Kathy Khang has served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA for years in various capacities. In this episode of Faithfully Podcast, she discusses racial reconciliation and shares her experiences as a Korean-American woman in ministry.
At InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, Khang serves as the director of campus access initiatives, after previously serving as the regional multi-ethnic director.
“What we do in InterVarsity, we have multiple prongs. We want to reach all corners of the campus whether it’s by dorms, majors, areas of interest as well as race and ethnicity. So that’s where the multi-ethnic ministries come into play,” Khang explained. “We are either training our staff and students to do cross-cultural ministry as well as the option of doing ethnic-specific ministry. So we have Ministry LaFe, which is to our Latino students; BCM, Black Campus Ministry; AAM, Asian-American Ministry; and then we also have Native ministries. Those fall under the multi-ethnic ministries arm of what we do.”
Khang, who lives in Chicago, Illinois, is among several speakers who participated in a National Discussion on Race as part of Movement Day Global Cities 2016, organized annually by The New York City Leadership Center.
Khang speaks frequently about race and often blogs about the subject on her website, where her most popular entry from this year (according to BuzzSumo) is about being told by a white man to “go back to your country.”
An emphasis on racial reconciliation and racial divisions in the church, though not a new subject, has re-emerged in recent years with national attention turned to police violence against black Americans. Discussions about police killings of unarmed black men and women have shown that Christians do not see the issue in the same light, with African-American believers often expressing frustration with responses from their white peers.
A few years ago, Asian-American believers took up virtual arms against popular Purpose Driven Life author and pastor Rick Warren for making light of a violent aspect of China’s Cultural Revolution on his Facebook page.
Asked if she thought there would come a time when Christians won’t have to talk about racism and prejudice in the church, Khang said was hopeful.
“I cling to that hope that Christians will actually be the ones leading that conversation. Leading the healing, the lamenting, that process and that change,” she said. “Will it happen in my lifetime, I am not so convinced. But I do cling to the hope that eventually we won’t need to talk about it. I’m hoping that it won’t mean that we won’t have to talk about it because we’ve all gotten to heaven and the end of the world has happened.”
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As for what makes her skeptical that true racial unity among Christians could happen in her lifetime, Khang said she was discouraged by white Evangelical support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who critics have slammed as racist, misogynistic and narcissistic.
She stated: “I think it’s a very interesting, unique election cycle. What I’m seeing is that for all of the progress that we’ve made in the last, goodness, 40 years in even trying to come up with common language in the church to talk about multi-ethnicity, to talk about race, to talk about what it means for different people, for all people to be created in the image of God, that this election cycle has brought up a deep, deep divide in how people integrate politics and faith and church. And you can see it in some of the numbers and the support to a certain candidate being significantly stronger amongst white Evangelicals.
“I know that there’s been plenty of talk, coverage, distancing from Evangelicals saying, ‘No, no, no. These are not us. We are not those white Evangelicals. And even in that distancing, I am discouraged that there isn’t an understanding of…I don’t know if it’s ownership or connectedness to that, to those white Evangelicals that folks are distancing themselves from. Because I know they’re in my neighborhood. I know they’re in my church. And it amazes me at how many white Evangelicals claim that they don’t know anybody who supports Trump. So I think in that strong denial as well as the strong support, I am finding myself much more discourage than I have.
“And it’s also impacting a new generation, a younger generation that I think has not deserved the label of being ‘colorblind,’ as if that’s a label to aspire to. But in that, I’m seeing it. I’m seeing it come home. I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old at home and a 20-year-old at college. What my 17- and 15-year old bring home in terms of what they’re hearing from classmates, and those classmates are hearing from their families, is extremely discouraging. So we have a lot of work to do.”
Listen to Faithfully Podcast 16 to hear more from Khang about race, Asian-American communities, her experiences in ministry, and more via SoundCloud.