Artwork by Grace Park
Pen & Ink, 2019
2God said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered delivered Jericho into your hands along with its ruler and army…17… Only Rahab the prostitute and all in HER house shall be spared because she hid the spies… 22…. Bring HER out and all that belong to HER house. 23So they brought HER house out… 25Rahab and HER house were spared the destruction…
The Lonely PAAC → The Movement PAAC, No Longer the Lonely PAAC
Many of us grew up in environments that we have come to disagree with. We attended churches with people who ate the same food as us, may have looked like us (not this mixed race Asian-American though), and experienced the world as we did. But none of this was enough to conjure a sense of “home.”
In 2016 Liz Lin, the founder of Progressive Asian American Christians (PAAC) wrote in a blog entry titled the Lonely Progressive Asian American Christian,
“I was part of a Chinese American campus fellowship — but as the years went on, I started to notice a disconnect between my friends there and me. I was beginning to care a lot about race, politics, feminism. No one at my fellowship discouraged me from pursuing these things, but for the most part, they weren’t interested in discussing them either. Whatever the reason, when I wanted to talk about those issues, I mostly had to look elsewhere.”
Our journeys are often lonely ones. For a faith so focused on community, I (we) struggle to find it.
The fear of ostracization. Losing the communities we have because of our thirst for God’s Progressive Justice.
The hardship as we make space for others in unwelcoming spaces. The LGBTQIAA+ community, women, minorities, those living in poverty, persons with disabilities, those of different faiths.
We become “under the movement”. We constantly strive to change our surroundings and invite more just ideas into our spaces. We look past the walls of our communities, churches, and cities to welcome, hide, and protect the refugee, the stranger, and those like us.
Rahab is the lonely Progressive Asian American Christian. Rahab is “under the movement” fighting for that justice we long to bring into our walls.
In verse 2, God says that, “I” have delivered Jericho to the Israelites. This was only possible because of Rahab. Rahab, longing for justice, risked her life for two strangers. In return she only asked for one thing: a just Community.
One can imagine Rahab growing up in Jericho. People ate the same food she did, looked like her, and experienced the world as she did. But something was missing. She couldn’t call it home.
There became a disconnect between Rahab and her friends. When Rahab wanted to discuss matters of justice, no one would engage with her. Day after day Rahab looked for justice. Sought it out. She was the “under the movement.”
She was the lonely Progressive Asian American Christian. Rahab looked out from the walls of Jericho and when the opportunity for radical love for neighbor presented itself, Rahab protected them and in return only asked for one thing: Community.
In a book often riddled with misogynistic language depriving women, minorities, and those of other faiths the ability to hold title, Rahab stands out as an anomaly. For Rahab’s bravery to be “under the movement,” Rahab is given title over HER house standing equal to the community she sought for herself.
Rahab like so many of us gave up eating food with those who ate her food, being in the presence with those that looked as she did, and experiencing the world with those who experienced the world as she did. Rahab became the minority and then made space for the minority so that all those who came after her could have a space in justice and community.
Rahab reflects our journeys as PAACs. In a space hostile to her, Rahab sought justice in supporting a community so others who would come after would experience freedom.
For some of us that is being the lone Progressive.
For some of us that is making space in third way churches.
For some of us that is being a Progressive Asian American Christian in conservative Asian American churches.
For some of us that is giving up our shared culture in faith settings to be the lone or one of the few Asian Americans in white spaces.
For all of us it is harboring the movement, being under the movement, and welcoming the stranger for future justice.
We are called to be seekers of justice for all. But for many in the PAAC community, it involves among the most difficult journeys‒there are long stretches of loneliness and no support or when we find do find progressive communities they are often whiter or diffused geographically.
Let us be under the movement no longer.
Wherever we as individuals are, may we never be the lone Progressive Asian American Christian again.
What have we given up in pursuit of radical justice? Have we given ourselves time to mourn the cultural spaces lost in the pursuit of justice?
How do we deal with the pain of loss in shared culture? Have we found those spaces of justices and shared culture again?
When were our “Rahab” moments?
How do we make space for ourselves and others in the churches we end up at?