What I find most fascinating about the Open Letter campaign is that public protest brought together Asian Americans from a variety of theological persuasions—those who identify with congregations and institutions that are evangelical, liberal, Protestant, Catholic (or a mixture of these) in their theological proclivities.

A generous ecumenism showed that the issues raised by the Rick Warren, Exponential, and Rickshaw Rally events are more than “evangelical” or “liberal Protestant” issues. The issues concern basic human respect and dignity. The good news preached and embodied by Jesus of Nazareth radically highlights how all of God’s children deserve the love of God and should be treated as full human beings.

The Open Letter campaign testifies to the ways in which key White American Christian leaders affiliated with evangelical institutions and theological proclivities have fallen short of this love. That they have succumbed to ignoring and denigrating the full humanity of Asian bodies in the United States is not a political, racial, or “evangelical” issue, but a gospel issue—one that resonated with Asian Americans of a variety of theological persuasions and nearly 1,000 people who signed the Open Letter. The truth expressed by the organizers of the Open Letter strongly resonated with the experience and conscience of Americans who have been marginalized and hurt by the sin of racism, even across theological lines.

This suggests that there is power when we are willing to pay attention to how God is creatively working in our communities, which may not always be along neat and tidy manmade theological lines and institutionalized religious communities.

The events of the Open Letter highlight the innovative ways in which God works through people, as well as the spiritual creativity that is needed among Asian American communities today to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather than falling into routine, stock, and many times broken patterns of Christian institutions and expressions, we are called to prophetically and pastorally proclaim good news, even when it asks us to protest the dominant culture’s theological expressions and, sometimes, hold hands with new partners.

Christianity has been a missionary religious movement since its beginnings, motivated to spread to new communities in spite of and because of differences. The writings of the Apostle Paul show the frictions that even the earliest Jesus followers and communities in Christ had with loving each other across cultural, ethnic, geographic, gendered, class, and sexualized differences. Contemporary American Christians are no exception to this struggle to create communities of belonging for people from all the nations.

Hopefully, the events of the Open Letter will help White American evangelical leaders to see the urgent calling to not only evangelize their neighbors, but also love them radically—as they would love their own selves. For Asian American Christians, I hope the events of the Open Letter will motivate them to continue to boldly proclaim the truth of the gospel, even when it means defying dominant thinking and holding hands with theological “others.”

Helen Jin Kim, Graduate Student, Harvard University
Helen Jin Kim is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, studying American religious history with a focus on Asian and Asian American Christian communities. She is actively involved in ministries with the Evangelical Covenant Church and the United Methodist Church.

 

One Response to Helen Jin Kim: Brought together more than just evangelicals

  1. […] of Marian prayerfulness, the open letter was about the ecumenical movement of the Spirit. As the brilliant young theologian and historian Helen Jin Kim suggests, the open letter was a sign of visible unity in a theologically and ideologically divided church. […]