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by Phung Banh
MOTION STATEMENT

Jesus empowers our cultural narratives to be places of celebration and resistance.

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by Phung Banh

MULTIRACIAL EXPERIENCE(S) & EMBRACING THE MANY TONGUES WITHIN

Aizaiah Yong

Aizaiah is a contemplative Christian Pentecostal minister, practical theologian, & international teacher who is passionate about works of peace, justice, & intercultural community. Aizaiah has experience serving in a variety of leadership positions within non-profit, educational, & religious institutions as well as in consulting roles with executive leaders seeking organizational change. He continues to publish numerous works related to issues at the intersection of wisdom-based leadership, pastoral theology & spiritual care, intercultural studies, and social innovation.

“What are you?” This is a question that many multiracial people have heard time and time again. It highlights the reality that in the USA, when we first meet someone, we are socially accustomed to categorize them racially before we get to know them personally and holistically. While this question is much better than a color-blindness approach, and can seem innocent, the reality is that each human being is ultimately a who, not a what. And as people and not objects, we long to be known as such. Each of our lives is filled with incredible creativity, complexity, diversity, and endless potentiality. Being a person who lives in the context of a racially charged and oppressive country, and as one who identifies as multiracial (I am Hakka Chinese and Chicano), I have had to find the courage to embrace my entire self and not let monoracial paradigms prevent me from celebrating my personal story. I have discovered that this is a deeply spiritual process.

Divine Recognition in Cultural Experiences

One of the most beautiful teachings within the Christian tradition is that of the Incarnation. The Incarnation of God, simply put, means the divine mystery is revealed in human flesh. For Christians, we take our lead from the life of Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and in following His path, we find that our personal lives also reflect the great divine mystery. As we continue on in the spiritual path, we find that hidden as the ground and depth dimension of our very (extra)ordinary lives is the reality of sacred love (Gen. 1:26). This means that our very experiences, as great or as small as they seem (including our cultural identity) are infused with divine preciousness and beauty.

Each of our lives is filled with incredible creativity, complexity, diversity, and endless potentiality.

This awareness flows straight from the life of Jesus where he constantly lived from his own “divine recognition” of the ordinary and common experiences within his everyday cultural life. Examples of the very common (but special) cultural customs of Jesus’ life include: being publicly named in his community (Luke 2:21), gathering in the synagogue for spiritual teaching (Mark 6:2), and observing religious festivals such as the Passover (Matt. 26:17). In other words, we find that what makes Jesus’ life so attractive for us are the beautiful and many ways he celebrated his culture even though his community was in a position of oppression due to the Roman imperial empire. Following his example invites us to both embrace the particular cultural realities that makeup our own lives, and can perhaps even help us to transform the hurting places within our stories that have been excluded or oppressed due to “Christian” colonialism from places of pain to places of celebration. Although Jesus came from a poor and rural community, his spirituality was evident in extravagantly embodied living, befriending the marginalized in society, and unifying the diverse aspects of his mind, heart, body, spirit, and culture. 

Celebrating Harmonious Diversity

Jesus’ example provides a model of how to live in harmony with diversity. True unity (for which Christ prayed for humanity in John 17:21) is not uniformity, but speaks to the love and space we make in our hearts for difference. Because it is the diversity present in life that makes life more beautiful (Rev. 7:9). This path of unity amidst diversity, culminates in the life of Jesus’ followers on the day of Pentecost where the Scripture highlights how the Holy Spirit came upon all the early disciples and emphasizes how they were gifted with the ability to speak and embrace new languages and cultures: “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2:1-4).

In this passage, I am amazed at the fact that the culmination of the disciples’ waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit was made manifest through diverse language and culture! In other words, if we are full of the Spirit, we are readily embracing diversity within ourselves and in the world! As a Pentecostal Christian, this excites me because it is an invitation to go to the places within myself and society that are rejected (Ps. 118:22) and learn to listen and speak the languages there. And further, if I am to take Jesus’ call to “follow Me” (Matt. 4:19) seriously, it means I must learn to embrace the fullness of my own human experience, including (and especially) the diversity of it. 

True unity (for which Christ prayed for humanity in John 17:21) is not uniformity, but speaks to the love and space we make in our hearts for difference.

