This is not what comes to mind when I think of Christian leadership, character and integrity. (click on the Deadly Viper at Catalyst 07 video to hear…wait for it…Kung-Fu Fighting)
UPDATE: Nikki T-S has posted a comment on the Deadly Viper blog:
This is a very necessary and key conversation…
I’ve been in contact with Mike Foster and am trying to reach Pastor Soong Chan (and other members of the Asian Pacific Islander community) to set up a conversation to engage on this issue.
What do you think needs to be raised in that conversation to bring redemption, healing, and movement forward?
My response is frustration, anger and sadness, which makes me vent and write. This is what I sent to Zondervan and the authors. What would you say to them?
To Mike, Jud and Zondervan:
I am writing in regards to your new leadership & character series, “Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership”. I’ve been looking at the promotional material on your website as well as checking out the Deadly Viper site, trying to understand how visual images of “Asian” culture and references to kung-fu enhance the actual content.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but the word on the street is that the simplified Chinese characters used on the cover don’t actually form a sentence but were used for graphic design purposes. Why does that matter? It matters because the Chinese language is an actual language and not simply visually appealing gibberish. Using it as a graphic design element because it “looks cool” marginalizes the language and the culture. Using random Chinese characters doesn’t make something more authentic, nor does it legitimize the connection between content and a marketing pitch.
As a Christian Asian American, I have grown weary of reading Christian leadership and character development books that are written solely through the eyes of Western/American majority culture. I can appreciate an attempt to weave in cultural values outside of our American experience to speak truth into God’s call to leadership and character. I applaud accurate depictions of my Asian American brothers as real men – not just caricatures of the emasculated Chinese food deliveryman or exaggerated martial arts warrior.
However, the marketing and packaging of this new material appears to have tried walking a fine line between appreciating another culture by giving context and fostering mutual learning and using it as a gimmick.
In response to your comment above, Mike, using Asian images, music and language is not the same as using cultural themes. I’ve been watching your DVD promo video clips. There is a lot of talk about self and community. Perhaps understanding and actually connecting those values through the lens of the Asian culture in comparison to the American culture might have helped your argument. It isn’t until the clip for Chapter 5 do you actually make a direct reference to a karate term.
Your private e-mail exchanges are not what set things off for many of us. Please do not dismiss our concerns as reactionary to a personal matter between you and one person. The use of these images on your website and then implying that a healthy dialogue is impossible because of the forum is unfair.
You have created a movement. I’ve heard that word coming out of your mouths in your promotional videos. Use this forum, your forum, to create space for what you write is a “critically important” discussion. I am not assigning motive or intent in your use of Asian images, but I am holding you accountable to what you say and do.
Are the authors, editors and publishers of this material open to a conversation about how dragons, vipers, ninjas and “cool” Chinese characters do not recognize Asians and Asian Americans as fellow-image bearers of God but simply use us as images?