about Hollywood movies about fictional SPECIES (Hobbits?!) is also not remotely close to drawing any “same lines” as the Apostle Paul’s preaching to non-Jews.

        Paul was a missionary doing cross-cultural work. He didn’t pretend he knew everything about their experience, but he did know that Christ had called him to testify, teach, and share the Gospel. The Gospel is a message for all and it did not need to take on the form of a stereotyped cultural forms to make its point. When Paul preached, he did it as a Jew, a former Pharisee, and as a Roman citizen. The guy was completely aware of his own ethnic and cultural identity, to the point where he was acutely aware of his own baggage, pretty open about it too. Because of this keen self-awareness he didn’t mistakenly judge others and make decisions that hurt others the way Peter did when he refused to eat with the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-21). So Paul had to call him out on that, which is kind of like what Professor Soong Chan Rah & Co did for the writers of DV and Zondervan. Paul and Peter were both brothers in Christ and leaders in the ministries God had entrusted them with…as are the writers DV and the Asian American Christian leaders who spoke up about the community’s hurt. The POINT was and will always be that when a significant group of people in the same Body are hurt and offended, then maybe we should stop and reconsider what we’re doing (even when we are convinced we are right). That models the biblical principle of preferring others before ourselves and thinking of them more highly. Even if it doesn’t seem justified, for the sake of relationship (Love your neighbor? Love your brethren?) we need to at least hear out the offended party and try to understand why they were hurt before spending all of our energies defending ourselves. The DV writers did that when they realized that it was actually a serious issue for many people – it was never about them or any perceived malicious intent, it was always about the reality of Asian American people’s experiences in the US and the context of America’s history of race relations. You don’t go around telling African Americans who may be angry about a perceived racial slight to just hurry up and get over it (because slavery ended more than a few decades ago), do you?

        As for Paul preaching to Gentiles, Christians preaching to non-Christians, etc…he/they and we do not do these things because we have a right to, by virtue of being human or anything. We do it as a matter of obedience, and we do it as slaves, servants of our Master Jesus Christ, speaking and living as He commanded us to. At its core, the mandate to preach the gospel has nothing to do with our relationship to those we preach to, or our differences/similarities, or even how we feel about them, their food, their accents, or their forms of entertainment. It’s about obedience. But that also means that we’re to approach the task of cross-cultural work with humility, open eyes, listening ears, and the fear of the Lord. When we enter into someone else’s context, we are entering into another world of experiences that are not our own, and though we have become recipients of the truth of the Gospel, it does not give us license to walk all over everyone or make judgements left and right. In fact, precisely because we have become recipients of the greatest hope mankind’s ever received, we should be quick to listen and to learn before speaking and telling others how to live their lives.

        ObserverBill, “Your sentiments may be noble. But your logic is deeply flawed.”

        Your bit about loving other cultures, food, etc etc etc, is supposed to be your defense and justification as someone who can speak towards these issues, right? Well, just to let you know, it doesn’t really work. That’s like me saying that I’m married to a white guy so I know all about that experience. Cuz the truth is, I just don’t. I would simply be near someone who is experiencing life from that position. And, no matter how much you enjoy my culture’s food, music, or art, if you do not care enough to listen to me when I am hurt by something you have done, then none of it matters. Try including a love for learning about the *values* of another culture. For instance, in Asian culture, respect and honor are HUGE. We just know to tread carefully, especially w/elders, when there is even a minute possibility of offending someone else – it’s called Saving Face. I don’t see why your enjoying outward aspects of other cultures should lead you to disrespect them by downplaying others’ experiences, particularly of hurt and frustration.

        If you are a white man, do you know that in this country, when you speak, your voice resounds the loudest in this society? Do you know that in this country, when you walk along the streets at night, even in the seediest neighborhoods, no one is afraid of you? (Well, maybe women who’ve had bad experiences w/other men might be). Do you know that in this country, when you apply for a corporate job, you have a better chance of getting it than people of other “races, countries, ethnic groups, and genders”? If you do not, then please take a moment to step in to someone else’s shoes. Start w/your white sisters if you need to. Then step “down” into the shoes of a person who is a part of a minority. See what that looks, feels, sounds, and even tastes like. It’ll be unlike your own experience, and if it is, then you’re not doing it right and you really do not understand. It is a fact that being white gives people a position of privilege and power in this country that people who are not white do not have.

