Dec

26

2012

Trillia Newbell|10:00 PM CT

'Make Me Asian' and Everlasting Splendors

There is an app for just about everything. And if you have an Android, you can access the application called "Make Me Asian" on Google Play. The application allows users to upload photographs and alter the images to reflect the characteristics of "representatives of Asian nations, such as Chinese or Japanese."

Understandably, the app has caused uproar by some in the Asian community. Peter Chin of Washington, D.C., started a petition via Change.org for Google Play to remove the app along with a "Make Me Indian" app. Responding to the features of the app, Chin writes, "Now you too can be Asian by putting a rice paddy hat and fu manchu mustache on your profile picture, complete with slanty eyes . . . because that's all it takes to represent the 4 billion Asians in the world, a stupid hat and facial hair."

Bottom line: the app promotes dated stereotypes and racist caricatures.

Racism, according to Webster's Dictionary, is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. The term racism is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. But the Lord condemns partiality (James 2:1-9), hate, and murder (Matthew 5:21-26), all of which I believe could be included in a Christian definition of racism.

God also condemns pride. We must not regard ourselves as better than other image-bearing people. We know this. We simply hate to admit we do it. But if you are a Christian, you have the Spirit to help you fight. We have the power to say no to sin. God created each of us in his image (Genesis 1:27). And all of us equally share this awesome privilege.

Believers, who have together been united with Christ, see race as a secondary feature that brings glory to God by reflecting his wonderfully diverse creation. At the foot of the cross we all stand equally sinful and equally in need of saving grace (Romans 3:9-20). We are also equally forgiven. We boast only in the Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Eternal Consequences

But all who disbelieve Christ stand in equal danger of eternity apart from God in hell. I'm far less concerned with someone's race than with her eternal destiny. I seek to lovingly share the gospel, as the Lord enables me.

C. S. Lewis expounds this point in his book The Weight of Glory:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations---these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit---immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Race helps us learn about our neighbor, to connect, to understand how to serve one another and enjoy the fullness and goodness of God's creation. But we see beyond race to the eternal consequences of belief and unbelief. Racism not only stifles the soul from flourishing, it also impedes the advance of the gospel. Few will share the Good News with those they hate. So in order for us to see this gospel spread, we must first allow it to rid our hearts of racism.

Trillia Newbell is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014). You can follow her on Twitter.

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  • Mark

    Trillia, excellent writing. I was very shocked when I saw this article this morning, but at the same time, not surprised that these kind of apps exist. People think that these are comedic at best and that "they're not a big deal," but anything that predicates on racist, tired stereotypes and racial superiority has more subliminal messaging to the heart which can reap havoc later, EVEN if its not outward racial action.

    I was reading another Lewis quote yesterday in Tim Keller's book, "The Meaning of Marriage," and Lewis talks about the element of charity, to love your enemies, and how "the more you cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become - and so on in a vicious circle forever." (Keller, 101) The sinful lies of racial superiority are self-confidence, misunderstanding, and isolation, and robs God of His glory because He instilled his imago dei in each race. Even a small app like this can really fuel that hate and the danger is that 'poking fun' doesn't really take away the human side of racism, it fuels it.

    One of the things that the Gospel does in our lives is to deprogram these sinful tendencies to measure race based on looks and differences in culture. A heart that loves Jesus Christ goes against the grain of modern culture that says race reconciliation is impossible. Even in how progressively we have come in this nation for racial respect, the human heart is still sinful and an app that is seen as 'poking fun' is not funny at all. Innocent enough, it starts mining down the soul a hole where people can lay up funny thoughts from this stupid app, then when someone steps out in public and sees an Asian or Asian American on the street, there will be outflow of buried racist thoughts. You will be surprised what thoughts comes out of the heart with the media we take in today. (Matthew 15:18)

    Finally, our prerogative as a church should be to pursue racial diversity. That does not mean having superficial race quota - its showing that this kingdom of heaven is for Jew and Gentile alike, with which Jesus came to smash the barrier and bring together through the Cross. (Ephesians 2:11-19) Its love and pursuit for the honor of God and valuing each race not because the world thinks its cute ("we are the world"), but because it shows the supreme worth of God's design and glory.

    • T.Newbell

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mark!

  • Roger

    Good article. But I wonder if the term bigot and bigotry would be better than racism? It seems like the app is more of an act of bigotry where another ethnic group is treated with intolerance. Either or both are bad and believers must strive diligently to rise above racism and bigotry.

    • T.Newbell

      Thanks for the comment, Roger. I think that when we define bigotry with terms like "hate" or "partiality" we come up with the same thing. In other words, sure it could be bigotry which is defined basically the same as racism.

  • Yitzhak Lee

    As an Asian myself, I don't understand the outrage that occurs over things like these. As long as there isn't a particular hate crime against certain groups of people, I just shake my head and sigh at the foolishness. (Especially with this particular app, it's cheap, thoughtless and poorly done.) I joke with my friends, black, white and in-between all the time and I like to highlight the racial differences in a positive sense. I recognize the different parts of the body of Christ and celebrate the diversity.

    I see a lot of thin-skinned people who are extra-sensitive to anything that might show up on their racism-radar. I recognize that racial humor might be rather base and elementary, but don't immediately make the conclusion that it is sourced predominantly in pride.

    • T.Newbell

      Good thoughts! Thanks for commenting and for your graciousness towards the designer of this app. A friend wrote me with similar sentiments. He is Asian and doesn't mind poking fun. But where we agree is it isn't about political correctness, it's about the gospel. So if these things stifle the soul from flourishing or impede the gospel from advancing, then there's the problem. Thank you!

  • David Volsky

    Good article. I love the perspectives in the comments that follow. A lot of wisdom here.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jimmymeeks Jimmy

    Eh, people need thicker skins, especially Christians. There is not an app in the world exploiting any characteristics of white people that I would find offensive.