Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Book and Art Highlights

"It looks like they are eating sushi at the last supper!"
I was meeting in the home of my pastor and he corrected me, "They
are eating sushi." We went on to discuss the Japanese artist who
worked with predominantly Christian themes in a traditional folk
art medium. The imagery, the Asian symbols, and MY FOOD
on the table before the Lord and the disciples. Suddenly, I felt connected
to the last supper in a way that my views of "The Last Supper" in
the Art Institute in Chicago never did. The European
masters made the last supper their own by giving the disciples anglo faces,
and putting loaves of bread (instead of matzoh). Here was an Asian artist doing
the same thing...and I was struck again by the power of image and art.

This morning, I opened a book to the silkscreened image:
"Junia mistaken as Junius.' And then I started to cry.

It hit me, so suddenly, the personal nature of the academic debates.
The image showed a woman, with flowing hair, fully feminine, in the fetal
position, locked up in the hollow sculpture of the head of a man.
The image captured the person behind the academic debate for me.
And for the first time, I heard the debate of "Is Junia a man/woman?"
from Junia's perspective. What would it feel like to have someone question
my gender b/c of the things that I accomplished?

Some book recommendations.
"She Has Done a Beautiful Thing for Me"
by Anne C. Kwantes
A collection of bios of Asian Christian women and women working in the Asian context.
Strengthens the historical record of the spiritual legacy of Asian women.

"Remembering the Women"
Women's stories from Scripture for Sundays and Festivals
This is a collection of the scriptures in which a woman plays a role.
It's a very nice, and handy reference as well as being a helpful devotional
guide. There's a very interesting article on gender and the omission of
women's stories in the liturgical readings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

This morning, the phone woke me. "Did you hear the Virginia Tech shooter was Asian?"

The first phone call I received in my office this morning, "Let's pray for Virginia Tech, but
also that there will be no backlash against Asians."

As I read the newsposts, its striking to me. I was searching more facts about what happened,
explanations, analysis. But I also felt a bit nervous about how race would be brought up, and what it would be used to support.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that most of the journalists mentioned that the man from South Korea was a resident alien. It might just be accuracy from a journalistic perspective. But as a man who immigrated to the US in the mid-90s, I wonder what they were trying to say.

I was a bit upset that several of the articles went to the Department of Homeland Security and cited their data as "His point of entry in the US was..." It felt like they were tracking the port of entry for a terrorist--as if "people from this country don't do these types of things." Somehow, I felt like a stranger in my own country. Perhaps I'm being a bit sensitive--but I feel a strange identification with the young man. It's the whole, "What will they think of us (Asians)?" mentality.

The JACL and the Asian American Association of Journalists have highlighted this. Here's a statement from the journalists.

“As coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting continues to unfold, AAJA urges all media to avoid using racial identifiers unless there is a compelling or germane reason. There is no evidence at this early point that the race or ethnicity of the suspected gunman has anything to do with the incident, and to include such mention serves only to unfairly portray an entire people.

“The effect of mentioning race can be powerfully harmful. It can subject people to unfair treatment based simply on skin color and heritage. “

This morning, I'm filled with sadness for this young troubled man. I'm also grieving for the students on the campus who went to bed not knowing that was their last night. I'm grieving for the parents who cannot get the information and answers that they need. And for a campus that is stirred up, cloudy, and soaked in this violence.

But I'm also very sad for Asian American men on the campus. And I wonder what it is that they go through. If I were to walk, for one day, in their shoes, would I be strong enough to absorb what they go through on a daily basis?

Lord, have mercy on us all.

Asian American Women's Workshop

This weekend I went to "Origin of our Dreams" the Asian American Student Conference. Christie Heller de Leon was speaking (with Paul Tokunaga).

In the afternoon, I lead two workshops: one for Asian American women, and another for others ABOUT Asian American women.

The first session we discussed the accessories for life that our families, our campuses, society, and friends give us. In some ways we work hard to acquire the accessories for life that we think we'll need for the future--a specific degree, certain job experience, a significant other that reflects the life we want to grow into.

The second session had a pretty dynamic discussion. The men had a lot of questions to ask--it sounds like there's a lot of mystery and a lot of bites from Asian women. I appreciated the learning posture that so many men brought in. We talked about "what to Asian men do that makes the situation worse" and "How do you affirm Asian women--they get mad when I do, they get mad if I don't."

The thing that struck me is that so often, when we don't know what to do, we don't do anything at all. My exhortation to the guys was, "Try! Go out and get data! Each person is different, and you'll make loads of mistakes. Better to try and make lots of mistakes now, but be able to make educated guesses later."

I think there's a "curse of not-knowing" that paralyzes us from taking risks, especially in our Christian discipleship.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Success and failure after 30

While riding in a car with a few friends, the conversation jumped to every topic. We covered life, landscaping, love...but one comment sticks out.

"Success has nothing to teach a man after 30...."
We were talking about spiritual formation theory. My friend, Henry, a man in his 40s shared about some of the lessons and choices he was making. We talked about ascending and descending and spiritual journeys. And then this comment about success came out.

I've been thinking about it a lot and wondering what it means. Intuitively, it makes a lot of sense. But what does it reveal about the formation of non-whites or women? For Asian American women, for female Christians, is it success or failure, or stagnation that God uses to speak and shape us in this middle season?

I wondered about success and its connection to self-doubt. Tracey covers self-doubt well in her chapter on leadership. I continue to be surprised at the prevalance of self-doubt among many women leaders. How does God work with us in our self-doubt, and what does he use to shape us into people who understand the power of God? Is a ministry success part of understanding, for women, God's it connected to the self-doubt that most women leaders experience. Or is it something else?