John "Enger" Cheng serves as creative director of Inheritance. He is a Los Angeles-based artist, designer and illustrator. He graduated from the University of Southern California Roski School of Fine Arts and is co-founder of Winnow+Glean. You can see his illustrative work and store at madebyenger.com.
We all have experiences that are difficult to name or even remember. Memories that we consciously or unconsciously try to bury.
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?”
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.
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.
While the media reports on and profits from interpersonal racist incidents that result from exogenous shocks, minor feelings and racial melancholia encompass the daily, interminable despondence of racism.
I live a 15 minute drive from Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA, a nursing home where 81 of its 120 residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 35 people died.
I grew up searching for family. When I found it in the corners that I did, they were like filters in a kaleidoscope phasing in and out of this endless placeholder.
“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.
“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.
When I came to the United States for higher education, I was a practicing Hindu and a seeker. Discipled by my Hindu mother, I followed and believed in the teachings of Hinduism without any concern until I was in high school. It was during my high school years that I encountered the Freedom Fighters who served alongside Gandhi to win liberation for India from the British.
When I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1981 to do my Master of Divinity program at the School of Theology at Claremont, I was full of dreams to learn from this “Brave New World”.
Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019) would have had just the right words for a time like this. Her death is doubly cruel in robbing us of one of our foremost poet-theologians, one who could gaze into deep voids and tremendous griefs and from them craft creeds that could breathe for us when we could not. Rachel exuded an incredible influence on contemporary Christian belief and practice.
Recreating memory is often seen as a liberating phenomenon. Whether it’s expressed through songs, journal testimonies, or stories passed down across generations, memories can be powerful tools for families and close communities. But I am skeptical about its resonance for creating multicultural and caste-transcending communities in the Indian context.
Asian American churches seem to love the Book of Esther. How many Asian Christian women are named after this Old Testament heroine? I know too many Asian Esthers to count. Queen Esther represents beauty, obedience, and bravery.
I was too close to the edge of my seat not to fall out, and when I finally did, my partner next to me returned my grin. The film we were watching had my support long before I walked through the movie theater doors, but seeing someone who looked just a little bit like me drew me deeper into the story.
I’m currently being trained as a Christian social ethicist in a doctoral program. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far is that although Christians often assume we “already know” how to discern right from wrong making ethical choices is more complicated than we think.
I had no other choice but to grow up in a Korean immigrant church — my dad was the pastor. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays were church days. Wednesday for the midweek service; Friday for youth group when I was old enough; Saturday for Rainbow School (c’mon Korean church folks, you know what I’m talking about); and Sunday for, you know, church.
The biggest scars we carry in life are not caused by random strangers. They’re given to us by the people we once loved and trusted, the people we allowed to love us. Sometimes these wounds heal. Other times we pick at the scabs and reopen the wound time after time.
“You don’t put a frog in already boiling water because it’ll jump out immediately. Too hot. You put the frog in room temperature water first. Then as the water begins to boil, he’ll wonder why it’s getting so hot. And then, next thing you know, it’s too hot and he’s cooked. That’s how it works with sin. You compromise on the small things and then next thing you know, you’re in hot water not knowing how to get out.”
Working at a church can often strengthen your faith journey. But a lot of times, working at a church is like taking a peek into seeing how sausages are made. As the saying goes, you don’t want to know how the sausage is made because you won’t want to eat it anymore. Working at churches can expose us to the behind-the-scenes of ministry, and at times, the things we discover can never be unseen.
When my mom and dad were dating, my Filipina mother told my white U.S.-American father that she would be returning to the Philippines to continue her work there after they graduated from seminary in California. She felt a strong calling to serve her people, and it would be up to him if he wanted to follow her there and continue their relationship.
What does it mean to be a queer Asian disciple of Christ? That is, what gifts might openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Asian Christians bring to the larger Body of Christ? I came out to my Mom some 25 years ago. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was my senior year of college, and my Mom was visiting me in my dorm room.
Crap. She friended me. “She” is Sofia, from my English class. I like her a lot. She’s funny, talented, intelligent, and I want to be her friend. It’s my second year at Amherst College, a small liberal arts school in western Massachusetts, and despite its small population of just under 2,000 students, I’ve found it difficult to forge deep, genuine relationships here — friendships that go beyond remembering birthdays on Facebook, a follow-back on Instagram, and a few pictures on feeds that remind each other that the other still exists.
My immigrant story begins a little differently from most Asian Americans: My parents migrated to America from Malaysia in order to start a church. They belonged to a church-planting network that began in Thailand; its leaders felt that America was too depraved and in need of a spiritual revival. And so they sent over the Ngus.
“Your cousin Smriti told us that we were less like husband and wife and more like best friends when we stayed with her in Delhi,” my mother told me after my parents’ most recent visit to India. “That’s sweet!” I exclaimed, surprised at this sentimentality from my cousin.
I used to think that all churches should become multicultural. I openly criticized the Taiwanese immigrant church I attended, especially our English-speaking congregation, for not being diverse enough.
I read once about how some of the most delicious wines are grown in places with the least fertile soils. The inhospitable land forces the grape vine roots to go deeper to look for nutrients and water, and the energy in the sugars created focuses its way to the fruit, resulting in potency in flavor.
I used to rarely voice my opinions. As a 1.5 generation Korean American, my identity formation called for me to be ambidextrous: one hand learning through written and spoken English in American society, and the other hand learning through unspoken and unwritten means in Korean environments, absorbed through (in)attentive observation and time spent in a Korean home and in Korean immigrant churches.
A church auntie snatched the microphone out of my hand. “Enough! You’ve said enough; now sit down.” “Young people,” I heard someone mutter as I sat down.
Writer Parker Palmer traces his first experience of inner division back to the fifth grade. He describes how his life at home reading stories, building model airplanes, and immersing in fantasies told through the radio were his secret life veiled by a “performed” public life.
As a third-culture kid, I hold a fluid definition of home — one that stretches and surrounds the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States.
The Civil Rights Era was a tumultuous time for our society as many struggled for racial and social justice. While some Black Churches and some White Churches joined this movement, many Christians stood against the end of segregation and continued to provide theological backing for white supremacy.
I was in sixth grade when the killing of Latasha Harlins became national news. Latasha Harlins was a 15-year-old Black teenager who went to a Korean-owned liquor store in South Central, Los Angeles, to buy some orange juice.
During my recent personal and emotional struggles to accept the election of DT as the President of the United States, I have had to deal with some very un-Christian attitudes.
IT'S REALLY HARD to have a good conversation about our sexuality. We tend to be on our guard, warily anticipating how something shared may challenge our own perspectives.
MY FAMILY LOVES FOOD. When my mom visits me in Los Angeles, she has to get her fill of In-N-Out, pastrami burgers from Tops, and Korean barbecue.
WHEN IT COMES to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have a tendency to think we know the full extent of what he did and stood for.