Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -5-

N.O.W. Silent on Inhumane Treatment of Women

Chalk another one up for N.O.W.'s failures to stand up for better treatment of women everywhere. This morning, news broke that British teacher in Sudan, Gilliam Gibbons, has been arrested and faces 40 lashes and possible jail time for allowing a teddy bear to be named Muhammed in a classroom activity. The charge: insulting Islam.

I'm not going to run the gamut of how ridiculous this situation in Sudan is; there are too many obvious points about how wrong the authorities in Sudan are. They should release Ms. Gibbons and apologize for threatening to give her 40 lashes (which is potentially fatal).

At any rate, the real beef on this end is that N.O.W. again has failed to even make a statement criticizing this arrest and potential inhumane treatment of an innocent women. It is a no-brainer that N.O.W. should defend Ms. Gibbons. According to Fox News,

A spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the situation
"is definintely on the radar, and N.O.W. is not ignoring it. But she added that
the U.S.-based organization is "not putting out a statement or taking a

Well, if they bothered to say anything at all, why not make a statement? Unless, of course, they aren't really about the business of helping women out after all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Last Thing You'd Never Talk About

to Mom and Dad...

Pastor and blogger, Peter Ong, has spoken exceptionally candidly about sex in his latest post, a hail-back to a recent conference session. Here is an exerpt:

On our college campuses we have young people who raise their hands as they
worship God in the felly halls but in their dorms they are using their hands in
other ways, we have leaders who are continuing to lead without a mention of what
their private worlds are like (once again, they are simply a function for us as
ministry workers), we have pastors who are left unchecked when they are
“prepping” their sermons, and we have so many of our married couples who still
don’t know how to have sex in a Godly healthy manner.

Our silence has murdered our call to purity. It has been this sin of
omission that we are so afraid to ask and be asked of this area of our lives
that has been a ground zero for so many of us.

I think he has hit the nail on the head with the attitudes about sex common to Asian churches. Churches have mostly employed the "don't ask, don't tell" method of dealing with the issue or attempted to cover the topic with weak presentations aimed at encouraging youth not to ask any followup questions.

So that I don't appear too critical, I believe that it might be too difficult for our typical Asian churches to deal with the subject of sex in this generation (so we should consider cutting them some slack). First generation immigrants will likely balk, and our curious youth might be better served in a more non-Asian environment to talk about sexual issues.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cell Breakthrough Avoids Embryo Destruction

The news is all abuzz with the announcement that scientists have successfully turned skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, the kind sought after in embryonic stem cell research, only without creating and destroying embryos in the process.

On Tuesday, ScienceNOW Daily News reports that

"Scientists have managed to reprogram human skin cells directly into cells
that look and act like embryonic stem (ES) cells. The technique makes it
possible to generate patient-specific stem cells to study or treat disease
without using embryos or oocytes--and therefore could bypass the ethical debates that have plagued the field. "This is like an earthquake for both the science
and politics of stem cell research," says Jesse Reynolds, policy analyst for the
Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, California."
(ScienceNOW Daily News, 20 November 2007)

Not only this science journal, but Cell, the AP, Reuters, the LA Times, and various bioethics blogs and websites are bubbling over with talk about this latest breakthrough.

This is good news for the ethics-minded. Up until now, many proponents of ESCR have insisted on continuing their research over non-ESCR methods, citing the pluripotency of cells found in abunant supply in human embryos. Now, scientists can make stem cells from skin cells and avoid having to clone and farm human embryos to obtain similar results.

And I do mean similar. The ScienceNOW article, for all it's positive tone, inserts a caveat as to the abilities of the newly made cells, that they possibly could turn tumorous. Well, what's new about that? Embryonic stem cells have long exhibited tumorous tendencies and have failed to treat even one disease. Only try getting a news story to point that out!

For better blogging about this issue, please check out Secondhand Smoke, Wesley J. Smith's blog, as he has been keeping up with this issue closer than anyone else I can think of.

Making Feminsts Cringe. Oh Well. -4-

How to Shut Feminists Up: show them the news

This news story about a woman being gang-raped in Saudi Arabia and then sentenced to 90 lashes, which then was upgraded to 200 lashes plus six months prison time is just one horrific example in a mountainside of incidents of women across the globe suffering abuse, torture, and inhumane treatment. And few people are doing anything about it, least of all feminists in America.

The above story is over a year old, and not a single feminist organization has spoken out, condemned, nor called any body of government to intervene on the behalf of this victim. Why not?

