So I underestimated the reaction of readers to the word “sellout.” My intent wasn’t to be sensationalist, but to explore an honest question that crossed my mind at Orange. If any of you had been with me at the conference, we would have thumbed through the conference guide, and I would have leaned over and asked you that exact question to hear your thoughts and start a dialogue. But that one word has been a huge distraction, and I’d like to retract it. Completely my lapse in judgment.
Second, I feel worse about my groundless claim that the conference organizers use Chan to diversify their speaker line-up and avoid race tensions. I apologize for (1) presuming to know their motives and (2) framing those made-up motives in such an accusative fashion.
Thanks to all who commented (nice and not so nice); the feedback helped me understand my own tunnel vision better.
To clarify what I’m saying:
• I applaud Francis Chan for his faithfulness to GOD’s call on his life. Clearly, his life and ministry has blessed the church; I hope he continues to speak and minister to all groups of people.
• I believe race, especially in America, does shape the expression of faith, but evangelicals want to deny or suppress this reality. The black church, because of their experience and faith, found voice to correct the status quo arguments of the white church during the 1960s (please, please read MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail). For Asian-Americans, we’ve uncritically adopted white, evangelical theology, and there are signs this is not a good fit. The most recent evidence: AA youth who attend church regularly are more likely to be depressed than unchurched AA youth, and this is among a demographic that already suffers higher levels of depression.
• I hope hearers of Chan do not mistake him as a representative of Asian-American Christianity. He does not minister in this context, and this part of his identity does not seem to shape his theology in any significant way. I am not suggesting his words lack power for listeners of all races; just that there are unique and distinct dimensions to being an Asian-American Christian which do not concern Chan.
• I wish conferences such as Orange would recognize that they represent white evangelicalism and not the whole church. Either these groups embrace and acknowledge their whiteness, or they find out why their participant demographics are 99% white and their staff 100% white. Instead, the reality of race (or the lack of it) is simply ignored or unnoticed.
• Ultimately, I want to see the Asian-American church participate in the reign of GOD in ways only Asian-Americans can. What does this look like? Great question, and the answer remains evasive (thus, this blog). I would hope that we have something to offer the body of Christ, something more than a facsimile of white evangelicalism or the possession of an Asian face.