华文: The Chinese language is like a wound on my soul. It has been the source of countless anxieties, innumerable fears, and a pervasive sense of cultural inauthenticity. It was an inescapable part of my Singaporean education because I was born ethnically Chinese, and Chinese was not a language either of my parents naturally spoke.
Growing up in evangelical churches in Hong Kong and in Los Angeles, I witnessed crisis after crisis of church authority and accountability. When I first became politically radicalized, I remained skeptical of Protestant church structures from a new angle.
Recently, people have asked me, “Why isn’t talking about white privilege enough, why white supremacy?” There is an obvious discomfort with the term by white people. The one exception to that is when things like Charlottesville happen.
I was excommunicated in the same restaurant I had begun catechesis. Over green curry, my Eastern Orthodox priest, his wife (my godmother), and I talked about recent developments in college. “So this protest at chapel … at the college,” he began, gently, the way white folks do.
“Can you please just tell me what you want to do?” I begged my mother via text after a fraught conversation full of broken grammar and malapropisms. “I just like to spend some time and enjoy dinner to celebrate your birthday with you,” she responded.
It’s past midnight in Korea Standard Time on a Tuesday, and I’m up writing with no rush to get up early tomorrow, as I only teach two days of the week. This nocturnal rhythm is quite normal for many English instructors in Seoul.
Do you still insist that churches should not feel compelled to take direct action to shelter the undocumented from the violence of the state? As a minister of the Gospel, how do you justify your defense of the American project over the lives of vulnerable people who, in Howard Thurman’s phrasing, have their backs against the wall?
We drove west through Ohio on I-70 towards Columbus, my dad in the passenger seat and my mom in the backseat trying to sleep, asking if I could turn off the music. The landscape was preternaturally flat, any hint of elevation change smoothed away by prehistoric glaciers. Monochrome fields merged with the horizon. Forests of apocalypse-black trees stood beneath a sky the color of wet newspaper.
In this issue, we have stories of similarity and difference, and the ways that they complicate and complement each other. When we write about our differences, we explore our own particularity, but when we share them, we discover the universal.
My parents’ marriage ended along the same timeline as the fall of the Berlin Wall: cracking apart in 1989, formally dismantling around 1990, and all but gone by 1991. While East and West Berliners were celebrating their reunification, my mother and my father mourned their divorce.
On a sweltering hot day in April 2018, Friar Unly Son (Son) was making last-minute preparations to welcome Unly Sat (Tao) and his family to Cambodia. Son was constantly on and off the phone with Tao, trying to determine the approximate time of their crossing from Thailand to Koh Kong, Cambodia.
Over the last four years, my relationship with my now-husband, Greg, has helped me unearth and identify the differences and lies within my own Asian ethnic identity. I am biracial, Black American, and second-generation Filipina.
There are many stories about Jesus’ miracles: a bleeding woman healed, blind men given sight, the dead raised to life. Coming to faith in a charismatic church, I witnessed similar miracles: I saw someone wheelchair-bound stand up, a blind man receive sight, a couple where the wife had raised the husband from the dead.
Sometimes we are defined by trauma, while other times we are defined by both beauty and love. And while life is often a complicated mixture of both, trauma often becomes the daily bread we share with each other, particularly in marginalized communities where oppression can feel as normal as the sun rising and setting.
Liminality permeates all avenues of my life. I exist as a second-generation Hmong American flowing in and out of Hmong and American culture. I am a middle child. I am a son and I am a father to four brilliant children. I am a bi-vocational pastor working at a financial institution full-time.
I love a good quiz. Years ago, as a young adult, I relished taking free online tests to tell me what religion I should be according to my beliefs on specific issues. Every quiz concluded I should be Episcopalian. I had no idea what that was.
“Until I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” is one of my favorite verses. As a kid, I appreciated Thomas’s approach: what I couldn’t see, hear, or touch wasn’t real. I maintained a modicum of disbelief about anything I hadn’t personally witnessed.
I didn’t know I was Asian until I was 26. A bubble is a funny thing. Having grown up in the Southern California San Gabriel Valley, dispersing my time between a 60% Asian American high school and an immigrant church in Koreatown, Los Angeles, my perception of normal was not hyphenated with the word Asian.
Seventeen years ago, 10th grade me walked into my senior pastor’s office. There, I nervously shared with him that I thought God was calling me to be a pastor. I began to cry as Pastor Steve prayed over me.
My religious life began with attending Buddhist temples in Singapore, but after my mother joined a Christian church, I entered a long period of searching for churches that aligned with my changing values, theological beliefs, and increasingly multi-layered background.
Back in the 1980s, my grandparents were not initially thrilled that my mom had married a Black man. My mother is Chinese American, born and raised in Pasadena, California, by parents who emigrated from China in their late 20s, and my parents’ relationship with my grandparents was tense, to put it lightly.
Thirteen years ago, I was invited to a special gathering of Asian American Christian leaders. As a young seminarian, I was starstruck, almost giddy to be part of conversations with these leading scholars and megachurch pastors.
I was playing basketball in seventh grade when someone yelled out, “Look, it’s Yao Ming!” At first, I didn’t know if this was a compliment or if the person was ignorant. I then realized they were making fun of the color of my skin.
Journey’s 1980s hit “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a refrain that often played in my mind growing up. But I related more to the small-town girl rather than the city boy, so I changed the gender pronouns.
It was a cold Shanghai winter day. My roommate Erika and I were on our way to dinner at Xintiandi when a raucous group of middle-aged Chinese men reeking of cigarette smoke boarded the train.