Eugene Cho

race. racism. racialization.

well, it was a very interesting sunday.  very exhausting.  obviously, the content of the sermon (issues of faith and racism) contributed to the exhaustion.  i also made the mistake of checking email on sunday between services (which i should not do); just the number of hits and comments on this blog in the past 24 hours, emails, and comments after the sermon is verification enough that the church (including quest) doesn’t speak enough about ‘faith and race.’  as i shared yesterday during the sermon yesterday, our faith cannot be contained for a sunday or a 90 minute service.  if faith in jesus is real, it must engage every aspect of our lives.  ultimately, it invades, affects, redeems, and transforms our worldview.

so, some of the interest comments from yesterday:

“are you saying that white folks are racist?” my short answer: of course not.  i’m not saying that YOU are a racist, i’m merely speaking about ‘systemic’ or ‘institutional’ racism.  and yes, i again want to affirm that the core of the issue is human sin and depravity.

“are you saying that all churches should be multicultural?”  my short answer:  they already are.  are you asking should they be multiethnic?  for the majority, yes.  i’m a big supporter of the ethnic church but believe that predominantly anglo churches need to be stretched and english speaking ethnic churches need to be stretched.  you can wrestle with the definition of ‘stretched.’

“will you talk about faith and gender inequality?”  my short answer:  yes.  when?  not sure yet.

“who made that video?”  the video, entitled, ‘silent racism’  was done by five folks who attended the 2006 faith and race class this past summer as a homework assignment.  if you missed it or want to see it again, you can see it on youtube here.

“you said you support affirmative action.  why is that fair?”  my short answer:  yes, i support affirmative action.  is it fair? you’re asking the wrong question. 

“so, do you dislike white people?”  my answer:  (laughing) of course not; i pastor quest church and i’m called to love and serve all at quest and beyond. 

my favorite question (i think asked jokingly): “are you racist?” my answer: no, i’m not racist.  like many others, if not all, i struggle with the subtleties of my prejudice.  although not a racist, i now understand the realities of what it means to be ‘racialized.’  perhaps cornel west (professor of religion at princeton) says it best: “It is impossible to be an American and not racialize how your feel.”

this past sunday was also more interesting with a) a professor from dallas theological seminary visiting.  he teaches issues dealing with culturally diverse congregations (i think) and  b) a nobel peace prize nominee and others visiting from burma  who intimately know oppression, racism, suffering,  and genocide because it is happening NOW.  a question that emerged from the group, “what do you say to those who are oppressed?” 

finally, a powerful image for me yesterday was looking across the beautiful congregation at quest where i feel so privileged to serve and lead.  i appreciate so much the attentiveness of each person as we engaged a difficult conversation and even more humbled, that many different people (across different ethnicities, stories, and age) have chosen to disceringly sumbit themselves to my leadership and teaching.  yesterday, i was taken back to see numerous asian and african-american questers in tears or near tears. 

looking forward to this upcoming sunday.  although several have expressed disappointment about quest in regards to our ‘superficial approach’ to multiculturalism, my goal has always been to gather people so that TOGETHER we can grow in Jesus, and through LIFE and COMMUNITY TOGETHER, we’ll have the opportunity to share our stories together – in hopes of learning, teaching, modeling, embodying, deepening, caring, loving, and ultimately, experiencing a new kind of worldview or life which i believe jesus referred to as ‘abundant life’ in the gospel of john.

Filed under: asian-american, culture, emerging church, quest church

7 Responses

  1. elderj says:

    interesting post…i wish i could have heard the sermon. I don’t know what to say

  2. eugenecho says:

    joshua, thanks for the post. it wasn’t that great of a sermon imo but you can listen to it at: http://seattlequest.org/sermons/2006.10.22.m3u

    blessings to you.

  3. Nancy says:

    Hi,
    I was one of those priviledged to participate in this summer’s series on Faith and Race – and it changed my life. I struggle with the definition of what it means to be a racist as I am gradually expanding the definition to include me, since as a white woman I have participated in and benefited from a racist system. That awareness now demands response.

    I moved about an hour north of Quest as the series was ending and have sought out a church closer to home. I’ve been attending a growing church in Kirkland the past month and can say that for the first time in my life I am in an all white group and feel uncomfortable (thank you Quest). The discomfort comes both from missing my brothers and sisters of color and from having an awareness not shared by others. So maybe, Eugene, you have unintentionally launched a Quest missionary into the suburbs to start more difficult conversations about race there. As I said, the awareness now demands a response.

    A big part of the conversation about race and our history of racialization involves moving through various stages of denial, anger and disillusionment with what you’ve been taught and who you are. That doesn’t happen in a Sunday, doesn’t happen in a month, may take years. The important thing is to keep having the conversation.

    My time at Quest was bracketed by the Faith and Race series – I came with the first, and ended with this last one and is a beautiful picture of the gift I continue to receive from you.

    Keep having the conversation!
    Blessings,
    Nancy

  4. eugenecho says:

    nancy,

    it is so good to hear from you. thanks so much for your post and your encouraging words.

    we miss having you here but rejoice in knowing that you continually seek to honor jesus through your life and responses.

    e

  5. Timothy Arthur O'Brien says:

    Hello,

    I want to pass along some advice I’ve gotten over the years. In the post, you are quoted as saying “that is the wrong question” to a hypothetical person who asks whether affirmative action is fair. I think that as a pastor you should know that there are no wrong questions. We try to speak of questions being valid or invalid in the context of constructive discussion, but to call a question wrong is to disdain the person who asked it. I think that most people agree that asking whether affirmative action is fair is a valid question.

    To call the question “wrong” is kind of like a shorthand for you to access a certain emotional response, like a father might get from a son. Like saying, “that’s the wrong wrench, you need the 5/16.” The response hoped for is, “thanks dad.” Fortunately or unfortunately the conversation about racism and affirmative action is not as simple as picking the right tool or the right measurement.

    I can imagine an invalid question being something like, “don’t you think he’s an idiot for believing in affirmative action?” Asking whether or not it’s fair definitely isn’t a wrong thing to do, and it isn’t a wrong choice among a list of possible questions either. A satisfyingly varied group of questions are asked in a complete discussion, and none of them are wrong.

    Best Regards,

    Timothy Arthur O’Brien

  6. […] is important because the church’s viability is at stake.  There’s also the issue that ‘Race Matters.’  Huh?  Just check out the whole painful fiasco with what is referred to as Jena 6.  Society is […]

  7. […] which was next door. Pastor Eugene Cho raises important questions on his blog about everything from race and racialization to the recent crisis in Burma. Eugene will be speaking at our conference next […]

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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

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200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
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