Guns and racism

Feeling tired and heartbroken again in the wake of another spate of shootings, the latest on Wednesday in Dallas at a Korean salon and on Saturday at a grocery store in a predominantly Black Buffalo neighborhood, which were racially motivated, and at a Taiwanese church in Orange County yesterday.

When I moved to the US in 2006, I was struck by our nation’s strange addiction to guns and toxic relationship with racism (a pervasive white supremacy culture, though I would not have the words to call it such for a few more years). I’ve lived in places where people regularly go to school and church and the hair salon and the grocery store without fear of being shot. And while prejudices always exist and must be overcome (which is hard enough), the white supremacy that permeates American systems and structures, that is perpetuated by those in power thinking that talking about racism is more dangerous than racism itself or news channels that give platform to deadly nonsense like the “great replacement theory” (espoused by the Buffalo shooter)—that must be rooted out.

Lord, give comfort to the grieving, restrain the impulses of those who would cause harm, and give us the strength to do what needs to be done to see your justice and peace here on earth. Amen.

Belonging and Inclusion

We all want somewhere to belong, don’t we? 

Somewhere to call home. Somewhere we’re known. Somewhere we can be ourselves. Somewhere we can invite those we love and care about.  Belonging is not solely about church, obviously, but the Church needs to consider belonging and community, because community is one of the things churches overpromise and underdeliver on.

In the kind of multi- church that we are and that we are trying to become—multiethnic, multiclass, multicultural, multigenerational—everyone feels a little bit out of place. No one feels completely at home. (I don’t even always feel completely at home and I’ve been around since the beginning!) Everyone has wondered whether they belong, whether they’re truly seen, whether they can express themselves fully and authentically.

But what keeps me at Christ City is that enough parts of myself—especially the parts that I know God wants to stretch and grow—find resonance with the people here, and with the shared mission and commitments, including that of identifying and removing barriers to God’s liberation for all. That, to me, is what the inclusion of God’s kingdom is about, that as many as want to will be welcomed home.

Stop Asian Hate

This morning, I woke up to the horrific news of another mass shooting, this time at several Atlanta-area spas, this time stealing eight lives, including at least four Asian women. I’ve spent the day praying and processing — that makes it sound more tidy and put-together than it’s been. It was a messy mix of emotion of numbness, of rage, of frustration; texting with friends, trying to acknowledge and sit with my own feelings while trying to care for other friends and loved ones affected; of letting myself cry and feel the grief in my own body.

This hit home in a particular way today. I was supposed to be spending time in prayer as Carolyn and I prepare to welcome a biracial baby girl into the world soon. And it was: I was faced with the stark reality my Asian American kids have been and will be born into. Where a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, purity culture, and gun culture can claim multiple lives and devastate multiple families, friend groups, and communities. Where we can be as committed to peace and justice and loving our neighbors as we can — and still be laid low by a complete stranger “having a bad day.”

It was also a reminder to me of the work I am called to: as a pastor, as a Christian, my prayer is — as we were just talking about this week at Christ City — for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. One thing that looks like for me is for every person to be seen and loved and honored as one made in the image of God. It is to do whatever is in my power, in whatever sphere God has given me to steward, to leave the world a better place than I found it, especially for those who will come after me — that includes dismantling systems of “white supremacy, misogyny, male hegemony, fetishization of Asian women, anti-Asian hate crime and violent racism” (per my friend Pastor Aaron Cho) and living a better alternative.

A couple more thoughts (that I’ll share): First, words matter. The anti-Asian violence did not start this last year (as any Asian American or anyone who knows anything about Asian American history can attest), but it was undoubtedly exacerbated by words from the previous occupant of the White House, who treated Asians as a punch line, referring to COVID-19 as “the Kung Flu” and “the China Virus” even as recently as  … the night of the shooting. Per Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 3,800 incidents were reported between March 2020 and February 2021, higher than the previous year’s tally of 2,800. Moreover, women made up 68 percent of reports.

Second, for my AAPI family: I hope you’re able to find your spaces and communities of healing, if you haven’t already. We experience and imbibe these traumas, often without fully being aware of it, often feeling the need to just keep being productive. But we weren’t made to skip past deep communal pain. If I can be a resource or a connection in any way, please let me know.

I’m grateful for the texts and messages I received during the day from friends. I was able to spend some time tonight processing with some AAPI members of my church family. We shared inchoate, incomplete, and sometimes incoherent thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We prayed for the families and loved ones of those whose lives had been stolen. And, as it is St. Patrick’s Day, I closed with an adaptation of the Breastplate of St. Patrick, a prayer that hit a different way today, a prayer applied today for our community:

 Christ shield us today against wounding.
Christ with us, Christ before us, Christ behind us,
Christ in us, Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ on our right, Christ on our left,
Christ when we lie down, Christ when we sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of us,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us,
Christ in the eye that sees us,
Christ in the ear that hears us. 

#StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate #HateisaVirus

Listening to: Andre Henry

Andre is a writer, musician, and activist, who’s been an inspiration and challenge to me since I stumbled upon his writings a few years ago. (It turned out we had a lot of mutual friends in common, in addition to both being Fuller Seminary alum.) He has a new track out, new music for the movement.

Epiphany: Wise Women Also Came

Today is Epiphany, or Día de los Reyes, the day we remember the magi’s visit to Jesus. I came across this poem yesterday by Jan Richardson, whose work I love (see her Ash Wednesday poem “Blessing the Dust” or her “Blessing for Waiting“, which I used during Advent).

Wise women also came.
The fire burned in their wombs long before they saw the flaming star in the sky.
They walked in shadows, trusting the path would open under the light of the moon.

Wise women also came, seeking no directions, no permission from any king.
They came by their own authority, their own desire, their own longing.
They came in quiet, spreading no rumours, sparking no fears to lead to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s inconsolable lamentations.

Wise women also came, and they brought useful gifts:
water for labour’s washing, fire for warm illumination, a blanket for swaddling.

Wise women also came, at least three of them,
holding Mary in the labour,
crying out with her in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings into her ear.

Wise women also came, and they went, as wise women always do, home a different way.

The art piece above was also done by Jan Richardson, and you can order the print (and see more of her work) by clicking on it.