Monthly Archives: October 2011

Eastern Promise, Eastern Promises: Dreams, Hope, & Glee’s “Asian F”

Eastern Promise, Eastern Promises: Dreams, Hope, & Glee‘s “Asian F”

(This post is about a recent episode of Glee, titled “Asian F.” You can watch it here: Asian F.)

MIKE CHANG, SR.: Deep in Hubei province this old woman knew the best school in the United States. That’s where my son belongs… My son got an A- on his chemistry test. An A- is an Asian F… An A- won’t do… It’s clear to me that either Michael is on drugs or that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. He needs to quite Glee club. Performing is a waste of his time…
MIKE CHANG, JR.: I’ll do better dad. I promise. Get me a chemistry tutor, I’ll pay for it myself.  Just give me one more chance.

The unfinished story of Asian F

Through two simple, but by all accounts authentic, minutes of dialogue, Glee takes a stab at a story and life that is true for a good many Asian Americans. Glee of course isn’t a realistic (in the sense of serious) drama; while its characters are often dismissed as caricatures, they are caricatures of normal people in a normal world with normal problems. Mike Chang, Jr., the focus of “Asian F,” is no different. Many of the bloggers seem content to slap an obligatory label of “stereotype!” on the episode, calling it well-trodden material (which I find strange; if anything, there’s a dearth of mainstream portrayals of Asian America), ready to move on to critical and artistic thoughts elsewhere.

Perhaps these mostly-white writers are dismissive because the tropes seem derogatory while they instead affirm a progressive approach to diversity. Or perhaps we (Asian Americans) are ready to move on because the story is so familiar and familial to us. But while we’ve heard it, or deride it, or can catalog and inventory all the particular contours and permutations, it doesn’t mean it’s finished. The story of “Asian F” still lacks a proper ending, much less a happy one. Because you don’t have to be a performing artist to know the uncomfortable stalemate we still face when it comes to hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Even if we desire to reach some promised land of egalitarian diversity, it doesn’t deal with the places we’re coming from or going home to.

What’s more, I’m not sure we’ve dared to understand the story deeply enough, since dwelling on it is known to cause us strife. But we need to, because until we do, we will carry on ignorant, resigned, or unreconciled in ourselves. So I’m going to examine Glee’s “Asian F” and the bigger story that many Asian Americans are living. As I analyze the episode, let’s allow it to speak to us as a representation of the lives we live and take an honest look at what is really going on – not just on-screen but in ourselves.

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Without Fear

The weather’s cooling quickly and only one home football game remains. It’s been two and a half months since school and UVA Asian InterVarsity began. Though there have been many developments with AIV at this half-way point of the Fall, I’ve also noticed a pretty notable change in myself.

In my first week of planting, I felt like I was in a constant panic. My mind could never slow down and or rest – when I laid down to sleep it would erupt with a thousand new ideas or, worse, a thousand things I didn’t but could’ve/should’ve done. It was as exhausting and frantic as it was unpredictable. More than anything, it was terrifying. I was afraid.

One thing that training doesn’t prepare you for is the realization of the weight of this dream that has yet to arrive. It is the weight of many lives and stories to be reached, many wounds and hurts to be healed, many questions to be answered, and many people to come to know God more deeply and authentically than they ever have before. Grandiose as it sounds, I was constantly pounded with the weight of these profound and eternal hopes. And that weight was crushing.

I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not nice enough. I’m not proactive enough. And the list of inadequacies and shortcomings rambled on and on, until I realized that this was not the way to plant. One doesn’t plant a garden by trying to pull a sprout out of the dirt or drag a tree from the depths of the earth. One sows seeds. One waters. One adds fertilizer. One weeds. One tends. And somewhere in the first month – even as many things failed to materialize as I’d hoped or planned – I stopped trying to carry the weight of the dream of AIV. I sowed it into the ground instead.

In both September and October there have been significant low points where I felt like I was at my wit’s end. Out of ideas or seemingly out of options. But both times God stepped in and, completely unbidden by me, pointed the way to the next right step. Especially in October, God moved and opened opportunities that I couldn’t take credit for. All I’d done is sown the dream again and again.

