Mike Foster

Deadly Viper: It’s not courageous to say you weren’t offended

It’s taken me awhile to finally write a blog post (not that people will read this, haha). I’ve been late to the game and I don’t really have much to add. But here are some of my thoughts and I’m sure these have been expressed already on many other blogs. I’ve been hesitant to write about it for some reason. I don’t claim to be right or have the answers. I have my own blind spots in all of this. But these are some of my thought – for what they’re worth.

I’ve been reading various blogs about the whole situation with Deadly Viper. In some ways I have been encouraged and inspired and in other ways I have been angered and disheartened.

What has been encouraging for me is to see Asian American voices being heard in all of this. I was able to hear from voices I hadn’t hear from before. I was able to talk with people about this in a way I hadn’t before. People were willing to share their pain and were not willing to be silent on this. You could see people writing emails to Zondervan to express their dismay at what was taking place. You could see and feel the empowerment of Asian Americans to speak up. I saw glimpses of an American American voice and presence in the larger Christian community. As the larger Asian American Christian voice is still forming and emerging, it was gratifying for me to see other Asian American Christians willing to engage and participate in this vital issue of race and racism in the larger Christian community. I was also encouraged by non-Asian American voices in the Church willing to advocate and speak out on this issue.

I was also inspired by Asian American leaders in the church willing to speak up for those who feel voiceless. It’s not an easy place for these leaders to put themselves out there because they knew there would be a backlash against them. But the courage they showed in their Christ-like advocacy has been inspiring for me and so many others who felt like they didn’t have much power to say anything.

While there have been things that have been encouraging, there has been plenty that has been discouraging, especially the backlash against the Asian American leaders who spoke out and against the Asian American community at large. I guess I shouldn’t surprised. But it’s still disheartening nonetheless. In this age of Obama, things are scary out there.

I’ve been listening to so many Christians, mostly white, but also other Asian Americans, who are basically telling those who have been offended and who have spoken up that “we need to get over it”. Our problem or our sin is that we CHOOSE to be offended. Everything feels so backward. How did the oppressed get turned into the perpetrator? This has brought up all those all too many times in my life when I was told to GET OVER IT! I need to be thick-skinned and if I was offended I just suck it up and move on. I went through a long period of my life with that attitude. How damaging it was for me to keep all my emotions and anger inside. I will not GET OVER IT! I am speaking up not so I can go through my gripes against white people. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with my love for greater Christian community that values Christ-like justice, reconciliation, and inclusion.

Many have commented on the way Professor Soong-Chan Rah handled the situation. He’s already apologized for his part. However, much of his reaction was facilitated by the dismissive response by Mike. Had he responded differently, I think Professor Soong-Chan Rah would have acted differently. Had Soong-Chan Rah not called people to action, I don’t think Mike and Jud or Zondervan would have responded.

I know some who claim to know Mike and Jud have said they were trying honor Asian culture and consulted other Asian Americans. However, I have to ask, who were the Asian Americans around them who were giving them counsel that thought this marketing would be culturally sensitive and honoring to Asian culture and Asian Americans?

What may be the saddest part of this whole deal is how this is looking to nonChristian Asian Americans who already think Christianity is an oppressive force and that the Church glosses over issues of race and justice. What kind of witness are we demonstrating to nonChristian Asian Americans with this backlash and justification of cultural insensitivity to the Asian American community?

I have been taken aback by the arrogance of those who confidently state that they have the theological high ground by quoting the same scriptures that purport to devalue race and ethnicity. It just shows the dominant view in the Church through the lens of individualism and reductionism. Like Soong-Chan Rah’s book states, we are witnessing the Western cultural captivity of the Church. Scripture being used to justify ignorance and cultural insensitivity is extremely dismaying to say the least.

I’ve already seen comments on blogs in which there have been white Christians not just discussing the Deadly Vipers incident but also their gripes against Asian Americans and other people of color. It’s sad that it has deteriorated to that point.

Lastly, I’d like to say that it’s not courageous to say you weren’t offended. I’ve seen some blogs by Asian Americans who have proudly stated that they weren’t offended by the marketing of Deadly Vipers and they even have the audacity to apologize on behalf of the whole Asian American community. The Asian American community is not monolithic and they don’t need to apologize on my behalf. I have no problem with Asian Americans stating that they weren’t offended by the material or they thought Mike and Jud were trying to honor Asian Americans. That’s fine. However, those views have implicitly given license to those white Christians who are angry about this to blame the Asian American community for their feeling of “losing” Deadly Vipers and in some way “losing” power. I’ve seen so many of the white Christians who are angry about this justifying themselves by citing various Asian American bloggers who say they weren’t offended. They are called courageous by these white Christians. I don’t think it’s courageous. I think the ones who have been courageous are those who have spoken out against the cultural insensitivity of the marketing of Deadly Vipers even though they knew there would be a huge backlash by many white and some Asian Americans in the Church.

Soong Chan-Rah, Eugene Cho, Kathy Khang, Ken Fong, and Nikki Toyama-Szeto have stated their desire for Mike and Jud to be restored and for their ministry to continue. I hope Mike and Jud come back and get to continue their ministry that has changed the lives of so many. I think they can do that without being culturally insensitive to Asian Americans in the process. Let’s hope the reconciliation process will continue and that all those involved would continue to rely on God for discernment and that we would move a step forward in the elusive place of racial reconciliation.

I hope the three people who read this post enjoyed reading it. =)