Multiethnic Ministry

This is Part 4 in a six-part series on [cf]’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Worship team @ winter retreat 2011

Worship team @ winter retreat 2011

We are concerned that students sometimes experience ministry in which they learn nothing about ethnic-specific churches and their role in sustaining ethnic minority communities, or how to relate to them once they graduate, even when these church traditions are their own. We are also concerned when Christian students subconsciously believe that there is only one ‘Christian culture’—their own, mainly—and that Christians of other ethnicities, cultures, and generations should conform to it. We are concerned that some ministries help people adapt to the culture of the ministry, rather than train people to be influential Christian leaders in their own communities. And we are concerned about Christian graduates who believe that the main way to influence culture is to attain positions of power. In combination with our teaching on Christian restorative justice, our view of culture leads us to be culture makers and not culture warriors.

Theology: ethnicity (Greek ethnos) is a biblical category, part of each person’s particularity, and is unequivocally affirmed by God as part of creation. In this, we differ from academic sociologists, who tend to say that both ethnicity and race are social constructs. We recognize that, sometimes, defining ethnicity might feel like defining the Pacific Ocean—we know where it is, even though its boundaries are difficult to pin down. Hence, ethnicity is a centered set concept rather than a bounded set concept.

However, race is a socio-political construct that attempts to group people based on physical appearances; it is not a biblical category and must be dismantled.

Culture is a mixed product of both creation and fall; hence, God is redeeming human cultures, not just individuals, and we expect to see God create a variety of Christian cultures. Some aspects of culture that we have found to be significant are the history of ethnic interaction with Christian faith and church; which religions and worldviews students deal with at home; experience of injustice or privilege; experience of immigration/displacement or not; perceptions of power, leadership, and responsibility; individualism vs. familial culture; the role of parents, family, gender, and age; views on dating and marriage; protocols of speech (quick or slow, loud or soft, direct or indirect, interrupt or not, how to have conflict); what is humorous and fun; perceptions of time and lateness.

Biblical basis: We believe that God wants each person to hear about Jesus in their heart language (Acts 2), and that he honors human language and aspects of culture (Rev.5:9) as he transforms and redeems human beings. Jewish and Gentile Christians maintained cultural distinctives as a part of their witness to the unity Jesus brought about and as a part of their outreach to other Jews and Gentiles (Rom.14 – 15; 1 Cor.8 – 10; Gal.2; Col.2 – 3). Jesus ministered to and taught his disciples to do ministry both to Jews and Gentiles (Mt.8:28 – 34; 14:13 – 18:35; 28:16 – 20). God’s command to spread out over the whole earth (Gen.1) suggests that he wanted and intended human diversity of ethnicity, culture, and language from the beginning. In this light, God’s intervention at Babel (Gen.11:1 – 9) is not a merely curse, but instead is God’s intervention in order to carry out his intentions despite human disobedience.

Practice: Just as each individual has a limited cultural range, each fellowship has a limited cultural range. Because of our understanding of God’s heart, because of our mission to reach the whole campus, and because of our awareness that someone in any given group will always feel more culturally marginalized than others, we have adopted a multiple fellowship strategy. HRCF planted AACF in 1994 not only for the theological reasons above, but because practically, we were predominantly Asian and were becoming less effective at reaching non-Asian American students. HRCF also planted BCF in 2008 to better reach the Black student community.

We feel that a multiple-fellowship strategy best engages people from diverse cultural backgrounds and best allows for Christ’s redeeming action in our cultures to be made known. Thus, AACF and BCF dedicate their time to exploring more deeply the issues that arise within the pan-Asian and pan-African communities, to displaying qualities of leadership from within those cultures, and to helping non-Asian and non-Black students become better able to engage with Asian and Black cultures, respectively.

The fellowship names—Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, Asian American Christian Fellowship and Black Christian Fellowship—indicate the mission, not the constituency of the fellowships: anyone is welcome in every fellowship. Students have been in more than one fellowship or switched fellowships because of friendships or a changing sense of mission, and we encourage these ways of engaging with our sister fellowships. And HRCF draws on what we learn from AACF and BCF to extend our reach.

