A place for each of us on the road to racial justice
Submitted by Gloria Fanchiang
Last Saturday I attended the Covenant Justice Conference, hosted by NY Covenant Church. Our focus for the day was, “The Polarization by Race in America: The Church as the Model For Unity.” Suah and Lori, members of Metro’s Mosaic racial reconciliation initiative group, as well as our own Pastor Kevin, also attended. I went in part out of obligation, since I made a commitment to the Mosaic group and to pursue racial justice in my personal life. However, I did not go with much expectation.
Unsurprisingly, I was one of four Asian Americans in the room of about 50 black and brown brothers and sisters as well as a few white brothers and sisters. The black brothers and sisters there were welcoming and gracious toward me and our non-black Metro crew, but in the back of my mind I wondered, as I often do at these types of gatherings, if I belonged in the room
I know God has called me to pursue racial justice in this country and I show up in obedience to him, but what does it mean for me, a child of Taiwanese immigrants, to be part of this difficult race conversation that is so often framed in terms of black and white? I am only the second generation of my family to live in this land where slavery can be traced back in a handful of generations or less. Not to mention I don’t actually do ‘real’ justice work as a vocation. I have a day job in corporate America and am also starting a music career, aspiring to be a singer/songwriter artist. Is my presence even relevant?
Though I didn’t verbalize my questions and need for wisdom to God, I’m so glad He knew what I needed and gave me a word to carry me forward. I felt God assured me that yes I indeed belong in the room and I have an important role to play in bringing about racial justice.
My takeaway from the morning session was the reminder that our God is a God of justice. If we want to truly seek and love God and call ourselves Christians, we must care about the things God cares about, and God cares deeply for the poor and the oppressed. On this point alone God affirmed my presence at the conference. I can and must seek justice when black men, women and children lose their lives to police violence or the criminal justice system because Christ pursues justice for them, and I want to follow Christ in this way.
God continued to speak to me in the afternoon session. Pastor Kevin shared from Luke 10 the parable of the good Samaritan. He said that as Jesus invites his listeners to enter into his parables so too we are invited to enter in. He then shared that as a white male he identifies most with the robbers who mugged a man in the story because historically white men have dominated American society at the expense of black and brown people. Afterward he explained that Blacks have identified with the man who is mugged in the story as they continue to suffer from the legacy of slavery and racism in this country. Finally there is the Samaritan – the 3rd party who has nothing to do with the robbery but plays a critical role in helping the mugged man to be restored. Pastor Kevin proposed that perhaps Asian Americans can identify themselves with the Samaritan – not to be messiahs but Samaritans, with self-sacrifice to help the mugged man.
Can I tell you my spirit stirred within me upon hearing this. It is so rare for Asian Americans to be acknowledged in these conversations or be called and affirmed in such a way, directly from scripture…I’m so grateful for Pastor Kevin bringing a word out of our majority Asian American church context at Metro.
Later on, we heard from Rev. Rubén Austria, Executive Director of Community Connections For Youth, “whose mission is to mobilize indigenous faith and neighborhood organizations to develop effective community-based alternative-to-incarceration for youth” (cc-fy.org). Rev. Austria shared that he has Filipino and white heritage and knows he cannot mentor and reach the youth he works with in a way that a formerly incarcerated person of color could. Nevertheless, he has a part to play in the lives of these youth. For example, as an Asian American advocate he can and has hosted support groups for them. He went on to share very practical, doable and effective steps for clergy and church members to take, such as accompanying youth to court. He even suggested that musicians and worship ministers could be of great service to the youth and their families by providing worship services and ministering to them – here is a very clear step I can consider taking.
I’m thankful God spoke to me so clearly and specifically, affirming me at the conference. I indeed have a role to play in seeking racial justice as a Christian, as an Asian American and as a worship leader and aspiring artist. I hope the majority Asian American church that Metro is can own its place in God’s kingdom, continue to contribute to an Asian American theology of justice and to live it.
My encouragement to anyone who has ever doubted if they can do anything about racial injustice is that God has an assignment for you. May you seek God, do his will and do your part. To anyone who may feel disconnected from the racial tension in our country and our broken criminal justice system – may you seek the truth about what is happening and has happened in our country to people of color and may God show you his perspective on things and how he sees black Americans, white Americans, Asian Americans, etc. May God break your heart for what breaks his heart.
May God raise up a witness and send forth Metro and Asian American Christians in particular to pursue racial justice in America during such a time as this.