More Than Serving Tea



I Emailed Pastor Rick Warren & There Is No “If”

This is it, I guess.

This is it, I guess.

I guess this is it. This. Warren has apologized.

There is no smug, self-satisfaction in this, sisters and brothers. Reconciliation comes with time and more often than not at great cost. This is no picnic or attempt at building a reputation or platform at the expense of someone else.

A wonderful opportunity to engage publicly, because that is where this whole thing started, on cross-cultural skills and integration in mission, in the Gospel, was missed. Poof. Context, words, forum, influence matter. They are not “secular” things we Christians need not worry about. Jesus knew his audience, context, words, power of place and space. (If you’re not sure about this, I would be thrilled to walk you through a manuscript study of the book of Mark.)

For those of you just tuning in, please start here and then I would suggest going herehere or here. This is Day Four, and in social media time that means you are probably late to the party. Here is a quick synopsis.

  1. Monday morning Rick Warren posts an image of a female Red Guard with the caption. “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.”
  2. Hours later there are many, many Facebook posts by people concerned about the use of the image, evoking the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and trying to connect that with a church staff’s attitude. There are also commenters rebuking people for communicating their hurt and concern over the image.
  3. By 8:30 am Monday morning, Warren responds with this: 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!”
  4. By Tuesday afternoon Warren’s controversial post, image and comment thread and tweet connected to that thread are erased, which is why I have chosen to leave all images and posts, and to quote directly when possible.
  5. Tuesday night I sent him a personal email so that I could Matthew 18 the situation.
  6. Tuesday night I received what appears to be a standard response indicating that there will be a response to me forthcoming. As of this morning (Thursday), there is not.

Automated response. I get it. I really do. I don’t have followers or a congregation. I have three kids. My automated response is, “In a minute.”

I am going to break this down for clarity sake because I and others who have been vocal about this have been accused of being un-Christian, mean, thin-skinned, sensitive, unaware of how much Warren’s ministry has done, racist, stupid, and all sorts of things we grown-ups hopefully are not teaching the children in our midst to call other children. I am breaking it down because sometimes, as a bicultural woman, I think I am being direct, but, because of multiple cultural influences on my language and approach, folks who lean more towards the Western culture find my Asian American tendencies indirect. Let’s break this down and put this puppy to rest. I’ve been here before. I suspect I will be here again. Every time I learn something new.

So, here is the dilemma. Do I think so highly of myself to think that Warren’s apology and reference to an email is actually about me? That is ridiculous. I know there were others who emailed him. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Warren is talking about my email, which I re-read. I never say “I am offended”. I had a lot of questions because I wanted to understand. I wanted to hear and open up dialogue because I didn’t understand Warren’s logic, humor or joke. I really didn’t understand why Warren’s supporters would then try to shut down those who were offended (and I include myself in the camp of those hurt, upset, offended AND distressed) by telling us/me to be more Christian like they themselves were being.

There is no “if”.  I am hurt, upset, offended, and distressed, not just because “an” image was posted, but that Warren posted the image of a Red Guard soldier as a joke, because people pointed out the disconcerting nature of posting such an image and then Warren then told us to get over it, alluded to how the self-righteous didn’t get Jesus’ jokes but Jesus’ disciples did, and then erased any proof of his public missteps and his followers’ mean-spirited comments that appeared to go unmoderated.

I am hurt, upset, offended, and distressed when fellow Christians are quick to use Matthew 18 publicly to admonish me (and others) to take this issue up privately without recognizing the irony of their actions, when fellow Christians accuse me of playing the race card without trying to understand the race card they can pretend doesn’t exist but still benefit from, when fellow Christians accuse me of having nothing better to do than attack a man of God who has done great things for the Kingdom.

When apologizing you do not put the responsibility of your actions on the person who is hurt, upset, offended, or distressed. You do not use the word “if”. You do not communicate that the offense was to one person when, in fact, it was not. You clarify and take the opportunity to correct those who mistakenly followed your lead. Your apology is not conditional on the “if” because you should know because you have listened, heard, and understood the person you hurt, upset, offended, or distressed.

A dear, wise friend offered this rewrite:

“I am truly sorry for my offensive post and the insensitive comments that followed. Thank you for teaching me what I did not know. I need to be surrounded by people like you, who bring a perspective and experience I lack, so I can continue to learn.”

Words matter.

There is no smug, self-satisfaction in this, sisters and brothers. This was not a pissing contest. This was and still is a wonderful opportunity to engage publicly and privately on cross-cultural skills and integration in mission.