We see that the campus in some sense wants a Pentecost of inter-ethnic understanding and reconciliation without the Spirit of Jesus, but instead struggles to understand why tensions still exist. We believe that our multi-fellowship strategy is a better witness to the campus than a single-fellowship strategy. In fact, we believe that our cultural-organizational diversity is better witness to the world than the western university’s enthusiastic embrace of the ideal of diversity.

HRCF is a multiethnic fellowship—and this is not a politically correct term for the leftovers and the White Americans. Our ethnic composition fluctuates every year, so we cannot generalize about who we are in this regard; however, regardless of our current ethnic composition, ethnicity and culture is just as important to us as it is to AACF and BCF. By calling ourselves multiethnic we indicate that we talk about what Jesus has to say about culture and ethnicity, and we each seek to understand and appreciate our own and others’ heritages as a part of our mission.

According to our resources and abilities, we participate in a wide variety of worship styles, and we worship in different languages. We seek to appropriately address different needs and opportunities as they arise in different groups and to honor and develop different types of leadership. We also seek to articulate our own cultural backgrounds in order to help people understand more about us and about God’s heart.

At HRCF, AACF, and BCF, we envision Christian students eager to humbly learn more about how the gospel heals each cultural group. We envision Christians participating in both multi-cultural and culturally-specific forms of ministry, and learning to bridge them. We envision Christians who seek to transform culture wherever they are, whether on their kids’ playgrounds or in the boardroom. We envision churches that produce Christians of integrity who impact at least their own communities of origin. We envision Christians who want God’s glory to be manifested, not merely within the limits of modern politics in a nation-state, but in many languages and many cultures.


On Our Minds: Week 3

Temperatures fluctuated like mad this week. We were in the 90s, and then in the 50s. Color has rushed into the trees, only to be met by end-of-summer humidity. My face is sticky and then really dry. This fluctuation doesn’t seem to bode well for the annually anticipated New England autumn, but we have faith. When the Yard turns golden and pea coats and scarves appear, we’ll have all sorts of food and festivities to look forward to.

The agony of course lotteries was upon us briefly before Study Card Day on Tuesday– when we physically handed in our course selections for the semester, complete with faculty signatures required. This is the first step towards routine, and eventually the dust will settle.

But in the meantime, a few things are on our minds:

1. Vogue condones birks??

2. The situation in Syria (and the question of global involvement) continues.

3. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) trend is rapidly picking up. But are people already cheating?

4. We love songs that capture our moments better than we can, like this one by Tenth Avenue North.

5. Need help getting in the mood for fall? Don’t forget about hot apple cider.

6. Fascinating and frivolous– nothing else could describe New York Fashion Week (other than this New Yorker piece).

fashion week

New York Fashion Week (New Yorker Mag)


On Our Minds: Week 2

Pie is on our minds. Not HUDS pie, real, homemade, peach pie.

Shopping week began on Tuesday, September 3rd this year. What is shopping? All the courses that are offered are open to any enrolled student who wants to check them out– doors open and close throughout lectures and seminars, we apply to courses and hope for the best, and we agonize over questions of workload, TFs and classmates. After a week, we decide on our 4 courses (for normal people; 5 for the over-ambitious; 6 for the insane*) after having tested out as many or as few classes as we’d like.

Beyond shopping, this has been a heavy week for extracurriculars. Every organization wants to jump in on the fresh meat on campus, some out of zeal, others out of competition, yet others out of conviction. Activities Fair is an exciting, chaotic, and fabulously frenzied yelling fest where you feel (perhaps for the only time in your life) like a celebrity. Everyone wants to talk to you and get you to come to their party/meeting/orientation. This was my 4th and final Activities Fair, and I might be okay with that!

*No offense to those of you who might be taking 6… I just hope I see you this year.

