Mild At Heart 2: The Urge To Fight

Ah yes, The Cutting Truth strikes again with a post that I’m glad to see written. It’s true, I find it difficult to think of a single Asian American Christian male that I personally know and think, “that dude is one badass mofo, and I want to be just like him.”

Last week, I met with a good friend who confided in me that sometimes he can’t stand the “niceness” of the church — he wanted to feel dangerous, to go to that edge, what was the exact phrase…ah yes, “About once a week, I have this urge to get in a fightjust for the rush.”

I looked at him dead in the eye and nodded, “I know exactly what you mean.”

I can’t explain it. As I grow older I find myself in an unusual conundrum. First of all, my heart is softer — I freely admit I cry at movies, even comedies, even at animated characters. I will somehow find the time to heave and sob over 2-minute videos about starving children in North Korea or a clip about blind orphans in China. I don’t know if it’s age or the fact that God has brought me more in touch with all my vulnerabilities, but man, it’s embarassing at times.

But secondly, my heart burns with this intense fire that can’t stand it when people simply file in and out of church life as casually as they would make their weekly run to the dumpster. Something in me stews when all we do is sit here and mutter about church politics and who said what to whom which set off this group, who reprimanded so-and-so and did such-and-such so that the frickin’ parking lot team could have new flashlight batteries. I get so angry when nobody lifts a muscle to do anything for anyone except for people they know from whom they know they will extract payment in some form someday with some form of interest. I hate it, absolutely hate it when we who claim the Gospel split churches over a single family dispute and then try to play if off as if we knew the peace of Christ as we try and draw other people to our congregation and away from theirs because God forbid they have a bigger building than you, bigger youth ministry than you, better sound system than you, or any of that meaningless and vain crap. I’ve been disgusted by pastors and elders who threaten to sue one another and even come to blows, but what makes me absolutely livid is when I think I’ve never seen a single example of reconciliation and restoration in my whole life attending an Asian American church. Never. Not once. And I have a sanctified rage against that, pardon me God.

I know that gentleness and longsuffering are Asian male attributes synonymous with two of the fruits of the Spirit, I know that. But there is something in me that looks at the battles that David fought and the reads the courage of Joshua and fearlessness of Peter and I think, man I would love a good fight. I would love to wrestle with God all night. I would love to have the chance to face the Roman Empire and an emperor like Nero with steely eyes and a steady smile that let him know he couldn’t touch me — I’m rich, bi@#$! You can’t see it now, but I own you! You call this a kingdom?! punk.

You can think this is silly or immature, that’s fine, but I’m telling you when Jesus talks about victory, it’s not because he won a game of Scrabble. You can’t tell me that the Apostle Paul just coincidentally couldn’t think of another metaphor than the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6. I know we’re not fighting against flesh and blood, but I’m telling you we’re still fighting. This is not all hearts and rainbows. I want a good fight…I want to be a warrior, not just a prayer warrior, but the kind that could stand to lose a tooth or two.

I know the detractors to “Wild at Heart”, and I’ve heard the arguments about how there is no real scriptural basis for this type of masculinity and the rejuvenated man is one transformed in the mind, and I understand all that. I do. But I know that there is much to be learned outside the classroom, and there is worship that can take place outside of the sanctuary, and there is revival that can’t be scheduled by a church committee. There will be resistance and there will be “haters” just like there was in the 1st Century, and I know, I know, there needs to be a lot of Godly wisdom that goes with this wild heart, but don’t make me lose this heart. Don’t make me mortgage this heart. Don’t try to disciple this heart out of me.

Because I believe this church could use some fighting for. I believe my marriage is worth fighting for. I believe there are battles over my finances and my worship and my calling. I believe that justice for my Black brothers is worth fighting for. I believe that reconciliation with my Japanese and Chinese brothers is worth fighting for. I believe that forgiveness in and among Korean churches is worth fighting for. I believe that we are in the midst of a war and my desire to be dangerous, bold, brave, and cunning will require this heart.

When my friend said, “About once a week, I have this urge to get in a fight…” and I can’t help but wonder, is that “once a week” on Sunday?

