Face Palming The Force Awakens’ Identity Politics

daisy-ridley-and-john-boyega-as-rey-and-finn-in-star-wars-the-force-awakensSpoiler alert. I’ve read many film reviews of latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, but my friend Jonathan’s critique is brilliantly written but funny and incisive especially in regards to the farcical nature of its diversity politics:

The lack of Asian characters in the first Star Wars films didn’t prevent me and my brother from enjoying the story, admiring the characters, collecting the toys, and re-enacting the epic lightsaber battles in our living room when we were young children. It was always the story of Luke, Han, and Leia that captured our attention. No amount of “diverse casting” can fix horrific writing and bad story-telling. I don’t see any Japanese crying that they can’t relate to Naruto because he looks more Danish than Japanese. And I certainly don’t hear any African-American men complaining that Dragon Ball Z’s overabundance of Asian-looking characters is a hindrance to their aspirations of one day achieving Super Saiyan-level strength. In the West, it seems “diversity” has now just become another item to check off on an every-growing list of criteria for socially acceptable media. But realistically, who among us is really so pedantic about such things like the proportion of races in each film such that we desire “equitable representation” over actual substance? Again, how is this anything other than making slaves of ourselves to a ridiculous idea?

Diversity for the sake of diversity is not the gospel. We do not find worth in having a contrived role in a polyester world. Jesus, whom we would now regard as a white man, died on our behalf as a perfect representative of all humanity. The disciples were also twelve white men. Jesus’ breakthrough on behalf of women and Gentiles came in the context of actual alienation, oppression, and marginalization. Skin color matters not because it brings out the full range of the visible spectrum but because there is an embedded history of injustice that accompanies our heritage. Fighting injustice certainly isn’t about asserting the superiority of woman over man in the manner Rey disparages Finn and how she is able to perfectly wield light saber the instant she picks it up. Likewise, Finn is the prototypical bumbling male who needs to be rescued by the female heroine.

I celebrate the ascent Jeremy Lin because he is a real person. He, by his own admission, is not a perfect basketball player. I identify with him as a Christian Asian-American man who is flawed and faces adversity like the rest of us but has managed, through the providential grace of God, to enjoy worldly success that most of us will never achieve. His story is real. But when I watch Star Wars, the storytelling is hampered by the CGI diversity in the same way a Michael Bay blockbuster attempts to distract us from the absence of plot with loud and vivid explosions.

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Press Release: Fearless Tour in Virginia and Maryland 11/14-15

RE:NEW Co-Hosts Its First Concert with the “Fearless” Tour

With Asian-American Artists AMP, Mickey Cho, Gowe, Artifex, & MC Jin

ROWLAND HEIGHTS, Calif., Nov. 7, 2014 — RE:NEW co-hosted its first ever concert at Newsong Church in Irvine, California on October 25 with more than 300 people in attendance. The event featured artists from the “Fearless” Tour, including AMP, Mickey Cho, Gowe, Artifex (NAK and Nicholas Cheung), and MC Jin, with an opening act by Hillary Jane, and music by DJ Descry. The “Fearless” Tour is the first time these artists are uniting on the same stage with hopes of exemplifying the idea of being fearless.

renew-fearless-group-pic

“There are stereotypical barriers to get into the arts; people inside the church might believe that we need to compromise in order to become successful in the arts,” said Chung Lee, a member of AMP and also CEO & Co-Founder of Good Fruit, in an interview with Christianity Daily. “All artists take a risk in pursuing their passions … To live out any calling from the Lord, you have to be fearless.”

RE:NEW was asked to partner on this leg of the tour after an exclusive interview with the artists from AMP in November 2013. As a co-sponsor, RE:NEW received a percentage of the proceeds from the concert, which resulted in raising nearly $900 for the organization.

“Partnering on this tour was definitely new ground for RE:NEW,” said Phoebe Ng, RE:NEW project manager. “When we were first asked to partner, I was honestly a little hesitant because we have never managed such a large-scale event, but it was a great opportunity for our staff, as well as our dedicated volunteers. Not one person backed down from the challenge of making this event happen and ensuring that it was as successful as it was – that’s what I call fearless.”

AMP is a collective made up of East Coast artists including Lee (also known as CL), J.Han and Sam Ock, who seek to engage their culture through hip-hop with lyrical influences rooted in deep Christian tradition. Mickey Cho, Gowe, Artifex (NAK and Nicholas Cheung), Hillary Jane, and MC Jin composed the rest of the line-up for the evening. MC Jin was the last to perform, and has the longest career of the group since he became the first American solo rapper of East Asian descent to be signed to a major hip-hop record label. In 2009, he became a Christian and has since expressed his faith in his music.

