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Deadly Viper & Racism in Marketing

November 9, 2009 by

Nothing says controversy like an Internet fight over racism in marketing and design. If you weren’t familiar with last week’s blow-by-blow, Asian author and professor Soong-Chan Rah called out racism at worst and insensitivity at best in the marketing and design of the book Deadly Viper Character Assassins by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Rah accused Foster and Wilhite of fueling racial stereotypes and co-opting Asian culture in order to market their book. It was an especially interesting challenge because Foster and Wilhite’s book is all about integrity and character. The conversation exploded with hundreds of comments and eventually led to a conference call between Rah, Foster, Wilhite and moderators.

Thankfully this messy situation seems to have come to a gracious solution. Both Foster and Wilhite of Deadly Viper and Rah have apologized for how they handled the situation and have agreed to move forward in reconciliation. What started with ignorance and lack of awareness has turned into an opportunity for education and greater sensitivity. For all of us (our own review of Deadly Viper completely overlooked these issues, for which we apologize).

A lot of folks have offered lessons from this confrontation, and we encourage you to check those out. We learned a few lessons ourselves from watching this conversation unfold, especially as it relates to communication and marketing:

1) Be aware of cultural and racial issues.
It’s been more than 40 years but the dream still hasn’t come true. Racial issues have and will continued to plague humanity, and the church is not immune. What’s perhaps most discouraging about this issue is that it’s not the first time Rah has spoken out against Asian stereotypes in Christian publishing. As church communicators we have a duty to be aware of what’s offensive and make sure those kinds of portrayals have no place in our marketing. That sounds brain-dead obvious, but as this situation shows, it’s easy to plow forward and not realize your own cultural insensitivity.


2) Use cultural design elements appropriately.
One of the major complaints here is the way the designers used cultural symbols with seemingly no regard to their actual meaning. (There’s some debate here. Rah said symbols on the book’s cover were meaningless, Foster insisted they had meaning.) Any time you’re tapping into visual elements of a culture there’s opportunity to mess it up. Especially when it’s a culture you’re not familiar with. In this case the complexity of Chinese language makes it even harder. The bottom line: If you’re going to use cultural imagery, make sure you’re doing so with the utmost respect.

3) Seek guidance and second opinions.
None of us knows it all. It’s through interaction with others that we learn and sometimes even realize we’re offending somebody. So seek out second and third opinions. And when you’re asked for your opinion, speak out in love. [Well placed plug: The Church Marketing Lab is a great place to get second and third opinions.]

4) Conflict happens. Resolve it gracefully.
Maybe I’m over-stating it, but I think this is a beautiful example of how to do that. It wasn’t perfect and the conversation got ugly, but everything ended in a place of love and grace. That’s the way it should be. We can learn a lot from how this conflict was resolved.

Update: Zondervan has issued an apology for the book and are pulling it from shelves. Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite have shut down the Deadly Viper site.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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48 Responses to “Deadly Viper & Racism in Marketing”

  • djchuang
    November 9, 2009

    Thanks for mentioning this incident on your blog. There’s been surprising little buzz among the “top 100″ Christian blogs about this, so thank you for putting your neck out and posting it on this heavily trafficked blog/ website. For this having been “undetected” for several years now is an indicator of how blind spots still prevail, and how difficult it is to have an open conversation about these matters.


  • Prof. Rah
    November 9, 2009

    Thanks for posting this. While the authors have graciously addressed this issue, we are still waiting to hear officially from Zondervan. They are deliberating their course of action and we are expecting to hear from them soon. Because the situation is still lingering, there are still action steps that folks can take. See http://www.profrah.wordpress.com
    Ultimately, it would be great to see a result that honors the entire body of Christ. We pray towards that full resolution.
    A minor note of clarification: the dispute over the meaning of the Chinese characters was on their website (which has been subsequently removed), not on their book cover.


  • Irene C.
    November 9, 2009

    Unfortunately, a person, who was curious when the book was first published, asked the question of the meaning behind the words and imagery. They were given the answer that there was no meaning and that it just “looked cool”: http://www.hanzismatter.com/2007/11/deadlyviperorg.html
    This link from Tian is posted on the Deadly Viper Blog.


  • Sean Salter
    November 9, 2009

    Racial sensitivity is becoming very nauseating.
    Cry me a river. When you are offended by something like this, you are CHOOSING to be offended. The easily offended person IS at the root being VERY narcissistic.
    Get over yourself, get over your pride, and move on. Its not racist, its not even offensive.
    As a Christ believing Jew I see more racism against my people and culture than a lot of races do, its against our jewish belief system to cry like this, to complain. We educate, we live out our traditions, and we move on.
    Seriously, get over it, and get over yourselves.


  • Prof. Rah
    November 10, 2009

    To Sean Salter:
    You state: “Racial sensitivity is becoming very nauseating”. You are nauseated by racial sensitivity but not by racial, cultural insensitivity? Which is more Christ-like? Which is more akin to loving your neighbor as yourself?
    And you believe, that it is the victim’s responsibility to “get over it” and that the offended person is the problem? Are you even remotely aware of how ignorant that sounds?


