Rick Warren’s Response & Mine

I slept on it.

I closed my eyes, rubbed some essential oils into my scalp, took many deep, cleansing breaths, and finally went to sleep.

The questions were still there when I woke up, suspended in my mind and heart like the cobwebs in my dining room. What does it really mean to extend grace? What does it mean to apologize? What does reconciliation look like in a case like this? Why hasn’t the dance studio sent Bethany’s dance class history? Do we have enough milk? Crap, I didn’t wash Elias’ cross country shirt. Should I have just stayed out of this Rick Warren mess? What will my boss think?

This is all to explain that I do not consider myself an activist. I am passionate, articulate, ambitious. I am a Christian Asian American woman who has been married for more than 20 years and the proud, proud mama of Bethany, Corban and Elias. I am vain. I use eye cream religiously. I am tired. I am in need of a savior so I am deeply grateful Jesus volunteered for that job. I am a wife, mother, writer, friend, sister, daughter, neighbor, advocate. And maybe I need to add activist after all because I can’t drop this just yet. I want to bring some more clarity and understanding over why I chose to blog about the issue, keep up the post and images, and review it today.

Yesterday things exploded on the internet over Rick Warren’s post of an image of a female Red Guard member with the caption “The typical attitude of Saddleback staff as they start work each day.” Warren’s original post went up early Monday, September 23, on Warren’s official Facebook page. Within hours (my guess), readers posted both their concerns over the political and historic overtones of the image as well as their support for the attempt at humor. The FB comment thread was disheartening. There is nothing quite like watching your family’s dirty laundry aired out over FB, and that is what it felt like. There is no joy in showing the world that indeed Christians are imperfect, rude, and in desperate need of the very Jesus we tell everyone else they need.

But it’s necessary to air that out, because the truth will set us free or something like that.

So after all of the requests to acknowledge the mistake and apologize Dr. Sam Tsang got this response on his blog:

Thanks so much for teaching us! It was removed instantly. May God bless you richly. Anytime you have guidance, you (or anyone else) can email me directly, PastorRick@saddleback.com.

May the grace of Jesus be your experience today. Thanks again! Your servant, Rick Warren.
P.S. In 1979, Kay and I felt called of God to serve in China but we were prevented by the government at that time. I had already been a part of planting a church near Nagasaki, Japan where I lived in 1974. When our plans were blocked, we ended up planting Saddleback in California. 

Hold all comments for now. Just. Wait.

At this point the entire FB thread, along with the image, and the related Twitter post were removed. “Instantly” meaning 1.5 days later, but whatever. English is not my first language. Poof. Gone. The public discourse, which revealed so many blind spots in our North American evangelical mindset, disappeared. And Warren’s own public comments telling sincere FB followers to essentially get over it and adopt his sense of biblical humor disappeared.

Dr. Tsang’s response today is incredible. My heart tightens when I read it because I can’t hold my tongue with such grace and patience. And lucky for me and you, I am not a Yellow Man. This one ain’t my burden to bear. Wink.

When my husband and I hurt each other, or when my children and I hurt each other, we ask for forgiveness and we apologize. We also try, or are prompted, to explain what we are apologizing for. It’s not nearly as public as what happened with Warren and his faithful supporters, but it hurts, breaks trust, and requires some wisdom.

Soooooo. My little thing is that I don’t see an apology. It’s just semantics, right? Do you see an apology? Because I don’t. And I want to extend grace and turn a blind eye and all of those gracious Christian-y things, but man this is a crazy power dynamic. In my mind there are days when I think I’m a pretty big deal, but I’m not and my kids remind me I’m their favorite mom but I’m not a big deal. So when someone who is a big deal tells a bunch of people to get over it and allows his followers to do the same and lightning speed on FB. Well, that’s a big deal.

And because it all happened on social media, there is proof. BUT WAIT. NO THERE ISN’T. He took it down because …. I don’t know. Because Dr. Tsang was “teaching” him?

