Our genealogies write themselves in traditions and often don’t “write” themselves at all. They are told, they are shared, they are lived. You and I come from peoples who pass and share wisdom, lessons, and riddles as a way to survive, heal, and thrive. You come from ways of life that recognize the balance, respect, and mutuality found in all of creation, and this is completely independent of blood percentages or what “parts” you are of this lineage or that lineage. You are whole. Unified. Integrated.
I wrote this piece to give myself permission to suspend the beliefs I’ve internalized over the years, to freely imagine myself being a mother — something that both terrifies and delights me. What would it look like to raise my child from a place of thriving and abundance compared to the scarcity mindset of my immigrant parents? What would it feel like to tend to my child’s emotional needs as well as their physical needs?
My uncle used to tell me stories about the war. How the guys on the other side when they were captured would always say that they were only farmers and teachers, that they were just following orders. “Are your hands any more clean than mine?”
There is also now a history of over 16 years of Asian American evangelicals writing on the Internet since 2004 about how white evangelicals have orientalized them in Vacation Bible School curriculum, popular books sold at Christian bookstores, social media posts, church-planting training skits, reception to chapel talks, denunciations of “social justice” and “critical race theory”, anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, U.S.-China relations in light of the January 6 Capitol coup, and the current children’s Sunday school material debacle.
The practice of utopia creates a sort of muscle memory for our better angels. We run these thoughts over grooves that deepen, neurons that strengthen. If we don’t use this imaginative power, it is ours to lose.
We kick off our "Utopia" series with two poems from Sagaree Jain.
But why Rebekah? I was asked by a professor when I entered my undergraduate years. Why not Jin? With a simple question, she opened up the possibility that Jin could be just as legitimate of a name as Rebekah; I had never considered it. It was remarkable and sad. I had never considered it, never considered introducing myself by the name I had first been given.
Caught in the crossfire — or is it the light of a fiery cross? — we Asian American Christians find ourselves exploited multiple times over. Our race is weaponized to stoke hatred; our faith is harnessed to launder the reputation of hatemongers; America’s rival power exploits that hypocrisy to fuel its propaganda. Shall we plot our escape, or shall we cower, waiting for a Messiah who has already given us his spirit?
Whether we like to think of it or not, our names are marks of colonization that we carry with us. Filipinos recognize the relationship of the name to the location. In this case, the Filipino diaspora recognizes the distinction of Spanish influence on their names, while others assume its Spanish origin must mean my ancestry is directly from Spain.
I write this to the women who feel they do not belong to the believing community as a result of what has happened to them or who they have discovered themselves to be, and to the women who feel as though femininity is a foreign or oppressive word.
I learned then that having not just a name for my struggles but having the right person learn this name as well was what could finally act as my shield against these thousands of tenterhooks that were pulling me apart. But it was a difficult process, filled with a hundred hotspots of shame, to accept that my private suspicion about ADHD needed to be verbalized by a white coat and printed into a file in order to access the privilege of medical resources and institutional protection.
In consideration of these and many other ways in which language is wielded, this issue explores the multi-dimensional meanings of naming and being named. There are limits and imaginations to language. There is subjugation and reclamation, clarity and obfuscation, power and possibility to reimagine. These stories name, rename, and unname such experiences.
In truth, my grievance with “coming out” is not with the metaphor itself. It is with language as a whole — the soullessness of its vehicle, its concreteness, its singular instinct to unravel a knot into a linear string of vowels and consonants. Language has disappointed me in its inability to capture my sexuality in every one of its stages, in all of its obscurity and uncertainty.
In God’s kingdom, as with all great gardeners, pruning is caring. Without pruning, my life will become something even I don’t want — an overgrown, prickly bush with no fruit to offer. In this challenging season, I’ve felt pruned and exposed of my misplaced hopes, and I am continuously reminded of a self-important agenda flowing in the undercurrents of my heart, rather than being drawn to relinquishing my own ways in surrender.
Then, a plague on my body, of too much of something no one can name. Mysterious are God’s ways, to send a plague but harden the heart, that we might see some glory.
In contemporary U.S. society, polarization and division are rampant. We have forgotten that we are all neighbors to one another, or in other words, that our destiny is inextricably interwoven. Being a neighbor implies we treat one another with dignity and respect, learning to value and cherish our cultural differences.
I have begun to wonder if those who deliver our eulogies are the storytellers of our lives and if our funerals are the official initiation of our legacies — the beginning of the curation of our lives into symbols by others. Death has been an incessant presence in my mind lately.
The arguments to “re-open” schools and revert to a pre-pandemic world reveal preexisting racist and classist disparities that have only grown starker with distance learning.
I’ve had my fair share of Christians over-spiritualizing my emotional and mental pain. Unbeknownst to me, these negative interactions with other Christians shaped my belief that mental health could only be appropriately addressed by mental health professionals.
추석 resists separation and isolation by grounding us in community. While it may not be in-person gatherings with lots of delicious food, and we may be by ourselves physically, we are deeply connected to each other through the observance of this day. We experience it as we pay respect to our beloved ancestors, the saints who are no longer with us, whether it is due to illness, time, accident, or violence.
Currently, I’m searching for this other Jesus — the brown-skinned Middle Eastern Jesus who was born in the margins, lived in the margins and died in the margins. The Jesus who never accumulated wealth, never owned a home, never pastored at a church, never married, and who worked a blue-collar job his whole life.
We face our fears, anxieties, worries, and try to learn from what they’re telling us.
My father returned to the Philippines because he decided he couldn’t live here. When he left, he told me that he felt he could either be Filipino or human, and that in the United States, the former was incompatible with the latter. That is what colonialism and white supremacy do.
I am reminded that community is found when we take risks and share authentically about our own culture, ethnic heritage, history, and stories. And as we share our stories, others are able to join us in community as well.
So much of the language we have around activism is militaristic, but if our struggle is going to last, it must center the relational ties that have sustained our communities from the very beginning.