From a simple Facebook group to a beautiful beloved community and powerful voice for justice, PAAC is growing up so fast! Here’s a small sample of what we were up to in 2018.
Lent Devotional (February and March)
Somebody asked, “Hey, are there any devotionals written for and by Asian-Americans?” And we said, “No, but we can make one.” Charlene Choi spearheaded a team of 50+ writers, artists, musicians, dancers, and other creatives to bring you Our Daily Rice, a very PAAC journey through the Gospel of John. With over 12,000 views spanning 40 countries in just 1.5 months, we are humbled and honored by the reception this work received. Our Daily Rice remains available for reading any time on our blog.
As I Am Blog Series (ongoing)
After celebrating the Lent Devotional, we launched a new platform for PAAC voices: As I Am. We use words to explore and create Asian American identity. We wrote narratives, poetry, essays, and more. Our topics ranged from duality to perfection to unanswered prayers. As we move into round two, we ask our writers to take us out of the homes and churches we grew up in and push us into spaces where we’re not as visible: media, history, and the wild world of dating.
PAAC Family Retreat (August)
From a PAAC Family member who attended the retreat:
Being a queer Asian American Christian can feel lonely and finding spiritual communities that fully affirm both race and sexuality is difficult. But spending a weekend at the PAAC Family Retreat reminded me that I am not alone in my journey and identity. We shared meals, told our coming-out stories, worshiped, laughed, and affirmed each other. Being in a space where many of us did not feel the need to further explain our complex pointed me to how the Creator continues to break down harmful boundaries humanity has built. From this experience, I have gained many valuable friends and family who I can support and rely on as I continue to live in my fragmented identity.To all of my queer Asian American siblings, both out and not out, I want to remind you all that you are not alone in your journeys and that you are all loved. I want to thank our PAAC Family Moderators for organizing the retreat, sharing our stories in the main PAAC group, and for fostering community following retreat. I would also like to thank the donors who helped make attendance possible for many.
Statement on God’s Justice (September)
In September, we launched the Statement on God’s Justice, created (in about a week) by a cohort of PAAC writers, editors, designers, PR team members, and organizers. PAAC responded with grace and power to the Statement on Social Justice, a document that was hurtful, demeaning, and caused a lot of pain not just in our community but in the greater Christian community out in the world.
Hold onto your boba, PAACsters. In 2019 we are planning a major redesign of the PAAC website, a new platform for PAAC voices, and yes, a live conference in LA. Keep up with us over on in the PAAC Facebook group for the latest updates.
What does it mean to be a voice in the wilderness? What will you cry?
Note: Straight Christians, we’ve all been complicit in the irreparable personal harms and civil rights violations that have been inflicted on the LGBTQIA+ community by virtue of belonging to an institution that propagates such violence, and therefore it is incumbent upon us to align ourselves to help eradicate these systemic injustices. So this entry is just as much for you to read and meditate upon as our fellow queer family members, neighbors, and friends.
Please join me as we read these two vignettes to reflect on this week’s Advent theme of Preparation.
Voices in the Wilderness
By Ophelia Hu Kinney
December 4, 2018
Reconciling Ministries Network
The United Methodist Church, the third largest denomination in the world, is heading this February to a decision-making forum in which we’ll answer just one question: is there a place for LGBTQ people in the kin-dom of God?
If I’m being honest, it’s a question I hold lightly. Though I work for an organization working to open the doors of The UMC to LGBTQ people, it’s a question I hold lightly. It isn’t that I should, but I do. Because I’ve been turned away from churches before on account of who I am, and I don’t just want queer Christians to survive. I want us to thrive.
But my colleagues are grassroots organizers who travel for weeks at a time, holding Dunkin Donuts cups on their laps at 3am while they wind down South Georgia roads to talk to folks who’ve never met an out queer or trans person; board a train in California to teach a whole church how to love a trans child in their congregation; fly out to Oregon to listen to the direction in which African Christians are taking us.
