Praying the Lord’s Prayer

John Stott:

To pray [the Lord’s Prayer] with sincerity … has revolutionary implications. Our priority becomes no longer the advancement of our own little name, kingdom, and will, but of God’s. Whether we can pray these petitions with integrity is a searching test of the reality and depth of our Christian profession.

(Through the Bible Through the Year)

The Conclusion of Deadly Viper

The Deadly Viper site is down and Zondervan, the publishers, issued the following letter:

November 19, 2009

Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About "Deadly Viper: Character Assassins"

From Moe Girkins, President and CEO

Hello and thanks for your patience.

On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins. It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.

There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.

We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.

It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.

Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.

Warmly,

Moe

Wow … thanks to Zondervan and the authors for their humility and graciousness as well as their apology, and also to Soong-Chan Rah, Eugene Cho, Ken Fong and Kathy Khang for their advocacy and eloquence in representation. Way to go, Church! (Although, reading some of the comments on those blogs, I’m struck by how much more work needs to happen within the Church …)

Check out more coverage–actually, a lot of it’s the same–on the aforementioned’s blogs, as well as on Angry Asian Man.

Christians being all racially insensitive

Brought to light recently by Angry Asian Man.

A couple years ago, Christian publisher Zondervan released a book about radical integrity, character, grace and leadership. The blurb reads:

Integrity is under attack. Character assassins are on the prowl, seeking to ambush people at their points of vulnerability — in their homes, in their churches, in their relationships. Shredded reputations litter the landscape, ruined by just one or two bad choices.

But everyday leaders, from mothers and fathers to preachers and teachers, can fight back and win. This book equips them with comprehensive, no-nonsense self-defense training to protect their most priceless possession: their character. Working in tandem, this book and DVD curriculum initiate a growing movement of men and women who want to finish strong and live with no regrets.

No psychobabble or clinical discussions — just straight talk from two guys who know the opponents and what it takes to beat them. This book will help untarnished leaders stay untarnished and will show the way out for those mired in the ugly consequences of bad decisions.

Through honest, eye-opening reading and eight interactive small group DVD sessions, this book helps cultivate lifestyles of radical integrity and radical grace.

Character. Integrity. Grace. Leadership.

All necessary components of a living and vibrant faith. And from the DVD clips, it looks like Mike and Jud took an approach to the subject that was honest and insightful.

The problem?

The packaging, the marketing, the form in which the content is presented, is SO racially insensitive I don’t even know what to say. (So you can follow the comment conversations here at Deadly Viper, as well as on Sojourners board member Prof. Soong-Chan Rah’s blog.)

Here’s Prof. Rah’s open letter to authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, and publishers Zondervan — it highlights a number of things that are wrong with the marketing approach that was taken.

Now I’m fairly certain that Mike and Jud — and Zondervan — didn’t intend the book and the accompanying materials to be racially insensitive — and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this — but, well, they are, notwithstanding intention. It does make a difference that the intention was not to cause offense or hurt, but the result remains the same: offense and hurt was caused.

I hope that the resolution of this situation (which is still to be played out) happens so that people can look back at this as an instance of Christians demonstrating humility and unity within the body of Christ, and being examples of apology, repentance, grace, love, and forgiveness. And I hope this experience will be a call to move forward, to grow and mature together.

Daring to be true

One of the points from this morning’s sermon, taken from Galatians 4:8-20, was that one of the pastor’s responsibilities is to tell the truth, even if it is hard to accept. That is integrity. To speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The challenge was this: what do we do when we are faced with a hard truth, an inconvenient truth? Do we face it and take it on, or do we flee from it, covering our ears and shouting to drown out the noise of truth?

I think it applies not just to the pastor/congregation relationship, but also more generally to people and the truth. As people of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, it is our responsibility, our obligation almost, to seek the truth, wherever it may be found. I believe that all truth is God’s truth. If it is truth, it will line up with the person of Jesus Christ; and if it does this, then it is true.

Take the example of the Apostle Paul: at the beginning of Acts, he was doing what he thought was the truth, persecuting the followers of Jesus, who claimed he was the Messiah. Based on his understanding of Scripture—“cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”—it was impossible that the crucified man from Nazareth could be God’s anointed. And then he was confronted with the truth: that this same man who had been crucified was not only God’s anointed, but himself God. So Paul had to reorient his theology around the truths of Jesus as God, Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus as cursed. Not an easy reorientation, by any stretch of the imagination.

Even, and especially, when it isn’t an easy truth to digest, when it’s a truth that requires a paradigm shift, or learning a new way of being in relationship, or figuring out a new way of understanding God, it’s tempting to just give up. Any time there is opposition or difficulty or a mindset-shift, it always seems easier just to back down, to let it go, to move on, to continue just as we always have been. But it’s in coming through, with the help of God and with a community of support, that we really grow and learn and become more of who we were meant to be.

This weekend has been one of reorientation—and it’s still going on. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I know that—though it is and will be hard to live differently, though it will be a challenge and I will be tempted (again) to just throw in the towel—ultimately it is leading me to a truer way of living, a truer way of relating, a truer way of being who God meant me to be.

And whatever reward lies at the end of it will be all the sweeter for the striving.