Perhaps you disagree with John Eldredge’s westernized view of masculinity with cowboys and pirates, but I beg to differ. Women didn’t invent Tae Kwon Do. Women didn’t make up samurais. Women didn’t forge swords out of high carbon steel and go around looking to kick the living hell out of each other like Genghis Khan. Women didn’t build The Great Wall or invent fireworks. This is not to say anything negative about women, this is just to point out the heart of an Asian man is remarkably different from that of women. West or East, there is something profoundly different lurking in the hearts of men, and sure, the sinful heart of man aside, we have a streak that runs in us that giggles at the chance to take risks. I don’t know why the church would want to take that away, especially when to find ourselves in the midst of God’s grace, we are more capable of taking bigger risks than ever before. As if this Gospel came to us without the shedding of a single drop of blood…please. Satan would love a bloodless coup.

I don’t know what shackles have been placed around the hearts of Asian American men, but I urge you to seek to break them.

  • Your sole purpose on earth is not to make money.
  • The measure of your character is not solely based on your humility.
  • Your biggest mark of success is not what school/seminary you went to.
  • Your possessions, your nice car, your nice house, your mutual funds are not a measure of your true worth.
  • Passivity, indecision, and silence can be deadly.
  • Your masculinity is not bequeathed upon you by gaining the approval of a woman.
  • Your relationship with your father has a huge imprint on your soul.
  • And this from a good friend, “self-preservation is a false idol”.

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Comments

  1. John Lamb says:

    A friend surmised that men shun the church because there is no opportunity to be a “real” man there – no fight, no action, no boldness required. In fact, the theory goes, church is more female – be reserved, calm, unboisterous, etc. There is no perceived danger, and thus no need for volunteers to face danger with courage.

    I disagree. Look at Jesus, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Daniel, David, Paul, Stephen – the call of God requires courage in the face of danger, time and time again. Do we follow those examples? Or do we voluntarily shy away from them without even considering the battles that call for us?

    Here’s an example, using my recent experience talking about immigrants on HispanicNashville.com. Two months ago, I solicited ideas from my readers for a fake ad campaign about immigrants and immigration, from their perspective (link this here). One comment I got after the ads were released was that I was “brave” to publish them. At a lunch the other day with one of my pastors, when he heard what I think about the immoral laws against immigrants in this country, he told me that I would draw some serious fire for saying such things. The more vocal immigrant advocates I know have received death threats. I say this not to boast or claim that I am the wild man of God you call for, but to point out that there are dangers in standing up for God’s ways and his children, and we need some men in this fight who don’t back down. There must be many other examples of standing between society’s attack and the children of God, and we need the people of God leading the way.

    Where does this leave you in the unwild church you describe? I don’t know. I’m not suggesting that a pro-immigrant campaign there is a solution, by any means (although your Koreans-heart-Latinos story makes it sound wonderful). But with a burning sense of bigger things, do you stand up and boldly challenge your brothers and elders? Or is there still a level of authority that you must respect by defering to their leadership? Is being “wild” the same as being disrespectful in that circumstance?

    I’d be interested in hearing how you have answered those questions so far.

    (One last thought: this song came to mind after I read this post.)

  2. elderj says:

    Good preaching. I believe that at least in my community and I suspect in most others, if there was a good solid Christian masculinity that didn’t entail just sitting around talking in library tones and being what we called in my day “a lil’ punk” there would be less reason for young men to abandon the church and act out their masculinity in such destructive ways.

    There’s something to be said for fighting. After all Jesus calmly, deliberately and with great premeditated intentionality made a whip and then beat the hell out of some people for the sake of the worship of God. Peter struck down 2 people dead for lying to the preacher and Paul on more than one occasion was more like James Bond on a mission than he was like anything else.

  3. David Park says:

    John, you bring up some excellent points. It’s very hard to be “wild” in the AA church. In fact, I think most of the people that I have found to not appreciate the book, Wild At Heart, to be Asian. I think the sentiment is very strongly that being a rebel of sorts is self-marginalization and the voice that accompanies it often says something like– “You go out there and do something stupid like that and you’re on your own.”

    I think it would really work best if something like this happened from the leadership down, but there is a lot more resistance to this the higher up you go. Much like the friends of Job, there is a strong sense that if things go wrong, if safety and security are threatened, it must be against the will of God, but one of the things that I’m coming to terms with is that the assumption of the opposite is far more dangerous.

    Our generation may be the first to challenge this cultural obsession with safety and prosperity in the sense that there is a climate here that seems to challenge that (one of the things I accept in living in a postmodern culture), but it still remains to be seen as to whether this can be done in the auspice of the ethnic church, or if people have to leave or assimilate to find the “urge to fight”.

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