Some good news, interesting links and updates

Posted: November 25, 2009 in race matters, Social Justice
Tags: , , , , ,

I am so thankful for the launch of Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite’s new website:  The People of the Second Chance.  I am very thankful that Mike and Jud’s powerful ministry will continue and in fact, will have a greater impact.  Check out their website and facebook to see how God will continue to work through them.

There is still ongoing discussion and official statements about Deadly Vipers (as well as some new discussions in a similar vein).  Some interesting insights from Bo Lim, Rudy C,  and Ed G.  I hope folks will move beyond the immediate topic to engage in a larger discussion on race, culture, and faith.  Evangelicals need a constructive dialogue on race and culture.  This whole episode has revealed a pretty major gap among evangelicals in our awareness and ability to deal with issues of race, culture and faith.  Some ongoing, big picture questions:

– Is there still a race problem in America?  Many seem to believe that racial and cultural sensitivity is only a problem for those who perceive it to be a problem.  Is that true?

– How can Asian-Americans be a strong voice in the evangelical world?  Clearly, this is a growing group, yet oftentimes without much of a voice.  This question should also encompass African-American, Latino, Native American, and bi, multi-racial Christians.

– What is the role of culture?  Are we to be culturally neutered because we are all God’s people and therefore we put aside our old culture? Or is there a place for cultural expression and celebration?  And what could a healthy expression of culture in the evangelical context look like?

In the next few months, I’ll scatter this blog with some theological reflections on the topic of race, culture, and faith.  Or you can always read my book The Next Evangelicalism.  Some random teaching videos and interviews from CCDA and Cornerstone can also be found on youtube.  All can link from the website.

  1. My friend Andy Kim reflected on similar questions in a two-part post on my blog.

    part one:

    part two:

    Thanks for the continued updates, critique, and encouragement.

  2. Erick says:

    Prof. Rah, good questions…the first and third came up in a recent post on Eugene Cho’s blag regarding DV. There were comments made regarding “it’s only an issue because we let it be”. Racism still exists and it is still a problem. What a lot of people don’t see is how underlying it can be, these folks haven’t taken the time to understand another culture and/or don’t know how to pay attention to cultural, ethnic, racial sensitivity, so that too is a problem. My response to “Many seem to believe that racial and cultural sensitivity is only a problem for those who perceive it to be a problem. Is that true?” is that this is a refusal to open one’s eyes, heart and mind. To choose blindness toward racism is quite ignorant and all the more insensitive. Would an ER doctor tell a patient in serious pain that his/her injury really isn’t that bad and only worse when he/she grimaces in pain? No, a good doctor helps and receives the patient and deals with the pain for better health.

    Regarding question number two, I would say that someone like you and other Asian American Evangelical leaders continue to voice your feelings, concerns and to do so with love, even when there is anger and hurt, like you have done. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to give the perception that all is negative and you have only hurts, this is not my story, it’s yours. Also, I know that you’ve spoken to the fact that the White majority must also be willing to relinquish the power we (I am a white male) have demanded in the past, been given and still want. I think this is the largest hurdle.

    This third question you raise was again brought up in Eugene’s blog, that we should just pipe down about “man made cultures” (to quote a response) and receive Jesus together. Yes and no. Yes, let’s receive Christ together, we are called to do so and to do it in love, not apprehensive obligation. If we settle to receive each other in this way I think Jesus would get in our face and rebuke the motive of our heart. To be ‘culturally neutered’ is to again choose blindness and not recognize the beauty of different cultures and the beauty of our God. To understand another culture takes time and commitment in love, it requires vulnerability to be honest about what we don’t know and don’t understand, but it helps us love each other and live together and experience God’s beauty and love. I’ve often heard people comment about different cultures saying, “I just don’t know what to do, they are so different and I don’t want to offend anyone” -this is a terrible trap…or an escape. Of course we don’t want to offend anyone, at least I hope so, but let’s not run at the thought of it. If one feels awkward and unsure about how to engage in another culture, stomach it and simply engage yourself. Ask questions, get to know people, don’t expect to have the answers, ask questions. We need to learn and journey together and live (really live) in grace.

