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.

A prayer for vision

O God,

We cry out to you for the things that are on your heart: for peace, for justice, for love, for holiness. These are far too scarce in the world you have entrusted to us. Bring about your purposes; as you have done in ways often subtle and unseen, do again in this generation.

In this time of hopelessness, send your hope. For we are longing, groaning with all of creation, desperate for you to act, to move–through us and apart from us. We trust that you are faithful, that you are active, as you always have been.

We have strayed far from you, in thought and word and deed; we have misrepresented you to the world. But we praise and thank you for your abundant grace that works even through our misled and misguided methods.

You will provide, though we don’t know how.

You will bring peace, though we can’t see how.

You will bring your kingdom on earth, and we can’t wait to see the fullness of that day.

Amen.

Written November 12, 2006.

Links of the Day, October 16

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Miscellaneous

Forming a Theology of Ecology

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Today is Blog Action Day 2009, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim of the organizers, including Change.org, is to raise awareness of said issue, and in so doing, to trigger a global discussion. This year’s issue: Climate Change.

So here’s my take on the story of environmental stewardship, according to the Bible:

God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God created human beings. (Genesis 1:26)

God told human beings to look after the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Human beings screwed up. (A large portion of the rest of the Bible.)

And that’s that.

Or at least, that’s the (over-)simplified précis.

A theology of ecology, a theology of creation care, is part of—and is consistent with—a grander biblical theology, woven through with themes that can be found throughout Scripture:

It’s about stewardship, about being respectful and responsible with the resources and the gifts that God has given us in his creation. It’s about sharing in God’s appreciation for the world which he called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and recognizing, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

It’s about the poor, those who have not are often the hardest hit by the excesses of those who have. The writer of Proverbs said, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (14:31), and even if we’re not directly treating them badly, such an injunction should at least make us think twice about how we live.

It’s about relationship and community, about a harmonious and healthy interaction not only with the people around us but with the world around us, realizing that what we do with the latter will always impact the former at some level. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was akin to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40), so if we love God as we claim to, we will love those with whom we share in the gift of God’s creation.

It’s about children, those to whom Jesus said the kingdom of God belonged (Mark 10:14). I have two nieces and three nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years, and the world they will inherit depends on what we do with it. To quote a Native American proverb (yes, I know it’s not in the Bible!), “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Put more bluntly, those that follow us have to deal with our mess. Jesus values children; if I love Jesus, I will also value children, and I will care about what I leave to them.

It’s about justice, about recognizing that when a small proportion of the earth’s population exhaust its resources and the rest have to face the brunt of the consequences, that isn’t right. And when the God you worship, serve and follow, is described as a God of justice,* and when you’re encouraged to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) … well, it should probably make a difference on how we live, shouldn’t it?

Because, on the most encompassing level of all, it’s about God: the one who made the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Wendell Berry wrote, “our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 98). Whatever we do with what God has made or given—human or otherwise—is a reflection on what we think of God, the Maker and Giver.

I think the world might look very different if we lived like we knew that.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:1, 31)

* I’m not going to post all the references to God’s justice, because that would take up too much space (which says something in itself), but here are a few: Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Leviticus 25; Psalm 37:28, 103:6; Amos 5:23-24; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 58:6-10. You can read more on God as a God of justice here.

A Higher Calling

N.T. Wright:

Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

(Simply Christian, 237)