Posts Tagged ‘multi-ethnicity’

Let me begin by stating that I applaud the intent and subject matter of your book.  Integrity and character in leadership needs to be discussed and should be an important part of leadership development.  But the “theme” you have chosen and the application of that theme (particularly in your media clips) reveals a serious insensitivity to Asian culture and to the Asian-American community.

My contention is not about the content of the book itself (i.e. – the material that discusses integrity and character).  It is with the way in which you choose to co-opt Asian culture in inappropriate ways.  Let me cite Edward Said in Orientalism where he states: “Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient – dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style of dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Mike and Jud, you are two white males who are inappropriately co-opting another culture and using it to further the marketing of your book.  You are not from our cultural framework, yet you feel that you have the authority to represent our culture before others.  In other words, you are using what are important and significant cultural symbols to make a sale or to make your point.  It is an affront to those who are a part of that culture.  You’ll notice that there are a number of individuals that take offense at the ways you misuse Chinese characters.  You also confuse aspects of Japanese and Chinese cultures.  These are two very distinct and ancient cultures that you did not take the time to understand before using those symbols as a fun way to market your products.

Here are some examples of the more glaring and egregious offenses:

This video clip is extremely offensive and portraying Asians in a cartoonish manner in order market your merchandise.  Particularly offensive is the voiceover of a white person doing a faux Asian accent:

This image presents Asian as sinister enemies:

This quote reveals an insensitivity to the Chinese language and mocks Chinese names: “There is a killer called Zi Qi Qi Ren. No, this is not some communicable disease, but it certainly is deadly. This funky Chinese word”

The use of Chinese characters and kanji in a non-sensical manner.

Other offenses:

The confusion and conflation of Chinese and Japanese cultures.

The use of Asian symbols, like a Japanese garden, kimonos, samurai swords in a non-essential manner that does not honor the heritage or culture of Asians.

You are taking a caricature of Asian culture (the martial arts warrior, the ninja, etc.) and furthering the caricature rather than engaging Asian culture in a way that honors it.

The bottom line.  You are representing a culture that you do not know very well to thousands of people.  You are using another culture to make your message more fun.  That is offensive to those of us that are of that culture and seek to honor our culture.

What specific things can you do:

(1)    Issue a PUBLIC apology on your blog and other venues.  To let the Christian community know that you have wounded your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Whether that was your intent or not, that was the outcome.  Admit your wrongdoings and seek forgiveness in a public manner because your offense was in a public setting.

(2)    Immediately remove the offensive material or material that co-opts the Asian theme.  They can be reposted, but with significant edits and after significant consultation with the Asian-American community.

(3)    Drop the entire martial arts theme.  It adds NOTHING to what you are trying to say.  And as evidenced by the outpouring of concern, it distracts from your true message.

(4)    Consult with leaders in the Asian-American community (there are many to choose from) and discuss ways to increase sensitivity (both for the authors and for Zondervan).

I appeal to your sense of Christian brotherhood/sisterhood. Your actions have deeply wounded many of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Lead with integrity by admitting wrong and be willing to make changes to address these wrongs.

I appeal to your sense of integrity to what is the main message of your work. Christians should be above this kind of childish characterization of another culture, particularly, when the topic of your book is on character.  Show the character that you are calling others to emulate.

Take ownership of your actions.  Admit failure. Don’t justify it.  Seek ways to understand those that you have hurt and seek ways to redress these wrongs.  Isn’t that the ultimate expression of character and integrity?

Specifically to Zondervan:-

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.

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:


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?


The pastor arrived early for the Wednesday night prayer meeting. As often the case, there would be the regular faithful few and possibly a visitor or two. He began his regular routine of praying over every seat. This night, like all the others prayed that each person would hear from God and leave knowing Him better. The pastor prayed that there would be healing in people’s bodies and hearts and that he and everyone present would be changed for God’s honor and that the Holy Spirit would make His presence known. Above all he prayed that Jesus Christ would be honored.

As the people began to enter the church he welcomed them with a handshake or a hug. They began with the familiar words of the chorus, “God you are great and we are small-thank you for having mercy on us.” After the opening song and welcome the pastor prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and asked anyone else who felt led to pray to please join in. One by one, everyone in the room prayed with fervor and one visitor prayed silently. Several worship songs followed and finally they came to a time of sharing.

