It was more than a week ago that four Asian-American leaders engaged in a conference call with executives from Zondervan, regarding their recently published book, Deadly Viper Character Assassin: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership. While the authors of the book have issued a public apology for the offense and harm their material has caused, we have yet to hear officially from Zondervan. In that conference call, Zondervan promised to act upon the conversations with members of the Asian-American Christian community. There is no reason to suspect that Zondervan will not act upon their promise. To some extent, it is understandable that they would take some time to deliberate their course of action. However, we must continue to make our perspective clear to Zondervan. As they are formulating their response, I would ask that they consider the following:
(1) A very significant outcry from the Asian-American community (pastors, ministers, academics, lay leaders, etc.) has called for a public apology and the dropping of the entire theme of the book. If there is no or a limited response from Zondervan regarding this material, it would be a slap in the face of the Asian-American Christian community (and many others as well), who spoke in a very clear and unmistakable voice asking for the cessation of this theme.
(2) Please do not look for the easy compromise. Changing a font here and a photo here would only be cosmetic change to something that was misguided from the onset. We have already seen the evidence of where this theme leads. Some of the more egregious examples arose from what may have been good intentions at the beginning, but deteriorated into caricature and stereotype by the time many of us encountered this material. In other words, simply excising the external product minimizes the immediate damage, but does not prevent future damage from occurring. We have seen the fruit from the poisonous tree. By allowing the tree to stand, we may see more damaged fruit from this venture.
(3) Because of the book, there has already been significant damage to the credibility of Christian witness to non-Christian Asian-Americans. On this blog, I have stopped a number of responses from non-Christian Asian-Americans who expressed through profanity, their perspective on the book. Their ire was oftentimes directed towards Christians and towards Christianity. A significant portion of the Asian-American community remains an unreached people group. This book provides a significant barrier to the gospel for many unreached Asian-Americans. There are some who have asserted that there are many who are connecting to the material and that the martial arts theme is the only way to keep these individuals engaged in this important issue of Christian character. I would challenge the creativity of the authors to come up with a way to continue to engage their target audience without denigrating and stereotyping the Asian-American community. I would ask that the authors and Zondervan to consider whether it is justice to alienate and marginalize an unreached population for the purpose of titillating those who are interested in the marketing gimmick more than the issue of integrity and character.
To Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and the executives of Zondervan: “Do the RIGHT THING.” Not the “financially expedient” thing. Not the “minimizing the damage” thing. Not the “we have to protect our interests” thing. But as Christian leaders, do the right thing.