Happy Lunar New Year! Hope > Anxiety

Dear ministry partners,

I want to wish you a Happy Lunar New Year, even though it feels more somber this year. Despite the recent rash of violence against Asian Americans (which has continued unabated since the start of the pandemic in the U.S.), I will still celebrate with millions of people around the world. Despite the suffering of so many, let us not give up hope. Jesus Christ remains our reason for hope.


In San Francisco, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee died January 30th after getting shoved to the ground. Also, on Oakland, a 91-year-old was brutally pushed from behind. And in San Jose, a 64-year-old woman was robbed in the middle of the afternoon. [image from https://www.instagram.com/jdschang/%5D

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Generations of Americans have been taught to see Asian Americans (if we are seen at all) as outsiders and foreigners. Consider this testimony by Rev. O.C. Wheeler (who is regarded as a founding father of California Baptists). His public testimony against Chinese immigrants helped lead to the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Here are some quotes:

the presence of the Chinese has a resistless tendency to degrade labor…, to pollute morals, to destroy virtue among our people. (p. 14)

…under the most favorable circumstances, they fail to show the first step toward assimilation, or the least desire to become Americans. (p. 16)

for every one Christian we have gained from their ranks, they have utterly ruined the morals and led into infamous ways fifty of our sons and daughters. (p. 24)

These perceptions were burned into the American psyche and provided the excuse to treat Asian Americans as unfeeling, less-than-human objects – playthings for bullies. Thus, even our elderly are beaten up because they are easy targets. So, no, mocking Chinese accents and making jokes like “Kung Flu” are not harmless.

Despite anti-Asian racism, hope never fades when we can look to Jesus and follow him. God is raising up a new generation of disciples among college and grad students and faculty. InterVarsity’s campus ministry staff is the vanguard of a new evangelicalism that will not bow to the Baal of Christian nationalism. This rising generation is seeking, praying, and working for a spiritual renewal that points to God’s kingdom of right relationships and shalom.

This is one of the reasons why your support of my ministry with InterVarsity is so important. Yes, we invite people on campuses into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But we also want to bear witness to the healing that Jesus’ kingdom offers to the brokenness in our congregations and society.

(Keep scrolling down to see the recent work that we’re doing to advance the cause of Christ. I’d love to hear back from you!)

And so, because our hope is in Jesus, I can wish you a very Happy Lunar New Year! Please let me know how you are doing and how I can pray for you!


Ministry Highlights

Telling stories of Asian American Christianity

I wrote a series articles on the history of Chinese American Christianity the last issue of Chinasource Quarterly. View at this link.

Dr. Jane Hong and I will co-host a podcast series on the history of Asian American Christianity for Centering, the podcast of Fuller Seminary’s Asian American Center. It will air next week!

Virtual Winter Conference

Thirty-four grad students joined our first ever Pacific Area virtual Winter Conference last weekend. We were blessed with inspiring messages about living out the gospel in a changing world! Thank you for your prayers during a difficult pandemic challenged academic year. Please pray for our chapters as they seek new leaders for the next academic year.

Race, Justice, and Immigration

The next In Search of Shalom session is Sunday, February 21 at 4:00 pm PST! ISOS is a multi-month book discussion series allowing for examination of racial justice from a Christian perspective in a variety of realms. Join us on February 21st as we discuss the topic of Race, Justice, and Immigration. For details and to register to take part in this conversation go to this link!

Christian Faculty Conference

Please join us Friday evening March 12th and Saturday morning March 13th for the Northern California Christian Faculty and Staff Conference, co-sponsored by InterVarsity and Faculty Commons! We welcome participants throughout the Western states and Hawai’i to join us, so please invite your colleagues who are outside of Northern California. This conference is hosted by GFM Pacific, Cru’s Faculty Commons, and IV Pacific Region. Click below for details.

For more information and to sign up, go to this link.

Matching Grant Success!

Thanks to the 15 new partners whose pledges allowed me to get a matching grant! Each new partner pledged at least $75 a month for 2021 for the 15/75/21 campaign. This grant will help defray an anticipated loss in financial support and free me up to devote more time to ministry. New partners are still sought, so please consider making a pledge or donation at https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#21447.

