Apr 302007

Watch that mouth! Michael Richards. Mel Gibson. Don Imus. These guys make a few off-handed remarks, and they’ve been stung big time. And now, Richard Gere discovers public kissing is very bad, very bad in India. Gere apologizes in kissing controversy in India, but forgiveness doesn’t come so easily in the arena of public perception when it comes to unintentional (or intentional) racism and intercultural ignorance.

Now mainstream media is not particularly known for transparency, but maybe blogging culture’s alternative voice is rubbing off, and small wrongful remarks can be blown out of proportion. If a racially-charged remark can take down a talk show king, it can take down anybody. Here we are in 2007, decades after the Civil Rights era, and there is still so much racism beneath the surface. Volatile little sound bites indicate a lot of racist junk still in the hearts of people.

Lesson to learn here? You’re being recorded all the time in the public eye via video (tv camera, cell phone camera), audio (the mic could be live even when you don’t expect it, right, Mr. President?), and eyewitness reports (bloggers). You’d better learn to live a transparent life, and be consistent when the lights are on and when they’re not. Best way to go: character and integrity all around.

3 mini-episodes from my past Atlanta weekend:

I visited an old seminary friend now living in Georgia, who I’ll name David 2 (Caucasian), and with me was David Park (Korean). We’re having delicious BBQ at Claude’s in Loganville, and we’re talking about “churching” and culture and more over the span of 2 hours. While talking about the Virginia Tech tragedy, David 2 remarked on his shock at discovering the shooter’s identity being Asian: “that’s what white guys do.” [at the 1:00 mark] He wasn’t white after he saw our loud reactions of laughter. He turned beet red. The conversation was recorded, so listen to the actual MP3 audio excerpt, so you can hear it in context.

I chatted with Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired magazine) at Q in a compressed conversation, not wanting to hog 5 or 10 minutes with him, knowing there’s many others who’d want to talk with him. I asked for his top-of-mind futurist perspective on racism, since the United States is now 30% non-Anglo and the world is less than 20% Anglo. His response: we have to break the white & black dichotomy in America, and bring in brown and yellow (referring to Hispanic/Latinos and Asians), and that triangulation will change and diffuse the interracial dynamics. Brilliant!

I walk past Mike Foster (ethur.org, formerly xxxchurch.com) as I egress from a pit stop and he’s on the way in. He’s wearing one of those hairline mic’s, and I nudge him and say, “Check the mic!” He checks it, and I think we averted a potentially embarrassing on-air moment. While I’d like to trust the sound board guys, double-redundancy safety-check is a better idea.

brief Q debrief

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Apr 282007

What an incredible time in Atlanta at Q! Loved getting to hang out with Kingdom-minded people. David Park of NextGenerAsianChurch.com and I sat down to chat for 15 minutes about the past 55-hour experience at Q, and what it was about, how they did it, and what we loved. Listen to the conversational debrief:

Props to Gabe Lyons and Jeff Shinabarger for taking a huge step of faith to chase their dream for putting something together like this! BTW, confirmed first-hand with Jeff that Q was indeed inspired by TED.

Now that I’m blogging a day after all the high-energy fast-paced intense presentations and conversations, my throat hurts a bit from so many conversations (though I’m still here wanting more), and feeling a bit of the subtext for the celebration of entrepreneurship. Wondering out loud, I’m not sure what this means for the majority of people in this world who are not entrepreneurs.

Extra gratitude to David Park and his wife for opening their home to me for a couple of nights for very comfortable sleep.

[update] Duncan McFadzean (who came over the pond from Great Britain) over at “What’s your point caller?” posted his post-Q debrief, with highlights and not-so-highlights. I myself am hesitant to give any feedback that’d be remotely perceived as negative, because it was such a brilliant and outstanding effort. Excellent Q note-taking over at SBC Outpost, even generating 70+ comments on 1 post. Big Q photo set over at Aaron Linne’s Flickr.

Atlanta Q meetup

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Apr 242007

Today I’ll be en route to Atlanta Q for the rest of the week to participate in the Q boutique event. Q is all about ideating and wrestling with the complexities of embodying the Gospel to shape future culture.

I’ll meet lots of people, but probably not all 700+, including some other bloggers and a group that L2 Foundation is sponsoring. People I’ll meet for the first time: Kent Shaffer, Micah Davis, Kevin Doi, maybe Andrew Sikora, Kel Vick, Duncan McFadzean, Brad Abare, Scott Hodge, Josh Scott, Jan, Mike Foster of Ethur.org. People I’ll meet again: Ken Fong, Gideon Tsang, David Park, Andy Crouch, Joseph Tsang, Paul Kim, David Hsu, Linda Lindquist-Bishop. Add a comment below if you’re going to Q.