 

 

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Postcards from the culture wars (10.7) pingbacked on 5 years ago
  2. When Rich Westerners Don’t Know They are Being Rich Westerners | Djibouti Jones pingbacked on 5 years ago
  3. Orientalization is an objective offence: answering our objectors | A Christian Thing pingbacked on 5 years ago
  4. It would not be funny if I said that Rick Warren was the ‘Rick’ in ‘Rickshaw Rally’ | A Christian Thing pingbacked on 5 years ago
  5. coup de grace | blah-g pingbacked on 5 years ago
  6. Rick Warren and Conversations with One’s Feet | Tim Tseng pingbacked on 5 years ago
  7. Visible Evidence of a Different Kingdom | headsparks* pingbacked on 5 years ago
  8. Silence, Conflict, and seeing Red | D-tales pingbacked on 5 years ago
  9. Religion News Service: Rick Warren gets backlash from Asian American Christians for posting photo | Justin K.H. Tse (谢坚恒) pingbacked on 5 years ago

Comments

  1. * Chevy Garrido says:

    This post is quite old, but concerning about your first words about this foolish activity of Pastor Rick: “For those of you who told me to accept the apology, I can’t infer an apology…”, First, we must learn to forgive others offenses, even when they haven’t sought forgiveness or mean it. There are things much more important than to be offended by some image or some dumb post on social media. I mean, really? Forgiveness is one of the “key” words of the Christian faith. Forgiving others allows us to overcome feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. Forgiveness can heal spiritual wounds and bring the peace and love that only God can give. We are to forgive others traspasses, period, because God forgave ours.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 5 months ago
  2. * Rae says:

    I think it’s truly sad that a believer would post things like this about Pastor Rick. Seems like nit picking to me as the Word of God teaches us to overlook an offense. If you knew the man (Rick) you would never put something like this on the internet as the man is a genuine caring person.
    Best to forgive and let it go.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 6 months ago
  3. * ajummama says:

    i have often beat myself up for cringing at apologies from folks who have hurt me with their “i’m sorry if you were hurt but…” and i realize that ppl can’t speak in scripts that i’ve wrote for them in my head but words do matter. someone i know (not an anonymous troll on the Internet) told me to stop venting about the struggles i have as an at-home mama because so many have it worse than me. her “apology” was even worse. thanks for writing.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      I agree. It’s difficult because if and when the tables are turned, words matter. The ifs, ands, or buts matter to all of us – Jesus included. And I HATE apologies that aren’t apologies but rather a version of “I want you to listen to me one more time” comments. Ah. Coffee and Jesus-time this morning…

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  4. * Megan says:

    I absolutely LOATHE the unpology. It’s 50 times as bad coming from a leader. 500 from one who associates himself with Christianity. Gross cultural offense aside, any person who believes even slightly in the idea of civility between humans should be offended by his first post, and reactions. Thank you so much for writing to him.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Thanks Megan. My husband and I are still talking about the unpology. Neither of us would get away with saying something like that in an argument at home. Why we are supposed to accept that from a leader is beyond me. Peace to you!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  5. * mike says:

    First of all, I want to commend the bloggers and those commenting for what you believe is right. Now that Rick has taken off the entire thread concerning this matter I actually think that you should consider doing the same thing. The Huffington Post has brought a lot of attention to this and it’s viewed by lots of people. It hurts Rick’s reputation and name and I don’t think it’s a service in advancing the gospel. I understand that I might be the only one to ask you to do this, but I think it’s only appropriate given that he’s already apologized (though I don’t think he did anything wrong, but he apologized nevertheless to those who might have misunderstood him) that you delete this entry also. I believe this blog has hurt Rick’s name and it’s not profitable for everyone to know about these comments at this juncture. Thank you for your consideration.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * diigee says:

      If I may, I say these blog posts are incredibly valuable to a wider conversation on Evangelicalism, the Church, and conflict. Erasing posts don’t make it go away, but actually makes it harder to educate and to avoid repeating the same mistake. It will also add insult to injury to pretend like nothing ever happened… that’s what really injuring Brother Warren’s reputation right now especially in regards to his new church plant in the HK.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Mike, thank you for taking the time to comment on something many people don’t want to stick their toes into. I appreciate it. I really do. I also have been thinking about the thread and about your concerns.

