Archive for Race Culture Ethnicity

Our Real World

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I’m sure many of us are still reeling from the results of the election.  There is so much to absorb, so much to do, beginning today.  I’m eager to see how we- referring to both the community of Jesus followers, and the larger people of the US- will respond to the challenges ahead.

Some random rants about the results:

– Finally, the reality of our global, multicultural world is reflected in our highest office.   There’s a whole lot of work to do, though, in terms of racial/ethnic/cultural reconciliation.

– People cannot be pigeon-holed into one political platform.  I think of my state of CA, where Barack Obama won easily, and yet traditional marriage was (so far, with 95% precincts reporting) upheld.  I think this “contradiction” reflects the new reality of who we are as a people.

– John McCain was and is a good guy in many ways.  In another situation, with a different incumbent and a different opponent, he probably could have won.  Did you watch his SNL opener on Nov 1?  It was great.

– Barack, thanks for what you’ve given so far.  We are eager to see how you will lead.  We will pray for you, and support you as best as we can, all the while giving to God what is God’s.

Celebrity Christianity, part 2:: Global Celebrity Status?

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In my previous post, I noted the negative and sinful feelings that would arise from my “flesh” when dealing with Celebrity Christianity.  In this post, I am not too sure if what I feel is morally sinful (you can help me figure it out).

As mentioned in my previous post, one of the things that really gets to me with Celebrity Christianity (in the West) is how we think that what we see is reality- the recognition someone gets is also the same recognition God gives to that person.  In other words, if we as the Western Church think that a certain pastor/model/ministry is amazing, God thinks the same.

I want to nuance my concern in this post to the idea that many times, when we do this, we also give in to the fatal error that what is true of what we see here is true for the Church worldwide.  In other words,  when a Western pastor has a big ministry, publishes books, has iTune sermons, and gets the Western Church’s attention, we think to ourselves- “Wow, this is what good, proper, effective, and powerful Christianity looks like! ”  Now, we don’t actually verbalize the next step because of our sensitivity to ideas of colonialism and imperialism, but my impression is that what we end up thinking from there, in the subtlest of ways, is that everyone, in every country, should have what this ministry has in some way, shape, or fashion. I may be wrong (and simply projecting my sinful flesh on others- I apologize), but this is what I feel.

I was reminded of this personally a few weeks ago.  A friend of mine said that a seminary in Indonesia was thinking about inviting the two of us to go and teach there for a week.  Exciting stuff, especially for a person who loves to travel (and who also struggles with ungodly recognition!).   But as I thought about this, it dawned on me how utterly foolish the situation was.

According to my friend, this seminary was one in which every student had to plant a church before they could graduate.  If you think about it, this is simply amazing, not because they have to plant a church, but because of the fact that they have to plant a church in Indonesia– a country that is predominantly Muslim, a country Christians are persecuted and die because of their faith, a country that is so not like the West (for info, see here).

And if you think about it, the idea of my friend and I being able to offer something to them is pretty foolish.  I mean, sure we may have some insight into some organizational skills for church planting.  But let’s get serious- who’s living the call of Christ in more real ways?  Who’s setting an example?  Who’s gonna have the bigger rewards in heaven?  Who’s more equipped to teach about planting churches in our global world?  I really don’t think it’s me or my friend.

Immigrant Blessings, part 2:: Los Angeles

I was back in La Puente/Hacienda Hts (in Los Angeles County) not too long ago, visiting a friend at El Pueblo Burger, an old High School hangout. Its a Mexican burger joint, located in a strip mall along with a Chinese bank, nude strip mall, random computer store, and some more stores, across the street from a Korean strip mall with another eclectic mix- fitting for an area that comes close to being half Latino and half Asian.

I needed to use the restroom, and so I went through the doors marked “men.” I was taken aback at first. “Wow, when was the last time I saw all this graffiti?”

You see, I’ve spent the last eleven years of my life in North San Diego, living in communities that are majority white, and definitely upper class. Public bathrooms in these parts are clean; ie- no graffiti. And so I wasn’t used to what I saw at El Pueblo burger, I wasn’t used to the setting I had grown up in and considered normal. Funny (or disturbing, perhaps)- I know people in my part of San Diego would quickly call Hacienda Hts “ghetto.” Graffiti? Sure. Ghetto? If this is ghetto, then what should we call —- ?

