Eat and be satisfied

Eat and be satisfied

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Angry Asians and Face to Face Communication

Exodus 33:11a Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.  

A couple months ago, news came out that the owner of Angry Little Asian Girl (Lela Lee - a fellow Cal classmate but I didn't know her) had brought a lawsuit against Angry Asian Man (Phil Yu) for trademark infringement. She asked him, months earlier, if he could change his blog name to something different - presumably without "Angry" in the name. Their brands have been around for years but Lee didn't bring it up until recently because because Yu wasn't a professional - making a full-time occupation out of his blog. The whole thing escalated and you can read more details here.

Lee and Yu knew each other casually through various events - they had met in person in the past. However, at no point in their dispute did either party attempt to have a face to face meeting (based on what I read on Yu's blog in February - the posts have subsequently been removed). Lee emailed Yu. Yu didn't reply for months. Lee got mad and served him with a lawsuit (via email I believe). Yu retaliated by writing about her on his blog. Things got uglier from there with a Twitter war, etc.

For two people so respected in the Asian American community, taking a couple hours to sit down together and discuss this in-person would have been so valuable. 

I sense more and more confrontations like this occurring in the future because young Asian Americans have a decreasing ability to have face to face communication (and I totally get the irony of writing this post but written communication does have its role). 

The pattern of interaction in this dispute is so Asian - and I mean that in the most negative sense. I see conflict avoidance, passive aggression, bitterness built up over years exploding, feigned humility, and of course, minimal/non-existent face to face communication. We're already disadvantaged because of our upbringing - most Asian families avoid conflict, lack of eye contact in face to face interaction with parents especially fathers, and little/no training in empathy. Add to that toxic mix our increasing dependence on devices as an intermediary for interpersonal communication and you have a killer recipe for social impairment. 

During my IBM/Hitachi days, my Asian (American-born!) coworkers would instant message me while sitting a dozen feet away. It would drive me crazy but there were times I would do the same thing. We think it's more efficient this way - it's just a quick question and it saves time. It also feels less intrusive. The truth is, I would often resort to text and email when I didn't have the emotional energy to have a face to face conversation, when I was afraid of rejection, or when I wanted to state an unpopular opinion but didn't have the courage to voice it in person.

That's why texting, email, and instant messaging can be lazy and cowardly forms of communication. I totally get why Asians like it though. We want the opportunity to take our time coming up with the right words. We don't want to feel pressured to instantly respond. We don't want to deal directly with rejection or an unexpected response. The intermediary provides a buffer. But face to face interaction matters because there's so much more communicated when you meet someone in person. I remember in college when my dad told me I had become a man after I apologized to him. It was a conversation in the car that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The intensity of looking another person in the eye and acknowledging them as a human being is the essence of what relationship is about.  In face to face communication, the words only convey a fraction of the sender's intent. Most of it is body language and tone. The other two powerful elements of face to face communication is touch and context. Touch: If I'm able to resolve a dispute, I can give the person a hug. I can hold their hand or touch their shoulder when we pray. Context: If we're eating, we can comment on the food. If the weather is nice, we share that in common.

So if you can't stomach the idea of having a face to face conversation with someone you have a dispute with, you need to pause before communicating through any other medium (email, text, instant messaging, etc) because you have anger, bitterness, and resentment that needs to be dealt with first. Take your time to calm down and meet with the person. But expressing anything through an intermediary - human, digital, or otherwise  - seriously risks your intentions being misinterpreted.  I can't remember ever successfully resolving a dispute over email. Email flame wars always escalate because it's so easy to misconstrue people's intentions for the worst and the other party has no opportunity to defend himself/herself in the moment. 

I am not naive enough to think if Lee and Yu had simply had a face to face conversation, the Angry Asian dispute could have been prevented. There seem to be years of resentment on Lee's side motivating her lawsuit. But it saddens me they could not have gotten together, looked each other in the eye over a Philz iced mojito, and really sensed each others' hearts. At the very least, they could have agreed to keep the dispute private and not fight in front of the kids. They have both brought a lot of good to the Asian American community and it would have been a great blessing to have that work continue unblemished.

Finally, I love this professor's suggestion of doing a face to face day - no devices for the entire day. Painfully good.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We don't believe in the priesthood of all believers

Does the Bible teach every believer is a member of a holy priesthood?

