Posts Tagged ‘evangelicalism’

There seems to be a significant amount of misunderstanding regarding where things stand and even the larger context regarding DVZ.  I was hoping to not have further blog conversation on this topic but really to work to build relationships behind the scenes. But I do feel the need to address some specific issues and questions that have arisen.

(1)    I have reviewed my posts and at no point do I ever call for the complete shutdown of the website.  As far as I can tell, I don’t know of anyone else that asked for the complete shutdown of the website.  I and many others have repeatedly stated that the subject matter was an important one. There was no statement opposing the blog, the community itself, or every single aspect of the book and website. The suggestion was to pull the offensive material and to drop the theme.  The decision to completely shut down the website and to pull the books was in the hands of the authors and the publishers. Asking the authors to drop the theme and shutting down the entire website are not equivalent.  I believe that there should have been enough content to continue the website without continuing the theme.  And I am praying that the authors will be able to bring back the content in a new and impactful way.

(2)    There was never a point where the word “racist” was used against the authors.  Phrases like, “cultural insensitivity” were being used.  The word “racist” is such a loaded word that anyone even evoking the term becomes a name caller and loses credibility.  What an incredible irony.

(3)    Please recognize that many were offended by the theme and found that it was harmful to the body of Christ.  Many felt that it hindered witness to the non-Christian Asian-American community.  The CONTENT of the book should not have been impacted by dropping the marketing theme.  The work of calling the church to Christian integrity could continue without an absolute reliance upon the theme.  There was never any call for Mike and Jud to stop their ministry.  In the same way that there was never any call for Zondervan to stop publishing books.  There was never any sense of concern beyond this immediate situation.  There has always been a high level of respect for their past ministry and a strong affirmation of their future ministry.

(4)    Some have asked about stereotypes in the secular media. These are also very harmful. However, these stereotypes and racial/cultural insensitivity are not being perpetuated by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  The secular media are not governed by Christian values, but the church should be governed by Christian values of respect for the other, an honoring of the image of God found in other cultures and a willingness to pursue God’s justice and righteousness.

I absolutely acknowledge that I made numerous mistakes throughout this process.  I extend both my public apologies as well as continue to offer apologies in private.  This ongoing process is a difficult one for all those involved, but we are choosing to stay engaged on this very difficult journey.  I have a deep sense of empathy for the strong feelings felt by many that something very significant was taken away.  Please understand that that is how many Asian-Americans felt when confronted with this material.  I don’t feel the need to re-hash why the marketing of this material was so harmful, but let us not forget that the need for a response was because there was an offense in the first place. I feel no sense of victory about the material being pulled.  If I had an agenda at all it was that this episode will call the church to a greater sense of understanding regarding matters of race, culture and the Christian faith.  We have a long way to go on this.  But I’m praying that for everyone involved, we can continue to move towards authentic reconciliation.

This blog post will be first in a series of posts from different academics that I’ve asked to reflect on the Deadly Vipers / Zondervan controversy. They are scholars from different fields that will be drawing from their research to speak to the church on issues of culture, race, gender, justice, etc. I hope that the blog posts will provide a resource to discuss these very important issues from a biblical/theological framework. Many have asked important and legitimate questions regarding the DVZ issue and I hope this series of posts will provide some context and content for our ongoing discussion.

Our first post is from my good friend, Randy Woodley (see his previous post on Native American Christianity). Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley is a Keetoowah Cherokee Indian teacher, lecturer, poet, activist, pastor and historian. Randy is an adjunct professor at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and is the co-founder of Eagle’s Wings Ministries.  He is the author of three books and the blog post is taken from his book published by IVP, Living in Color.

Randy WoodleyRandy teaching

(Excerpted from Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity by Randy Woodley, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2004) Posted by Randy Woodley

Diversity from the Beginning

The tool of ethnic and cultural homogenization has been used throughout the centuries to protect what is valued in one’s own culture. Usually this ethnocentrism stems from fear that differences will pollute the old way of life and the familiar standards of the culture.