There is no public apology or acknowledgement of what the problem and offense actually was. Warren erased it, and along with it the proof. What could’ve been a wonderful opportunity to help his followers understand that leaders of international influence make public mistakes, don’t get the whole cross-cultural thing which is pretty important to missionaries, that he made a mistake, that he apologizes and asks for forgiveness and would they, his followers, who thought the whole Red Guard thing wasn’t a big deal, should do the same, has the appearance of a bunch of online activists shutting him down.

Fine.

It’s happened before. Deadly Viper. Rickshaw Rally. I’ll even throw in A & F. But when evidence of the conflict is completely erased, it opens the door for a new narrative. It happened with DV and it breaks my heart (and sometimes makes my blood boil). That controversy wasn’t about a small group of Asians upset about Asiany things being used for the Gospel. That controversy was about Christians calling out other Christians for ignorant if not racist images and language being used in the name of Jesus. And this case feels strangely similar.  I love Jesus just like the authors of DV and the creators of Rickshaw Rally, but let’s be clear here. THEY WERE NOT THE VICTIMS. Erasing the proof without public acknowledgement and apology BY A PUBLIC FIGURE COMMITTING A PUBLIC OFFENSE opens the door for a new narrative. And from where I stand, those new narratives are not written by the Yellow Woman.

As of 10 am CST today there is nothing on Warren’s FB page that resembles an apology. He (or someone on his behalf, in which case he ought to acknowledge that) is still updating things – Saddleback Hong Kong launches next month. Hello?!?!?!? There are a few folks trying to bring the issue back by asking if Warren’s snippets of wisdom and encouragement about forgiveness include Warren himself. There are more than 23,000 likes on Warren’s message of forgiveness. Imagine if all 23,000 followers also understood the mistake he had made and read an apology?

See. Glass half full!

In the meantime, I wrote Warren an email last night and sent it to the address he shared with Dr. Tsang. For your reading pleasure, I am posting my letter to Warren. No, I haven’t gotten a reply from a real person, Warren or otherwise. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Did Warren apologize? Did I miss it? What would have been appropriate?

I need to buy some milk.

Do as I say?

Do as I say?

Zondervan’s Next Steps

Stan Gundry, executive vice president and editor in chief at Zondervan, is the one and so far only person to respond to the e-mail I sent out earlier this month. Now, I’m not naive about business, PR and marketing. The DV incident could have been a lot uglier, but it didn’t get nearly as ugly as it could have gotten. But for the grace of God…I’m grateful for Mr. Gundry’s and Zondervan’s response sent to me March 19.

Yes, Kathy, I suppose it seems that Zondervan has gone silent since the events of last November. But we still are focused on the issues raised at that time. Here is a quick overview of what has been happening at Zondervan and of the direction in which we are headed.