Anyway, there’s plenty of other things going on this week, and here are a few that have captured our minds:

  1. International relations and the role of the US in Syria
  2. The right to learn to cook in the 1970s?
  3. When we’re trying to reach out to freshmen (or friends at Harvard in general), sometimes this happens.
  4. Moments when we wish we had all the tools and time it took to make summer fruit pie.
  5. When Christ Came to New York?
  6. An HRCF alum working with hearing-impaired youth.
  7. Tonight the IV fellowships are sharing a delicious Korean dinner with freshmen and friends. Can’t wait to try Mako’s galbi!

Social Justice

This is Part 3 in a six-part series on hrcf’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1 and Part 2.

Theology: Jesus is restoring us to God’s creation order, so we emphasize Christian restorative justice. We hope to honor the dignity God has given each person, since He made us all in His image. We also honor the creation order as the normative state of relations between persons.

Jesus’ vision for relationships is not necessarily reconcilable with socio-political interests, cultural trends, or short term self-interest, but we are called to pursue his standards above these other considerations. His vision testifies to the coherence of Scripture.

Biblical basis: Genesis 1 – 11 narrates how God’s concern for each human person is higher than any given social order.

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

And God in Christ Jesus, in his life, teaching, example, and atonement affirms the extraordinary worth and value of each person to himself (1 Jn.2:2; 2 Pet.2:1; 1 Tim.4:10; Ti.2:11; 1 Tim.2:3 – 4; 2 Pet.3:9; Ezk.18:23, 32 – 33). Regarding relationships, Jesus restores people to God’s creation order in marital relations and sexuality (Mt.19:3 – 12), in economic relations (Mt.19:13 – 30), and in relations of power (Mt.20).

Practice: We appreciatively critique other forms of social justice – meritocratic, distributive, libertarian – as being helpful but incomplete forms of justice. In particular, we critique the penal substitution atonement theology for elevating meritocratic or retributive justice to the highest justice within God.

We are also concerned about the conflation of nationalism and Christian faith that exists in the political right in the United States, and the pressure of individualistic, secular liberalism upon Christian faith from the political left.

We seek to tell a broader story. Hence, we consider the global church and the global context, not just the American church and American context. We value the witness of the global church wherever we see Christians attempting to live according to Christ-centered ethics. For example, we frequently mention the early church’s categorical stance against war and their radical ethic of giving, the medieval Catholic critique of slavery, usury, and the ‘free market’, the Anabaptist critique of the union of church and state, the contemporary Catholic social teaching about Christian ethics, the witness of the European church in human rights and the Black American church in civil rights, and the insights of evangelically-oriented liberation theologians.

We contribute a biblically Christian critique of the structural and institutional inequalities within various fields (e.g. health care, education, business, finance, law and policy, international relations, the modern prison system) as we perceive biases against the poor, weak, foreigner, enemy, and stranger.

A new way to play monopoly

Last week, [cf] posted a some pictures of us playing a card game on our Facebook page. It’s a game I’ve only recently discovered, called Monopoly Deal.

Now I’ve loved playing the traditional Monopoly board game with my siblings and friends. We’ve had so much fun over the years making up our own rules, playing for hours at a time, and never, ever, finishing a game properly. Well, you can actually finish a game of Monopoly Deal. It’s a card game which seems to take 15-30 mins, and it’s quick to learn, whether or not you have a vague idea of how Monopoly board games work.

These basic rules below should give you an idea of what it’s like.

  1. Take out 4 simple rule cards for reference. Then shuffle the remaining 106 cards and distribute 5 cards to each player face down.
  2. Put the remaining cards face down in the center to create the draw pile.
  3. Decide who should go first (play continues clockwise).
    8.29.13 014

