Chicken Feet Taste Better Than My Own: Random Thoughts on The Social Network, Immigration & Imago Dei

I haven’t had the energy to sit down in awhile to blog. Somewhere between the multiple google calendars and multiple modes of communication life over-shared with me.

But fortunately I have had several opportunities to put my foot in my mouth, regret the way I communicated my thoughts and feelings, and ask for and receive forgiveness for a recent misstep, which has made me want to slow down again and write. Writing, it seems, is one of the disciplines I need to keep in my life. Writing compels me to pause, reflect on my day-to-days and interact with Jesus and  in helpful ways. The optimist in me hopes that it all translates eventually into fewer moments of foot-in-mouth.

A few weeks ago I convinced a group of friends to entrust my daughter with all of our children so that as adults we could go out and enjoy dinner and a movie without kid menus. We went to see “The Social Network” having gotten wind of all the rave reviews.

I must confess that I was enjoying the movie quite a bit until I saw Brenda Song. Ah, the Asian sidekick reappears. Her character is a sexy groupie who morphs into a crazy, jealous girlfriend. I was saddened to see that once again a “young, female star” lands a more “grown-up” role, which simply means she shows some cleavage and leg and then does not have sexual relations with one of the lead male characters. We wonder why girls want to grow up too quickly and wear makeup, low-rise pants and thongs? Because we show them that growing up is just that.

But then I got angry. Every Asian woman was a sidekick or a waitress. And then every woman, with the exception of Rooney Mara’s character, was really just a body to drink with, sleep with, get high with, stare at, etc.

The word “misogyny” came to mind. And then versions of the word escaped from my thought bubble into the conversation. I don’t regret bringing up my opinions. I do regret how and when and even my tone and posture in the delivery of my opinions. Sometimes, it’s OK to leave a movie a movie until later. It really is.

And then it happened again at staff meetings when the issue of immigration came up.

Immigration reform is highly politicized and misunderstood by all sides, but it is one that as a Christian who lives in America and is now finally an American by documentation I continue to wrestle with. What do I say to a student who wants to go to a conference but can’t fly because he is undocumented? What do I tell staff to do when a student confides she is undocumented and can’t consider certain job opportunities? What is my role in the conversation as someone who has had access to and the ability to navigate a rather complex system, which included paying hundreds of dollars, having my fingerprints entered into a national database before I’ve committed any legally punishable crime, and being essentially asked “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” ?

But how do you say that without putting your foot in your mouth? I don’t know because my first attempt was this rant that seem a bit disconnected from my update, and as soon as I sat down I had that pit in my stomach which is the result of pedi-indigestion. I enjoy well-prepared chicken feet and pig feet. The last time I enjoyed sucking on my own feet was in my baby days.

Anybody share in my pain? I’ve been told that I can be indirect. I’ve also been told that my bluntness can be liberating but off-putting. I don’t reject those observations. I want to learn from them because as someone called to teach and preach and lead and learn for the sake of the gospel I have to communicate well. It does nothing if it’s clear as day in my head but clear as mud coming out of my mouth. Worse if it’s mud slung out of my mouth.

So I continue to struggle to develop this “voice” because at the end of the day  I don’t want to be the angry religious Asian American woman who can’t just enjoy a movie or let something slide until there is a better time. Perhaps the woman doth protest too much, but I really don’t take life so seriously all of the time. I have a lot of fun, and I often think I am fun…or funny. Ask my kids.

But seeing women portrayed as sexual objects grieves me not because I think Hollywood should know better or that movie critics don’t know what they are talking about but because we women are created in God’s image – imago Dei. Seeing God’s image bearers portrayed as objects, valued for their bodies giving pleasure to others angers me. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

Wanting to create space in meetings to talk about the tougher things isn’t about being politically correct but about understanding how our theology shapes our interactions with people and our engagement in policy-making and policy-changing. I may be documented but that isn’t the image I bear. I’ve been told that my ethnicity and gender isn’t what defines me, but I need to know how to respond when documentation determines and defines how we speak about others. A person may be undocumented but she is equally created in God’s image and how we as Christians interact with her matters.

So I keep thinking, talking and keeping my feet clean for those foot-in-mouth moments. Thank goodness for pedicures and grace.

 

 

Learning About Leadership and Social Networking=New to Twitter @mskathykhang

This is my guest post for Angry Asian Man, a dear friend and someone I respect deeply. I’ve appreciated his advocacy for Asian Americans, his humor and his ability to manage pop culture fame and humility. You can follow his blog or @angryasianman, where I have finally joined the ranks of Twitter @mskathykhang

I’m on vacation! Taking a much-needed break. But don’t worry. While I’m away, I’ve enlisted some great guest bloggers to keep things going around here. Here’s Kathy Khang and her half-read book review of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li.