At least half of the people present shared at a deep level. One woman told how grateful she was to be in church after serving a prison term and through weeping eyes expressed her gratefulness to God for His great deliverance. Another woman asked for prayers for her wayward teenager. One of the men needed work and asked the congregation to remember him though he did not profess Christianity. Every so often someone spontaneously broke out in a song or a prayer.

After everyone who wanted, had the opportunity to pray the pastor prayed one last time and dismissed the meeting. It had gone longer than usual but no one minded. They had made contact with God and His Holy Spirit filled their hearts. Many had come discouraged but now there was a renewed hope. They all hugged after the meeting then they shared a pot luck meal together and went home.

This meeting seemed innocent enough. Later though it was condemned by many other Christians—being called “heathen” and “demonic” in nature. What was so disturbing to other believers about the meeting described above is that it took place inside a canvas hut where steam was produced by pouring water over hot rocks. It was a Native American Sweat Lodge.

Was it the place that was so evil? Could it have been the rocks or even the water? Perhaps it was the fact that “non-Christians” were present? Whatever the reason—the other Christians considered it unholy and would never fellowship with that pastor or that church again.

Consider the ritual that occurs in not all, but in hundreds of thousands of church buildings every Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. People wear their best clothes often because they are concerned about how others will view them. They watch a pastor, song leader or choir deliver to them what they think they need for inspiration and most often the members do not get to share what God may be saying to them. They leave without even saying a word, somewhat inspired but feeling somewhat unimportant and an hour later forgetting everything that was said by the Pastor.

Of course there could be Native American Sweat Lodges as well as churches that have lost their sense of spiritual life but how many of those churches who religiously perpetuate dead religion are condemned wholesale by the rest of the church? It is easy to criticize that which we do not understand—it is our human nature to do so. Ever since Cain tried to silence the voice of his brother Able, people have hated the difference in the ways that others worship God.

As Native American believers in Jesus we have a different history and culture than the rest of American society. Though Satan has tried his best to get us to be ashamed of our culture, often using the church to do so—we are happy to be just as God has made us. We will change everything that displeases the Father but disregard arguments and accusations brought by those following the way of the Judaizers spoken about in the Galatians. The circumcision debate ended in Acts 15 with the Council at Jerusalem.

This single issue, whether it be the use of Sweat Lodge, praying with smoke from plants like cedar, using eagle feathers, or any other sacred ceremony has kept untold thousand of Native Americans away from the church and from hearing the wonderful message of Jesus’ love for them. Let us go on from here content to glorify God together in what we do understand and to practice tolerance in what we don’t. People need to know to Jesus Christ.

“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4

The following essay is excepted from Randy Woodley’s book ( : When Going to Church is Sin: And Other Essays on Native American Christian Mission, Healing the Land Publishers, Scotland, PA 2007.

Second in a series of blog posts that feature emerging voices.  This week, my friend Jose Morales, pastor, theologian, future PhD, and Disciples of Christ Rock Star (or top DJ/MC), offers his take on immigration and the culture of fear.   The debate over immigration reform has produced a high degree of rancor and contention. But is there more to this debate than mere political wranglings?  Jose helps us to reflect on this issue through another lens.

DJ JoseJose at lakeview

What is at the core of the issue? What is the driving force of the immigration debate? I say: it is fear.

What’s at the core of the debate, in my opinion, is a cultural fear that grows out of cultural hegemony and cultural idolatry. Namely, the fear comes from the “threat” of having large numbers of immigrants who refuse to assimilate easily, in a country where the cultural majority sees assimilation as a moral virtue and as a necessity for socio-political well-being. In other words, immigration is not a threat to national security; it is a threat to national identity. For since the first rounds of Native extermination, the cultural “norm” has been set by the cultural majority, namely, immigrants of Anglo stock.  Which is why I am convinced that “white” is a political designation, not a cultural one.  I am even suspicious of the intention of some white liberals who, by using “diversity” and “multicultural” language, are really attempting to maintain cultural control in the guise of diversity “management”.  This cultural control avoids the real task at hand: de-white-supremafication. As these gatekeepers of Anglo-American culture see it, their power to set and sustain the norm is being challenged by backwater, Spanish-speaking, indigenous, Catholic, pre-modern, brown people who are a drag on the economy. What these immigrants are a drag on is the cultural hegemony of white society. Just as post-bellum white southerners feared a black cultural revolution and thus acted in horrific, dehumanizing ways to squelch any inkling of Afro-cultural insurgency, the cultural majority today fears specifically a Latino-cultural revolution which will rob them of their power to set the “norm.”

