Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus to an ABC

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Bringing Jesus and the Gospel across cultures has long been an area where we as humans have screwed up.  It is a clear example of just how broken we are.  There are many examples of white, western missionaries going to an indigenous population to bring their God to them making the natives forego their cultural identity and assimilate to the western way of worship.  I have heard many stories of miraculous apparitions (including Our Lady of Guadalupe) where Jesus and/or Mary appear in the image of the native race.  When the natives are asked to describe who they've seen, they respond, "S/he looks like one of us."  It is easy to forget that the God we worship isn't just the white man's God, but the God of us all, our ethnicity and culture included. 

What does that mean for an American Born Chinese (ABC)? 

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I guess if I were to imagine Jesus as a real person coming to me, the default image would probably be the blonde hair blue eyed Jesus.  I don't think it's intentional, but just something that I've absorbed from growing up in the US.  Having a relationship with a white guy doesn't seem too crazy since I have (at least two) white friends.  But those relationships often require a bit of cross-cultural work to really go deep and to be perfectly honest, in general, those relationships aren't ones where I typically let my hair down.  Not easily being vulnerable seems problematic when it comes to my relationship with Jesus.

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Growing up in Chinese churches, I have a category for and an understanding of how Jesus is worshiped in the Chinese (Han-Taiwanese) culture in both the Catholic and Protestant circles.  Having a relationship with a Chinese Jesus conjures up relating to someone of my Dad's generation where there is a lot of cultural respect (Shu Shu hao), but at the same time, someone who I know will never get my individual American-influenced experience.  Admittedly, the idea of God speaking to me in Chinese has an oddly comforting feeling (likely reminiscent of the experiences of parental love I do have), but it's not, for lack of a better term, full, I think due to the fear of constantly being scared of the moment for when something gets said that is beyond my language comprehension.  Smile and nod.

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And if not an older guy, than any younger of a Chinese guy defaults to a FOB in my head.  Derogatory term aside, the natural (and probably broken) way I mentally approach a FOB is a mixture of embarrassment for them not getting the American culture (you could call it an over-sensitivity to possibly being laughed at by white people), condescension because at least I know how to fit in, and envy because of their command of the language that I will never have (which incidentally gets lived out vicariously through the command of English and slang that I do have).  Not to mention, the smell of moth balls exacerbates it all.  

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So the obvious answer in this thought experiment is Jesus as a fellow ABC.  It must be my issues, but this still doesn't quite fit; it still seems odd to me at least initially.  For whatever reason, my default approach to other ABC's tends to be one of suspicion especially if they are more "ABC" in ways I wish I were. Be it dressing better, more athletic, more musically gifted, really into pop culture, awesome dancers, and hair which lends itself better to cool Asian hair styles.  I have to keep my mind from spinning because I see their insecurities as they are roughly the same as mine. Their triggers and the defense mechanisms are like a speck of sawdust cut from the same tree as the plank in my eye.  I judge them and inwardly condescend because it is ultimately the lack of grace I have on myself for the same issues or because I've already progressed beyond them which validates my self-worth.  It's like while I strive towards who I want to be, I have a hard time naturally extending the same grace to others who are earlier on the journey.  And so looking at them reflects back to me an embarrassing former self and because I deem it ugly, it is something I prefer not to look at or dwell on for too long. I fear that if I look at it too long or too closely, I might accidentally discover that I have been truly unlovable all along.  I guess this is partly why high school ministry has been so much of God's grace towards me.  This is also why I'm steeling myself for the 10 year high school reunion coming up.  

Anyways, so that Jesus feels ... like a lot of work.  But perhaps that's the point.  And if not, then I'm not sure what's left or what Jesus, my God, is supposed to look like.  

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