On the one hand, the philosophy of homogenization makes perfect sense. Human beings naturally desire stability in life. Standards give us something to hold onto; they link us with the past. But God Himself wants to be the standard by which we measure everything in society. The difference seems indistinguishable unless we have a sound biblical and theological foundation that reflects God’s true heart on any given matter.

To get a glimpse of the heart of God concerning diversity, let’s consider the first example of diversified cultures presented in Scripture and see where God was heading at a time when everyone on earth had a common language and culture.

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.  Genesis 11:4–9

Although the Bible provides no physical descriptions telling us how one group of people differed from another, we can suppose that the seed for all the races were in Adam and Eve, and that people were, at least in some ways, different from each other. There seems to have been no inherent evil in having a culture of common language; rather, the people used this powerful communication tool in an evil way.

What was evil about this situation? The people’s disobedience to God’s commands. The people at Babel had one overriding motivation: to make a name for themselves. Their corporate self-admiration stood in direct contrast to the natural revelation of Himself that God had planted in their hearts, and it violated what would later be known as the first commandment. Think of what a tremendous ego boost it would be if everyone else were just like us! But trying to remake society in our own image would mean that society could not reflect God’s image, for His image is reflected in the unity of our being like Him while at the same time being unique in ourselves.

The people’s disobedience also stemmed from their resolve to remain in one geographical area. God’s injunction from the beginning had been that people be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. But the earth could not be filled when the people of the earth refused to leave its only city. God’s command had never been withdrawn—it still has not, to my knowledge—and the people of Babel were in direct violation of it.

But let’s think about God’s strategy. Why would the Creator want them to occupy the ends of the earth, anyway? Didn’t He realize that once they became separated by various geographical barriers, communication would be disrupted? Over time all languages naturally change. And people would eventually develop different physical characteristics according to the laws of genetics. Did God know what He was doing?

He did, indeed—and that is why acting in disobedience to His plan is just plain stupidity. God has planned since the beginning of time to cultivate diversity among human beings. When people tried to circumvent His plan, God intervened by creating many languages. Distinctions would have developed naturally over time, and changes would undoubtedly have taken place anyway if the people had spread out and obeyed God. His intervention merely sped up the process of developing the various ethnic groups that brought about His intended diversity.

The Scriptures do not say that the people of Babel looked much different from each other, but the laws of human genetics show that after many generations, distinct physical genetic traits begin to repeat themselves in the same families. Nor would it have been beyond God’s capability or design to have given certain families with genetic similarities the same languages when He separated them (for example, Oriental genetics and languages in contrast to Caucasian).

The Scripture notes that after God intervened, the people were scattered across the face of the earth and the city was never completed. This was a decided disciplinary action taken by the Creator to fulfill His original plan, but I would not call it a curse, as some have. It was a self-inflicted curse brought on by their stopping to build the tower, but out of God’s discipline a great blessing was to be found in their inhabiting the whole earth.

God’s plan of ethnic diversity is at least as old as the earth’s first habitation. But regardless of human diversity, God always expects a unity of belief and obedience to Himself. Can you imagine why the Creator intended such a wide diversity in people’s cultures from the very beginning? Or why God’s heart is turned toward our living in a multicultural world?

As I ponder these questions, I cannot help but realize that He is a God of innovation and extravagance, diversity and lavishness. God is the artist who formed the planet Saturn and its beautiful surrounding rings. He is the humorist who formed the giraffe and the narwhale, the armadillo and the platypus. God is the designer who set the constellations in place, who causes roses to bloom and who enables bees to make honey. We are not threatened by the stars that tower overhead or by a blooming rose or by the taste of honey in our tea. Should we be so surprised to find that God also created such diversity in human beings—all distinct and all equal—or that He insists that every culture be unique in its own right?

Emerging Voices: Vince Campbell

Don’t mean to detract from all the other stuff going on, but this post has been in the works for awhile.

