Dear Pastor Rick Warren, I Think You Don’t Get It

By Kathy KyoungAh Khang 09-25-2013
Screen shot of image on Rick Warren's Facebook page

Screen shot of image on Rick Warren's Facebook page

Author's Note: As of sometime Tuesday afternoon, the original Facebook post and tweet of this image has been removed. That is wonderful news. He has also issued an apology on Dr. Sam Tsang’s blog (linked later in this post) but not on his Facebook page or Twitter because it has all been removed. However, I am leaving up my original post because deleting something doesn’t actually address the issue, and the subsequent comments by supporters were never addressed. Those supporters may think the post was removed because he got tired of the angry Asians who don’t get it. Right now, it feels like I’ve been silenced. Pastor Warren actually did read many of the comments voicing concern about the post and responded with a rather ungracious response. My kids constantly hear me talk about the consequences of posting something up on social media and the permanence of that. 

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you wake up to Facebook tags and messages about “something you would blog about.”

My dear readers, you know me too well.

This photo appeared yesterday on Rick Warren’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Apparently the image captures “the typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” Hmmm. I didn’t realize Saddleback was akin to the Red Army. Warren’s defense, (and that of his supporters) is one that I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING!

"People often miss irony on the Internet. It's a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn't be following me! Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines — jokes — in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtedly giggling!" - Rick Warren, commenting on his Facebook post

The defense goes something like this:

  • Don’t you know this is a joke? This is funny. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • I didn’t mean to offend you. BUT … Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • Why are you attacking “fill in the blank with [well-intentioned White person’s name here]?" Don’t you know how many people [said person’s] ministry and life’s work has touched and brought to faith? Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • If you are a Christian, show [fill in the blank with well-intentioned White person’s name here] some grace. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • Don’t be so politically correct. Be a Christian first. Don’t make this about race. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.

I don’t know where to start with this so I will first take a deep, cleansing breath and send you to Dr. Sam Tsang’s blog to get a thoughtful, educational post that for those who are not familiar with the Red Army. This image used by Warren? Propaganda. Because genocide always looks better when it’s smiling  and perfectly coiffed.

It’s not funny. It’s not about me getting over myself. It’s not about Christians being funny. One thing it is about is White evangelicalism (re)writing the narrative of our faith and our story. The story continues to tell people like me to get over it, to lighten up, to get a sense of humor, to put my faith above my ethnicity and gender. The story continues to tell me that the amount of grace someone deserves is equal to the number of people they have helped. The story continues to tell me that people like me have no place in the culture making of Christianity because directly and indirectly we are not welcome as my dear friend Grace Biskie wrote about her experience at a recent conference.

The Red Army. Hitler Youth. Would one be more acceptable than the other?

Dear Pastor Rick Warren,

I have not helped thousands come to know Jesus. I don’t know that for a fact, but I do know that I don’t have the kind of platform you do, the kind of following you do, the number of eyes watching and listening to you. But that shouldn’t stop us from listening to one another and learning from one another.

The image of the Red Army soldier is offensive. It isn’t funny. And it does have racial implications. I know you are a thoughtful leader, so why not choose an equally funny/not funny image of Hitler Youth who look just as cheerful, focused, and determined (and perhaps, dare I say, more like your staff?) Because it was easy to use the Red Army image? Because you didn’t think it was a big deal to connect your Christian staff with the Chinese Red Army? Because you have someone of Chinese descent on your staff and he/she didn’t think it was a big deal? 

Please reconsider your comments that essentially told many of your brothers and sisters in Christ to get over it, to get a sense of humor, to lighten up, etc. Please take a moment to hear us out because you don’t get to tell me to laugh about the Communist Red Army because it isn’t funny. There is no irony. Do not compare me and others to the self-righteous who did not get Jesus’ humor as you did in your Facebook defense.

Please help me understand how this furthers the kingdom of God because right now it feels like the most important thing is to “get you.”

Sincerely,

Kathy Khang

Kathy KyoungAh Khang is currently serving as a regional multiethnic ministries director with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF)/USA. Kathy is one of the authors of More Than Serving Tea, and she continues to write on her personal blog More than Serving Tea.

 

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