An Open Letter from Sojourners to Zondervan

By Jim Wallis 11-24-2009

We at Sojourners, in solidarity with our Asian American sisters and brothers, affirm the act of repentance by Zondervan in its decision to pull the Deadly Viper book and curriculum. We are encouraged that Zondervan and the book's authors were willing to take such difficult and costly steps to remedy this situation, including shutting down the Deadly Viper Web site -- actions which went well beyond the requests of those objecting to the materials' presentation. Apologies are important, but regardless how public they may be, they are always only a first step. So we are encouraged that Zondervan is not dealing with this situation as merely an isolated instance, but is undertaking concrete structural changes, as its statement says, "to avoid similar episodes in the future" and "to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward." In anticipation of the backlash of criticism Zondervan may receive for making such a dramatic decision, we affirm your action as an essential step that starts with personal reconciliation and moves toward institutional repentance and transformation.

We also affirm Zondervan's continuing "dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity," and are encouraged that your commitment to improve the presentation of this book "will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts." We want to especially encourage you, as you engage a broader range of women and men in this process, to extend this principle beyond this particular project. Only by taking such a comprehensive approach will Zondervan be able to avoid engaging in other forms of damaging stereotypes and practices that may not already be on your institutional radar.

We shared the disappointment and honest critiques of several of our sisters and brothers in the Asian American community and beyond, even as we considered our own institutional response to this situation. In particular, we applaud the courage and affirm the perspective of Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, a member of Sojourners' board of directors, who initiated this tough conversation and first brought it to our attention. We agree with those who've emphasized that this is an ongoing conversation that extends well beyond this book or this publisher, and we will continue to encourage this dialogue on our God's Politics blog. Eugene Cho of Quest Church, Edward Gilbreath of, Kathy Khang of InterVarsity, and Ken Fong of Evergreen Baptist Church have already made important contributions to this conversation.

Because of Sojourners' relationship with Zondervan, we stand with you in a spirit of affirmation and admonition as you continue your "mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ," and "to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth." We ultimately affirm, from our own experience, that it is only through the love and grace of Jesus Christ that true personal reconciliation and institutional transformation are possible. The Spirit of Christ who knocked an individual, Saul, off of his horse on the Damascus Road and sent him to preach to both Jews and Gentiles is the same Spirit who challenged the churches to institutional repentance in Revelation 2 and 3. As we all seek to be obedient to Christ's call to transformation, may you consider us another partner in, as you say, "working together for God's Kingdom."


Jim Wallis

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