Happy Chinese New Year 2015!

CNY 2015


Gong Xi Fa Cai!


Today begins the Chinese New Year. I guess if Jesus had a Chinese New Year animal, it would be this year: the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Lamb!


Yesterday was also the beginning of Lent.


So there are two happy coincidings of events:


1) Timing: It’s interesting that Easter (and thus Lent) is the only Western holiday that we celebrate which is on the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year is also according to the lunar calendar. This year, Chinese New Year’s Eve and Ash Wednesday occurred on the same day (yesterday, February 19, 2015).


2) Animal: Lent is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament Passover. Passover is when the lamb was sacrificed to save God’s people. This year, it is the Chinese Year of the Lamb!


Here are two passages to meditate on today:


John 10:11—I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.


Exodus 29:38-46—“ 38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure[a] of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin[b] of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

Review of “Fresh Off the Boat”

Fresh Off the Boat

Two weeks ago, I was visiting New York City and went out to dinner with two of my friends who live there. My pick for restaurant: Baohaus, a fusion Taiwanese-American restaurant which serves Taiwanese pork buns in a variety of variations: fried chicken, fish, tofu, etc. Why did I choose this restaurant? Because it is owned by Chef Eddie Huang who wrote the book Fresh Off the Boat which just became a new sitcom this week. To my delight, Eddie was behind the counter cooking our meal!


Dinner at Baohaus in New York City with friends

Well, Fresh Off the Boat (the book) has just been translated into “Fresh Off the Boat” (the TV show) this week—they aired the first two episodes back-to-back. “FOB” (as I shall abbreviate it henceforth) is only the second Asian American TV show in history (the first being “All American Girl” starring Margaret Cho, which came out 20 years ago and was canceled after one season). Of course, Asian and Asian American actors have had multiple roles on the small screen, with people like Sandra Oh in “Grey’s Anatomy,” Daniel Dae Kim in “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0,” Harry Shum Jr. in “Glee,” Lucy Liu in “Elementary,” Ming-Na Wen in “Agents of SHIELD,” John Cho in “Selfie,” Maggie Q in “Stalker,” John Kim in “The Librarians,” etc. But this is only the second time that a TV show is self-consciously majority Asian American and deals with themes pertaining to that people group.

I had mixed feelings:

On the one hand, I was a little apprehensive because it is a sitcom, and I didn’t know how they were going to pull off comedy without resorting to stereotypes. And the last thing Asian Americans need is further negative stereotypes about the culture, reinforced by a sitcom which by definition necessitates exaggeration for the purpose of entertainment. Every comedy is intentionally over-the-top but would audiences not “get it” and think that Asian Americans are actually literally like those portrayed in the show?

On the other hand, not only is “FOB” about an Asian American family, but specifically a Taiwanese American family, which is my culture. So I was pretty excited about it.

So what was my assessment? Not bad. Sure there were stereotypes: the family never verbally says “I love you” but shows it through actions and food instead; the parents are mostly just concerned about grades; one of the kids was lactose-intolerant; they’re good at math; the mom is, um, frugal, and she is a Tiger Mom; the Chinese food smells very different from American food. But many of these stereotypes were actually true—though it must be qualified that they were true of first-generation Asian parents in the 1990s (which is when the show is set; after all it is based on Eddie Huang’s real childhood), and not necessarily what second- or third-generation Asian Americans are like today. I also wonder if they’re “milking” the stereotypes too quickly, because at this rate they’re going to run out by the fifth episode. But maybe that’s a good thing, because too many stereotypes can get old fast.

But the struggles were real too: wanting acceptance among friends, being called racial slurs, not knowing whether we are black or white and wanting to be both, that Asian Americans aren’t always necessarily wealthy but struggle to make ends meet like everyone else. It also showed that there is a wide spectrum of how Asians are treated by non-Asians: hostility to genuine friendship to curiosity to simple misunderstanding.

It also showed flip sides of the same coin: though Eddie struggled to adapt, his little brother Emery effortlessly found acceptance in every facet of his school community. Though the mom ran a tight ship and counted every penny, the dad tried an Americanized “customer service” approach and thought that keeping the employees happy would ultimately trickle down to the customers. This illustrates that Asian Americans don’t always have the same experience and approach to life, even within the same family.

It illustrated comedically some of the realities of the different expectations of Asian parents vs. American parents, such as having to spend time in the Chinese Learning Center, or caring more about when the report card is issued rather than the fact that there is a drug dealer on campus, or the fact that though the Asian kid was happy to get straight A’s, the white kid was happy to get straight C’s and even got rewarded with a basketball hoop.

I found the characters mostly endearing. Randall Park, who plays the dad, did a very good job as Kim Jong-un in the movie “The Interview” (even though I wasn’t a huge fan of that movie) and he was a very kind and loveable dad; Constance Wu, who plays the mom, was still likeable even though she had to play the part of the cheapskate and the Tiger Mom (but clearly she is American because her Asian accent was obviously faked badly, but oh well it’s a comedy); Hudson Yang as Eddie Huang carried the starring role well; and his two little brothers are just adorable.

I learned something new too: why do some Asian American kids talk like black people? And right from the get-go, Eddie Huang explains it: because hip-hop represents the “other” which is how he often felt. I always wondered about that: now I know!

Overall, I liked it. I hope that it will continue. But ultimately TV comes down to the almighty dollar, so unfortunately that may be the decision-maker in whether the plug gets pulled on it after a season (or even half a season, as “Selfie” was). And the profit is determined by viewership. Unfortunately, although Asian Americans are well represented in major metropolitan areas, we are only 5% of the U.S. population and thus are just not seen in rural areas which is the majority of America. So even if people are watching “FOB” a lot in New York and Los Angeles, they may not be in Mississippi, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana. But hopefully this won’t see a quick demise and maybe this will blaze the path for more Asian American shows in the future!

The Mysterious Magi Explained


For those who celebrate the liturgical calendar, today is Epiphany Sunday.* It is the day when the so-called Three Wise Men, aka “We Three Kings,” aka the Magi, came to see Jesus.

