Amazing Grace, Change Me

Yes, I saw the movie on opening night. Yes, I wept like a 7-year-old girl with a skinned knee.

Just a quick thought came to me though. William Wilberforce was a man who spent years of his life in social activism on behalf of others who looked nothing like him. Now this is nothing to lionize this man or John Newton (who penned the namesake hymn of the movie), but only in as much as he has pursued the image of our savior, Jesus who suffered unregrettably and fearlessly for we who had no right to be called friends.

I think Asian American Christians will come into their own when we can cry out not only for those of us Asian Americans who are wronged or insulted, but when we cry out on behalf of those not related to us, who do not resemble us at all. That is indeed, the amazing part of grace.

And because we know, and are becoming increasingly aware, of the racism that exists today, even in the Christian publishing circles (pointed out by TheCuttingTruth and Soong Chan Rah), then we should all the more become abolitionists of our day and age not only when we are insulted and offended, but when the humanity of others is at stake. For instance, how many of us are up in arms for our Hispanic brothers in Christ as the politics of the immigration debate is breaking up families and ruining lives? How many of us are cognizant of what is happening in the Sudan? How aware of you the things that are going in your very city? How are school zones set up? Where are the ghettos in your town? What’s the average median household? What’s your city’s history?

To become an abolitionist I witness from this evening’s viewing is not altogether that difficult, it is merely to face myself in the ugliest parts of me and by the power of God, quite literally, fight the living hell out of me and out of the world, one little thought, action, habit, routine, house, neighborhood, county, city, state, and nation at a time. Grace so amazing demands a good fight.

On the heels of the movie, I found this site to accompany it, The Amazing Change. Sign up to become a modern day Wilberforce.

May I live a life worthy of the song:

Amazing Grace
Words by John Newton 1779

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

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Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. As Asian-Americans we are in very good position to have an impact both locally and globally, with our unique culture linking East to West, our education, and our affluence.

    What is keeping us from acting beyond our own little circles?
    There is, of course, the tendency to be the model minority. Asian-Americans are seen but not heard. We have a value in us that discourages us from making waves. “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” goes the Japanese proverb.

    But I also believe that there is a sense of being self-absorbed. Maybe it’s our insecurities, maybe our sense of duty to ourselves and success. We’re good at small, superficial community. Other ethnicities see that. But are we able to bring ourselves outside our bubble?

    Asian-Americans can stake a claim in God’s kingdom–in local social concern and global social justice. Let’s find out what it takes to bring these barriers down.

  2. elderj says:

    I wonder though if there isn’t an element of (pardon the phrasing) trying to out-White the White people in that so much energy and effort is put into assimilating, achieving the American dream and blending in that justice concerns are not even relevant.

  3. gar says:

    Great entry David, and I agree with a lot of your points. I was just having a conversation today with a Japanese American woman visiting my church from another church and we talked about the reasons why Asian / Asian-American communities rarely advocate for social justice outside of their respective communities. We had a long conversation, but some of our speculations:

    1. Many Asian ethnic churches in the US began as a sort of social outreach to their communities and because many provide valuable services (language classes, emergency financial support, social networking, etc.) they have become often cornerstones of their respective communities. There’s a reluctance that any issue outside of their community would take away from their role as cornerstones.

    2. Many Asian American communities lacked and continue to lack advocates for their communities. Many Asian and Asian American churches still bear that primary advocacy role, and as such, most of their time, effort, and resources are occupied by advocating for their respective Asian American community. There’s nothing left to advocate for others.

    3. There’s a feeling amongst many Asian Americans (not just Christians) that if we (Asian Americans) can’t rely on others to advocate for Asian American issues, why should we expend the trouble to bother advocating for others, especially people who haven’t shown any interest in helping us? It’s sort of the old country attitude of “we take care of our own”.

    There are some great exceptions to all this, though. In the recent years following 9/11 and the mistreatment of many Arab-Americans and Muslims, it’s been encouraging to see some Japanese American Christians and churches speak out (in reaction to their community’s WW2 experience being mirrored at present in the Arab American community).

    I think also that younger, more “Americanized” generations of Asian American Christians like yourself, myself, and others, recognize the need that in order for Asian American Christians to truly live out Christ’s calling, we have to step up and advocate for other groups of people outside of our community (Latino immigrants, the people of Sudan and Africa, etc.)

  4. andre says:

    elderj,

    There may be some truth to your hypothesis but in general, I believe that the lack of social justice concern is due to deep rooted materialism within the asian culture. Status in society is attained through wealthbuilding rather than via political activism. As chrsitians, there’s an opportunity to reverse that toward a biblical model of engagement with society.

  5. David Park says:

    Daniel, my thoughts exactly. Those are some of the cultural tendencies which pose as obstacles to the gospel.

    Gar, thanks for your comment. You are dead-on. I think as a demographic, we are starting to raise the consciousness of these social justice issues, which coincides with the fact that many of our parents and people are no longer struggling to simply “make it”. It is absolutely the time for our generation to channel our “new money” with a “new heart” — directed by the mandate of the Gospel. It must not be merely a message of salvation, but the actions and redistributing of shalom as well.