      I am choosing to leave the thread and the images on my blog in order to maintain the integrity of the public record of what started out as a manageable social media snafu and became something HuffPo decided to pick up. It’s one thing for Warren and his staff to manage his reputation, it is another to ask others in the blogosphere to manage Warren’s reputation and brand, so to speak.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  6. Thanks for taking the risk to teach white folk. That’s not always going to be a win. Glad you keep trying.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  7. * Mommy of One says:

    The Culturally Insensitive Is My Shepherd; He Leads Me Beside Poisoned Waters
    http://leftcheek.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/the-culturally-insensitive-is-my-shepherd-he-leads-me-beside-poisoned-waters/

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  8. * Julie P says:

    Just wanted to say thank you, Kathy, for all you are doing and writing. From an American white Christian woman, but one who grew up in another country. I know for sure, 100% we Americans can be ethnocentric and culturally, historically and geopolitically ignorant. I want to apologize to you, as an American, that American Christians let this get so far and didn’t immediately say “I’m so sorry! I love you sister. I love you brother. And would never want to hurt you, my sibling, as a fellow child of our dear Heavenly Father”! I say so, now.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Dear Julie, no need to apologize for all Americans! Thank you for reading, for considering, and for trying to understand!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  9. * First time visitor says:

    I just don’t if this is the appropriate time to bring something up like this to someone who recently lost his son to suicide. I just have to wonder if it’s really the Christlike thing to do to generate this kind of online dialog during what is most possibly the darkest time in his life. If I personally knew someone who experienced something so catastrophically devastating, I would probably want to just love on them and give them their space for some time. I can see why people would be upset with Rick Warren’s post but I don’t think the response has been one filled with grace and love towards a grieving brother in Christ. Even though this is the “internet” and Rick Warren is a celebrity, it is important for Christians to treat each person with the respect and dignity as if they were our own friend….or enemy.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      I agree, which is why I am upset and shocked at Warren’s own lack of respect and dignity to those of us who were concerned with his choice of posting the image in the first place.

      First time visitor, I continue to think about this situation. I have not personally lost a child to suicide. I can’t imagine what darkness that brings. I do wish that someone, anyone, in Warren’s circle or on his staff had pulled him aside and suggested he just stay off of social media for awhile.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Ben Duong says:

      First time visitor, I didn’t see the original post but I’ve read numerous posts that are still available to be read and from those I gathered that it’s not so much the original post itself but rather it’s the subsequent brush offs from Rick himself and his followers that generated a lot of responses. Just imagine if someone posted something that reminded him of his loss and if he expressed his hurt … and just imagine if they then tell him to get over himself?

      I initially gave him the benefit of the doubt thinking he might not know what happened in the cultural revolution, but now having watched a video recording of his Anaheim speech I’m not sure anymore. In fact I’m very concerned.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  10. * Awkward man says:

    Oh please. Who even cares what some rick man says or thinks…politically correct thought police on alert at all times.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Welcome, Awkward man. I care what this particular Rick man said and did. If you don’t care, may if there is a conversation you are wanting to start or if you have something else to add to this one?

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  11. * Kitty Wong says:

    When I read the other comments on the FB posts, I am sad. There is no lesson learned in the Rick’s community….True. This type of apology will do more harm than good. very Sad and disappointing….

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Irene says:

      Yes – I am more saddened at the fact that his response and “apology” is perpetuating the mindset that what happened is fine. The comments that advise him to not apologize because Jesus was also persecuted and Warren should therefore stand his ground is appalling.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
      • * Meredith says:

        Oh the FB comments in response! THEY are part of why his statement was inadequate, because it allowed so many of the commenters to blame the victims for taking offense, rather than owning that what he did was offensive. The ‘I am sorry if you were hurt’ apology is not an apology. It is a way to say, ‘I think what I did was fine, but since it seemed to bug you, well, oops, then.’ Completely irresponsible as a public comment,

        Like

        Posted 5 years ago
      • * T.r. Mak says:

        It is interesting to note that during the Cultural Revolution, many, MANY Christians were persecuted and killed. By characterizing his staff as being similar to the Red Guard, Rick Warren seemed to be saying that it’s okay to joke about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who died in the name of religion, it’s okay to joke about a period in which many Christians were tortured. Furthermore, his speech referring to how we should aspire to be Maoists was also a slight regarding that period of Christian persecution. That’s how I see it.