  • Our President/CEO, Moe Girkins purchased copies of The Next Evangelicalism by Professor Rah and made it required reading for all members of the Zondervan Leadership Team. The book was the subject of major discussion at our January Leadership Team retreat with action items identified to assure that we do not make the same or similar mistakes again in the editing, design, and marketing of any of our products. In terms of the visual presentation of our titles from all product groups, procedures are in place to consult with a cross-section of representatives of appropriate ethnic groups to assure that visual representations are ethnically diverse and that we avoid caricatures and stereotyping that are offensive or demeaning of members of any ethnic, national, or socio-economic class. Our editors and publishers as well are giving appropriate attention to these issues.
  • In January, Professor Rah gave an address at the Calvin College January series. Moe Girkins and I attended the lecture, and at least two other highly placed people at Zondervan were in attendance. Moe and I were also invited guests to the Luncheon with Professor Rah after the address. We had a brief but cordial private conversation with him there, as well as taking part in the round table discussion over lunch. We think this laid a good foundation for future discussions and consultation with Professor Rah and other Asian American Christian leaders. A high priority for me and our publishing team is to follow up with Professor Rah in Chicago in the next 2 or 3 months.
  • Just two weeks ago, Moe Girkins met Bing Goei at breakfast event here in Grand Rapids at Cornerstone University, and last week, she was the special guest of Mr. Goei and his wife at the “First Annual Asian Gala.” Over the years we feel we have done a good job of networking with the African American and Latin American communities. But honestly, Asian Americans have not been on our radar screen, but this sort of thing will now be a high priority for us.
  • We acknowledge that Asian Americans are not well represented among our employees, and in the current economic climate, new and replacement hires are at a minimum. Nevertheless, rectifying the under-representation of Asian Americans is a priority for us, and as we establish relationships with Asian American leaders like Mr. Goei, we are asking them to refer to Zondervan qualified Asian American individuals who share the Zondervan mission and values.
  • While Zondervan has a good track record of publishing African American authors and a very active Spanish-language publishing division (Vida) that serves Hispanic authors, Christians, and churches in North, Central, and South America, we acknowledge that we have not given sufficient attention to searching out and providing a publishing platform for Christian leaders and potential authors in the Asian American community. We already have and will continue to take steps in the immediate future to rectify that situation.
  • With the shift of the center of gravity for evangelical Christian world from the “North Atlantic ” English-speaking world to the “Majority  World,” we believe that our publishing program also needs to reflect this kind of diversity. We want to give Christian leaders in the Majority World a platform and we in North America need to hear their perspective on our common faith and on the issues of the day. We continue to  actively search for Christian voices to publish from the Majority World, with a number of significant projects signed and in the “pipeline.” Perhaps you are already aware of the Hippo Books imprint we share with a consortium of African publishers, publishing Christian African scholars and leaders, and of the Africa Bible Commentary, a one volume commentary on the Bible written entirely by African evangelical scholars. We have similar commentaries under contract from other parts of the Majority World, and we are exploring the possibility of more.

Kathy, thank you for your interest. Our on-going goal at Zondervan is that who we are and what we do will better reflect the diversity of Revelation 5:8-10 and Galatians 3:26-28.

Stan Gundry

Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief

Moving Forward Sometimes Means Looking Back

I am not trying to rehash the past for the sake of rehashing the past. I am, however, trying to figure out what, if anything, was learned from the DV incident. Personally, I’m still sorting through the experience which gave me a unique opportunity to speak up about issues of identity – both ethnic and gender.

I found myself speaking out with the likes of Soong-Chan Rah and Eugene Cho while having to ask them to consider the cost of not speaking out against misogyny and sexism. And in the end my only regret is not pushing the issue further with them. We talked about whether or not “adding on” the issue of gender would hinder the effectiveness of our protest, and there was talk about whether or not we could go back and criticize content when initially we all had agreed that we were not as concerned with the content of the book.

Looking back, I would have pressed us to stop and say what we were hoping the authors would say. We made a mistake. We drew attention to the obvious – the random “Asian” images and objectification of culture for one’s own gain. But I wish I had quickly run out and taken a look at the book (which I did about two weeks into the mess), slowed down the online rant to a more thoughtful chapter-by-chapter analysis. Once I had the book in my hands I realized I had a problem with both the content and the images. I wish I had slowed down and then pressed the issue further because at the end of a day of explaining white privilege, stereotypes and brokenness I looked at a photograph in the book of an Asian woman baring her midriff, wearing an Chinese-styled dress carrying a Japanese samurai sword I had to come to terms with “male privilege” where the normative experience is that of men.

So I’m still thinking things through, praying that God will help me find a gentle, powerful voice to move forward without losing lessons of the past.

But I wasn’t alone in DV. This e-mail was sent out on March 11 in hopes of some clarification from a few folks involved.

Dear Jud, Mike, Chris and Stan,

I trust you are all doing both well and good, and you are connecting with Christ in a fresh way this Lenten season.