[update] just found out Mark Batterson will be at Q too. [4/29/07] Other Q bloggers I found out after the fact: Aaron Linne, Jonathan Brink’s Wonderland, Chris Jarrell’s Facedown Worshipper, Marcelliott, Chris Bell, Michael Lukaszewski, Randall Littleton, Chris Capehart, Bryan Davidson, Jesse Perry (a non-Christian follower of Jesus), Mark Michael Miller, Brad Abare of Church Marketing Sucks, Martha Anderson, Barry, Seeward.

I should be able to live-blog my time in Atlanta at the L2 blog (using a broadband mobile internet card if need be).

[update] Now in Atlanta. In preparation for Q, attendees are reading this commissioned short paper, Influencing Culture: An Opportunity for the Church, by Gabe Lyons. I read it on the plane on the way here to Atlanta; Gabe makes a compelling argument for the culture mandate, and it sure beats reading a 600-page tome like “How Now Shall We Live“. (Linked with permission. Spread the word.)

Best way to find each other is using cell phones — mine is 202-494-3449. (btw, did you read about 20-year-old Ryan Fitzgerald, who posted his cell number on YouTube and invited calls; he got over 5,000!)

Apr 232007

African Americans have their Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. While these few do not represent the whole, they boldly speak up for the whole. And, the mainstream media goes to them for their perspectives.

Caucasian Americans have their Billy Graham and Rick Warren. There’s also Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Again, they don’t represent the whole diversity of Anglo Christians, they boldly speak up for the whole.

Latino and Hispanic Americans kind of have Jesse Miranda and Luis Palau as their voices. I don’t know exactly who speaks for their tribe, but I think they’d boldly speak up for the whole.

Even the Hebrews had their Moses and Joshua.

Asian Americans have no one who boldly speaks up for the whole. We need a voice.

What would it take to have that voice?

Passion. A clarion voice that boldly speaks up with confidence and persuasion. You can’t fake passion. You have to have that fire in the belly, no fear to speak up even if you’re misunderstood, even if you don’t have the perfectly-crafted words. Public speaking is 93% about delivery and only 7% about the words.

Platform. A clarion voice has a large audience that listens to what s/he has to say for both intangible and tangible reasons. Some call it charisma. Definitely need cross-over appeal in both the religious and civic realms, as well as inside the tribe and outside. Need to have an organization with financial supporters that keep that platform active too.

Conviction. A clarion voice has to have something to say. That person has to have a sufficient understanding of the tribe’s compelling concerns. And that person is taking action to address those concerns and boldly advocating others to join the cause. That person lives out that conviction with an unwavering lifetime commitment through both actions and words.

Like it or not, we as Asian Americans will be stereotyped because we have that face. But without a voice, there is no way to change that stereotype of silence. Without a voice, we’ll be invisible and misunderstood.

I know there are many differences among Asian Americans: ethnicities, languages, cultures, generations, affinities. “Asian American” is not an attractive label or strong rally cry. Asians are known for being group-oriented, but Asians aren’t known for rallying around a voice. Without a voice boldly speaking up for the whole, we’ll remain apart.

Could I be that voice? You’ve got to be kidding! I know a lot of things I don’t have in and of myself. It takes a driven and focused Type-A personality to be that clarion voice.

What I do have is my personal blog. I’ve occasionally advocated for the next generation Asian Americans. But like others who are in this space, I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed or stereotyped. I prefer being eclectic and speak of my many varied interests.

But last week has changed me. I will use my words to advocate for the next generation Asian Americans. 7% still counts.

Apr 222007

Listen in on my sermon [mp3] titled “Why does it hurt so much?” based on John 11:17-36, delivered this morning at Great Commission Community Church in Arlington, Virginia. I stayed in the moment and somber mood of the past week, so the tone is a little bit on the heavy side.

The best I’ve found so far, that speaks into our Asian American context — Helen Lee has written an excellent series of posts exploring the dynamics and pressures in the cultural context of an Asian immigrant family: Portrait of a Family, Silence of Murderer’s Mother, More on Cho and Family, Seung-Hui Cho’s note and Christianity, Race and the Va. Tech Tragedy, Addendum, Va. Tech Tragedy [reverse chronological order]. These affect most of us in the 1.5 and 2.0 generation, and most of us find ways to cope, some healthy, some more addictive. Sadly, one person decided to do the worst of evils.

