Friday, August 29, 2003
So I got a response from the "Christian" company offering that messed up VBS program. It's filled with a lot of non-answers and typical PR spin... I should know, part of my job is doing public relations. Here's what they wrote in italics, along with my commentary...
Dear Christian Friends,
We are writing in response to your concerns related to LifeWay's VBS for 2004. Please know that this material was developed in a sincere and honest attempt to provide for boys and girls, youth and adults a fun-filled spiritual adventure to learn about God's Son, Jesus. Each year since 1997 our VBS material has been developed around a theme that serves as the exciting vehicle in which to travel to present the gospel.
We in no way ever intended for this year's Rickshaw Rally to be offensive. In the fall of 2001, we gathered folks from around the country to help us plan for this significant event in many churches. We included pastors, ministers of education, VBS directors, children's ministers, lay church members and state convention personnel. The Far East theme was chosen by this group because of the colorful and exciting possibilities that it held, not to mention the opportunity to remind boys and girls in America that all cultures need to learn about Jesus.
Translation: We gathered a large group of people to help pick a theme, most of whom are probably non-Asian, and picked the "Far East", because its exotic and appeals to popular culture's colonialist / tourist fantasies.
While producing the material, we included folks who have served in Asian countries as missionaries and have also consulted people who are native Japanese. Some of our editorial team have actually visited Japan so that we would be as true to the culture as possible. We have not included anything in our materials other than the wonderful and fun elements of the Japanese culture that we have discovered on our own or delved into through research.
So the Far East = Japan? The opinions of a few missionaries and native Japanese people represent the opinions of all Asians and Asian Americans? It's interesting how you've reduced all the diverse and very different cultures of Asia to a single caricature of Japanese culture.
And nowhere in the title of "Rickshaw Rally" does your VBS program indicate the focus is on Japanese culture... "rickshaws" as you term them are from CHINA. Not Japan. If you've done so much research, how could you have missed that?
Our desire is in no way to stereotype but to lift up another culture for boys and girls who may never be able to go on such an exciting adventure. We have heard many, many affirming reports from churches who are already in the midst of gathering decorations and information to make this their best VBS ever. Please accept our sincere apologies if we have done anything to offend, realizing that this was never our intent or plan. We value all ethnicities and our only goal is to help introduce boys and girls to Jesus.
Translation: Oops, we didn't mean to stereotype or trivialize Asian culture, but we did. Many of our churches have already purchased our program, and it's too much trouble to do the right thing and stop offering the materials. We're willing to say "sorry" in word, but not in action.
Please be assured that as we begin development of future VBS themes we will take all of your input into consideration.
Translation: We'll call up the 2 Asian people we know and ask if it's OK.
I'm going to write them back again and ask if they're removing the program and posting an apology on their site. If not... hrmmm, I didn't want to do this, but it'll be time to start mailing Asian American political organizations.
I encourage everybody to e-mail them still and let them know this weak, mass e-mail letter they sent out is no good. The people to contact:
Director of VBS Curriculum
Director of Publications
LifeWay Church Resources
c/o Your VBS
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN 37234-0136
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