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.

What is the Church’s task today?

Kaj Munk was a Danish playwright and Lutheran pastor, martyred during the German occupation of Denmark. He was killed by the Gestapo on this day in 1944. His words ring true for us today as they did seven decades ago:

What is, therefore, our task today?
Shall I answer: “Faith, hope, and love”?
That sounds beautiful.
But I would say—courage.
No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.

Our task today is recklessness.
For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature,
we lack a holy rage.
The recklessness that comes
from the knowledge of God and humanity.
The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets …
and when the lie rages across the face of the earth—
a holy anger about things that are wrong in the world.

To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth,
and the destruction of God’s world.

To rage when little children must die of hunger,
when the tables of the rich are sagging with food.

To rage at the senseless killing of so many,
and against the madness of militaries.

To rage at the lie that calls
the threat of death and the strategy of destruction

To rage against complacency.

To restlessly seek that recklessness
that will challenge and seek to change human history
until it conforms with the norms
of the Kingdom of God.

And remember the signs of the Christian Church have always been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish …

But never the chameleon.

Hoping and Wishing

At the end of a long and full year, reflecting on what has been and looking forward to what will undoubtedly be another long and full year, these words from Eugene Peterson have been framing my thoughts:

It is essential to distinguish between hoping and wishing. They are not the same thing.

Wishing is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope. it does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope desires what God is going to do—and we don’t yet know what that is.

Wishing grows out of our egos; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing. Wishing has to do with what I want in things or people or God; hope has to do with what God wants in me and the world of things and people beyond me.

Wishing is our will projected into the future, and hope is God’s will coming out of the future. Picture it in your mind: wishing is a line that comes out of me, with an arrow pointing into the future. Hoping is a line that comes out of God from the future , with an arrow pointing toward me.

Hope means being surprised, because we don’t know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing—to refuse to fantasize about what we want but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next.

Hope affects the Christian life by making us expectant and alive. People with minimal hope live in drudgery and boredom because they think they know what’s going to happen next. They’ve made their assessment of God, the people around them, and themselves, and they know what’s coming.

People who hope never know what’s coming next. They expect it is going to be good, because God is good. Even when disasters occur, people of hope look for how God will use evil for good.

A person with hope is alive to God. Hope is powerful. It is stimulating. It keeps us on tiptoe, looking for the unexpected.