Pandemic Podcasts: What I listened to in 2020

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

December 7, 2020

If not for the pandemic, I probably would not have listened to very many podcasts. But our dog needed to be walked and I needed something to do while walking her. Good podcasts offer short and simpler ways to introduce myself to topics and issues that would take more time to research on my own. I don’t really use my blog to journal or share about stuff I do, so this is an unusual entry. Anyway, here are my favorite pandemic podcasts of 2020:

The Christian-oriented podcasts

The Bible Project has already developed quite a following because of their smartly packaged animated videos that offer academically solid interpretations of biblical texts and themes. But the podcast drills deep into the socio-historical contexts surrounding Scripture while making Jesus the center of their unifying interpretation of the Bible. Consciousness of the socio-historical contexts surrounding the Bible and its reader not only offers richer explorations of Scripture, but also helps us avoid bringing our cultural baggage unconsciously into our reading and interpretation of the Bible. Over 220 episodes have already been produced! I think the current series on the Family of God will be especially relevant today’s conversations about social justice and human responsibility.

The Inverse Podcast unpacks how Christian leaders and scholars read and are empowered by Scripture even though they acknowledge that the Bible has been used to justify hatred and oppression. The podcast’s mission is to rescue the “good” news from an abusive use of the Bible and retrieve God’s good and just vision in it. Hosts Jarrod McKenna and Drew Hart provide delightful interviews, though the conversations sometimes wander. But if you have time for 90 minutes per episode, it will feel like sitting in conversations with some of the most interesting and exciting voices in the Christian church today.

I’ve also enjoyed Karen Marsh’s Vintage Sinners and Saints podcast based on her book by the same title. In it, she discusses how historical figures in Christian history can model discipleship for us today. These “saints” include well-established personas such as Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, Julian of Norwich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as those not yet included in the saintly pantheon such as Juana Ines De La Cruz, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Howard Thurman, and Mary Paik Lee. Guest commentators join her to reflect further on the significance of these imperfect saints. While it is true that every disciple of Jesus abides by the light of Scripture, no one can understand the Bible by herself. We can all benefit from the guidance of our fore-bearers, as flawed as they might have been, for there is a rich store of wisdom in that great cloud of witnesses. By the way, Karen Marsh leads Theological Horizons a community that supports Christians and seekers in academia to engage faith, thought and life. TH is based in Charlotteville, Virginia.

Church Politics Podcast of the (&) campaign. 2020 was a year that many Christians were deeply divided and confused about their place in American society and role in politics. Led by Justin Giboney, the (&) campaign seeks to speak truth with compassion (&) conviction. Tying together social justice and values-based issues, their largely African-American thought leaders are trying to raise a new generation of urban Christians who will address today’s dilemmas with courage, kindness and an unshakeable faith – for the common good. They haven’t produced that many episodes yet, but I’ve appreciated their efforts to embrace and critique both progressive (social justice) and  conservative (values) agendas. 

Asian American Christian Podcasts

There are several other Facebook groups and YouTube channels that provide platforms for scholars of Asian American Christianity to share their research, but the following two podcasts are helpful for lay leaders and Church leaders (practitioners).

Centering: The Asian American Christian Podcast of the Asian American Center at Fuller Theological Seminary. This podcast provides devotionals, conversations about the Christian life, church and theology, and other topics that focus on Asian American Christians.

Asian American Christian Collaborative Reclaim Podcast focuses on Asian American Christian perspectives on social justice. AACC started as a Christian response to Anti-Asian discrimination in the wake of COVID-19 and has grown into a resource for social engagement and public witness.

The NPR Podcasts

As a historian, I know that perfect objectivity is impossible to achieve. But truth is not completely subjective or partisan despite what we’ve witnessed recently in the political arena. Because of their commitment to high standards of journalistic objectivity and integrity, I choose to get most of my news and information from NPR. Their podcasts are very engaging! I’ve enjoyed “Hidden Brain,” “Car Talk” and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! But in 2020, “Throughline” and “Code Switch” grabbed most of my attention. Here are some of my favorite episodes:

The Invention of Race” (Througline, Nov. 20, 2020). A fascinating conversation with Charles King, author of Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century (which I’m currently reading). It tells the story of Frank Boaz (the focus of the podcast) and three of his women protege who upended American notions about race and gender in the 1920s and 1930s. Boaz’s research helped undermine the false scientific views about race at the time. As a result, eugenics was eventually de-legitimized and cultural relativism was introduced to academia. Boaz also impacted theology, Christian public policy engagement, and Asian and Asian American Christians – something I plan on writing about.

The Most Sacred Right” (Throughline, October 29, 2020). In the face of slavery, the Civil War and the violence of Jim Crow, Frederick Douglass fought his entire life for what he believed was a sacred, natural right that should be available to all people – the right to vote. This podcast covers Douglass’ life journey.