I grew up believing that taking advantage of the very best education money and hours of studying could get you was the key to the Asian American dream. There’s no doubt a strong education remains key but an Ivy League degree isn’t the only key. The world of social technology – the development and use of – is changing the way leadership and social power works.

So I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Charlene Li’s fairly new book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. In the business world, the gurus are by and large men of a paler shade. It’s been said of novelists that they subconsciously assume the race or ethnicity of their readers and characters. If you read enough leadership books, you may say the same about those authors as well. Just add gender to the mix.

Readers of AAM know full well the power of social media. Stupid slogans on t-shirts (A & F) may never have gained national attention had it not been for the power of social media. As a reader of AAM, I’m no dummy. When I saw vacation Bible school materials and a Christian leadership book using stereotypical images of Asian Americans it was an easy call to open leadership. My own personal networks are limited, but spreading the word through AAM and later Facebook and Twitter made sure people understood rickshaws and ninjas should not be used in Jesus’ name as a cute selling point.

Full disclosure. I’m not done reading Li’s book, but it has received strong reader reviews as well as positive write-ups in CIO, Management Today and Harvard Business Review. And a little thing I loved right off the bat was she dedicates the book to her parents and in the introduction compares balancing openness and control to being the parent of young children. Great leaders know where they come from and bring authenticity and integration. Can’t wait to finish reading Li’s book.

Kathy Khang blogs at More Than Serving Tea and loves her job as a regional multiethnic director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.

9/11.

“Nine years ago, I was two years old, Mom,” Corban casually mentioned during our morning drive. “And Elias, you weren’t even born yet. Do you remember 9/11, Mom?”

Yes, I remember it like every other American remembers it.

Where were you when the planes hit the Twin Towers? I was standing in my kitchen having just dropped off my daughter at school. The tv was on, but more for background  noise, as if my toddler wasn’t providing enough on his own.

What were you thinking as you watched the tv? I was thinking it was a joke, or a mistake, or an accident. And then I thought about driving to the school to get my daughter. I thought about asking Peter to come home from work. I thought it was a little over-the-top that the shopping malls were being shut down but I wasn’t getting called to bring my daughter home. I thought that this might be it.

But Corban connecting his own age to the events we have all spent more than a moment or two today remembering gave me pause to consider how my responses to his and his siblings’ questions will frame, shade and color their understanding of history made in their lifetime.

We did not watch any news coverage today. We listened a bit to radio spots about memorial services held, but we did not go out of our way to see the images – video and still photographs – again. But we continued to talk. We talked about how scared, worried, confused, angry, sad, lost and shocked I was, we all were. But I also talked about how the day was as “normal” as it could be for him, a two-year-old at the time.

So much has changed for all of us, even those of us who were only connected to the unspeakable acts of terrorism by residency or citizenship or humanity. Like some of you, I did not know anyone who died as a result of 9/11. But all of us have wrestled with the brokenness of the world in a way we did not expect.

Shortly after 9/11 Peter and I argued about something that now seems so silly. We argued over the fact that he had left shopping for my birthday gift to the last minute, which meant he couldn’t/didn’t get a gift for me until after my birthday. Why? Because in all of the post-9/11 crazy, so many public buildings were closed to the public. Every shopping mall in the metro area was closed.

We were all so terribly afraid.

Bethany had just started kindergarten and now nine years later she is in high school. Today the country commemorated 9/11 but I know she and her friends mulled over how miserable high school is.

Corban could hardly communicate and here he was initiating the conversation.

Elias was not quite three weeks away from making his dramatic but fast-paced entrance into the world.

And Peter and I had no idea how our stories and memories would help shape the future and history.

How do you remember and tell your history?

How Old is Old Enough: Facebook

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on Facebook and how old is old enough for Facebook.

My older son is in middle school and has periodically asked about FB, but he has not asked me often enough for it to be an issue. Yet. But I’m sure it will be because I am certain the day is coming when I will be told that he is the ONLY one at school who doesn’t have a FB page OR a cellphone.

My oldest was allowed a FB page before she started 8th grade. We agreed on the following restrictions:

  1. We would be her FB friends. We would not post obnoxious “We believe in you” messages on her wall or tag her baby pictures, but we wanted to be “there”.
  2. We would have her password.

Pretty straightforward. Over time there have been a few minor conversations –  photos I asked her to take down, inappropriate photos her friends have posted and that I can see because their privacy settings are so low that I can see them, etc.

