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Tim Tseng update

Scripted, scripting, and Scripture

Your Weekend planner:
– Today, Thursday, August 5.
VBS Day 3, Parenting Workshop: “Cultivating Positive Values and Lifestyles in Our Children” Pastor DJ & Grace Jang (in Mandarin, Taiwanese, or English) 9:30-11:30 AM; Young Adults Fellowship (7:30 PM). All college and young adults are welcome to join! We will meet at Jonathan Weng’s place. Contact Bob and Shally Lin for more information.
– Friday,  August
6: VBS Day 4; Everglow Youth Fellowship (7:30 PM Youth Room 160).
– Satureday, Aug 7:
VBS Day 5; Parenting Workshop: “Character development” Pastor Ralph & Joy Su (in Mandarin, Taiwanese, or English) 9:30-11:30 AM; VBS Finale 11:30 in Worship Hall 1 – all are welcome!
– Sunday,
August 8: English Worship (Second Floor) Pastor Tim speaks on “Being Prepared” (Luke 12:32-40); Fellowship hour (11am – Noon) – VBS Celebration; Youth Sunday School (11-Noon) will be held in the Youth Room 160; Agape Family Group (families with young children) does not meet.

August 5, 2010

I’m in one of the nicer dorms at Seattle University []. It’s sparse, but at least I have wifi. Summer in Seattle is usually sunny and mild, but today it is warmer than normal. So participants in the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples Convocation (NAPAD) [] seem a little restless this first day. NAPAD is a gathering of Asian Pacific American (APA) constituents within the Disciples of Christ denomination (they prefer the term “movement”)  [].

The Disciples of Christ is more than 200 years old. It was born in the revival fires of the Second Great Awakenings in Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky, but distinguished by a vision of unity. Like many mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S., it has allocated resources to support racial-ethnic ministries such as NAPAD. I always consider it a privilege to share what I’ve learned through ISAAC with any group that wants to strengthen its work with Asian Americans. So here I am.

Two themes are at the core of my NAPAD talks. The first is understanding the “social scripts” that influence Asian Americans. Most of NAPAD participants are anxious immigrants. They are witnessing many of their children leave their churches when they grow up. Social scripts are the subtle messages and images that the media and educational curricula broadcast to us that reinforces stereotypes of the roles that different people play in society. For example, the near invisibility of Asian Americans in American history textbooks and the lack of Asian American leadership role models in the media devalues Asians in American society. Consequently, many Asian Americans grow up with very little positive images or messages about their parents or themselves. Whether they stay in a racial-ethnic church or leave for a multi-cultural Christian environment, they bring very little positive contribution from their Asian American identities. Rather, they unconsciously play the role that they are socially scripted for (e.g., the geek or nerd).

The second theme is that, with the power of Jesus Christ through a better interpretation of Scripture, Asian American Christians can write new scripts. These new scripts can challenge existing scripts that stereotype Asian Americans. For example, in addition to protesting the fact that very few movies cast Asian Americans in leading roles, entirely new movies that display Asian Americans in leading roles must be made. What is needed is space and opportunity to write new scripts, innovate, and “shake and bake.”

Sometimes excellent “scripts” can be produced in mainstream settings. Gran Torino (starring Clint Eastwood), is an example of a movie that portrays a more realistic look at the racial dynamics in Southern California. But in order to appeal to a wider audience, Clint Eastwood, not an Asian American actor, had to play the lead role.

This suggests that Asian American controlled spaces must do more “shaking and baking.” Our energy and time ought to go into writing scripts and producing movies that cast Asian Americans in more positive light. We need to use our spaces to exhibit our art of cultural representation. In other words, we need to take Asian American Christian culture making seriously.

But in order for immigrant Asian American churches to be the place where new scripts can be written, these churches must abandon the “model minority” or “American dream” scripts. They also must give up the “cultural preservation” or “parental privilege” script. Only after these scripts are set aside and room is created for new scripts, only then will younger Asian American be drawn back to immigrant churches. Of course younger Asian Americans also must do their share to cast off old scripts. But it’ll take concerted effort and attention to create new scripts. But therein lies the hope of Asian American Christianity.

Thanks for taking time to read this rambling. I’m tired and ready to go to bed. Please pray for me as I finalize my paper presentation.



About Tim Tseng, Ph.D.

I am Pacific Area Director of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate and Faculty Ministries. I'm also a historian, theological educator, and pastor.


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English Service 10 AM (Worship Hall 3)

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Enter through door 1 from rear parking lot.


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