1 Samuel 17 – After David speaks out against the giant Goliath who threatens the people of Israel:
28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
I know a lot of my brothers and sisters from “evangeli-world” (quite an amusement park) are peeved about Deadly Vipers, but I maintain that Asian Americans are doing Mike and Jud a huge favor. I say this somewhat cynically, so in the interests of full disclosure, I want to state that I don’t believe any of this is necessarily malicious opportunism on part of the authors or the publisher, but shouldn’t be ignored in a market-driven Christian industry like the one we have here. And all of this, I must add, serves to help us all avoid the real issue, that even when minorities speak out for more sensitivity and understanding, there is a nasty backlash against us as though we were the opposition. And the giant and his threats go unanswered…
First off, Asian Americans were not the target demographic. Obviously, this was nothing like Paul Tokunaga’s Invitation to Lead or Helen Lee’s Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, this was for “any” (read: white, male) Christian leader. What this means is that Asian Americans causing a stink about the book was completely not on their radar, after all, it wasn’t directed at us to begin with, it was directed at “anyone”. But what is interesting is that people who didn’t pose an economic threat in boycotting the book or the publisher were addressed with a decisive act. Why? To save face? Or because any smart business (Christian or non) knows that any stink about a book is good for the bottom line. Zondervan won’t lose when the book reappears. If anything, they might have gained more support from Asians for their gracious act.
And clearly, Mike and Jud now have a running start downhill on their next project (by the way, anyone notice how quickly that new project took away the sting of all their recent “ups and downs”? (That, my friends, is white privilege — “oh, did i hurt your feelings? i’m sorry, but i did take down my website and my book has to be re-done. you really should apologize for that — all these people were being ministered to. well anyway, i have this other thing i gotta go run and do. bye!”) And somehow, by “giving in” to the Asian American cultural sensitivity police, they maintain some sort of moral high ground (?!); how did that happen? How did they become the victims in this?
How did correcting our Christian brothers on cultural insensitivity and silent racism lead to people in their corner getting angry at us and getting extra credit for simply doing the right thing? Can’t I even speak? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to diminish their apology or the consequent actions, but that’s not radical integrity, that’s just basic. That’s not the high moral ground. If anything, the profile and scale of this overblown discussion (and I realize the irony in this very post, but it speaks to every instance where minorities get anger thrown back in their face when they point out the problem of racism), only helps the visibility of every future project Mike and Jud will ever engage in. And instead of facing the issue of racism within evangelical circles with the same aplomb they tackled the issue of pornography, they opt out, earning rave character reviews and supportive tweets and comments, which all serve to demonize Asian American Christians for bringing up the issue of race.
Now what have we done? Can’t we even speak?
When the Goliath of silent racism still lurks in our churches, our publishing houses, our conferences, our blogs and our neighborhoods, should we not say something? I am not your enemy; for crying out loud, I’m not even your target audience. I’m a confessed racist; and it takes one to know one. All I’m saying is that I’m not your antagonist, and my greatest accomplishment is not the apology elicited from Mike and Jud or the re-call of their brood of vipers; I don’t revel in this at all. I don’t think we won.
The giant lives and mocks us all still.