It has been almost four months since our paths crossed, but I suppose in some ways our telephone conversation and subsequent online “interactions” may still be fresh. I am writing not to open up old wounds but to see if you have any reflections or a response to all that happened in the fall now that there has been a little bit of time and space. I continue to have blog readers, friends and colleagues who watched the situation unfold ask me if I have had any contact with any of you (particularly Jud and Mike) and what if any thoughts I might share publicly.

Revisiting DV publicly didn’t seem appropriate until a follow-up of some sort had happened. You see, as I’ve replayed our phone conversation (with Mike, Jud, Chris, Nikki, Soong-Chan, Eugene and me) and re-read our joint statements post-conversation, I cannot help but shake the impression that our conversation would continue at some point offline. Perhaps I mistakenly assumed that Soong-Chan, Eugene, Nikki or I would be part of those conversations and that you have sought counsel of other Asian Americans. Was I wrong in assuming we would at some point come back to the table to talk?

Jud and Mike, I have been watching POTSC from it’s unexpected early start develop into what looks like a lively community ready to engage in learning from and extending second chances. I’m getting ready to write a follow-up reflection piece, and I’d prefer to include a public comment or two from either of you (or from Stan or Chris) in response/reflection four months later rather than a “no comment” or non-response. At the very least, I will be letting readers know by the end of the month that I’ve contacted you, perhaps including this e-mail, in hopes of getting us back to the table to talk again.

Please let me know what kind of response I can share publicly with my readers.

Peace,

Kathy

Heads Up: Revisiting Deadly Viper

In the last few weeks I’ve had several friends and readers ask whatever happened after Zondervan pulled Deadly Viper off the shelves. So, I’ve been trying to gather some comments and observations as well as do some personal reflection about what I learned that I could share publicly.

As I’m gathering, I’d love to hear from some of you about what you saw and learned through and in the aftermath of DV. What issues did the DV saga bring to the surface for you? What surprised you, frustrated you, angered you, empowered you? What didn’t “feel” right and have you resolved those feelings? Did Zondervan’s decision to pull the book end the issue for you or were hoping for more?

Forgiveness & Reconciliation: Will I Know It When I See It?

Tiger & Elin. Jon & Kate. Deadly Viper & some angry Asian Americans.

What does reconciliation look like? What’s the difference between “moving on” in a healthy way and exercising the privilege to walk away from difficult conversations?

All the buzz about Tiger’s return to golf  and Kate’s debut on the dance floor caught my attention not because I care about golf or hair extensions but because their choice to “move on” from their respective scandals has got me thinking about forgiveness and reconciliation. Yes, their lives were a circus before the scandals, a teeny bit different than mine. Peter is not a pro golfer, and I am not a model. Peter does not own anything Ed Hardy, and I don’t get followed by the paparazzi. They are celebrities, but they and we are human beings. Why wouldn’t they want to move on, heal, and, perhaps, forget? I would.

But is that reconciliation? Would it be enough to see Elin stand by her man at the Masters? (IMHO, no. It would not.) If not, what is enough? Can someone ever apologize enough? Ask for forgiveness enough? Be forgiven enough? And then is that reconciliation?

So the saga known as Deadly Viper isn’t exactly like Tiger and Elin and Jon and Kate, but when I think about forgiveness and reconciliation I can’t help but think about DV. There was a lot of ugliness and some hope. There were hurt feelings and misunderstandings. There were conversations and side conversations about actions versus intent versus past deeds done. There were divisions, sides taken, and allegiances. And it was in real time, on-line and public in a “you can’t take that back ever” sort of way. Relationships that started out broken between real people fractured in such a way that made me (and I speak for myself and no one else involved in the DV saga) wonder if we achieved the right end. I’m still wondering…

If, for argument sake, reconciliation for the two celebrity couples means restoring their marriages, what does reconciliation for those involved in DV look like? Is reconciliation necessary? Is it worth it? Who pursues it and how?

