Trampled Under Foot

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

In Shusako Endo’s absolutely-must-read novel, Silence, Fr. Rodrigues, an initially idealistic Portuguese monk, goes to Japan with his companion in search of a highly-respected monk thought to have committed apostasy. From his arrival in Japan to his reunion with the apostate monk, Rodrigues experiences a serious loss of the long-held notions of his faith as he witnesses the torture, suffering, and death of Japanese Christians who barely had a life to begin with. The triumphant, glorious, and powerful Christ does not provide him respite from all this, despite his pleas for help. This Christ is absolutely silent.

The Japanese leaders demand one thing to save these Christians from oppression. They demand Rodrigues to step on a picture of Jesus. Rodrigues is horrified by the thought of committing such an act before his Lord. However, it is the Christ of weakness, and not strength, that tells Rodrigues, “Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here.”

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[This was a very difficult post for me to write. I am passionately opinionated, at times quick to denigrate, and ungracious with regards to those opinions, theologies, and ideas I find abhorrent. Thus, this post (like many posts) acts like a mirror, exposing my sin. Please keep this in mind, and please forgive my hypocrisy. Kyrie Eleison…]

This will most likely be the 5235th post on Deadly Viper since its birth in the consciousness of already self-aware Asian American Christians. And it was this controversy that birthed a new consciousness about being self-aware Asian American Christians for the first time. Even the flaws of gender stereotyping (an equal problem in this mess) quickly surfaced as an issue. And so began a power discourse.

This incident was necessary for Asian Americans. For much of our modern American existence we were (and still are) seen as the passive, obedient, and over-achieving patch in our multi-colored quilt. If the DV incident did one thing, it made known the fact that Asian American Christians need to be taken seriously as a contingent of the American Christian fabric (no, I don’t quilt). No longer would it be assumed that we would brush off–or even accept–stereotyping or generalizing of our complex cultures by the dominant majority. Or this is what we hope.

There is a fine line between power struggle and reconciliation when it comes to Christian dialogue. And Christians need to be uncomfortable with it. Christians on the left look at the Christians on the right with disgust. I am self-admittedly a left-leaning Christian. And I have looked at a bumper sticker that reads, “The Christian right is neither.with some level of haughty amusement. But when Christians on the left are saying that Jesus would endorse the public option, are we not playing the same game as our siblings on the right? Let’s face it. Christians on either side want a theocracy. The liberal Christians just deny it, while the conservative Christians would love one (which would ironically look like Islamic states). Let’s move a step further. Evangelism could be a discourse of power. Monthly session meetings to determine how to attract more parishioners could be a discourse of power. Zondervan’s marketing strategies could be a discourse of power. In fact, Christian marketing IS a discourse of power… and wealth!

What would Michel Foucault think of this?? I’ll stop lest my cynicism of truly believing “power equals knowledge” kicks in.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but think that Asian Americans, even in our need for this to happen, have won a battle for power, while Mike and Jud patch their wounds. But what else could’ve been done? Was this an exchange of power that needed to occur? I say, emphatically, ‘yes’ because we needed to fight back our stereotypes. But what stereotype of Christianity does this perpetuate? Do we say ‘Jesus is our glorious king!’? Could we say, “Jesus is silent like the silenced, impoverished like the poor, and stereotyped like us”? My emphatic yes finishes off with a wince, like a cheap scotch whiskey.

The call from our fellow brothers and sister is clear. Let’s move forward to reconcile with Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite, and Zondervan. And not only reconcile, but partner in the kingdom. But if and when we do partner, let’s do it for the broken and silenced Christ. Because our attempts to correct our siblings may end up with a Christ that commanded the angels to destroy his enemies.

This entry is a power discourse.

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The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.

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Comments

  1. elderj says:

    I want to respond, but am not quite sure what I am responding to

  2. jadanzzy says:

    what do you mean? i hope you don’t mean the post doesn’t make any sense… haha

  3. elderj says:

    Well yeah, I guess I’m not sure what your core point is. Is it about power? Politics? The novel “Silence”?

  4. jadanzzy says:

    It’s ultimately about the game of power, and what role that should play in our faith practices. Maybe it’s too convoluted…

  5. elderj says:

    Power is a very real thing as you note and I believe Christians are most in danger of the abuse of power when they are unaware that they are using it, or when they naively believe that the power of others (notably the state) is neutral when put towards Christian ends. I find your assertion of the desirability of a theocracy by both left and right “wing” Christians a bit untenable however as historically (and even presently) in this country at least there has been a strong streak of animus towards political power by the right while the left has historically and contemporaneously been much more comfortable with the use of state power to advance socially beneficially aims. even if conservative Christians were to impose a theocratic government, it is fairly ludicrous to suggest that it would look like a contemporary Islamic state.