This job is still immensely stressful. I’ve had stress-induced sleep dysfunction for the last month and a half; no matter how much I rest, I wake still tired, sometimes oversleeping my alarm clock(s) by up to two hours. I’m doing what I can to deal with that: praying more, working out regularly (and this time I mean it!), resting more. But even with all that stress, I am not walking around like a molten volcano anymore. I am no longer afraid, or much less so anyway. And that’s to God’s credit convincing me somehow to have greater faith.

So I have no idea what November brings except that the days will shorten, that the leaves will die, and that maybe our first real snow will fall. I have no idea even what I’m doing for our community group meeting this week, or if we’ll get new friends to come as we’ve been hoping for, or anything else. But thank God it doesn’t matter. I suppose I’m tasting the truth of “There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear,” because more than maybe anytime in my life before, I’m more convinced and in tune with the fact that God loves me and AIV much more than I can imagine.

Excited about the food from our latest AIV event. This picture has nothing to do with the post sorry.

“Mirror, Mirror” sermon video & photos (10.12.2011)

A big thanks to everyone who prayed for me as I preached this past Wednesday at Greek InterVarsity’s weekly Gathering! It was great to be with them and to have some Asian student friends come out to support me. I also got to lead worship for/with Garrett & another student, and played and sing a song at the end of the talk as an opportunity for response and reflection.

I wish I’d been briefer that’s for sure… But you can watch the video of my talk called “Mirror, Mirror,” about self-idolatry and forsaking the image of God for other images we see. But hopefully the students were able to hear something from God even with my going on too long.

Thank you Ben W for the photos & tripod, & for all VSA and Asian IV friends for coming out to support me!

Telling my own story of chasing an image in high school.

Playing and singing during worship.

Preaching on Wednesday!

Hi friends!

It’s Fall Break here at U.Va but I’m still hard at work. We’re having team meetings for our area (western Virginia). Thankfully, we’re convening here in Charlottesville so I’m actually at home tonight. We’ve had some great conversations already and I’m looking forward to the rest of our time together. Well, mostly… I’d be totally enjoying it if I didn’t have sermon preparations to do. I’m preaching THIS Wednesday (Oct 12) @ 8pm at one of the other InterVarsity groups at U.Va.

Greek InterVarsity — a branch specifically geared toward reaching and meeting the needs of fraternity and sorority students — has kindly invited me to come preach at their Gathering! I’ll be the third and final speaker in their series about idolatry, speaking about self-idolatry. We rarely see scripture (let alone real life) portraying self-idolatry in terms of building a statue of ourselves (though there was that one time with Nebuchadnezzar… but I digress); usually, our self-idolatry is less about narcissism than it is about self-concern or self-assertion. To that end, my talk is called MIRROR, MIRROR, explaining how everything goes wrong in our lives (and in the world) because we are more concerned with our image in the mirror than with the image of God given to us.

Prayers are much appreciated as I’m speaking to Greek students I’ve only met once before. Plus, I’m bringing some friends! I’m very excited to have friends and acquaintances from other places, VSA in particular (Very Superb Asians indeed), come to support me! Pray that I’d speak clearly and that the truth and love of God would be apparent to everyone.

Please pray for me as I prepare and preach on Wednesday

Multiethnic and Ethnic Specific

Hi friends!

I wanted to share with you what to my knowledge is simply the best, clearest, most straight forward explanation of the relationship (and comprehensive value) of multiethnic and ethnic specific ministries. InterVarsity has both obviously. But what’s more surprising, or confusing, to some is the fact that InterVarsity has both because InterVarsity believes that they are working to achieve the same end. So, without further ado, read in laymen’s terms a post by another IV staff worker on how How Multiethnic and Ethnic Specific ministries work together featured in the IV national blog.

Speaking of the IV national blog, I’m working on a new post for them soon! I’m sorry for being so woefully absent from writing here in HSUVa as well as posting to the national blog! I’m hoping to get some done this weekend, which is UVA’s fall break! Looking forward to some quiet days here in CVille.

Take care!

-greg