America’s Caste System” (Throughline: August 6, 2020). “Race” is often used as a fundamental way to understand American history. But what if “caste” is the more appropriate lens? It certainly broadens our concept of systemic injustice and structural sin. This podcast examines how “caste” has shaped our country through a conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

The Long, Bloody Strike For Ethnic Studies” (Codeswitch: August 5, 2020). Ethnic studies might not even exist if it weren’t for some students at San Francisco State University. Fifty years ago, they went on strike – and while their bloody, bitter standoff has been largely forgotten, it forever changed higher education in the United States. It also launched the Asian American Studies movement.

Claim Us If You’re Famous” (Codeswitch: November 10, 2020). I always wondered why so little attention was given to Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ South Asian identity. This episode opens up that conversation. “We get into a lot of messy territory, like what her political prominence might help illuminate (or obscure) about South Asian political identity, how multiracial people are perceived, and how Blackness intersects with all of those things.”

A Treaty Right For Cherokee Representation” (Codeswitch: October 7, 2020). In elementary school, one of my classmates called me an “Indian giver” because I changed my mind after giving him a fancy pencil. He made me angry (I don’t remember why), so I wanted it back. Well, this episode explains where that term originated. Back in 1835, during the Andrew Jackson administration, the Treaty of New Echota granted the Cherokee Nation a delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. But it’s also the same treaty that led directly to the Trail of Tears, and the death of an estimated 4,000 Cherokee.

Podcasts about Evangelicalism and Conservative Politics

The Evangelical Vote” (Throughline rebroadcast: September 24, 2020). How and when did white evangelicals become so intertwined with today’s political issues, especially abortion? What does it mean to be a white evangelical today and how has that changed over time?

The White Elephants In The Room” (Codeswitch: November 18, 2020). While their numbers have dwindled from 21 to 15% of the U.S. population, white evangelicals are a force to be reckoned with in politics, says Robert P. Jones, the author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity and the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. They make up a little over a third of Republicans, Jones says, and have an outsized impact on elections, making up about a quarter of voters. That’s right—15% of Americans account for around 25% of those who turn out to vote. A conversation with Jones about the power of this voting bloc, and what that means for the national discussion around race in this country.

Honorable mentions:

Mobituaries

Finally, there is this non-NPR podcast, Mobituaries, that shares some intriguing stories of people who’ve died. Mo Rocca loves obituaries so he wrote a book and created this podcast, “an irreverent but deeply researched appreciation of the people (and things) of the past who have long intrigued him.“ Here are some episodes worth listening to: 

What have you been listening to? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Battling my imposter syndrome

Over the past three months, I’ve been busy transitioning our Grad and Faculty ministries to on-line platforms in anticipation of a challenging new academic year. But, I’ve also had the privilege to talk and teach about anti-Asian racism and Asian American history and theology.

I’m not comfortable promoting my work or myself. Some may think that the diversity of experiences I’ve had would boost my self-confidence. Actually, the opposite is true. It’s not really humility, either. Since the trauma of leaving theological education and the academic community fifteen years ago, I’ve wrestled with “imposter syndrome” in almost everything I’ve done.

But reconnecting with my academic peers at last year’s American Academy of Religion meeting, being invited to re-engage anti-Asian racism by the Asian American Christian Collaborative and the Alliance of Asian American Baptists, and having a chance to provide a reflection for the Center for Asian American Theology and Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary has renewed me spiritually and intellectually. I still don’t like seeing or hearing myself on video, but what the heck. I need to hear the advice that GFM gives to grad students and young faculty when facing imposter syndrome – trust God because he has placed us in these stations of life for a bigger purpose. And, for me, the larger purpose is giving voice to Asian Americans and reforming Christianity to face its global and multi-racial future. So, here is a little bit of my passion…

I. Having my academic work mentioned as recommended summer reading!

I’m grateful that some of my academic publications were referred to by Dr. Jane Hong in Melissa Borja’s blog, “Asian Americans and American Religion: Recommendations for Your Summer Reading and Fall Syllabi.” The field of Asian American religion has really expanded since I was active in it. I’ve been focused on a history and theology of Chinese American Christianity project, but working with Grad and Faculty Ministries has justified re-entering the wider field.

II. Giving a video devotional for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Fuller Theological Seminary’s Asian American Center invited me to give a reflection on Panethnicity and the Bible for their Centered Blog. Three other scholars also shared their devotionals during AAPI heritage month. Please have a look at the blog!

