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.

Twelve Days of Christmas Potpourri

December 25. On the first day of Christmas…

NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with theologian Eboni Marshall-Turman of Yale Divinity School about the message of Christmas this year.

Click to hear podcast

December 26. On the second day of Christmas…

Michael Gerson declares that the Defiant Hope of Christmas is “God is With Us.”

“In enforced isolation and loneliness, God is with us. In chronic pain and degenerative disease, God is with us. In a shattered relationship or a cancer diagnosis, God is with us. In an intensive care unit or a mental ward, God is with us. In life and in death, God will not leave us or forsake us.”

December 27. On the third day of Christmas…

Peter Wehner (NY Times) writes about “The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ.”
“First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly inclusive figure he was, and what was true then is still true today. We want to tame and domesticate who he was, but Jesus’ life and ministry don’t really allow for it. He shattered barrier after barrier.”

December 28. On the fourth day of Christmas…

Rev. Jim Wallis speaks with Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil about her latest book, Becoming Brave. McNeil shares how to find the courage to pursue racial justice now and her leadership in the church during the Black Lives Matter movement.

Click to play podcast

December 29. On the fifth day of Christmas…

The Bible Project podcast begins a new series about “God’s Global Family.”
Jesus unites his followers across cultural and ethnic lines as members of his global family. But that doesn’t mean cultural differences disappear. In fact, Jesus resurrects and glorifies what is unique and beautiful about every culture. In this episode, listen in as Tim and Jon discuss what it means to be part of the family of God.

Click to hear podcast

December 30. On the sixth day of Christmas…

The Reclaim Podcast talks to Jeff Liou about “Justice and Critical Race Theory.” Other critically important Asian American Christian voices such Russell Jeung, Sam George, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Nancy Yuen, Jenny Yang, and yours truly have been interviewed – more to come!

Click to hear podcast

December 31. On the seventh day of Christmas…

Let us conclude the year and consider the implications of Mary’s “Yes” to God. What might Mary have pondered now that her child has been born? Here is Debie Thomas’ Advent meditation for the National Cathedral in Washington. (Brought to my attention by Bill Newsome, is the Vincent V.C. Woo Director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute and Harman Family Provostial Professor at Stanford University.)

January 1. On the eighth day of Christmas…

Which is also the first day of the new year! Isn’t it remarkable how the Christian calendar acknowledges but doesn’t treat New Year’s Day with all that much respect? I present a historical perspective on revival that suggests that we need focus on renewal, not restoration.

Click to view my blog post

January 2. On the ninth day of Christmas…

Check out these “Square Inch Stories” from Katie Antilla and Nathan Wei! Be sure to view the other SIS from Grad students in the GFM Pacific Area on the GFM Pacific YouTube Channel.

Katie Antilla’s Square Inch Story at https://youtu.be/XXB9AAVp8Vs
Nathan Wei’s Square Inch Story at https://youtu.be/pTWpAYL0-24

January 3. On the tenth day of Christmas…

Podcast: “Not a ‘White Man’s Religion’: Church History and Biblical Thought” (with Vince Bantu).

Western Christians tend to emphasize Western church history and culture at the expense of the global church. Many have cursory understanding of the Greek Orthodox tradition, but know little about early Christianity in Asia and Africa. This ignorance of church history leads to more than just historical inaccuracy; it can alienate those of other nationalities and ethnicities with a false portrayal of Christianity as a European- or white-only religion.

In this episode, Dr. Dru Johnson interviews Dr. Vince Bantu of Fuller Seminary about global church history. They give special attention to the origins and spread of Christianity in Egypt, Nubia, and the broader African continent. Along the way, they highlight Western misunderstandings of non-Western Christology and the issue of racism in the ancient world. By expanding our perspective beyond our own historical and cultural tradition, Western Christians can improve our ability to truly preach the gospel to all nations.

Click to hear podcast

January 4. On the eleventh day of Christmas…

Colton Bernasol’s “Between Plainfield and Barrio Three Theological Reflections on Home and Belonging” in Inheritance Magazine.

Click to view

January 5. On the twelfth day of Christmas…

And last, but definitely not least – let us resolve to follow Jesus’ way in the new year! Here is Dion Forster‘s inspiring devotional “On the Politics of Overcoming Evil.”

Dion Forster’s “On the Politics of Overcoming Evil

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…

Asian Americans Documentary – initial thoughts

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I’ve eagerly anticipated the new Asian Americans documentary that aired on PBS the last two days. I viewed the previews and promoted it heavily among my friends. And I was not disappointed.

Asian Americans is a five hour patchwork of intriguing personal and family stories woven into a long, complex and rich history. Under the shadow of white supremacy in U.S. history, various Asian Americans have struggled to survive, fought for civil rights, and refused to be silenced. The documentary’s dominant meta-narrative is that of heroic Asian Americans who battled racial exclusion and marginalization to prove that they are Americans. Thus, resilient victims, vocal social activists, conscientious political leaders, achievers and celebrities who reflected on their Asian American identities were the given the most attention in this documentary.