Softening My Skin in a Mud Bath

My apologies to those who landed here because they were searching for information on skin care.

Zondervan’s decision to remove Deadly Viper Character Assassin and Mike & Jud’s decision to shut down their website is heating up the blogosphere once again. I’m concerned about the way some of these posts and tweets could be read – tone is a difficult thing to express well in the anonymous electronic world. And as many of us have learned during the past three weeks, the blogosphere can run pretty fast and furious. Right now there is a lot of mud being slung in all directions.

But one theme that has appeared in a variety of places has been the call to those who were offended (pick me, pick me) to grow, get, have “thicker skin”. The comment and admonition to get thicker skin is akin to saying “don’t be so sensitive” or “you’re choosing to be offended” – all of the interpretations lend itself to telling the offended person that this is their personal issue they personally have to overcome.

I don’t want thick skin, and I pray against that. Lately it’s been a daily prayer.

Literally speaking, skin is our largest organ providing protection, support and circulation (I helped Corban study for his science test). Healthy skin is able to do those things well. Unhealthy or damaged skin put the rest of the body in danger as sensory and circulatory abilities are hampered.

When I think of thick skin I actually think of dead skin that hasn’t been shed properly. The callous on my toe from those beautiful but painful new shoes. The gnarly cuticles that snag my most delicate sweaters. The tough skin on my elbows from resting on them too much when I have writer’s block. I scrub off the callous. I cut my cuticles (I know, you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to push them back and put lotion on them to soften them.) I exfoliate my elbows. And then a moisturize like crazy to soften the skin so that it’s pliable.

I don’t want thick skin because honestly when I think of thick skin I think of elephants and their thick skin. Elephants are beautiful animals, but I don’t want to look like an elephant.

I don’t want thick skin because I do not believe God wants us to create a bigger barrier to feeling and engaging deeply with God and with one another. Our sinful natures make it tough enough. Adding more to the junk of our souls or covering it up with thicker skin isn’t going to help.

I pray for a tender heart and soft skin so that I can hear what God has to say to me, our community, our world in that pain. When someone offends me, brushing it off doesn’t allow for a sacred moment between me, the offender and God. Thick skin means I just “get over it” and move along. But what if God doesn’t want us to move on so quickly all the time? What if our attempts at getting over it just mean “it” never goes away?

There have been some nasty comments in reaction to the Deadly Viper situation – people assigning motive and intent, name-calling, etc. In some places it’s getting mean. If we all get a thicker skin I’m afraid we’ll never understand each other. And besides, Jesus didn’t tell people to get thicker skin. He didn’t tell the bleeding woman to stop being a victim and get over the social outcast thing.  

Issues of race, ethnicity and gender all involve tough conversations about power and privilege. I don’t like being called names. I don’t like being lumped together and being referred to as the “minority tail wagging the majority dog” (yup, that’s an actual comment on a blog). I don’t like being told to stop playing victim because I made some noise and the authors were the sacrifice (yup, that’s real too). But I suspect people who thought nothing of the initial outcry paid much attention because maybe they never had to. Maybe the anger and disbelief over the book being pulled and the authors shutting down the website has more to do with never having anyone tell them to get over themselves? See, it can get ugly and polarizing real fast. Thick skin will just keep us from going deeper. 

I’m not suggesting an over-the-top emotional response to everything in this world, but when the mud-slinging ramps up like it has our natural instinct is to duck…or throw more. But the mud has to land somewhere right? Maybe instead of ducking I need to sit in the mud a bit, get a little dirty and then let the mud soften my skin.