Other event co-hosts included Good Fruit Co. and The Great Company, and co-sponsor Rapzilla. The “Fearless” Tour will be hosting two more concerts in Virginia and Maryland on November 14 and 15 respectively. Tickets are still on sale for its last two concerts, which can be purchased online at http://goodfruitco.com/fearlesstour/.

For forthcoming backstage interviews with each of the artists, subscribe to RE:NEW’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/RENEWtheRESPONSE, or visit RenewTheResponse.org.

RE:NEW a Presence movement

RE:NEW a Presence movement is the youth and young adult initiative of Presence Quotient. It aims to partner with churches to challenge youth and young adults to re:new their faith by equipping them with teaching, training and resources to learn more about Christ; providing a venue for people to use their God-given gifts; and mobilizing this generation to live with purpose. RE:NEW, which started in 2011, is based in the San Gabriel Valley area, and works alongside Presence and its initiatives. For more information, visit www.RenewTheResponse.org.

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Can you relate to a nerd?

Tony Kim loves to go to Comic Con. This is his 5th time going, to celebrate all things nerdy. He made this audition reel for an epic documentary film that’s in the works about Comic Con, being done by the same guy that did the Super Size Me movie.

Tony mentioned that one of the many reasons he auditioned was because: “… hardly any Asians auditioning and I hope to represent”. Thanks for stepping up, Tony!

[Read more…]

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part Two

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Daniel DK Kim’s journey of worship and justice has led him and his family to commit themselves to fighting human trafficking in Mexico City for the next two years. They left today (with answers to prayer from the very start). Read the second part of our two-part interview with DK:

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What is the connection between releasing your new EP thefirst and your family’s commitment to fight human trafficking in Mexico City?

This EP is my first-ever studio project and I am still baffled and dumbfounded that it is complete, in print, on sale and in the hands of people who love it. It has been a dream come true and the way it happened was so sudden and unexpected, I can once again say that it’s because of God’s goodness this came about. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

[Read more…]

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part One

Daniel DK Kim just gave up his dream job.

As the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California, DK has been living out a personal dream.  And yet, on June 15th, DK, his wife Sadie and their young son Micah will be moving to Mexico City for two years, “to do our part in the abolition movement while working with and raising up a generation of indigenous artist/activists in the city to lead the charge… until we see the end of slavery.”

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  As you can see from DK’s story, which we will share in two parts, this awakening to the intimate connection between worship and justice is both beautiful and challenging.

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How would you describe the connection between worship and justice in your life? What have been some pivotal moments in shaping your understanding of worship and justice?

Photo by Scott Hodge at The Idea Camp in Irvine, California

I’ve been a worship leader since I was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until recently, in 2007, that I began to feel discontent in the way that I viewed and experienced worship.  So much of our worship can become self-focused and self-indulgent if we forget about the call beyond the mere words of any song. I began to discover the synonymy of worship & justice in a few key passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 58 is a huge one for me: the challenge to consider what true fasting is made me think about what true worship is. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I began to see that my worship was just ritual if I didn’t take it outside of a fifteen-minute set list.  I wanted desperately to do something about this unfolding realization but didn’t know where to start.  All I could do was pray.

[Read more…]

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Top Asian Americans on YouTube

Entertainment is the draw for viewers in the online video world of YouTube. Education, not so much.

The top 4 Asian Americans on YouTube were recently listed over at sublimesilence:

3 of the above are noted as comedians. 1 is a musician. Hmmm.

[Read more…]

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Reflections on Christianity from a Japanese-American Painter

An effort to define beauty will ultimately fail, but we can speak of beauty, and point to the source of beauty.

Friends,

In order to prevent any more cobwebs from appearing on this beloved site, I’d like to share a wonderful interview with Makoto Fujimura, a Japanese American painter where he talks about his views on faith, how art reflects the mystery of faith, and the Eastern nature of Christianity.

http://goo.gl/0na0

Here’s an excerpt:

East/West distinction is also a categorization that is very difficult to define. The Bible is an “Eastern” book. The Bible is much more culturally “Eastern” than “Western,” if by “Western” we mean post-Enlightenment rationalism. Certainly, the Old Testament Hebrew culture was far more eastern than what we consider to be western. The Last Supper makes more sense in a Japanese context (that eating and drinking wine can bond a community together) than American. Early theologians like Augustine and Origen were influenced by African and Egyptian culture, which is more East than West, and certainly medieval art and theology has much to do with Eastern influence, while “Western” theology grew out of them. I know what you are asking pertains to our fascination with Japanimation, Eastern New Age mysticism, etc., but I would be careful not to fall into unhelpful distinctions.

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