In his book, Center Church (and sermons like this one), Tim Keller explains how every believer is a prophet, priest, and king. Ephesians 2 describes how each believer reigns in heaven with Christ. In Acts 2:16-19, Peter declares Joel's prediction fulfilled concerning the Holy Spirit's enabling of all of God's sons and daughters to prophesy. And the verse below explicitly states every believer in Christ is a member of a royal priesthood - granted the privilege of announcing God's majesty to a broken world.
1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Thus, the question isn't whether the Bible teaches all believers are priests, it's whether we actually believe it. And the truth of our belief is indicated by our behavior.

1) We hold pastors to a higher ethical standard

During my visit to the UK, I talked with a friend about how pastors handle having their kids' sports participation. The pastor at my friend's church has a teenage son who plays high-level competitive soccer. Many of the tournaments and games occur on Sunday mornings. However, the pastor's family has a household rule that their kids will not compete on Sunday mornings. The thinking goes something like this: His son is a role model for the rest of the congregation. If the pastor's son attends a soccer game instead of worship service, what message does that convey to the rest of congregation?*

I've wrestled with this question as our oldest son, Caleb, also plays competitive soccer. He was recently promoted to the gold level of his team. Before moving him up, the coach asked Judy and me if we were willing to let Caleb play more on Sundays. The coach knows I'm a pastor and perceives a lack of commitment because Caleb has missed a handful of Sunday games (not all church-related absences). Judy and I struggled with this decision. 

What irks me though is that I'm expected to behave differently from other people because I bear a title. I don't mind that we place higher expectations on church leaders. We are certainly role models. But I am concerned when higher expectations are placed on pastors versus other church leaders - as if pastors are a different class of leader. The expectation is since they get money from the church, they should behave better. 

I also find Christians are consistently shocked and angered when high-profile pastors are caught in church scandals. I've certainly experienced surprise and disappointment when I've expressed to others my struggles with lust, pride, anger, etc. It's as if I'm somehow in a different category of person because of where my money comes from. Because I made a decision to receive a (lesser) paycheck for religious work, I bear the burden of increased expectations. I wonder if this is why most Christians are reluctant to go into vocational ministry - the pressure of expectations is suffocating.

In the end, we decided to let Caleb play in tournaments on Sundays. For individual games, we would allow him the freedom to choose - with Judy and me having veto power. In instances he misses church, we'll listen to a sermon together on the Saturday drive. The principle here is freedom of choice. We obviously value our church involvement and up to a certain age, all of our kids are required to attend church with us - because it is a family thing, not because they're role models. In that respect, I am modeling as a parent and leader how I would encourage other people to raise their kids in freedom - not because I'm a pastor but because I am learning how to be a godly father.

* There's also the related question concerning the sacredness of a Sunday worship service - is it gospel-centric to consider one day/time of the week more "holy" than others?

2) We expect pastors to do work we are called to do ourselves

I often hear Christians who are shopping for a church complain "I'm not getting fed". The image of a dining room with adult men and women sitting in over-sized high chairs, wearing Sesame Street bibs, and crying out "I'm hungry! I want food!" pops into my head. And in this picture, the pastor runs around frantically with a large spoon, scooping beef stew, and plunging it into the mouth of each overgrown child - anything to get the incessant whining to stop.

Certainly, a pastor's calling is to feed God's sheep. But if we are truly the priesthood of believers, then that responsibility does not fall upon the pastor alone. If we are indeed priests then we bear the mutual responsibility to FEED EACH OTHER. That's what it means to be the body of Christ. 

Like so many things in life, this comes down to how we see money. We have an anti-biblical attitude because how we view money colors our perceptions of vocational Christians. We want the biggest bang for our buck. Because we pay the pastor, we want to extract the maximum value out of him. Therefore he should do evangelism, visit the sick, counsel people, cast vision, train leaders, preach every week, confront sin, study the Bible, organize events, get along with everyone, welcome newcomers, tuck his shirt in (or not), spearhead outreaches, lead bible studies, pray for people, take care of the church building, be nice to puppies, set up chairs, and host potlucks. 

A kingdom-centered view of money means viewing the pastor's income as a gift to him just as all sources of income are gifts and expression of God's provision. Just as in the Old Testament, no priest earns his paycheck. His income is a gift. He relies upon the generosity of the community. No matter your occupation, you rely upon the generosity of a community. This community (organization, company, etc.), whether spiritual or secular, was ultimately set up by the Creator. The specific community may not operate by these principles but God is the mover behind the entire system.

