My awkward relationship with America

March 9, 2011

Despite my near-flawless American accent, my intimate knowledge of American history/government/culture, my 3/4 of family who are American, I am not an American. I was born and raised in Taiwan, aside from a brief 3 year stint in Australia at the ages of 10-12. My parents chose to place me in an International school with American teachers, students, curriculum which landed me in a community located on the outskirts of a city in Taiwan for most of my formative years. After graduating from an American college prep high school, I naturally went on to an American college and graduate school. So you can say that I didn’t choose America, but that America was chosen for me.

My faith was also delivered to me via the American version of the gospel. Having grown up reading Chinese folk stories of 18 levels of hell, I was happy to accept this free ticket into heaven with a simple belief in Jesus Christ. I learned to speak Christian-ese, pray, and worship in the American language, as well as grow deeper in understanding of the gospel. And I thrived in that faith community. Some aspects of my spiritual journey at this stage of my life I treasure – learning to love, serve, and forgive my peers as we grew together in such a unique tight-knit community. Other aspects I resent in hindsight – being shown a graphic video of aborted babies and indoctrinated to side with a politically charged issue. I will forever be thankful for the sacrifices my teachers and mentors made to uproot their families to come to Taiwan in order to share their faith with me and others like myself.

I went on to attend a conservative Christian college and then leaned a bit to the left and did seminary at Fuller. I read about the history of Christianity in America, how our theology is shaped by American culture, and how we might be salt and light as Americans in America and beyond. The irony is not lost on me. If you have followed my blog at all, you know my struggles of cultural identity given my complex background. As a non-American Christian, I live and breathe a gospel wrapped up with red, white, and blue.

In the last election I rallied for my favorite presidential candidate more passionately than my “real” American husband. I use his name and state to sign up for petitions all over the country fighting for the issues I believe Christians ought to stand up for. When America makes blunders in the world, I’m the first to point my finger at her even though I have absolutely no right to, given the fact that I even gave up my green card last year.

A few sundays ago, the pastor preached a sermon about how wealthy we are in comparison to the global poor. He used a statistic citing how unevenly the wealth is weighted in America. After the service, a Taiwanese young guy came charging up to my white husband and accused, “how can you Americans hoard so much wealth?” To whom Jason coolly answered, “the sermon was not directed towards Americans but yourself and how you can better be a steward of your wealth” which effectively turned his pointed finger around. This incident made me evaluate how often I do the same thing? Point my finger at America? Shouldn’t I be thinking about my own country (Republic?) and how we can be faithful ourselves?

The reality is I am not equipped. I did not go through more than a decade of education to critically think about how to live my faith in the Chinese context. As much as I am saddened by this fact, it is a fact nonetheless. The other reality is America, despite some people’s opinions, is still the most powerful country in our world today, and thus positioned to have the most influence in the lives of each global citizen. And as the American icon Spiderman says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Therefore, if I am called to obey one of the most central commandments in Scripture “Love your neighbor”, I am compelled to call upon the leader of our world today to help us all do just that. The country that birthed the missionaries who gave me the gospel of Jesus Christ, must be the example to me of how to live out that gospel most faithfully.

So I will continue to send out petitions, even if it means pretending to be my husband. Because when I read stories about how women are being mass raped in Congo because America doesn’t impose tight enough regulations on the source of minerals used in the technology that runs our world, it is to America I turn. Please, use your power and leadership, on behalf of the millions whose voices go unheard.