I’ve been in an Asian Missions Conference for the past couple of days. Not sure if it is the first of its kind in Canada, but it brought a lot of pastors and ministry leaders from across the country. At first, it was a bit of a reverse culture shock for me, having not attended an immigrant Chinese church for some time. And now I’m feeling tired from all the talks and discussion.
When I came to Vancouver, I debated whether or not to attend a “white” church or a “Chinese” church. I left the Chinese church where I came to faith in 2006 or 2007… under not-so-great circumstances. It took some time to heal from that experience, and I felt that I was done fighting those battles. But I realize that I’m still left to struggle with my identity, and I am not satisfied with having to deny one aspect of my identity over another, in order to resolve the tension. I am who I am… a female, Chinese, Canadian Christian. Oh the joys of living cross-culturally.
In one of my papers for Church History, I explored the background of Christian missions to the first Chinese Immigrants to Canada. For the most part, the missionaries were well-intentioned, and many helped the first Chinese Canadians while the dominant (anglo-saxon) society viewed the Chinese as the “Yellow Peril.” It was difficult for me to read early accounts of how my fore-fathers and mothers were treated by Canadians (who were all considered Christian in those days). I don’t recall learning in social studies the race riots and the systematic exclusion of Chinese (and other visible minorities) from entering Canada and becoming Canadian citizens.
It was also troubling to learn that the efforts to evangelize the Chinese were not just humanitarian, or spiritual in nature, but political. To “Christianize” them was to “Canadianize” them and help them to assimilate to Canadian culture. Perhaps assimilation is good, if it meant equality and respect. But it was mainly to keep them from “orientalizing” Canadians. All this was prior to the repeal of the exclusion act in 1947.
This is not meant to be a history lesson, there are plenty of good books for that. But I was prompted to investigated this to understand my spiritual biography better. I’m beginning to understand the hostility my grandfather faced when he first arrived in Canada – and his antagonism against Christianity. For that generation, Christian missions failed miserably because of racism. I suspect that it must have felt like a choice between being Chinese or being Christian.
Not sure where I’m going with this, other than I still feel like there’s so many things in our recent history that the Church needs to own up to. Then again, how much of history do people generally know or care about? We’ve lost so much credibility when it comes to our “Christian witness.” Especially when I continue to see people being hurt by the church. All I can say to them is that is not the Christ I know. The Jesus I know healed rather than rend apart lives. I’m thankful because he continues to heal mine.
Well, conference is done. In a couple of days I’m off to Galiano to feed some chickens and work on papers. Hooray!