You know the bubble. Asian person has Asian friends, goes to an Asian church, hangs out with Asian coworkers, and joins Asian social groups.
Now I’m not here to say having Asian friends is bad. As humans, we tend to make friends with people who share our interests or backgrounds, and as Asians we share our experiences of growing up with immigrant parents and following Confucian cultural expectations.
Since we live in America, which is still a white-majority culture, sticking with fellow minority Asians can provide a safe haven where we can celebrate our unique heritage without having to code switch, explain everything, or be embarrassed about who we really are.
But we have that negative “Asian bubble” stereotype for a reason. We end up being so comfortable that we never come out. We don’t do it because we dislike or hate people who are different from us, but we do it because it has become a habit to just stick with Asian people.
And these habits stick. How many non-Asians do you see at your friend’s wedding? At your church retreat?
Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of your life?
Because if that bubble hardens and becomes impermeable, then we become trapped like a hamster in a plastic ball. We never fully interact with the world and roll along our own way.
From Eden to Babel
In Genesis 11:1-32, we read about the construction of the Tower of Babel, which the people of earth built so they could “make a name” for themselves In other words, they wanted to glorify themselves and overshadow the glory of God.
God came down to the tower, saw their work, and grew concerned. It was not because he thought humans would eclipse him, but rather because God knew this delusion would condemn them all.
They had fallen for the original sin, trying to be like God, just as Adam and Eve had done in Eden. To prevent them from falling into more sin on such a grand scale, God “he dispersed them from there over the face of the earth” and “confused the language of all the earth.”
This is how the different languages, cultures, and races were created. It was the consequence of Babel, and it is the consequence of the sin that still affects us today.
The different races never really got along (see: world history). We can still see its destructive force today. This sin of wanting glorifying oneself and one’s group has corrupted us so much that some people think they are better than others simply because of the background of their skin or by where their parents came from.
That sin affects us as Asian Americans as well because we are also sinners. We perpetuate prejudice either directly through racist thoughts and actions or indirectly through passive acceptance or ignorance.
If we are self-segregating to purposefully separate ourselves from non-Asians, we are actively perpetuating Babel and its curse.
Others of us are too scared, embarrassed, or just plain apathetic about the segregation. We ignore the pain and suffering of brothers and sisters who don’t look like us or share our common culture. If that is so, we are choosing our needs and selves over the Gospel, and we are comfortable with the effects of Babel.
The consequence of Babel means that we are divided and separated from one another. We are living in the shadow of Babel that is growing longer and longer.
How can we fix this problem and destroy this tower?
From Babel to Jerusalem
To be honest, we can’t. If we believe that division and racism is a sin, then we know that sin cannot be erased by the passage of time, progressive laws, or even good intentions.
Look at where America is now. Sure there is no slavery nor Jim Crow laws, but there is institutionalized racism. Sure there is no new Chinese Exclusion Act, but we see the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville.
Thank God for his grace and the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. Thank God for his goodness.
He does not destroy us, as he did not eliminate the people of Babel, but he finds a way to save us from ourselves. In the same way God came down to Babel, Jesus and the Holy Spirit came down to us.
In Acts 2:1-47, we read about the Pentecost, a transformative moment in our Christian history. Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem. They were praying when all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit fell on Jesus’ disciples like tongues of fire. Because of this, they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Isn’t that amazing? At Babel, people spoke different tongues and no one could understand them. But in Jerusalem at Pentecost, people spoke in different tongues but they were all understood by native speakers of those languages.
The consequence of sin was now turned into a sign of God’s power and glory, as people from different nations, tribes, and cultures were able to worship God and become followers of Jesus.
As Christians, we know that Jesus is ultimately the one who bore the burden of all our sins. He broke down the barriers that sin has wrought on us, including the greatest divide between God and man. As part of his ministry of reconciliation, Jesus also removed the barriers that were built from the pride of Babel. He wants all the nations and cultures of the world to be united in worshiping him and giving God the glory that he is due.
Building Christ’s Kingdom
As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we are called to proclaim his freedom and unity to all people. That means we need to step out of our hamster balls and interact with the world.
This will look different for each person, institution, and church. But there should be fruit that comes from uniting people of different backgrounds and cultures.
I believe our Asian churches and Christian groups are really good at doing this in the mission field. We aren’t afraid to go and love people from other groups, and I hope that is a legacy that will continue.
But I hope that we will continue to push ourselves out into the world in more ways. Let us partner with non-Asian churches. Let us have a diverse groups of friends.
I know this sounds almost impossible. But the truth is, we know this will ultimately come to pass because of the vision that John has in Revelation 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We strive toward this goal this not because it will only come about because of our own works, but because we know that Christ has already done it. We are already living in victory, and his rule will never end.
So let us be encouraged. We can create these moments of Christ’s reconciliation here in our communities. Let us step out of the shadow of Babylon and fully embrace our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom, worshiping together with all races, all tongues, and all nations, to amplify God’s glory.
Hannah Chao is a wife and a mom of two beautiful little girls. She is also addicted to Twitter. Hannah attends All Nations Community Church.