Vince has previously contributed an article to this blog.  Here are three youtube clips of a workshop he and I led at CCDA.  Vince is currently a PhD student at Catholic University, studying the early African church.  I believe he is the only African-American academic studying the early African church.  Watch the clips.

PART I:

PART II:

PART III:

You can see more video clips from CCDA at http://www.youtube.com/profrah

Why can’t Christian publishers get a clue?

Recently, I received my copy of the Zondervan catalog. In one of the circulars, there was an advertisement for a book called Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.

So the “Kung Fu” part got my attention, as well as the dragon on the cover and the Chinese characters. I guess I was hoping against hope that it was the story of an Asian-American Christian rather than another example of Asian culture being pimped out to sell products.

More to be said, but here are some choice samplings of their work:

At Catalyst 2007, where their session opens with “Kung Fu fighting” music: HERE

A facebook advertisement video: HERE

Some images they use on their website and facebook:

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I’m trying to engage in dialogue with the authors. Not a good response so far, but if given the chance what would you say to them?

church state sign

A frequently asked question these days relates to the role of the church in civic society.  Even as Christians debate the issues of abortion, immigration, war, and health care — different perspectives within the church (oftentimes in conflict with one another) seem to emerge.  Should individual Christians and the Christian community (i.e. – the Church) have a voice in the political dialogue?

Some Christians may argue that the church needs to be disconnected from the state, forming a counter-cultural community that focuses exclusively on the exhibition of piety and holiness.  Others may argue that the church needs to become deeply invested in the state in order to bring about God’s kingdom specifically in the United States.  I present these two extreme perspectives fully realizing that most will not fall on the extremes, but somewhere in the middle.  Furthermore, where we fall on the political involvement spectrum may be determined by our personal political leanings and the administration in power at the time.

For example, if we disagree with the government on a number of issues (such as prayer in schools, sexual ethics) our tendency may be to withdraw from society at large in order to form sub-cultures that stand in opposition to the world.  Or we may find ourselves in agreement with the state on a number of issues (the use of war, a certain type of social conservatism) and therefore, decide to fully invest in a particular party that advocates for these issues.  Our involvement in the state may be determined by the level of agreement we have with the political party in power.

Romans 13:1ff is often used to justify a passive role for the church in relation to the state.  An extreme application of “being subject to the governing authorities established by God” may be the loss of the prophetic role of the church and the church allowing carte blanche to the government authorities.  However, given the wide range of possibility in types of government, could being subject and honoring the existing governing authorities take different forms and expressions?  For example, could supporting a democratic system of government involve action rather than inaction?

What does support look like?  In the Old Testament you can follow two different strains of political involvement.  The first set of examples is found in the Biblical prophets, like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea.  These prophets are ultimate outsiders, speaking prophetically and challenging the establishment.  Prophets are covenant enforcers, who call the nation of Israel, God’s people to live up to the standards of God’s covenant.  There are also the Biblical examples of Nehemiah, Daniel, and Joseph.  These men are insiders who actually wield a direct influence upon the government powers.  What is interesting to me is that the challenges raised by the prophets are against their own people while those who are government insiders are actually working in the context of foreign powers — serving the governments of Egypt, Persia, Babylon (about as hostile as you can get to the agenda of YHWH’s people).  Maybe support takes on different forms and different times.  Maybe the main role of God’s people is to be subject to government by bringing God’s perspective to bear on even the most secular of institutions.

I recently did an interview on Crosswalk.com. I thought the interview was fairly balanced and I thought the interviewer asked really good and insightful questions. I’m under the assumption that Crosswalk is geared towards a more, mainstream, evangelical audience. So I was interested in what sort of responses I would receive from the interview. See below for one of the responses to my interview:

“White privilege places white expressions of culture and faith at the center. Privilege is power and the power of privilege is to create a world where one’s one identity, race, and culture rest at the center of the society.”