And those quiet feet going out into the world while every day is still young, they tell me to clutch the vision close to me – to hold it tight. I want to hold it lightly, but good news is like honey on the fingers; it doesn’t let you let it go.
Last month, my colleague flew to Brazil to visit the nation’s first queer-affirming, all-welcoming Methodist church. The nation just elected a president who’s vehemently, violently anti-gay, stating publicly that he’d sooner have his own son be dead than gay. What would you do as a Brazilian queer or trans person with that knowledge? That terror?
It’s in the midst of that that this church reaches out and says, “We want to be bold.” They write me online. “Greetings to the Reconciling Movement from the Reconciling Church of Brazil.” It’s a modern-day epistle. I write them back.
Erica Malunguinho, a Brazilian activist and trans woman, put it this way: “I’m not afraid. According to the system, I was already born dead.”
Born dead with no-place to go but six feet up. Six feet up through the dirt and the breathlessness and the suffocating weight, a memory of sunlight that hasn’t happened yet…
The Brazilian church is raising funds for its new building. Its leadership is electric. They sent a 360-degree photo last month. The site is yet unbroken. It’s in the middle of the city.
Everywhere I look, I’m catching visions of life that have yet to push through the ground – sunlight that has yet to break.
Excerpt from Legion of Demons:
A Sermon After the Pulse Mass Shooting
By Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz
June 19, 2016
Westminster Presbyterian Church
In the days following Pulse, Rev. Laura gave a sermon naming the evils in our society and world. In it, she stated that it is important to name that which is demonic today, and that our demons are Legion. From mass shootings to systemic racial injustice, she spent much of her sermon naming injustice after injustice, and then how we are to be delivered from them. We pick up as she closes with this bit of advice:
“We who hear this story have no reason to turn away from hope.
It is turning from a myopic focus on our own fears about decline, our fears of not speaking prophetically enough, our fears about becoming too political, our fears about how much we lose in this time of rapid social change, to the news of what God has done for us.
If you recall from the Scripture for today that the demons do not just depart. They do not dissolve into the atmosphere. They have to relocate. In this world of the Scriptures, evil is not erased. It moves.
Being a Christian is not living in some fantasy world of butterflies and unicorns. Demons do not simply disappear. Being a Christian, struggling with our faith, struggling to find the will to be part of a community that can be exasperating, is to see a world full of demons, to know these demons better than we would like to, and know exactly what we are up against. It is to stare death, chaos, and disorder in the face and proclaim the gift of life, God’s presence, the power of community, in the same breath. It is deciding to live resurrection.
Hope is the queer community showing up at Pride. Hope is being brown and gender nonconforming, and leaving one’s house every day. Hope is the young black person protesting police brutality because there are beautiful people out there who deserve to live. […] Hope is the family fleeing violence in another land, hoping to reach safer shores through impossible conditions. Hope is the legal team fighting to defend Native American sovereignty against the broken treaties and promises of the U.S. government. After all, if a Gentile possessed by Legion can be freed and sent even before Jesus’ ministry was officially open to non-Jews, if someone who lived chained and naked among the tombs can be restored to community, I say we who sit here with our doubts and fears and grief and brokenness and tiny glimmering hopes have no excuse.
Go. Get out of here. Do your work.
Care more about saving lives than retaining members.
Refuse to be held hostage by xenophobic fears and bureaucratic excuses that prevent us from welcoming more refugees
Refuse to be held hostage by a gun culture propped up and fed by gun manufacturers, who care more about the bottom line than about our beautiful children.
Become a thorn in the side of those who feed the demons.
Become the elderly women who have been standing on the corner of Washington Street and MLK Drive in Atlanta, protesting the war since the early 2000s.
Make it easier for people to exercise their citizenship.
Make it safer for queer people to gather.
Teach your children you don’t have to know what gender someone is to treat that person like a human being.
Make this country really free for Muslims and Sikhs who want to live without being harassed, or their places of worship vandalized.