The sad tale to this saga for me, as a faithful Christian, is that this cultural hegemony has been, and still is, sanctioned and sustained by religion. God-talk is employed to ignore cultural fear and to maintain cultural hegemony, which consequently leads to cultural idolatry. Below are three ways in which religion is distortedly used to these ends.

  1. The dominant culture makes an appeal to “obedience of the law” as a moral absolute without first determining whether the contents and intents of said law, in and of themselves, are morally right and just.
  2. The nation that concocts these laws is given divine origins and divine purpose. In short, to go against the state is to go against God.
  3. The “white” majority, who have written the history of the nation (so as to soften up things like Native extermination, slavery of African peoples, and subjugation of women), are given divine preference and set the “standard” by which all residents of the republic are judged.

The cultural fear of the cultural majority is fostered by appeals to religion–in this country, by appeals to their Christianity. And I will specify: their Christianity.  Statistics show that the majority of African, Persian, Asian, and Latin American immigrants are Christian; and yet, these forms of imported, un-Americanized Christianity are not good enough for this republic and its religion.  As a Christian, I challenge their cultural-civil form of Christianity because, as I see it, it is not Christianity. The Christian faith is one of liberating power from below, not oppressive power from above. This principal of liberating power is embodied in the Torah, where provisions were made to guard against economic exploitation, political oppression, and religious legitimation. The prophets remind the people of the socio-political mandate of the Law, for they had emptied the Law of its liberating power and had begun to use it for personal gain and exploitive purposes in the name of God–sounds awfully familiar! For Christians, the Christ event is the fullest embodiment of this liberating power. It is in the political execution of Jesus on the Cross where he is ironically yet profoundly crowned king, and where God’s liberating power was demonstrated and the culture’s oppressive power exposed.

Lest I am accused of theological rambling, I wish to point out how this re-appropriation of the faith is applicable to the immigration issue. First of all, the immigration laws of this country are unjust, and should be declared as such by people of faith. Before we are called upon to adhere to these decrees, we should consider and challenge the racist, classist, ideological, and religiously exclusivist demons that inform and shape immigration policy as it now stands. To adhere to an immoral law is, well, immoral. For this reason, I have no problem encouraging churches, synagogues, and mosques to “break the law” and serve as sanctuaries for immigrants. Secondly, a critique of cultural idolatry is in order. While God in the Tanakh is referred to as “the God of Israel,” God is not an Israelite–nor an American, for that matter. Cultural idolatry diminishes the beauty of the whole people of God and does not allow us to see diversity as a gift of God’s Spirit (Acts 2). Providing sanctuary is a bold affirmation of diversity and of diversity’s rightful place in the American cultural milieu. Thirdly, I believe that faith and “values” language–i.e. “God-talk”–has its place in politics, since it is the language of many people who are affected by the political process. Yet, God-talk should be employed only for the common good and not for private or denominational interests. Civil religion used to subjugate workers for personal gains is rebuked by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 58). Lastly, people of faith should be at the forefront in naming the fear, and illegitimizing it. For it is, after all, illegitimate fear. In fact, it is fear of the worst kind: fear of the “other.” And it is only by knowing the “other” and by loving them that fear is replaced by compassion and solidarity, which are core values of the sanctuary movement. As it is written, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

To be clear, love casts out fear, not immigrants.

This article was originally in For You Were Once a Stranger: Immigration in the U.S. through the Lens of Faith, a primer on immigration by the Interfaith Worker Justice of Chicago.  The primer is available online:


In the past year, I’ve presented on the topic of the Next Evangelicalism and the changing face of Christianity and of American society in various settings. In almost every setting, I’ve been asked whether I’ve seen the movie, Gran Torino. Either this was the greatest movie ever made or there was something in this movie that applied directly to The Next Evangelicalism. So about a month ago I finally capitulated and watched the movie on DVD. I’m assuming that most have already seen this movie, so if I reveal major plot points, you’ve had more than enough time to see this movie.