One of the participants in a post-air watch party wondered who this documentary’s audience was. Many thought that it was primarily for Asian Americans and questioned whether non-Asians American would be much interested. I agreed that Asian Americans would be most interested in the documentary. It resonated with me and many of my friends who can identify with the experience of being marginalized and silenced. There were many cathartic moments in the documentary that left me in tears: the devastating impact of the World War II concentration camps on one Japanese American family, the trauma of the Southeast Asian refugee experience, or the all-too familiar images of Vincent Chin’s grieving mom. Indeed, the recent surge of anti-Asian racist incidents in the wake of COVID-19 is a visceral reminder that anti-Asian sentiment, despite recent Asian American progress, lie just beneath the surface, waiting to be sparked. So, yes, this documentary is an important reminder to Asian Americans that despite our “breakthrough” (the title of the final episode), the hard fought victories of the past can be easily snatched away.

But the documentary was also for a mainstream American audience. This is not just our story, but an American story. Rather, a revision of the American story that centers the narrative on a racialized people. Those who despise multiculturalism or bemoan the deletion of Western Civilization in the curriculum cannot escape the truth of the whole story of America. This is a truth that I’ve engaged in my scholarship. This is the truth of “The 1619 Project” that the New York Times featured last August to commemorate the 400 anniversary of slavery in the U.S. Namely, that the United States was build on the backs of people of color. Or more generously, America was built by people of color.

I spent much of my adult life trying to persuade Asian American Christians that this truth needed to be part of our theology and ministry. As long as American Christianity is complicit with perpetuating a narrative that centers on Euro-American heroism and leadership, we’ll never see how truly global Christianity has become. For example, Douglas Jacobsen notes that

When the twentieth century began, Christianity was still a predominantly European faith. Today, two-thirds of the world’s Christians live in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. No other religion has ever experienced so much change in such a short period of time. Global Gospel (2015), p. xv

But, in the end, despite its efforts to speak a broader truth to mainstream Americans, Asian Americans is still quintessentially patriotic and doesn’t question the American dream all that much. I appreciate the nuanced and honest snippets that appear occasionally (e.g., the mystery of Buddy Uno, the Korean and Black conflict just prior to the 1991 Los Angeles uprising, the huge economic divide among Asian Americans in Silicon Valley, etc.). But the core values of equality, inclusivity, and opportunity drives the documentary. As one of the interviewees noted, “Asian American can become whatever they want to be.”

The one major shortcoming that I see in the documentary may be self-serving, but I think it is important. Religion is virtually no where to be found. Sure, Alex Koh talks about going to church in Koreatown before the 1991 L.A. uprising. Erika Lee nonchalantly equated being Christian with trying to quietly fit in to America during the 1950s. But the omission of religion, something that would be unthinkable in documentaries of African Americans and Latinx, continues despite more than twenty years of rich scholarship about Asian Americans and religion. The most obvious erasure, in my opinion, can be found in the discussion about Joseph and Mary Tape’s fight against the exclusion of their daughter from San Francisco’s public school in the 19th century. We are shown their protest letter that was published in a local newspaper. While the letter explicitly appeals to Christian values as a reason to include their daughter, that part was completely ignored.

Asian American studies is no longer as dogmatically anti-religion (though there continues to be a feeling that ethnic studies is hostile to Christianity, largely due to its association with Western colonialism. See Robert Chao Romero, “Towards a Perspective of the Christian-Ethnic Studies Borderlands and Critical Race Theory in Christianity,” Christianity Next (Winter 2017), pp. 45-66). Since the publication of the 1999 issue of AmerAsia Journal that was dedicated to religion, a generation of scholarship have highlighted the richness and nuances of AAPI religion. I wonder if any of the scholars who participate in Asian North American Religion and Cultural Studies group (ANARCS) at the American Academy of Religion or the Asian Pacific American Religious Research Initiative (APARRI) were consulted in the making of the documentary? If they were, the producers would have had to contend with Josh Padison’s important point:

religion was central to the formations of race and citizenship in the post-Civil War United States…Most studies emphasize economics in the development of race…Though the strength of such economic forces is undeniable, attention to the public and private discourses of the nineteenth century – the way in which Americans talked, wrote, and thought – shows the powerful ways religion shaped the day-to-day expression of those forces. — American Heathen: Religion, Race, and Reconstruction in California (2012), page 4

But, by erasing religion, intentionally or not, a very big part of the AAPI story is missing. Recent studies have revealed how religion (in particular, Christian faith) has provided inspiration, philosophical grounding, and the moral impetus for much of AAPI social activism. Religious institutions and facilities were often centers for assembling workers and gathering places for communities to organize. Religious leaders – Asian, white, Black, and Latino – joined, and in some instances, led campaigns for civil rights, Native Hawaiian resistance, immigration reform, and Japanese American internment camp redress.

Despite this critique, Asian Americans, is, to me, a remarkable achievement. We are witnessing a new generation of AAPI scholars, community leaders, artists, and workers who can build the United States of the future, a nation that will, hopefully, be more true its democratic vision. I especially pray for a new generation of AAPI Christians who will not only contribute to the common good, but, through their witness, also be the conscience of the nation.

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.

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