    As for out-whiting the Whites, I think we get that criticism in a lot of arenas. However, if we could at least have AA’s vouch for the humanity of others and fight for their rights out of a biblical mandate, I don’t care what race you are, I want to out-yellow the yellow, if you get my drift, which is what Andre’s saying basically. Yes, I agree with everyone. 🙂

  6. elderj says:

    David it is good to find you so agreeable 😀
    Gar does hit it on the head I believe. The Black community has some problems with social justice issues as well, particularly in the post Civil Rights Era. And while status in Black culture is not as tied to wealthbuilding as in Asian cultures, there is a clear and growing disconnection from social justice issues.

  7. djchuang says:

    The cultural-historical analysis of our collective Asian culture and the allegedly attractive assimilation path is of some value. Or we could surface the Asian perspectives on a fatalistic worldview or strong differentiation between insiders vs. outsiders.

    I’d love to shift the conversation towards what will motivate and propel Asian Americans to action and advocacy to make a bigger more pronounced difference in the world?

    In many respects, Asians are not all that different than other people. We all have our self-absorbedness and desire for prosperity and material comfort. Wilberforce in his days was an anomoly too, and he fought an uphill battle for years to abolish the British slave trade. It’s a bit too trite to say but for the grace of God and compulsion of the Gospel can we make a difference, though that is true.

  8. andre says:

    DJ

    I agree with your statement – “…Asians are not all that different than other people.” even though it may appear that I was singling out the Asian cultures. I was only referring to a basic cultural ethos.

    What will motivate Asian Americans to action and advocacy? I think Asian Americans in general won’t have great compulsion for social justice advocacy but Christians of Asian American descent have both the motivation and means to do so. It starts will the compulsion of the Gospel as you mentioned…I don’t think that’s trite, but rather foundational. Our experience as ones saved by grace should and will lead us to extend grace.

    We can also add to that motivation, our personal experience of racism, disenfranchisement, or simply of being a minority. We can care about racism and injustice of all shades and not only when it affects Asians. We can leverage our relative “per capita wealth” and educational prowess to this end. I think we’re in great position to do so…I just think we have to be rightly motivated by the gospel.

  9. daniel so says:

    thanks for raising some very important issues here. i wholeheartedly agree that God’s call on our lives is to advocate for justice for *all* of His people, regardless of their race or ethnic background. our witness would be that much more powerful if we could speak out on behalf of communities beyond our own where, at first glance, we gain no immediate or obvious benefit.

    on a practical level, i agree with the points that gar raised above. i would add that my experience in the asian-american church (korean-american, more specifically) has always emphasized personal piety — almost to the exclusion of concern for others. it is such an enormous task to awaken asian-american believers to care about issues that directly affect our communities. hopefully, awakening to justice issues that directly affect us will create a broader, more balanced (and more biblical) concern for others.

    david — i’ve been reading your blog for awhile now. thank you for sharing your thoughts & insights.

  10. David Park says:

    thanks daniel for reading. i think your insight on this issue is very accurate. perhaps we can start out small, beginning with our reach to reconcile differences across the Asian spectrum or those that are at arm’s reach. for instance koreans to japanese or koreans to african-americans. i think that is a worthwhile place to start, where we have points of conversation to start from.

  11. I join this thread very late, mainly because I was busy self-censoring…There are many pockets of Asian Americans who are busy doing exactly what Asian American church-attenders are not doing – advocating for issues of social justice across a broad spectrum. There continues to be a difficult chasm to gap between the Jesus whose ministry was so clearly to the poor, marginalized and disinfranchised and the brand of Christianity many Asian Americans have grown up with.

    However, what was initially most unsettling for me was the way the post started. What exactly do you mean or intend when you write “I wept like a 7-year-old girl with a skinned knee?” I was so taken aback by what some readers would consider a rather benign comment because the very discussion on justice and grace is not limited to one of race or ethnicity but has a gender overlay too often ignored.

    Perhaps some of the reconciliation should also start between men – men who most often hold the authority and power in the very churches that are not exhibiting grace and women?

  12. David Park says:

    Morethan, Thanks for reading, and I’m so encouraged by your work.

    The expression, “cried like a 7-year-old girl with a skinned knee”, is merely a phrase to connote that I was crying inconsolably. I meant no gender bias by it and I hope that you have read past entries where I address the gender issues in the AA church in a way that I believe resonates with your comment.

    I agree wholeheartedly that we challenge the cultural notions that women be silent or subservient in Asian American Christian circles. I can say that my parents have exemplified what this might look like, and I strive for that type of openness and freedom in my own marriage. The real challenge is whether or not we can demonstrate this to our friends and community.

  13. elias says:

    hi, God bless all…

    i want the amazing grace lyric in japanes, all have the lyric in japanese?? please.

    tanks.

    bb_jazz_bass@hotmail.com

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