There are so many Christian blogs out there, so why add to the noise?
To provide some personal background, let me elaborate what I mean by “different.”
I never identified as a “minority” until after graduating from college. Issues pertaining to ethnic identity were a lot less complicated before then; I grew up in a town with the highest percentage of Koreans in all of America and befriended mostly Korean Americans in a mostly Asian American church in college.
Though there were many Christian groups on campus, I don’t recall ever having any constructive discussions on ethnicity and race. The few times ethnicity ever came up were when members of more “multi-ethnic” fellowship groups accused me and my friends of being “too Korean”; we spoke too much Korean, used too many Korean jokes, and really just needed to get over our Koreanness and join the broader community.
All that changed when I moved to Texas after college and suddenly became a stranger in a foreign land. I quickly adopted an English name (my Korean name is hard enough for Yankees to pronounce – I couldn’t imagine how Texans would butcher it) and began teaching 5th grade math in the inner-city, though I had originally interviewed to teach social studies (but what kind of Asian teaches social studies?). I was the only Asian at my school full of mostly Hispanic and African American students and teachers.
I was regularly told by students that I REALLY REALLY looked like Jackie Chan and random students came up to me to make kung-fu sound effects. I ignored this, for the most part. After all, they were just fifth graders.
For the first time in my life, I also attended a non-Asian church. My roommates and I had visited a mostly Asian church in the area, but decided on another church that was more multi-ethnic (in hindsight, the church we attended was probably 95% white, but it at least seemed more diverse than an Asian church). It was while attending this church that I began to really question whether I had been misled into believing in a second-class Christianity. If my Christianity came from the West, then the answers to the problems of the Korean church could surely be found there. I achieved a new level of self-righteousness, in that I believed I had moved beyond my kinsmen in the flesh who still worshiped with their own kind. I had joined a new kind of Christianity – one where people prayed one at a time, and not altogether; one where the pastor was just “Mike” or “Dan,” and not “Pastor Mike”; one where retreat games didn’t involve slapping or punching; one where Separation of Church and Home was etched in stone tablets. Much of this made me uncomfortable, but I liked it.
When I moved to Philadelphia and began looking for a church, of course these thoughts were still on my mind. I remember an acquaintance from college asking me, “You’re not gonna go to [insert name of largely Asian church], are you?” – as if going there was tantamount to sin, or at the very least, not as wise as going to the “multi-ethnic” church nearby (which, again, was 95% white and led by all white pastors).
Things got more befuddled in seminary. Many of my white classmates questioned the idea of an “Asian” American church. Why limit your church to one race? They never once questioned their own mostly white churches, but it was too easy even for me to buy into their logic.
Strangely enough, it was through the study of church history that I came to see the cultural blinders worn by so many in the Reformed community. The study of the growth of evangelicalism in America helped me see that many of the things we hold to be unarguably biblical are actually products of the culture around us which permeates all of our thinking but is often invisible at first glance.
I’ve come to see that the Christianity of my home country, with all of its idiosyncrasies, has also been profoundly influenced by the culture in which it took root. Its ministry practices and even theological emphases are very different from white evangelical churches. Different, though, doesn’t have to equal wrong or second-class.
My hope for this blog is that you will see the benefit of hearing from different voices. My prayer is that you and I would both be challenged to recover a more robustly biblical vision for our churches, one that doesn’t erase our cultural differences, but learns how Christianity is uniquely able to unite people from all nations, tribes, and tongues. As we look more closely at our differences, we can more clearly see what unites us together.