Most spokeswomen hem and hah, but the real reason is that they don't really care all that much, even though they are supposedly for women. The liberal feminists in this country concern themselves only about liberal policies of America: maintaining legal abortions and keeping liberal politicians in office, even if that means abandoning women in other countries to the savageries of men.

Thanks ladies. Oops, women. If this poor Saudi woman makes it out of this ordeal alive, she'll have plenty of thanks for you, too.

(photo credit: photo taken by Luis E. Cerezo and is unrelated to the accompanying news story.)

Chinese Take-Out -2-

During college, I left my Chinese church congregation, but not for the reasons I have posted (at least not primarily). A longtime family friend and member of another Chinese church asked me sometime later where I attended church afterwards. I hesitated to say, because I knew what was coming. Her surprised look and slow reply said it all, "Oh, a lo-fahn [white] like that kind of thing?"

1. Christians must love others. Sounds like a benign altruism become cliche. But in trying to answer the question for myself "what's missing in the Asian church?," it just came to my mind that there is a profound lack of the love of Christ to underpin the church. I am not saying that love is entirely absent. I am saying that the overall sentiment is that the Asian church loves too little.

Before I get into that, Asians do have something that resembles love though. Asians have a lot of loyalty. Asians respect establishment and are loyal to the good intentions of a church and to its attenders. Loyalty is a postitive characteristic, but it is no substitute for the unconditional love of Christ.

The difference? For the most part, loyalty seeks the good of an image to maintain or portray, not necessarily the good of the person or entity receiving loyaly. Loyalty can have many motivations, both selfless and selfish. Love, on the other hand, seeks the best for others for their sakes and, ultimately, for the Lord's sake. As it says in 1 Cor. 13:3-7, real love cannot be selfish.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)
As I mentioned before, Asian churches give generously and make efforts to meet many needs in the Asian community, which I applaud. I'd like to go even beyond that to personal needs in addition. Among churchgoers, I'd like to see more interpersonal intimacy, sharing and wrestling with sensitive and emotional issues, which include spiritual doubt, character flaws, marriage difficulties, and sex. (SEX?!)

I can hear one objection now, shooting up to my ears from my Chinese roots and more than faintly resembles my mother's voice. It is just not the Asian way (!) to express one's vulnerabilities and uncertainties let alone ask for another Asian to do likewise. It is uncomfortable and embarrassing to share one's innermost thoughts, especially the unpleasant ones. We are culturally not intimate like that and ardently avoid conversations of this nature.

Perhaps we should be--maybe a little more than presently. Perhaps, for our sakes, God asks us to love each other in this way, to find Him through our doubts, to put away pretense, to have godly and fulfilling marriages, and over everything, to experience Him and truly feel safe both inwardly and outwardly.

We can also better express outward love for our sons and daughters. Not just the babies and little ones--our teens and college students desperately need acceptance at their major formative ages in personal growth. As a matter of personal experience, sometimes I felt as if my worth was linked to meeting expectations in the face of my parents (though mine were never as severe as parents of other kids I knew), and the culture of performance pervades most, if not all, Asian families. We have to perform the best at school, on achievement tests, in music, in conforming to social restrictions, in maintaining family duties, and in never being tempted to act contrary to the Asian norm. That's a lot of pressure that easily eclipses the love of Christ. We might consider that many an Asian youth have abandoned the Christian faith for lack of this love amongst other things.

Lastly, I'd love to see increased love for people of other races. I don't suggest this with total naievete. I realize that many Asians are wary of getting close to other major ethnic minorities for fear of prejudice (on both sides), misunderstanding, and for perhaps past unfriendly encounters. I share those same concerns. At this point, though, my theology kicks in and says to me that among Christians, if we truly have the love of Christ, then all we should see is Jesus instead of racial misgivings.

I realize that it not the Asian way to be open or allow inner change. It is not the Asian way to admit vulnerability instead of staunchly holding onto pride, even if we hold it wrongly. It is not the Asian way to tell people they are valuable instead of telling them they have done something valuable. It is not the Asian way, because to do otherwise would involve risk, which makes us a little afraid. My pastor once said in one of his sermons, that the opposite of love is not hate; it is fear. If thinking about all these above things causes us to fear, then how small are we keeping God and His love compared to our collective fear?

