Recently I stumbled upon a website of a church that has “Asian-American” in its name. Its motto described the church as a “multi-ethnic church.” It made me bristle, as if the two terms were contradictory. But upon quick reflection, I realize that a multi-Asian church is indeed multi-ethnic.
A church comprised of Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Filipino-Americans is multi-ethnic. Why not? By this definition, Evergreen SGV is definitely a multi-ethnic church. We just don’t use that term like the church I mentioned above. Our church brings together groupings of people who have had a history of strife between each other. We have differing cultures and tendencies. As a Chinese-American, I’ve learned so much about Japanese culture, including its differences and common ground with Chinese culture. Throw in the minority American experience, and you have a beautiful and unlikely local body of believers.
Yet many would look at our church and not consider us multi-ethnic. Why? Well, in the first place, it’s because of the way we look. I still hear the racist taunts like “Y’all look alike!” and “Aren’t you all the same really?” I am never unfazed by the ignorance and frequent unwillingness to even consider learning about Asian-Americans. One of the most ignorant attitudes I encounter is people looking at a group of Asian-Americans and automatically assuming that we have no differences, or our differences are not prominent enough for us to be considered as different ethnicities.
American culture has generally conditioned people to believe that a blending of skin colors is the best environment, and that a homogenous grouping of people who look similar is somehow inferior in virtue. It’s politically correct. We see a group of Caucasian-looking people and consider them all the same, despite them being made up of a rural farmer from the South, an Irish immigrant, and a well-to-do businessman from the city. Vastly different people, from different stories, and different cultures. If these people made up my church, I would rejoice in the rich diversity of the body of Christ. Yet people simply judge by appearances.
Martin Luther King called for us to judge a man not by the color of his skin. May we do the same with churches?