Why Asian American Christian Love for Jeremy Lin is well, Idolatrous

Why Asian American Christian Love for Jeremy Lin is well, Idolatrous
by Russell Jeung on Sunday, February 12, 2012

I just wrote that title for hyperbole’s sake, but I do want to raise some issues.

Every Asian American pastor seems to be posting about Jeremy Lin on FB. The New York Times even just came out with an article about him as an Asian American Christian. He’s the Taiwanese Tebow!

Like Michael Chang, our last great Asian American male athlete, Jeremy Lin thanks God every chance he gets. Faith must play some factor in their success in overcoming stereotypes, because as noted sociologist of religion Carolyn Chen writes, “the sacred makes people utterly reorganize their lives for something outside of themselves.” By playing not just for themselves, but for God and His Kingdom, they have that much more motivation to do well and represent.

Asian Americans, and Asian American Christians (AACs) in particular, are “linsane” over Jeremy because he’s one of us. We can claim him, since he’s the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent in league history (I like how we have to identify his ethnicity specifically so we can know who can authentically identify with him).

Moreover, we embrace him because he’s overcome odds to start in the NBA. He’s endured racial taunts on the courts. He was stereotyped so he wasn’t recruited by the Pac 10. He got cut twice from other teams (Doh! Warriors!).

But c’mon, he grew up in Palo Alto and went to Harvard. That doesn’t really constitute being underprivileged.

What scares me more about AACs’ love for Jeremy Lin is that it may be based on idolatrous ethnic pride rather than genuine Christian fellowship. After all, how many of us really have prayed and shared communion with Jeremy Lin?

I’m reminded of when the children of Israel wanted a king instead of God. They wanted a real person in flesh and blood, somebody that they could call their own and follow. I hope we aren’t watching more Jeremy Lin on youtube than we are praying…

I also recall how Paul would rather boast about his weaknesses, not his strengths. We AACs seem to take pride in Jeremy Lin, because he’s famous, athletic and Asian. We’re happy that he’s winning, on highlights, and playing as well as the brothers. Yet I haven’t heard anyone boast about his weaknesses; where’s our biblical values?

And I think about how Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our pride and boasting isn’t that we’re so great, but because God is gracious.

So if we are to boast in Jeremy Lin, it should be about his unselfish play and deference to his teammates. It should be about his humility before God and his desire to minister to the underprivileged. But it shouldn’t be about empty ethnocentrism or pride in man’s accomplishments.

If we are to identify and find solidarity with anyone, it should not be the powerful and noble, but the weak and oppressed.

[reposted with permission]