But as any parent learns, each kid is different and each kid may grow up in the same home but in their own world. The three year gap between each kid means my oldest knew a few kids in 5th grade with cellphones and my youngest will know many more kids in his 5th grade year who own phones.

We are a wireless, electronic society. Our desire to be connected to one another has created entirely new ways of communicating (and spelling) bc its fastr 2 txt 2 ur bffs. My kids talk about “Skyping” their cousins instead of calling them. My older son has asked if I tweet. As a parent who wants to stay connected to her children and their lives, I continue to weigh the pros and cons.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed FB. Social media can be an amazing way to connect people, but I can waste a lot of time following tweets and status updates when I should be connecting with people face-to-face or, at the very least, by phone. There is much to be said about tone, inflection and pitch as well as facial expressions and physical posture. I can and do share a lot of information about myself through blogging and FB, but it’s far more difficult to convey emotions and interest. Personally I find it the easy way out to relate to someone. If someone pisses me off I can block them. If I piss someone else off they can block me without me knowing about it. It’s the electronic silent treatment. Honestly it can feel rather soulless and disingenuous, which is ironic for a generation demanding authenticity.

Back to FB and my son. What do you think? When is a kid old enough for FB? What other restrictions, concerns, issues should I be considering?

Is This Worth a Response?

May was a crazy month, and June caught me by surprise. Lots of things going on with the kids and with me personally, including taking a breather from writing as I tried to regain some sense of center.

And then the following comment arrived on a fairly old blog post of mine just begging for a snarky response from me:

From DoubleStandard-

WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IS WRONG WITH YOU RACIST PEOPLE

THE FACT THAT A WHITE OR ENGLISH SPEAKERS CAN SIT THERE AND HAVE SOME TROUBLE WITH READING DIFFERENT AND VERY VERY VERY VERY!!!!!!!!!!!!! HARD LANAUGES AND SAY IT WRONG AND OU CALL THAT RACIST WHAT IF NON ENGLISH PEOPLE SAY ENGLISH WORDS WRONG

IS THAT RACIST NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELL IT IS

ITS CUTE AND WE “HAVE TO RESPECT” UNFAIR AND RACIST THAT MANY MANY NON AMERCIANS WHO CAN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH ARE ALOUD TO BECOME AND BE CITZENS.

WE HAVE TO TO SHOUT AT THE OR LAUGH IF THEY CAN SPEAK ENGLISH YET WHEN WE TRY TO SPEAK ONE OF THE HARDEST LANUAGEST NO ONE SHOWS RESPECT.

lots of people like Penelope cruz pretend they can’t speak english like simple word even though she learnt it YEARS ago and learnt others much harder one sense but still doesn’t know what car means.

and the fact you hate dark people shows how racist japanese are beyonce is not nicole kidman so stop making her japnese ads look like her

DoubleStandard did not link her/his comment to a blog, but I am tempted to send an edited copy of her/his comment back with some suggestions.

I don’t care if readers disagree with me or want to push back. I do care when readers tell me to shut up because this is my blog. I realize that sounds a bit childish, but sometimes I feel childish. If you don’t like what you are reading, please move along.

I won’t clean up a commenter’s comment, but if you’re going to criticize someone else’s ability to speak, read or write English I personally think you, DoubleStandard and others, ought to check for typos.

And generally I haven’t engaged commenters like DoubleStandard, but sometimes I wonder if I should. Would it, could it, make a difference?

The Sex Talk Lady Is Back

This post is going to generate a ton of spam.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel to discuss sex, specifically on the topic “Respecting Sex and Reducing Abortion: What Can Churches Really Do?”  I was reluctant to accept the invitation for a variety of reasons including fear of putting at least one foot in my mouth, fear of digging a hole large enough to discredit me but not large enough to sink into and disappear, fear of looking and sounding like the least experienced expert and the potential scheduling acrobatics for me and my husband so that we had morning coverage on the home front. However, the sex talk lady is back.

Let me first explain the nickname. A few years ago I took on several campus speaking opportunities – every single one on the topic of sex and sexuality. I suppose writing the chapter on sexuality in More Than Serving Tea and also helping lead a weekend college student training module entitled “Christians, Sex and Intimacy” for several years had helped shape my reputation as a Christian woman who was not afraid to talk about sex, faith, ethnicity, gender, sin, failure, guilt, pleasure and hope. It was during that crazy year of sex talks that I had the opportunity to speak at Wheaton College during chapel on the subject of sex. That’s right. Wheaton College. Chapel. Sex. The sophomore class, I believe, invited me back to do a Q & A, and the promotional flyers and posters said it all: The Sex Talk Lady is Back.