  3. Professor Rah,

    Will your praise of this new direction be lip service only, or can we expect to see Mike and Jud speaking soon at your seminary? A man powerful enough to lead a movement that gets a book pulled from publication can certainly influence the fruition of such an event, no?

    • profrah says:

      Donny, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are wanting to learn and wanting to hear answers to your questions. There are some things I cannot answer for you. But I want to raise a few things for your consideration. Honestly, I think many have tried to give you direct answers and you have ignored their statements. I know you want folks to see your POV, but in that process, you seem to be ignoring the fact that others might have a different POV. I understand that you don’t get all of this. None of us do. But certainly we can try to move further along the process.

      Your version of the story makes it sound like only one or two people (you seem to be targeting Eugene Cho and myself) were upset and had the ability to get the material pulled. This weblink shows a whole mess of blog posts on the topic. See: Almost everyone on those blogs found the material to be offensive. Not all the voices are Asian-American. Yes, there are some Asian-Americans who did not find the material offensive but this does not negate the voices of many others who did find the material offensive.

      This is the power of white privilege. To say, “I’ll listen to these voices (that agree with me) and reject these voices that don’t agree with me”. You are choosing to ignore the many, many voices that have raised objections to this material. Maybe you don’t respect these voices or feel that these voices are irrelevant. Well then, how about the following:

      From the Catalyst blog, which would be a key proponent of the material and a place where the material actually first debuted, they state: “I recognize the offense & concerns as valid.” Mike and Jud’s OWN words: “For one, we deeply offended some members of the Asian-American community who feel like we hijacked their culture for our purposes. We sincerely apologize for this and want to take steps to listen and respond to concerns. They have also publicly stated: “unfortunately those efforts were mixed in with some defensiveness on our part.” And “we deeply regret anything we did to offend our Christian brothers and sisters in the Asian and Asian-American communities. After all, those brothers and sisters are part of the bigger community we all most cherish — the Christian community.”

      The offense has been admitted by Mike and Jud themselves. At this point you have a choice. I’m going to cite a response that appeared on my blog in response to your posting:

      It seems to me that those of you who are now lashing out at Dr. Rah really face 2 possible choices:
      (1) Assume that the apology and corrective actions by Zondervan, Foster, and Wilhite are insincere, in which case you must question why you’re defending the leadership integrity of men who would cave in and lie to protect their public image; or
      (2) Assume that their apologies and actions are sincere, in which case your own attitudes are in radical defiance of their leadership and you must question why your understanding of integrity is so different from theirs.
      I don’t envy your dilemma. Neither choice is petty or painless. Grace and peace to you as you wrestle with their implications.

      I have the highest respect for Mike and Jud and their ministry. I think they took a major misstep with the marketing campaign of this material. I don’t know how many more times I need to say that I affirm their ministry and look forward to their future contributions to the kingdom (If it’s okay with you, I’d rather not make any public invitations when their new website has not officially debuted and when we’re still building relationship and trust. That kind of action would be motivated by publicity rather than the possibility of an ongoing relationship. I would rather make these inquiries in private).

      Finally, I would echo Mike and Jud’s words in the following statement: “We prefer to have these conversations in ways that have more potential to generate light than heat. In that regard, we’ll continue to have conversations about this topic offline, continue to learn and continue to grow.”
      There are ongoing conversations on multiple levels. Your commentary and your personal attacks are not helping facilitate the potential of these ongoing discussions.

      • Professor Rah,

        To be honest, you patronize me by insinuating that you have something to teach me about cultural sensitivity IF you insist on using this situation as an example. You’re a smart man, Professor. I am absolutely positive you realize this whole fit-throwing episode is a sham. But you got the ball rolling and there’s no turning back now, is there? You have no choice but to stay the course. I think a man who is intelligent enough to be a Professor is intelligent enough to realize, by now, that he was totally wrong in this instance. I’d sing your praises if that ego of yours allowed you to admit it. Alas, I don’t anticipate such a result.