    Historically and globally political power has been the steadfast enemy of Christianity; over and again suppressing to the point of extinction Christian witness. Christians have of course been complicit in evil and have been as adept as anyone of playing power games. The problem though is not power, but its use, and the recognition, as you intimate here, of the inherent temptation of power to corrupt both the user and to abuse others.

  6. David Park says:

    i am also troubled by this “win”.

    zondervan did do something that they did not have to do. AA’s do not make up a significant audience for them and economically we were not a threat. so the cynical marketer in me wonders if this was a way to win a larger market share through AA’s. the interesting aspect that i did not calculate beforehand was the level of backlash from white evangelical males who are upset at the outcome and website shutdown. that says to me that power hasn’t shifted at all, because there isn’t even a real acknowledgment for the transaction of justice that was requested.

    in my view, this is actually a collapse, not a success.

  7. jadanzzy says:

    elderj,

    I know that the problem with my writing styles is that I speak in extremes. Many say that these tools weaken my argument. So I must try again next time…

    Regarding the notion that both the left and the right of American Christians wanting theocracy was to prove the point that we use Jesus to enhance our argument for political positions. The 700 Club does this, and I might have to say that Sojourners is guilty of this as well. I didn’t mean to make a longstanding historical statement. However, I don’t see how the rise of the religious right, after the decline of the powers of the social gospel from the 60s, is not a transfer of power of the Christian religion in America.

    Also, clearly an American Christian theocracy controlled by our religious right would not look identical to islamic theocracies. But what the religious right call for, “freedom, democracy,” are, to me, a guise for their desire to exert power over the American people (and the world, i.e. neoconservatism) through their Christian interpretations.

    And yes, historically, political power has been the enemy of Christianity. However, I would posit that power has been the enemy of the spirit of the incarnate God, and not (Western expressions of) Christendom which benefited much from power and wealth.

    I would still posit that, even the wake of this “victory” for Asian American Christians through this DVCA, we must not seek to elevate a Christ of triumph.

    All this leads me to consider the current form of Evangelicalism as a whole, which I think Asian American Christians AND DVCA/Catalyst/Passion/etc. have to answer for.

  8. cyrus says:

    I’ve been following the blog comments and tweets, I just want to tell the nextgenerasian crew that I’m blessed by your input as it’s been a very weird ‘win’ scenario; just observing. I’m really shocked at the backlash also, which makes me question some of the past similar situations

    skit guys
    rickshaw rally.

    and reevaluate some of the learning points we thought could have come from these situations. I felt like it was compounded as the book obviously struck a chord with people personally experiencing redemption in the book and “people of the 2nd chance,” but what was profound is that like all people they couldn’t separate the personal experience of the material book, with the spiritual realities of the gospel. To kill one was to hurt the other.

    If any beauty comes in the hurtful comments and arguments is that Asian Americans were charged with race baiting political tactics but maybe in the end it was that exact thing that frustrated the deadly vipers community. As Asian Americans, we can’t seperate our personal experience of being Asian American with the spiritual realities of the gospel. To seperate one would hurt the other. We don’t live in a world of abstracts but a world of bread; water; material dying things. And possibly it is an American presupposition that we can compartmentalized our racial identity just like we’ve designed the American life- where work, play, pleasure, and business never mix.

    I was deeply encouraged by your reflections along with the others who took time to critically think about these issues. I was flustered and saddened by ignorant comments and even Asian American leaders who could not see that it was not an argument about “intentions, being offended, uncomfortable,” but it is about justice. history tells us this.

    I am thankful for your posture in reading some of your replies to comments on other blogs. Thank you. I’ve lost sleep over confused about how people fail to see their perspectives in light of …. well my bias- Academia. When I read your comments I grew less and less insane, and grew more and more happy that justice is a fight that people have to participate in. Thank you for your courage.

  9. David Park says:

    cyrus, you are right on. i totally feel you on this. there is a lack of separation between what the book did for people and what presuppositions people have regarding race were revealed by the entire fiasco.

    honestly, i’m a little disappointed by some asian american leaders because even in the move for reconciliation, it’s like we’re totally kissing butt when really in terms of justice, something is being undone that should have never been done. and what? suddenly the DV authors are ambassadors for grace and integrity? i don’t get it. what they did was right, but the response from people has been a little gratuitous. the thing i’m really troubled by is that asian americans in general need to really own the minority perspective on this issue and others. in some ways, this incident is just the tip of the iceburg. evangelical circles are fraught with this short-sightedness and we are blindly assimilated into not finding offense when there is one, and taking offense for the wrong side when there is none (the post on francis chan being a prime example of this latter condition).

    but thanks most of all for your encouragement. it’s rare that we hear it, but oh so sweet when we do. 🙂

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