Thus, the focus of a pastor is to preach the word and pray in order to equip others for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-1). His job is to make himself dispensable. And that's what Jesus did - He equipped his disciples and then left the building, leaving the Holy Spirit behind to carry on His work through His body, the church. My job as a pastor is to equip people to fulfill their calling as priests. 

3) We look at the pastoral vocation as a higher calling

I never experienced the calling to be a pastor. The closest thing was when I was a high school senior, James Taylor (Hudson Taylor's great grandson) spoke at our winter retreat and challenged us to reach China with the gospel. From that point forward, I felt convinced I was supposed to be a missionary. I still do - just not necessarily overseas. I don't doubt being a pastor, missionary, or full-time Christian worker is a unique calling but is it a superior calling? Is everyone else second-class Christians? 

I hear people tell me frequently, "Oh, I don't have the calling to be a pastor." Sometimes there is a kind of apologetic, defensive tone to this response. It's often accompanied with some type of explanation of why this person doesn't feel worthy to be a pastor. I don't want to get into an extended discussion of calling but let's say God, at a minimum, calls people according to His will as revealed in His word. So if the Bible teaches all believers are holy priests then we must certainly be called as priests in the places where we spend the most time. Whether you feel worthy of being a priest is not an issue of competence but faith. 

So if you work at McDonald's, you're called to be a McDonald's priest. We need Home Depot priests, Goldman Sachs priests, Starbucks priests, Exxon priests, and Tinder priests. If you're a student, you're a priest at your school. You're a priest to your family. I talked to a young man in Scotland about his job in the oil and gas industry. He bemoaned how difficult it was to live out his faith in an antagonistic environment but recognized his sacred calling to be salt and light in his workplace. We desperately need people who feel a sense of calling as priests to their companies, who recognize their unique role in carrying the gospel into dark places. 

A personal reflection

One of the hardest thing about being a pastor is my actions also don't convey that I believe in the priesthood of all believers. Part of me enjoys being held to a higher ethical standard. Part of me enjoys being placed on a pedestal and feeling superior to others. The fleshly part of my nature wants so badly to feel significant and valued relative to my non-vocational ministry peers. It's also risky to train and equip people to do pastoral tasks because it can feel threatening to my job security. But the truest part of me is learning to embrace this truth. And I do believe it's crucial for all church leaders, pastors included, to live out the truth of the priesthood of all believers. Otherwise how will others see this reality as legitimate?

At a recent high school reunion, a friend asked me what it was like being a pastor. I told her my work has its highs and lows and it's sometimes not quite as fulfilling as I imagined. She responded, Yeah, well, it's just a job isn't it? 

I thought to myself: How dare she refer to my holy calling 'just a job'?

When I believe vocational ministry is a superior calling, I'm defining my value according to the source of my income. But if what the Bible teaches is true, it truly is just a job. It is simply one specific location in which I've been placed to express my priestly calling. It is just a job. The greatest calling is to be a disciple, a beloved child of our ultimate intended father, a member of his household of believers, and a holy priest. Because if God has raised you from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life, your job title and source of income are irrelevant.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Gone Girl Book Review

I heard the movie is a psychological thriller so I thought I would read Gillian Flynn's book first. It's sick, twisted, and excellent. I still haven't seen the movie. I loved the alternating point-of-view narrative between husband and wife. Flynn is a little too smart for her own good. It's difficult to distinguish which is more pretentious - her writing or her characters. But the story moves. It's a roller coaster ride through a gloriously dysfunctional marriage into the black depths of a psychopath's mind. Even though the book starts dramatically, it is tough to like the characters in the beginning so the first half is kind of a slog. The second half really picks up as the plott twists get going and the tension accelerates. The thing I enjoyed most about the book is how Flynn depicts the depraved aspects of marriage - as a theater of disguised intentions and an endless war for control. Oh, and Flynn really likes to use italics. In her book, italics are everywhere.