  • Carey
    November 10, 2009

    It’s been a long time since I’ve wandered by CMS, and I’m glad I did today. I left the world of church marketing for numerous reasons, one of the largest being the use of resources (ie-money) in large churches, and a year and a half later, I’m nearly 3/4 done with a master’s degree from a secular university in higher education admin.
    This semester, I’m taking a required course, that I wasn’t so much looking forward to (which is an issue by itself…): Multiculturalism and Diversity. I was horribly wrong. This course has arguably been one of the best of my academic career (which includes a Bible degree :-)). My own beliefs are being challenged, most notably as I’m seeing how social justice is approached in non-religious settings, which is compellingly different from the modern church, as well as just how many issues of justice the American church is blatantly overlooking.
    Race is absolutely one of those issues. As someone in one of the linked post commented, the absence of racial diversity in Zondervan’s marketing is just one example, and certainly typifies many of the marketing I’ve seen from churches here in the midwest.
    For me, a next step would be starting an honest dialogue about how racial issues can be discussed, welcomed, and represented, without being fake or added as an after-thought.
    While racial and ethnic issues are only one justice issue that faces the church, thank you so much for starting the tough conversation. I hope someday soon to be able to do the same about several issues that have come to light for me personally.


  • horridus
    November 10, 2009

    Sean has it right that I “choose” to be offended. I think I can, like Jesus, rise above racial insensitivity directed my way.
    The world doesn’t revolve around me; it revolves around Jesus and he didn’t take insults personally.


  • Sean Salter
    November 10, 2009

    Again, I say with al due respect Prof. Rah. Get over yourself.
    Is the confusion of Japanese and Chinese culture in this book offensive? HARDLY. Stupid, ignorant, uneducated, dumb, Sure. Offensive? No. Get over yourself.
    Is there documented history of a deep rooted warrior culture in Chinese and Japanesecultures? YES. Romance of the Three Kingdoms? Art of War by Sun Tzu? Hundreds of books on Samurai Culture? Bushido? The list goes on and on and on and on. The History of both China and Japan is one that is beautiful awe inspiring, as well as bloody and deadly. Get over yourself.
    You and many like you have another option here. You can see this for what it is. Two white guys who most likely grew up watching Anime Cartoons from Japan, Kung Foo movies from China, Bruce Lee films, loving them, loving the whole mystique and sheer coolness of Ninjas, Samurai, Kung Foo Masters, great warriors like Guan Yu, Lu Bu, and Cao Cao. They loved it, they love it still, so they chose to use that to educate people in an entertaining and attractive way. You could choose to be flattered by it, you could choose to not be so self absorbed, self involved and narcissistic and choose to see their heart as much as you wish them to see yours and you could see that in their own, dumb, ignorant way, they are honoring your culture. You could choose to get over yourself.
    Is there more to Asian culture than martial arts, ninjas, blades, blood, and violence? Of course and I am sure the two authors know that. I am sure most “white” people know that. Is it as entertaining? Probably not. Get over yourself.
    I’m nauseated by out right racism, hate for another type of people simply because they are different. This isn’t racism, this isn’t even close to racism. I’m not nauseated by racial insensitivity, because I find political correctness to be destructive at best. You want it both ways, you want us to be multi-cultural, but if we get a detail a little bit wrong, or ignorantly “mis-reprepresent” you, your offended, and throw a temper tantrum like you did. Get over yourself.
    News flash people, Multi-culturialism is a weakness in american culture. Our strength isn’t being multi-cultural, we shouldn’t try to be, in fact we should stay away from it. We ARE multi-ethnic, “E Pluribus Unum” from many, one. Its on our money. We have one culture, an american culture. No where else on the planet can someone from another country assimilate into the American Culture and become American. No where. We practice our cultures in our homes, and we are American in our Public lives, those that do this, go further, are more successful and help make America strong, to rant and rave and force Americans to be “multi-cultural” makes us weaker. It fosters segregation, and this narcissistic. We aren’t perfect, no one is, and we should remember that, will be less offended, we need to get over ourselves. I’m not jewish-american or irish-american, you’re not asian-american. WE ARE Americans who happened to have a different race. Adoption of THIS attitude is how we cure racism.
    The authors weren’t trying to be offensive or insensitive. Asian Americans aren’t victims of the two authors unless they choose to be. Was the intent of the authors to hurt Asian Americans? No. The intent was to educate christians in an entertaining way, in an entertaining way that Asian culture has been doing for a very long time themselves.
    What is Christ like is to see the intent of the person to see their heart, to put yourself in their shoes, to remove self, STOP being narcissistic and see that person where they are. Did the authors do this? Maybe not, maybe they did. The own message coming from modern Asian culture is confusing. Movies, cartoons, video games all serve to fuel these so called “offensive stereo-types” How ever did you Prof Rah stop to see all the facts, to see the truth in the authors heart, to see the message that you are so offended by that comes from Asian pop culture its self? If you did, then why are you offened. You should be flattered, you should feel honored that these two, ignorant, white boys are so impressed by your culture they thought it would entertaining to use it to teach others. Did they get it wrong? Um. . . yeah, they did, but why not just point that out instead of demanding apologies, choosing to be offended, and continuing to fuel this destructive behavior of liberalism in the church and political correctness. get over yourself.
    So Professor with all your smarts and edumication, which is more akin to love? Charity suffereth long, and is kind, charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil 1 corinthians 13:4-5.
    Prof. Rah you are being self absorbed and narcissistic. Its a human thing, we all do it, myself included. This political “correctness” attitude needs to stop, its destructive. The liberalization of the church will be its down fall. It distracts us from actual real evils. What the authors did was not offensives, mean, or intentional. What it was, was two white boys who have a fondness for Asian culture and just think its cool as heck, they probably like anime, bruce lee, and Final Fantasy 7. AND their education in Asian Culture probably started and stopped in Jr. High. They were honoring Asian culture in their own ignorant way. Educate them, or get over yourself and just take it for what it is, two dumb white boys who have a child like fascination with ninjas.
    Lets drop the pride, lets drop the narcissism. Its not about you, its not about them. We are all Americans, we are all Christians, and we all love Jesus and each other. Lets get over ourselves, learn to laugh at ourselves, and stop choosing to be offended at these little things, and work together to fight real hate and evil. Logic > emotion. I’ll dip into a little Buddhism here, balance of the mind, the body, AND the spirit is key to a long and happy life. You could also take a lesson from my people, one things Jews have down pretty good is the ability to laugh at oneself, we after all are masters of self-deprivating comedy! :-P
    Prof. Rah, I know your real smarts an all, and I know you have made a life of educating yourself and others, but honestly with all your edumication wisdom you have little of on this topic. When can a teacher start to learn? When does a teacher take a step back, stop teaching and become a student? Can a teacher learn from someone so low as myself? Some one who is beneath you? Of course I don’t feel I am beneath any professor, ha, my arrogance knows no bounds.