The story takes place in Detroit, but it could be extrapolated to any Midwestern city or any post-industrial city in the United States: Detroit, Buffalo, Paterson, NJ, or Minneapolis-St. Paul (particularly with its prominent Hmong population). One of the people who strongly recommended the movie to me stated in no uncertain terms that the movie took place in Minneapolis, MN. The story focuses on Clint Eastwood as a curmudgeon war veteran (is there any other kind?) and retired auto worker (hence, the Detroit locale and the movie title) who is adjusting to life in a rapidly changing neighborhood. His neighborhood is being overrun with street gangs and immigrants, like his immediate neighbors (a Hmong family), who practice strange customs like having lots of friends and family over for dinner parties. Eastwood, of course, doesn’t like what’s happening to his old neighborhood and tries to keep his distance from the Hmong family next door – particularly the teenage brother and sister in the family.

Because this is a Hollywood movie, the Hmong teenage boy and his sister gradually win over the crusty old man. He develops a nice rapport with the kids and eventually when the dangers of the neighborhood threaten his new friends, he intervenes. The climax of the movie comes when Eastwood’s character decides to take matters into his own hands. It appears that Eastwood is ready for a shoot ‘em up with the local gang. However, it turns out that he is unarmed when he confronts the gang and he is gunned down on the street, dying with his arms in an outstretched position as if he were on a cross.

The movie had some interesting and unexpected moments; namely, the acknowledgement of an increasingly multi-cultural and diverse urban dynamic. It is interesting how the cross-cultural relationship is with a Hmong family, not a Mexican family or an African-American family. The movie recognizes the complex cultural mosaic that is now America. The relationship that develops between the Eastwood character and the Hmong family was certainly a feel good aspect of the movie — showing that cultural barriers could be overcome when the white person opens his heart to the strangers living next door. And it is genuinely moving that the Eastwood character gives up his life for his newfound friends.

Which actually provides the most problematic element of the movie as well. As Eastwood dies, he stretches out his arms as if on a cross in what was a pretty obvious attempt at portraying the Eastwood character as a Christ figure. He sacrifices his life in order to save the Hmong teenagers. So what’s the problem?

Hmong Eastwood

I try to interpret this movie from the lens of my experience in urban ministry. I greatly appreciate the concept of relocation that is espoused by many who move to urban neighborhoods from places of privilege and affluence. I think a great sacrifice is being made by those who are urban relocaters. However, I worry a bit that this idea of relocation is misunderstood by whites (and others of privilege and wealth) who may have the best of intentions, but end up ultimately harming the community they hope to reach. I found it uncomfortable, that once again, the white male is portrayed as the Savior in Gran Torino — that the immigrant community needs a white Messiah to rescue them. Our Savior is a Jewish Messiah, who ultimately empties himself of the heavenly places in order to save us. However, no human can play that role nor should one aspire to that role. Is Gran Torino glorifying a white Messiah to save those needing help? Instead, could a downtrodden, marginalized community rise up from within? Could the Hmong teenagers figure out a way to work within the community to bring about transformation and renewal? Maybe Eastwood’s character could have worked with them towards that goal rather than doing all the work for them (again, a Messianic reference)? Would it be more powerful if instead of Eastwood being a Christ figure / Messiah for the immigrant community, Eastwood walked Hmong them (okay, now I’m pushing it). But that wouldn’t make for a good Hollywood movie.

Hey folks,
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out my friend’s new blog.  Chris Rice is one of the pioneers and prophets of racial reconciliation and multi-ethnicity in our generation.  I met Chris and Spencer Perkins (they co-authored a ground breaking work together called: More Than Equals and were partners in reconciliation ministry for many years before Spencer’s untimely passing.  Spencer is also John Perkins’ son).  Chris is currently working at Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation which has been doing groundbreaking and exciting work on the topic of multi-ethnicity and racial reconciliation.  I’m sure you’ll appreciate what Chris has to say on his blog.

From time to time, I want to feature some emerging young voices that need to be heard. Today’s emerging voice is Vince Campbell. I first met Vince when he was an undergrad at Wheaton College. I invited him and his wife, Diana Mojica (another important emerging voice) to come to Boston to intern at CCFC while attending Gordon-Conwell. Vince and Diana finished up at GCTS, then Vince completed his ThM at Princeton and is now beginning PhD studies in early church history (with a focus on the early African church) at Catholic University. You will be hearing from Vince in the years to come. I thought it’d be good to introduce him to you here.

