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.