What would happen if we made a committment to love a little more like Christ?

o we would prioritize spiritual formation in our families over academic and financial gain. In other words, stop being materialistic. Starting with ourselves, we would care more about knowing God than knowing our business. We would show more care for our children's views of God and Christ than their grades in school. Overall, we would protect ourselves less from foreign influences (God's job, not ours) and more about how to influence others for the sake of the gospel.

o we would confront racial prejudices against non-Asian races and see them as people God created. No longer would we tag the word gwai (for the Chinese-speaking) onto references to someone's color. No longer would we express negativity about another ethnicity's culture and way of life as inferior to our own. Instead, we would take the initiative to build bridges at the risk of personal discomfort and possible rejection all in the name of love and charity. Then, we might truly love our neighbor as ourselves.

In conclusion, only the church can accomplish these things. No other body has the power of Christ to move this mountain. I know the difficulties in overturning those aspects of Asian culture that do not rest on Christ and trade them in for biblical foundations. But this is exactly what the very essence of Christianity is--being the new creature, loving and being loved more than what is even possible without the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One final word on this post (promise!): we can't expect that when the church starts loving in this fashion not to experience repercussions. Those coming to church not willing to trade material safety for the deep love of Jesus (which is very unsafe for the human ego) will be quite upset and likely to either leave or even seek to take it out on the pastor (sorry, pastors!). But, the ones who stay and are receptive will know God and be much healthier as Christians than they ever were before. What would you prefer?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chinese Take-Out: Commentary on how Asian Christians have espressed faith, both good and bad (1)

I am one in a category of people with very very few inhabitants. I am a/n:
Christian (evangelical) who is
Reformed theologically,
American-born Chinese,
Theologian wanna-be,
Church reformer,
Attending an emerging-style interdenominational church (Acts 29 Network planted) and,
Politically conservative.

In fact, as far as this category goes, most of the time I'm fairly sure I'm the only one in it.

And I have to ask how I got here from where I started. The local Chinese community is a fairly small world. I get this from the fact that my mother knows just about everyone who's in it from the 1960's on up. There are lots of people in it with growing numbers, yet she still keeps up with who's who. Amazing.

Add to it the smaller community of Chinese churches in which my family has spent decades. I cannot underscore the benefit this community has had on me personally. Growing up in a time when racial insensitivity was still a public norm, I needed a place among other Chinese to feel like a just a girl, not the ching-chong like I was at school everyday. (Not that the kids could have missed a glaring target like myself. My wildly out-of-date clothing, diminutive height, nerdy dispostition, and athletic shortcomings bred no small measure of disdain among classmates. Tell me if this isn't your story, too.) I had friends at church, happiness, and a sense of belonging. Coupled with the gospel presentation of a God who knows me and loves me anyway, I am blessed to have my experiences. But yes, there is a darker side to all of this.

The outward goal of Christian faith as expressed by Chinese Christians can be summed up in one word: safety. Just to compare, the Puritans' outward goal was material wealth. Both groups believe that faith in God and pleasing Him well result in achieving these things as a sign of His blessings. Because of the turmoil that besieged the Chinese of my parents' generation overseas, the appeal of Christianity to many Chinese lies in Matt. 11:28-30, from where most relate to Jesus as a gentle, soothing God who loves and provides safety instead of the abuse they are used to seeing from the world. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

As a result, most Chinese Christians emphasize the language of God as a refuge of security and peace in their theology, which, as a positive, helps many Chinese to heal from their experiences. As a negative, it explains much of the reluctance to balance their churches with the more complete picture of Christ in the Bible.

As I grew into my teens and twenties, I could see where the theological and practical shortcomings of this community had larger ramifications, ones that sent me down a road of disenchantment with the entire Chinese church establishment, on top of personal bad experiences. I could speak volumes about the negative things I see in Chinese churches, but that wouldn't be fair. So I challenged myself. How do I push aside the pile of criticism and come up with due compliments?

I have compiled lists according to characteristics common in most Chinese/Asian churches below.

