A very famous and influential Hong Kong-based pastor splashes an image on his well-traveled web page of a plane heading to the Twin Towers. Under this picture is the caption: We’re gonna take ’em down today, church!
Underneath, in the comment section, a large and growing number of his fans LOL and applaud the edgy (but really unfunny) joke. Some add to it. A few American ex-pats see it, as do a number of Americans in the US (some of them of Chinese heritage and/or descent), and remark how hurt they are by this post. Other fans of this pastor dismiss or even start attacking the protesters.
This is funny! Can’t you see? Get a sense of humor! Lighten up. Stop picking on the pastor! Such a PC culture you Americans come from, can’t even take a joke. It happened sooo long ago.
This doesn’t help.
The protesters (and more Hong Kong and Chinese people join in as they recognize the insensitivity and outrageousness of the posting and those defending it) argue that though the event happened twelve years ago, and though several are trying to not remember, yet it’s part of their national and collective memory. That day is indelible and horrifying to us, and for many it’s personally so. Some of us lost or almost lost friends or relatives that day. Some of us took the attack very personally and vow to never forget. Many of us are still angry about both the attack and how the attack was used to manipulate us – to buy more and to support the drums of war. We cannot help but be horrified to find such an image being used as a joke in order to promote an image of a church.
But, regardless, we say, the picture causes unnecessary harm so why are you, as Christians, defending it?
Then the pastor chimes in. He is a bit of a celebrity – a man with a reputation for being a pastorly type.
And he dismisses the protesters.
Oh come on. I was only using light humor to illustrate how my church operates. Jesus used humor to illustrate his points.
And here you realize that the pastor may be a leader, but he isn’t very pastoral.
The places and collective memories of this story have been switched and modified, but this is a true story based on recent and current events.
When you look at the sheep and they are lost and confused and judgmental and mean and vicious and unconcerned and then you look to the ones they follow and though they may not be as mean, you begin to pick up patterns.
Which isn’t to say that all Christians who are also racist jerks also follow insensitive jerk pastors or vice versa. But there is a definite feeding frenzy, a correlation not necessarily of causation, but of one feeding into the other.
We can see this in another realm that of the so-called “orphanage crisis” (partially led by the very same pastor, Rick Warren), where, once again, White Evangelicals are dismissive of the attempts to communicate the hurt and pain caused by White Supremacy run through the Western White Church and onto non-Western and Third World people. White and Male (and Straight and Cis- and Upper/Middle Class) Supremacy are poisoning the witness of the Christ who “emptied himself” as Christena Cleveland pointed out so well this week.
Christian pastors are not called to be aggressive and assertive leaders. They are called to be careful and listening.