        What amuses me is that the author of one of the blogs linked from those you’ve linked to has personally emailed me. What disappoints me is that said author is not willing to publicly say what was privately written to me. I have promised to honor the private thoughts of all of those who have contacted me (and incredibly enough, I’ve been contacted more about this than any other single “topic” I’ve ever addressed – this includes my very controversial thoughts on abortion as it relates to voting). Suffice it to say, some people are beginning to admit that there was severe over-reaction to Deadly Viper on your part, and on the part of those who chose to side with you. I suppose you and they figured this would be a slam dunk, because us “white privilege” (can’t believe you used that term) types would just keep our mouths shut and pat your backs telling you we’re sorry. I’m sure it surprised you that is not the case with all of us.

        I am surprised you used this sentence: “This is the power of white privilege.” Have you taken a look around, Professor? Have you been paying attention to the political atmosphere of this country? There IS no white privilege, kind sir. Was there at one time? On that, I will not argue with you. But that NO LONGER IS THE CASE. In today’s American society the reverse is true. To deny this fact is ludicrous. Even so, you don’t see me out crying about it. In fact, I didn’t even start bringing it up until recently even in this discussion, and the only reason I did so is because I’m tired of hearing you and your cheerleaders boo-hooing. How long will you mourn injustices of the past?

        I’ve personally conversed with certain parties affected by your actions. It’s not my place to voice their thoughts. But know this: in regards to the numbered “choices” you quote… step outside your box and you’ll see there are man more possibilities than just two choices.

        As an intelligent man, put yourself into our modern world. Notice how people act and are expected to act ANY time a “minority” begins to complain in the way you did. Pretend you’re not you. Close your eyes and put yourself into the shoes of others. Envision the situation you put Zondervan, Mike, and Jud in. Now tell me, Professor… what choice did they have? You’re an intelligent man, Professor… self-delusion doesn’t become you.

        This whole issue came up within the very recent past with someone who I had NO IDEA was even reading. This person is highly educated and holds “important” positions in our Christian society. I don’t want to go into it much more than that because, once again, I honor the anonymity entrusted to me. What I want you to know is that the first words out of this person’s mouth were, “I’m totally with you on the Professor Rah situation.” Such words echo what I’ve received from numerous persons of multiple nationalities.

        The point? You’re very, very wrong, Professor. Anybody other than your personal cheerleaders see that truth quite clearly. This incident doesn’t paint you in a good light… it paints you as a petty, overly sensitive over-reactor who goes off half-cocked before researching all the information one normally needs to make a good, informed decision.

        An apology and admission of your mistake would go a long way. Just do it, Professor Rah.

      • erik says:

        Over on Eugene Cho’s blog there a comment with a link to a TED talk called The Danger of a Single Story.

        Donny, as a white guy, I’ve been a bit frustrated and confused with this situation and I’m still trying to figure things out (I think I’m making some progress!). Like you, I don’t like the term “white privilege”. It doesn’t help me figure out the problem, instead it just makes me feel pushed to the side.

        With that said, I believe the video linked to above expresses some of what Professor Rah means when he uses the term (correct me if I’m wrong). For me the idea of having a “single story” about someone is more palatable than “white privilege” because inherent in the phrase is the solution/action. “Single story” translates to “hear more stories” whereas “white privilege” communicates….”don’t be white”?

        Anyway, the main point I want to make is that about 10-11 minutes into the video the woman speaks about how she doesn’t have a one-sided view of white Americans because of the power of their culture (i.e. because it’s everywhere). I’m sure not everyone will agree with this, but I think some of the reasons I’ve struggled or been frustrated with the DV thing is because I believe I have more than a single story about Asian culture. And it’s my impression that others (not everybody) have a similar perspective.

