Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Amy Chua recently published an article in The Wall Street Journal arguing why the Chinese parenting style is conducive to high achievement. To her I humbly respond: Shut the f up.
When one of your primary goals is to justify why calling your child "stupid," "worthless," or "a disgrace" is a beneficial parenting practice, then you is a freakin maniac or what Zach Galifianakis has coined as "the ruhtard."
What really angered me most though--and this is the crazy part--was that the article was true. This IS why Chinese kids are so great. This IS why we succeeded in school, became prodigies on the piano, and were given the debilitating "model minority" label. Like it or not, the values held in high esteem by the older generations do not simply disappear when American-borns stick their middle fingers up at the family tree--it is ingrained in us. And the church has not escaped that influence. Part of the reason this article was so difficult for me to read is because I know that this mindset is alive and well inside Asian churches and it is robbing the Gospel of its power.
How can you expect a church to understand Grace when all we've ever heard is that acceptance comes only as a result of high achievement?
How can you know the Loving Father when all you've ever seen is the belt-wielding, unresponsive father? (You might understand the whole "fearing God" thing, though)
How can you ever understand Freedom and personal faith if you've never had a say in your own passions and if everything has always been black and white, do and don't?
How can you ever understand Jesus if your goal in life is success?
The list goes on.
Don't get me wrong--Chinese ideology has its benefits too. Hard work and discipline as well as hard work and discipline are positive contributions of the system. Oh, and I almost forgot about hard work and discipline. These are things that can’t be ignored for Christians seriously pursuing Jesus. However, Chinese thinking has created a very distinct and, in my opinion, destructive church culture that has to be acknowledged and addressed, especially by folks in my generation.
I have friends who practically do everything for their church. I rarely see them all year because they're always busy, and when we do get to touch base for a little while, they always seem tired and frazzled. They serve their church because they love their church, but I can't help but see all of their efforts and ask, "What's the point of your hard work? To pull God down from heaven all by yourself? To impress him?" Maybe Asian American church leaders have only transferred their achievement-mindedness to the church sphere. Now, God becomes just another unemotional parent figure who chastises us while he swings the gai mo so.
And you'd think Chinese people would eat up an idea like Grace. I mean, it's a free giveaway of God's love and I KNOW Chinese people love free giveaways. But nah, this Grace thing just doesn't seem to make sense to us. I've heard it too many times, people that seem convinced that they're "not good or holy enough" to get baptized. I think that these kinds of ideas break the heart of a God who has always chosen sinners.
I'm rambling, but a couple more points. The example in the article where the mom forces her daughter to get the piano song right... this might work with piano, but it doesn't transfer over to faith. You don't practice faith until you like it or until it becomes easy; if you’re forced to practice faith, then perhaps it isn't really your faith. And if faith is something our parents simply forced upon us, we eventually reach the point where we either find ways to make it personally meaningful or we drop it altogether (which is what happens a lot in college). Our orderliness and black-and-white nature make the Asian church susceptible to the manufacturing of robots. We’ve been told and programmed what to do; we know the answers, we can do the practices, but we don't know how to ask questions or to think for ourselves.
I used to be optimistic about change. Now, I'm not so sure. Asian churches are generational; children's faiths often look a lot like parents' faiths; we are set in our ways. I understand why, historically, the Asian American church is the way it is. Especially for folks in San Francisco, churches were (and are) literally, sanctuaries. For immigrants coming in without a grasp of English and without a lot of resources, church was a good community. Away from angry white people, around those who understand you, throw in a God who helps the oppressed and you got yourself a formula for success. No wonder Asian American churches have a strong sense of community, a big passion for inreach and a value for taking care of their own, but also typically ignore things like social justice, radical giving, and missions. The Asian church in America was built on self-centeredness.
And it worked. We succeeded. We achieved the American dream. Thank God our Chinese mothers never gave up on us. We became middle and upper-class citizens and we praised Him for it. Church was our original safe haven and we moved out to the suburbs to cling even more tightly to our comfort. We ran from the suffering we once endured and we had cute kids and sent them to Sunday school to learn about Jonah without realizing the irony that one day the whale might come and get us too. We are running from Jesus Christ, the one who told us to give away everything, to be last, and to love our enemies. We baptize each other in lukewarm water and call it discipleship.
