Asian, American and Christian sub­cultural norms make it difficult to address culture, race, ethnicity etc.

We need to acknowledge that race, culture and ethnicity are awkward, uncomfortable and messy topics ­­­in Asian, American AND Christian cultures.

What we propose

 

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Asian, American and Christian sub­cultural norms make it difficult to address culture, race, ethnicity etc.

Here are some examples:

Some East Asian cultures make it taboo to speak negatively about someone in authority such as a pastor, an elder, a parent, particularly to their face. This can make it difficult to voice things the latter may legitimately not see, and attempts to voice criticisms may be misconstrued, harming relationship.

Some American cultures make it taboo to ask about race or ethnicity.  “What is your ethnicity?” This is a difficult question for some Americans to ask and be asked. However, if you ask this to someone from Europe, or Asia or Australia—most don’t seem to mind at all. According to Meher Ahmad’s article, How to Ask Someone their Ethnicity Without Being an —hole, asking in the wrong way can offend, making one feel like they don’t belong in America, especially if they have been born and raised here. However, even when sensitively asked, the conversation often does not go beyond a short answer.

Some Evangelicals find it taboo to acknowledge culture.  As we discussed earlier (challenge 2), some seminary trained Evangelicals perceive culture to be irrelevant. Evangelical theology’s focus on universal propositions consequently make culture seem irrelevant to Christians. To think that we have different cultures, and that we are not all the same might edge us towards a dangerous relativism, or a liberal Christianity. Evangelical missionaries, however, seem to have no problem acknowledging and seeing cultural differences, and they are trained to contextualize the Gospel accordingly. As we also discussed earlier in challenge 2, the word “culture,” is often equated with “the world.” (And it is often “the culture”  as it is used here.) To some Evangelicals this definition of “culture” has been so overwhelmingly used, that it is ingrained. It is difficult to think of culture in any other way. Next to universal propositions, culture seems irrelevant, and “culture” meaning strongly the world, makes it difficult to broach in some Evangelical subcultures.

Some cultural taboos need to be overcome

The apostle Peter struggled when he was told to overcome a cultural taboo. “‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”  (Acts 10:14) Peter’s openness to God’s repeated call to overcome what no good Jew would ever consider eating, allowed for the Gospel to be shared with Gentiles.

Taboos came about for a reason. However, as times change, and as God makes all things new, some taboos sometimes lose their original relevance and yet, they retain an irrational authority. Some of these outdated taboos can be so strong in us, and yet can keep us from expanding our ministries, loving one another and loving God.

Christ came to transform ALL cultures.

All cultures­­­—Asian, American and Christian­­­—need to be redeemed in Christ. God is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5).

We need 

We need to acknowledge that race, culture and ethnicity are awkward, uncomfortable and messy topics ­­­in Asian, American AND Christian cultures. These are not easy topics to talk about. Perhaps academics are the most prolific on Asian American and Christian topics because their disciplines allow them to hold these topics at arms length. But their work is not always satisfying because these topics are deeply personal ones, and some of us long to hear how they affect our everyday lives. They hit us directly where we’re at and deserve such discussion.

We need to emphasize why it’s important to talk about such difficult things!

While reasons will certainly vary depending upon ministry and circumstance, AsianAmericanChristian.org thinks that when we don’t address race, culture, ethnicity, we limit our discipleship, evangelism and potential for unity.  

Discipleship:  If we are not giving Christ our whole lives—if we are not giving to God our Christian subculture norms, our Asian tendencies in which we were raised, our American dreams and aspirations—then God does not have all of us, and we will limit our growth in Christ.

Evangelism:  Evangelicals are not always great in evangelism because according to Rebecca Manley Pippert in her classic, Out of the Saltshaker, Evangelicals tend to think it is something we do, instead of something that naturally flows out of who we are. We have yet to understand the significance of our humanity.

