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Paradox of Becoming Reformed March 17, 2009

Posted by peterong in Rants, Reflections.
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I am writing this partly because I had to do an outline for Bavinck’s “our reasonable faith” for a seminary class, and as much as I pride myself in being truant in my studies, which perplexed me because I love scripture. i love theology. but somehow the whole experience of writing this outline made me reflect on this journey towards being presbyterian and what is there tension in my heart. one of my tension has been that I find the intellectualizing of this gospel narrative to be so excruciatingly sterile to me (I know that I sound judgmental but please give me some license to share my heart). The picture that I can’t get out of my mind is when I watch csi and they are picking apart the body and looking at it with such forensic acuity but don’t take into account the corporeal aspect of this body that they are examining. who they are? what made them happy? what were their fears? who did they love or loved by? it is about solving a crime. it is to about solving a problem. to recreate a story without affection or adoration. that is what i felt when i outlined Bavinck. it was cold. it was filled with theological acuity. it brought something that is so bloody. the cross is put as a vocabulary of atonement or the fulfillment of the messianic vision of the suffering servant. so the cry on the cross becomes something to exegete and not receive the profound humanity in that moment. 

theology has been such a wonder to me. it has been a gateway of seeing the grand picture of the unfolding story of redemption that we are participating but somehow, what i am wanting is what Peter Ahn, pastor of metro community church, shared today at our PaLM meeting, that we often preach the theology of resurrection at easter sunday but we don’t recognize that good friday came before easter sunday. in the little exposure that i have been to reformed folks and also from what i see and experience  is that there is a lot of layers removed from the pain of this fallen world. god is sovereign. when people struggle to figure out how to passionately pursue god. it is futile, we are depraved

i have tension. and i never felt so ashamed of this affection i have for god. i question if i really know what i am in love with. as if it is infantile. as if a cloud of calvinists are scribing their theologies and guarding the intellectual property of scripture and look at me with such disgust. i suspect that i have not capture true reformed culture but i can’t shake this feeling that i am become a part of an infantry that is guarding a fort of our leader but i am not eating at the table with my lord. i am not communing but guarding. even the sacrament of communion is a theological creed. i love the creed. but they are not jesus. they are words. 

and right now. i am yearning for the the first chapter of john. the word became flesh and dwelt among us. I am putting down Bavinck for the time being…and I am going to worship…and hoping that this deep affection i have for this wonderful Jesus is not a source of an outline.

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model minority or minority model (denial of privilege?) June 10, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Rants, Reflections.
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A report was released today regarding the state of Asian Americans in Academia as reported in the New York Times. It has this quote: 

“The report quotes the opening to W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 classic “The Souls of Black Folk” — ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ — and says that for Asian-Americans, seen as the “good minority that seeks advancement through quiet diligence in study and work and by not making waves,” the question is, ‘How does it feel to be a solution?'” (more…)

Hot Gway and Obama February 23, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Lower East Side, racism, Rants.
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Time Magazine wrote an article called “Does Obama Have an Asian Problem?” and as I read through this I realized how I felt both a sense of embarrassment as well as relief that some of the issues that it brought out. One part of me felt it like it was an airing of Asian America’s “dirty laundry.” What struck me was the question, “could it be that Asian Americans are not voting for him because he is black?” When I read that, I was caught off guard and not sure what to make of that question from a national publication. Perhaps race does play a part in the way we vote or want to see our leadership but I suspect that the Time article was trying to be provocative and not making a real investigative approach but rather it was a story looking for an issue rather vice versa.