I want to share two memorable quotes from the book. Nick, an embattled husband whose wife has gone missing, talks to his neighbor about his wife's disappearance. She is extremely hostile towards him for reasons he cannot fathom and Nick has the following thought:
She went away. I thought the unkind thought, one of those that burbled up beyond my control. I thought: Women are fucking crazy. No qualifier: Not some women, not many women. Women are crazy.
First comment: As Nick will find out, all women are indeed crazy but some women are a couple standard deviations crazier than others. Second comment: It absolutely tickles me that a woman wrote that line.

Nick, again, bemoaning the bankruptcy of his hometown mall as a metaphor for the bankruptcy of his soul:
It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (although the word derivative as a criticisim is itself derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn't reference immediately to a movie or TV show. A fucking commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blase. Seeen it. I've literally seen it all, and the worst things, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. . . We are all working from the same dog-eared script. It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters. And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don't have genuine souls.
It's a over-the-top existential but it was still a thought-provoking paragraph to read. It makes me realize my most delightful life experiences were small, everyday moments that have never been captured in a movie - they're too unique yet mundane. And some of the most pleasurable occasions are those experienced in reflection - that a movie or TV show or video or picture can't quite completely capture. Overall, this book is an insightful, thrilling read.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My 9 Favorite Manhood Books

Recently a friend asked me to list my favorite books on manhood. He asked from a place of need because it's lonely being a guy. We're not good at expressing our feelings. It's hard for us to ask for help. We have trouble forging deep friendships because we fear intimacy. We haven't been taught how our violent passion is a gift from God. And we have few role models to patterns ourselves after. Every man has other men who lead him into manhood and although they will never replace iron-sharpening relationships with other men, there are my favorite guides in the journey so far (in order of when I read them, oldest first).

1) Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot

Before this book, I didn't understand anything about manhood except that it related to strength, courage, and risk-taking. After I read this biography about Jim Elliot during college, I began to imagine the limitless possibilities of faith, courage, and vulnerability. Here was this guy who risked his life for Jesus as a missionary in Central America and yet was incredibly raw and honest about his own walk with God, his fears, failures, and desires. It was an intimate portrait of what was possible for someone following God. It wasn't about manhood per se but it was so powerful. It is one of the defining books of my Christian life and an all-time favorite. This book inspired me to keep a journal - a practice I follow to this day. A great way to learn about manhood is to study the lives of great men. I have read other biographies but this one stands above everything else - perhaps because of the strategic moment in which I read it.

2) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Certainly the criticisms of the book are valid - it's stuffed with movie illustrations, unabashedly white middle-class male, and his use of scripture is suspect - but the book simply rocks. Up to that point, my issue was feeling pressure as a man, feeling like biblical manhood consisted endless commitments, responsibilities, and toil  But when I read Eldredge, I felt fully alive and inspired to kick ass for God. I felt like something deep inside me was awakened - and that same spirit of adventure is latent in every man, yearning to be released.

3) Bringing up Boys by James Dobson

I bought and read this book after our second son was born and it was a tremendous blessing. I'm no James Dobson fan and I don't appreciate his conservative political activism. But in the end, it's an insightful guide on how boys are different from girls, how God made the differences good, and how we can appreciate and nurture those differences in boys. He treats topics with nuance, tenderness, and the unconditional love of God - it's just a fantastic manual for helping parents of boys. It helped me appreciate certain things my dad unintentionally did to invest in my brother and me and certain things that I want to do with my boys.

4) Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb

I love Larry Crabb. His stuff is so good. I don't know why this book isn't more popular. It's about the passivity of men and how men tend towards either neediness or toughness - and what each behavior indicates about our heart condition. He also talks about the words every man (and women) need to from another man: I believe in you. You're not alone. You can do it. A retreat speaker used the same phrasing in his talks one time and now I know where it came from. 

5) The Game by Neil Strauss

I talk about this book a lot because it's the quintessential manhood story. It boils masculinity down to chasing girls and it's arguably the most popular male self-improvement book in the world. Like Shadow of the Almighty, it is basically a memoir. I see it is as kind of exploration of what it means to be a man - are we defined by women or how other men see us? I appreciate Strauss' story because it is a coming of age narrative for any man. A man is utterly incompetent in an area and through mentors, hard work, and training becomes a champion. But is being a champion womanizer what he really wanted?