Aren’t you sick and tired of holding vigils?
When you return to your home, don’t pretend like anything is the same as it was. Name the demons. Declare how much God has done for you.
These two vignettes remind us that there are voices crying out on your behalf and on behalf of the Christian community. These voices call evil in the Church and in society for what it is. They name the injustices of conversion therapy, the firing of queer leaders, and the shaming and outcasting of human souls. They name injustice in the fact that it is at most times impossible to be fully queer and fully Christian in the world today.
Therefore, know that you are not alone and that you are known. Known not only by a harm-bound institution, but too by a holy Divine. Know this and cast your light, a light that is greater than the light of stars, onto the Legion that has been unjustly placed upon your shoulders.
Then speak, and walk through the world as wholly yourself.
About the author: Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her/hers) lives in Portland, Maine with her wife and two cats. She is the wife of a fearless reformer, the daughter of two circumstantial pragmatists, and the sister of a hopeful romantic. Although she grew up in a family of agnostics, she became a Christian in college and has worked ever since to understand what that means. Ophelia believes that we inherit from our divine source the ability to co-author and co-build the kin-dom of God. She and her wife tend www.QueeringTheKindom.com. You can support the work that Ophelia described in her piece by donating to www.rmnetwork.org.
About the author: Laura M. Cheifetz(pronouns: she/her) is a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA). She serves as Deputy Director of Systems & Sustainability at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), overseeing operations and development. She is an online contributing editor to Inheritance, a progressive Asian American Christian magazine. Laura is multiracial Asian American of Japanese and white Jewish descent.
Jessie woke up to two small feet on her face. Her body was pushed to the very edge of her mattress and she really had to pee.
The room was hangover bright but she didn’t recall drinking at all last night. Also, this was not her room.
Also, WHY WERE THERE TWO SMALL FEET ON HER FACE?
And while Jessie would really appreciate the answer to that mystery, she felt as if she were about to wet herself so she made a game time decision to first void her bladder THEN determine the why about the feet.
She slowly nudged the feet off her face and then tried to sit up. Unfortunately, she couldn’t because there was an enormous stomach in her way.
Her enormous stomach.
She stared at her swollen belly for a good long while, mind blank. Finally, Jessie pat her hands all over her body. First, her face. Then her arms, thighs, and at last, the offending mound of flesh. It was hard and taut and definitely hers.
As if in response to her unasked question, something from INSIDE her pushed and pressed OUT and Jessie saw her belly move. And then, that something smashed into her bladder as well as her ribs at the same time and she somehow rolled off the edge of the mattress and
chose a logical direction to find a toilet.
Thankfully, there were only so many layouts a living space could have and thanks to her seventeen years of life experience, she had lurched in the correct general direction of a bathroom.
She peed. For a long time. So long, in fact, that Jessie wondered if she was dreaming because those were the dreams that caused an immediate panic upon awakening and surely she must be dreaming because she seemed hugely pregnant and apparently, also had a small child attached to the two small feet she had found on her face not five minutes ago and —
Oh. She was done peeing.
Pee dreams never ended with being done peeing.
This did not bode well.
As Jessie waddled (OMG SHE WAS WADDLING) back to examine the small human in bed, she took note of her surroundings. This was clearly the master bedroom of a house. And if she were not mistaken, there would likely be a mirror in this said house. She waddled back to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.
It was not her face that stared back.
Well, that was not entirely true. The face certainly looked like her – but in a tired, OLD sort of way. And her body. Her body looked as if she swallowed a basketball.
This could not be real.
She heard the rapid pattering of feet and the door to her room opening. The knot in her gut told her what was happening but still, she was not prepared. Two additional small humans – a taller boy and a shorter girl – came into view complaining in Chinglish that there were no more bars left and whining about something called an eye pad and if they could watch English videos because they had already watched Chinese videos and —
Jessie did some quick math. One kid in the bed who sounded as if he was no longer sleeping.
Two progressively larger kids in her bathroom and apparently, ANOTHER kid inside her.
