From my experience, I have found that many disagreements around racial issues revolve around differences between the participants’ definition of what counts as racism and what does not. Hence, I have found George Yancey’s book, Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility (IVP 2006), helpful in this regard. Yancey, a Christian sociologist at the University of North Texas, describes in the first part of his book two different definitions of racism and four basic models of racial reconciliation that flows out of them. In this blog, I want to briefly outline them for you. Continue reading “Four Models of Racial Reconciliation”
Speaking in Tongues
The phenomenon of speaking in tongues is common among Charismatic-Pentecostal type churches. It is also controversial, even though increasingly accepted in Christianity. Some Christians see the so-called charismatic spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongue speaking as ceased, i.e. the Holy Spirit no longer bestows such gifts to us anymore in this day and age. They argue that these gifts were necessary for the establishment of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts in the Bible but no longer necessary now that the church is well established. These gifts have ceased as they have fulfilled their purpose.
But Charismatic-Pentecostal Christians beg to differ, arguing that we cannot restrict the Holy Spirit and that through their own experiences of prophecy and tongue-speaking, it is evident that God still give these spiritual gifts to his people for his glory. In these churches, it is common to have Christians break out into ecstatic utterances that are believed to be praying in a heavenly or angelic language (or tongue). Those who believe in a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” often see tongue-speaking as evidence of the Spirit’s outpouring on an individual Christian.
In this blog post, I am going to share my thoughts on this supported by my research into Scripture. I will be drawing material from my previously published article, “Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural View” (The Banner, Sept. 2003, pp. 46-48).
Going to the Dogs?
I have been alerted to an interesting article: Jesus Was Not Colorblind: Racial Slurs and the Syrophoenician Woman. It’s a reflection based on Mark 7:24-37. The author, David R. Henson, suggests that “Jesus uttered a racial slur” towards the Gentile woman – the “giving crumbs to the dogs” reference. Henson then re-imagines this story in the racial context of the American Deep South:
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, my current context, the Deep South. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed. In response, Jesus dehumanizes her, calls her an animal, a female dog, a bitch, even! Maybe he goes further, criticizes her for seeking a medical handout and labels her a welfare queen. He asks her why the good things meant for whites only should be given to the sweet little n*****s.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one: a House Negro, an Uncle Tom, an Oreo. Boy. Dominant, oppressive cultures have a long history of assuaging their own latent guilt with terms of endearment for those they are abusing.
Do these diminutive forms, even when they have been used affectionately by whites, soften the sting of raw racism in the words? Clearly not, and I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this exchange? … This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman. It teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — the Incarnation himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy. As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
This created a little stir among my Facebook friends, which was how I was alerted to the article in the first place. Was Jesus racist? My position is that, YES, Jesus was not colorblind (in the way that most people use the term in North America in relation to racism) – Jesus would acknowledge and affirm everyone’s ethnic and cultural backgrounds – God created them as such! BUT Jesus (and God) shows no partiality to any persons or groups or peoples (Deuteronomy 10:17; Luke 20:21).
A Biblical View of Diversity
This is an edited excerpt from my previously published article, “Racism, Revelation and Recipes: Towards Christian Inter-Cultural Communities” (Christian Educator’s Journal, April 2008). It lays out a biblical-theological perspective on ethnic diversity and racism. I regard this as still a work-in-progress.
A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Diversity & Racism
1. Diversity, in and of itself, is a God-created good that reflects the unity (oneness) and diversity (three-ness) of the Triune God.
Biblical Foundations for Welcoming New Immigrants
This post is the basis for a shorter edited version written for World Vision Canada’s Beyond the Welcome tool kit, a project designed to help Canadian churches open themselves up to new immigrants in their communities.
Here’s the question I want to answer in this post: Why is integrating new immigrants into the local church community biblically and theologically important? For the sake of brevity, I will focus on lessons we can learn from the early Christian church as recorded in the New Testament, especially in the book of Acts, in answering this question.
Continue reading “Biblical Foundations for Welcoming New Immigrants”
Chinese + Christian = ?
It was Chinese New Year yesterday (Feb. 3, 2011). At 6 am, I skyped my siblings in Singapore (13 hours ahead) who were finishing off the traditional family reunion dinner. My sister teased me by showing me and quizzing me if I could still recognize the Chinese dishes my mom cooked. I identified them all – from bamboo shoots to sea cucumbers (it’s NOT a vegetable)! It is times like this that I feel nostalgic and homesick. I miss my mom and her cooking, and I miss my siblings. It’s the price I pay for choosing to live half way round the world from them. But I don’t regret my choice. Nevertheless, at times like this, I miss them.
At times like this, I also inevitably reflect on my identity. Identity is such a complex issue. “Who am I?” is a question that I have wrestled with for a long time. Last month, I told that to a classroom of primarily Diaspora ethnic immigrant church leaders when I guest lectured at a Seminary in Toronto, Canada for a cross-cultural communication course. I was asked to speak on the complexities of identity and culture especially in relation to the Christian faith. I approached the subject from a biographical perspective, telling my own story of identity struggles in relation to my culture(s) and how my Westernized Christian faith actually complicated matters.