A Beautiful Mess

There’s some fascinating discussion taking place on the following blogs:

Soong-Chan Rah’s Blog

The Deadly Viper Blog

Here’s another blog from Eugene Cho that has a perspective that I largely agree with.  Thanks for posting this, Eugene.

Basically, Deadly Viper is a movement that encourages people to foster greater character and integrity in their lives.  They use Asian images (kung-fu, Chinese language characters, other martial arts, etc.) as part of their marketing campaign.  Some of their material (not all), has been found to be offensive to the Asian American community.  I found one of the videos to be really off-putting as a Korean-American.

In sum, here are my thoughts.

1)  I’m all about Deadly Viper. Their content is about character and integrity and living a godward life.  I’m down with that, and I think Mike and Jud should be commended for trying to promote this kind of life.

2)  I don’t know either of the guys personally, but everything I’ve heard from them and about them has been positive. Personally, I know that if I meet either of them I’m going to tell them both that I’m a fan of what they’re doing (sans some of the videos and images related to DV).  

3)  Even good people can have blindspots – This is why we need accountability and community – and a diverse community certainly helps.  I don’t think either of these guys knew the kind of outcry that would come from the Asian-American community.  I can safely assume this because again, everything I’ve heard about these guys from mutual acquaintances is that they’re great guys, and I know that they have friendships and relationships beyond the white community.

As another example of blindspots, someone came up to me recently at New Life and said, “You have mad chinky eyes.”  I was shocked.  I immediately wanted to react a certain way, but I knew this person, and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I corresponded with the person privately, sharing that I know this person to be a wonderful character, but I wanted to point out how I was shocked to hear this from this person.

Sure enough, the person apologized profusely and said “I really didn’t know!”

These kinds of incidents happen more often than not – even in NYC, even at New Life Fellowship.

4)  I’m also a big fan of Soong-Chan’s – For all five of you who read this blog (one of which is my wife), you know that I’ve highlighted his book The Next Evangelicalism a few times.  I think he brings a prophetic voice to Evangelicals, one that calls us to reflect on issues of race and power.  Please, please, please read his book if you have a chance.

With that said, even Soong-Chan has blind spots – just like me, just like you.

5)  Emotionally Healthy Maturity and Skills are important – Whenever conflict arises and offense is taken, it takes gospel-strength, maturity, skills, and wisdom to be non-defensive and non-offensive.  At New Life, we often speak about this in terms of differentiation, and it’s almost impossible to have a constructive conversation about touchy subjects like race without it.  This means the following skills are helpful:

– Listening/Incarnating

– Speaking and Articulating Feelings

– Healthy Complaints with request for Change

A discussion can quickly lead to an argument without EH skills, and sooner or later, offensive and defensive language is everywhere.  For examples of this, see my marriage.  Haha, sorry, honey.

But I think this discussion found in the blogs quickly went offensive and defensive, unfortunately.

6)  In the discussion between DV and Prof. Rah, I’m torn that this conversation went public. On one hand, public discussion gets the word out and effectuates change.  On the other hand, public critque stings more than it’s usually intended.  Could this discussion have taken place privately and extensively and effectuated change? I don’t know, but a big part of me wishes this was so.

It doesn’t help that ultimately, I like what Prof. Rah and DV are about.

Moreover, remaining “quiet” or “quieter” about the issue would have further accentuated the particular pain in the Korean-American experience – not having a voice that is heard.

Ultimately, what would the loving thing have been?

7)  I believe the loving thing goes back to listening, speaking, requesting, and forgiving well. From everyone involved.

8)  Beautiful, Disappointing, Hopeful – This discussion, like so many others on race and the gospel, has become one big Beautiful Mess.  I love that this is what the Christian Journey often looks like – beautiful and disappointing, all at the same time.

And yet, we are called to Radical Hopefulness as we wade through this Beautiful Mess.

Gotta Love it.

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One response to “A Beautiful Mess

  1. Pingback: how a conflict played out in social media « djchuang.com

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