        Being human does not preclude being a person of a unique group that for whatever reason is discriminated against, marginalized, and judged for being different (ethnic minority, alternative sexuality, religious minority, etc.) But it does mean that these negative experiences and disrespectful treatments will hurt and offend and strain relationships. Tell me, if DV had used images known as stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, would there be a problem and a subsequent outcry from the community that felt ridiculed? YES. Furthermore, would people have an issue about them having an issue? NO. Please think about why that is. The fact that people didn’t even know that Asian Americans are sensitive about the martial arts stereotype is EVIDENCE of how marginalized Asian Americans are in the US. You wouldn’t go around looking at African Americans and making monkey faces/noises at them, right? (Please tell me know you know about that one. http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/americans-still-linking-blacks-apes-15428.html)

        Racial barriers in American are not just perceived, they are absolutely REAL. And the biggest problem is that the people who perpetuate these injustices the most are those who are unaware of them…because they can afford to be. America is not a color-blind society and it is still very racist, from its roots to its institutions. Ben below in his comment is right that it’s not about race, it’s about Jesus. So why did DV have to use Asian images then? It should been kept simple, and like the guy said, “About Jesus.”

        Again, I speak in your own words: “I thank God not all people believe what you seem to believe. If they did[,] this world would be a far [unjust], [more superficial] place than it already is.” No hard feelings, but you really did not make a strong case for your position.

        If you actually want to know why people are so upset and really understand their point of view, try reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/Different-Mirror-History-Multicultural-America/dp/0316831115

        A good video series called the “Color of Money”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nOQUji-WU&feature=player_embedded#
        ——————————————————————————————————

        “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”
        Harry A. Blackmun quotes (American Supreme Court justice, 1908-1999)

      • ObserverBill says:

        Wow, Hannah. I had no idea someone could read my post and conclude I compared Asians to Hobbits any more than I compared the Apostle Paul to a Jedi Knight. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps you’re joking. Or maybe you’re intentionally trying to bait me. Or maybe you’re *looking* for offenses against which you feel the need to rail. But I clearly made the point in my post that people *can* understand that which they have not personally experienced, and don’t necessarily *need* to be one race/gender to understand another. They do it all the time, every day.

        Compassion and love go a long way toward bridging gaps (perceived or otherwise) between people. If such bridging were not possible, if you truly believe what MA wrote, there can never be unity between races, genders, and people groups. We’ll forever be strangers to one another.

        Your reply indicates you have deep-seated anger. I’m not sure toward whom or why. But I’m quite sure I do not want to get caught up in your straw-man arguments, defending statements you said I made that I clearly did not.

        I’m sorry you were offended by my reply to MA. I did not intend to offend anyone.

        I’ll be praying for you to find healing and wholeness.

      • MA says:

        Bill
        The reason Hannah says that you compare Hollywood writers writing about Hobbits and Jedi to this book about Asians is because you did! In your very post!! Please go back and read it again. And they are not even real! I also could not believe it myself.

        When Hollywood went to write about the Mafia for example, often they would do a lot of research and have someone go into the community and spend time with Mafia folks. At the same time, I would imagine that they also used stereotypes and also probably many Mafia people either laughed at or were offended by Hollywood Mafia movies. I don’t know anyone in the Mafia so I can’t say. But the Mafia is not a beautiful race or culture of people created by God. They are a criminal organization. Again, somewhat to me an offensive comparison.

        And bringing up Hollywood, they are one of the worst about perpetuating negative and outdated Asian American stereotypes with Cantonese accents (even though most Chinese today speak Mandarin and would not have such an accent). Most Chinese friends are doctors and scientists, and yet Hollywood continues to perpetuate the Chinese food delivery/laundry/Cantonese accented stereotypes. Rarely do they choose a Chinese person to be an “average person.” As Hannah said, often they must be doing martial arts or delivering food.

