Monday, February 26, 2007

every little counts

a quick update about "skits that teach"...

i emailed zondervan, youth specialties and the skit guys toward the end of last week regarding a racially offensive skit that was published in a book called "skits that teach." my cynical side was fully expecting another "rickshaw rally"-type showdown, but so far, things have been encouraging.

first, i received thoughtful responses from everyone i had contacted. i say thoughtful, because in contrast to lifeway and their stubborn refusal to admit that they had done anything wrong, zondervan, ys, and the skit guys all expressed sincere remorse for what had happened. more importantly, they have agreed to edit future editions of the book to remove the skit and remove current editions from the bookshelves.

i suppose now, all we can do is wait and see how the parties involved follow through on their commitments, but this appears to be a positive start.

david park, over at next gener.asian church, shared some thoughts about asian-americans moving beyond issues that exclusively concern our communities. i certainly agree that our biblical mandate is to speak out for the oppressed, voiceless and marginalized regardless of their race or ethnic background. however, my experience in the asian-american (korean-american, more specifically) church has emphasized personal piety -- almost to the exclusion of concern for others. even building houses for families in faraway places serves only as a means to an end -- sharing an eternal gospel that has almost no bearing on our present reality, other than to get others to do the same. simply to get as/am believers motivated regarding issues that directly affect us is an enormous task. hopefully, it can serve as a springboard toward a wider, more balanced (and biblical) concern for others.

i think it is a very powerful witness when we are able to advocate for justice for others outside of our community. may God give us His heart and awaken each one of us with care, concern and passion for others around us.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


actually, i guess i shouldn't be too surprised at this, but i am still frustrated, angry and disappointed. i found this entry at soong-chan rah's blog yesterday and it ruined the better part of my day.
An excerpt from Zondervan's Skits That Teach by Eddie James and Tommy Woodward published in 2006. A skit book meant to be used by youth groups all over the US features the following:

"Herro, Dis is Wok's Up Restaurant calling to confirm your order. . . . I think that, yes, you total is 14 dollar 95 cent."

"Herro? This is Wok's Up Restaurant again. We have drive and drive, and we can't find you house. We don't find you house soon, you pu pu get cold. Pu pu good when it hot."

(Hostile) "Okay, we drive for long time looking for you house. I tell you, you go outside and I look for you. I am driving a red Rincon (Lincoln) Continental. You pu pu still getting cold. Bye!

"Okay, I drive for long time and I stil not find you house. So I am eating you pu pu! Ruckiry it still warm. I was hungry, so I eat it. Mmmmm . . . this pu pu is good. (Smacks lips a few times) You on my bad rist. You don't call us anymore. Bye!

seriously, give me a break. these "skit guys" are self-proclaimed skit experts and this is the best they could come up with? their "home run" idea to lead off their new book of skits is a played out racist send-up? not only is this kind of "humor" not actually funny - it's degrading, offensive and lazy. it pains me to think of all the kids who've already had a good laugh at our expense.

i'm not much of an activist, but i went into the local family christian bookstore first thing this morning to take a look for myself. sure enough, there was the skit -- the first one in the book. i took it to the front and brought it to the manager's attention. she was also surprised, and immediately took it off the shelf. she said they would pass along the message to corporate. hopefully, they can follow through on this and, just maybe, take this book off all their shelves. a woman who waiting in line behind me overheard what i had brought up, and as i was leaving she actually said, "thank you for saying something about this." it turns out she is a youth drama ministry leader and has encountered these types of things before. and no, she wasn't asian.

i am also planning on writing to these skit guys, zondervan and youth specialties to let them know that this kind of thing is not acceptable. i'm sure their responses will be along the lines of the rickshaw rally "we didn't mean any harm by it" and "you just need to get over it" type of thinking, but i think it's still important to let them know how ugly and wrong this is. i know they run a business and it's expensive to remove/re-edit the book, but they are also representatives of Christ -- and sometimes doing the right thing costs.

i would love to be able to focus all my time & energy on ministry to people. and i know, of course, that in Christ we are called to be one body -- that He destroys all of the ridiculous barriers we set up to divide ourselves. in the end, this skit guys thing isn't that big of a deal -- but there's no reason for those who create, market and push these products to stop unless someone points out why it's wrong.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

set phasers to stun

i just picked up sex god by rob bell today. quite a title, no? i have to admit, the fundie in me gasped a little bit when i saw it. and there are plenty of others, burning torches in hand, who are doing more than just gasping. it's funny how rob bell incites such strong reactions from people: people either really love him or really hate him. while i can't say i agree with everything he writes, i do believe his voice is a refreshing - and necessary - one.

i'm sure there is some shock-value intent in that title, but i'm very interested to see where this all leads. the subtitle is, "exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality." i might try to trek out to ucla for his q+a session -- hopefully, there will be some fruitful conversation there.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

prayers for rain

i just returned from our youth retreat and i am reminded of a couple of things. first, God is surprising and faithful. second, i am not getting any younger. i think i had some kind of weird time-delayed sickness hit me today.

more & more, my ministry has been about following Jesus in the ordinary days. youth (people in general, really) often seek the next mountaintop (or, in the absence of a high, a nice deep valley will do) to sustain their faith. i have been influenced over the last couple of years by the writing of good people like eugene peterson, dallas willard, john ortberg and henri nouwen. i read this great quote the other day about how writers like this speak powerfully not because of their verbal fireworks, but by the gravity of a godly life. as such, i have been moving away from the big and fantastic and more toward the quiet and deep (although i realize these categories are not always mutually exclusive) and emphasizing the importance of walking with God in our everyday lives.

anyhoo, i think it's safe to say that each of us experienced God's presence in a very real and powerful way this past weekend. it's so easy to forget how important it is for our hearts to be broken in God's presence. many students shared that their favorite memories were not the games (including a very painful round of "mahl-doo-baki" -- a game that involves the purposeful inflicting of pain on others' backs through high-flying aerials) or the activities, but the times of prayer we had.

like a good postmodern youth ministry, we set up a series of prayer stations for our students one night. one of the stations was designed to allow students to pray about their family life. as anyone in asian-american youth ministry knows, this is often a very deep source of pain for as/am students. our youth group is no exception. at this stations, students were supposed to use a scrabble board to share a word they felt describes their family, and then to pray for their families. here is what the scrabble board looked like at the end of the night:

while there are a couple of positive descriptors (hope, heaven, smile, hugs), what stood out to me was the amount of hurt. words like guilty, unfixable, and destroyed practically jumped off the board and slapped me in the face. i've only been serving this youth ministry for about three months, but i've really come to love these students. this small group of less than twenty is a very sweet, caring bunch. just beneath the surface, however, is so much pain & frustration.

when i first started in ministry, i think i thought ministry was mostly about preaching big messages to big crowds. now that i'm a little bit older, with a family of my own, i'm realizing how important it is to deal with these whole-life issues, especially family.

i'm still wondering, though, how "nee" ("een"?) or "niatrecnurx" relate to what we were doing there.

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