The pandemic released a wave of anti-Asian hate. Now they’re fighting bias in their own pews.

Last month, the Presbyterian Church in America convened its annual general assembly of more than 1,200 male elders—only men can hold office—in St. Louis.

Asian-American clerics have proposed a number of formal objections or demands for the cult to act, including a reference to the Atlanta spa shooting in March and calls for the PCA to “strongly from denying anti-Asian racism” and “actively denouncing anti-Asian rhetoric”.

But these multi-page proposals were eventually scrapped by the PCA Review Committee and replaced with a three-paragraph revised response that used softer, less urgent language. “We express our grief together with our AAPI brothers and sisters,” the revised overture said, and “ensure [them] our love and support. ”

Bryan Chapell, secretary of the PCA, said in an email that the amendment was created in response to differing opinions among Asian pastors and elders about whether to call Asian Americans and Asian Americans. Pacific Islander, or AAPI, “as a distinct group of people in the church. “

Several Asian-American elders, including John Chung, a pastor who lives in St. Louis, voiced opposition to the committee’s amendment during the meeting.

“Grief is not renunciation,” he said. “We need to know that any form of discrimination, racism and bigotry cannot stand in the body of Christ. … I urge the council to actually reject this [amendment] and ask for more. “

The panel then voted to adopt the revised response.

Amid a surge of anti-Asian hate related to the pandemic, multi-denominational Asian-American Christians have called on churches to combat racism within their own gangs. surname. While some efforts have been accepted, others have met with resistance or indifference.

Last year, Lucas Kwong was sitting in the kitchen of his Brooklyn, New York apartment and scrolling through Twitter when he came across a tweet from Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

“China has a 5,000-year history of cheating and stealing. There are some things that will never change…” tweeted Blackburn, who has funded bills that block Chinese nationals from participating in STEM graduate programs — or science, technology, engineering, and math — and allow American citizens to sue China over the spread of the virus. coronavirus. In other tweets, she used the phrase “Chinese Virus”.

Kwong – assistant professor of English at the City University of Technology New York, City University of New York, who also studies religion – began his research and quickly discovered that Blackburn was a member of the House. Church of Christ Presbyterian in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kwong tweeted about the head of her church, renowned pastor Scott Sauls. (“Would you like to comment on your association’s obscene kanji?” I wrote.).

“Scott happened to write a blog post last year about the importance of learning from the Asian members of his church, while the most influential member of his church was going against China. Quoc,” Kwong said. “I realized it wasn’t just Blackburn [and Sauls], and I began to wonder what church all these pastors were affiliated with. “

So earlier this year, Kwong wrote an “Open Letter on Anti-Asian Racism and Christian Nationalism,” which called on Asian-American Christians and their fellow Christians. Their statement “criticizes the escalation of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. “

He wrote in the letter, which now has more than 700 signatures: “While anti-Asian racism pervades America today, it especially flows from Christian nationalists across the power position. “Instead of maintaining the borderless kingdom of Christ, Christian nationalists increasingly see the ‘Chinese’ as messengers of physical and spiritual illness, besieging the nation God chooses. It is no exaggeration to say that, in the face of the world-historic spread of COVID-19 and Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, anti-China malice lurks where the flag meets the cross. ”

For Kwong, understanding the historical interweaving between Christian supremacy and white supremacy is crucial. For example, in the late 1800s, many clerics and politicians argued for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants because they considered Chinese people “immoral, evil, pagan”, saying that they will “destroy our civilization” unless they convert to Christianity, a 2016 analysis noted.

“Part of the fear of the infidels is always fear of the infidels,” says Kwong.

Another group whose work focuses primarily on combating racism against Asians in the evangelical church is the Asian American Christian Association. The organization’s mission is to “encourage, equip, and empower Asian-American Christians and friends in our community to follow Christ holistically.”

“Nearly weekly, I have conversations with an Asian-American pastor about questions like ‘How do we address the Atlanta shootings?'” Raymond Chang, president of the AACC, said. . “The other half of the conversation was with lots of black and white pastors asking, ‘What can we do?’

According to Chang, many pastors have used statements and resources from the AACC to inform their preaching. The AACC has organized prayer marches for Black lives and AAPI lives, with an estimated total of 5,000 people present in major cities across the United States. The group is also working with local, state and federal government agencies to advance anti-Asian anti-racism efforts.

Additionally, the group has published several videos featuring conversations between Asian-American and black pastors to address the history of violence between communities and how to pursue healing and unity.

“We all know white supremacy exists to divide us, but what are we going to do about it?” Michelle Reyes, AACC vice president, said, citing a conversation she and her husband, a Mexican-American pastor, had about violence between Latino and Asian-American communities from the podium. of the church they founded in Austin, Texas.

Asian Americans are not the only people in history to be the target of white, Christian supremacy.

K. Christine Pae, dean of the department of religion at Denison University, points out that Native Americans were sent to boarding schools to be “cleansed” by Christianity, black slaves were forced into slavery. converted to Christianity and many Muslims today are being surveyed and enlisted in the military. enemies — all part of the Christian ideology of triumph, she said.

“Christian victory is an ideology built on Christ’s victory over evil. This ideology has influenced America’s self-understanding of exceptionalism as the nation chosen by God to fulfill special missions for God’s justice,” Pae said. “It introduces people who are considered ‘other’ due to race, gender and especially religion as subjects to be conquered.”

With this deep history, fighting anti-Asian racism, or any form of oppression, in the church can feel difficult, but Pae says it’s important for people to start from where they are.

“Working against racism requires daily practice,” she said. “We have to start from where we are.”

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