Final Reflections on Deadly Viper / Zondervan

Posted: November 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and Zondervan acted in a decisive manner yesterday.  Zondervan issued a statement that boldly declared their intention to pull the book off the shelves.  Their actions were courageous and bucks against business conventions but upholds theological and ecclesiological ones.  They acted in the best interests of the body of Christ and for Christian witness above ego and profits.   I am personally humbled by the actions of the authors and the publishers to take this radical step.

There is no sense of victory or exultation.  There is a strong sense of conviction and hope that a major Christian publisher displayed highly ethical and courageous behavior.  Significant credit must go to the authors and to the Zondervan leadership for their willingness to not only engage in this dialogue but to act upon these conversations.

Mike and Jud’s original intention to speak to the issue of integrity in leadership remains a worthwhile one.  However, those original intentions got lost in the morass of a marketing gimmick.  Now, with this action, they have displayed more integrity than thousands of words that have been written or hundreds of images that have been evoked.  I would encourage the authors that they have the passion, creativity, and the calling to continue to sound the bell of integrity.  They have not only written or spoken on this topic, but now they have demonstrated it to the maximum.  I would encourage Mike and Jud to continue their work without the theme. To reintroduce a more robust version of the content so that folks can engage a very important topic on a deeper level.  I don’t think it would be presumptuous to say that they would now have the support of a broader audience in the Christian community.

We should be cognizant of the possibility of significant backlash against this action.  I am aware that some wanted the authors to hang onto the theme of the book at all costs.  I am also aware that many may think this statement is an act of “political correctness” and an attempt to mitigate a potential PR nightmare.  I have a deep conviction that all of the parties involved were acting in the best interests of the church, for the sake of the body of Christ, and for Christian witness.  One of the concerns was that the Kung Fu theme was working for many individuals.  I would ask that we consider what is best for the entire Christian community and what will benefit the larger Christian witness.  This action by Zondervan has already received coverage by secular Asian-American websites and will engender a greater sense that there is a place for the Asian-American voice in the evangelical world.  Unreached Asian-Americans may find Christianity less hostile than it may have felt a few days ago.

Last night, after I heard the news, I was putting my son down for the night.  I thought to myself: “There is one less expression of a stereotype and cultural insensitivity out there that you will have to deal with. There are many others, but at least there is one less.”  Parents will advocate for their children.  We will look for ways to affirm our children and bolster their spiritual walk in every possible way.  Is there still ignorance and insensitivity in the world? Of course. But I pray that all of us will seek ways that the church does not further the cause of ignorance but further the cause of Christ. To do so with grace, mercy, and integrity as Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and Zondervan has demonstrated.  Thank you my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  1. jimmy says:

    Good Word! As Stephen Covey, a good Mormon, would say, this is a win/win for all parties. Certainly, no one, I shouldn’t state tis. I did not want the thrashing of any party. I think you adequately stated that it was one for the Kingdom of God. Another answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17th. That is something to rejoice about. How I wish I could be an answer to God’s prayer?

    The win does extend to your son. Hopefully, this incident when you recall one day when he is older will be an Ebenezer. You remember what God said about the stones after Joshua led folks across the River Jordan. One day your children will ask what does these stones mean? Hopefully, you can build a monument for future generations to see this incident for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

    it has been a pleasure to walk with you on this journey. As courage continues to grow, it continues to be overwhelmed by your humility.

  2. Melody Hanson says:

    I am in total agreement with you. Thank you.

    I hope that Mike and Judd will be able to quickly and carefully pastor the community that surrounded DV which apparently was fairly vibrant. Those individuals seems to be feeling a loss and have no avenue to express it. So, they are doing so toward some of your friends on other blogs. It’s fairly visceral and immature and would benefit from some leadership. I know the authors are likely grieving a loss, but their online community needs clearly them.

    Thanks again.

  3. Amy Moffitt says:

    Hi Melody,
    Which blogs are you referring to?

    • Melody Hanson says:

      The other leaders in this effort have blogs, you can find them fairly easily and follow some of the talk back.

  4. Matt Doan says:

    I have a concern with a thought in this post.
    But before I mention this I must give 3 Disclaimers:

    #1 – I read DVCA and was oblivious to the potential pain that this theme would cause Asian Americans. My obliviousness to this makes me realize I still have a lot to learn in cultural sensitivity and relevance. Lord, please strengthen me in this area!

    #2 – My last name is Doan, a common Vietnamese last name, but I am a caucasian male.

    #3 – I haven’t read every detail of this debate or been involved in any dialogue up to this point, so there may be several key pieces of information I am not aware of.

    My issue with this post is:
    A) The wording of the post title, “Final Reflections…”
    My hope Prof. Rah is that this is just the beginning of a continued dialogue/encouragement with Zondervan and Mike and Jud and/or others. To simply get involved in this issue and then back away when the book gets pulled off the shelf, hardly feels like true reconcilation. I am sure there are still smoldering feelings of hurt, misuderstanding and confusion on both sides of the fence. Today, I read a tweet by Mike Foster that described him as feeling “sad.” I do not think that proper unity or reconciliation leaves anyone feeling sad. Please hear this with all humility (for you have written more books than I have most likely read!), but to walk away from this issue now seems irresponsible to me. Perhaps by “final reflections” you mean you are done with blogging about this issue. In my mind that is fine, I believe this has been a dialogue that should have taken place in private from the beginning. I don’t feel you have a responsibility to publicly blog/comment any further. However, I pray that you feel compelled to make sure there is continued dialogue to foster unity, forgiveness and true reconcilation in this matter between the impacted parties.