There’s something about being part of a big, multicultural city in the U.S. that is special. Especially Los Angeles County. You get exposed to almost everything- socially, culturally, religiously, educationally, and so on. I guess it comes with the territory- over 9 million people live there, and at least 224 different languages are spoken (San Diego County has 3 million residents speaking 100 lanugages). And there’s nothing like being a part of it all- contributing, learning, shaping.

Sure, Los Angeles has its down sides- traffic, pollution, and so on. But there’s no place quite like it where anyone (but particularly immigrants) can bless and be blessed.  I’m glad it’s part of my heritage.

Immigrant Blessings, part 1

(The following is the beginning, God willing, of a series of entries fueled by a hope to keep the experience of the previous generations in my family alive.  It was brought to mind recently as four generations came together recently to celebrate my grandfather’s 90-something birthday.)

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Growing up, I was pretty embarrassed about my immigrant background.  I remember wanting to change my name in preschool. “Mom, why can’t my name be Michael?” I thought.  “I would just feel so much better about myself.”  While having some Caucasian friends over as a second or third grader in Madison, WI, I still remember feeling downright embarrassed by the completely un-aesthetic collection of functional furniture in our cramped apartment (my dad was going through medical school), along with my parents’ lack of western social grace and understanding.   This embarrassment of culture, especially as embodied by my parents, continued for some years.

But things changed- not with my culture or my parents, but with me.  My parents’ house still has a random assortment of furniture, and they still function day-to-day in many ways as if they were poor immigrant grad students (even though Dad is an MD/PhD with numerous material and academic achievements).  The difference now is that I see the values they embody as truly valuable and desirable.  Values of simplicity and modesty,  for example, along with a deep desire to keep culture alive through language have grown on me…

They aren’t perfect of course, and neither is the cultural heritage I come from.  But I’m thankful that every  culture and story has its strengths that we can learn from, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to learn from the Chinese immigrant culture in the last half of the 20th century.

Multiculturalism: recent trends in our community

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I love the diversity of the church I’m a part of. Recently, my wife and I hosted three interns and a staff member. There we were- Latino, Filipino, Caucasian/Malaysian, Latina/Arabic, and Chinese. Loved it.

Part of what helps us get along is the reality that we are all strong in the English language, we are all “native” English speakers, and communicate together with English.

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Recently, though, we’ve been having a number of non-native English speakers come, mostly first generation Chinese immigrants. What I find interesting is that many of them have been to the Chinese speaking/immigrant churches in the area, but wanted a more multicultural experience. And so they’ve been coming, bringing their children and all. It’s good to see that the desire for multiculturalism is not just a postmodern, Gen X and Y, college-educated desire…

Metanarrative: the West

A few weeks back, I came across two ideas that I had not heard in a while:

1. Western Civilization in the Medieval-Modern period, particularly the parts that stemmed from the Bible and the Christian worldview, have contributed positively to societal development.

2. There is a metanarrative developing in the West, where we live in an unprecedented time, characterized by postmodernism.

These aren’t new thoughts, of course. But it was who I heard it from that caught my attention.

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#1 was from an Indian-born thinker that began his course of inquiry as he was serving the poorest of the poor in India. Why was it, he thought, that the West, although imperfect, lacked the depth of poverty and suffering compared to India? I actually got to meet this guy, and after whetting my appetite on his website, I am eager to discover more. www.vishalmangalwadi.com.

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#2 was from an American thinker who had some good thoughts. My dilemma is that I am always thinking like Ecclesiates- “there is nothing new under sun…” But what if there is some sort of grand story (other than the explicit Grand Story revolving around Jesus) that is happening?

Just some thoughts in my journey…

“Christ, My Bodhisattva”

As many of you can probably tell based off this blog, one of my passions in life is seeing Jesus contextualized/translated into other cultures.  I read this article recently, and was greatly encouraged.  It’s part of a larger project called The Christian Vision Project.  If you haven’t checked out the essays, it’s definitely worth a look.