6) No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover

This is the most practical book on my list. The nice guy syndrome doesn't describe every guy but is spot-on for pretty much every Asian guy I've met. This book is the secular antidote to the problem of the Passive Asian Male. It describes the outward behavior of a new creation male. If you place radical trust in Jesus, then the picture of manhood Glover paints is possible and natural for you. The manifestation will require a painful inward journey of self-discovery but as you walk in the Spirit applying this book, the sky is the limit. He will teach you how to prioritize your needs, set limits, and express your feelings. It's basically Boundaries (Cloud and Townsend) for men. His stuff on covert agendas is amazing.

7) Seizing Your Divine Moment by Erwin McManus

This book was not written for men at all but a guy like McManus represents .000001% of the population and this book about faith risk-taking is the essence of what manhood is. Only McManus can take a few verses about Jonathan and his armor bearer taking on Philistine post and write an entire book about it. It's like Wild at Heart without the male-focus and better exegesis.

8) Iron John by Robert Bly

Robert Bly is not a Christian but he is a poet (all Christian are poets but not all poets are Christians). He writes beautifully about manhood and mythology. The book is woven around a mythic wild man who rescues the king's son from his parents, in particular, the queen. It's an extended metaphor for the male initiation ritual and it is incredibly intense. His stuff on father-woundedness and separation from the mother is controversial and thought-provoking. The book was pivotal in helping me understand the social importance of the fraternity and men's organization. 

9) Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang

It's not about manhood, it's not Christian at all, and it's really an extended rant on various topics but it's such a great meditation on a man's journey through anger. Anger is the defining emotion of manhood. Tim Keller says anger is love in motion to deal with a threat to someone or something we truly care about. Huang's struggle to understand his anger and make it productive is what makes his story compelling. I also really wanted to include an Asian male in this list. 

If I had to pick one book to give to my son, it would probably be Shadow of the Almighty. It's hard to go wrong with a martyr. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Not a Work in Progress

I am not a work in progress
I am the final product
Crafted by the master and shaped by the son
Dipped into death and raised to life
Given to Christ as His perfect wife

My righteousness cannot improve
I cannot be better 
I cannot get worse
His work was finished on the tree
The blood of the Son justifies me

My flesh accuses me of failure
Guilt condemns me to prison
Curse and judgment lead to death
Slave to sin and forever trapped 
But in Christ the chains are snapped



I soar above the roar that is law
The written code binds me no longer 
Chains of condemnation broken
Death has died among the chosen
Only life and blessing are now spoken

Even when I fall back into flesh
I repent return reunite 
For in the Spirit there is no fight
Only life and peace and flight
Walking by faith and not by sight

I do not ask for peace or patience
His Spirit promises all spiritual blessings
A new creation bearing sweeter fruit
Joy in abundance follow suit

There is no work to be done
Only bear the fruit that is to come
That's what God has prepared in advance
For those who trust not in circumstance 

I gain access to the final product by faith
And the only change I desire
Is to fully comprehend 
The unquenchable love for his people
For which no obstacle can block the way

Monday, February 16, 2015

My neighbor looks like Ed Sheeran

I love his music and when I first watched one of his videos, I was surprised. Ed Sheeran looks remarkably similar to my neighbor across the street. I would mention it to him but I'm confident people pester about it all the time. They're both in their early twenties, about 5'8", stocky, with bushy hair and completely unremarkable features. The main difference between them is Ed Sheeran is a global pop sensation with millions of adoring female fans and I'm pretty sure my neighbor is not. 
  
So what does Ed Sheeran and my neighbor reveal about the nature of sexual attraction? 

Women value emotional connection over physical appearance. Both men and women are designed for relational connection but women are especially responsive to heightened emotional expression and sentimentality. The ability to display empathy and communicate passion is huge. And it's not enough for man to merely posses the ability, he must put be able to put it on display. That's why in the college Christian dating market, men who lead worship tend to garner beaucoup female attention. A guy might be able to sing and play guitar but leading worship provides a way to showcase his talents and contribute to the church.

On the other hand, men see women's appearance as an inextricable part of emotional connection. Attractive women trigger an emotional (sexual) response in men. Thus, for most men, there's a minimum threshold of physical attractiveness that unless reached, men are simply not turned on. Certainly, men can be attracted to a diversity of body types but conventions of female attractiveness are fairly uniform. 