But one quote that got me was this:

Alan Shum, 24, an analyst for an investment fund in New York City, cast his vote for Obama. But he also thinks his elders might have a problem doing the same. “Voting for a black candidate is just not something that would jump out at them,” he says. “Chinese people are really racist at times.” He points to the colloquial Chinese for “white” and “black,” which append both words with “devil.” “The vernacular tells you a little about something,” he says. “Chinese people can be very, very insular as a culture — very superior. We look down upon any race that isn’t Chinese.” (more…)

Vanishing Point February 8, 2008

Posted by peterong in Rants, Tim Keller.
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I am getting some time after a long awaited encounter with sabbath to try to bind up some of my personal issues with soul care. Here are some recent reflections after returning from the Concerts of Prayer of Greater New York’s Pastors Prayer Summit a few weeks ago. It is considered the premier gathering of over 300 pastoral leaders from the New York area. I had the privilege of having my first speaking engagement there in 1999. My first sermon/reflection was to lead a prayer time for Chinatown youth (talk about initiation of fire!).

It has been about 5 years since I last attended it. I was there to represent my involvement with Pastoral and Laity Ministries as well as Living Faith Community Church and the Coalition of Urban Youth Workers. It was great to see some of those men and women who have been such spiritual parents to me. These are the older gatekeepers who have served to give opportunities for a generation of young leaders such as myself to be part of the privilege of serving the city together. It was amazing to pray with  some old friends like Walter Sotelo (Citivision), Michel Faulkner (New Horizon Church), Tom Mahairas (Citivision) and others. 

But what was suppose to be the highlight was a vanishing point for me when Rick Warren gave a presentation as part of the Leadership Center that they are forming to serve the under-resourced NYC churches (you can see a video here). Although his principles for leadership were great, I felt that it was what Pastor Joseph Tsang calls “ecclesiastical pornography” when we desire a church like Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Willow Creek, and/or Saddleback.  I think it is important to remember that it took Rick Warren 28 years of ministry to get to where he is now. It is Rick Warren’s calling to this specific church. I wonder if he thinks that his South California culture of church could be duplicated in NYC. As we went to our breakout sessions, I realized that most pastors were floored by his presentation and wanted to adopt Warren’s strategy to build leaders. My heart grew heavy. (more…)

Powerless December 3, 2007

Posted by peterong in Christ and Culture, Rants.
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Here is my semi-weekly blog on some rants and things that came across. I got a “boycott” emails forwarded from a  “Christian” activists named Dr. Bryan Cutshall (who is he?) It was to address the atheist agenda that Golden Compass seem to be promoting. The the email mandates us with this bold statement:

“THIS IS A MOVIE THAT WE MUST PROTEST AND OPPOSE AS CHRISTIANS.”

It has been confirmed by snopes dot com that the upcoming movie “The Golden Compass” is a vision by the author to promote atheism for kids. It is also making its waves on youtube with calls to boycott the movie. Although I agree that we should be mindful of thematic and some dangerous overtones of films for children but as adults I think we can discern and make sound observations without being in danger of becoming an atheist.

Is this the whole Christian vision and mission to boycott a movie? Is that where our energies are to draft up letters so that we can feel protected by such sinister (yes I am being sarcastic) forces out there as a film with a white polar bear. Yet, we don’t really feel too empassioned when we watch films promoting violence, adultery or greed. Those we are fine with…because it stars our favorite stars from People magazine.

And we wonder why a city who sees our Christianity and conclude by saying we are “powerless.” Yet, when we look at the poverty in our own neighborhoods, the sex trafficking in our business districts, genocide in Sudan, and/or our overlooking of the violence in our poor communities. We don’t forward those call for our action.

I often say that being Christian is like being a Star Trek fan. The source materials is pretty amazing but the people who love it are a bit strange and you don’t really want to be associated with them. These “boycott” emails makes me question much is this about Jesus or the gospel but rather, when we are honest it is about our superiority. Our desperate clinging to be on the “winning” team. We love Focus on (not Jesus but) the Family ministries because they can help us find the next thing we can blame for our moral decline in our society.

Pastor Ro preached on the ministry of grace yesterday and I am haunted again. He reminded us that our greatest gift we have to give to the world is Christ and it is the distinct power of the gospel to show grace. To take our faith so seriously that we are willing to do more than push a “forward” button on our email’s but to move us to availing ourselves with possibly dying for others.

