Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isa. 1:17, NIV)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Pro. 31:8-9, NIV)
If you’re not aware, six Asian American women along with two other individuals were killed by a young man who attended an evangelical church near Atlanta, GA. With this letter we want to voice our compassion and support for the Asian American community. They deserve to be seen, heard and loved.
For many, the events in Atlanta are just the actions of an unstable 21 year old man. However, when his actions are tied to the teaching of his church, then we as evangelicals must not only question those teachings but also speak on behalf of justice for his victims who were targeted as Asian females. This was a racist and misogynist act of murder.
Beyond the horrible events in Georgia, the group Stop AAPI Hate has documented 3,800 racist acts targeting Asians in the U.S. in the past year. These range from verbal harassment to physical assault, and now murder. Asian Americans are genuinely afraid for their physical safety when they walk the street. Maine is not immune. Just last week an Asian woman and her 12 year old daughter were verbally assaulted and their car damaged by an assailant in Portland.
The Apostle Paul repeated what every Jewish child knew by heart when he wrote, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal 5:14, NIV) Jesus illustrated that a neighbor is anyone in need in the story of the “Good Samaritan.” There is never a time when it’s OK for Christians to mistreat others based on any perceived difference (be it race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, religion, socio-economic status, etc.). Jesus gave no special exceptions to his admonishment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We as Christians are also called to be known for our unity and love for one another. This unity also does not have an exemption for those from other cultures, ethnicities or races. If anything, our common bond of faith should help us to appreciate the beauty of our various backgrounds and honor each as expressions of the diversity God has given for our mutual enrichment. Unfortunately, we are humans and even though we may hold Christian ideals, we may fall far short of what Jesus has taught us. Raymond Chang, President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) said, “Lamentably, any honest look at history will reveal that the church has been the soil for many of the harmful attitudes and perspectives leading to many of the racial injustices we see today.”
What can we do?
First, we can look at ourselves to see if there are any harmful attitudes or perspectives in our own selves.
Second, we can have eyes to see and ears to hear from our Asian-American brothers and sisters in the faith. Check out the Asian American Christian Collaborative which has been speaking out with great wisdom. (www.asianamericanchristiancollaborative.com)
Third, speak up for Asian Americans and other ethnic people groups. Your voice matters.
Finally, educate yourself. Don’t expect your Asian friends to have to educate you. That’s not their job and may make them feel like they have to justify their existence or experience. We encourage you to choose an article from the AACC website as a place to begin: https://www.asianamericanchristiancollaborative.com/recommended-resources
As the church we must remember that God has called us to seek justice and speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak, or who are not being heard. We urge you to stand with us to oppose racism in all its forms and to avoid minimizing or dismissing it. It is real, and we must speak as Christians to combat it. We are sorry we have neglected to address this in the past as a church, because as agents of Christ in our world it is our responsibility. This is part of the Gospel we preach because racism diminishes the image of God in others. So it is not a separate task we can leave to “justice advocates.”
It breaks our hearts to hear followers of Jesus say they feel shame because of their ethnic identity. Our ultimate identity is in Christ, and we are all on level ground at the foot of the Cross. May we always lift up those who feel they are somehow beneath the rest so we can all stand together to worship the One in whose image we have all been created. Let’s work hard to make that scene in Revelation before the throne of God part of our experience today:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9-10, NIV)
May God’s grace, justice and peace be present among us today and always.