A Joint Letter to Mike, Jud and Zondervan

To Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, and the leaders of Zondervan Publishing,

When we received Moe Girkins’ statement regarding Zondervan’s response to the Deadly Vipers controversy, we felt a deep sense of gratitude and admiration towards all of you, for your courage and conviction in the face of a difficult and challenging situation. We know that it must have taken many hours of discussion amongst numerous parties to reach this conclusion. While the outcome is one we were hoping to see, at the same time we recognize that the costs to make this choice were high, both for the authors, Mike and Jud, as well as for Zondervan Publishing. The fact that you have not only chosen to take this step but to also use this situation as the catalyst for change within the organization speaks to the integrity of Zondervan’s leadership. The personal sacrifices that Mike and Jud were willing to bear in the midst of this decision speaks to their character and demonstrates that these are two pastors who practice what they preach and write.

Thank you for being willing to hear the voices of all those, Asian American and others, who expressed their concerns. We know that it could not have been easy at times to weather the criticisms. Nonetheless, your willingness to understand the issues, to take responsibility for the errors, and to act so swiftly and decisively in order to rectify the situation gives us great hope for the future, hope that the body of Christ can indeed demonstrate the power of reconciliation and be a witness to the world in how we resolve our differences.

We are also heartened to see the changes that have already taken place at the corporate level within Zondervan to reduce the chance that a similar controversy will occur in the future. We know that Stan Gundry has been working hard behind the scenes to bring resolution to this situation, and we want to offer him whatever assistance we can to help him in his new role. Please do not hesitate to call on us if we can support Zondervan’s efforts in deepening its cultural sensitivity and awareness.

To Mike and Jud, we can only imagine the personal toll this situation has taken on you. We have heard from numerous people who deeply admire your work and who attest to the impact that your ministry has in the church today, and we hope and trust that God will continue to bless your work, especially given the integrity you have shown in this matter. As you seek to begin the task of recasting your message in new ways, please let us know if we can help you in that process. We know there is much to preserve in the hard work you have done to this point in creating the content and community for Deadly Vipers, and we want to see your excellent ideas and your growing following converge in similar vehicles as before (book, website, blog, etc.), or more. Our hope and sincere prayer for you both is that this controversy and its resolution will in no way diminish your work and ministry, but broaden and deepen it.

Lastly, we hope and pray that the conversations and relationships that have begun in the wake of this controversy will not cease, but continue in renewed forms as we collectively seek to build and strengthen bridges amongst different members of the body of Christ. True reconciliation is not a one-time achievement but a lifelong, intentional pursuit. May this be just the beginning of all our continued efforts to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of God’s people.

Sincerely in Christ,

Eugene Cho, Quest Church

Ken Fong, Evergreen Baptist Church of LA

Helen Lee, Author

Kathy Khang, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Soong-Chan Rah, North Park Theological Seminary

Nikki Toyama-Szeto, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

One Chapter Ends. What Will the Next Chapter Be?

The Deadly Viper website is down.

To our Friends and Family: 

Due to an unfortunate conflict that arose around our use of Asian American themes, we have decided to close this chapter of Deadly Viper Character Assassins. This decision has been a very difficult one for us and one that we did not take lightly. 

For the past 2 years we have had the honor to be part of an incredible movement of advocating for radical integrity and grace. We have been deeply humbled hearing your stories of how Deadly Viper has impacted your life, family, and relationships. 

We and our team will continue to commit our lives to the message of integrity, grace, and most of all becoming People Of The Second Chance. 

We thank you for your prayers, support, and kindness through this season. 

We love you. 

Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite

Zondervan’s Official Statement: An Apology for Publishing Deadly Viper

Dear Friends of More Than Serving Tea:

I’ve been in the air for most of the day, and I’m just getting on-line. Have you heard the news? Amazing.

 

November 19, 2009

Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins”

From Moe Girkins, President and CEO

Hello and thanks for your patience.

On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins. It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.

There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.

We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.

It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.

Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.

Warmly,
Moe

The Unseen Privileges

In the eight years I worked specifically with Christian Asian American college students, I knew that my gender would get in the way. I was not a pastor – youth, English ministry, college, women’s ministry or otherwise. I was not a seminary student. I wasn’t a pastor’s wife. I was a married women with a child whose husband was not in vocational ministry. I was weird. Colleagues would later call me a trailblazer, but to be honest most days I simply reveled in the complexity of my amazing life while simultaneously crying in frustration over feeling like the only thing being burned was me.