I believe this process is the beginning of the healing the world needs and it starts so personally. For me this means, accepting and engaging the psycho-spiritual work of embracing the dynamic range of emotions that come up in my experience (e.g., art and music that celebrate multiraciality are huge resources here!), dealing with the shadow thoughts of my own mind and ego (this can only be confronted by intentionally pursuing relationships with people who suffer different marginalizing experiences than myself), and also reflecting redemptively about my culture, religious heritage, and racial-ethnic identity through writing, speaking, and creative story-telling. In order to do this well, it means first clearly understanding the ways in which systems and structures of oppression have not encouraged us to embrace our own diversity and to resist this! 

When that happens, I can move towards deeper learning in how to integrate the aspects of my life (such as being multiracial) that I am tempted to disregard or allow to be silenced. Finding a therapist of color, or joining an online community discussing multiraciality (such as: https://criticalmixedracestudies.com/) can be great first steps! As I give myself to this work, I am called to also show up with authentic solidarity to others facing oppression and working towards the reclamation and redemption of all parts of human experience that are targets of violence and oppression.

Embracing Our Full Selves

In conclusion, no, I am not half Chinese and half Chicano. I am fully Chinese and fully Chicano and fully multiracial. I refuse to be categorized and labeled to fit the structures of a government and/or a society that refuses to recognize the wholeness of me. Furthermore, I am committed to advocating for the inclusion of my personal racialized experiences because it helps to make known the insidious workings of white supremacy that impact all people and prevent us from embracing the racial-ethnic diversities we carry in our bodies. 

However, I am also committed to not allowing my personal process of racial identification to happen without communities of accountability. While how a person identifies racially is a personal process, this should never be individualistic or done in isolation but rather for the sake of authentic living for all. This is especially important when it comes to the rampant anti-Blackness that many people of color (who are not Black), benefit from if not carefully working towards pro-Black racial justice. 

I am not half Chinese and half Chicano. I am fully Chinese and fully Chicano and fully multiracial. I refuse to be categorized and labeled to fit the structures of a government and/or a society that refuses to recognize the wholeness of me.

With all this said, I am reminded to never forget that I am also more than my racial identification and so are you. The spiritual path is not just about embracing any one aspect of ourselves but unifying the whole of our personal experience with truth, compassion, grace, and love and embracing the many tongues within.

“What are you?” This is a question that many multiracial people have heard time and time again. It highlights the reality that in the USA, when we first meet someone, we are socially accustomed to categorize them racially before we get to know them personally and holistically. While this question is much better than a color-blindness approach, and can seem innocent, the reality is that each human being is ultimately a who, not a what. And as people and not objects, we long to be known as such. Each of our lives is filled with incredible creativity, complexity, diversity, and endless potentiality. Being a person who lives in the context of a racially charged and oppressive country, and as one who identifies as multiracial (I am Hakka Chinese and Chicano), I have had to find the courage to embrace my entire self and not let monoracial paradigms prevent me from celebrating my personal story. I have discovered that this is a deeply spiritual process.

Divine Recognition in Cultural Experiences

One of the most beautiful teachings within the Christian tradition is that of the Incarnation. The Incarnation of God, simply put, means the divine mystery is revealed in human flesh. For Christians, we take our lead from the life of Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and in following His path, we find that our personal lives also reflect the great divine mystery. As we continue on in the spiritual path, we find that hidden as the ground and depth dimension of our very (extra)ordinary lives is the reality of sacred love (Gen. 1:26). This means that our very experiences, as great or as small as they seem (including our cultural identity) are infused with divine preciousness and beauty.

This awareness flows straight from the life of Jesus where he constantly lived from his own “divine recognition” of the ordinary and common experiences within his everyday cultural life. Examples of the very common (but special) cultural customs of Jesus’ life include: being publicly named in his community (Luke 2:21), gathering in the synagogue for spiritual teaching (Mark 6:2), and observing religious festivals such as the Passover (Matt. 26:17). In other words, we find that what makes Jesus’ life so attractive for us are the beautiful and many ways he celebrated his culture even though his community was in a position of oppression due to the Roman imperial empire. Following his example invites us to both embrace the particular cultural realities that makeup our own lives, and can perhaps even help us to transform the hurting places within our stories that have been excluded or oppressed due to “Christian” colonialism from places of pain to places of celebration. Although Jesus came from a poor and rural community, his spirituality was evident in extravagantly embodied living, befriending the marginalized in society, and unifying the diverse aspects of his mind, heart, body, spirit, and culture. 