  • Gerald Liu
    November 10, 2009

    Sean,
    I think you are absolutely wrong on so many levels.
    The only thing I do agree with you about is that the book was not intentionally racist. I believe that there is racial insensitivity due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues that surround Asian-American community.
    Sean, what do you mean by “Get over yourself”? All too often ethnic minorities all across the US are pointed out for their differences to the dominant culture. Rather than accepting of different cultures, it is often just “tolerated” or mocked. And how are they mocked? By the misrepresentation of a persons values, beliefs, and way of life perpetuated by schema we each form about other people/cultures. While comedians use these schemas for giggles and cheap laughs, the fact of the matter is schemas are the exact reason why racial intolerance and racism continues to exist. If you will, it is the prelude to racism.
    As an Asian-American born in MI and growing up in predominantly Caucasian suburbs, I was constantly confronted with people and their ideas of how I came out of the womb performing karate chops and flying kicks or “lessons” on how to speak like a “chinese” person. I like many of my Asian brothers and sisters, sucked it up and “turned the other cheek”. However as I get more mature and think about starting a family, I think about my future “karate-kid”. Will he/she be tormented by classmates who believe they know everything about them by emulating their favorite anime characters or mockery of the Chinese language in front of them? How then should I or any of my minority friends respond to our children who come home crying in our arms? Should we tell them, “Get over yourself” or “You should be flattered”?
    My friend, you are deeply mistaken if you think like that. Where is the “honor” in being associated with violent kung-fu or ninja culture? We don’t have a choice in being offended, Sean. It IS offensive. It is offensive to cherry-pick aspects of Asian culture (of which clearly the authors don’t understand) for personal gain and “marketability”. I would expect this type of book if it came from a secular author, the mere fact that these are Christian authors writing a Christian book on leadership that was published by a respected Christian publisher is appalling and speaks volumes on the ethnocentrism in Christian media.
    The onus is on the Church and as the Body of believers in Jesus Christ, we must emulate his love to extend past our preconceived notions and fight against division. The belief, “WE ARE Americans who happened to have a different race. Adoption of THIS attitude is how we cure racism.”, is flawed. I believe that because we are God’s adopted sons and daughters we must practice and learn to love and understand one another. Because Jesus died for each of us, there is no room for racism or discrimination. The response of this particular issue is not a “Politically Correct-ness” issue as you suggest, but an issue of stopping to listen to the concerns of all of God’s children. To make light of others concerns or to disregard them, is a cop out to avoid making that extra step of understanding the other side and making the appropriate changes. If I could speak for my minority brothers and sisters, aren’t we all invited to the table? Aren’t we all valued equally in the eyes of our maker? Did not the son of God die so that we all may live?
    Sean, here is my last point. May I suggest what you yourself wrote, “What is Christ like is to see the intent of the person to see their heart, to put yourself in their shoes, to remove self, STOP being narcissistic and see that person where they are.” What was the intent of Prof. Rah? What is the intent of the Asian-American community? Can you step in their shoes? Can you separate yourself from your Jewish/Irish-American experience? Can you let your walls down to see why Asian-Americans might take offense? What do Asian-Americans or any other minority “gain” by racial/cultural sensitivity? Does it benefit the Kingdom?
    I believe it does. And that is why I wrote this response.
    Sincerely,
    Gerald Liu


  • Sean Salter
    November 10, 2009

    Love it, on ProfRah’s blog someone just reffered to me as “He does claim to be Jewish, not an evangelical Christian”
    Should I be offended, after all, being Jewish is a race, as well as a religion, and all Christianity is is the completion of judaism.
    You know what, I will step over into your shoes Gerald. I am very offended by the fact that so many christians and Asian-American Christians can’t see the fact that I am Jewish AND Christian.
    No I am seriously Offended and mad and I demand an apology from every single asian-american who denies the fact that my people can follow christ!!!!
    ZOMG!!!! ARRRRRRGHHH.