*The actual Three Kings Day is January 6. But for liturgical calendar purposes, Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday closest to it, which is why it is today (January 4, 2015.)


One thing that Christians in the U.S. often don’t get is the Twelve Days of Christmas. I mean, we sing the song, but we don’t understand why there are twelve days (and why the heck do almost all the days have to do with birds? Swans and geese and calling birds and French hens and turtle doves and partridges in pear trees? I have no idea to that question actually). But that’s because Christmas is actually a season: from the birth of Christ (what we mark as December 25) all the way to the visit of the Magi (the feast day of January 6) which marks twelve days. I have spent a lot of time in Mexico City and New Orleans, and I noticed a similarity (though the former was a Spanish colony and the latter a French colony, what they have in common is their Catholicism): both eat a certain cake to celebrate those Magi. In Mexico, it’s called Rosca de Reyes. In New Orleans, it’s called King Cake. The only difference is, in Mexico you eat Rosca de Reyes on Epiphany Sunday; in New Orleans, you eat it right before Lent. It’s basically a donut-shaped multicolored cake with a little plastic baby Jesus baked inside. If you happen to choose the piece that contains Jesus, you are the one obligated to host the next party.

Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de Reyes in Mexico

King cake

King Cake in New Orleans


But historically, who were these Wise Men? Where did they come from? And what was the point of them?


There are many Christmas misconceptions that need to be cleared up, and some of them pertain to these guys. Their story only appears in the Gospel of Matthew, so let’s take a look:


-The number 3. There weren’t three of them, there were three gifts that they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that there were three men. There could’ve been any number of men present.


-They are called kings or wise men. The Greek word used here is magi. That word has somewhat of an equivalent meaning in our English language to astrologer. There is no indication that they were kings! However, as scholars of the stars, “wise men” may be an apt description.


-Where they came from. If you know European (and later passed down to Latin American) high church traditions, the three Magi are assumed to have come from three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Though inaccurate, I like this fiction for this reason: the intention was for it to be symbolic of the nations (or the entire known world at the time) coming to worship the Christ child. Actually the song “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is correct in this regard. They came from the Orient (the East). Because the word magi is a Persian word, likely they came from somewhere in Persia (which meant they were not just astrologers but Zoroastrians who worshiped the god Zoroaster)! The famous Richard Strauss orchestral piece Also Sprach Zarathustra (translated from German to English as: “Thus Spoke Zoroaster”) is known popularly as the theme song to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and is in reference to this ancient deity.


-Their names: in addition to being assigned to three continents, they also have been given fictional names: the European one is Caspar, the Asian one is Melchior, and the African one is Balthazar. Some traditions alternatively say that Caspar is from India, Melchior is from Persia, and Balthazar is from Arabia (at least they got the middle guy right!). These names were likely later saints of the church posthumously and anachronistically attached to the Magi. In addition, many artistic depictions show Caspar to be an old man, Melchior to be middle-aged, and Balthazar to be young, symbolizing that not only does Christ rule over all the nations, but he is Lord over all ages and generations. That’s kind of a nice artistic license.


-When they came. Often in Nativity scenes, they are depicted at the manger right after the birth. But in the Biblical account, Herod questions them about the time they saw the star, then proceeds to kill all boys two years old and under. This means that the Magi came to see Jesus when he was about two years old. This makes more sense, as traveling all the way from Persia to Israel meant they couldn’t have arrived right at the birth! The journey took them a good two years to complete. It emphasizes the journey (like the Exodus) which makes the destination, the Promise, all the sweeter upon arrival.



So why am I excited about these guys? Because they point to missions in two ways:


1) They’re Gentiles. In fact they’re the first Gentiles who come to know and worship Jesus! It is commonly assumed that the first Gentiles to accept Jesus as the Messiah were the Samaritan woman or the Roman centurion. Not so—it was these Magi. OK, so maybe they didn’t come from Europe, Africa, and Asia. It doesn’t matter—they were not Jews, and they came from afar, and they worshiped the Christ child. Jesus was acknowledged to be King, even of the Gentiles, from a very early age.


2) They represent hope to the world. The fact that pagan occult astrologers (the word “magic” comes from magi) came to know Jesus without anybody preaching to them or without having Scriptures—this is nothing less than the Principle of Redemptive Analogy! So this means that God can save people without missionaries (in case you were ever wondering what happens to people who never hear the name of Jesus), just by showing himself to people in a vision (that’s what the word “Epiphany” actually means: a manifestation of God). That doesn’t take away our responsibility to go to the nations (anymore than grace gives us license to sin); but it does show that God has a way to make up for our lack when we fall short. I want to qualify, however: theophany or epiphany is not the usual way that God saves people. He may have done that with Abraham, Melchizedek, the Magi, and Paul the Apostle, but most of the time he employs us humans to act as his agents in this world, to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard.


3) Matthew is the most Jewish gospel. You’d expect the Magi to appear in Luke, the most Gentile gospel, right? After all, Luke also wrote Acts which is all about missions! But the fact that Matthew is telling the Jews that salvation has already started to come to the Gentiles by the beginning of the first book of the New Testament—that’s pretty cool.


Speaking of artistic license, last week I taught Sunday School for the Junior High kids at my church, using the Magi as an illustration. This is what we did as an analogy for the Magi: I had them make their own “treasure box” out of a paper cup and markers which they decorated lavishly. Next, I had them take three pieces of paper on which they had to write three labels: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. On the back of the “gold” paper they had to write down what is their most prized physical possession on earth (their basketball? Playstation? etc). On the back of the “frankincense” paper they had to write down words of praise to Jesus—because incense in the Bible was a sweet smell representing the prayers of the saints that floated up to God. And on the back of the “myrrh” paper they had to write what aspect of themselves they hoped to change for the New Year (the sin within them that has to die)—because myrrh was traditionally used for embalming dead bodies. I had the kids fold up the three pieces of paper and put them in their treasure box and give it up to Jesus as worship to him, like the Magi did. They took these home as a reminder for themselves. I think that we, as adults, need to do the same: hold loosely to our physical possessions, lift up true words of worship in spirit and in truth, and die to ourselves daily by casting off the sin that so easily entangles.


