Eugene Cho

Never stop learning. Go deep. Be deep. Have more depth than 140 characters.

romero

There are many beautiful aspects of our larger culture … and then they are broken things. There are also things that are incredibly encouraging and of course, disconcerting.

One of my concerns in our larger culture – including the Church:

We’re
lacking
d  e  p  t  h  .

In my first book – Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (set to release on September 1 but available for pre-order now),  there’s a chapter entitled, “Have More Depth than 140 Characters.”

I am the first to tell you that I don’t know everything about everything. But when it comes to my core pursuits, my passions, the issues that inspire me and drive me to serve, I try to learn as much as I can.

Over the past few years, I have met many people who are not only interested in serving the world in various ways but who are engaged in their convictions and passions. But I am often surprised to find out that they do not know the basic history and background of their chosen interest.

I remember one time in particular, at a conference, when a woman came up to me and told me she was very grateful and appreciative of a talk I had just given. We chitchatted, and eventually I asked her what she did as her vocation.

She said she worked at an NGO, serving the poor in Central America. We were having a polite conversation. She asked for advice, and I tried my best to encourage her in our short conversation. As I shared one of my favorite quotes from Óscar Romero, I asked her if she had read much of his works or about him.

“Aspire not to have more but to be more.” – Óscar Romero

She had this blank look on her face.

“No, I haven’t met him yet, but I’d love to. Can you connect me? How can I contact him?”

An awkward silence ensued.

It dawned on me at that point that she had never heard about Archbishop Romero—who, by the way, was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I really want to encourage you. You’re doing some great work in your communities, so be encouraged. As you keep doing deep work in your community and because you feel led to serve the larger communities throughout Central America, you need to understand the history of Central America. The equivalent of you not knowing about Óscar Romero in your context is if you were to say that you care about civil rights in America and not know about Martin Luther King Jr.”

Another awkward silence.

Please don’t judge me. It sounded much more pastoral and kind when I said it. Really! I gave her a huge hug and encouraged her to keep pressing on, going deeper, caring well, leading well, listening well, and loving well.

You may or may not know about Óscar Romero, but I hope you learn about him, especially if you ever choose to serve the poor in Latin America. Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and vulnerable as security crumbled in El Salvador in the late 1970s.

He was celebrating mass at a hospital, lifting a chalice during the sacrament, when he was shot.

The assassination sparked an international uproar, coming one day after he preached a sermon that implored soldiers to act like Christians and stop carrying out the government’s ongoing repression.

Óscar Romero has an important story to be heard. And there are many others, if you take the time to dig in and learn. To better understand issues of poverty, justice, and classism in Latin America, how can one not take the time to study and learn from theologians such as Dominican priest Gustavo Gutiérrez and the Jesuit priest Juan Luis Segundo?

  • How can we say we care about abolition and not know the story of William Wilberforce?
  • How can we say we care about the history of slavery and abolitionism in the United States and not know about Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass or Harriet Beecher Stowe or William Lloyd Garrison?
  • How can we say we care about women’s equality in America and not know the likes of Susan B. Anthony (who also taught at a seminary), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth?
  • How can we say we care about the civil rights movement and racial justice and not know the story of Emmett Till?
  • How can we say we care about Asian American context or ministry and not know the story of Vincent Chin?

Point being, you can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep. Take time to understand the issues, facts, complexities, and nuances.

Without knowing even the basic background of what you care about, you can hurt the people you are trying to help. This is an issue of respect.

All issues have their form in a community of history, context, and culture. If we miss these things, we simply are not doing our jobs well. We’re not caring well, listening well, and not setting up ourselves well for mutual relationship.

Never stop learning. Study the Bible. Read the news. Devour books. Engage people. Ask questions. Be a critical thinker and active practitioner.

Your move.


The above is an excerpt from my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 158-161.

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6 Responses

  1. Peter Yi says:

    Hey Pastor Eugene, do you know a missionary named Bronson Yi, who served in Asia?

  2. Bruce Strom says:

    As always, thank you. I gladly take the shovel from you and will join in digging deeper.

  3. aldoyle2013 says:

    Powerful. And it hits me at a time when I am (feeling) totally consumed with work and life. Eugene, I have to stop now and think about what you are saying. About what your message is about CHANGE. I know I can talk a good game. I often get paid for it. And I can write and bout things and get paid for it. But there is coming a time when I am going to have to pause… long… and think….hard… about me…”Am I A GUY WHO IS more in love with the idea of changing the world, than actually changing the world.” Expletive resisted!”

  4. This idea is something that has challenged me since I heard you share at The Justice Conference in 2012. With so much news of injustice coming at us every day, it feels a little overwhelming because I want to learn about all of it.
    “You can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep.”
    I’ve come to a place where I feel okay with becoming *informed* about many issues going on around me, but I want to be an *expert* in that which I’m passionate about. Thank you for your challenge in this, for challenging me to see that posting something on Facebook is not the same as living justly. and reading some tweets does not make me informed.

  5. Joe Hancock says:

    Reblogged this on Joe's Thoughts and commented:
    Great thoughts from Eugene Cho which are taken from upcoming book Overrated. Check it out and go ahead and pre-order book!

  6. […] under a rock as I just discovered Eugene Cho’s blog just this weekend. The credit goes to this post for convincing me to move his new book to the top of my fall reading list. In this personal […]

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

To support both the equality of women and the dignity of the unborn feels like a very lonely place to be but I know we're not alone. May we press on. And may we lead with hope.

I'm at the Women's March in Seattle to show my solidarity with my wife, my mothers, my daughters, and the female congregants of my church. I'm also here to model for my son what we believe in our home. Many people have already expressed their disappointment, dismay, and disgust with my decision. Such is life. We will always disappoint someone. And that's also a lot of words that begin with "d." I'm here not because I agree or disagree with every single statement or sign at this march (although I really liked this one) but because as a Christian, I believe in the fundamental truth that women are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. They are to be valued, heard, and respected.

And because I believe we can't be a flourishing society without the flourishing of women. And because the Church cannot be the Church without the gifts and voices of women. All the gifts of women.

And in doing so, may we together honor the sanctity of life - from womb to tomb. Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards

my tweets

  • Really loved this sign from the women's march from one of our church congregants. Counter cultural. Subversive. L… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 4 hours ago
  • To support both the equality of women & the dignity of the unborn can be lonely but we're not alone. Lead with hope: instagram.com/p/BPjMGTOhMjL/ || 5 hours ago
  • To support both the equality of women & the dignity of the unborn feels like a very lonely place to be but we're not alone. May we press on. || 8 hours ago
  • Going to the Women's March in Seattle bc as a Christian, I believe women are fearfully and wonderfully made and are to be heard & respected. || 11 hours ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 12 hours ago
  • God bless America...so that we may be a blessing to the hurting, poor, vulnerable, immigrants, oppressed, marginalized. God bless America. || 1 day ago

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