Pastor Rick Warren has apologised for a children’s video which featured a former kids pastor dressed as an Asian martial arts teacher to teach a Biblical truth.
Warren, a famous author and evangelical pastor in California who founded Saddleback Church, said in a statement, which he posted on social media: “This is the very kind of cultural and racial insensitivity that we’re trying to eradicate in our church family. It’s unchristlike, demeaning and it’s never appropriate to use a stereotype to teach.”
He said that he had not even seen the whole video but that a screenshot of a man dressed as a sensei was enough to make him “upset and embarrassed”.
The whole video is no longer available but features a white man chopping a fish on a boat. One person who saw it commented: “He (the kids pastor) chops raw fish with a samurai sword while yelling ‘hiya’ then spits it out”, adding that it was the actions and noises that were offensive and not the costume alone.
In response to the children’s Sunday school curriculum video. We ask for your forgiveness. pic.twitter.com/Zsr9bK0Zdf
— Saddleback Church (@Saddleback) February 1, 2021
He said: “all churches are made up of imperfect people. I can’t promise you that failings will never happen in our church family, but I CAN promise you that we will always own up to our failings immediately.”
Warren himself has been accused of being culturally insensitive before, posting a photo of a Chinese Communist Red Guard smiling, propaganda-style, on Facebook with a caption that said: “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” The Red Guards lived under the brutal regime of Mao Zedong’s China that killed millions of people, therefore the picture was deemed insensitive. Warren did not apologise immediately but said those who found it offensive should not be following him on social media. He did apologise after a blog by Asian American theologian Sam Tsang explained why it was offensive. Warren has also has been accused of playing a video at a conference in which a pastor put on a fake Asian accent, engaged in Karate and bowed with Asian-style music.
Regarding this latest incident, some thanked the preacher for his “genuine” and public apology. Others debated the rights and wrongs of dressing-up as someone from another culture or were confused as to why it has caused offense.
One commented: “Yea God forbid someone dresses up as a karate person to make a point, must have been racist…the only way to not offend anyone in this culture is to do nothing. Come on guys.”
Michelle Ami Rees from Asia American Christian Collaboration wrote: “There are layers to the problematic appropriation and use of Asian culture elements for slapstick humor here. This kind of humor only works because it’s deprecating. But you cannot appropriate and deprecate on someone else’s culture for your own personal comedy.”
Please forgive us when we hurt others intentionally or unintentionally.
Please help us to recognise the hurt of others even if we don’t personally feel it.
If we have been hurt, please help us to recognise the apology of others and to forgive as you forgave us.
by Cara Bentley