Thank God for these Magi! Because they are the forefathers to us Gentiles who worship Jesus. They are worth studying as more than just a footnote in Biblical history.


P.S. The fact that Christmas stretches from December 25 to January 6, that gives you ample time to take down your Christmas decorations without feeling guilty! In fact January 6 is the last day that Disneyland has their Christmas decorations up. Hmm, could they be working off the liturgical calendar too…?

The Death of the Generalist and the Rise of the Specialist: Why This Bodes Ill for Christianity and the World


Today is New Year’s Day, 2015, and I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions—largely because it’s so disappointing when we inevitably can’t stick to them. (Not that I never stick to them, but more often than not they’re short-lived). However, New Year’s Day is a good time to assess and reassess: where we’ve been and where we’re going. January is named after the two-faced Roman god of transitions, Janus (pictured above) who looks toward the past while simultaneously looking toward the future.


I’ve been reflecting today on what kind of person I’d like to be known to be. I suppose when you’re a kid you think about what you’d like to be when you grow up; in middle age, you start thinking the opposite way: what kind of legacy you’d like to leave the world. I turn 40 this year and I figure this could be the halfway point in my life. And it’s best to start thinking about this in the middle of your life, while you still have time, and not at the end because by then it’s pretty much too late.


By “legacy” I don’t mean that we need to have statues erected in our honor. Most of us live normal existences. Yet, I’m sure we all want our lives to count for something, to mean something to at least some people. It could be accomplishments, it could be kindness, it could be inspiration. But to have nobody care that you’re gone, to have made no difference in this world, is a sad thing.


I’ve been reflecting on what the world wants vs. what God wants: especially when it comes to specialized vs. balanced. It is my contention that the world wants the specialized person, and God wants the balanced person. But our world (including the Christian world) is increasingly pushing us toward the specialized, sometimes to our detriment.


Let me provide some sociological and historical examples to show you what I mean. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, famously posited that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become really amazing at something. However, what he fails to mention is that it is a zero-sum game, because time is the great equalizer: everyone only has 24 hours in a day. Whatever hours you are pouring into practicing your violin, or basketball, or making money, or flying a plane, those are hours you are not spending with your loved ones, praying, or staying healthy. But though, in theory we laud the all-around person (“he/she spends a moderate amount of time at work, and a moderate amount of time with their family, and a moderate amount on leisure, and thus everything is in order”) the well-balanced person doesn’t get much consideration, and it is almost always the extreme cases (both positive and negative) that garner all the attention, especially in this day and age of media: the things that are YouTube- or movie-worthy are what go viral. We want to see the extreme of humor, the epic fails, the most eye-popping feats, and the most spectacular romances.


We want to see the Peter Jacksons who create 4-hour films about Middle Earth and win Academy Awards, but who give up years of their life to do it—and who are very physically unhealthy (just look at him). We can’t get enough of the George R.R. Martins who lock themselves up in their offices and write nothing but Game of Thrones novels which are a thousand pages each and get turned into major HBO series—but he looks even more unhealthy than Peter Jackson (not to mention very socially awkward-looking)! Look at famous painters like Modigliani and Picasso—their marriages were wrecks, and they were addicted to alcohol and other substances. Or Van Gogh who committed suicide. Don’t even get me started on professional athletes, like Wilt Chamberlain of the NBA who infamously boasted that he bedded 10,000 women in his lifetime, or golfer Tiger Woods whose marital failures are legion. Even Billy Graham spent so much time evangelizing the world that he ended up with a prodigal son. And William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, was a terrible husband but the greatest missionary to India. King David likewise was a horrible father and husband, and an adulterer and murderer, but a man after God’s own heart. Perhaps the Catholic Church is wise in insisting on celibacy: imagine what kinds of marital difficulties Mother Teresa would’ve had if she had not been a nun! I don’t know that many husbands could’ve tolerated her lifestyle, yet she is now canonized as a saint. And St. Paul, Mr. Extreme Apostle himself, traveling to innumerable cities and founding churches and writing half the New Testament, but getting beaten up and stoned and eventually beheaded, was anything but a well-balanced person. But at least he was single so he didn’t have a wreck of a marriage (or many marriages!) like David.


You might say: but c’mon, we celebrate Renaissance Men! But the original Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci, was not simply well-rounded: he was extreme and well-rounded at the same time. He was an amazing writer, a sublime artist, a genius inventor. If he were just moderately good at all those things, we never would’ve heard of him. He had to be a Michael Jordan at everything he touched.


This is a trend: it is those people of the stunning successes and crushing failures who are immortalized in history. It is the extreme people, the overly-specialized and thus imbalanced people, who put their stamp on the world. And the well-rounded generalists pass through the world, touch the lives of a few, and fade into oblivion, to be remembered by few or none—but they are remembered by God. This is indicative of the sickness of our American society: it is the same reason why Barry Bonds mashing home runs on a steroid-fueled rampage is interesting to people, but not a 1-0 soccer game. It is the over-the-top and the sensational that makes the headlines.


In the world of missions, I have often pondered our drive toward social justice and what that means for the receiving country. So if we in the West are “rich” in material things, we often think that social justice means bringing the rest of the world up to our standard of living (never mind that if everyone on earth lived as Americans do, we’d run out of fuel and food so fast, because we don’t have enough resources to sustain our lavish lifestyles). But let’s take Mexico as a contrast, for example: they have far less money than the U.S. but they are far “richer” in relationships: they have large families and lots of friends who they spend much of their time with in fiestas and quinceañeras and other such celebrations. They have siestas where they (from certain Western points of view) are just “wasting” time but they are far less stressed, less suicidal, and are actually happier, than many of us in the modernized wealthy West who have a lot of material possessions but need to uphold a certain work ethic to maintain it. My friends who are lawyers call this the “golden handcuffs.” Once you land a job with a six-figure salary, you buy a house and a car which are commensurate with said income. And when you end up being stressed out and miserable in your lawyer job and have to work 80 hours a week and have no time for family, you can’t escape it because you have to keep that job to pay for the big house and the fancy car and to pay back your debt from law school.


