Silence and Race

I’ll be honest. For a long time, I have sat at the edges as I’ve watched the Zimmermann case unfold, hiding in the background and avoiding any controversy. My wife and I have had few quick dialogues about updates we’ve heard or posts we’ve seen on facebook, but none of our exchanges have lasted more than 2 or 3 minutes.

As a Chinese-American, this type of veiled silence is often normal and deadly. Like a festering wound left untreated, it eats away at my soul and the collective well-being of our brothers and sisters. Of course, there may be an initial acknowledgment that something is amiss, perhaps even a certain amount of expressed sorrow shared on social media. But then, soon after, there is that silence that typifies so much of my own response. There isn’t an immediate uproar about insensitive comments, not even a response. Though I’m not Japanese, I’ll have to borrow this proverb because I think it illustrates a shared value that is often true for many, but not all, Asian Americans: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” While this proverb has some great truth, this is not a time for us to remain silent.

I’m not here to pretend that I understand. There’s plenty behind this case that I will never understand. I’m not black. I’m not white. I’m part of the in-between. I will never know what it’s like to be stopped by an officer because of my skin color. I will probably never experience the looks of distrust or fear that others face daily when they enter into a neighborhood. I will not get it on that visceral, internal, gut level way that my black friends do.

I’m not here to take sides, but…. I’m torn up, and my heart goes out to all those involved and touched by this case. No amount of words could ever bring back Trayvon to his family and friends, and no amount of words could ever describe Zimmermann’s experience over the past several months and what he still faces beyond this trail. Given the complexity of this case, there’s not much more that I can write that will be helpful here. However, as I read posts and reactions to this case from different perspectives, I cannot escape this reality: race still divides. Yes, the civil rights movement has secured on paper an equality for us all, and yes, we’ve progressed in so many ways. But underlying all of our suburban neighborhoods, city planning, justice systems and cultural consciences, there’s something that’s seriously rotting in us around the issue of race. And it stinks, guys. Our perceptions of race still carry significant implications on how we treat one another. Have doubts? Check this racial profiling video out (Thanks K Khang!)

I’m here. I’m here to pray for the day when Christ comes to heal all that is wrong and bring it to right. I’m here to listen to my brothers and sisters and learn from their own experiences. I’m here to commiserate when appropriate. I’m here to encourage dialogue and growth rather than unquestioned assumptions or unhealthy silence. I’m here to take a stand for racial reconciliation, even as I find things in myself that need to be repented of. And I’m here to offer my voice rather than my silence.

A Plea to Asian Americans and Others Like Me. It’s easy to avoid being that nail that sticks out, to sit on the sidelines when you’re not primarily or essentially affected. But we’re not meant to live on the sidelines. When real injustice perpetuates itself in instances like racial profiling, God’s Spirit nudges us a bit because it runs counter to the Person of Christ and our very humanity as it is meant to be. It’s almost like he’s trying to shake us out of our slumber, saying “Pay attention! Don’t ignore this!” And if we really take a step back and consider what’s at stake, we would see that we really can’t afford ignorance. It’s too costly.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to guilt or shame you into caring. Indeed, God intends for us to live in, through and by grace. But He also intends for us to participate in his kingdom breaking in as He makes all things new and transforms us “till we have faces.” So let’s get in the game. Talk with your friends. Ask what’s going on. Listen. Learn about the ways that racial profiling affects your own perspectives. And where we still might fall short, let’s lean on the One who will renew all things for his glory.

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The Locomotion of Jesus [Pt. 2]

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Jesus to Naruto and Superman: “Take notes”

Finally back to blogging – thanks for hanging around guys =)

I’ve always found the idea of locomotion pretty cool. I think time travel, flying, Naruto and stuff I obviously can’t do. I googled the definition earlier this afternoon, and this is what popped up on Merriam-Webster: “an act or the power of moving from place to place.” I’ll come back to this idea in a bit.

In talking with my wife about our faith this past week, I was reminded that there’s an unmistakable desire felt in our humanity. Augustine called it the restlessness of our nature; sometimes, preachers describe it as a god-shaped hole. Any one of us might say that we experience it when, in our cultural ennui, we grasp for something more substantive than what we have or experience. In our own individual ways, we medicate ourselves on success, sex, prestige, power or significance. Even our innocuous pastimes – Kingdom Rush, reading, hobbies, NBA playoffs, movies – can morph into an unhealthy deterrent (or if you want old school, an idol) that keeps us from life. For the record, I’m bummed about the Spurs losing the Finals. Also, my wife and I are going to watch Man of Steel this weekend. We’re a week late, but can’t wait!!

Some claim that when you pursue God or gods, meaning or purpose are not too far behind. Yet in Christian faith, we find that the opposite is true. God, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, pursues us. He ascribes significance to us in the Person of Jesus. He draws near, miraculously and peculiarly entering into our humanity, the very thing he created and sustains. Why? Because Scripture speaks about how it is impossible for us to please him in our own damaged and sinful being (Rom. 3:23). So when we could not reach him, he lovingly reached us in Jesus Christ, the Logos who, through his death and resurrection, mediates on our behalf for our good.