And how do you talk about the unseen privileges my male colleagues, and more specifically my Asian American male colleagues, benefitted from without sounding demanding, whiny or bitter? Believe me, I keep trying even though I’ve been called all of those things. Even yesterday as I was supervising a younger male leader he talked about a local pastor’s gathering he was invited to attend. In all the years I worked at the same campus I was never invited to those meetings.

What that leader is learning is that he has unseen privileges that give him credibility and access. He knows it. He sees it in some of the male students he is mentoring – young men who have told him they don’t connect with me as a speaker – and he and I trust each other enough to say it out loud. It’s not about content or quality of delivery. It’s because I’m a woman, and in the Asian American context we still have some internal conversations that need to be had about cultural patriarchy and how some cultural values are so deeply rooted that it will take time, prayer, faith and pain to work through them. 

Over the years I’ve had to learn what it means to lead out of influence, to have a voice in the conversation even when I am not at the table. I’m still learning, which is why this controversy over Deadly Viper Character Assassin is affecting me so deeply. I have been physically at the table in conversations with the authors and publishing executives, but I am struggling in what feels like an unfair choice but perhaps prudent choice. I’m just not sure.

I’m having a tough time shaking the gender piece of this curriculum that hijacks and then stereotypes Asian culture while creating a false dichotomy between the feminine and masculine and describes strength, integrity and leadership in hyper-masculine terms. If my culture is nothing more than a decorative background and kung fu fighting illustration then I am reduced to a stereotype. And if my gender and things that are girly are equated with weakness then I am silenced. Twice.

I’m not making this stuff up. Really. Thanks to logicandimagination I did a little hunting and found an online preview of the book. (On a side note, I’m hoping to get out this afternoon and visit the local Christian bookstore to look through a copy of the book. I can’t bring myself money to pay for a copy, but the credibility of my critique of the theme – based on the website, dvd previews, blog and online book preview – is being questioned because I haven’t read the actual book.) 

“And then there’s little old us looking like school girls with plaid skirts on, because we are unskilled and undisciplined in the area of character. We’re weaklings with rail skinny arms and toothpick legs.” DV, page 11, 

“So we are asking you to make a choice and a decision right now. We are asking you to go balls out with us and become warriors, fighters, and black belts in the art of integrity. For some, this might be painful. For others, this will simply validate your leadership choices and good decisions. This is the grand master challenge to conquer yourself. We want to party with Master Po! We are warriors in the making.” p. 21

School girls with plaid skirts? Really? And how the *bleep* am I supposed “to go balls out”? Yeah, that’s going to be painful if not impossible. I don’t have balls, thank you very much. What is that even supposed to mean? I asked my husband because he has balls, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. We both agreed. If any of our kids used that phrase they would know immediately that Mom and Dad were not validating their leadership choices and that using the phrase was not a good decision.

My husband acknowledges that he can choose. If he chooses to engage in the gender piece of the conversation and controversy he will be viewed as an advocate. He can choose to acknowledge that the denigration of women and Asian Americans is unjust, but the impact of the former is a few degrees removed for him – even as he can sympathize as a son of a woman, husband of a woman, father of a young woman. His unseen privilege is that he does not lose credibility even if he chooses.

How will my credibility be affected if I chose to ignore blatant sexism in order to speak into issues of race and ethnicity? How will my credibility be affected if I chose to ignore blatant racism in order to speak into issues of sexism?

I haven’t given up hope that there are ways to embrace the complexity and dive into it more deeply. I’m convinced that the more complex conversations will take longer and be more painful, but they have the potential to lead us to a deeper, integrated and holistic understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image. I’m just not sure if I’m too angry or not angry enough to see where a conversation like this could lead.

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