All that is to say: if we lived a simpler lifestyle, but had more time to enjoy life and family, would we be happier? I think most people would agree, yes. Then why do we try to get Mexicans (or Africans or Indians) to live like Americans and call that social justice? Perhaps, in many ways, they are better off as they are, and it is we Americans who need to downgrade our material possessions and upgrade the riches of our relationships. Again, it’s a zero-sum game: whatever time you’re not spending at work, you could be spending cheering on your kid at their soccer game or school play. Just sayin’.


As I reflect on my own life, I think I am at times specialized, and at times balanced. My specialized side comes out in extreme ways. I like being extreme (because it adds color to life!) with two important qualifiers: not sinful or dangerous. Examples of me sucking the marrow out of life:


1) Hanging off the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia

2) Spending Christmas in a random little village in Poland

3) Hiking four days roundtrip over mountains into the heart of the Colombian rainforest to visit the Lost City of the Tayrona Indians, and eating roasted guinea pig

4) Sneaking to the top of the Sears Tower after closing hours

5) Meeting the Princess of Bhutan

6) Sitting alone at the edge of Wailua Falls in Hawaii

7) Seeing Roger Federer break the all-time men’s Grand Slam tennis record

8) Living on a World Vision boat and sailing down the Amazon River for four days visiting indigenous villages

9) Going to the mecca of coffee and having a cuppa with the author who wrote the textbook on coffee

10) Petting a tiger in Thailand

11) Watching a game at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in America

12) Pulling an Indiana Jones by learning to read Mayan hieroglyphics and visiting all the major ruins of Mayan pyramids in Mesoamerica

13) Running a marathon on every continent

14) Visiting 60 countries on earth

15) Voluminous writing (my WordPress Annual Report told me: “The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 53,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. There were 300 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 238 MB. That’s about 6 pictures per week. The busiest day of the year was July 4th with 990 views. The most popular post that day was Reflections on the Death of a Friend. In 2014, there were 94 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 118 posts. Readers were from 117 countries. Most visitors came from The United States. U.K. & Canada were not far behind.”) I also have three books coming out in the next two years.


These things made Biola magazine feature me in a recent article. Of course they’re going to write about my marathon running and violin playing and world travels. What they won’t be writing about (because who wants to read it?) are my quiet days at home or teaching the junior high kids at my church. Because those are “boring.” This world (including the Christian world) values the spectacular specialist, not the well-rounded generalist.


But belying my extremist tendencies are the following ways in which I try to keep balanced:

-Both mental and physical activity. As a professor, I think a lot. This is why I run marathons, so I can give my brain a rest, and not let my body become obese if I am solely sedentary.

-Both extrovert and introvert sides. I enjoy my job because I am with people all day at work, and I love spending time with friends, but after that I need to just come home, be by myself, pray, and/or watch TV without talking to anyone. In this way, I recharge and am ready to face people again.

-Both home and away. I love my job because I am home for 7 months of the year teaching at the university, and I have 5 months of vacation where I can travel the world. Having a home base makes me itch for exotic far-flung locales. And traveling makes me appreciate home sweet home so much!

-Both work and play. When I am charged with a task, I try to do it excellently. But I also love to have fun! For example, every time I do a missions trip I always tack on a couple of days at the end for me to just be a tourist in that country.

-Both goal-oriented and people-oriented. Yes I love checking off lists of accomplishments, but I also love sitting for hours on end talking with a dear friend over coffee and just catching up.


The thing is, I feel the tug of the specialist. The world, my job, potential romantic partners, are all wowed by Superman, and demand that I be him. Public speaker Brené Brown, in one of her TED Talks, said that a man once confessed to her, “My wife and daughters would rather see me die than fall off my white horse.” It is sad that men are demanded to be the stoic warrior rather than a human being with hurts and flaws and vulnerabilities that they can express. Everyone wants men to be the pinnacle of everything we do. And it’s how I was brought up to be: the over-achiever. Go to Yale, go to Oxford, get straight A’s, get a Ph.D.


But I think my New Year’s resolution is: let go of the need to be spectacular, and be OK with balance, even if that makes me mediocre at many things. I could spend all my time grading papers and getting them back to the students in a timely manner; or I could get them back to the students a little bit late and make sure to have dinner with my mom regularly. I could try to make my lectures a little more perfect in every way, with the consequence of not ever having time to go to the gym, to the point where I eventually have major health issues; or I could care of my body. I could speak at more conferences and publish more, but suffer through more nights without full sleep; or I could choose not to run on fumes, because lack of sleep is linked with obesity and risk of cancer and memory deficiency. But it’s not just work—I could be less extremist in traveling the world, running marathons, Facebook posting, and blogging. I could invest in people local in my life instead of in a different time zone. I could pray more and eat out less.


So maybe I won’t be the best professor on campus, and maybe being Mr. Overachiever is relegated to my past rather than being part of my present; but that’s OK because I feel like being balanced and healthy is a priority for the second half of my life. Instead of doing something at a 10 level and everything else is a 3, I keep everything at a 7 or 8. Because it’s a zero-sum game.


It’s ironic, because American Christian culture is like the two-faced Roman god Janus. One face accuses us of being “too busy to pray.” And best-selling authors like Henry Cloud and John Townsend write books like Boundaries to try to get us to keep everything in balance. But the other face of Janus tells us to be the knight in shining armor. We professors are celebrated for how many books we write and how packed our classes are and how many committees we chair, and our rank promotion depends on such things. But if you try to keep everything in balance, you inevitably will not be Prince Charming on the white horse—you’ll be Joe Normal riding a donkey. But Jesus came like that—and if that was good enough for God, it’s gotta be good enough for us.


