The…Exaggerations of the CBS Sunday Morning Piece

Posted on April 3, 2013

In case you missed it, here is the feature that CBS Sunday Morning produced on me and Peace Fellowship Church.  Check it out:

Just a few thoughts I had after watching it myself:

First off, Peace Fellowship isn’t really what I would call “predominantly African American” – it really is closer to multi-ethnic.  There are African Americans, Caucasians, Korean-Americans, Africans, mixed families, Europeans, um…all this to say that Peace Fellowship is a wonderfully confusing place to worship.  And I think the piece consciously played up this angle to emphasize the oddness of a supposedly black church having a Korean-American interim pastor.  And that would indeed be odd…except that it is not really what Peace Fellowship is.

Secondly, Peace Fellowship was already awesome before I even got there.  It’s an incredible group of people, quite possibly the most welcoming and caring congregation that I have ever had the privilege to work with.  My predecessor, Dr. Dennis Edwards, had established this colorblind community that cared very little if its interim pastor was Korean-American or not.  He had laid the foundation for everything that was on display in that piece.  I had mentioned him several times in my interviews with CBS, and it irked me that he went completely unrecognized.  The piece made it seem as if I had brought a fair and open-minded attitude with me, when in truth, it existed for a decade before I even stepped through the door.

Thirdly, I come off very, very well.  I mean, they portray me as some kind of saint, for which I am thankful.  But at the same time, there was a little misdirection involved in accomplishing this feat.  Everything that I had communicated in the interviews was chopped up and recombined, so much so that I don’t think a single idea that I had was ever communicated in its entirety.  For example, at one point I said, “I’m just going to bring it…”, and then correspondent says, “And what he brought was an idea [of open-mindedness].”  But that’s not actually what I was trying to say.  The “IT” that I was referring to was not really open-mindedness, but a focus on biblical preaching.  In preaching circles, that’s what the expression “bring it” means – it means to passionately and faithful preach God’s word.  And that is what truly endeared me to the people of Peace Fellowship, that we both valued the Word of God to such a degree that our relationship was a very good fit.  But the clip was edited in such a way where that point was not communicated.

I don’t share this to stick my finger in the eye of the crew at CBS Sunday Morning in ANY way, because I really, really appreciate the piece.  By the end, I would say that we were all feeling pretty chummy, as you can tell from this awesome pic: IMG-20130304-00964

I would be an ungrateful fool to do or feel anything else.  I totally understand that they are looking for the most compelling story possible, and the difficult time constraints that they labor under.  But I do think it’s important to point out these nuances, first for the sake of accuracy, but second, as a warning of sorts.  You see, when one person is lionized for doing something good, and the contributions of others overlooked or glossed over, we begin to develop a dangerous mentality where it seems as if only a few chosen people are capable of truly good deeds.

For example, the piece could have been summarized thusly: “A Korean-American graduate of Yale eschews medical school and instead becomes a pastor, and despite the fractured relationship between Blacks and Koreans, his open-minded attitude wins over skeptical members of a black church!”  It is an impossible example to follow, and that is because it is not factual.  I couldn’t even follow the example of the person that was portrayed in that piece, and I’m supposed to BE that person.  The fact is that there was nothing single-handed about the situation at all, as many people were involved in this story: Dr. Edwards, the congregation members, my wife (see previous post), and yes, myself.  It was very much a group effort.

But when we instead choose to focus solely on the efforts of one individual, we are in danger of feeling that we are not qualified nor responsible to imitate their example, because after all, how could we?  Their efforts appear superhuman, beyond our ability to achieve.  So we give up, leaving that responsibility to those more qualified than us.  But that would be the absolute last thing that I would want people to take away from my example.  Instead, I hope that the opposite would be true, that people would realize that if someone like me can have a role to play in racial reconciliation, then surely can we all.  Because I certainly don’t see myself as a leader in racial reconciliation, but instead, a very ordinary person who, despite his own personal shortcomings and prejudices, realized that there is still so much potential for us to grow in our understanding of those who are supposed to be the “Other”.

Of course there will undoubtedly be leaders in these endeavors, men and women of great vision and personal strength – I might be one of those people, although I certainly don’t see myself that way.  But despite this, these people are only a piece of the puzzle, the catalyst through which a movement begins and is carried forward, but not completed.  The greatest things that we do, we never do alone, but always with the help of many, many others.

Posted in: Opinion