  • Amy Moffitt
    November 10, 2009

    As I said over at Professor Rah’s blog, I think that Sean is a troll and there’s little use in engaging with him or being affected by his comments.
    Peace.


  • Gerald Liu
    November 10, 2009

    Sean,
    I think you still are entirely missing my point. I don’t think Asian-Americans are looking for your personal apology or anyone else, Sean. It just so happens that 2 fairly influential pastors leading congregations, wrote a book to teach leadership to other Christians, and have it mass produced by a large publisher thought it was ok to market their material using stereotypes that are touchy to Asian-Americans all in the effort to sell more books. They were totally oblivious to how their seemingly innocent marketing strategy would touch a nerve within the Christian Asian-American community. I did find out that they did indeed apologize. The issue I have with your last posting is that you are not only stepping into my “shoes” but you are trampling over peoples feeling regarding these issues and making a mockery of racial sensitivity. I do hope you consider your thoughts and pray that God would soften your heart. I know you were being sarcastic about the whole demand of apology. But for whomever it was that had disregarded your faith, I’m sorry they did that. That person was pretty uninformed or simply can’t read.
    Would love to chat with you some more on this, Sean.


  • Sean Salter
    November 10, 2009

    The term “troll” is highly offensive to me and my people. I am offended, you are a racist Amy Moffitt!!!!


  • Sean Salter
    November 10, 2009

    In all seriousness, I am not a troll.
    Maybe I’m insensitive, but what exactly is offensive about what the authors did? Is it their inaccuracy? There meshing of two very distinct cultures? Can some explain with out emotion what exactly is so out right offensive? and how it is directed at any one culture as being racist? So far I have heard no explanation, other than people are offended by semantics.
    Is there not historical evidence of Ninjas, Samurai, and a warrior culture? Did people like Lu Bu, Guan Yu, Lei Bei, Sun Ce not exist?
    Or are some of you just offended because these two guys don’t hold your culture, your history, your ancestry in such high honor and regard as you do? Why would or why should they? And why is it so offensive that they don’t?


  • Joshua Cody
    November 10, 2009

    Thanks so much for the discussion and engagement so far.
    We want to do all we can to keep the conversation focused and helpful. We’ve probably come a little close to the line on disrespecting one another at a couple points so far.
    These are great questions to be engaging on, so let’s keep it going, but moving forward, let’s try and all speak with love, tact and respect for one another.
    Thanks folks!


  • Peter Nguyen
    November 12, 2009

    Sean – I’m with you.
    I am Asian American and frankly embarrassed by the opinion & actions of Prof Rah and the effort he’s taken against the Deadly Vipers. The whole Chopsocky film craze (that came out of Hong Kong & Taiwan) influenced all these white guys to think of kick butt ninjas the way they do. They used a powerful concept to help convey what leadership should be, and did it with good humor and relevance.
    I wonder if Jesus got attacked for stereotyping Levites and Samaritans.


  • Sean Salter
    November 12, 2009

    Peter- You and every single Asian-American I’m friends with.
    Its pretty hard not to be friends with people from different cultures in LA. Pretty hard indeed.
    I love this Prof. Rah, typical leftist. I wrote a serious response to my “I LOVE AMERICA” satirical rant, and what do you know? Deleted. People like this fit right in with 1984, thought police. . . You can’t have opposing opinions, differing views and if you do anything that one single person looking to be offended finds offensive they want to sensor you, control you, make you change what you do and say, and if you don’t they want to make a big hub bub about it and go after you and attempt to hurt your profitability. Mao would be proud of him and people like him.
    What the authors of “Deadly. . . ” Did a very American thing, they took from several cultures, mished mashed it together, and created a fun silly and entertaining story to teach people how to be more effective and aggressive leaders. They didn’t right a book about how they think Asians are silly, violent, and deadly. . . They didn’t go around saying Asians are less than us round eye! They just didn’t honor Asian culture the way Asians might in Asia! OMG, release the hounds! Off with their heads! Well This isn’t Asia, its America, and we’re all americans here. We take the Frankfurter from the German, and a roll from the Jew and we make a Hot Dog! We mix it up, and we make it American. We take the Japanese, The Chinese, The Polish, the Russian, The Mexican, The Dane, The African, The Palestinian, The Jew, the Gentile, The Catholic, and The Christian, the Budhist and we make THEM American.
    America is NOT multi-cultural, any attempts to become multi-cultural is at the cost of losing what this country is founded on. E PLURIBUS UNUM. We are multi-ethnic, but we have one culture, the American culture.
    I applaud the authors! I hope they sell a million copies, and I hope that Asian-Americans like Peter Nguyen buy it, read it and love it.
    Life is hard enough with out going around looking to be offended. Seriously, take a note from the jews, learn to laugh at yourself, and every other person, we’re all a little ridiculous in one way or another.
    racial pride is soooo not christ like, it is very narcissistic though!


