Tokback Thursday Jan. 14!

Alrighty, we’ve taken a break for the holidays and a couple Thursdays for good measure, so we’ll be back in the saddle with a couple of things to talk about on the docket.

First, I’m dying to hear a recap of Urbana, especially with DJ Chuang and ElderJ finally meeting face to face. Also, I really want to hear about the “Asian American” worship that led to the great discussion going on over at Joel Tang’s blog.

And although that might take up most of the time, for the upcoming Verge Conference (I’m very excited to attend btw), a question came to mind that I would love to hear your thoughts on. In Soong Chan Rah’s book, The Next Evangelicalism, he makes the point that immigrant churches offer a holistic missional approach (albeit to their own ethnic enclaves) that churches from the dominant majority can really learn from. So do you think that immigrant churches, your church can be classified as missional? Or do you feel like the have lessons to offer the missional church?

I don’t know if we’re going to get to all the questions, but I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of laughter, awkward muted silences, and eerie computer monitor light. The Tokback begins at the usual hour of 10pm EST / 7pm PST this Thursday night at DJ’s place, Put the kiddies down and get those webcams up as there’s no software or registration required. Spread the word and see you then!

Thursday Night Tokback 12/17

Don’t miss tonight’s’s Tokback!

Tonight will feature Laurence Tom, or “LT”, the ABC Pastor (@abcpastor), discussing the recent violence in south Philadelphia against Asian American high school students. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for LT and many of us in different parts of the country have been waiting with baited breath for each twitter update from LT. Many prayers have been lifted up and there’s a lot to talk about as to how churches can help stand in the gap in this type of racially-charged crisis.

So join us tonight at 10pm (EST) / 7pm (PST) for a great discussion on race, violence, and reconciliation with LT! ***Here’s the link:

Here’s a quick news clip to give you a snapshot for background to tonight’s tokback:

Hope I Get To Meet Francis Chan

Despite what everyone may think due to our calling Francis Chan out on the Asian American carpet, I really like the guy and have admired his ability to communicate his convictions.

And now, since I’m a part of the blogging team for the Verge Conference in February, I’m hoping I get the chance to meet Chan — not sure if he’s interested in meeting me, but eh, what have I to lose, right? At least, maybe we can clear the air. 🙂 (uh…by “sell-out,” we totally meant for Jesus!)

Joking aside, it’s going to be great to people are heavily invested in matters of missional community. As a person who participates in a faith community where multi-ethnic hospitality and worship is still a work in progress, I’m excited to hear how others have engaged it beyond mere rhetoric and pontification. Sure, I wish there were more Latino and Black faces on the speaker list, but we’ll start where we start and we won’t consider the Verge the end.

So, here’s to looking forward to the Verge conference. I’ll continue to post on issues leading up to the conference and we’ll be hosting conversations while we’re there. So stay tuned…

And if you know Francis Chan, tell him I’m looking for him. 🙂

Going against the establishment

I’ve found myself going against the establishment most of my life, but only recently coming to realize it. As much as I have done things differently, it’s always been with the goal of becoming the establishment. It pains me today to say that, but I realize it to be true.

  • I worked hard to make money so I could dress like you.
  • I drove a Mercedes, a Lexus, a BMW so I could be respected by you.
  • I owned a big, new house in the suburbs so I could live next to you.
  • I learned your language so I could converse with you.
  • I became oblivious to other people’s pain so I could laugh with you

In the end, I feel ashamed of myself. I was not me, but instead I was a yellow version of you. You were the carrot being dangled in front of me, yet I never realized I had an appetite for carrots.

  • When I was like you, you respected me.
  • When we shared the same dreams, you encouraged me.
  • When we partied and got drunk together you shared stories with me
  • When I parked my car in your neighborhood, you envied me.
  • When I made lots of money you helped spend it with me.