What The Hobbit (and other Mythologies) Can Teach Us About Missions


Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth has come to an end. From the release of the first “Lord of the Rings” movies (Fellowship of the Ring in December 2001) to the last of “The Hobbit” movies (The Battle of the Five Armies in December 2014), this sextet of films is now complete. I watched the last movie rather wistfully, knowing that there would not be any more offerings to come. The Billy Boyd (Pippin the Hobbit) end-credits song only punctuated it for me, rather poignantly.


Unfortunately I felt that Peter Jackson pulled a George Lucas: the original trilogy was a masterpiece; the latter prequel trilogy, though full of shiny CGI, was somehow lacking in the magic that made the original trilogy great. Nonetheless, Jackson’s “Hobbit” series did get progressively better with each film, and I thought The Battle of the Five Armies (though I am upset that they changed it from the original There and Back Again which was Tolkien’s subtitle for his novel) was the best of the trilogy.


This blog post is not a review of the movie but a discussion about mythology and its place in Christian missions.


For the first three years at Biola, I taught in the Torrey Honors Institute which is a Western “Great Books” program. The curriculum included books by C.S. Lewis, Plato, Shakespeare, Homer, etc. Then for my next three years at Biola, I switched over to teaching missions in the School of Intercultural Studies. Some people have asked me what, if anything, the two have to do with each other. “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” as Tertullian famously queried. Or in my situation, what does the Western canon have to do with non-Western missions?


First of all, this presupposes a falsehood: that Christianity is indigenous to the West, and missions is always toward the non-Western world. I teach a class on the book of Acts and I point out to my students that Christianity started in Asia: specifically, Israel and Asia Minor (what is today Turkey). Then it spread to Africa in Acts 8 via the Ethiopian eunuch. Christianity did not reach Europe until Acts 16 when Paul received the Macedonian Call—therefore Europe was the last of these three continents to receive the faith! So, this means that, contrary to popular modern opinion where people have no sense of history and perennially accuse Christian missions of being Western imperialism, Christian missions originally went from Asia and Africa to Europe! The first missionaries in Paul’s band were Asians and Africans. Christianity is not indigenous to the West. The West was a recipient of Christianity.


Three questions I always ask my students, as a sort of pop quiz: what countries (three different answers) do these three foods originally come from: coffee; the potato; the orange (fruit).


Many people will say coffee comes from either Latin America (Brazil or Colombia) or perhaps Java in Indonesia. For the potato, people often guess Idaho or Ireland. And for the orange, people surmise Spain or Florida, or even California! The answers often surprise people: coffee is from Ethiopia; the potato is from Peru; and the orange is from China (the German word for orange is Apfelsine which literally means Chinese apple; and don’t forget there are Mandarin oranges)!


The point is, sometimes something is associated with a country for so long that people actually think that country originated it: like British tea. Tea is as British as the Queen, but think about it: tea is a tropical plant. It grows in warm weather, and Britain has anything but. You can’t grow tea in Britain. The British appropriated tea from their colonies in India and China. And now it’s inextricably linked to the culture.


In a similar manner, the West has become so associated with Christianity that G.K. Chesterton’s friend, author Hilaire Belloc, infamously stated, “the faith is Europe and Europe is the faith.” How far from the historical truth! Nevertheless, we must study how the West appropriated the faith and how people arrived at such conclusions.


Most cultures around the world have similar origin stories—for example, almost all have a flood narrative, though they differ in the details. What does this prove? Simply put, there actually was a real flood, but the tale of that has been passed down in various iterations. But this begs the question: which iteration is the truth? Which was the original one, the mother of them all? My contention is: the Biblical account.


So what does this have to do with missions? Don Richardson in Eternity in Their Hearts calls this the Principle of Redemptive Analogy. Every culture in the world has kernels of truth in them, for two reasons: 1) all cultures derive from an original Mother Culture when humanity was one, and 2) we are all created by the same God. The similarities, therefore, are not coincidental. The task of the missionary, then, is not to give truth that is imported and foreign, but rather to uncover truth that already exists in native cultures.


For example, this was true in China when the missionaries Matteo Ricci (Italy), James Legge (Scotland), and William Boone (USA), all argued over the proper translation for the name of God (which, incidentally, is the hardest word to translate in the Bible). Ricci argued for Tianzhu, Legge contended that Shangdi was the right word, and Boone wanted shen. Each of these words was problematic, as they had linguistic and cultural baggage (much as what would arise from using Allah for the name of the Christian God while talking to a Muslim). But, despite the differing opinions of these three missionaries, they all agreed that using Yehehua (the transliteration of Yahweh) was the wrong word to use, because the Chinese would never accept an imported word; it had to be indigenous. You see this in Acts 17 when Paul preaches to the men of Athens on the Areopagus and claims that their worship of an “Unknown God” proves they were unwittingly worshiping Jesus this whole time, they just had to have someone uncover it for them, and provide some correction for some of their theological errors regarding this God; nevertheless this does not detract from the fact that they were on the right track all along.


Biola professor J.P. Moreland contends that Plato was 70% Christian—without ever having Scripture or having anyone evangelize him. He somehow just “knew,” and came so close to the Truth, because of the Principle of Redemptive Analogy. In fact he was so “Christian” that Augustine, the greatest theologian in the history of the Church outside of the Bible, built much of his theology on Plato. This means that Plato, despite being a pagan Greek philosopher, somehow was embedded with the Truth unknowingly, and it came out in his writings. I would argue the same with Buddha or Confucius, that they are 60% Christian—so if Augustine can build on Plato, then an Eastern Christian theologian can build on Buddha or Confucius as foundations for Truth. There is much overlap between these two Eastern philosophers and the teachings of Jesus. Natural Law imprinted on them something very close to the Divine Reality, even if it does require some course correction.


In fact, biblical examples abound: Abraham, Melchizedek, the Magi, and Cornelius were all pagans who received theophanies (visions of God) and that’s how they came to know the True God; not because of Bible or evangelism. The men of Athens and the Ethiopian eunuch were also on the right track, and just needed someone to slightly correct their theology, and reveal to them the True Name of Jesus.


