I love games but am not an avid online gamer. So when a friend sent me an email to play Texas Hold’em on facebook, I decide to try a hand or two. It’s been years since I would get together with the guys on Friday or Saturday for poker nights. We would win some, lose some, eat some, joke some, and expletives would fly around the table faster than the cards or our chips. We knew each other and were all friends. Now we are all married, have regular jobs and yes, kids.
As I sat down to play with about 6 others on my laptop screen, I didn’t recognize their names let alone pronounce them. As the hands were played, we chatted with such niceties as “nice hand”, “good play”, “good one”, “I thought you may have that card”, etc. But as the game went on and the amount of the pot rose, the chatting became a little more venomous, until about 20 minutes into the game, the pot was as high as we had ever seen it. And with most of our chips in the middle of our imaginary table, I received the exact card that I needed on the turn and won. As I was celebrating while watching How I Met Your Mother, immediately the expletives came flying my way by people who I do not know and have never met. And for a brief moment, I remembered all of those names I was called as a young Korean American boy growing up in a small town in the Midwest, by people who did not know me or wanted anything to do with me.
I just read an article in Reuters about the new controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s faith. The controversy isn’t coming from those who think Barack Obama is a Muslim, though in a recent survey, 50% of devout Christians who were McCain voters thought that Obama is/was a Muslim. According to the Reuter’s article, the question of whether Obama is a Christian is coming from “those who think he’s a phony follower of Jesus Christ.” And the reason for this is because of a few of his answers to some theological questions in a 2004 interview with beliefnet.com. It just doesn’t jibe with their own theological views on which they stand. These detractors have never met or have had a conversion with Obama personally about his life or his faith.
Labels. Definitions. Can we ever be free of them. Can we ever free ourselves from a society, a world that wants to define us. I grew up with the words “chink” or “Jap” that dripped off my body as I walked the malls, the halls of my school, or the alleys of the streets in all my little towns, knowing that I fit neither of those ethnic groups but treated as less than all the rest. I was the invisible Asian but belittled nonetheless. I walked into churches where I was taught either I was a sinner or that I was better than most because I was a Christian. I walked into high school and college with instilled values that I needed to excel in math and sciences because that was what I was supposed to do to find a safe career. I was told to be good and act my best at all times because I wasn’t just representing myself in the world, but I was representing all Koreans to the community around me. I was and still am constantly bombarded by commercials on billboards, newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and Radio telling me that I am a consumer and have lots of needs. I receive ad emails and pop ups on websites by those who think they know me and what I want in life. And I am still haunted at times internally or externally, that as a pastor I should be “holier than thou” and can’t really be me.
In a 60 Minute story on the Obama’s, both Michelle and Barack are were very protective of their daughters as well as they should be. But more than that, they wanted to protect them from being unduly influenced by outside forces that will come just because they are the children of the President. Barack said that after 4 or 8 years, if his children stay true to who they are and not become jaded or changed because of this situation, then they would have done their jobs.
It has taken me until my mid twenties to begin to break out from under the weight of all of society’s labels of me and to truly be me. At times I felt like I wanted to scream and rant like these two women in the video. (Please excuse the strong language but not the sentiments)
For the past 13 years or so, I have begun a path to discovery to finally claim my identity as a uniquely created child of God. I am sure that no amount of Therapy or introspection and conversation can rid me of all of my labeled baggage, or would I want to rid myself of all of them, but I can be aware of them and at least try to make the world a better environment for my Son and Daughter to figure out who they are without all of the negative help. Wish me luck!