Being in a position of power and privilege feels really great! Every luxury is at your disposal. People drool all over themselves when you offer them your scraps. Everyone wants to be like you. However, there is always a price to be paid for such privilege. For me, that price was indifference. At the time, running with the haves made me care little about the have nots. I started with nothing, to gain all that was mine — and now it’s mine so go out and live the American dream and become a have yourself, rather than trying to take away what I worked so hard to get.

Can you relate to my story? Whether you are privileged to have or unfortunate to not have, you understand this story well. Even if you’re crawling up the ladder of success and in transition on the way to having, you get the story. However, if I make the topic about race rather than money, do you still get it? Consider my perspective as a Japanese-American growing up in California and re-read those points above one more time. Don’t think about money, but think about race in American culture. Does something get lost in translation? It shouldn’t, but I know it will.

    It all comes down to three things: money, power, and privilege.

When one has power and privilege, money is not necessary. If someone had no money, but had beauty and celebrity, you would want to know them. You would want what they have. Money will come to them. When one has money and privilege, power comes their way quickly. Wherever money and power are together, you can obviously see where they automatically gain privilege.

Look at someone like Tiger Woods. At the time of this writing, he is amidst some scandal regarding infidelity. He has lots and lots of money. He dominates the golf world which gives him power. He gets in bed with women who are not his wife because this gives him privilege. Seriously, if Tiger Woods didn’t have money and power, would we be hearing of how he slept with 7+ mistresses and how they all kept it secret? No, he’d be just another black man judged for being a player in a world of player haters. His mistresses wouldn’t have kept the secret, because their chance for privilege or power would come from exposing him to the public.

The establishment has dictated the rules of the game. Either be born of privilege like us, or somehow gain money and power. Otherwise, we are forced to take our game somewhere else.

You know what, I played your game. In grace, I ran to your crumbs and hoped that my gesture would get your attention. That you would see me standing at your feet savoring your scraps and possibly invite me up to the table with you, even if it were just for one meal. In the end, you dropped your crumbs to the floor, made sure I came for the feast of scraps, then picked up your plate, locked me in the dining room and moved out of the house never to look back on me again. You, my friend, are someone of privilege who now has power. Yes, money is coming to you. Don’t you worry. When you play the establishment game you always win. You can’t help it. It’s in your genes.

I don’t want to play the establishment game any more, no matter who I offend. I’m not on that team anymore. I am not like you. It is not in my genes. My hard work should not be so you can take advantage of me and parade me around as I honor you by being like you. It’s time I realize who I am, not who you want me to be. Playing with you isn’t playing to win, it’s simply winning. The game is fixed, the deck is stacked, the bets have been recorded.

In reality, I have come to learn that it is the have nots that are really privileged and the haves that are living in the unfortunate. Because as have nots, they are living in the world of reality and know who they are, while the haves are living for the sake of how others see them. As people of the chance to be haves, some days when you look in the mirror you have no clue who you see.

Tokback Thursday 12/10

This week’s Tokback topic is “Calling all church planters! How do we start an Asian American church plant?” So if you’re a church planter, pastor, or experienced layperson we’re seeking your advice, pointers, and cautions as we delve into the topic as to what makes a good AA church.

Put in your two cents! 10pm (EST) / 7pm (PST), at

No registration or software required. Just click on the link above and join the friendly conversation!

Thursday Night Tokback 12/3/09

Sorry for the late notice!

But tonight’s tokback will be hosted by DJ Chuang! I believe it will start at the usual time of 10pm (EST) / 7pm (Pacific), but keep an eye out on @djchuang to catch any latest developments.

The discussion tonight is going to be around DJ’s recent presentation on “The Future of English Ministries“, and it’s definitely worth hearing DJ out on the subject. He’s definitely done his homework! As we like to say here in the South, “this ain’t his first rodeo,” if you get my drift. So stay tuned and hope to see you join the conversation tonight. Again sorry for the short notice, I’ll make sure to get the news out earlier next time, but we are definitely on for Thursday nights! 🙂

The link is – see you there!

"Can't I Even Speak?"

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.

Thank God for second chances, eh?

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.