This also explains why jerks attracts women. A jerk is characterized by aggression and initiative. He may be arrogant, selfish, and cruel but he is impossible not to notice and difficult to ignore. He stirs something up in others and he is not like everyone else. He always leaves an impression, positive or negative. So like tyrants, it can be better to be feared than loved. When it comes to competing for someone's affection, being different from the crowd goes a long way. 

So what does this mean for guys who want to attract women? 

1) Be good at something meaningful. Extraordinarily good if possible. The key is having a passion or skill that distinguishes you from other people. Every guy has a passion. If you don't, develop one. I don't think having skill at something is that hard for most guys. And in this day and age, even video games apply. Eddie Huang doesn't write a book or get a TV show if his soup dumplings suck.

2) Find a community where that gift or talent can be applied and appreciated. This means more than joining a group of artists who can share in your art but finding ways to exhibit and contribute your gifts to other people. For example, your gift is administration, then organizing non-profit events puts your gifts on displays and benefits others. 

3) Learn how to emotionally connect with people. if your talent is video games, it's important to find a way to articulate your passion in a way that is insightful, mysterious, and interesting. It also means being a good communicator - the ability to convey your convictions in a compelling way and being an attentive and responsive listener. Lastly, it means having a good sense of humor and being witty. It this sounds difficult, it is. It takes practice and work. Some guys are more gifted than others but anyone can improve with deliberate, focused effort and feedback. The awesome thing about what Ed Sheeran does is the nature of his work emotionally connects with other people. 

The same is true for Jesus. He did not pander to others or cater to people's whims. He was not focused on attracting women but focused on his passions - drawing people to God.  What is admirable is also attractive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Prophetic Genius of Eddie Huang

Fresh off the Boat (the book not the show): A prophet in exile rants against injustice.

I'm not gonna lie - I'm jealous of Eddie Huang. I'm not jealous he has a prime time TV show inspired by his life. I'm not jealous of his award-winning  restaurant. I'm not jealous of his popularity, or that he's written a book, or his sharp sense of fashion. I'm jealous of his courage with words.

Because Eddie Huang is a prophet.

A prophet speaks truth without compromise. Isaiah was commanded to speak to a persistently unfeeling people.

A prophet is not afraid to call out the establishment on issues of social injustice. Amos proclaimed judgment on "those who trample the heads of the poor" .

A prophet employs symbolism to make his point. Ezekiel cut his beard off with a sword and set it on fire as a witness against Israel.

A prophet is offensive and persecuted for his views. John the Baptist got his head chopped off for calling Herod out on his illicit marriage with his brother's wife.

A prophet eats wack food as part of his testimony. Ezekiel ate barley cakes cooked over dried feces and John munched on locusts and honey.

Huang speaks both for and against those who are outsiders, the ones who don't fit in, the invisible, and the oppressed. He is an ambassador of exiles - a voice crying in the wilderness - who on one hand, rebukes authority for its systemic discrimination against exiles and on the other, rebukes exiles for their silent fear and pandering. He speaks the truth exiles don't have the courage to speak to themselves and speaks on behalf of exiles truth the establishment can't bear to hear. He is an intestine-eating, hip-hop quoting, Nike Jordan-rocking, bundle of angry contradictions whose life trajectory was forever changed by an 18th century Irishman's satirical essay on consumption of impoverished children as a means to end welfare. Clarity takes a back seat to impact. His lyrical verse and urban culture lingo go over people's heads but there's no mistaking the blade to the heart. Only a prophet stabs you in the front.

I started blogging because I couldn't find a voice that articulated the experience of being an Asian Christian male in America. My face says I don't belong to the US but my personality says I don't belong to China. I'm no rotten banana but I wanted to express an anger that came from feeling marginalized. That's exactly what Huang does in his memoir. It's not for the faint of the heart. He does not mince words and from one rage monster to another, I loved it. The fact he loves basketball doesn't hurt either. I still work on my Andre Miller old man game to this day.

Huang has a unique life path from my own. He is a second-generation Taiwanese American who grew up on the East Coast and moved to Orlando when he was eight years old. He grew up as the troubled oldest son of a restaurant owner. I'm also second-generation Chinese American but I spent most of my childhood in an area where highly educated Asians made up a critical mass, had parents with a much more stable marriage, and had a far more positive experience with Christianity. The model minority myth is zombified in Silicon Valley - we are the walking dead of stereotypes.