“The implications of the incarnation are vast, but one area that greatly affects evangelism is this: Jesus gives us permission to be human. Yet we struggle to believe that God intends for us to be truly human…We’re afraid that being made of flesh and blood meets with divine disapproval. The fact that we love to laugh, take a walk with a friend, sip tea and read a good book for the sheer pleasure of it is probably regarded from on high, we fear, with a cosmic frown. We forget that it was God’s idea, not ours to make us human. ” (29-30)

Jesus incarnates as a human being into culture.  As New Testament scholar NT Wright says, Jesus’ death and resurrection was “thoroughly enculturated.” God knew the culture of Jesus’ world and communicated intentionally within that culture. God had a point in making Jesus human.  Jesus walked among the various ethnic, geographic, work, family, socio-economic class cultures of his time—as God is with us now.

If we do not talk about culture, race, ethnicity and see God at work in these areas, we will limit how we know God, and how we can incarnate into the lives of others, how we can witness to others. Sharing about God is a natural thing, flowing out of our relationships with God!

Unity:  While there is plenty of variance on what “unity” means, all Evangelical ministers would agree that it is something that God wants. If we do not talk about culture, race and ethnicity, we will not allow for difference, for imperfection, for different parts of the body to have different roles and gifts. If we do not allow Christians to be who they are and where they are at, we can not all unite in Christ.

 

We need to work within existing cultures, to let God transform and transcend cultures.

We need ways that will meet us where we are at, to move us forward.

We need to work within existing cultures, at times to work around taboos, and at others to acknowledge them. Cultures are where Christ is among us, and where God is already working. Philippians 1:6b: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” We need socially savvy leaders who can address the difficult things, and help us overcome them, so that we can grow more and more like Jesus.

We need to be willing to let God transform cultures. We need to be willing to work with people in our own families and churches who are different from us to affect change for the better of us all. We need to be prepared for unpleasant conversations, to put aside our pride and discomfort for the bigger picture of glorifying and growing in Christ. We need models in conflict resolution, proper boundaries and expectations for various kinds of conversations. We need to allow for disagreement and different points of view, while focusing on our commonality in Christ.

We need to be willing to let God transcend culture. As we put ourselves in a position to heighten the possibility of experiencing God’s grace, we need to be open to perhaps finding our heart, like John Wesley, “strangely warmed” or open to as Jonathan Edwards put it, “affections that are truly spiritual and gracious.” We need to be open to supernatural things that bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, that can only be credited to Christ.

In Gospel essentials, unity, in nonessentials, liberty, in all things, charity. 

 

What we propose

AsianAmericanChristian.org wants to find creative and constructive ways to talk about race, ethnicity and culture. Respectfully and lovingly, we want to see where people are at and see what God is doing in all Asian American Christian Evangelicals.

We want to learn more about what God is doing in us because it is the context for any constructive conversation about race, ethnicity and culture. We want to hear from all Asian American Christians in their own voices and on their own terms.

We want to creatively and constructively allow people to say things that may be difficult to discuss and say in their own contexts. Though missteps are inevitable, we aim to be gracious with our questions, and we allow also for responsible anonymity. (For example, see Rant to the Cross).

We will feature a spectrum of viewpoints, and allow for disagreement.

As resources allow, we will summarize pre-existing discussions, gather and moderate future discussions. We will gather the best conflict resolution practices and offer resources towards that end.  (Phase 2)

We will try to be like Christ, to come alongside. For the sake of God’s glory.

 

 

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We’re sharing our thinking behind the 7 challenges that inform our mission. Our mission is to ask what God is doing in us to hear and gather all Asian American Christian voices and build inroads necessary for understanding, reconciliation and fellowship.

AsianAmericanChristian.org is a proposal for a new ministry that offers a framework and a way forward. If you’re wondering where these ideas are coming from, read this. If you’re interested and would perhaps like to join our feedback sessions this Fall, join our mailing list.

 

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