How do we empower Asian Americans to do acts of justice in the name of Jesus in this country and abroad?
This issue was brought to my mind when I was sitting down with a pastor who was wondering why Chinese Americans are not involved in issues of inner-city justice issues, and not being moved by literature about justice from others like Tim Keller, Julie Clawson, Gary Haugen, etc…
He proposed that Asian Americans were ignorant of the biblical mandate for carrying out justice. I thought differently. I propose that we identify less with the white people calling for issues of justice, and more with the people who are in need of justice.
That sounds bold–let me unpack that.
The truth is, no matter how you roll the dice, minority groups living in America (such as Asians, African Americans, Latinos, etc.. (basically anyone not White)) have a significant disadvantage for success growing up in the States.
When we read the Bible and when it talks about issues of justice, I wonder if we identify more with the people who are responsible for giving justice, or the people who are needing to receive it ourselves as underprivileged citizens in this country. Unlike the White people who are writing these books and who identify with the people in power in the scriptures, we are not in the position of power.
The narrative that we as Asian Americans have lived in this country is different than the White demographic who we are trying so hard to imitate. This difference of narrative informs the way we read the Bible. Is it a coincidence that Black people in our country identify strongly with the Israelites coming out of slavery in Egypt on the way to the promised land?
As to how you can empower Asian Americans for issues of justice, we must understand this: You can’t go to where you want to go without knowing where you are coming from. Here’s what I mean:
I put a “??????” there because I don’t think we’ve embraced our story living in this country. We are the model minority because we’ve conformed to the people in power, but in the process, we forgot where we are coming from. And without an embrace of our story, we can’t go to where we need to go.
What stories as Asian Americans do we need to embrace in order for us to receive God’s healing? Personal racism? Disempowering stereotypes? Negative social stigma? Financial and political oppression? Violence and bullying? Coming from a war context?
We will be people who carry out acts of justice when admit that we are not White and we are Asian American. And we will do so when we embrace the ways that we’ve been dealt injustice, and like Jesus, overcome those by the love of God and become people who no longer need justice, but give it freely from an gracious God.
After all, God can only heal what is broken. God can only fix what we recognize as wrong.
That sums up what I think about when I think about empowering Asian Americans to run hard after God and to serve in his kingdom. Unfortunately, in churches which have predominant Asian American representation, there’s a disconnect in recognizing the importance of where “we are coming from.”
And if we want to empower Asian Americans to be powerful workers of justice in this nation and abroad, we need them to embrace their own senses of injustice, receive healing from God, and then carry out God’s mandates for their lives.