“You should marry a nice Korean girl”

 “No I’m not married.  Yes I like Korean food.  Yes even kimchi.”  The ajumma’s nod at each other.  “Ahh.  You should marry a nice Korean girl.  They not like American women.” “Some of them…”  And so the conversation went, trailing off into a discussion between the two of them only tangentially related to me extolling the virtues of a good Korean woman. Apparently the chief concern of these women (and of most of my hyungs) is that I get married and that relatively quickly.  Being well matched is clearly at the top of their list of things I need to do. 

BUT… if I need to marry a good Korean woman, where will I find her? The silent question that echoes at back of the admonitions to marry a “good Korean woman” is this: who will sacrifice their daughter so this man can get married? After all, I’m not Korean or even Asian, and most significantly, I’m not even White.  The Asian woman who marries a Black man is a rarity, not because Asian women never date outside their “race” but because, well… you fill in the blank. 

One of my Korean students and I were discussing this issue and he mentioned that his parents told him they would support him no matter who he wanted to marry.  And so he asked what if she wasn’t Korean.  That would be fine, as long as you’re happy.  “What about if she was White?”  This time a slight pause, but again, as long as you’re happy.  “What if I wanted to marry an African-American?”  His parents face went pale, their eyes widened and their mouths dropped open. They did not answer.  It was quite simply too shocking a thing to even be considered. 

If I were a White man I don’t know that that unasked question (who will sacrifice their daughter…) would resound quite as loudly.  Certainly they would prefer their “good Korean daughters” to marry equally “good Korean men” but there are enough mixed race couples, and several of long standing that such a match would not excite much interest.  In fact if I were White they might well assume that my coming to the church was so I could scope out the ladies.  As it is, no such assumptions prevail, or at least none of which I am aware.  Instead I am pure curiosity. 

But would a good Korean woman even feel the freedom to like me? I certainly have no qualms about asking one out and my family quite honestly just wants me to marry somebody and get on with the business of enlarging our clan (my parents have a total of 19 descendants including grandchildren and great grandchildren).  I would chiefly have to contend with the disapproval of the many Black women who would view me as having sold out, though not quite as badly as if I had married a White woman.

 For the woman however, I think it would be a bit more challenging.  Her children, for all intents and purposes, would cease to be Korean and would not really even be considered Korean-American.  They would be Black, and she would have to deal with many more difficulties than me, even in the context of the church, and perhaps more so. In any event there are some fine Korean women out there and I can’t afford to let anyone’s ethnic prejudices keep me from giving them a holla if the opportunity presents itself.

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Calling

I recently returned from the Urbana 2006 missions convention in St. Louis, Missouri.  The convention had delgates from 145 countries, from every state and province of the United States and Canada.  It is a massive event and this years theme was “Live Worthy of the Calling” from the book of Ephesians, which was highlighted throughout the conference. Issues of calling are salient in the minds of college students as they take classes, attend lectures, and pursue careers.  For many others of us, calling is a question that fades unfortunately into the background noise of pressing daily concerns. 

That is at least, what had begun to happen to me.  It is not as though I had abandoned the Lord, or had ceased to listen for his voice.  It was rather that I had grown rather complacent in simply living and working from day to day.  I had moved from a place of intensity in my desire to hear clearly and distinctly what God wanted to do and to be, and found myself beginning to settle for mediocrity and ordinariness in both my work and my personal spiritual life. 

Fortunately for me, our God cared enough to rouse me from my sleep and again shine brightly on me – the bright light of his calling as annoying and welcoming as the sun breaking through the early morning slumber with which we are all familiar. Why is it that we stop our pursuit of calling and settle so easily?  Partly I think it is a healthy place of maturity that causes us to rest from the turmoil of a youthfulness that wants to do everything all at once and is impatient to see the kingdom of God come NOW.  Mostly though I think it is the accumulation of resources material, emotional, relational, and physical.  We buy houses and furnish them.  We marry.  We watch newscasters that agree with us and read books that reinforce our beliefs.  We hang out with people who, if they don’t look like us, at least act and think like we do, and so confirm for us that our state of self satisfied complacency is the best of all possible worlds. 

In short, we stop pursuing calling because God is simply too unpredictable and unreliable when it comes to the comfort and convenience of our lives.  He might ask us to do something upsetting, like move into the inner city, or go serve the poor overseas, or drop our steady job and go back to school.  He might alter our plans, disrupt our schedules and generally make a nuisance of himself with his insistence on being Lord of all of our lives.  Quite frankly we think that sort of radical reorientation is best left to young people, to high schoolers and college kids, to the kinds of people that go to Urbana. It is good for us that God refuses to every take rear place to our own agendas, no matter what.

Conservative Rant

Allow me to take a moment to grieve the tragic shooting of three here in my hometown.  These store owners, Egyptians immigrants and apparently Christians, were shot by teenage thieves in cold blood during a robbery attempt. The sixteen year old girl who shot two of the victims said that her gun went off accidentally. Now, as a compassionate man, and as a Black man who understands well the power of systems in shaping social behavior and the endemic nature of injustice that breeds crime, I have a certain measure of concern for whatever were the environmental factors that led to this shooting.  But if I may allow my conservative side to come out a bit, this is the most ridiculous and powerful evidence for the breakdown of civil society in our country. This girl admits to murdering two people in cold blood and says that the gun went off, “accidentally.”  For me this is a clear parental failure, a neighborhood failure, and a social failure.  Who is responsible for this girl?  Where are her parents?  And how could she dare to utter the words accident in conjunction with a cold blooded shooting?  It is clear that while she feels some responsibility, she thinks that at least part of that responsibility is absolved by saying it was an accident.  What values are we transmitting in our society when those words, those thoughts can even pass by a person’s lips or through their minds? This girl lives in a society and is a product of a culture that has “cast off restraint” and is “perishing.”  The shooting is clearly her fault, but the fault also lies with a culture that undermines parental and social authority.  Say what you will about the dysfunctionality of the 1950’s, but we didn’t have 16 year old girls robbing convenience stores and shooting vendors at point blank range and then calling it an accident!

Interlude: a small tribute to james kim

 

I do not know James Kim.  I only heard of him from the news reports. I don’t know why his story attracted my attention of all the stories of tragedy in the world, but it did.  He and his family were missing for some days, and he was discovered just today, dead.  I do not know if he was Christian, or what kind of man he was.  I only know that he is a man to be admired, at least in this moment.  He died whilst trying to find help for his family.  He laid down his life in an effort to secure the lives of others; the lives of those closest to him.  In my own small way, in this obscure blog, I honor him.