    [cf] people playing monopoly deal at Advance, our pre-school-year retreat

  4. Each player must take 2 cards when his/her turn starts. If a player has no cards when his/her turn starts, he/she draws 5 cards on his/her turn. He/She then takes two cards from the deck.
  5. Each player can play (put down) up to 3 Property cards, Action cards, Money cards or any combination of the three each turn.
    1. Put money/action cards into the bank. If an action card is put into the bank, it will be treated as money until the game ends.
    2. Use action cards to take money, even properties from your rivals.
    3. Lay out the properties.
  6. If your rival(s) request you to pay money you may choose to pay in cash or property. If you don’t have any cards in front of you, you don’t have to pay any cards on your hand. Change is not given if you overpay. The multi-coloured property wild cards are an exception to this: They do not need to be given away to pay off fees to your rival(s) as they do not have any monetary value, so they can only be taken away by Deal Breaker, Sly Deal and Force Deal action cards.
  7. Upon finishing your turn, if you have more than 7 cards in your hand you must choose some cards to discard to the bottom of the draw pile to keep to 7 cards in your hand.
  8. A player wins when he/she has 3 sets of different colored properties on his turn. This means that there is only one winner for any one game. Usually, if there are no longer any cards left in the Draw Pile, a player would shuffle the cards remaining in the Play Pile and draw the card(s) required.

I definitely want to play this with my siblings. But when I tried to explain the concept to my brother, I said,

“It’s nice because it only takes around 30 minutes and you can actually finish a game.”

He responded,

“Well that ruins it!”

I think it’s worth a try, but you decide.

Why Study Genesis?


Genesis study starts tonight (Wed) in PBHA room 309 at 7:30pm. Why Genesis? Let me give a few reasons.

Genesis has inspired fantastic literature, which we can appreciate more deeply when we know the source.  Because of the creation story, we have J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, and C.S Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew.  Because of the snake in Genesis, we have Salazar Slytherin in Harry Potter, as well as a model for Claudius ‘the serpent’ in Hamlet, and a precedent for Iago whispering lies in Othello’s ear.  Because of the fall story, we have the journey through exile to a long-awaited Edenic home, which is a motif present in all homecoming stories and many romances like Disney’s happy ending stories, Dante’s Paradiso, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the yearning in American ethnic minority literature for a home of one’s own.  Because of the disturbing fratricide of Cain and Abel, we have Steinbeck’s masterpiece East of Eden.   Kierkegaard wrote haunting reflections on Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22.  The story of Joseph has inspired a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a movie by Dreamworks.

But there are more serious matters.  Because of Genesis’ assertion that humanity is made in the image of God, we have universal human dignity, something the United Nations has tried to preserve as the basis of human rights, and we will examine whether that has been successful.  In Genesis 1, we have an alternative to the ancient Greek and Indian view of a universe without a beginning, with all its scientific and intellectual implications.  Because of Genesis, we have all the debates about creation and evolution; and we will talk about that.  Because of Genesis, we have the insightful Hebrew and Christian reflection on the corruption of human nature, going beyond even the rest of the Bible to works like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies; we will certainly elaborate on that.  Because of Abraham’s story, we have Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and we will compare how people interpret Abraham and ask ourselves seriously, who is the true heir of Abraham?

There are troubling questions we want to confront.  Was there one author of Genesis?  German higher criticism deconstructed Genesis and other biblical books into different political sources supposedly present in ancient Israel, even casting doubt on whether there truly was an ancient Israel.  Also, what do we make of the creation and evolution discussion?  Is there a fundamental conflict?  Is it important that early Christian thinkers like Gregory Nazianzus and Augustine wrote long, long commentaries on the creation story in their attempts to understand it?  Then, what is the role of women in Genesis?  Feminist theologian Phyllis Trible argues that Hagar, the handmaiden of Sarah, is an illustration of the inherent misogyny of Genesis.  Is that the case?

Most importantly, Genesis is the foundation for the rest of the Bible.  Without understanding Genesis, very little else will make sense.  Jesus referred to Genesis in countless ways.  He chose twelve apostles to echo the twelve tribes of Israel, which began with the twelve sons of Jacob.  He said he was removing ‘hardness of heart’ and returning people to the original vision of God’s creation (Mt.19:3 – 12).  Each of the four Gospels sees Jesus’ achievement as God’s new creation and new humanity:  Luke’s narrates the reversal of the fall so that the Christian mission to the world echoes the original creation mandate to spread out over the world; John narrates the Word of God speaking new life into corrupted human nature, and overturning sin and death in another garden.  Paul draws on the ‘new Adam’ motif for Jesus, on the Genesis story to argue against the Greeks that the physical world was vitally important, and on the Abraham story to make the case for righteousness by faith.

