A reoccurring problem : Asian-Americans troubled by stereotypes from white evangelicals

(RNS) Asian-American Christians are voicing concerns over how they’re depicted by white evangelicals, most recently at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.

Paper cutouts of men in various colors

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Paper cutouts of men in various colors photo courtesy mtkang via Shutterstock

Saddleback recently hosted a conference by Exponential, a church-planting group, and a video on Tuesday (Oct. 8) left some Asian-Americans offended.

It’s the second dust-up in as many months involving Asian-Americans and Warren, who spoke at the Exponential conference. Last month he received backlash from Asian-American Christians after he posted a Facebook photo depicting the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution. “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day,” the caption read on Sept. 23.

Warren later posted an apology.

In the video at Exponential, a pastor jokes about making his church-planting apprentice do menial activities, such as getting him coffee, giving him massages and holding his towel, according to the Rev. Christine Lee, a Korean-American Episcopal priest who attended the conference.

The apprentice reacts to the pastor in a parody of the “Karate Kid,” the 1984 martial arts film. The pastor begins speaking in a Chinese accent with “typical ‘Oriental’ music” playing in the background, Lee said. They go into a karate segment, and at one point, they bow to each other.

“I know they are not trying to be offensive,” Lee said. “I was actually trying to talk myself out of (being offended), but I kept coming back to this question: Would they have done this with black people?”

Saddleback staff declined to comment on the skit since it came from Exponential. Exponential leaders could not be reached for comment.

A group of Asian-American Christians are drafting an open letter to address the larger issue of continued troubling stereotyping of Asian-Americans and Asian culture.

“It’s disheartening to believe anyone is having to explain to fellow evangelicals that racist stereotypes are not OK, especially in the church and used in the name of mission,” said Kathy Khang, author and blogger who has been outspoken about race issues.

Pastor Rick Warren greets the audience before a forum with the presidential nominees at his Saddleback Church on Aug. 16, 2008. Religion News Service file photo by Ann Johansson

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Pastor Rick Warren greets the audience before a forum with the presidential nominees at his Saddleback Church on Aug. 16, 2008. Religion News Service file photo by Ann Johansson

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Last month, several Asian-American Christians commented and blogged that the photo Warren posted on social media was distasteful.

“People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!” Warren initially posted in a Facebook comment. “Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines — jokes — in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtably giggling!”

Warren took the photo down and apologized in the comments section on writer and speaker Sam Tsang’s blog.

“Thanks so much for teaching us! It was removed instantly. May God bless you richly. Anytime you have guidance, you (or anyone else) can email me directly,” Warren wrote in part.

Warren then posted photos announcing new Saddleback campuses, including one in Hong Kong, which upset Asian-American Christians who felt he needed to apologize more publicly.

Warren later posted an apology on Facebook, saying, “Staff handed me a hard copy of an email from someone offended by a picture I posted. If you were hurt, upset, offended, or distressed by my insensitivity I am truly sorry. May God richly bless you.”

It’s not the first time Asian-Americans — about 13 percent of whom are evangelical, according to the Pew Research Center — have been upset by depictions from other Christians.   ……………Rest of article

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
This entry was posted in cultural blinders, culture differences, evangelical, evangelism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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