Honor, Shame and Justice

Earlier this week, I saw the film Call+Response with members of our church community.

Call+Response is a musical documentary about modern-day slavery and human trafficking featuring artists such as Cold War Kids, Talib Kweli and Moby alongside notable figures such as Cornel West, Madeleine Albright and Ashley Judd. [I’ve posted some personal reflections over on my blog, in case you’re interested]

The statistics on slavery and human trafficking are unnerving.  27 million people enslaved.  $32 billion a year made on their suffering (more than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined).  And it’s not just a problem out there somewhere; thousands of people are trafficked every year right here in the States.

However, something in the film struck a particularly raw nerve for me, as an Asian American follower of Christ.  Those depraved individuals who profit from the suffering and degradation of people are extremely resourceful, in their sick way.  They adapt the techniques they use to ensnare others, depending on the area in which they operate.  For example, in East Asia, they will often prey on the eldest daughters of impoverished families by convincing them they have no other way to support and honor their parents but by selling themselves into slavery.

Others will accuse the victims of rape and sexual slavery of being unclean and shameful to their families, so that they will have no real alternative but to remain captives.  Filial piety, honor, shame, obligation — these are hard enough for us to navigate without predators twisting them for their own ends.

Everything inside of us needs to cry out against this sickness and insanity.

This is not about “compromising” the Gospel by promoting “good works.”  If we believe what we say we believe — that God is good; that people (all people) are created in His image with dignity, beauty and worth; that we believe in a Kingdom that is right and true and good, because that’s the heart of our King — then we must be compelled to action.  In fact, I would argue that mission and justice, for followers of Christ, are inseparable.  We must not allow that false dichotomy to lull us into sleepwalking through life, thinking we’re doing God’s “eternal” work while, really, we’re kind of just sitting around.

I apologize in advance for the rantiness of this post; if anything, I feel this conviction most strongly for myself.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed when confronted with these atrocities and, eventually, pushed back into apathy, I want to care about the people about whom God cares deeply.  I know my heart is moved, and now?

Call+Response lists 33 ways you can respond today.  Organizations such as JustOne and Justice Ventures International are a couple of grassroots non-profits working to promote justice worldwide and are well worth your support. Even the simple of act of telling a friend that slavery still exists today can be the beginning of positive change.

The Elephants in the Room: Porn and Gambling

The following article (with a few emphasis points mine) points to the fact that Asian American churches cannot afford to insult the Gospel by merely being social hubs of moralism and not addressing the darkest corners of our immigrant condition as places that require repentance and healing. We were not meant to judge who is righteous or to qualify the upright, we were meant to become communities of forgiveness and hope. Would people suffering with these addictions turn towards our churches or would they sequester themselves in their shame?

The great challenge of the Gospel to our Asian culture is to address the elephants in the room, despite our shame, because we need to quit clothing ourselves in our silly fig leaves rather than to take hold of the white robes that await us. Will we speak to these issues directly from the pulpit? If our leaders will not address the cancers in our midst, how then will we argue that we are relevant to the needs of our community?


Korean Families Hurt by Internet Porn and Gambling

New America Media, News Digest, Aruna Lee, Posted: Dec 10, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to its large internet use, the Korean community is experiencing a spike in online porn and gambling addiction. Aruna Lee monitors Korean media for New America Media

SAN FRANCISCO — Increasing numbers of Korean Americans are becoming addicted to online pornography and gambling sites according to a recent article in the Korea Times in Los Angeles.

Sang Jin Lee (not his real name), 25, is currently receiving treatment at a local hospital in Riverside County, CA, for his online gambling addiction.

Lee says he lost his job at a lending agency because of his habit, which began with poker games between friends (Billy Park addresses this in an older post), but quickly led to Lee losing his life savings. To re-pay his bets Lee Continue reading “The Elephants in the Room: Porn and Gambling”