C.S. Lewis recognized this when he wrote his Chronicles of Narnia and the Space trilogy. Consider the following examples:


In The Last Battle, there is a character named Emeth (which, incidentally, is the Hebrew word for “Truth”). But he is not a Narnian, he is of the race of the pagan Calormenes. Yet Lewis writes the words of Aslan speaking to Emeth:

‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.’ Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’ The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, ‘It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?’ I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’ But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’ ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.’


And in That Hideous Strength, the Director (a sort of Christ figure) talks to Jane about Maleldil (the name for God in the trilogy):

‘Do you place yourself in the obedience,’ said the Director, ‘in obedience to Maleldil?’ ‘Sir,’ said Jane, ‘I know nothing of Maleldil. But I place myself in obedience to you.’ ‘It is enough for the present,’ said the Director. ‘This is the courtesy of Deep Heaven: that when you mean well, He always takes you to have meant better than you knew. It will not be enough for always. He is very jealous. He will have you for no one but Himself in the end. But for tonight, it is enough.’


This inclusivism is definitely not universalism; it is not suggesting that all religions lead to Heaven, nor is it saying that a halfway knowledge of God is sufficient. The men of Athens and the Ethiopian eunuch both needed someone to lead them all the way after they had gotten halfway there already without human assistance—this is why missions is still necessary. Plato and Confucius and Buddha also needed someone to take their hand and lead them the rest of the way; I would never presume to call them Christians. But they had some great semblance of the Truth and we cannot deny that.


Now back to The Hobbit: like Augustine building on Plato, Tolkien built on Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology in order to tell his Christian story. So what is the point of myth? C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien debated this, to the conclusion that myth is not a fabrication but rather a way of telling truth. Watch this video for an excellent recounting of Lewis & Tolkien’s conversation. If the West needs myth to point to the truth of Christianity, then so does every other culture in the world. Whenever we do missions in other cultures, whether it be the West or the non-Western world, we need to look for indigenous footholds to explain the Gospel in their own cultural idioms and paradigms. Missions is not Christians telling non-Christians 100% of what they don’t know. It is using what they already know, but perhaps only see dimly as in a glass darkly, and building on that to show them the Light. It is saying, “You already have half the Truth; let me show you the other half.” So it becomes an equal partnership and not paternalism. This is why myths, and stories, and culture, are all so important.


P.S. Don’t believe that the West received an acculturated view of the faith? Here are some proofs that Western Christianity is baptized paganism:


-The word “God” is as pagan as the Chinese using the word Shangdi (which implies the Supreme God in a pantheon). “God” derives from the Goths who believed themselves to be divine.


-You might say, “Well what about the Greek word Theos that is used in the Bible? Surely that is a pure Christian name! Actually it’s not: Theos is totally pagan. It and its corresponding word Deus in Latin are derived from the Greek Zeus, which is like Shangdi because it implies the Supreme God in a pantheon. Another Greek word used in the Bible is kurios which means “Lord” but was a shockingly pagan word to be applied to Jesus at the time because it originally was used for the divinity of the Emperor, Caesar.


-Other pagan Greek words that Christianity has baptized and used in the New Testament: ekklesia (church—but it originally meant a pagan assembly); oikumene (the whole household of God—but it originally meant the Roman Empire); logos (the Word—but it originally was used for pagan reason and philosophy); baptize (baptize—but originally it was an economic term, meaning to immerse or soak something, like a ship sinking or cloth being dyed); Hades (the word Jesus uses for “hell” is obviously from Greek mythology).


-Our calendar: like Thursday which is Thor’s Day, and July and August which are named for Julius and Augustus Caesar. Even us switching our Sabbath to Sunday instead of the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday was a departure from the Bible.


Christmas: it was originally a pagan holiday, and corresponded very nearly with the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. The peoples of northern Europe made Jesus their own, coming to celebrate his unknown birthday (which historians say likely was in April) when the sun was just beginning its long slow climb in the sky every day toward spring, toward new light and new growth. They lit candles in balsam and burned a Yule log to help the cosmos along. Yet these were their pre-Christian, “pagan” celebrations, the time when they recognized the rebirth of the life-giving god of the sun, of the twelve dark days seen as “the nights of spirits,” when spirits seemed especially present and branches of mistletoe and winterberry were hung to appease them. It was also traditionally a time to reach out to Freyr, the god of fertility for whom the “Friday” is named, through the sacrifice of a pig (his favored animal) and feasting on ham.


-Easter: just as Christmas was on the Winter Solstice, Easter was on the Vernal Equinox, when day and night were of equal length. Though it does have its roots in the Passover of the Old Testament, it derived its name from the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar. We have basically overlaid our Christian holiday on this pagan one, which is why we have symbols of fertility like bunnies and eggs.


-For more, read Frank Viola and George Barna’s book pagan Christianity: everything from our church building to the order of worship, and even the sermon, pastor, and sacraments, had pagan origins.


But I wouldn’t worry that our Western Christianity is baptized paganism. There’s nothing wrong with that—because that’s what all Christians are: baptized pagans! But the awareness of our own pagan roots means that we Westerners should not try to expunge all indigenous culture from non-Westerners as incompatible with Christianity, but rather see it as a great potential supporter of the faith to make it truly acculturated, because God is the Father of every culture in the world, and it all belongs to him. Our own myths and legends are not lies or opponents to Christianity but can point to the ultimate Truth, because all truth is God’s truth.

Tolkien quote

Inaccuracies about Christmas

Messy Christmas

OK, you might think that I’m being a Grinch for writing this blog post, but I hope that Christians are being Biblical at all times, especially when it comes to something as important as the birth of our Savior! So here are some common inaccuracies that I’d like to bust regarding Christmas:


-Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. On the night of Jesus’ birth, it was not a silent night—and probably not calm. Jesus was fully human; he almost certainly cried (unlike “Away in a Manger” would have us believe—“But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes”). It is no sin to cry, it is how babies communicate since they can’t talk. Not only did Baby Jesus probably cry, the animals made noise. Cows, sheep, and donkeys are noisy animals. The Silent Night idea probably comes from us wanting hushed reverence and awe, but I think that noise can be just as meaningful if it is celebratory and social! Those shepherds and angels, if nothing else, were making noise out there!