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 12, 2009

    Sean, let’s be straight. Maybe the reason your comment got deleted on Rah’s site is that you act like a troll. Instead of opening the door to dialogue, you slam it with your tone and your insults. You know as well as I do that this isn’t the first time.
    In regards to your comments here, I think you may have a point about the combining of cultures in America. However, when that happens successfully it is through the celebration and respect of cultures, not the denigration of cultures. That’s exactly what Rah and the many, many commenters who were also offended saw in the work of Deadly Viper. I think the video on Facebook (that’s since been removed) was a good example of the mocking of Asian culture in order to sell books.
    As I read through the many comments on multiple sites addressing this issue, it was clear the work of Deadly Viper had inadvertently reopened many deep racial wounds. That’s not something to be mocked and fixed with a simple ‘get over it.’ Even if you’re right and they’re unnecessarily taking offense, your approach isn’t helping.
    Besides, it’s clear from the response of Foster and Wilhite that this is a serious issue. If they were simply caving in to pressure and didn’t mean their apology–well, that would be the exact opposite of the kind of character they champion.


  • Sean Salter
    November 12, 2009

    Kevin, lets be straight. There is what is and then there is what “you” feel. And you and Rah seem to confuse the two A LOT. I could choose to be offended by your lecturing arrogant tone, but I’ll CHOOSE not to be. My tone actually does help a lot of people, I get emails telling me that all the time, it just doesn’t help sensitive man-child liberals.
    Did you read the post that was deleted? Obviously not. I’m not you, I am not Prof Rah, I’m Sean. I am who I am, and I am the way I am. I say things in my way. The only people here who don’t tolerate diversity is YOU and people like you. I didn’t call anyone names. What I did do was present my side. MY take, in my way. The post that was deleted wasn’t in a troll tone at all, it was deleted simply to silence any opposing or differing thought. I presented another side, logically. . . which escapes leftists like you and Rah and it was deleted. The end. Because I’ll say it again, the only one here who cannot tolerate diversity is you, Rah and people like you. Although I am entertained at the many ways you attempt to paint a vulgar picture of me with your eloquent words. it is, it is. . . so expected. . . and so very liberal of you.
    America doesn’t celebrate other cultures, we celebrate our culture, the American one. And we respect other cultures our way. The American way.
    I mock racial sensitivity, and I mock liberalism, narcissism, racial reconciliation, bigotry, racism. I poke fun at all the races and colors under the sun. I mock,I poke fun, to laugh, to make others laugh, and many many many people find my tone and humor funny. I do it because we must laugh.
    But I’ll say it again, America isn’t multi-cultural, we’re multi-ethnic we have one culture, its the American Culture, and America is better, and more unified when people start to remember this truth. Its not our Multi-culturialism that makes us strong, thats what is making us weaker. Its our multi-ethnicity unifying under one flag, one language and one culture, the American culture. And what Foster and Wilhite did was very american, funny, effective, and very american. The video even made me laugh. But thats what we should do, we should see people, and exaggerate their insecurities, exaggerate my insecurities and make fun of them, thats comedy, thats American.
    We don’t honor and respect Asian culture the way Rah does because we aren’t Asian, and its not our culture, we’re Americans baby, and we show our love and appreciation for cultures the American way, if you find it offensive, oh well, move back to Asia if it bothers you so much, or chose not to be offended and practice your honoring your way at home, and teach others how you do it, but don’t cry a river. No one likes a cry baby.
    No one is being racist.
    Being PC serves to do nothing more than hide truth and fact and eventually leads to terrible incidents like Fort Hood.
    I applaud Wilhite and Foster for what they do, and I wish they would take back their apology even if people called them. . . oh NVM Kevin might find that racist. I know many many asians who aren’t offended, but no one looks at the kid NOT crying his head off, everyone looks at the one child screaming and throwing a temper tantrum. Thats why the Left is about 21% of the country yet they are the loudest and most obnoxious.
    You wouldn’t know the difference between what Wilhite and Foster did and real racism. The fact that in the title of this thread you say “Racism in Marketing” proves that point. And with rah and your actions you work to diminish the fight against real racism and bigotry. The constant searching for offenses and the constant complaining about being offended by “racial insensitivity” only works to cause more disunity then 2 white boys putting asian imagery in their books. Racial sensitivity and Racial Reconciliation serve to feed bigotry, not defeat it. This is the LEAST racist country in the world. But with guys like you and Rah you’d think we’re the most racist. Of course, the funny part is that the only people that actually see race are those who are offended by Deadly.
    This liberalism and leftist thought about Deadly vipers presented by Kevin and Prof. Rah isn’t Christ-like, its narcissistic. Liberalism in christianity is a deadly deadly virus, and liberalism in america? Well continue to let it spread and say good bye to the LEAST racist nation, and the greatest experiment in mankind’s history.
    I’m offended that you are insinuating that Wilhite and Foster are racists, and I am offended with the “tone” you take with me. Actually I am not, I could be, but I’ll choose instead to disagree with you, and I will choose to do what I do different from you.


  • Sean Salter
    November 12, 2009

    nice Prof. rah put my post back up. haha.
    Liberals make me laugh. He’s probably offended by a slew of things I said re-reading it, of course I think what I say is funny :-P


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 12, 2009

    Forget what us crazy “liberals” think, Sean. Foster and Wilhite think this is a legitimate issue. So either it is a real issue or they’re liars.
    I don’t think they’re liars. I don’t think they’re racists either. I do think this is a real issue worth discussing honestly and not just something we “get over”.


