If you didn’t see it yet, the Washington Post ran a feature on me and the church where I serve as interim pastor:
I am very honored that the Post ran this piece, not to mention a little confused as to why they chose to run one on me, given that I am almost a complete nobody. But in the end, I just appreciate that I wasn’t portrayed as a giant jerk of some kind. That’s really all I’ve wanted in life, not to be portrayed as a jerk.
This article did bring a few thoughts to mind:
First off, some corrections: the store that my father owned and was robbed in was not in Glenview, which is a very nice suburb. It was in the West Loop of Chicago, which used to be a very hard neighborhood in the 70’s and 80’s, although I hear now is a very chichi place to live. I bet quite a few Chicagoans were scratching their head at that reference – “He got robbed like that…in Glenview??”
Also, another correction: at some point in the article, it states that Pastor Edwards came to Deanwood with the intention of founding a “traditional black church”. I don’t think that was at all his goal. His goal was to create a church that was locally based, and comprised of people who lived in the immediate area, most of whom happened to be African American. But that is very different from trying to start a traditional black church – the difference may seem subtle, but it is significant. I would hate for his ideas and intentions to be mis-communicated.
Second, a word of recognition. My wife does not get talked about very much in the piece, except for a quick reference to her incredible fight with breast cancer while pregnant with Jonathan. That’s quite an amazing story to mention just in passing, kind of like saying, “Oh, my week has been good. I got a lot of work done, exercised, had sushi, discovered the cure to AIDS, and took the dog for a walk.” But I’m hopeful that my wife’s story will be told in its own right soon!
But I want to say something about her also in the context of the article, that it is my wife’s sense of perspective and emotional sturdiness that has given me the courage to persevere. For instance, when our house was broken into a little while ago, my first instinct was to turtle-up, never leave the house, and barricade my family in our fortress…I mean, home. I told this to my wife the day after the break-in, and she smiled at me, and bluntly replied, “I’m not going to live like that. Come on, let’s go to Costco.” And so we did. So you see that my family’s ability to resist expedient and reactionary mentalities stems not from me, but from my wife. My usual reaction is to fly off the handle, until I see my wife staring at me curiously and patiently, and only then do I realize that I am overreacting.
And third, a realization. I was not being falsely humble when I said that I was confused that this piece ran at all. I don’t see myself as a very successful person, certainly no one whom you write a feature article about. I’ve worked at a variety of churches, the last one of which was something of a spectacular failure. And now I am the interim (read, temporary) pastor of a small church in a largely overlooked neighborhood of D.C. And I’ve been there for three months. Um, there’s nothing in that narrative that strikes me as particularly worthy of acclaim or recognition. It is not a success story, at least in the way that we typically define success.
If the story is a testament to anything, it is a testament to silence.
Let me give you a summary of how this article even came to be. About two months ago, I wrote a blog post about being a Korean living in a largely African American neighborhood, and the need to resist easy stereotypes or inherited prejudices. I knew it was a bold topic, but I was still surprised by the level of response and encouragement that I received as a result, with numerous people commenting as to how they had never heard this topic broached before. Encouraged by this, I asked Relevant Magazine if they would print the same post, in slightly edited form, to which they agreed. They told me that receive very few articles on race, and none on Asian and African-American relations. And so they were kind enough to print this article on their online website. It was this article that attracted the attention of a writer at the Washington Post, who similarly noticed that she had never read anything on the subject before, making my story stand out to her.
So the real reason that a story was printed about the brief experiences of a largely unknown pastor? It’s not because my life is so remarkable, or my view so profound…it’s because not many people are saying anything on the topic. I appear to have become an unwitting and flabbergasted pioneer in the discussion of race in the Christian community, particularly the dynamic between Koreans and African-Americans. The conspicuous silence on the subject allows nearly anyone to speak his mind and get noticed. And that does nothing but sadden me. I can’t believe that the opinions and experiences of a relatively unknown pastor should be so easily vaulted to the front page of the metro section of the Washington Post. My voice should be one of thousands, instead of one of a few.
I’ve come to realize that Christians of all racial backgrounds, following the example set by their leaders, shy away from discussions on race. It is not a topic that is brought up often in church, and when it is, it is usually by leaders who are so polarizing and opinionated that they fail to create any common ground from which the church can move forward on the topic. We have wonderful leaders in the evangelical community, Korean and African-American, but they do not address the subject squarely or consistently, speaking in veiled terms in order to avoid offense. And so, the church is nearly silent on the topic of race, when in reality, we should be the vanguard of reconciliation. After all, aren’t we witnesses and recipients of eternal reconciliation through Jesus Christ? Wasn’t the early church one of the first truly multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-class communities in all of known history?
Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely appreciative that the Post ran this piece, for my sake, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of creating a conversation about race. But honestly, next time I ask the Post to do a feature on the subject, I hope that they scoff and turn me down because there are just too many people who are doing too much good work on the topic to include my silly opinion.