Sleep Easy, We've Figured This Out (In Theory)

In a recent conversation with anakainosis from Merging Lanes this week at the nearby James Joyce Pub,(oh yes, Happy Birthday, Dan Ra), we reached brief moments of lucidity with regards to Asian American church: “There is no culturally-neutral expression of the Gospel”, the rationale for an Asian American church is not so much to re-create our cultural bias and therefore stigmatize a particular view of Christianity further, but to to remind ourselves that every culture, whether we assimilate in to White Evangelical American Christianity or assume that there is something to the indigenous Asian responses to the Gospel, has limitations (consciously or unconsciously) to allowing transformation of that culture.

However, the goal is not to eliminate culture, but similar to what Peter Rollins says about Christianity being an atheistic theism (or an irreligious religion), what we should strive for in our conversations about culture is to make it an acultural culture. We oppose the calcification of Asian and American cultures precisely because they are both self-preserving, and the Gospel is not. But neither is the Gospel a despiser of culture, therefore we seek to create something in the midst of the twilight which we embody – neither completely Eastern nor Western, Asian nor American. The beauty is that we can be honest and authentic about the very transplant that has occurred and discuss the dislocation as a personal and social phenomenon, not merely as a spiritual one. Furthermore, we understand even this location of “establishing” some Asian American church as transient – we are in motion as it relates to this Christ and the Spirit (wind, breath) of God. 

The real challenge then is not to re-write history or to re-invent our identity, but from this moment begin to commit to the creation of culture transformed as the DNA of Christ becomes hard-wired, transcribed into our genes one strand at a time neither erasing who we were created to be nor denying that we are being fashioned into something more (and yes, I am mixing my metaphors here). What the Gospel has been unable to do (albeit it has been a relatively short history for Asian conversions to Christianity, although we can make a strong case that the West has not fared much better), is puncture a core barrier of culture. Sure, we accept moralism and borrow language for hierarchy and order, but we refuse to be transformed at the nucleus. This is precisely why even the zealots with the best intentions still re-create empires that bear none of the true ethos of Christ in the end. We were not called for dominion in that sense, or perhaps as we have consistently presumed, we think too highly of ourselves to begin with. We were called to be generative, and regenerative, born again, healed again, called again, forgiven again, and sent again. We were not called to reproduce the Tower of Babel as though that were the solution to the kingdom – gathering the masses of people under one language, one banner, and one edifice. We were called to be the “living stones,” the very material – with all the particular properties that go into building materials of varying texture, composition, density and color (i.e. race, ethnicity, and culture). 

And…then I don’t remember what else we talked about, and I have to clarify for his sake, some of this is extrapolation from our conversation, but keywords were “diversity of doctrine”; the fear of reproducing empire; and creating community for (lack of) creation’s sake. Then we drank “flaming Dr. Peppers” and I went home.

But sleep easy, we’re got this figured out. I just can’t remember it right now. 

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Comments

  1. dengjosh says:

    haha. very cool points and good insight. I’d love to be part of a church that does this.

  2. Dan Ra says:

    FLAMING DR. PEPPER TRIED TO KILL ME!

    This post resonates with me. I think, David, this is a step forward in the philosophy of our dreams. I’m glad you got to talk this through with Ed since he’s much more eloquent in terms of the awareness we need to maintain.

    I wonder what church that transcends race looks like. No, not a church that is “multi-cultural”, but a church that defies race. Maybe even, in the spirit of Pete Rollins, a church that betrays race so that race is redeemed again only by the Cross.

  3. anakainosis says:

    Thanks for memorializing the conversation; I think I have portions of it on the camera.

    I think those last elements were mostly that culture is to be celebrated, and diversity of doctrine (and manifestation of the gospel in diverse cultural contexts), bear witness to an infinite God. I’m biting off of Franke a bit here.

    I believe one of the other points that we worked out was avoiding being paternalistic or pretentious in the way we consider the barriers of a culture, and the humility it takes to let GOD and the GOSPEL be the touchstone and the transformative forces in sifting through where culture has potential for incredible redemption or where a culture (and really, the people group who have birthed or adopted it) needs to repent in a fundamental change.

    Creating community for community’s sake… we’ve talked about that before. But I think our conversation was specifically on “adhering to a narrative for narrative’s sake”. But I forget the exact narrative that we were talking about.

    I look forward to the future, not only because it tickles me to blaze new trails in a theological engagement with culture, but because I believe that there is really HOPE waiting on the other side. Because the undertaking is not simply the task of sociological influence (though it may involve it); it is the task of the body of Christ, desiring to most faithfully represent Him. And I have a fundamental faith that there is an anointing covering that work, that the Spirit will honor and empower that task moving forward.

  4. elderj says:

    I’m glad you’ve figured it all out (sorta). I especially appreciate your point about recongnizing that the transplant has occured. Another way of saying that is to acknowledge that the culture itself does exist, even though it is ill defined and not often named. It is a type of confession, though not in the negative sense of the word. Rather it is an honest assessment of what is indeed true and a refusal to deny or obscure

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  1. […] Sleep Easy, We’ve Figured This Out (In Theory) (Next Gener.Asian Church) We were not called to reproduce the Tower of Babel as though that were the solution to the kingdom – gathering the masses of people under one language, one banner, and one edifice. We were called to be the “living stones,” the very material – with all the particular properties that go into building materials of varying texture, composition, density and color (i.e. race, ethnicity, and culture). […]

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