-Hark the herald angels sing…and angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o’er the plains. Unfortunately, angels do not sing! Though a couple of times in the NIV it does say that angels “sing” (e.g. Rev. 5:12), in the Greek the word is always “say.” Angels only ever speak in the Bible; only humans are shown to sing in the Bible. So when you sing your Christmas carols, sing it with gusto—perhaps this is a privilege that God only affords humans!


-The Magi presented gifts at Jesus’ birth. The Magi (Wise Men) from the East did not come when Jesus was born. The dirty stinky shepherds were there (Luke 2:15-16) but not the Magi. Jesus was actually two years old when the Magi arrived, as Herod tried to kill all the boys under two years old in accordance with the time the Magi had said (Matt. 2:7,16). So I’m afraid all those Nativity scenes showing the wise men with the gifts at the manger are a couple of years too early. (Note that “The First Noel” got it wrong: “And by the light of that same star / Three wise men came from country far; / This star drew nigh…Right over the place where Jesus lay. / Then entered in those wise men three / Full reverently upon their knee, / and offered there in his presence / Their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.”) Not to mention, there may not have been three wise men—there were three gifts, but no mention about how many wise men there were (Matt. 2:1-12). We just assume there were three because of the number of gifts.


-Christmas trees are Christian. No—they are pagan (see Jeremiah 10:1-5). That being said, I don’t think they are wrong to have, unless they are seen as taking the place of Christ (I think the song “O Christmas Tree” comes dangerously close to crossing the line). The injunction in Jeremiah is against pagan idolatry, but I think it’s fine to “baptize” pagan things as Christian (after all, we Christians did that when we changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, when we changed the pagan fertility goddess cult of Ishtar into our Easter, when we turned the Roman pagan holiday of Yule into Christmas, and when we use words like “God” and “church” which are pagan words which have been Christianized—even the Greek words theos and ekklesia are pagan in origin).

no Xmas tree

Where do most of these inaccuracies come from? Unfortunately, often from our beloved Christmas carols and from Christmas cards. We want our picture-perfect Nativity scene, but a lot of that is not Biblically correct. However, Jesus was not born into perfection but into a broken world. And it is precisely this world He came to save.


My friend Carolyn wrote this, and I thought these words are worth sharing:

Messy Christmas: I did mean “messy”, not “merry,” because, let’s face it:  for a lot of people, Christmas is going to be messy this year, just like it is every year.  And no, I don’t just mean “messy” like your kitchen after baking 12 dozen Christmas cookies.  Nor do I mean “messy’ like your room after you haven’t cleaned it for two weeks because you’ve been binging on Netflix.  I mean “messy” like grieving this time of year over the loss of a loved one you still can’t seem to live without.  I mean “messy” like a world where systemic inequality abounds and breeds tension, fear, and violence.  “Messy” like when children are being cruelly murdered.  The kind of ugliness that makes it hard to breathe.  The kind of messiness that won’t go away when the candles are lit, the carols are sung, and Santa Claus comes to town.  Sometimes in a messy world like this, Christmas becomes a time to just put a good face on, try to be “merry” (whatever that looks like!), and push through another year, till it’s over again, and the mess of life remains unresolved.


So let’s not paint an inaccurate picture of Christmas—it was a messy, noisy night, with a lot of chaos and crying and animal sounds. There were no angelic choirs, though angels did make a heavenly pronouncement. Those shepherds probably stank as they’ve been out all day with the sheep. The Magi didn’t come until two years later, and they were not Jews (but it is interesting that these three “unclean” Gentiles recognized the Messiah before most of the “pure” Jewish people did. This isn’t even the book of Acts yet, and Gentiles are already coming to worship the Christ)! And Jesus quickly became a political refugee, fleeing to Egypt because a death mark was placed upon his head by a lunatic king who massacred all other boys of Jesus’ age.


Why all this imperfection at the original Christmas? Because Jesus is the only one who is perfect. I think it provides a stark contrast, which is this: even while Creation is groaning, only in Jesus is light and goodness and salvation.


Oh yeah, and while we’re at it… there is no Santa Claus. Just in case this one slipped through the cracks. ;)

no Santa

Asian American Christians at the White House: Kenneth Bae, Matt & Grace Huang, and more


Asian Americans certainly are well represented in certain sectors of society (like universities) but not in others—notably entertainment (sports, movies, music) and media/politics. This is starting to change. We are starting to see people like Jeremy Lin and Kolten Wong in sports; John Cho, Lucy Liu, and Maggie Q in TV and movies; and Gary Locke and Bobby Jindal in politics.


This year, from May 19-21, 2014 (the month of May was deliberately chosen because it is Asian-Pacific American heritage month), I went to the White House as part of AAPI FACE: the Asian American Pacific Islander Faith Alliance for Community Empowerment. That’s quite a mouthful! Basically, you can just think of AAPI FACE as being: Asian American Christians who try to work toward social justice.


President Obama signed into action My Brother’s Keeper initiative in early 2014. This opportunity initiative targeted mainly male blacks and Hispanics, not Asians. This is indicative of how, when it comes to minority rights, Asian Americans are often not considered “real minorities” and thus we don’t get equal voice at the table.


In the same vein, African American Christian leaders have been invited to the White House before, and so have Hispanic American Christian leaders, but never Asian American Christian leaders. However, this year we had the historic privilege of being invited to the White House for the first time, to meet with government leaders on issues related to the intersection of Asian American and Christian issues.