I receive another email about how Christians should not be doing Yoga from this article but I am too tired to go into it…or rather, it is not worth going into…there are so much more important things…no?

Waiting to Exhale October 19, 2007

Posted by peterong in Christ and Culture, Gays, Rants, Reflections, Uncategorized.
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It has been a time and trying to find time to pause. Sorry for my lapsing into these moments of deferment. today, i had my first sabbath in sometime. went to mulberry street public library for some reading and just browsing the bookshelves for some inspiration and a momentary lapse of care. no prayer. no meditation. just a simple jaunt through the pages of the New York Sun or the Daily News.

These past few days I am still haunted by my recent retreat at a Chinese church in  Boston. I spoke on a series of talks that I did at the New York Summer Conference this past summer called “Jesus Uncensored.” I talked about how within the confines of Christian and church culture, we have muted some of the most profound elements of our Christian faith. Most importantly, the issue of grace, radical inclusion, outward missional posture and the expression of faith through engagement not disengagement. I found there moments of great connection with several of the conferees as I shared about our concord with those around the world who are in need and how we need to shed some of our inwardness to reach to those around the world who are part of humanity. To see the scriptures as a missional statement for those in bondage, oppression and blinded by grief. Not to shape our theology to cater to our fears. To exclude or demonize those who are so in need of understanding the gospel. Of God’s good news…God’s desire for redemption.

Yet as the days went on, I realized that I need to walk in their shoes as they live in a state where there is an embattled fight regarding same-sex marriage. As I listened to the parents and how they didn’t want their kids to go to schools where there were gay principals. I was yearning to understanding why there was such a venom behind their words. Yet, as I have been reflecting on this issue, I am trying to be very careful about the implications of how this stance is so prevalent in our Christian communities. But I have to confess that there is very little said in scripture about this particular sin and it seems as if we take liberties to choose which are the sins that are of note. Yet, we don’t think twice about our Lord’s word of caution on when we use the word “fool” or when we miss the spirit of our call to be holy not simply for us to be “set apart” as righteous through our morality but by what Christ called to bring people the freedom of the gospel. Not license but a freedom that comes from transforming hearts…to see what is latent with this holy discontent…that in that holy discontent has a destination for our common desire for dignity.

We fail because the the scandal of grace says we are all in the same situation. I take comfort in that, becaus I begin to see that I am part of the problem. I wanted so much to say to them…some of us are more lost then others and the question is to what extent are we willing to what my good friend Hosive says…We are called to “carry the cross for others, not putting people on crosses”

But I realize that it is hard to carry that cross…especially when it comes to an embattled place…where children’s innocence are at stake and I confess, I want to understand more. I want to listen more. Perhaps that would have been wise…to listen, to find places of fear and supplant it with hope. Hope. Gospel hope.

the haunt April 29, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Immigrant Church, Korean American, racism, Rants, Reflections.
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Mourners visit the Drillfield, where 32 stones are set out for shooting victims. Laura Stanley places flowers on the site of the 33rd stone – the killer’s stone. DELORES JOHNSON/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

There seems to be a twilight of thoughts in regards to the VT incident and as much of the discussion around the Asian American blogs have give a perspective of how Cho’s ethnicity as an Asian American has made an impact in the APA Christian community. DJ Chuang’s summary of what is being said and preached on in the Asian American church gives an overview of the sermons by Asian American regarding this tragedy.

But I think that it was a moment of exploitation for the Asian American community to make this an Asian American issue (as much as the media kept echoing “South Korean” and “Korean” as a descriptive) but later rescinded that as the Asian American community called the media on it. I realize that that Cho was Asian and came from an immigrant family background but as the story unfolds, there is little to nothing to attribute to what happened on that horrible Monday. His ethnicity did not play a major factor or added to any meaning to the motives of Cho. So, what we did (and we seem to always do…) is to make it into an opportunity to speak (or should I say “vent”) out on issues that have little to nothing to do with this. But it fueld the unwanted attention of Cho’s ethnicity and yet we wanted our cake and eat…don’t identify him as Korean! But let’s all explore this…I don’t know how to reconcile that…

But what I find interesting is the “collective shame” as reported in several media outlets as Time magazine and the Associated Press. In one interview on ABC, it was quoted…

“How your child turns out is a reflection on you,” said Katherine Moon, a Korean-American and associate fellow at the Asia Society. “Their son has, in effect, killed them too. The Cho family has been destroyed — obliterated by their own son. You don’t recover from this,” she said.

