I should be grateful. I should feel better about this.
I should take the higher road. I should forgive. Do I even know how I feel about this? Do I even know how this makes me feel to figure out what I need to forgive or get over? I still can’t figure out what I’m completely feeling. Nauseous. I feel nauseous.
Why does this whole thing make me feel funny?
I was at Mosaix 2013 TODAY (or yesterday by the time I hit “finish” on this post) when this video was presented by Ed Stetzer, the Irish American guy who just shared with us that he used to work for the English ministry of a Chinese church. I remember this detail, because though he didn’t allude to it, I thought it kind of had a nice ring of reconciliation, considering how awful the Irish were to the Chinese 100 or so years ago in this country—not that that is common knowledge. I’d be surprised if he knew something like that. Anyway, after his blitz of a talk, unlike the other speakers, he stayed on stage, and then told us why. Because he had a special treat for us. Or something like that. (This account is from memory.)
On the small screen appeared a video from of this man in a tan suit, the president of Lifeway ministries. He reads this scripted text apologizing for something done 9 years ago, for “Rickshaw Rally,” Lifeway’s Vacation Bible School curriculum that stereotyped Asians. He was reminded of it because the whole Rick Warren thing.
[Sigh. The Rick Warren thing—the shrug-able Red Guard picture he posted, his flippant and scathing response (can’t you take a joke? something about pharisees being self righteous) that was offensive because he simply was uncurious as to why he offended, and of course, the non-apology. But back to this Lifeway guy]
He talks about his staff continuing to strive for sensitivity and all that, though he doesn’t think they did something (I can’t remember what it was—-I just remember feeling funny that he had to make a point about not owning all of it). He then says something else that about Lifeway, and then at the very end, he says “Thanks” or “Thank you.”
Thanks for what? For his time? For our time? I thought this was an apology.
I was so confused. “What was that?” Why was this not done in person? Why an impersonal video? Why not say it in person and directly to some Asian American Christians? Where is the opportunity to receive the apology? To accept the apology? Why are we not on stage either?
And why here at Mosaix—where I see I dunno, 10% or less of us? Why not a conference with more Asian Americans?
As I was wondering things things and either immediately or a short time after Mark (the head Mosaix guy) went on stage, shoulders hunched to say that, well, simply that he didn’t know what to say. God has been with us, and he is humbled. He said something to that effect, but honestly, I didn’t feel it.
Later during the workshops, I realized that Soong Chan Rah was here at Mosaix. Eugene Lee too! Both these guys did some serious LABOR pointing out the racist VBS curriculum, bridging the gap between white folks and Asians (okay, some Asians). Both these guys walked into the fire and faced quite a bit of nastiness on all sides.
Is this why they chose Mosaix for an apology? Alas, I left before Soong Chan spoke.
Whatever. This was a weird conference. One that brought up all sorts of feelings I don’t know what to do with—but that is another post. I talked with some folk, and then decided I was done.
Fast forward, 9 hours. I’m checking email after being gone from since the morning. I quickly glance at Twitter and well—here it is all over my feed: Lifeway’s apology on Twitter and FB. An Asian American Christian tweeted that this apology was powerful. Really? That is so…not what I thought….
Did I miss something? Did Soon Chan say something I missed?
Here is the Religion News Service’s story: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/11/06/lifeway-president-apologizes-decade-old-rickshaw-rally-offended-asian-american-christians/ Sarah Pulllam Bailey’s the writer again—she reported on Exponential and also on the Rick Warren thing.
And Soong Chang did say something. Well in the article:
“I’m really moved that LifeWay would go to these lengths to do this,” said Soong-Chan Rah, a professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago who has written and spoken on racial issues in evangelicalism. “It’s not something they had to do since many people will see it as something that happened so long ago.”
Rah said it was significant that LifeWay hasn’t swept the issue under the rug.
“There’s prophetic wisdom and courage in apologizing,” he said. “Once confession, repentance and forgiveness occurs, we’re able to have a conversation on a deeper level.”
Oh good. I’m glad he commented, because of all people—I’d want him to feel like it was an apology.
So too does DJ Chuang, the everywhere Asian American and Evangelical Conference blogger comments.
The handful of people I talked with, Asians and non-Asians, received it well, and appreciated the notable and extra effort by Lifeway to model reconciliation, fits the conference theme of being a multiethnic church and the extra effort it requires,” said DJ Chuang, who is attending and tweeting about the conference.
Uh, okay. I talked to some folks too afterwards, Asians and non-Asians, and it didn’t even come up in conversation.
And here is Helen Lee’s response. It humbles me.
“What Rainer and Lifeway have done by acknowledging the error publicly, even nine years later, is to demonstrate that it is never too late to do the right thing and to pursue reconciliation,” she said.
Still, I am wondering, how did this article get out so fast? Were these people pre-contacted? Google says this article was posted 10 hours ago…and this video apology was only run, roughly uh, 14 hours ago this morning. Helen Lee as far as I could tell though wasn’t at Mosaix.
Why—though still do I feel like this is not a full apology? Why does this feel…uh..manufactured? Opportunistic? I don’t know? Is Lifeway really interested in getting to know Asian Americans? Loving Asian Americans?
I just watched the video again—and boy, did it take some googling. Lifeway graciously posted it 17 hours ago. Way, way way better sound and picture quality. And okay, this guy looks sincere. I can buy that this guy is sincere.
My lenses! My lenses! How colored are my lenses, my perspectives, my experience? I know I too am not immune to experiencing things in which I’m already primed…
Mosaix was a weird conference. Great because of some of the people I met, some of the things I saw. And disturbing because of some of the people I met, and some of the things I saw. The extremes were really extreme.
It’s been a while since I’ve felt invisible, or perhaps worse, a number, a yes-person. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt a spark rekindled, deep inside me.
Lord have mercy.