Church, Culture, Justice, Parenting, Race, Spirituality, Theology

Review: At Home in Exile by Russell Jeung

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This is a truly unique book. And the best book I’ve read this year. Part memoir / sociology / theology / Asian corny hilariousness. It’s funny, it’s educational, it’s deeply moving.

Russell moves into and ultimately finds home in the Murder Dubs of Oakland. But it’s not a triumphant American superhero story. Nor is it a sappy romance about ‘the poor.’ It’s a complex, humble story about how he found community, identity, and ultimately Jesus in his mostly Cambodia refugee & Latino neighborhood.

It’s a story that asks: What if Jesus wasn’t as much an American superhero, but more like a Chinese Hakka exile (his ancestors)? What if Jesus was more like my Chinatown grandma than that powerful hipster pastor I’m always jealous of? He re-explores things like MISSION, JUSTICE, COMMUNITY, FAMILY & CALLING through this lens.

I finished this book richly proud of my Chinese ancestry, broken over the plight of disenfranchised non-model-minority Asians in the Bay Area, hopeful about what God is still doing through amazing yet mostly “invisible” people, but challenged to live my faith in a way that may run counter to the power and reward structures of our world.

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Church, Culture, Race

I’ve been asked if I know Francis Chan. And the answer is: As well as I know Jeremy Lin.

Recently, there’s a been a spate of incidences that have made a number of us Asian American Christians feel…not 100% part of the Body of Christ.  And so in response, this open letter has been circulating (click to view & sign):

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Rachel Held Evans, a prolific Christian blogger, who is white, has posted this letter as well and has been asking Asians to share about their experiences.  Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve been asked if I know Francis Chan. And the answer is: As well as I know Jeremy Lin.

I’ve been asked why “you guys” only hang out with other Asians. Or what’s up with the “Asian invasion”. Which is such an interesting question from my now-enlightened white Christian friends.

I’ve been treated as the “Asian friend” (c.f., the gay friend, the black friend, etc.). It’s a little weird being a relational accessory. Curiously, I get this more often from my enlightened liberal friends.

I’ve had white friends demonstrate their faux-rage at how deeply offended THEY are at bigotry towards Asians. It’s great to have empathetic friends; but at times, it feels like they’re over-compensating.

Occasionally, it’s riled me up. More often, it offends or elicits a quiet eye roll. The reality is that if you are used to being the dominant culture – it’s hard to see the people and the world in any other way. E.g., I am a male, most of the time I am just enjoying my male privilege without a thought. This is why I appreciate Louis C.K.’s bit on how he loves being a white male – so honest and yet provocative.

So while I pray and seek dialogue for the sake of inclusion and righteousness, I realize that we need patience and the Spirit’s power – it’s hard to see past your own experience (especially if you’re used to being in charge).

I support this letter because it is honest, firm, and still loving. I’m not generally convinced it’s particularly Jesus-like to DEMAND justice and mercy; better to DO justice and mercy. And pray that the Spirit will use our Christ-honoring means to bring about a Christ-glorifying end.

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Church, Culture

Jumping back in

I used to blog all the time. As in at least daily. That was years ago. The reasons…well, I’m not sure it was a 100% conscious choice. But that’s another story.

But I’d like to jump back in, not because I miss the intellectual exhibitionism, but because I miss having the same level of creative conversation as I enjoyed years back when I was more e-prolific.

So with that somewhat unnecessary preface, the thing that’s been on my mind for a while is the changing cultural landscape of suburbia. And more specific to that, it makes me think of how that impacts how we envision what a follower of Jesus would like like in this emerging suburbia…as well as what does outreach/mission look like in this changing landscape?

I used to hear people bash suburbs all the time as this disgustingly vanilla mass of homogeneity, of settled boredom, and whatnot. And hey, there’s still some truth to that. But in my corner of suburbia, I’ve noticed an accelerating “urbanization”. First of all, in the Tri-City alone, 80-120 different languages are represented. There are very few good “American” restaurants, but we have amazing Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Mexican, Afghan, Filipino cuisine, among others. And within those cuisines, there is rather broad range of diversity. Second, there is a much greater mixture of low-income and high-income than most people realize. From my house, for example, a 1-minute drive will take me to both the most expensive as well as the most dilapidated low-income house in the city. My local Safeway plaza is quite literally every bit as diverse in every sense as any urban public space I’ve been in. Third, with a constant influx of new residents from other parts of the state, nation, and the world…and residents who are commuting to Silicon Valley, SF, and often times travelling abroad quite frequently, we have a population of people who have an increasingly larger worldview. Fourth, city planners are trying to re-craft suburban life more into high density centers, modeled after urban living. Near my house, for example, the plan is to create a city center that has four major public transit hubs, downtown-style retail, business space, apartments, lofts, parks, library, and other shopping stuff all together within walking distance of each other. I could go on, but you probably get the picture.

Back to my point, I think that there are challenges and opportunities in the life of a disciple that we don’t often explore. But I haven’t had that many people to think through this idea with, so I’m not really sure what those things are.

And I think that evangelism in this context is incredibly challenging. But, again, something that is rarely addressed because most talk on evangelism either assumes you’re a hip city-dwelling bohemian…or a boring clone in a homogeneous suburb.

Looking for more interesting conversation…

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