I think that in the arena of “collective shame” is one that we can discuss and see how we can enter into a reclaiming of the gospel’s power to redeem this aspect of our culture. To deconstruct this “shame-based” gospel into one of redemption and forgiveness…One of the moving picture of this tragedy was the memorials that were made for each of the victims and there was one for Cho (see article here, here and here). How forgiveness among the community who lost the most…What most of the Asian American bloggers and minister who wrote about it seemed a bit removed and wanted to chime in as a opposed to reflect on this on a collective mourning of lives who were cut short on the threshold of so much hope. But instead we aligned and obssessed our thoughts and fueled the collective shame of the killer. That was what seemed most easy to do and so hollow.

As the bell chimed 33 times this past Monday…the community did what seemed impossible…to forgive and not react in ethnic shame or outrage towards this lost young man but built a memoria and rang a bell one more time…to remind us of the loss that day. To cry. To read each profile of the victims and pray. To send a regards to the community. To celebrate the brilliant lives of these short lived people…To join in sorrow…to be part of the loss and the recovery….Instead we clustered into a cloistered parlor and speculated on the dispassionate ramifications of this on the Asian American community.

This was what moved me most and we lost an opportunity to gather at memorial stones…to acknowledge those who were lost…instead, we made this a moment of validation for our ethnic rants irregardless of its relevance or lack of.

I think L.A. Times Op-Ed by Gregory Rodriguez echoed what my sensibilities were to not be lured by the ethnic trap that this was so easily done. I have posted the whole content here as an closing thought…

Gunman was one of us

The Virginia Tech killer is a reflection on all of us, not just a single ethnic group.

Gregory Rodriguez

April 23, 2007

WHAT IF YOU don’t have anything in common with your brother? What if you live on different continents? What if you’ve never even met the man? Are you still his keeper?

In a diverse nation such as ours, there is always that expectant pause after a major violent tragedy, between the moment we hear the news and when we’re told who did it. In that time, we tend to look around the proverbial room and wonder from which group the perpetrator came. Last week, the point of origin was South Korea, and Seung-hui Cho’s ethnic “brothers” in Asia and the U.S. grappled with their relationship to him.

Of course, a murderer’s ethnic, religious or racial background is relevant only if he is acting on what he thinks is a tribal imperative — like the Armenian teenager who gunned down the Turkish consul in L.A. in 1982, or the 2001 plot by Jewish Defense League leaders to bomb the office of Arab American Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

But even when ethnicity or race add little to the understanding of motive, there is still the “need” to know. It’s scary to think that everyone and anyone is capable of murderous rage. So if the bad guy can be pigeonholed based on skin color, origin or class, the fear can be focused, one group at a time.

Such profiling is silly for lots of reasons, not least that we live in a country that exalts individual over group identity. Not long after Timothy McVeigh slaughtered 168 people in Oklahoma City, I caught myself profiling a potential threat outside the Federal Building in Westwood. I saw a working-class, blond white male with a mullet cut running toward the building, and I jumped.

Although I understand the unfortunate tendency to consciously or unconsciously ascribe responsibility by group, I still don’t think governments and ethnic organizations should endorse this sort of stereotyping. After the Virginia Tech killer’s identity was released last week, the South Korean president and many Korean American associations did just that.

Even though 23-year-old Cho was a permanent resident in the U.S., South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun felt obliged to issue at least three messages of condolences for an act that occurred far away from the Korean peninsula.