Additionally, 2 days ago, I asked Ellie Hsieh, a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program of Virginia Tech, for her perspectives into (1) an Asian American family’s dynamics and (2) the ministry opportunities that a church has to better serve this grouping. Hopefully, it will encourage more dialogue on this issue::

1) Asian immigrant families deal with multiple stresses as they attempt to acculturate to life in the U.S. For instance, there are language barriers, cultural conflicts, the loss of one’s social support network back in Asia, financial stresses, racism, etc. One major one is the conflict between cultural values. For instance, the parents may still adhere to the cultural values they grew up with in their country of origin. So in some Asian families, they will assume that it’s ok to hit their kids and leave marks because that’s how they were disciplined when they were growing up. But U.S. law would describe that as child abuse.

So Asian immigrant families may lack the education and experiential knowledge on U.S. values and customs that can impact their families. This is just one example, which may be more uncommon these days because research has shown that immigrants really do know that in the U.S. things are done differently. (See “Judgments about Intimate Partner Violence: A Statewide Survey About Immigrants” by Susan B. Sorenson, in Public Health Reports 121:4, 2006) However, knowledge about the laws does not always translate into adherence to the law… this of course, is what happens in churches as well (i.e. we know what is the right thing to do, but do we always do those things?).

For most Asian immigrant families, the struggle is learning how to mix 2 different sets of values together and to make compromises so that your children who grow up with American values getting taught to them in school, in the media, and elsewhere, can grow up with a healthy balance of their parent’s culture and American culture. These struggles usually occur when the kids become adolescents because that is also the time most adolescents begin to seek greater independence from their families and greater understanding of their place in the world. So teenagers might begin to question and reject why their parents push them so hard to perform well in academics. And it might be acceptable practice to compare their children to other children, or to use criticism to encourage a child to perform better. These are customs/values that go contrary to American values… where as my parents would say, “children get praised for even mediocre work”.

So these acculturation stresses impact how an immigrant family functions. Many 2nd generation Asian Americans have experienced a “role-reversal” in their own families. Because their parents didn’t speak English well, they had to serve as interpreters and deal with adult matters at a young age. They might have to speak to insurance companies, doctors, business people well before they even need to. And so the parents come to depend on their children to serve in these adult roles and if the parents never really become competent in English, the children might begin to disrespect their parents… see them as incompetent or incapable and thus, the role-reversal: children acting as adults, the adults acting as children in certain situations, especially in public matters.

2) I think Asian churches have a lot of power to impact the Asian American families they serve. First off, churches are commonly viewed by Asians as a social support and since most Asians commonly avoid seeking the help of public or government institutions when faced with a dilemma, pastors are typically viewed as “elders” (respected members of the community), people who know more and can give them advice. Second, churches provide Asian families with a social support network, a community where they feel comfortable, they belong, everybody seems to be similar to them. This means that you can provide language classes, education on U.S. customs/values/laws that would enable immigrant families to better adjust to life in the U.S., employment opportunities, etc. So… the church if it is willing to address, not only the spiritual aspects of its members, can also reach out and impact all the other aspects of living. I think most Asian churches do a lot more in this regard. That is, they do provide a lot of community support to their parishioners because they are more than just a spiritual center, they are also a community institution. (This is discussed in the book: New spiritual homes: Religion and Asian Americans by David Yoo)

So, if Asians continue to view counseling as a stigma, churches can also help change that perspective. They can bring in Asian counselors to do workshops to help Asians view counseling more positively, make counseling more approachable and acceptable, to view it as a resource, just as they would view relatives as a resource when family problems arise. Moreover, in light of the recent tragedy at VA Tech, I truly hope that our Asian community will finally awaken and have its eyes opened to the value of counseling. The media continues to discuss it and I wonder what fellow Asians think about counseling now, especially those in my parents’ generation.

Apr 212007

I’ve just finished my sermon outline for tomorrow. I’ll be guest-speaking at Great Commission Community Church in Arlington, Virginia, the next county over from Centreville.

The preaching date was scheduled months ago. I was actually on the phone with the church coordinator who invited me while the tragedy was happening, talking about what was happening at the church, while the horrific tragedy was happening at the Virginia Tech campus. Now it feels like a divine appointment. I couldn’t possibly recycle a sermon. I felt compelled to be in this moment to hear from God anew.

