3/21/2021 Reflection

"Where is God?"

For me, these past weeks have been really heavy. Two weeks ago I helped coordinate a vigil for the death of Angelo Quinto, a Filipino-American man who was having a mental health crisis. The police responded with a knee on his back, and he died in the hospital a few days later. That could have been my cousin, my uncle, my father, even me. This past week, eight individuals were killed in Atlanta - six of the victims were of asian descent, two were white, and seven were women. I would like to take a moment to lift up their names: 

  • Soon Chung Park, 74

  • Hyun Jung Grant, 51 

  • Suncha Kim, 69 

  • Yong Ae Yue, 63

  • Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33

  • Xiaojie Tan, 49 

  • Daoyou Feng, 44

  • Paul Andre Michels, 54 

 

When looking at the world today and the rise in anti-Asian American sentiment, especially against elders and women, I cannot help but think, that could have been my mom, grandma, sister, aunt, or congregant. For those who say that this attack was not racially motivated, they fail to recognize the history of the intersections of oppression between xenophobia, misogyny, and racism against Asian women. At this moment right now the Asian community is grieving, angry, fearful, confused, all of which are valid emotions.

For me, as someone who is a scholar of religion, someone whose vocation is to become a pastor, and as a person of faith, I ask myself, where is God in all of this suffering? Some of you may be asking the same question. This is a question that I have asked myself throughout my studies, especially in learning about how Christianity itself has perpetuated systems of oppression. It was unsurprising to learn that the killer’s Instagram tagline read, “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family and God.” But I refuse to believe that the killer’s actions were of God, and instead emerged in the powers and principalities of White Supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, and a toxic framing of Christianity. And so where is God in all of this suffering? 

 

For me, the answer is found in how the Christian community understands the cross. We often forget that Jesus not only died for our sins, but also died because of his context’s sins - sins of intolerance, violence, hatred, and oppressive power. Suffering created and perpetuated by people is what placed Christ on the cross. The cross is an illumination of the systems of oppression and cycle of suffering. And when we begin to see that, we can begin seeing not only Jesus on the cross, but also the many faces of God found in the crucified class of Jesus’ time - the sex workers, the poor, the sick, the enslaved, the shepherds. And when we realize those faces, we can begin to see the other faces of God within the people who are crucified today, which in our context right now are our Asian-American and Pacific Islander siblings. 

 

Rev. Irene Monroe writes, “Because the cross reveals how suffering victimizes the innocent and marginalized, it can extend to us all a promise of liberation.” [1] We don’t put the cross in the center of the altar to celebrate the suffering it holds. Remember there is no redemption in suffering. We put the cross in the center of the altar to celebrate that it is empty and to remember Jesus’ solidarity with the crucified class. 

 

God is not the cross itself. God is found in Jesus Christ who co-struggles and co-liberates. Rev. Irene Monroe writes, “When the Christian community looks to the cross, we must see not only Jesus, but the many other faces of God that are crucified as God’s people today. In doing so, we see the image of God in ourselves, the image of God as ourselves, and the image of God in each other.” [1] Therefore, when I ponder on the question Where is God in all of this? I can say...

 

  • God is with us weeping. As Jesus cried during Lazarus’ death, the face of God is crying for the death of these eight individuals and all the other victims of suffering.

  • God is with us in caring for ourselves. As Jesus took time to pray alone and rest and sleep, the face of God is found in individuals engaging in self-care. 

  • God is with us shouting and marching. As Jesus overturned the tables of the temple protesting injustice, the face of God is with those people marching and shouting in the streets demanding justice against all forms of anti-asian violence.

  • God is with us organizing. The face of God is found in those engaging in mutual-aid efforts and community organizing - people willing to walk with asian elders just so they can go about their day, people who are calling on their local leaders and our nation’s leaders to no longer stay silent, the people creating healing circles for their own community to break the silence. 

  • God is with us teaching. The face of God is found in the teacher, the educator, the faith leaders, the parents, and the artists who are educating others on dismantling racism and teaching us about a history that has long been forgotten and oppressed. The face of God is found in the young people engaging in these teaching efforts, paving the way for future generations. 

  • God is with us learning. The face of God is found in the individual whose privilege and colonization shrouded their perspective and is now realizing that suffering is happening around them, that they too have experienced micro-aggressions, systemic oppression, and trauma. They realizing that its not enough to say, “I’m not racist,” but asking themselves “How am I being anti-racist.” 


The face of God is found in those suffering and the face of God is found in those liberating. As people of faith we are to be the body of Christ, the hands and feet of God in co-creating a “Here as it is in heaven,” the kin-dom where peace is ushered in through justice. I pray that this week in this movement toward speaking up we begin to realize where God is, and how God is moving through us - what are you called to do in this moment to help the Asian community heal and dismantle racism. How are you going to bring it up in your own contexts, making space for co-workers, students, teachers, and friends to heal? This is how I believe we are making space for God, in embodying and living out the life of Jesus Christ. In the struggle, God is with us, with you, with me, and with the rest of the community. 

Closing Prayer

To close, I want us to reflect silently on the things that have been shared today. Let us take a few moments of silence. Then, I want us to engage in a communal prayer created by Rev. Teresita Valeriano of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. [2] I invite you to say out loud in your own space the bolded lines: 


Asian siblings are hurting. How do we, the church, hear their painful cry, and act together in solidarity? We pray …

Lord, have mercy.

 

Are Asians invisible? They are branded as the model minority — therefore, not expected to speak up. They cry for justice. Can anyone hear them? We pray …

Lord, have mercy.

 

Asians are feared as a community. Asians have complex cultures and languages, so they are generally omitted. How can we, the church, offer our curiosity and respect when we encounter a multitude of gifts in diversity and uniqueness? We pray …

Lord, have mercy.

 

Asian children are called many names, most recently “coronavirus,” or yelled at to “go home.” When we, the church, ask, “Who is our neighbor?,” how can we truly mean it in welcoming words and actions? We pray …

Lord, have mercy.

 

Asians are used by the mainstream dominant culture to shame and put a wedge against other communities of color. Claiming our calling that all are created in God’s image, how can we stand in solidarity with those hurting? We pray …

Lord, have mercy.

 

God’s forgiveness is greater than any hurt and pain of the body. For Asian theologies, forgiveness is an invitation to examine and reexamine what constitutes our identity, not only our individual identity but, most especially, our communal identity. May God’s forgiveness invite us all to face who we are truly as members of the body of Christ. May this rich promise embrace us all, taking away the pain of our battered body.

 

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

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[1] https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/those-who-are-christ-in-our-midst/

[2] https://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Worship_Resources_for_Day_of_Lament_Against_Anti-Asian_Racism.pdf

RIVERSIDE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

803 Vallejo Way, Sacramento, CA 95818. 916-443-4360. 

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