        I guess I would submit to my white brothers/sisters that we do need to be more aware of hearing the rest of the story (and I’m trying).

        I would also submit to my Asian brothers/sister that perhaps your culture has more “power” (to use the words of the video) than you may perceive. This isn’t to deny the power of the “white” story, but just to say that perhaps your story is more plural than is realized (i.e. the idea of Asians as “sinister” was surprising to hear in some of the posts. It’s just not anywhere in my perception of your story).

        Anyway, these are some of my thoughts the last couple of days and the video was very helpful in the process. I’d appreciate any thoughts/push back/perspective.


  4. molly says:

    I dunno.

    I went to the new Facebook site and while I sense a huge shakeup in their makeup, time will only tell whether the change is cosmetic or thoroughly transforming.

    I’ll pray for the latter.

  5. Ironically, it would have been better for Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite if they had been objectified in the Deadly Viper controversy, but it appears they were mistakenly made the subject of the discussion.

    If I understand all this correctly (and for the record, I am an ancillary vested person in this story, click here to read my own post re: all this), they touched a very sensitive nerve that (not only) the Asian American community has experienced in a “white captivity” culture—one that they have been grappling to put words to.

    The tragedy is that rather than making the subject a conversation around cultivating sensitivity to humanizing all people regardless of race, culture or ethnicity, the tone and the target of these wounds were aimed at two guys who were actually contributing to a conversation towards integrity, character and the affirmation of human dignity for all persons.

    I am a huge fan of Prof Rah and think his message needs to get out further to provoke a more grounded sense of our Christian identity as it relates to the shifting (actually, shifted) demographic in the mosaic of who actually makes up our Christian majority. But I am also a huge fan of what the Deadly Viper project was advocating for, not only in its content, but how the message of integrity, character and grace was embodied in the lives of Mike and Jud. It is sad how two important messages collided and the fallout that has been an unintended consequence of this collision.

    Let’s hope that everyone who made hurtful or accusatory statements about Mike and Jud, reconsider the content and tone of those unfair allegations. Much of the content I’ve read in the comment sections on blogs regarding all this has been unhelpful assumptions. These assumptions have only aggravated a sensitive conversation that needs to be played out. However, this important conversation should be held around more harmful eruptions of cultural insensitivity (i.e. the “Rickshaw Rally”) that somehow are left immune to the controversy Deadly Vipers unintentionally invited.

    Let’s also remember that Mike and Jud should not be the targets of this dialogue. If people want to pick fights here, there are plenty of other legitimate instances of racial insensitivity that are more important and appropriate instances that can be focused on.

    A positive outcome from all this would be an overwhelming level of support for Mike and Jud as the move away from the packaging of Deadly Vipers to their People of a Second Chance movement. A platform they have created for others that now needs to be extended to them, especially by those who have been so accusatory in the ways they’ve dismantled an important voice of renewal for our shared humanity.

    The essence of how I hope all this comes across speaks to the crucial need to humanize all people—the Asian American community and Mike and Jud. I think there’s a way that Prof Rah’s (and other’s) concerns can be, and need to be validated, but not at the expense of Mike and Jud—otherwise, the same thing that Deadly Vipers has been accused of will be done to them by those who are most concerned.

    Overall, I believe this has been a sad eruption of anger around an important issue that seems to have been misdirected at two guys who have given themselves to a much-needed message of hope. I think resistance to “white captivity,” or the imposition of any dominant consciousness of our Christian expression needs to be fought against, but not at the expense of the reputation and content of men whose message resonates with this struggle from a different perspective.

    *If you’d like to discuss this or comment on these thoughts please leave them here*

    • Kathy Khang says:

      With all due respect, there are assumptions running in all directions on Eugene Cho’s and Soong-Chan Rah’s blogs. Right now I would argue that the targets are Eugene and Soong-Chan…and overly-sensitive, politically-correct Asian Americans.

