Article on Suicide Rates in the Asian American community August 14, 2009Posted by peterong in Asian American, Chinese American.
New American Media put out an article about the rise of Asian Americans and suicide rates and referred to recent happenings involving three students at Caltech who committed suicide. As I read this and people are chiming in about the influence of pressure of achievement from family and also the overall environment at the university to excel. I think that some of the scholars are missing is that suicide narratives are such a part of the cultural narrative.
As I remember so much of our histories and stories in our family has always had one or another relative who found their only way of escape was to take one’s life. It was not glorified in any sense but more of a necessary reality of our family history. As I think through the analysis of some of the psychological issues which we as a culture forgo or dismiss, I think the deeper issue of transparency or creating space so we know how to speak into our individual and collective pain.
I think that we do undergo a sense of shame or other circumstances of our cultural environment. But I think that the issue is in large part of the focus of personal achievement for the sake of the community approval. But it is the focus on the personal. On the burden of the individual to represent the whole that is so graceless and distorts our understanding of the gospel. But it is not unlike our western counterparts which also focus on the personal glory as the pinnacle of one’s existence. but when we subscribe this sense of worship of self, eventually we will find something toxic and disfunction because we are made to worship. This is an insoluble question of our existence…what or who do we worship? The reality is that this is aorist tension, of in process or “already and not yet.” It is our theology or thinking that we work out this reality of our pain in the midst of our worship. To know that we are often found wanting in the midst of glory. But we put on the pretense that God is the very central thing or to the other extreme, our failure is the very central thing. We have a abbreviated gospel. It is either ONLY about God or ONLY about our failure. But it is the fuller view is our failure in the midst of God’s glory. To make it capable for us to enter in with humility because we have a hope to our tragedy. That there is a wonderful narrative of salvation comes to those who are brokenhearted. To not self worship our moral conditions but rather to worship God who redeems.
Suicide is the darkest conclusion of our pursuit of self worship.
There is a sense that there is no way out because we have failed to present the gospel that invites us to the beautifully excessiveness of God grace. Especially in the Asian American culture, the religious works helps us keep our obligations to God tenable and even some of the sacrificial gestures are forms of appeasement to God. It is our moral credentials that is the measure of our success or failure that determines our discipleship but not at the work of Christ on the cross.
In varying degrees, we are so desperate for grace because of the tremendous despair of a world of ungrace. What a challenge for us to express grace. To show that all our hope is in Christ alone. So the movement is from this central place of grace and from that we can work out who we are in Christ.