Alexander Jun, PhD, is Professor of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University and author of several books. His new book, White Evolution: The Constant Struggle for Racial Consciousness, will be available at the end of April. He is an elder at New Life Presbyterian Church of Orange County, and the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He is married and has three teenagers.
A message to non-Asian American Christians across the country:
Please love our Asian American neighbors. This is clearly required of all of God’s children.
He commands us to love. Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark 12:31. Jesus also calls us to love our neighbors in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Matthew 22:36-39. This parable carries particular importance as it concerns those who are suffering. The mistake we often make is in thinking that our neighbors are those who look like, act like, and think like us. Non-Asian Americans often assume that overseas Chinese, or for that matter Chinese-Americans, other East Asian-Americans, or Pacific Islanders living in the United States rarely need to be cared for. Loving these neighbors in this time of hate-driven and fear-filled racism is now more critical today than ever.
Many of our Asian American neighbors need our love and support. The FBI reported that hate crimes toward Asian Americans will increase during the COVID-19 crisis. Various experiences of verbal taunts and physical abuse have been documented and in at least one known incident, attempted capital murder. The Stop-AAPI-Hate website, a project of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, reported over 1000 incidents of hate crimes within three weeks of launching. Anti-Asian American racism is oftentimes conveyed in more subtle and nuanced ways through racialized microaggressions. Jokes about eating bats or references to this virus as “Kung Flu” reveal the ways humor can be used to express racist feelings.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
What exactly does gospel neighboring look like for our Asian American neighbors, as well as for brothers and sisters in Christ, in these COVID-19 times? For some it might be in the form of a passive love. For others gospel neighboring will be more active.
Love Your Neighbors By Praying
I suggest that we start with a passive love that prays for those who are suffering. Intercessory prayer is a powerful weapon against the enemy. We naturally continue to pray for those who are physically sick, who mourn the passing of loved ones, who have lost jobs, and who are health professionals. Please also intercede for those who are in fear of the virus of racism along with the virus of COVID-19. Pray for the victims of hatred that they would find solace in the presence of God and that they would not grow bitter and filled with hatred toward other ethnicities, but also that they would not be filled with self-hate or turn away from and blame God for being made the way they are. Pray that through this time they would be reminded that we were all created Imago Dei (in the image of God) and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
Love Your Neighbor Through Self Reflection
Passively loving our Chinese and Asian American neighbors might mean that we first spend time in meditation, self-reflection, and introspection. Consider for example, why anti-Asian or xenophobic comments have not bothered us, and why we never considered this to be our problem. Why have we found statements like “the China Virus” unproblematic, or racist jokes like “Kung Flu” and other cruel comments either amusing, or harmless? The Lord commands, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). I believe that the application extends to turning deaf ears and blind eyes to unwholesome conversations.
Support Local Asian American Business
Active love may take the form of financial support of local Asian American restaurants and other businesses effected by Anti-Asian American racism. Chinese and other Asian restaurants have suffered financial losses as a result of misguided Anti-Asian American Covid-19 fears. Ironically when Italy suffered from the virus, I heard of no reports of Italian restaurants being avoided in the US. Please consider supporting local businesses frequently, and let the owners know that you are in solidarity with them.
See Something, Say Something
Oftentimes we convince ourselves that by saying nothing we are being neutral, when in reality silence only helps the perpetrator, and not the victim. Active gospel neighboring might also include courageously stepping in to intervene when racial bullying and violence occurs.
We should talk very intentionally and specifically with our children, who see and hear everything and learn by what we do and don’t do. In our children’s ministries and youth groups, we need to teach our children how to love their friends by not speaking negatively about, joking about, or teasing their Chinese and Asian American classmates and peers online. We certainly need to teach them to speak up and report racism on social media. Talk to them about what it means to be complicit in our silence whenever we allow racism to occur unchecked from others. As Brazilian educator Paolo Freire said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
Speak Up, Speak Out
If silence is no longer seen as neutrality then it is time to speak up and speak out against racism. Racism is a sin. God hates sin and his children should address it. Many of us who are pro-life ought to intuitively understand what it means to fight for the rights of others as we remember that life extends beyond the womb. Loving our neighbors will mean lovingly speaking up against “others” who continue to express racist comments toward your Asian American neighbors.
It doesn’t matter if our best friends are Asian American or if we have been to Asia or are currently involved in ministry to China. None of these reasons absolve us from the responsibility of speaking up and addressing racism. And none of these reasons give us special excuses to make negative comments or jokes at the expense of others.
Know That “Others” Are Right in Front of Us
Know that sometimes, oftentimes, the “others” might just be your own family, friends, congregation members, and church leaders. This will be the hardest challenge for many of us. We have heard the jokes and comments from family, friends, church members, and leaders our entire lives. We laughed with them, passed the jokes on ourselves, and it will feel impossible to start now without coming across as suddenly self-righteous. Assuming we passively loved by first engaging in self-reflection, the next step is simple. We must actively love those we’ve never loved by talking with those whom we have always loved.
It is time to be bold and honest. It is time to love our neighbors and be the salt and light of the world.
I recently had the honor of co-authoring a statement against anti-Asian American racism along with several other Christian brothers and sisters. Within a week we saw nearly 10,000 others sign the statement in solidarity. It is encouraging to envision a world where God’s people are the first to respond to injustice.
Friends, I do not want to leave us with a feeling of guilt. No, we believe that we are sinners already saved by grace, and the gospel drives us to care for and to love others as we have been cared for and loved by our Savior. Jesus is the one who was passing by, saw us dead on the side of the road, and had compassion for us. We ought to go and do likewise to others.
God calls us to be the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13). What would it mean for Christians to be salt and light as spiritual first responders to tragedies both physical and social? What kind of message and witness would that be to a watching world?
May we continue to be people of Micah 6:8 – acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our Lord.