Panethnicity and the Bible

III. Addressing Anti-Asian Racism during the coronavirus pandemic

The Alliance of Asian American Baptists invited me and Katharine Hsiao to discuss racism against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rev. Florence Li, National Coordinator of Asian Ministries at American Baptist Home Mission Societies hosted the conversation. Katharine discusses how Asian American Baptists are responding to reports of anti-Asian racism. I provided a historical overview about how anti-Asian attitudes and ideas permeated American society. Something that I hope to share more is about how Christians have been complicit with racism and how some Christians have also fought against racism. Each generation of believers have a choice to make.

Rev. Florence Li interview about anti-Asian racism during COVID-19

Here is a short interview with Kwok Pui Lan on “Why I signed the AACC Statement” for the Asian American Christian Collaborative. It was hastily organized, but I was blessed to re-connect with one of the leading Asian theologians of our generation!

A conversation with Dr. Kwok Pui Lan

I also was on a panel at U.C. Diego’s Asian American InterVarsity chapter with Jenn Louie (InterVarsity’s California Central Valley Area Director). We discussed the effects of Anti-Asian sentiment and some practical ways to respond to it. Thanks, Zach Wong, for inviting me!

We now resume regularly scheduled programming…

Russell M. Jeung, Ministry Partner

May 11, 2020
Russell JeungOne of my ministry partners, Dr. Russell Jeung, has been very busy lately. As the media covers reports of increased anti-Asian attacks in the wake of the corona virus, Russell has become one of the most interviewed and quoted experts. He is the Chair of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State and since March, his team has been tracking reports of these incidences.
     It’s no secret that Russell is also a committed Christian who devotes as much time to his church community as he does to his scholarship and social activism. In fact, he is a living example of a Jesus follower who brings every square inch of his life under the Kingdom of Christ.
     Two years ago, Russell led a workshop at InterVarsity’s NorCal Faculty/Staff Conference. This year, he donated to the same conference a bunch of granola bars made by Beautiful Day (beautifuldayri.org), a refugee agency based in Rhode Island. When the conference was cancelled because of the COVID-19, he diverted them to City of Oakland’s Turning Point Community, a response to homelessness.
     Russell is one of the leading sociologists of Asian American religion in the United States. His most recent work is Family Sacrifices: The Worldviews and Ethics of Chinese Americans (2019) which he co-authored with Seanan Fong and Helen Jin Kim.
Family SacrificesA large part of our friendship have been as colleagues in academia. In the late 1990s, Russell was a part of a cohort of doctoral students who started the Asian American religious studies network. Unlike the previous generation of Asian American theologians who are based in mainline Protestant seminaries (see Jonathan Tan’s Introducing Asian American Theologies (2008), this network was based in university religious studies departments. Russell’s dissertation was published as Faithful Generations: Race and the New Asian American Churches (2005). Because Russell and I both lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was easy to connect and talk about our mutual scholarly interests, such as the intersection between Asian American studies and religion (and Christian faith, in particular). When I no longer had an academic platform, I’ll always be grateful for his willingness to remain connected. Our mutual concern for Asian American churches and ministry made it easier to stay in touch.faithful-generations-cover
     Indeed, Russell’s involvement with the ministry of community organizing was how I first met him. In the mid-1990s, while I was on faculty at Denver Seminary, I helped start Christians Supporting Community Organizing (CSCO), a group that encouraged Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Holiness churches to join faith-based community organizing groups (though CSCO no longer exists, its website of resources is still available at http://www.cscoweb.org). At the time, Russell was part of At Home in Exile Coverteam that organized impoverished Southeast Asian refugees in East Oakland. Russell’s commitment to biblical social justice and empowerment of the poor has always inspired me. He turned down an offer to a stable faculty position on the East Coast in order to remain with his community in East Oakland (this was before he went to San Francisco State). Fortunately, Russell has shared his story in At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus Among My Ancestors and Refugee Neighbors (2016). I encourage you read it!
     I’m grateful for his support for my ministry with InterVarsity, but even more thankful for over twenty-five years of friendship and collaboration. I look forward to many more years of Russell’s leadership in academia, social justice activism, and Christian ministry!

2019 NCFSC 22 Russell Jeung

Russell Jeung leads “Navigating As a Person of Faith in a Secular, Anti-Colonialist Academic Settings” workshop.

Angel Island: Congregational Ministry and Advocacy (1910-1940)

AngelIsland-Mission works

Thank you, Ben Lee for the digital version of this important document about Christian communities that served and advocated for the detainees of Angel Island. The book was organized by Deborah Lee and Craig Wong in 2010. Ben is a docent at Angel Island and Oakland Museum – and a member of San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church. Ben’s website contains additional information.

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