Finding Hope in the Midst of Deadly Vipers (2)

Be sure to read part one of Andy Kim’s reflection on the recent Deadly Vipers saga.  In this post Andy wraps up his thoughts.  I want to thank him for taking the time to so carefully articulate both his reactions to this whole deal along with his perspective about how this affects the road ahead.

2) The development of an emerging Asian American evangelical leadership coalition.

This certainly has a lot to do with advancements in social media and the growth of Asian Americans on the internet. There was no such rapid communal response to Rickshaw Rally or the Skit Guys. Social media hadn’t developed that back much then, it was still the Stone Age, you know, when people still used Friendster and Tweets were just sounds canaries made.

But in Nov 2009, once word of Deadly Vipers hit, word was out within an hour. Like magic beanstalks discussion threads, twitter @ replies, email chains circulated the web.

I think we all felt our fair share of frustration, anger and the sentiment: I GOTTA GET THE WORD OUT. I forwarded it to people who I knew would care. I saw notes referencing dozens of friends. Blog posts flew up. Most lay people did their fair share of spreading the word.

But the real heavy lifting came from what seems to be an emerging coalition of Asian American Evangelical leaders with at least a developed internet presence (usually through blogs). And these individuals seemed to be either: pastors and seminarians from influential ministries (Eugene ChoDavid Park, DJ Chuang, Charles Lee, Daniel Kim) or Professors and Authors (Soong-Chan Rah, Kathy Khang). There are many others I’m leaving off, but I think these are just a few of the blogs that generated a lot of traffic and buzz about the issue in a short span of time.

What does all this mean? Why is this important?

Continue reading “Finding Hope in the Midst of Deadly Vipers (2)”

Finding Hope in the Midst of Deadly Vipers (1)

When news of the Deadly Vipers promotional materials first hit the blogosphere a few weeks back, I asked Andy Kim if he’d be willing to reflect on what he’s observed.  Knowing Andy, I knew his perspective would be insightful to this blog’s readers.  Now that the matter has been resolved publicly, this seems like a good time to post his very helpful perspective.  I’ll post part two tomorrow.

When the whole saga about Deadly Vipers hit the fan I felt a cornucopia of emotions — agony, frustration, anger, sadness, tiredness, mourning, indignation.

But after two weeks, things seem to have cooled down somewhat and I’m left feeling mostly a sense of excitement and hope at where this all might be going. Not that everything has worked out perfectly (it hasn’t) or that the pain that came through this wasn’t real (it was). But as a follower of Christ who loves the Church and desperately longs for it to be “a house of prayer for all nations” — I think there is a lot to look forward to in the weeks, months and years to come.

I want to focus on looking forward, so I won’t rehash some of the key issues surrounding the Deadly Vipers saga except share some of the posts that I think best summarize the issues and were the most helpful for me in understanding and responding:

  • Soong-Chan Rah’s open letter to Zondervon, the publisher of DV, and authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Rah defines some specific offenses in the material and suggests practical response that both the authors and Zondervon could take.
  • Eugene Cho offers helpful reflection on the key issues and begins to address those who wonder if he is “over-reacting.”
  • Helen Lee, guest blogging at Next Generasian Church, challenges those who responded to the criticism of DV with, “Get over it. Stop being so insensitive. This isn’t a real big deal.” The seemingly benign caricatures can have powerful associations, especially for those who have experienced abuse and ridicule using some of those same images. For Lee one example was being called the “dorm geisha” or “Heren Ree” as a student whenever she baked cookies for her classmates.
  • A joint statement by Foster, Wilhite, Kathy Khang and Rah suggesting that there is real and significant dialogue taking place and there is an increasing amount of common ground and mutual understanding on the issues.

What I’m really excited about on the other hand is how the DV saga has catalyzed the Asian American evangelical community and how in many ways this could impact the future of American evangelicalism. I see two things happening:

1.) A robust, larger-scale discussion within the Asian American evangelical community.

When you get a chance, read through the comment threads on Soong Chan’s open letter or on the deadly viper’s blog site (find Soong Chan’s comment about 8 down) or on other blogs like reconcilliationblog or eugenecho or charleslee. There is incredible dialogue (with the requisite share of vulgarity, trolling and unnecessary snarkiness of course) but good points are raised, dialogue and discussion is happening.

This was happening for days on the blogosphere, but also on facebook and twitter in smaller, less well-known circles. Not among pastors of mega churches or social media fiends, but among friends, small group members, students, people without seminary degrees or PHDs. I was dialoguing with friends and acquaintances I haven’t spoken to in years, but who wanted to chime in on my facebook thread and tell me I was being too sensitive or to echo my horror at the material or something in between.

Continue reading “Finding Hope in the Midst of Deadly Vipers (1)”

deadly viper character assassins [updated]

Deadly Viper Character AssassinsI prefer to stay away from the arguments that so often characterize  blog-world; don’t we get enough of that in real life?  However, on occasion there are disagreements of substance worth pointing out, ones that have the capacity to teach.

Yesterday Dr Soong-Chan Rah (whose book and blog I’ve recommended before) wrote about a new book by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership, whose cover and promotional materials he finds offensive.

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.

In a more recent post Dr Rah shares his email exchange with one of the authors.  There’s no need to recap that dialogue here but it does raise an observation.  Rather than defend themselves to Dr Rah and other Asian Americans who’ve taken issue with their use of stereotype and characture, couldn’t the authors listen to the concerns, frustration, and anger that is being expressed?  One friend put it this way on Facebook,

Why do these authors (both are white) feel the need to use a bizarre amalgam of Asian cultures as a means to sell more books? Do they realize how many people (myself included) have been mocked and ridiculed by very similar caricatures and stereotypes that make up the premise of this book?

There are moments like this one when those of us who are white have the chance to learn something about the experience and perspective of those who haven’t shared our privilege.  I probably miss most of those chances because of my defensive instinct, but during those times when my mouth has stayed shut there has always been much to learn.  It would be a pleasant surprise if this turned out to be one of those moments for these authors and some of their readers.

Keep an eye on Dr Rah’s blog for more updates as this story develops.

One final thought.  Stories like these are poignant reminders to those of us committed to the reconciling implications of the Gospel of how gritty the work can be.  How grateful we are that with God all things are possible.


Update, 11/5

Since first posting this a few days ago there has been a lot of conversation online and, apparently, in person.  This morning Dr Rah posted a nice summary of what sounds to have been a very productive phone conversation between the book’s authors and a few Asian American Christian leaders.  After some initial missteps it appears as though this thing is moving in a redemptive direction.

I’m hoping that a friend will be posting some of his reflections about this here on the blog within the next day or so.  Check back soon.