What does all that mean?

Let’s say that the previous paragraph is a pile of rocks dumped in front of your lawn, and your life is a home under construction. (I know – it’s a random metaphor, but there’s a lot of construction going on around my neighborhood, so it was the first thing that popped into my head). As the framing that holds and supports you goes up, you recognize that you’re in process, and the pile of rocks is probably for you at some point in the future. But then construction stops. There’s no more visible activities – no walls go up, no electrical wiring comes in. Everything just ceases. Soon you grow accustomed to the rocks, acknowledging them while not really caring too much about them anymore. You learn to become comfortable, even though you are only half-complete, a shadow of your true self. But the truth is, without those rocks surrounding you, you’re naked, exposed and destitute to the elements. There’s nothing you can do now except maybe grasp out to catch a floating newspaper that that wind brings you. But deep down, you know nothing even comes close to making your complete. Nothing. Until suddenly one day, the builder and the architect show up. They take the rocks and all the other materials, and they finish the work they started. They even throw in the crown moldings and upgrade your bathrooms to Italian marble. Italian marble! You got your sink with that awesome insinkerator. Vegetable pieces, watch out! And your newly minted A/C unit, just in time for summer. You’re set.

That’s what God does in the Incarnation. He comes to us in Jesus, who completes each one of us. He removes the scraps of newspaper and surrounds us with the rocks that always pointed to his intentions and his person. He fills your home, your being.

In Jesus, who is both the builder and the architect of our lives, we see the locomotion of God. We see Jesus, who moves from his eternal divinity into our frail humanity, that he might renew us. In his historical life, death and resurrection, Jesus shows up to finish and redeem what he began in us. Coolest thing – as God, he embodied our humanity. In every way, he was like us, he “gets” us, yet he also remained God, conquering our sin, our cultural ennui, our shame, guild and fear, that we might have life in him.  In our paralysis, he moved to meet us.

And he’s still moving – in our world and in your life. Do you see his locomotion?

Picture credit: redletterchristians.org

For more on Christ, here’s a cool presentation that recently resurfaced on my radar.

Random Birthday Thoughts

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Not sure why we took this pic after watching Avatar.

It’s been a long couple of months. It feels disorienting to celebrate my 28th birthday in the midst of a taxing season (sorry I couldn’t resist throwing a cheesy pun in the midst of our most beloved April 15th deadline – I have to keep myself entertained somehow). But as they say, “life is good.” I still can’t believe someone trademarked that phrase. What a great way to brand.

So even though it’s been a bumpy 2013 so far, I know God’s still leading the way and inviting me to trust him in deeper ways. Here’s a few unedited thoughts about life, birthdays and randomness:

Why Starbucks gets it right: 

  • As much as people might dislike conglomerates like Starbucks, you gotta admit, some of them know how to celebrate their customers. A free starbucks treat – any size – on your birthday is pretty awesome. I hate to admit it, but my Venti Java Chip Frap really does  make me feel celebrated, even if it’s coming from a global organization that stores my personal information in a database and automatically sends me a gift on my big day.

Unsorted:

  • Sometimes, I wonder what it’s like to have a real twin connection (yes, I’m a twin). I mean, I’m thankful that Tim and I don’t have some crazy psychic link, but it would be cool to jump into a cold shower and know that your twin could potentially scream in the middle of a class lecture or a presentation. That would be such a great prank.
  • Jack Johnson is always a great artist to bum to. I feel like I’m at the beach as I sit next to a parking lot outside of Starbucks.
  • Riding my bike on a cool day like this makes me happy.
  • I need to learn how to worry less and trust more. So much of life’s worries don’t change if I just mull on them. I wonder how much more freedom God has for me if I would first depend on him instead of living into my fight or flight patterns or desires to solve things beyond my control.
  • There’s a couple kids running around near me. Kids really know how to have fun =) We can learn a lot from them.

To my family and friends: 

  • Thanks, Gloria, for being a wonderful wife who helps me to see all that God has created me for! I’m so thankful that God brought you into my life to pinch me when I’m trying to relax =)
  • Thanks, Mom and Dad, for getting married and having me and Tim. I wouldn’t be here without you, literally. Thanks for your love and support throughout the years.
  • I’m really thankful for good friends. Ministry has been a joy, but one of the sacrifices and costs of being in college ministry is not being able to connect as regularly with friends or people you could see being really good friends. It just comes with the territory when you have to be on campus when everyone else is grabbing dinner with friends or having happy hours.  Thanks to my friends who have loved me and met me where I am throughout the past several years, and thanks for all the bday wishes!
  • Thanks to my partners in ministry for your prayers and support through the years!
  • I’m glad I won’t be getting caked by Clee and Dan this year.