  • Sean Salter
    November 12, 2009

    There you go, painting vulgar pictures again. How. . . liberal of you. When did I use the word crazy? hrmmm? Yeah. . . ok.
    You and rah, just Crying Wolf.
    I am disappointed that Wilhite and Foster caved so easily. I didn’t see their video, but everything else I have seen, yeah nothing offensive that I can see. I want to encourage them to not be so apologetic and feed this childish and destructive behavior displayed by you and Rah. Its knee deep in narcissism.
    Funny, this all over racial issues with Asians. . . and everyone is getting so emotional. . . any one else see the irony in this?
    Note: when you say crazy you shouldn’t put it in quotations, because “crazy liberal” is fact :-P You have to be crazy to think that your type liberalism is actually good for any society. :-P
    Also note: You should also replace the word think with the word feel. Liberals don’t think, they feel everything :-P
    I go go all day, and I am making light of it. :-P
    If you don’t think they are racists then your topic name is misleading. But then again, you are more about attention then integrity. . . how very liberal. hehehehe.


  • Ian
    November 12, 2009

    It’s kinda odd, to me, that this is such a big issue. Might I suggest that it’s irrational, and even racist in a way, to think that [I'll come right out and say it] white people can’t tell the difference between stylized kung-fu fiction and asian culture?
    Now I realize people act offensively sometimes by projecting the kitschy movie stereotype onto real world people whose culture is not a joke. People, especially kids, will latch onto anything to be social, thinking they’re being funny when they’re not. You don’t have to be a racial minority. I was the pimply nerd, with coke bottle glasses and all; that was the image projected on me. And I had to overcome other people’s attempts to project their idea of me into my self-image. I don’t mean to tell you that your feelings are worthless, but sometimes you just have to refuse to be offended.
    I have only seen excerpts of the book in question and I don’t want to ramble on and on, so I’ll just close with some lyrics I hope is not too out-of-place:
    “If we all could just admit
    That we are racist, a little bit,
    Even though we all know
    That it’s wrong,
    Maybe it would help us
    Get along.”
    “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” – Words and Music by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx


  • Randy
    November 13, 2009

    A friend forwarded me this article from Christian Counseling Magazine about the Sin of Being Offended. Compelling (and biblical) argument for getting over it.
    And Prof. Rah’s first comment: “Which is more Christ-like? Which is more akin to loving your neighbor as yourself?” Christ never said, “Make sure your neighbor loves you the way you want to be loved” or “Enforce others to love other-others as you want them to love them.”
    Oh here’s that article:
    http://www.michaeldimarco.com/2009/11/06/the-sin-of-being-offended/


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 13, 2009

    That’s an interesting article Randy, and I think it can be helpful for this discussion. Not taking offense (or “getting over it” as Sean would say) is something that can help us interact with others and get along better. But it’s not a justification for causing offense in the first place.
    Paul talks quite a bit about not causing offense if it hinders the gospel (1 Corinthians 10:32 for starters). There is an inherent tension in what’s ultimately right vs. what’s perceived as wrong (something I actually wrote about here a couple years ago), but Paul doesn’t seem to tell the easily offended people in the Corinthian church to get over it. He tells the ones doing the offending not to do it.


  • Peter Nguyen
    November 13, 2009

    I can’t believe Prof. Rah and his team… This is insane, why don’t they do something like Love146, Charity Water or Junky Car Club…. even Deadly Viper… something positive- helping people, rather than crying about how they are a victim. There are real victims out there that need help. Why not do something to help people understand our Asian heritage and let peace loving Americans have freedom of speech and the right to create their own culture. The only truth that really matters is Jesus Christ.
    Calling Sean a troll is a joke… really, your argument is so weak you need to resort to name calling? He’s the only guy who makes any sense, or with any common sense.
    CMS – really you need to stop complaining about the conversation, the title of this post is abhorrent and thoughtless (The lack of irrational cultural hypersensitivity is not racism in marketing) and is as reckless as prof Rahs initial uninformed and misleading arguments. I guess you guys at least aren’t censoring the conversation like Prof Rah and his team is over their site (they have not posted my supporting comments to Deadly Viper there).


  • Randy
    November 13, 2009

    Kevin,
    I totally get that, but almost every comment I’ve read is from Christians of Asian descent being offended over the “pimping of their culture.” If these concerns were of how this book affects Asian non-believers, I think you’d have a stronger argument. But it seems pretty clear through their comments/blogs that our brothers are feeling personally offended, not concerned about it damaging their apologetic efforts within the Asian community. That’s why I thought that article had some crossover to this conversation.
    I thought once we entered the body of Christ, our culture didn’t matter any more. That there was no Jew or Gentile. That if we were persecuted, we could now count it not a manifestation of the color of our skin, but count it pure joy and suffering for Christ. I am not Asian, but have a skin color and heritage that could easily be replaced in this situation.
    And tho I disagree with your take, I love your blog. Keep up the good work.


  • Sean Salter
    November 13, 2009

    Srsly does anyone else see the irony?
    We really DO need to look toward Avenue Q and there lyrics to their song. Truer and wiser words have never been spoken. I love you Kate Monster.
    But everyone is just about
    As racist as you!
    If we all could just admit
    That we are racist a little bit,
    And everyone stopped being
    So PC
    Maybe we could live in – Harmony
    thank you Ian!!!
    But here’s a fun fact. What race experienced 68% of Americas hate crimes year?
    Jews.
    When everyone hates you what do you do?
    Get over it.