When it comes to the topic of sexuality (not so much abortion, though I will certainly address the issue on the panel) my hope is for church leaders to understand that the Church can do and must do a better job teaching a theology of sexuality that acknowledges and encourages understanding and thoughtful engagement with the cultures around us and the realities we face. And as a parent of both a daughter and sons, I cannot leave the topic of sexuality and the ongoing conversations up to the youth pastors, health ed teachers and pop culture.

Because in reality repeating the line I heard in church – “Don’t have premarital sex” – did not prepare me well to deal with the warm fuzzies I felt after watching those Hollywood rom-coms and definitely after my first french kiss. Sure, the script kept running in my head (Kathy, remember, premarital sex is bad. JESUS IS WATCHING!) but NO ONE TOLD ME that the script in my head would have to compete with nerve endings I did not know would fire and feel that way and the emotions that became enmeshed with those physical experiences. All I heard was “sex is bad” and then I walked away feeling like “I was bad”. And then, for awhile, it was easier to just walk away.

I could rant on and on, but I won’t because this morning I have a list of things I must, must, must get done. However, I would again appreciate hearing from all of you. Please, be respectful of one another’s opinions, which may differ from yours. Please.

What, if anything, can the churches do to respect sex and reduce abortion? Should churches be doing anything at all? What did you learn about sex, sexuality and abortion at church and how has that helped (or not) you understand and respect sex? If you could help shape and change the message your church is sending about sex, sexuality and/or abortion how would you do it and what would that message be?

“The Talk” – Part 2

Several years ago it was time to have part 1 of “The Talk” with my daughter. Since then she and I have regrouped to talk a little more about sex and sexuality, as well as God’s gift of sexuality and intention for sex, love and marriage and Hollywood’s version. It’s an open conversation that we started in 5th grade, before the school health presentation, because I have control issues and wanted her to hear the information from me first.

This year was Peter’s turn to start the conversation with Corban. I was hoping the conversation would take place first thing this year, but I was reminded that before we began to talk honestly and openly about sex we would have to undo some of our harmless lies.

Kathy: Honey, when are you going to have “The Talk” with Corban?

Peter: Well, I was thinking we should start out with the Tooth Fairy.

Kathy: Oh. Shoot.

…at least a month later…

Kathy: Honey, how about “The Talk”?

Peter: Well, what about Santa?

Kathy: You couldn’t just take care of Santa when you took care of the Tooth Fairy?

Peter: Honey, that’s a lot in one talk. Too traumatic.

…another month or so…

Kathy: Well, how did it go?

Peter: Well, Corban’s response was, “Dad, why do we have to talk about grown-up stuff?”

The “grown-up stuff” he hears today at school will be no surprise. Corban mentioned last night that today’s half-day schedule involved a talk on puberty – imagine a 10-year-old boy speaking with a touch of disdain and rolling his eyes. Honestly, there is tiny, tiny part of my Mommy heart that is relieved that Corban isn’t in a rush to grow up. I saw (and continue to see) more of that in Bethany and her female friends, especially as it relates to their bodies – how they dress and look.

But it’s time. It’s time to start talking openly and honestly as best as we can, as appropriately as we can. Peter and Corban, just like Bethany and I did years ago, have begun what we hope and pray will be a lifelong conversation that starts with “grown-up stuff” and never ends.

Blogging, Tweeting & Other Forms of Communication/Self-Promotion

I’ve been asked a number of times why I don’t “tweet”. To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s been fun blogging and trying to build time in each week to write a few posts. Gaining readership and seeing comments has made the moments of blogging drudgery worth it and incredibly fun. And, yes, it gives my ego a little boost.

Which is why I’m thinking about tweeting and spending a bit of time thinking about the dangers to my soul.

It’s that little voice inside my head – the self-doubt – that is met with equal voice and footing by another voice – the ego.

I need both to dance inside my head with some degree of balance and a good dose of Jesus. I am not the center of the universe and my words -whether through blogging, tweeting or speaking – cannot change the world. But I am part of the universe, and my words can do powerful things for good and for really, really bad.

Which is why I’m still thinking about tweets and whether or not it will be just another fun thing that God begins to use to shape me (which is what has been happening with the MTST book and then blog).

To tweet or not to tweet? Do you think Jesus would have tweeted? (JUST KIDDING!) Do you tweet or blog? Why or why not? Obviously you read blogs. Do you follow someone’s tweets? Why?