What I admire most is the gradual transformation of Huang's rage. It first finds expression through fighting and vengeance and I never had the courage to do that. My anger seethed beneath the surface and was sublimated in my pursuit of academic achievement. I'm straight Uncle Chan in that respect. He's got lots of youth rage stories and I admire how he didn't allow himself to get bent over a barrel. 

But the vengeance and doing-stupid-things-while-drunk-and-high accounts get boring after awhile because disconnected, impulsive rage is meaningless. If I wanted humorous inebriation stories, I could read Tucker Max and Huang realizes the self-destructive nature of his temper in college. That's when things start getting interesting as his journey changes. He discovers his gift for words and he realizes his calling is as a prophet - to speak out on behalf of racial identity and against injustice.

There are six themes in Eddie's prophetic repertoire (there are more - I just picked the ones that stood out to me most): organized religion, racism between minorities, Asian American discrimination, racial identity, appropriating hip-hop culture, and finding a voice. I describe them below:

1) "I don't think people realize how fucking weird Christianity is if you're not raised around it" Despite his prophet title, Huang is no follower of Jesus and is repulsed by organized religion. His exposure to Christianity comes in the form of establishment control, inextricably tied with white supremacy. Ms. Truex's heavy-handed indoctrination program at First Academy ensures this for an eight-year old Huang. Believing in Jesus meant alienation from his culture, discrimination, conformity and, most of all, whiteness. This is another area where he resonates with the prophets - they also distanced themselves from organized religion. How could they rebuke it otherwise?

2) "I was still the buffer between him and the bottom" The worst discrimination can come from minorities not white people. The switch for Huang's rage gets flipped in elementary school when Edgar, a black kid, calls him a chink and throws him to the ground. Possibly the greatest tragedy for marginalized minorities is the basement in-fighting. The consolation of the low is beating up on the lowest. Sometimes a prophet must endure suffering at the hands of those with whom he has most in common.

3) "They'll never let someone with a face like you on television" Those words came from Huang's dad in response to his desire to be an ESPN sportscaster. Similar words are echoed when Huang interviews for a beat writer position at the Orlando Sentinel. Later on he writes this about being Asian American:
We can't fucking win. If I follow the rules and play the model minority, I'm a lapdog under a bamboo ceiling. If I like hip-hop because I see solidarity, I'm aping. But, if I throw it all away, shit on my parents, sell weeds, pills, and strike fear into unsuspecting white boys with stunt Glocks, now I'm authentic? Fuck you, America.
How can a prophet speak against injustice unless he experiences it first-hand?

4) "I was proud to be a Hunan Ren because my grandfather is one of the most honorable people I've ever known" I've never seen someone so thoroughly Americanized also simultaneously pay homage to their roots. Typically, assimilated Asian Americans are ignorant about their family history or resent their immigrant culture. But Huang is deeply knowledgeable and grateful for his family. His dad was a respected gangster in Taiwan. His grandfather gave up a promising political career as a protest against the corruption of Chiang Kai-Shek's regime.  There's a unique blessing to knowing your family history as the roots of his prophetic fire were seeded generations earlier and inform his path of protest today.

5) "People in Orlando never understood why two Asian kids were rocking Polo, Girbauds, and listening to hip-hop" Being an Asian minority parallels the black experience. I always felt it presumptuous to see being Asian as similar to being black. But for Huang growing up in Orlando in the 90s, it rings true. Huang's defiance gets him branded a troublemaker but instead of fighting the label, he goes with it - constantly stirring up trouble.  This is how he resonated with the black experience. A prophet learns from the prophets who have gone ahead of him.

6) "Those professors changed my life. I went from a punk kid that fought without a true understanding of the who, what, when, where, and why to a contrarian with a cause" A prophet is dedicated to texts. Huang was formed by Emerson, Locke, Ghostface, Lao Tzu, and Biggie. Never underestimate the power of words and food, fashion, hip-hop, and basketball make up the medium of Huang's voice. His break comes when he writes a letter to the Orlando Sentinel calling out the coded racism surrounding the 2004 Malice at the Palace. His prophetic voice is forming.

You see, anybody in America who tells the truth about the barbarity of white supremacy and its legacy must be willing to die. 
And like all the great martyrs who have heralded the message, Eddie Huang is laying his life down. So watch the show because it smokes - funny, insightful, and ground-breaking - but don't skip the book or you'll miss the fire.