        Hollywood, however, is not run by Christians. They are run by box office. Much of an outcry has come from the Asian American community about the “White washing” of the Avartar series because the main characters were all chosen to be White. Most likely because they figured more
        White people would come to see big White stars. So they can’t choose Asians to portray Asians or just to portray an Average role either. But again, Christians are supposed to hold to the standard of Jesus Christ. If Christians know they have offended someone, then the first response is to evaluate, and to try to make amends, as Zondervan has. They can rewrite and redo with assistance of Asian writers who will be sensitive to cultural offenses. Christians have a higher calling and must act in a different manner than the world toward racial issues.

        Even if one does not intentionally offend, they need to learn what is offensive and handle it differently next time.

  31. Ben says:

    Once again the body of Christ misses the point that we’re all connected with a central goal. Hopefully we can stop focusing on all of our differences and keep the focus on the one thing we have in common. It’s not about Asians or white guys, it’s about Jesus.

    Christians are the only family on earth that shoot their own wounded. How embarrassing for us.

    Now, let’s all go out and find something good to boycott instead of focusing on reaching people. There’s always a satanic Teletubbie this time of year that needs to be taken off the shelves.

    • Hannah says:

      This is for you, Ben :)

    • Irene Cho says:

      Yes it is about Jesus, isn’t it? So let’s ask the cliche question of WWJD, shall we? I wonder if Jesus ever disrespected or mocked someone’s culture in order to get his point across? Didn’t he actually reprimand and rebuke the hubris of the Pharisees and Sadducees and point out the way they marginalized others or didn’t care about the hurt and pain that others have experienced? So in response to your statement that it’s all about Jesus, I need to ask the question, how is the DV book’s marketing ploy and disrespect to a culture and people group they obviously know about being Christlike? Would Jesus be okay if we mocked a deaf person by imitating the manner in which they speak, all in the hopes of a good laugh from others? Would Jesus be okay if I parade around with shoe polish on my face and talk like a “southern darkie” slave to get a few laughs for a book I write? Am I being Christlike when I don’t bother to try and listen to the pains/hurts/experiences that my brothers and sisters in Christ are sharing?

      When a friend comes up to me and shares that a hurt or offense has happened, isn’t it my job to stop and listen first? I may not understand at first why someone is offended, I may be upset at first as to why someone is confronting me and causing a “ruckus”, I may feel cornered and defensive at first because I’m being informed and told that I did something “wrong”. But isn’t it my respectful responsibility as a friend to not shout at them to shut up and go away because they’re bothering me and shaking up my world? Shouldn’t I realize that it’s really not about me at all and really it’s about my friend who’s hurt? And shouldn’t I try and figure out what the pain is, where the pain came from, and how this came about? I don’t know, I thought being about Jesus meant that when I either cause a friend to hurt or hear about their hurt, I am to be a vessel that brings healing. Isn’t what we mean by it all being about Jesus? Wouldn’t I want to start by asking better questions instead of telling them to get over it? And let’s use Robert Fulgham’s method and bring it to a kindergartner’s level: if Jesus were at a playground of kids and saw someone being mocked and ridiculed for their looks, language, names, culture and identity, who would he reprimand? The people doing the mocking or the kid who was crying because of the shame they felt? Some of you are telling the crying kid to *stop it, get over it, it was just a joke, it was all in good fun, what’s the big deal, why does this have to be about any of that anyways and boy, you’ve just got anger issues little kid. You need to learn to forgive man! C’mon, Jesus still loves you even though you look weird, have weird names, speak a weird language … but really no … Jesus still loves you.* Would Jesus stand next to you and nod his head in agreement and hand the kid a tissue and tell him to get over it?

      So yes, I think we’re all more than happy to make this about Jesus.

  32. Ben says:

    I hope your next efforts attempt to get Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love” pulled from shelves. I mean the content is fantastic, but there are many individuals dealing with mental issues that have been termed ‘crazy’. And I’m sure every time they hear the word in any context they are deeply saddened, reminded of their challenges and offended by the title. It’s a very insensitive word. Plus the cover of the book is red. And as well know, red can carry negative meanings like war, revolution and anarchy. Keep up the great work.

    • Irene Cho says:

      So, I guess the book has a picture of a person dealing with these challenges on the cover or Francis Chan in a huge picture with a straight jacket on? Or maybe the book tries to relate Christian content to mentally challenged issues in a “yuch, yuch, isn’t this hilarious and catchy” kind of way?