    If you disagree or have additional information that I am not aware of, I will wholeheartedly listen and submit to how the Lord is leading you.



    • profrah says:

      Sorry Matt,

      The title is very misleading. I didn’t mean “FINAL” as I’m done with this and I’m walking away. Sorry for that implication. We actually believe that this is at the beginning of the conversation rather than the end. There will be ongoing dialogue with the authors and with Zondervan. There are a number of connections behind the scenes not occurring on the blogosphere. (As was the case all along).

    • Matt,

      More than once today I’ve read comments about reconciliation being somehow incompatible with any lingering feelings of sadness or loss. I must understand reconciliation differently, because it seems very natural to me that some people would experience sadness in the midst of it. Reconciliation isn’t necessarily a state of mutual happiness; it is a shared understanding of justice for this situation. Because injustice always benefits one party, there is naturally a loss when justice is achieved. That’s neither a bad thing nor something to brush off as unimportant. I sense that all of the participants are painfully aware that reconciliation has come at a significant cost to Zondervan and the DV authors, and so it is a sober reconciliation indeed. But unity in justice has prevailed nevertheless, and that can be nothing less than the hand of God at work among His people.

      • Matt Doan says:

        Well said Sue. You bring up a side of reconciliation I frankly haven’t thought through regarding loss/cost.

        I guess I am thinking through reconciliation on a more relational level.
        I see reconciliation taking place in this incident on both a:
        #1 – Justice Level
        #2 – Relational Level

        It seems #1 has been accomplished. I am concerned that #2 will not be pursued with as much vigor. It seems Prof. Rah’s thoughtful reply to my initial concern makes me confident #2 will be pursued in the future.

        Does that make sense Sue?


      • Hannah says:

        Thanks for your insights, Sue & Matt. Your wisdom & humility are evident, and it’s exchanges like this that give me hope for a better future where relational reconciliation is pursued just as (if not more) passionately than social justice.

      • Yep, Matt, that made total sense, now that I see where you’re coming from. It also helps me understand your concern about the public nature of this dialogue. From a justice perspective, it wasn’t a private matter between individuals and so it needed to play out in the public sphere where the underlying systemic issues really belong (along the same lines as Martin Luther King’s public challenges to racism); but from a relational perspective, that must seem pretty harsh.

        I do have the advantage of being in the same (very small) denomination with both Prof Rah and Eugene Cho, so it’s probably easier for me to trust that they are indeed committed to relational reconciliation as well. I’m glad that you are willing to extend a measure of trust, however hesitantly, only on the basis of the words you’ve read here on Prof Rah’s blog.

        You have been both honest and gracious in dialogue, and I thank you.

  5. Wayne Park says:

    I think Matt’s got a good point.

    I’m also wondering what the asian community can do to restore these brothers as well as their ministry, in this continued spirit of racial reconciliation and healing.

    I hope they re-issue the material albeit repackaged.

  6. Vince says:

    Honestly, my initial reaction to your thoughts upon hearing the news, “There is one less expression of a stereotype and cultural insensitivity out there that you will have to deal with. There are many others, but at least there is one less” was saddening to me. To think the initial reaction wasn’t sadness for shutting down a movement which helps men be driven to Christlikeness and not worldlikeness is troubling. I feel, you are losing the view of the forest among the trees. In other words, you are focused too wholly on the “morass of a marketing gimmick.” Though you do state you feel their “issue of integrity in leadership remains a worthwhile one,” it seems this is more of appeasement to readers than anything, for yes you do mention their cause is great, you are focused on the packaging, which is disheartening and discouraging. As Paul told the Corinth people he was all things to all people to save a few (1 Cor. 9:22), so Mike and Jud are attempting to be the same. I would hope your main life focus is to fulfill the Great Commission, not to point out worldly reservations to a subject.

    I know of ministries whom reach out to the Pornography industry and even attend their conventions to give hope to those who are lost and suffering and people feel ‘church’ has no business ministering in those areas, because ‘it will soil the Spirit.’ But remember, Christ spent His entire time in His ministry with sinners and adulterers and ‘soiled people’! That is where we need to reach out to people, and hindering the Spirit within our body could very well lead to Satan gaining a foothold in our hearts. May it never be! Be aware, I am not saying you have sinned in any way, yet I am saying hindering the Spirit in this way is hindering the growth of God’s kingdom on His earth!

  7. Joni Ruhs says:

    I’m coming into this situation several days behind and haven’t scoured all the blogs and comments. What is the publisher’s role in marketing(I don’t know)? Zondervan obviously didn’t understand the offense prior since it published the book in its current form. I know they have acted with a statement and pulling the book. Just wondering why the authors are taking most of the hits.

  8. […] I knew his perspective would be insightful to this blog’s readers.  Now that the matter has been resolved publicly, this seems like a good time to post his very helpful perspective.  I’ll post part two […]

  9. […] controversy caused by the “SPLASH” of the Deadly Vipers controversy (read more: here, here, here, and here), I find myself  puzzling anew over the whole issue of how Asian-American identity […]

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