I was on the planning committee for this event, and we brought 150 Asian American Christian leaders (professor, pastors, and Christian leaders from a diversity of other sectors) to go to the White House for a briefing with political leaders, and for the National Asian Prayer Breakfast. Our primary contact was Melissa Rogers, a Baptist lawyer who is also the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.


Our White House agenda

Two items that AAPI FACE had on the agenda for the White House meeting have recently made the news and borne fruit. We prayed for, and advocated for, the release of Kenneth Bae from North Korea and Matt & Grace Huang from Qatar. We spoke to White House representatives and reiterated that these American citizens should not be neglected, as we were cognizant of the fact that many Asian Americans are seen as more Asian than American and thus do not get the same amount of attention from the U.S. government than, say, a white American citizen would get. Matt Huang even did say, upon his release, that “The U.S. government could have done a lot more.” Kenneth Bae’s sister Terri Chung was part of AAPI FACE and joined us at the White House, and Matt Huang’s cousin John Lo also joined us virtually via Skype.


Matt Huang’s cousin, John Lo, speaking to the AAPI FACE via Skype about the Huangs’ situation in Qatar

Thankfully, Kenneth Bae was released from North Korea on November 8, 2014, and the Huangs came home on December 5, 2014. God really answered prayers! Now, I’m not saying that AAPI FACE was wholly responsible or even primarily responsible. But we were a piece, even if tiny, of the whole effort to extradite these Asian American Christians. (Hey, Dennis Rodman even took the credit for being the primary person for convincing Kim Jong-un to release Kenneth Bae from North Korea—maybe he’s right! God can work in mysterious ways, haha.) (As for Qatar, their capital city just got elected last week as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities. Doha may be a world wonder, but their judicial system surely is not!)


Kenneth Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, speaking to the AAPI FACE about the current state of her brother in North Korea

Speaking of credit, I want to give due credit to Hyepin Im for spearheading this entire AAPI FACE initiative to go to the White House in the first place. Ms. Im is the founder of KCCD (Korean Churches for Community Development). She has done fantastic work in social justice arenas for not only the Korean American community but also other ethnic groups, both while based in DC as well as LA where she is now. The KCCD has, every other year since 9/11, done a “Lighting the Community” Summit where Korean American Christian leaders have come together to advocate for social issues pertaining to race and faith. This year, because of Melissa Rogers’s invitation to come to the White House, Ms. Im decided to expand the vision of the 7th annual “Lighting the Community” Summit to include pan-Asian American / Pacific Islander Christians. It was a real success and paves the way for future pan-AAPI Christian efforts. We hope to be invited back to the White House on an annual basis (right now it’s likely that 2015 will happen!) so that we will have a regular voice in the political sphere.


One thing great about Hyepin Im is that she is a reconciler. When we were meeting together in Washington DC, I appreciated her peacekeeper role. AAPI Christian leaders come from a diversity of different backgrounds, not only ethnically (Korean, Chinese, Indian, Samoan), but also denominationally and of different political affiliations. Whenever an issue that came up which proved divisive, Ms. Im would steer us back to what is important. She wouldn’t let differences of opinion on certain matters tear us apart; she wanted to keep the tone positive and helped us to focus on what we could all agree on, such as releasing Bae and the Huangs.


One question that was asked among us organizers was the main identity of AAPI FACE: are we more Asian or Christian? Is it race or faith? We decided: it’s both in equal measure. I teach a class at Biola called Gospel & Culture, and it is the awareness that both are in our identity and therefore must always be sharpening each other. To be Christian without recognizing that we express everything through culture is to blindly absolutize your culture as the only way to express the faith—and that gives birth to imperialistic missions. To be cultural while subordinating your faith is to let the manmade trump the Godmade part of who we are. No, we need Gospel & Culture—faith and race—always working in tandem with each other. It is the fact that we are embodied beings in this world, yet at the same time are strangers & aliens in this world because we belong to a greater Kingdom, that makes Christians what we are. God does not despise culture; he works with it. To disavow culture is ignorant; to become overly beholden to culture is enslavement; to acknowledge culture and employ it wisely is truth.


Other than working for the release of Bae and the Huangs, we also brought up issues like:

-human trafficking which greatly affects Asians

-Affirmative Action which often works against Asians

-mental health which is a hugely unaddressed issue amongst Asians because of depression, high suicide rates, and substance abuse

-hate crimes and bullying directed against Asians which often go unreported, thus Asians just suffer in silence

-affordable housing

-next generation initiatives

-access to healthcare

-domestic violence


-environmental issues


Asian American Christian professors

When we were at the White House, we also had some special guests join us, to speak and to be honored. Among these special guests were:

-Congressman Mike Honda, Representative for California’s 17th congressional district (Silicon Valley), the only Asian American-majority district in the continental United States


-Jim Wallis, founder and director of Sojourners


-Jane Hyun, author of Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians


-Congresswoman Judy Chu, Representative from California’s 27th congressional district, which is my hometown district of Pasadena.


I’m proud that Judy Chu is my Congresswoman because of this historical fact: The only two ethnic groups in America’s history that have ever been told they can’t be U.S. citizens were black slaves and Chinese. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was only repealed in 1943 and there has never been an apology for it until 2012 due to the efforts of Judy Chu!


Not everyone at this event was a current leader. We invited a number of emerging “younger ambassadors” who we are developing for the future, because mentoring and preparing the next generation of AAPI Christian leaders is of high concern to us. . Otherwise, who will take up the mantle when we’re gone?

Hopefully we Asian American Christians will continue to have a growing voice in the political sphere in the years to come!


P.S. Some facts you may not know about Asian Americans:

-We make up 6% of the U.S. population.

-We are America’s most ethnically diverse racial population.

-Only 42% of Asian Americans identify as Christians, as opposed to of 75% of the general U.S. population.

-Koreans are not the most Christian Asian American population; Filipinos are (because they identify as Catholic): 18.7% vs. 30.9% of the Asian American population, respectively!

-The national statistics on poverty rates show Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at 11.7% and 17.6% respectively. These figures still trail behind the African American and Hispanic populations at about 26% and 23%, but still show a need for attention.