Christianity’s African Roots by Vince Campbell

While the contemporary re-centering of Christianity from the Global North to the Asian, African, and South American continents has garnered the attention of many a missiologist, witnesses to the multi-cultural Kingdom of God as revealed in Jesus Christ must remember that Christianity’s presence in black and brown nations is anything but a modern phenomenon. Ancient communities of Jesus-followers in India, China, the Middle East, and Africa stretching back to the time of the apostles tell the story of a global Christian faith free of Western cultural captivity. If we take an African theologian, preacher, and monk of the fifth century named Shenoute as a starting point, we see that not only was Christianity an indigenously African religion in its beginning stages but that it was used as a social mechanism to construct Egyptian identity in conjunction with belief in Jesus over against a pagan Western (Greek) religious and cultural hegemony.

Father Shenoute was an Egyptian monk who, during his 118 year life led a monastic community of some 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns in the Upper Nile Valley area of Sohag. His aggressive literary campaign filled with theological treatises and sermons found in the library of his monastery is unparalleled in fifth-century Coptic Egypt. Shenoute’s writings (as well as his personality) were renowned for their empowerment of the poor, defense of orthodoxy, and attack on heresy and paganism. While these themes were not uncommon among monks in the early church, the Egyptian contextualization of the Gospel in response to oppressive Western pagan influences are a feature unique to Shenoute. In the case of his sermon entitled “Not Because the Fox Barks,” he encourages his African peasant congregation while rebuking the oppression of a local wealthy landlord. Shenoute identifies this landlord, Gesios’ oppressions as forcing the poor African Christians to perform ritual baths (an ancient Greek pagan ritual) while hindering them from celebrating the Pascha (Easter). Shenoute encourages his African congregation by claiming that “Not because the fox barks- which is you servant of Mammon- should the lion be afraid- which is the servant of Christ.”

While the Roman Empire of the fifth century was predominately a safer place for Christians due to the acceptance of Christianity as a state religion, this didn’t change the reality of the majority of land-owning aristocrats in Upper Egypt being predominately pagan and hostile to Christianity. However, in his defense of the poor against Western pagan oppression, Shenoute points to the growing reality that the Christians are growing fast in number and retain a power greater than that of the wealthy who put their faith in pagan gods. The Coptic Christians of Egypt worshipped Jesus while resisting the cultural, economic, and political subjugation of the Western world which, was still predominately pagan. Similar stories that take place in Nubia, Ethiopia, Carthage, Syria, and other nations prove powerful examples of Christianity’s deep roots among people of color and dispel the myth that Christianity is or ever has been a Western religion.

For further reading:
Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never
Knew. Oxford University Press. 2003.

Emmel, Stephen. “From the Other Side of the Nile: Shenoute and Panopolis” in A.
Egberts, B.P. Muhs, and J. van der Vliet. Perspectives on Panopolis: An Egyptian
Town from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest. Leiden: Brill. 2002.

Frankfurter, David. Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance. Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press. 1998.

Keener, Craig & Usry, Glenn. Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity be Afrocentric?
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996.

Goehring, James E. & Pearson, Birger A. The Roots of Egyptian Christianity.
Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. 1986.

Meinardus, Otto F.A. Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity. Cairo, Egypt: The
American University in Cairo Press. 1999.

Schroeder, Caroline T. Monastic Bodies: Discipline and Salvation in Shenoute of Atripe.
Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2007.

I recently did an interview on 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?

Check out the profrah youtube channel:  The latest series of video posts were taken at the Cornerstone Festival in July.  There are a series of clips taken at the panel discussion on the future of evangelicalism.  Panelists include Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones, Sharon Gallagher, Patrick Provost-Smith, and yours truly.  The panel was moderated by Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk.  Some interesting insights.

There are also a series of interview clips with John Perkins, Andrew Marin, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Twiss, etc.  Here’s my chat with John Perkins:

I did an interview with Spencer Burke for In two parts.
Part I and Part II

Crosswalk has printed an interview with me online. See Crosswalk. Interesting comments so far. More defensiveness than any specific critique.