      • Jesse says:

        Indeed it does. The chapter titles are highly offensive – Anxiety Love, Schizophrenic Love, Bipolar Love – just awful. The images in the book are tasteless illustrations and photographs of asylums and counseling offices, and the videos are shot from a facility for electroshock therapy. Someone needs to pull Francis Chan – if that’s even his real name – from whatever house church he’s planting and make him answer for this. Now.

  33. David_C says:

    I agree with ObserverBill. I got a free copy of Deadly Viper at Catalyst a few years ago & not for ONE SECOND did I think that the characters in the book were supposed to be a generalization or caricature of Asian people. That’s completely idiotic.

    Continuing ObserverBill’s inverse perspective . . .

    What’s the “white” version of Deadly Viper? :) Perhaps it’s a book that draws parallels between the American Mafia, Inner City Gangs & the Ku Klux Klan . . . giving them clever names & connect them to sins that we’re guilty of.

    Sure, that sounds ridiculous.

    And it’s even more ridiculous to think (as a white male with a bit of Italian heritage & grandparents who grew up in the south) that I’m going to spend one once of energy thinking that somehow that book was intended to characterize me or my race.

    That’s not to say that perhaps there aren’t things that should be tweaked. That’s a healthy conversation & perhaps those changes are called for.

    But to force Zondervan to drop the book & take down the site? Professor Rah should be embarrassed & so should everyone who thinks that justice has won out here.

    • Jeff Pan says:

      David, I do not doubt that you did not think that the characters in the book were supposed to be a generalization or caricature of Asian people. You probably do your best to view all people fairly, and I appreciate that.

      I also think that it probably would be ridiculous to think that you, (a white male with a bit of Italian heritage & grandparents who grew up in the south), would spend even one ounce of energy thinking that somehow a “white” version of the book would be intended to characterize you or your race.

      But I think that that is part of the issue. While you might not, an Asian may think about such things, and actually many have. And it is not idiotic or ridiculous. Here are some of my thoughts on the reason for this. As a Chinese American, I have endured many, many taunts of “ching chong” and eyes pulled back. I have been asked countless times if I knew karate (often mockingly, with no concern for an answer – which btw is that I do not). I rarely see normal Asian American men portrayed on television, in movies, or on book covers. If there are Asian men, they are either unrealistic, martial arts superheroes or computer geeks or something similar. I can never attain the status of the former, and I do not desire to viewed as the latter. I believe that Satan has used these things over long periods of time to speak lies into my life (and into the lives of many Asian Americans) and to keep me from fully understanding my true identity in Christ. And because of this, it might not be ridiculous for an Asian American to consider the racial stereotypes portrayed by this book. In fact, I do believe that the racial stereotypes portrayed in the book were harmful, even if only very subtly so. 30 years worth of subtle, subtle lies can have a major negative impact on a person. They have in my life.

      Also, I don’t believe that Zondervan was forced to do anything. I do not think that a person could force them to drop any of their other books. They are not a small publishing company and they are dedicated to producing Christian material of the highest quality. They have been in detailed discussion with Asian American leaders as well as the authors of the book, and have decided on what they felt to be the proper course of action.

      I’m pretty sure that the authors of the book would not say that they were bullied into anything either. If they were, I would doubt their integrity and leadership (which was the content of their book). Rather, I think that they have gathered the information they deemed necessary, and made a decision which they felt was the most God-honoring, not one that would please the most people.

      Also, Zondervan and the authors will work on the presentation of the book, and several Asian American leaders have offered to help in what ways they can. The content of the book will not be lost.

      I hope that you might prayerfully consider some of my thoughts. God bless you!

  34. [...] Models Repentance, Humility By Pulling Controversial Book Zondervan Publishing announced yesterday that it is pulling all the copies and support material for its controversial Deadly Viper [...]

    • Irene Cho says:

      That was a really thoughtful reflection. Thanks for that and I believe that after reading some other frustrating comments, I’m going to shut my computer down for the night with your beautiful words.

  35. Phil Jackson says:

    I thank the people at Zondervan for this letter and I think it is what we need to see more of in the Body of Christ I wish the authors of the book would have been more intune to this as their pubilsher was.

  36. ObserverBill says:

    What I gather from reading all of these posts is this: there are a lot of very, very angry people in the world. I don’t think the Zondervan book *caused* any of this. It was merely the latest catalyst for the feelings to surface.

