Friday, March 21, 2003
To the east and back...
Well, Chong and I went to Kirkland on the Eastside to film King's Fools at the Generation Church conference. It turns out the concert started a little bit earlier than we anticipated, but luckily, I had made a last minute check of the City Church website and found it started at 5:00pm instead of the time I originally thought, 6:00pm.
Filming went well for the most part, though there were a couple of minor incidents that got us off on the wrong foot. First, we made a wrong turn on the way to the church and ended up in downtown Kirkland before we figured we were heading too far west instead of east. That actually wasn't that bad... even with the wrong turn, we ended up at the church at around 4:30pm, plenty of time to check in with the band, case the area, and look for good angles to shoot from. We get to the sanctuary, but the doors are of course closed during soundcheck with City Church ushers - maybe college age, but probably high schoolers - watching the doors.
So what was the problem you might ask? They refused to let us into the sanctuary!
1) I explain that Chong and I are here to film the band and that the band ITSELF has asked to come film them. I might add that I'm explaining things in an extra nice tone of voice, 1000x more gentle and accommodating than normal Garrett.
2) Chong and I are both Asian. King's Fools are all Asian. King's Fools roadies / soundcrew are all Asian. But 99% of the kids / staff I see walking around us in the Generation Church: WHITE. I would think it's obvious that I'm a visitor.
3) Chong and I are plainly carrying a VIDEO CAMERA, equipment, and bags. If this were a secular concert (like your standard pop-rock show or something), I could understand, because they never let you tape those. But this is a CHURCH EVENT. Also, refer to 1).
I made every effort to try and accommodate them. I asked the ushers to page the band or send someone into the sanctuary to grab one of the band members to come personally get us at the door to prove we were with the band... but no go. I ask to speak to someone in charge... I get a run-around on how they "don't see so and so around". Finally, a much wiser and kinder higher-up walked by and noticed us waiting by the door and asked what the problem was. She talked to me, took one look at Chong and I, and made the ushers get outta of our way. Sheesh... we were waiting for almost 20 minutes to get in.
I have no evidence to outright accuse people and say they're racist, but my nostrils could smell the stink of ignorance. I looked into their eyes and I see that familar look that I've had to deal with on and off my whole life with non-Asian people. Their entire body posture, tone of voice - crossed arms, and unfriendly. I could sense their suspicion, their bias, their fear as plainly as if they were wearing an A&F Wong Bros. t-shirt. I ask to simply walk into the sanctuary or talk to somebody in charge; they look at me like I've asked to devour a small child with my bare hands.
Why is it white middle America can be so damned prejudiced, EVEN in the house of God? Ignorance... it's disappointing and it's sad. So much for Generation Church showing love to a baldheaded Chinaman.
I think I'd be more irritated at the whole thing if it wasn't for the fact that I really wanted to put it behind me and focus on getting some good footage for the project for King's Fools. I also tried to remind myself of last weekend's events at CBC, which more than anything, highlighted the weakness of even Godly people. After all, just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean they instantly morph into a perfect person. Imperfection is a defining part of humanity, and being that any person of faith is human, flaws are to be expected.
But yeah... incidents like this remind me of the whole reason ethnic churches continue to flourish here in America. The journey toward knowing God better and growing in faith is complicated enough at times; throwing in the issue of race makes things infinitely more difficult. People of color, especially Asian Americans, deal with this kind of behavior all the time - this ignorant mistrust, this treatment of us as aliens in our own native land.
White Americans complain that Black churches, Chinese churches, Korean churches, etc. are insular organizations - and they are - but only because the ignorance of white America, the gross indignities of its past, and a present unwillingness of it accept responsibility for dealing with them have created and sustained the existance of ethnic churches. Simply put, people of color would rather attend a church of their own creation where they feel welcome than often attend a church where they will have to struggle with the ignorance of others along with the usual battles of faith.
I put no limits on the sovereign power of the Lord to span the racial divide in this country, but I've yet to see a truly multicultural congregation that was founded by what Pastor Wayne referred to once rather whimsically as the proverbial BWC (Big White Church). While their heart to spread the gospel may be sincere, White churches seem too often to follow into the trap of tokenizing believers of color ("Oh yeah, we have Johnny, he's Korean and Dan, he's Black... sure they're the only non-white people here, but hey... we're multi-cultural! We understand colored people!") or insisting upon a kind of pseudo culture that proclaims to be Christian when in reality, it is enshrined white American cultural norms ("Yeah, all our ministries and services are in English and a lot of our new members from the community are primarily Spanish speakers, but it should be that way! Christ demands unity, they should learn English! Having translators and Spanish materials is too much trouble.").
I believe multicultural / emerging churches usually need to founded under a different kind of paradigm - not simply for the sake of difference, but because these different paradigms are often championed by passionate followers of Christ. Example of a different paradigm of several great multicultural churches I know - Asian American leadership (who woulda thunk, eh?). Jubilee for example, based in the U-District and the Eastside, was founded by a strong core of Korean American believers, but now has a congregation that is much more diverse - other Asian ethnicities as well as white. Or take Lighthouse, an eastside church founded by Pastor Wayne Ogimachi, a Japanese American whose God-given talent for preaching has attract a multi-ethnic and multi-generational audience.
Anyways, enough sermonizing. See what one stupid little incident incites me to write? Imagine if they made me and Chong late by an hour instead of 20 minutes. I'd be churning out whole novels on this topic of race, faith, and the Church. Ha.
Random War in Iraq note:
CNN.com has some interesting information on their site, especially if you're a history buff like me. They have page of detailed information on the vehicles and equipment in use in by both Allied forces and Iraq. They even have some sexy 3-D models of those fighter jets you always dreamed of flying in as a kid. Nifty.
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