I based my talk on the text in John 11. Jesus’ words are the best when I can’t decide between the many good passages in the Scriptures. Unlike some Type A personalities, I do not do well with pressure. This week’s sermon preparation was very different for me, as it’s been more of an emotional preparation of grieving, mourning, and listening.

While I affirm that the Gospel is more than enough, we need more than a generic plain-vanilla Gospel. We need a Gospel that speaks into the Asian American experience specifically and deeply. We need a lot of redemption there. Many (most?) Asian churches, pastors, and lay people avoid addressing that. I’m going to try through my sermon for the first time, even though I’ve been exploring it for years on my blog and in email-based discussion groups and in my work with L2 Foundation.

I won’t reveal more yet. You’ll have to come out to hear it live if you’re in the metro Washington DC area, The talk should be recorded, and I’ll link to that when/if it’s posted. If you’re inclined to pray, please pray that I can speak honestly and emotionally, more than I’ve ever tried.

Hokie Hope Day

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Apr 202007

Virginia Tech family members across the country have united to declare this Friday, April 20th, an Orange and Maroon Effect day to honor those killed in the tragic events on campus Monday, and to show support for Virginia Tech students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and friends. … We invite everyone from all over the country to be a part of the Virginia Tech family this Friday, to wear orange and maroon to support the families of those who were lost, and to support the school and community we all love so much.

By the way, here’s something for the honorary Hokies — What is a Hokie?

Download full-size poster for Hokie Hope “Orange and Maroon Effect” Day >>

And, a prayer written by Terri Dewey that was read at a Monday night candlelight vigil::

Jesus, son of God, we need you now. Today we have been attacked, we have been broken, and we have been shocked as peace has been ripped away from our lives.

We have feared.

Jesus, our friends, our hallmates, our classmates… people we know have been unfairly hurt today. The innocent have died.

We are confused.

Of all the people today who have asked us how we are doing, you are the One innocent one who ask how we are today, and truly understands. You know what it feels like to be afraid, to be unfairly attacked, and to suffer and die. You took the place of each of us when you didn’t have to, when you didn’t deserve it. You took our bullet.

Jesus, son of God, we need you now.

Father, you created the lives of each of us, and you love each of us. You value our unique personality, our gifts and skills, and our individual lives. Today, life you created was killed.

We have lost something precious.

Spirit, we are already broken, and the worst may be yet to come. There are so many names we still don’t know, and so many people who are wounded. We are holding our breath, hoping for the best, and steeling ourselves for the worst.

We wait.

Spirit, Jesus said that you would come after he left, and that you would be our comforter. We ask you to hold us as we wait, and to be with us as we continue to experience grief this week.

We mourn, and we invite you to mourn with us.

God, we ask you to be with each family, and each friend, of every person who died today. They are loved, and we mourn them.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We ask you to be with each person who is wounded tonight in body and spirit, and with the family and friend of everyone who was wounded. Guide each doctor and nurse who works with the wounded. Guide their hands to heal them.

Give us hope. Help us be faithful to pray for the wounded, and please be with them as they heal.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We thank you for each person who was there to help bring safety on campus today, for each policeman and emergency worker who helped us and our friends today. We ask you to be with them, to bless them as they have blessed us, and to heal them from all they have witnessed today.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We ask you to walk with us through all that comes this week; to be a light to our path for each step we take in this dark and confusing time. We ask you to fill the campus of Virginia Tech with your light and hope, and use us to be your light, and your hope. Help us to listen, and to mourn with all of our friends who are mourning.

Lord, hear our prayer. We wait, and we mourn in silence.

a week to weep

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Apr 182007

It’s not time to “move forward” or “get past this.” It’s time to weep.

Poet Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Professor [see video of her poem read at the Virginia Tech Convocation on April 17th - video]::

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech …

I commend Virginia Tech’s decision to close school for the week, to weep. I’ll be going to tonight’s special candle light vigil and prayer service at Church in Bethesda at 7:00pm.

So much of the chatter now is trying to make sense of this senseless act of violence, make sense of death itself. Looking for every possible external influence from family, cultural heritage, society, organizational procedures. Everywhere else except individual choice. Everywhere else except the spiritual realm, and how evil embodies real-world influence. Humanity wants so badly to think we’re all born tabula rasa.

As for the racial ethnic identity of the murderer, a 2nd-generation English-speaking Korean American, there’s already ample indicators of the individual’s disturbing psychological profile. Other Asian Americans are starting to voice the possible implications and backlash; some very stupid things are being said too. God help us all.

[event] VT alumni declared a national “Orange and Maroon Effect” day this Friday for Hokie Hope >>