        Like

        Posted 5 years ago
      • * T.r. Mak says:

        PS. This is that Mao-related speech I was referring to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson/follow-jesus-like-nazis-f_b_158295.html

        It is also well explained here: http://stevesrambling.blogspot.ca/2013/09/rick-warren-and-red-guard-photo.html

        Like

        Posted 5 years ago
    • * Ben Duong says:

      Me too, I am saddened and troubled by the responses from his fans club. However I read the “if you were hurt …” apology slightly differently. The way I read it is that of all the readers who saw his original posts some were hurt, and some weren’t (e.g. his fans club). So the “if you were [those who were] hurt … by my insensitivity I am truly sorry” apology seems acceptable, to me personally at least. I think his acknowledgement of the problem “by my insensitivity” is an important element in the apology that shouldn’t be overlooked.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  12. * Mike Pleads says:

    “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

    It’s obvious he messed up, it’s becoming very obvious to him, but if you continue you will begin to hurt his ministry. I sure hope you wouldn’t want to be disregarded because of mistakes that took you a while to learn.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Mike, thanks for reading and commenting. I’m not sure what you mean by continuing I will begin to hurt his ministry. You are right, though. I don’t think anyone would want to be disregarded because of mistakes we made. I’m just not sure what I am continuing. Would you explain?

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  13. * Grace says:

    Did you by chance see Warren’s FB apology, posted last night? This post doesn’t seem to refer to it.

    “Finally back home. Staff handed me a hard copy of an email from someone offended by a picture I posted. If you were hurt, upset, offended, or distressed by my insensitivity I am truly sorry. May God richly bless you.” https://www.facebook.com/pastorrickwarren

    I’ve been keeping a record also: http://aacdotorg.tumblr.com/post/62210165601

    You are my hero, by the way. BRAVE LADY OF GOD.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Poop. Is this not displaying correctly? I have the FB apology up top – screen shot. I learned that trick too late after the Deadly Viper situation. That is a great record of a fast-moving mess. Thank you for being the historian, Grace!!! Grace and peace to you!!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  14. * diigee says:

    Anytime an offended party has to ASK for an apology, it opens the wound rather than closes it. It opens the door to victim-blaming, further denial of offense, and to silencing.

    Thank you, and others, for speaking anyways.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      diigee, thank you for clearly naming the offenses. Victim-blaming – YES. Silencing – YES.

      Let’s pray things can still change. They must.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
      • * Mommy of One says:

        I can’t stand using the Bible as a tool of silencing. Bam! A Bible verse (with a little twist) right on your head, you dare say a word after the word of God is uttered? I’ve seen it happen too many times, high power Christian leaders, or think they have high power Christian leaders often use this technique, mostly effective, but 100% terrifying.

        Like

        Posted 5 years ago
  15. * randplaty says:

    We all need to hear each other and listen to each other more. Rick Warren needs to listen, hear and acknowledge the Asian American community. We need to hear and listen to people who think that we should not be offended. They also need to hear and listen and acknowledge that people ARE offended. Every viewpoint here is a valid one and requires a lot more discussion. Let’s just listen to each other.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Randplaty,
      Amen!! I’m grateful there is more listening here. I am afraid it is less so on Sojo.net, Dr. Tsang’s blog, or RW’s FB page.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
  16. * Francis Su says:

    I also wrote Warren directly to ask him to publicly acknowledge the hurt he caused. Here’s what I said in my e-mail to him:

    “Pastor Rick:

    I know you didn’t intend to offend with your post about the Red Guard, but people seem to be more upset by your follow-up comment when you brushed off those who were offended by saying ‘it’s a joke, don’t follow me if you take this seriously’ and likening yourself to Jesus and those who were offended to the self-righteous.

    While you eventually deleted your Facebook post and thanked Tsang for ‘teaching us’, many people are still hurt by the way you brushed off those initially offended. It has also set a bad example for all your FB followers, who now think you think it’s OK to joke about a painful memory for many Asian-American families, including my own. My uncle was tortured to death by the Red Guard.

    The 4000 followers who “liked” your post probably haven’t noticed that you deleted it, or if they did, they will think you deleted the post to appease, rather than to apologize.

    If you believe that your post and the follow-up were insensitive, I humbly ask you to let your Facebook followers know. The world and many non-Christians are watching your example.”

    So at least he acknowledged his insensitivity and didn’t say “If you thought I was insensitive…”

    But I agree “if” is generally never a helpful word in any apology.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 5 years ago
    • * Francis Su says:

      p.s. it was perhaps a bit disingenuous for him to suggest it was just one email that he received. I’m sure he received hundreds.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 5 years ago
      • * Kathy Khang says:

        Thank you, Francis, for joining in publicly on this ongoing conversation. I’m trying to graciously filter my comments for the common good….

        Yes, I am certain there was more than one email. If it were true, we aren’t talking about the same image now are we.

        Like

        Posted 5 years ago


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