It’s not supposed to be this way.
Asian Americans have received a stark reminder over the past year that we, too, must deal with the terms and conditions imposed by white supremacy. Empowered by racist epithets like “China virus” or “kung flu,” the model minority myth has crumpled under the weight of anti-Asian racism. The recent violent murders in Atlanta bring to the forefront our need to confront evil foundations in this country. We are in a deep and lengthy moment of lament—one that requires honest repentance starting with the church. But how do we get there?
The church must play a role in righting wrongs in our neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. We care about justice as we reimagine how to be the Church in modern America. This is not always the case in all Christian communities, especially amongst evangelicals and those with white European roots. There’s a lot of unlearning to do in institutions, but also in the individuals formed by these spaces. That work starts with us. In this sense, the question is not what role the church must play to right wrongs, but what will your church do amidst the growing calls for justice?The church must play a role in righting wrongs in our neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. ~ Rohadi Click To Tweet
As the cries to dismantle anti-Asian racism take over our media feeds, we also know that this is a recycling of violence we’ve seen before. It was only last summer when a new generation hit the streets to join the demands to dismantle white supremacy. What has happened in your community since? Has anything shifted in your church? Maybe COVID distracted us for a time, but, ultimately, too many churches have quietly bypassed meaningful action.
As a Christian of color, I’m not surprised. I must admit my doubt that widespread changes in predominantly white institutions and churches will ever happen. The calls to dismantle anti-Asian racism will be met with the same lack of response from last year as voices rose against anti-Blackness. It’s the same calls for justice that fell on deaf ears during the BLM movements after Charlottesville in 2017. It’s same calls for justice that have ruminated for over sixty years since the Civil Rights movement.
Again, what have you and your church done in response to these longings for justice and liberation?
Corporately, we must share and enter the lament. What has your church said and done since Charlottesville? Since George Floyd? Since the Atlanta massacre? I now defer to some suggestions the Asian American Christian Collaborative recently posted on Instagram: 7 broad steps to consider in response for churches.
Pathways forward will not only include deconstructing how to do church, but unpacking our own formation, too. For example, we must each contend with unlearning the ways white supremacy has formed us in our faith. This speaks for the need for a renewed approach to discipleship.
Discipleship is a core value in our churches, and we must integrate ways to envelope anti-racist discipleship into our lives. If “anti-racist” is language that won’t fit with your tradition, then simply use “justice.” The work is the same. Determine in what ways your faith has been shaped to emphasize white supremacy at the expense of BIPOC bodies.
Thankfully (or regrettably), this isn’t new work. Although V3 churches are built to reimagine ways of being the church in modern America, we don’t have to create new pathways of discipleship. For the work of anti-racist discipleship, we can learn from Black and brown church traditions.Pathways forward will not only include deconstructing how to do church, but unpacking our own formation, too. ~ Rohadi Click To Tweet
This work not only impacts discipleship, but belonging as well. How can we build more diverse communities? How can we center marginalized voices? Building inclusive community is hard and takes commitment. It is a deep reflection of God’s picture of the church, but it is not something that can be realized in the short-term. Rather, it must be cultivated as we strain through our own biases and formation. If each of us engage in a lifelong journey of anti-racist discipleship, I believe justice will prevail.
There are many intersections that require each of our communities to do internal work and discover ways that power systems of sin are at work unique to your place. Many of us have spent a lifetime formed in particular ways of thinking; it may take just as long to re-learn and redeem pieces of our faith. It’s our work to embody as we draw near God’s hope for creation. We preview the age to come—where all wrongs are ultimately turned right. Now it’s a matter of joining God in the work to right these wrongs.
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