The answer, obviously, is not simply to sprint in the opposite direction. God knows that this generation has abandoned discipline and hard work to our own detriment. Also, I needa check myself to make sure that this isn't some lame postmodern, free-thinker, everything-is-good-if-it-comes-from-the-heart kind of rant. But I believe there needs to be a shift and that people like Amy Chua need to be taken down and burned at the stake. Jk about the last part, but yes. I love the Asian American church. I really honestly do. I understand filial piety and I respect our esteem for tradition, but the Gospel must trump culture in every instance, and if ethnic barriers keep us from fully following Jesus, then they gotta come down. It'll be a slow process, but someone's gotta do it.
And of course, I'm projecting. Forgive me if you believe the judgments in this post to be incorrect, for there is a huge plank that is obstructing my vision. Yet I am confident for both myself and the church that he who began a good work will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
At approximately 1pm EST, the doctor's office called to tell me there were matters of concern on the CT scan. So no matter how long one has resisted the reality that the journey will take this turn, the turn arrives without permission and without the agreement that I will be able to find some mental tactic to live in denial. The next chapter arrives at its own time with its own contents, and I must open it now.Like it or not, this is what I must live with, worship with, pray with, and love with today. This is my life as it comes to me from God. This is the God I know in Jesus. This is the God who gives my life significance. Whatever I am... or whatever I hope to be comes in the love of this God for me. The day is about receiving God's love; enjoying God's love; placing my many, many fears in God's love. This is today: a new turn, a new chapter, the same loving Father whom Jesus called Abba.Every word of the Gospel is written to men who will be dead but are now alive by the mercy of God. This is my life and the life of all other persons.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The main cry of one who practices the form of prayer called “lament” is, “How long?”That’s how people who live perpetually in-between think and pray. We know we can’t go back to some golden age in the past. We know we have not yet arrived at the new creation promised to us. We live in-between. We long for in-between to end. Like children in the back seat, we must be a continual annoyance to our Father—“Are we there yet?”
Thursday, November 18, 2010
My favorite line of all Sufjan Stevens songs—
“Tuesday night at the Bible study/we lift our hands and pray over your body/but nothing ever happens.”
Please continue, Sufjan…
Sing the part that goes, “Next Tuesday night at the following Bible study/we lift our hands and pray over your body one more time/and then you get healed”
Surprise! That line never comes.
But cmon surressly now, who puts a line like that in a song? No one cares about that shizz. The songs about miracles and healings and victory—those are the songs that sell.
But there’s something crazy about that one line. It’s just so… human. And I think that’s something that’s hard for some people to really admit—
We are human. It is quite unfortunate sometimes.
And we often live our lives in denial of that fact. We act like believing in Jesus somehow transfigures us into beings that are no longer human. We become so convinced that faith inevitably leads to complete and total healing, victory, deliverance, whatever you wanna call it… but it doesn’t.
No matter how many miracles we see, testimonies we hear, times we read the Bible, or prayers we have answered... our doubts will never leave us completely. We may never be fully healed of our loneliness. We will never not be broken. Sorry. These are ripples of prosperity gospel, and they simply aren’t true.
God does not pull us out of our humanity. Instead he comes into it. The moment we try so hard to be like Jesus or to live a life that is righteous enough or to move beyond our humanity, we nullify God's grace. We do not need a God if we are trying to become one. Adam and Eve learned that the hard way.
There are so many hurting people in church. They need to know that they can be fully human. It is ok that you are trying to believe in God and you still feel lost, alone, or afraid. God and brokenness are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we desperately need our brokenness. The miracles turn into testimonies and the healings make the headlines and it is easy for the very human experiences of faith to be silenced. The Christian life is not experienced through miracle after miracle. It is an everyday war. And when we win, Jesus is with us. And when we lose, Jesus is with us.
I believe in miracles and healings and all those beautiful, God-honoring things. But I honestly believe that God looks the most perfect in our lives when we look the most imperfect. Please, everyone, be human.