“We, the undersigned, are distressed about the continuing divide that persists in the North American evangelical church in the area of racial harmony.”
–Beginning of An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church
Following Rick Warren’s post on Facebook that offended many Asian Americans, the recent “Open Letter to the Evangelical Church” has been released to address the racial discrimination that the Asian American believers experienced over the past decade in the church. More than 800 Asian American church leaders and members in the nation signed the letter so far.
The number continues to increase.
There are five incidents that the letter specifically points out to show how “Christian evangelicalism has been the source of repeated and offensive racial stereotyping, and Asian Americans have been inordinately affected.”
These five are addressed not to point on the wrongdoings of the church out of hatred but to raise awareness for areas of improvements that the church needs to face in stepping forward with racial reconciliation:
“Certainly, we acknowledge that over the past several decades, the church has grown both in its understanding and pursuit of racial reconciliation. However, such efforts have largely been reduced to black-white relations, or they have resulted in tokenism, in which organizations or events allocate an appropriate number of spots to include voices of color and mistakenly believe that is all that is required.”
The materials for the 2004 Vacation Bible School curriculum included images that depicted stereotypical images such as “rickshaws, chopsticks, takeout boxes, kimonos, and karate uniforms” to depict Asian culture. These materials sublimely sent stereotypical and offensive portrayal of Asian culture to the children across all U.S. churches.
2. Youth Skits
In 2007, Zondervan, one of the largest Christian publishers, has published and revised Skits That Teach that initially included scripts that portrayed an Asian restaurant owner’s dialogue with heavy accent and wrong grammar.
In 2009, Zondervan apologized and pulled out selling the book Deadly Viper: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership that used Chinese characters and images for illustrations.
This September, Rick Warren posted a picture of a Red Guard during the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao and put a caption “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” Many Asian Americans have found it offensive and when they raised their voice of concern, Warren replied, “People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!” The controversy of Warren’s response grew bigger and later Warren posted “If you were hurt, upset, offended, or distressed by my insensitivity I am truly sorry. May God richly bless you.”
During the recent Exponential West Conference in October 7-10, the conference played a video that “featured a scene based on the film Karate Kid with a white person mimicking Asian accents and Kung-Fu fighting. While the scene was meant to highlight what has become known worldwide as an extremely positive leader-apprentice relationship, Exponential leaders quickly learned that he scene had offended some people by reinforcing Asian stereotypes and was racially insensitive to the Asian American community.”
Kathy Khang and Helen Lee, the two millennial Asian American women wrote the first draft of the Open Letter. These two millenials act to raise their voice for the Asian Americans have been catching major media outlets’ attention and have been an inspiration for numerous other millenials to take action and engage in the conversations about racial reconciliation (click here to read more).