Celebrating Harmonious Diversity

Jesus’ example provides a model of how to live in harmony with diversity. True unity (for which Christ prayed for humanity in John 17:21) is not uniformity, but speaks to the love and space we make in our hearts for difference. Because it is the diversity present in life that makes life more beautiful (Rev. 7:9). This path of unity amidst diversity, culminates in the life of Jesus’ followers on the day of Pentecost where the Scripture highlights how the Holy Spirit came upon all the early disciples and emphasizes how they were gifted with the ability to speak and embrace new languages and cultures: “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2:1-4).

In this passage, I am amazed at the fact that the culmination of the disciples’ waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit was made manifest through diverse language and culture! In other words, if we are full of the Spirit, we are readily embracing diversity within ourselves and in the world! As a Pentecostal Christian, this excites me because it is an invitation to go to the places within myself and society that are rejected (Ps. 118:22) and learn to listen and speak the languages there. And further, if I am to take Jesus’ call to “follow Me” (Matt. 4:19) seriously, it means I must learn to embrace the fullness of my own human experience, including (and especially) the diversity of it. 

I believe this process is the beginning of the healing the world needs and it starts so personally. For me this means, accepting and engaging the psycho-spiritual work of embracing the dynamic range of emotions that come up in my experience (e.g., art and music that celebrate multiraciality are huge resources here!), dealing with the shadow thoughts of my own mind and ego (this can only be confronted by intentionally pursuing relationships with people who suffer different marginalizing experiences than myself), and also reflecting redemptively about my culture, religious heritage, and racial-ethnic identity through writing, speaking, and creative story-telling. In order to do this well, it means first clearly understanding the ways in which systems and structures of oppression have not encouraged us to embrace our own diversity and to resist this! 

When that happens, I can move towards deeper learning in how to integrate the aspects of my life (such as being multiracial) that I am tempted to disregard or allow to be silenced. Finding a therapist of color, or joining an online community discussing multiraciality (such as: https://criticalmixedracestudies.com/) can be great first steps! As I give myself to this work, I am called to also show up with authentic solidarity to others facing oppression and working towards the reclamation and redemption of all parts of human experience that are targets of violence and oppression.

Embracing Our Full Selves

In conclusion, no, I am not half Chinese and half Chicano. I am fully Chinese and fully Chicano and fully multiracial. I refuse to be categorized and labeled to fit the structures of a government and/or a society that refuses to recognize the wholeness of me. Furthermore, I am committed to advocating for the inclusion of my personal racialized experiences because it helps to make known the insidious workings of white supremacy that impact all people and prevent us from embracing the racial-ethnic diversities we carry in our bodies. 

However, I am also committed to not allowing my personal process of racial identification to happen without communities of accountability. While how a person identifies racially is a personal process, this should never be individualistic or done in isolation but rather for the sake of authentic living for all. This is especially important when it comes to the rampant anti-Blackness that many people of color (who are not Black), benefit from if not carefully working towards pro-Black racial justice. 

With all this said, I am reminded to never forget that I am also more than my racial identification and so are you. The spiritual path is not just about embracing any one aspect of ourselves but unifying the whole of our personal experience with truth, compassion, grace, and love and embracing the many tongues within.

Each of our lives is filled with incredible creativity, complexity, diversity, and endless potentiality.
True unity (for which Christ prayed for humanity in John 17:21) is not uniformity, but speaks to the love and space we make in our hearts for difference.
I am not half Chinese and half Chicano. I am fully Chinese and fully Chicano and fully multiracial. I refuse to be categorized and labeled to fit the structures of a government and/or a society that refuses to recognize the wholeness of me.
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by Mondo Scott

MIXED IDENTITY IN THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY

Chandra Crane

Chandra Crane is a resource specialist for the multiethnic initiatives department of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and a member of the multiethnic Redeemer Church in Jackson, Mississippi. She has written for In All Things, The Well, and The Witness: A Black Christian Collective.