She swallowed. Oh, God. The children were still yapping away and she had not been paying any sort of attention.
She needed to sit down.
She staggered past the children back towards the bed, flopped gracelessly onto the mattress, and shut her eyes. She counted slowly to ten. Then to twenty.
Jessie decided to count all the way to one hundred but when she opened her eyes, she was still in the room that was not hers, surrounded by children that were not hers, impregnated with a baby that was not hers.
She closed her eyes again.
Jessie did not want to acknowledge those words. If she ignored them long enough then perhaps she wouldn’t really be their mother doing whatever mothers do.
What time was it? Shouldn’t she be at work? Shouldn’t these children be at school? Who was going to keep these children alive? Who was she married to? How was she going to figure out what to do without making everyone think she was crazy? And most importantly, how was she going to get back to her timeline and start her second quarter at UCLA?
She summoned the internal strength to look around for an alarm clock. And there it was.
She didn’t even know their names.
Virginia Duan is an author/writer and incapable of writing in brief. She swears. A lot. She also finds it almost impossible to refrain from commenting online for the sole purpose of making people admit they are idiots. Fatal flaw is fatal.
This year, I came as close to a new reality as I’ll probably ever come: I had my second child and moved across the country, all in the span of six months. I’m lucky that my new life is pretty excellent — I have a chubby, rosy-cheeked baby who smiles all the time; I live in a place where people are absurdly friendly, the cost of living is reasonable, and my children get to see their grandparents regularly. But I am keenly aware of how difficult it was to get here: I had spent two and a half years slowly regaining the freedom and time to work I lost after having my first child, and having a second one meant sacrificing all of that again. I had to grieve the end of being able to give my older child my undivided time and attention, and that grief was perhaps the defining feature of my pregnancy. I had to leave a home I loved and friends who will never again be a regular part of my life, some of whom I may never see again. My new reality is exciting and full of promise, but the journey here was hard and costly.
We think about the new reality described in Isaiah and Revelation and it sounds awesome. No more oppression? No more crying? Please and thank you. But we often overlook the long, laborious journey leading up to that point. I used to think that this new heaven and new earth would just happen, that God would sweep God’s arm across the land and everything would instantly transform from old to new, not unlike the castle and the talking housewares at the end of Beauty and the Beast. I no longer believe it will happen this way, in part because nothing in these texts supports that idea.
Instead, I am now convinced that this new heaven and new earth will arrive only with our active participation in bringing them into existence.
We see throughout the Bible and in our own lives that God’s redemptive work takes place largely through people. We regular, ordinary people have the honor and the responsibility of getting to participate in God’s work — to partner and co-create with God — and we all have opportunities every day to bring our world closer to or farther from the new earth that these texts describe. In the Revelation passage, the author writes that the one on the throne is making all things new — it is a process and it is happening now, and we get to be a part of it. I can’t wait for everything to be new, for an end to all the injustice that we read about and see with our own eyes every day. But I have to play my part to make that happen, and as I’ve seen in the last few years in particular, that can be exhausting, dispiriting work.
This Advent, I am taking inspiration from the arrival of Jesus — the one who makes all things new, who sets the oppressed free, who proclaims good news to a world that is deeply unjust. I am drawing hope from a redeemer who saw a people and a world worth saving and chose to enter it and suffer alongside us. In this particular Advent, in this spectacularly difficult time in our country and in the world, my hope is that this story gives us fuel and focus to keep toiling to bring about the new heaven and the new earth that God is creating.
How can you bring your corner of the world closer to this new earth? How does the arrival of Jesus inspire you in your effort?
Created by: Liz Lin About the author: Liz is a co-founder of PAAC and a senior fellow at the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco.
Image by: Charlene Choi About the artist: Charlene is a co-founder of femails.org, a feminist conversation collaborative. She is also the Director of Strategy at KCS, a large social services nonprofit organization working to equalize disparities in health care access, substance use disorder, and mental health.