Expressions of faith:

  • accept propositional truth claims about the Bible with little outward debate
  • adapt well to the dominant western forms of worship
  • enthusiastic acceptance of anyone willing to join church
  • establishment of routines is sign of security/blessings
  • sincere desire and prayers for the spread of Christianity

The good:

  • do not stray from orthodoxy easily if established with good doctrine
  • maintain a high level of 'wholesomeness' that is reinforced with the Asian subculture
  • make evangelizing immigrants and non-english speaking Chinese a priority (that is, among the Chinese-speaking population)
  • pay adequate attention to the elderly Chinese in the community
  • give generously to meet a church-related need, both monetarily and personally
  • give generously to meet physical needs of church members and/or family of church members
  • highly supportive of missions (mostly international)

The not-so-good:

  • members live highly compartmentalized lives
  • Asian values and expectations often trump Christian values (wealth, material possessions, ambitions)
  • lack of reality in gospel living
  • little pastoral challenge to conversion
  • lack of vision and visionary leadership
  • lay leaders not adequately educated to teach
  • lack of spriritual accountability on all levels
  • shallow emphasis on Bible understanding and theological truths
  • lack of body cohesiveness
  • lack of sprititual and cultural engagement, little connection to the community at large
  • emphasis at church is on getting along and social fulfillment
  • rampant consumerism, which is emphasized to unbelieving Chinese
  • low valuation of creativity and innovation; very protective of traditions/routines
  • racial prejudices largely ignored
  • people feel like it's not their place to make or suggest changes

  • lack of Christian worldview: members unable to make sense of how Jesus should impact their academic, professional, or daily lives, which leads to a low level of actual conversion and changed lives
  • members are biblically illiterate and lack spiritual discernment
  • unwillingness to confront sin, both corporately and personally, especially to church disagreements
  • spiritual laziness, unwilling to raise level of biblical understanding of theological truths
  • low committment to evangelism
  • high level of apathy
  • members feel isolated from sharing personal struggles with each other and suffer from low level of trust, even with close friends
  • low ability to communicate faith and gospel to children growing up in church
  • familial relationships remain strained and dysfunctional
  • cultural isolation, unable to relate to non-asian churches, do not cooperate with churches of other ethnicities much or community at large
  • poor leadership sometimes leading to abuse and injury to the church
  • low initiative to enact change
For Asian Christians, do we recognize this state of affairs, or should we ignore it for the sake of not appearing to criticize our elders? That has been the dilemma for many a decade now. I know that a small but influential group of Asian pastors have sought to turn the Asian-American mentality around to engage our culture, rather than to compartmentalize it. I believe their leadership, and how well they execute it in their own congregations, is the key to bringing Asian churches into better health and effectiveness.

There are four important things that need to happen in Asian churches in the upcoming years if they are to live out Kindgom values:
1. Christians must love others.
2. Pastors and leaders need to lead with stronger examples in their own lives.
3. English and non-English speaking parts of the congregation must define and live out their purposes.
4. Christians must comprehend the differences between what is biblical and what is cultural in their lives.

These four things deserve separate attention, which I will get into shortly. I do hope people recognize, though, that these four principles are not specific just to the Asian subculture in America, but to all Christian churches throughout the world.

I am keenly interested in others' experiences of church in the Asian culture. It has been a while since I last lived neck-deep in this particular milieu, so my exposure has been a little dated. How have things changed in the last decade in Asian churches? What is the third generation experiencing in the Asian church subculture? What issues are at the forefront of Asian churchgoers now? What are the current attitudes of congregations nowadays? What is the message being sent to Asians outside the church community? What is the future of the Asian ethnic church? Give me your thoughts.

(bad blogging note: I realize this post is too long for a main page. Unfortunately, I tried and failed at truncating my text. Attempts at finding code I could use resulted in frustration, so I said the heck with it.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Making Feminists Cringe. Oh Well. -3-

Men, Men, Men, Men, Part 3

I (that's me)
take the bull (that's you)
by the horns (leaving that up to your imagination).

This might be my last installment of rant-on-men, but I won't promise. I specifically want a word out on marrieds.

I found the following essay by Judy (Syfers) Brady (pictured above), referenced on Mary Anne Joy's feminist blog. Though the essay was written over 30 years ago, much of it is still relevant to the lives of typical American wives.

I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother. Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife? I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school.

And while I am going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children's doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eatproperly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children's clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife's income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.

I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school.

I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene. I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife's duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.

I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d'oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it.

And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.

I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.

If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free. When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife's duties.

My God, who wouldn't want a wife?

Poignant. I'm having trouble following that up with anything equally as poignant. In this, I don't blame feminists for feeling the way they do. I'm strongly inclined to feel the same way. I believe things would change, however, if husbands would stop being the jerks feminists think is an endemic disease of the y chromosome.

Husbands have no problem focusing on their selfs. I hope I've made it evident that husbands should think more of their wives' selfs a little more often (if not first, if not sacrificially for those of you calling yourselves Christians).