I really lost you here. I may be wrong, but it seems that you blame the “White Church” for a lot of problems with Evangelism. Your answers suggest that you may align more with minority churchs or basic minority groups. They love to play the victim when in fact most “White churchs” have their arms wide open to new ideas (of course there are exceptions to this). If there is racism in the church, a lot of it is coming from some of the African-American churches that teach Socialist ideas all while blaming white people for most of their challenges. As I said, I may be wrong but I sense this same attitude in your answers.

I am in full support of changing the church for the better but I believe your negative views of white churches is incorrect.

I don’t even know where to begin. How would you respond?

A number of blog reviews have popped up in the last few weeks. Here are some links:

A nice review by Peter Scazzero, author of the The Emotionally Healthy Church

A review by Daniel Medina

And in case you missed them:

A review by the Internet Monk

by David Swanson

by Helena Zwarts

by Wayne Park

In the April 13th issue of NEWSWEEK, Jon Meacham describes what he perceives to be “The End of Christian America”. Meacham asserts that “Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population,” leading to the “end of a Christian America.” In the opening paragraph of the Newsweek article, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, laments what he perceives to be a disturbing trend. “As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America’s religious culture was cracking.” Mohler is particularly disturbed by the decline of Christianity in New England, as he states: “to lose New England struck me as momentous.”

As many lament the decline of Christianity in the United States in the early stages of the twenty-first century, very few have recognized that American Christianity may actually be growing, but in unexpected and surprising ways. Let’s take for example the Northeastern city of Boston in a region of the country that Mohler believes we have “lost”. In 1970, the city of Boston was home to about 200 churches. Thirty years later, there were 412 churches. The net gain in the number of churches was in the growth of the number of churches in the ethnic and immigrant communities. While only a handful of churches in 1970 held services in a language other than English, thirty years later, more than half of those churches held services in a language other than English.

Between 2001 and 2006, 98 new churches were planted in the city of Boston. In a city the size of Boston, 98 new church plants in a six year time periods is not spiritual death, it is spiritual life and vitality. Of the 98 churches planted during that six year time period, “76 of them reported the language of worship. Of those 76 churches, almost half of them . . . [have] non-English or bi-lingual [services], 19 worship in Spanish, 8 in Haitian Creole and 9 in Portuguese.” The perception nationally was that Boston was spiritually dead, because there was noticeable decline among the white Christian community. In contrast, there has been significant growth among non-white Christians and churches.

When I was a pastor in Boston, I consistently heard the lament over the decline of Christianity in the city of Boston. However, the Boston I knew was filled with vibrant and exciting churches. New churches were being planted throughout the city. Christian programs and ministries were booming in the city. Boston is alive with spiritual revival, particularly among the ethnic minority communities. But very few seem to recognize this reality, even as this trend begins to appear nationally.

As sociologist R. Stephen Warner points out, “What many people have not heard . . . and need to hear is that the great majority of the newcomers are Christians. . . . This means that the new immigrants represent not the de-Christianization of American society but the de-Europeanization of American Christianity.” Contrary to popular opinion, the Church is not dying in America; it is alive and well, but it is alive and well among the immigrant and ethnic minority communities and not among the majority white churches in the United States. As we enter into a new era for American Christianity, we may indeed identify this era as a post-Western, post-white American Christianity. But we may also assert that this development may actually be the salvation of American Christianity rather than the decline and demise of American Christianity.”

Instead of the collapse of evangelicalism we are actually seeing the revival of American Christianity in a vastly different form. Evangelicalism has been consistently portrayed in the media as a group of white, upper-middle class, suburban, Republicans. Is it any wonder that the black church will oftentimes refuse this designation? Or that other ethnic minority Christians feel marginalized from the very community that shares their basic values and beliefs?

But now there is a new era for Christianity in America. A Next Evangelicalism — an evangelicalism that crosses across racial and ethnic lines with a shared value system rather than a political agenda. Evangelicalism is not dead, it is being redefined by a new constituency – hopefully for the better.