The worldwide church body all-too-often doesn’t showcase her heavenly citizenship. Instead of mirroring that Revelation 7:9 community with diversity of all types, humans tend to gather with people like them, who think, look, vote, and act like them. People tend to forget that our ultimate allegiance is to the kingdom of God, and we lose sight of longing for heaven.

Though this happens to us mixed folks as well, our ethnic makeup does help us see things in different ways. I’m not claiming that we always have our priorities straight, but out of our weakness, God shows himself strong. God reminds us that the church is bigger, more beautiful, and more diverse than we can even imagine. That’s a gift we mixed folks can give to the church—a reminder that we aren’t home yet, that there are still people on the outside looking in, that we still have work to do in ourselves and in our spheres of influence to see the “least of these” and to minister to them.

As I continue to learn to praise God for my multiethnicity, I also learn to create new relationships and patterns, new ways of seeing others. In doing this, I can delight in the ways that other marginalized groups uniquely reflect the image of God. Appreciating my own story has allowed me to appreciate how the stories of others reflect the gospel: first parents, adoptees, adoptive families and parents of color;1 refugees; the poor; the depressed and grieving; and believers in prison and in slavery (Eph 1:5; Mt. 8:20; Ps 9:18; Ps 69:33). We mixed folks have many things we can showcase and teach the church when we’re well-resourced, cared for, and listened to. So it’s imperative that the church as an institution does the good work of seeing and loving people of multiethnicity.

Pastor Smith quotes author Zenos E. Hawkinson’s thoughts about the way that God brings growth out of hardship:

In my bones I feel that we are being uprooted now in a variety of ways, personally and communally . . . our forebears . . . found strange places and moments of unutterable anguish and loneliness [until] suddenly a voice says, “You are not alone. I have purposes. I have things to be done.” . . . Our own tradition in the Covenant Church gives us reason to have confidence that people can be thrown bodily out of their accustomed culture and create new things as a consequence.2

When I first read Check All That Apply,3 I was blown away. Hearing for the first time that I could image Jesus in all my complexity was a beautiful, humbling, overwhelming, life-changing thing. It was truly transformative. Reading that book, finding a multiethnic church, having mixed friends and biologically mixed children, and other things, have enabled me to be on the journey of better learning to love my multiethnicity, to see it as a gift to myself and the world. I’m learning not to apologize for my very existence and my category-defying presence, which makes everything complicated for “normal” people. I’ve begun to rejoice in being the person God designed me to be.

I’ve experienced moments when I understand what it means to be whole, what it means to have an integrated cultural identity that neither discounts some aspects nor smashes them all together into the other category at the expense of the uniqueness of each culture. Being entrusted with the stories of other mixed people and then endeavoring to share them with others has also been instrumental in my spiritual growth and walk with Christ as a mixed woman. Hearing others’ stories can do the seemingly contradictory work of helping us to see how others are both very much like us and also wonderfully different. We multiethnic folks can appreciate seeming contradictions in a very special way, and we can share that joy with the people that God places in our lives.  

Adapted from Chapter 8, “Mixed Identity in the Church and Society,” Mixed Blessing by Chandra Crane. Copyright (c) 2020 by Chandra Crane. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com.

1“First parents” is a term used of biological parents to emphasize their dignity and importance in the lives of their children. I use the term “parents of color” to honor monoethnic, majority-culture parents who experience the unique intersectionality of raising children of color (through adoption, interracial marriage, or other means).
2Z. E. Hawkinson, Anatomy of the Pilgrim Experience: Reflections on Being a Covenanter (Chicago: Covenant Publications, 2000), 14-15, as quoted by Smith in The Post-Black, electronic version, 125-6.
3Sundee Tucker Frazier, Check All That Apply: Finding Wholeness as a Multiracial Person (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002) was the book that really started me on my multiethnic journey. 

That’s a gift we mixed folks can give to the church—a reminder that we aren’t home yet, that there are still people on the outside looking in, that we still have work to do in ourselves and in our spheres of influence to see the “least of these” and to minister to them.
I’m learning not to apologize for my very existence and my category-defying presence, which makes everything complicated for “normal” people. I’ve begun to rejoice in being the person God designed me to be.
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Voices of Pax

J.W. Buck

Josh is a co-founder of Pax. He has a B.A. in Biblical studies, M.A. in Ministry, and is working on a P.h.D. in Intercultural Studies. His doctoral work involves qualitative research that platforms the voices and stories that have experienced racially motivated violence. He is an adjunct professor at Eternity Bible College, was the co-founding pastor of Antioch City Church of Los Angeles, and is co-founder of an after-school arts program in L.A. called AMP Los Angeles. He has produced and directed documentary films including the life story of Dr. John Perkins. His wife Sarswatie and three kids (Aahana, Anaia, & Azariah) all live in South Bend, Indiana.