Here in the U.S., Korean American organizations issued cravenly self-serving condolence statements to the victims of the massacre. In a news release, one organization promised that “the Korean American community will join the efforts of others in tackling the root causes of these senseless school shootings that continue to endanger our children and young adults.” In L.A.’s Koreatown, there was a candlelight vigil held, well, in clear daylight.

Although part of this ethnic reaction is driven by fear of a backlash, South Korea’s famously defensive nationalism also plays a role. Hunkered down in the shadow of China and Japan, South Korea has always felt a need to watch its back.

Ultimately, though, any reaction that reinforces primitive notions of racial or ethnic collective responsibility is headed for absurdity. That includes the scramble on the part of Koreans to express special outrage over the murders, and the mainstream’s desire to move Cho to a convenient margin. Late last week, U.S. news outlets tried to draw connections between Cho’s menacing self-portrait with a hammer and South Korean film director Park Chan Wook’s gory 2005 psycho-drama, “Oldboy.”

But the truth is that Cho was an American kid. He had lived in the United States since he was 8, and he was clearly immersed in the dark side of U.S. popular culture. In his video ramblings, he compared himself to the Columbine killers; he spoke English-major English.

All of us knew Cho, and, like it or not, he was one of “us,” not the ultimately elusive “them.” His horrific crimes are not a reflection on Korean people — immigrants or Korean Americans — but rather on the state of our cities, campuses, counties and country. We all were, and are, his keepers.

Fallen (a plea for us regarding the VT Tragedy) April 20, 2007

Posted by peterong in Rants.
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I have taken time to allow a retreat of words so that there is a quiet corner where I could pray and reflect on this tragedy. In the midst of everything, I feel that there has been so many opportunists who have used this senseless tragedy into a platform. There are the obligatory “let’s think about the families who lost their loved ones…” but thrust right into a rant about agendas (political, racial, and any sound bite that will echo through pundit world).

I hope we go through this with dignity… and remain in our mourning and not abbreviate this time of hurt with trite explanations and explorations that neither illuminates nor comfort but rather sound like clammering for attention that add to another noise in the midst of all this cacophony.

There is a time for discussion…but it is all distracting from this time of mourning…I yearn for us to enter into the memorial with respect and offer our prayers and let the Holy Spirit speak to them…let’s not sit in the pews of this memorial with discussions of the importance of this moment in Asian American history, with words of how this affects the Korean American community, debates about media’s racism, or with indictments of how the school failed the students…let’s sit in the pews of this memorial and grieve well. Let’s take a moment to give way to the families to have the first and last words. Let them speak and work out their emotions without our interruptions.

Can we do that?

These are faces, lives and families who are dealing with a vacancy and loss that is profound and what we have to offer are analysises…theories…not tears…we give lessons instead of compassion. Please take a moment if you can to pray and remember each life lost…click below to see the full NYT list here…(you can get profiles from the New York Times here)

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(more…)

Remembering Denny’s April 11, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Asian American Campus, Politics, racism, Rants, Social Justice.
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Today is the tenth anniversary of the incident where three Asian American and a white student were attacked at a Denny’s after denying service. Syracuse University had a Remembrance Circle in the quad (see blog here and my pictures here).

I went to this event with a heavy heart and with a sense of something more significant that what was presented. When the testimonies of racism were presented they were little more than “oh, it is so hard to be Asian” and “everyone makes fun of us” and yet, I wonder what this whole “fight” against racism is a clutching for identity and dignity that is summed in this mundane and bland expression of “please someone do something about this teasing” which is called “racism.” One testimony that really got me was a Chinese girl who was dating a white guy said she dumped her because his friend told him he should date a blonde. I was like “what???” (more…)

I know, I know, a lot of you are lactose intolerant April 9, 2007

Posted by peterong in Food for thought, Rants.
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For those of you (I am not one of you) who are not lactose intolerant, go and get some free ice cream from Baskin Robbins. Go and check it out here.