      May I ask whom are you referring to when you write of “those who have been so accusatory in the ways they’ve dismantled an important voice of renewal for our shared humanity”?

      And while I can’t imagine the personal impact on Mike and Jud, I’m not sure what you mean by dismantled. Their material is going to be repackaged and their new website has launched. Their twitter following is bigger than ever, and their Facebook fan page is buzzing.

      Dismantled? Some of that stuff had to go, Chris. I’m not going to back down on that. There are better ways to communicate radical integrity and grace than with videos with gongs and images of pink cupcakes=girly. Deadly Viper Character Assassins – “Who are these kung fu killers? They are blood thirsty hit-men lurking in the shadows…(p.9)” – they are Asian ninjas who had to be removed. The photo of the Asian woman wearing a strapless top showing off her midriff holding a samurai sword as the backdrop to a quote about sexual temptation and infidelity (p.106) had to be dismantled.

      I agree with you. This has been sad. I feel like I’ve been told and questioned over and over again. Aren’t these things minor in comparison to the good that has come out of it? And then I’m being asked to consider how great a loss they have taken personally, and I don’t want to dismiss that pain, but then apparently my pain doesn’t count because my ministry hasn’t had as much good come out of it?

      At the heart of it all, I want to see His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I do believe we are all working and praying for the same thing. I believe in second chances and I believe Mike and Jud are living into that. I can only hope the same will be extended to those of us who are being told to stop playing victim and then to pay up.

      • hey kathy,

        i will clarify in saying that my post wasn’t so much to be read about the content of DV as it was about the authors. i agree that some of the content had to go.

        and it continues to be really sad that prof rah, eugene cho and mike & jud are all moving targets here. i do feel like the personal attacks on prof rah, eugene cho and mike & jud only convolute the conversation and may miss the whole point of why this is a necessary dialogue to engage in.

        what makes all this a bit tricky for me is that i am friends with jud, mike and prof rah. i love and respect all them with a tremendous sense of admiration. i believe in the best of who they are, while recognizing that we are all very human as well. given the reactions and responses they have all provoked in this larger conversation, i would hate to see any of them diminished.

        what’s sad here is that it seems mike & jud have become the symbol of a much larger problem within our christian identity and consciousness. it seems most churches, missional communities, faith-based non-profits, colleges and universities, christian publishers and conference organizers play into the illusion that the dynamic and makeup of who we are as christians will be perpetually homogenized. as a whole we have done a terrible job of celebrating unity while cultivating ecumenical, ethnic, racial, cultural and socio-economically diverse communities—communities that bear witness to hope.

        i’m afraid that all the energy and attention that is being aimed and mike & jud and prof rah takes away from the point that we need to be aiming all this energy at the homogenized churches in our communities that broker the power of how christian communities are formed; our energy needs to be aimed at demanding and expecting a wider range of voices that christian publishers invest in; our energy needs to be aimed at ensuring the conferences we attend include a cadre of speakers who represent the collective voice of our community—more women, catholics, orthodox and certainly much more ethnic, racial and cultural diversity.

        it would seem much more constructive and productive to aim all this energy and attention at the major publishers, conferences, churches and denominations, collges and universities, and other christian institutions that fortify cultural insensitivity by maintaining and retaining homogenized realities. it is sad that the best we can do is pick a fight with a book rather than struggling for real change that reflects the real scope of the problem.

        i hope that’s fair, and i hope that it’s something we can all come together around.

        if a book has provoked this much time, energy and attention (not to mention the shere number of words generated in the blogosphere), then how can we finds ways to harness all this this energy and aim it a the larger targets that keep us all under the thumb of white captivity?

  6. daniwao says:

    Professor Rah, Thanks for the update in what is going on. I also want to applaud you for being open about how your sorry for how some of the things you’ve done, said, and written. I really appreciate you for showing us that in the end it’s not about being right, it’s about being called to a higher standard.

    Prayers and Peace,

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