Decolonized
Cultural Identity

WITH
Brandon Wrencher

Brandon is a minister, organizer, writer and facilitator. He works across the U.S. within faith education and non-profit sectors at the intersections of decolonizing church, contemplative activism and local presence to build beloved communities. As a serial innovator and church planter, Brandon’s latest venture, with neighbors and friends, is starting The Good Neighbor Movement, a multiracial, queer-affirming, Black-led network of spiritually-rooted activist groups across Greensboro, NC.

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Hermanas

WITH
Kristy Robinson

Kristy Garza Robinson is a Latina minister, activist, and author currently living in Austin, Texas. She is passionate about advocating for those on the margins and seeking to help people integrate all of who they are into their calling, especially their ethnic identity. She enjoys good food, good friends, and deep conversations. She has a Masters in Global Leadership from Fuller Seminary. Kristy and Eric are also parents to two beautiful daughters.

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At Pax, we commit to listen, learn, and live as everyday peacemakers. We hope that you will journey with us, and we’ve crafted three reflection questions based on our audio interviews for you to participate in listening, learning, and living out the calling of being peacemakers in your own life. This is something you could do one your own or as part of a group discussion. ‍  

Listen: ‍1. What is one thing that you learned about cultural identity from both Kristy and Brandon’s story?

Learn: 2. What is one new idea about cultural identity that you learned from each interview?

Live: ‍3. What is one new practice that you can incorporate into your own life to help celebrate your God given cultural identity?


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A Cultural Identity Benediction

Drew Jackson

Drew Jackson is the co-founding pastor of Hope East Village in New York City, where he currently serves. He is deeply engaged in anti-racism work, primarily in church contexts, and is actively involved with the work of peacemaking and multi-faith coalition building for the common good, both nationally and internationally. Drew and his wife, Genay, have twin daughters, Zora and Suhaila, and they currently live in Lower Manhattan. Follow Drew’s poetry at @d.jacksonpoetics on Instagram.

A Cultural Identity Benediction

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ go with you wherever he may send you.

May the Holy Spirit guide you in every way as you continue the journey of learning to fully embrace and embody your beautiful, God-given cultural identity.

May God fill you with the courage to resist the evil and destructive narratives telling you that you must deny your heritage and identity in order to belong.

May you experience the healing and transforming power of Jesus so that you might acknowledge, affirm, and appreciate who God has made you to be.

May you know that your cultural identity is a site of holy visitation.

And may your heart be flooded with joy as you celebrate the beauty, the resilience, the creativity, and the imagination that God has embedded within the story of your culture.

So go, my friend, in the shalom, in the Pax, of our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. Amen.


Pax StoryArc
Motion Resources

Thank you for journeying with us on this pathway of cultural identity.. Before you leave, check out these additional resources curated by the Pax team to equip and empower you as a disciple of Jesus. Each resource is designed around the practices of listen, learn and live. Our desire is for you to take these prayers, spiritual practices, and conversations with you as you begin living as peacemakers in the word on the slow and steady journey ahead.
GUIDE

Cultural Identity
as Resistance

Lessons from the Exodus and the Brown Church By Robert Chao Romero
Listen
Order
View in Marketplace
GUIDE

Food & Rhythm
for the Soul

A guide for Celebrating Cultural Identity by Lucretia Berry
Listen
Order
View in Marketplace
PRINT

Mixed Blessing
Book Preorders

by Chandra Crane
Details

Mixed Blessing: Embracing the Fullness of Your Multiethnic Identity by Chandra Crane explores what Scripture and history teach us about ethnicity and how we can bring all of ourselves to our sense of identity and calling. Discover the fullness of who you are. Find out how your mixed identity can be a blessing to yourself and to the world around you. Purchase Mixed Blessing from Intervarsity Press.

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EXIT STORYARC