    Unfortunately, Zondervan’s noble gesture to pull the book will not solve the anger problem. It’ll only keep it at bay until the next offense.

    Seeds of anger and bitterness are very tough to uproot. But they can be.

    However, as long as people continue to see *others* as the cause or source of their anger and bitterness – rather than *themselves* and their own harboring of anger and bitterness – there will be no healing, no resolution.

    Here’s how to solve the situation: (1) Asians and Asian-Americans need to forgive, and (2) non-Asians need to be careful not to offend.

    It’s really that simple.

    If the former occurs, then when the latter (the occasional offense) occurs – and it will – the situation won’t escalate into what happened with the Zondervan book (Prof. Rah’s angry demands and insinuations of racism and/or racial insensitivity), and what I see happening here (Asians and Asian-Americans telling non-Asians there’s no way we can understand the problem).

    But it starts with forgiveness, followed closely by understanding and great care not to offend.

    I wish everyone here much luck in uprooting their own anger.

    • eliseanne says:

      Interesting.

      I have some general conflict/pain questions for you –

      1. Why does someone, who was deeply hurt, need to apologize for being hurt, to the person who hurt them?

      2. Does a person who was not a part of the conflict (as in, not the hurter or the hurt), have the authority to dictate whether others can/should be hurt or not?

      3. Does the person who was not a part of the conflict (as in, not the hurter or the hurt), have the authority to decide what the cause of the hurt was, without having experienced the hurt?

      4. Does someone who has not experienced a specific type of hurt, have the authority to say whether the hurt, and its reasons for hurt, exist or not?

  37. SnarkyMark says:

    First of all, Prof. Rah, THANK YOU so much for what you have done here. May God bless you (as he has) for your courage.

    Second of all, and I hate to be a party-pooper, but what I don’t get is this line from Zondervan’s letter: “In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products.”

    Given the context and tone of the letter, this sentence would make sense if Stan Gundry were, say, an Asian American or African American. He is white. (I should say, “white,” since I don’t actually believe in race as such, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

    So how does this decision relate to the apology and how will it advance racial and ethnic sensitivity at Zondervan? How is he qualified to make sure things like this don’t happen again? Maybe I just don’t know him or his work well enough. And it’s not to say that a person of color is more racially sensitive just by nature of their ethnicity, but typically speaking, those with “white privilege” have the luxury of not *having to* think about their race/ethnicity, generally resulting in less ethnic/racial sensitivity on the part of white people. (Case in point is many of the “I’m white–what’s the big deal?” comments on this blog in recent days.) This is not always the case, of course, but generally.

    Prof. Rah, you wrote to Zondervan (initially), “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.”

    “Every single person is white,” and this has not changed with the new appointment of Mr. Gundry.

    I fear–apology notwithstanding–that they have allowed “this learning moment to pass by.” They have done a very good thing in pulling this product (for which they are to be applauded), but that’s just the band-aid fix. I wish this letter had addressed the structural issues (more than just, “But we have Asian American friends and dialogue partners!”) that helped allow this book get by the editorial team in the first place.

    Sorry for the cynicism, but I didn’t see any comments on this blog picking up on this theme yet, and I felt it needed to be said.

  38. xoomeizhi says:

    One point it seems folks are missing is that
    the Deadly Viper products were trying to parody
    the “Kung Fu movie” genre, especially the “B grade”,
    poorly dubbed selections. They certainly wouldn’t
    be the fist to parody that genre and there is even
    a lot of self parody within that genre.

    What they failed to connect was that those movies have
    a connection, though often tenuous, to an actual culture
    and that their parody could be perceived as “making fun”
    of the actual culture and ethnic group rather than
    simply taking some humorous anecdotes from some
    cheesy action movies.

    So the authors and publishers were not being directly
    insensitive or malevolent, they were just being oblivious.

  39. [...] life. I along with many others have been blogging and reading about it for a few weeks. Zondervan recently decided to pull the book from the shelves and shut down the website after engaging in dialogue with members of the Asian and Asian American [...]

  40. [...] — and many others — due to its use of negative Asian stereotypes and caricatures: Zondervan is permanently removing all of the books from stores and discontinuing all related products. Talk about stepping up and [...]

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