All throughout our study of Genesis, we will explore how God forms a people early on to bless the whole world at that time.  We seek to allow God to shape us to be a blessing to our world now.  We will also explore human dignity, human nature, the nature of sin, messianic promise and the birth of the happy ending, ethnicity and culture, family, gender, how God uses broken people and calls them into healing, sexuality, the monotheistic faiths, the reliability of Scripture, historicity, science, and most importantly, the character of this very unusual God who speaks to us from these pages.

Evangelism–and some atonement theory

One of our public interactive displays

One of our public interactive displays from last year when the Science Center Plaza was under construction.

This is part 2 in a six-part  series on HRCF’s emphases and distinctives. Part 1 is here.

Our understanding of Jesus’ work is ontological in its foundations, not merely juridical. We stress that Jesus came to cleanse evil out from human nature in his own person, and share with us his new, God-soaked humanity by his Spirit, so that we might also be cleansed.

We use public interactive displays on many different topics that invite people to reflect on whether human nature needs healing, whether God is good enough to do that, whether there is any other solution to the problem of evil, and whether anyone compares with Jesus in healing and transforming human nature.  This has led  to many long, thoughtful, and wonderful conversations over the past few years.

The atonement theology we emphasize is called ‘Physical Redemption’ or ‘Recapitulation’ (in the earliest, classical patristic writings and the Eastern Orthodox tradition (in C.S. Lewis and in the Reformed stream of Karl Barth and T.F. Torrance Catholics like J.R.R. Tolkien, Hans Urs von Balthazar, Thomas Weinandy, and Elenore Stump).

In HRCF, you will frequently hear said:

•      Jesus shared our diseased human nature so we could share his healed human nature.

•      God is solving the root problem of evil in the world at the deepest level—in each one of us—by calling everyone to Jesus.

•      God wants to undo and remedy all human evil (not just some) at its source in each person.

•      God’s wrath is aimed at the corruption in our nature—at human sin—not at not our personhood.

•      God will not be ‘satisfied’ until all the corruption in us has been burned away.

•     Hell is where the transforming love of God has become torment for those who refuse to be transformed.

•     God unequivocally loves every single person, not just some.

•     God loves you, and will always love you.

•     Hence, we invite everyone to receive Jesus’ new humanity, by his Spirit.

Biblical basis: In the person of Jesus, the Eternal Son of God took human nature to himself to cleanse it of the corruption of sin (‘flesh’, Jn.1:14) that dwells in each one of us (Rom.7:14 – 25). Within his own person, and throughout his life, Jesus realigned that human nature with the love of the Father, by the Spirit (Lk.2:52; Mt.3:13 – 4:11; Lk.4:1 – 13; Rom.3:21 – 26). Simultaneously, he poured out the wrath of God upon that corruption, ultimately defeating it on the cross (Rom.6:6; 8:3). In his resurrection, Jesus was raised to be a fresh, cleansed, healed, God-drenched, God-soaked human being (Jn.20; Rom.5:12 – 21; 1 Cor.15:45; Eph.1:15 – 2:10; Col.1:15 – 20). By his ascension and Pentecost, he shares the Spirit of his new humanity with anyone who believes in him (Jn.20:22; Rom.8:5 – 11). He actively and unreservedly wants every person to be saved from sin (1 Jn.2:2; 2 Pet.2:1; 1 Tim.2:3 – 4, 4:10; Ti.2:11; 2 Pet.3:9; Ezk.18:23, 32 – 33), for their healing and transformation which he will complete when he returns to renew the physical world. Hence, we say that the work of Christ is the person of Christ.