  • Sean Salter
    November 14, 2009

    As far as 1 Corinthians 10:32 goes. . . Well in order to ever truly grasp what Paul says you usually have to read several verses before and several after. It also helps to take him chapter by chapter and sometimes even book by book. The modern way off taking the bible in small doses is like trying to lose weight by taking a pill.
    If u start at 10:27 you just might have a different take. Paul asks the church of Corinth to not be offended at what food is put out before them if it is put out in the name of the Lord. He goes on to explain why. He asks the Jews of Corinth to not offend the Greek by refusing to eat food they offer them in their home when it is offered in the name of the Lord. He is asking the Church of Corinth to not try and offend others by NOT being easily offended. He is asking them to surrender their traditions and culture, their adherance to a kosher diet, so they don’t offend their Greek brothers who are ignorant to their culture.
    He is asking the Jews of Corinth to get over it. Because it is the Jew of Corinth that is being to legalistic and clinging to tightly to their traditions, they were becoming to easily offended by the Greek that didn’t understand their culture.
    But this is easily understood and explained when you make your posts more about seeking truth an less about self promotion, Kevin. . . :-P


  • Sean Salter
    November 14, 2009

    @Peter Nguyen
    prof. Rah’s blog is HEAVILY edited dude. My posts made in respnose to someones offense about the Foster and Wilhite’s man cave were deleted. Haha. Basically Prof Rah is your everyday typical liberal. He has an agenda and wants little know opossing thought unless it furthers his agenda. An idealog. He obviously dies not tolerate diversity, he just wants Wilhite and Foster to tolerate his.
    This is but one reason why liberalism and leftist thought is so dangerous in the body of Christ. Not only is it in direct conflict with the word of God but is morally bankrupt, void of wisdom or logic, entirely emotion based, humanistic, and very very childish. It’s not what the word of God says it’s all about “how it makes me feel”
    Not to mention being in the left, even as a Christian, means never having to say you’re sorry. Everyone else around you does, especially when you “feel” you’ve been offended.
    However Peter as liberal as I have accussed Kevin Hendricks if being, to his credit he does not sensor content. He is very different in this thinking. He allows jerks like me to have their say. One day I will convert him! :-p
    yes, Kevin I am bored. Insomnia sucks. And I am giving you a hard time. I love liberals, so much si, I pray for your salvation :-p


  • gar
    November 14, 2009

    I appreciate Professor Rah’s insights and I had a chance to listen to him speak today. I found him to be not only intelligent and well informed of the issues, but also humble, gracious, and a great sense of humor. For all those who think that Professor Rah has some sort of “agenda” – hey, guess what… we all do. Especially Christians – isn’t our agenda to both grow in Christ-likeness and see God’s kingdom on Earth?
    If you don’t agree with Professor Rah’s perspective, that’s fine. But I wish more people open their ears to things he has to say.
    Oh, and “Peter Nguyen”… if you’re not offended by this whole Deadly Viper fiasco, that’s fine. But understand that many (emphasis on MANY) Christians (Asian American and not) are offended, including myself. Please don’t demean the perspectives of those who feel differently – you do not speak for all Asian American Christians. No one has that right.
    I grew up in a predominantly White suburb and was taunted all the time with kung-fu jokes, kids screaming HAI-YAH!, mocking Asian accents, and slanting their eyes. It made school much more difficult than it should have been. You can’t separate the way the authors chose to market their book from baggage it brings up, no matter how noble their intentions were in promoting Christian character and leadership.
    As for Sean’s citation of racism against Jews, I’m completely sympathetic and my Jewish friends here even in Seattle have had similar experiences. My playing the game of “oppression olympics”, by implying that Jewish suffering has been greater than Asian suffering and by comparison, concerns about Asian stereotypes are meaningless is a shallow argument. The people of God should concern themselves with all manners of injustice regardless of culture or race.
    peace,
    -g.


  • gar
    November 14, 2009

    I apologize for the typos… was just getting my thoughts out quickly.
    This line should read:
    (BY playing the game of “oppression olympics” -by implying that Jewish suffering has been greater than Asian suffering and by comparison, concerns about Asian stereotypes are meaningless- is a shallow argument.)
    Oh, and before I get accused of being a “liberal”, I’m not. I grew up in a Republican family, with both my parents being registered party members.


  • Peter Nguyen
    November 14, 2009

    Gar, I understand you (and many others) are offended, people will always get offended, I believe Jesus offended a few people in his day. My main point is that did the Deadly Viper guys really have to edit their stuff because people are offended? We (as Americans) let actual racist groups (not worth mentioning) express their twisted views yet a few guys motivating people to ‘be kick-butt leaders’ get kicked in the gut?
    Things offend me and I do something about it, kids around the world need clean water, i give, people are homeless, i serve… people offend me, I love them and move on. he Deadly Viper guys aren’t hurting anyone, if you want to raise cultural awareness (and Prof Rah) start a movement celebrating our heritage and set the record straight.


