i can’t quite abandon the idea that a set of core beliefs determines everything else (i.e. foundationalism), and looking back, my understanding of the gospel was the big problem. i knew Jesus Christ through a gospel that was communicated in a series of statements. if i agreed to certain things about God, Christ and myself, i would be saved.
but as i read more and worked in church, i think the gospel itself cannot be tamed in this way. the gospel at its simplest is simply that Jesus saves us. but exploring this salvation can take multiple paths. and the gospel we received was the product of refinement that stretches back to martin luther. it is good news and salvation for a colonizing, european, predominantly white culture.
yet most asian-americans have aligned to this version of christianity, that holds no distinct word for our experience. (and i base this assumption on the popularity of john piper among AAs; we were hugely overrepresented at a recent piper conference.) that picture above was taken at a taiwanese church; apparently Jesus can’t be Jesus unless he has blond hair… but he can have other asian features.
i guess i’m wondering whether the gospel must begin with culture. knowing who we are first, then we let Jesus Christ impact our lives, leaving a crater in our experience (hat tip to karl barth for the crater imagery). perhaps we look at who we are as asian-americans, ask where we seek salvation and peace, repent, and confess Christ as our source of salvation. [emphasis mine]
And this other guy, flightpath, shares an absolutely brilliant statement [emphasis mine]:
i think what we’re seeing with AA’s is an unquestioning willingness to baptize wholesale white ownership of the Gospel even if it comes as an expense to their own identity and calling to lead. i don’t want merely a customized Gospel either, but i want a Gospel that encompasses the asian, black, latino, etc. experience without doing violence to it. the Gospel breaks down barriers but doesn’t negate identity. that’s why african-american theology is so vital for the black church — Christianity for African-Americans is inextricably linked with their sojourn as a people (contra individualism) and comes to bear upon their understanding of past (in exile, captivity), present (God as deliverer), and future (the eschaton). African-Americans cannot understand their identity in Christ in isolation from their corporate experience. and that’s why blacks don’t jibe well with white congregations that don’t want to relinquish leadership, interrogate issues of white privilege and power dynamics, acknowledge the unique experiences of other people groups, or change for anybody else. more often than not, African-Americans are implicitly expected to check their “blackness” at the door for the sake of a superficial “colorblind,” culture-neutral (but really white) Gospel. this is also what happens when whites try to undertake racial reconciliation on their own terms (diversity without sincerity or repentance) anyways, i see much fruitfulness for a distinctive AA theology. AA’s need to take ownership of their own sins against other minority groups as well.
Amen brother! While some could say that an AA church causes further divisiveness in the body of Christ, I think it actually creates the necessary space to address reconciliation from Korean to Japanese, from Chinese to Japanese, from Japanese to American, from Korean to African-American, and so on and so forth. These are specific avenues of forgiveness that we can walk out only as specialties, not as generalizations. These are collective sins and cannot be dismissed by an individual.
Sorry to just keep calling the play-by-play here, but then gametime10 jumps in with an angle that we’ve been wrestling with here recently as well.
I think I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t think of a clear example of what you mean. Can you give an example of a “white understanding” of the Gospel (presumably the one w/ a Reformed tinge) vs. the True Gospel?
I think this statement: “African-Americans cannot understand their identity in Christ in isolation from their corporate experience” might be a true generalization, but who is arguing for such a Gospel? And why is anyone considering that “white” understanding of the Gospel as true? Now, that might very well be what many white, European, Enlightenment-oriented people believe, but when we put such a teaching up against what Paul teaches, then we understand that they are not getting the whole picture. Even white people should be rejecting such a Gospel, because it is no true Gospel at all.
But going back to Danny’s original question, which I think is profound one is: Do we “look at who we are as asian-americans, ask where we seek salvation and peace, repent, and confess Christ as our source of salvation”? Is self-identity a necessary step to salvation? Do we need to understand what we’ve been and are being saved from in order to understand salvation?
While many theologians question who Jesus is and whether his identity makes him worthy of worship, this line of questioning is far more interesting because it asks the other side of the question, who are we? Does who we are constitute the need for this savior named Jesus? If he is I AM, then who am I?