  • gar
    November 15, 2009

    As a teacher, I work everyday to teach kids how to deal with these kinds of issues. I also work with the kids who taunt and bully to understand why it’s not right and to get them empathize with the kids that they victimize.
    But”I believe Jesus offended a few people in his day. My main point is that did the Deadly Viper guys really have to edit their stuff because people are offended? We (as Americans) let actual racist groups (not worth mentioning) express their twisted views yet a few guys motivating people to ‘be kick-butt leaders’ get kicked in the gut?”
    Hey Peter, thanks for responding. Yes, Jesus did offend some people back in the day, but he wasn’t offending people to sell books. The people he offended were the rich and powerful, the hypocritical, and the political oppressors of the Jews. Is it really accurate to compare Jesus to Deadly Viper Book?
    Like others have said before, the writers of the Deadly Viper book may have had the best intentions in promoting Christian leadership and integrity, but they chose a lousy way to market their material. If their interest is truly aiding the disciples of Christ, why not just publish a book on Christian leadership and integrity WITHOUT the kitschy stereotypes? Where’s the integrity in exploiting a shallow interpretation of Chinese and Japanese culture to sell Christian books? If Christians don’t hold each other accountable for these failings, who does?
    The people of God should have Godly standards for the way we act and behave. The way that this book was presented does not show the unity of the Body of Christ or the redemptive power of salvation.
    To add a personal note, I work in public education, so I guess I try to do my part every day to, in your words, “set the record straight”. I love technology, but yes, I’m more than just some guy leaving comments on a blog.
    I am one of the few male and non-white teachers in a school where 3/4ths of families qualify for free lunch (meaning their income is at or below the poverty line). Many cultures and ethnic groups are represented amongst the students, with the population almost evenly divided among every typical racial category. But even a diverse environment like that, many students are bullied or harassed because of their race (Russian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Somali, etc.) The racial slurs and taunts I’ve heard uttered by the mouths of kids makes me wonder about the society we live in and the pervasive, distorted images it sometimes promotes. Who teaches little kids that it’s OK to say “ching chong ching chong” to the Asian kids or make jokes about Black kids’ hair?
    Like it or not, DV is both a product and a contributor to a status quo mocks and demeans people of Asian descent. And I can’t accept that as a Christian, or as an Asian American.


  • michael
    November 15, 2009

    don’t try and figure out what race i am before reading this comment…
    but what is so offensive about using asian symbols and ninja metaphors?
    just because something is cultural doesn’t mean it’s racist.


  • Erik
    November 15, 2009

    Gar,
    I have the same question Michael has. I want to understand, but I’m having a hard time seeing the offense regarding the use of the Asian symbols and ninja stuff. To me, “it’s just offensive” isn’t helpful because I don’t know how to avoid it in the future. I don’t want to reference something incorrectly and hurt a group of people. I want to understand the “why” behind it. And to be honest, I just haven’t seen it articulated clearly (maybe I missed it?).
    Is there any way to use these concepts/images in an appropriate way? Or is this completely off limits all the time, no matter what, for everyone? Would it be different if someone who was Asian wrote the book? Is it offensive because someone outside the culture used it?
    You don’t come out and say this directly, but I get the impression that you feel as though there is a relationship (either direct or indirect) between the “ching chong” comments you mention and the design in this book. Is that true? and if so, how do see these correlating?
    Thanks,
    Erik
    (btw, I’m not really referring to the video here. I never saw it, but from what I gather from comments, I can understand why that could be a different issue).


  • Peter Nguyen
    November 15, 2009

    Gar,
    To be clear, Mike & Jud didn’t offending people to sell books.
    From my ‘limited’ understanding of what Mike & Jud are doing – they are out to change the world. Mike has started things like xxxchurch, junkycarclub, ethur, the porn talk as well as deadly viper. All without huge ‘personal gains’ of selling books. In fact, they self published the first printing of Deadly Vipers and worked out a deal to give 11,000 book away at Catalyst a few years ago (there were quite a few Asians there, yet no complaints… interesting…)
    It’s not about selling books to them, it’s about getting a kick-butt message out. Leaders should be strong and not wimps. A message that is conveyed really well with their use of Kung Fu kick butt graphics and illustrations.
    I would go so far as to say that you’ve never met mike foster. If you have, you wouldn’t be saying it’s about selling books to that guy. Both those guys have great day jobs and this is about making a difference.


  • Sean Salter
    November 16, 2009

    You know what I would do if I was Asian-American and some one said to me “ching chong ching chong”?
    I’d get over it.


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 17, 2009

    Randy, it seems Rah is getting comments from non-Christians expressing their frustration over the book, though he’s had to delete some of those comments for profanity. There is a concern over how this stereotyped marketing would damage the Christian witness.
    Michael, Rah lays out what he found offensive in this post. The concern isn’t that they’re simply using cultural themes, it’s that they’re mocking those themes (he gives several examples, and it’s probably less apparent in the actual book and more so in the marketing of the book).


  • Peter Nguyen
    November 18, 2009

    Kevin – really, you should get your facts straight, Rah hasn’t… in his post, there are a bunch of erroneous complaints that he’s addressed on other posts. The nonsensical use of kanji characters (the characters are for ninja, samurai and assassin. The ‘voice over of a white person doing a faux Asian’ accent – which is authentic Chopsocky style. The only ‘offensive’ is use of an image of ninja and identifying them as… wait for it… assassins.
    again, back to your poor choice of a title, this isn’t racism, it’s cultural hyper-sensitivity.


  • Sean Salter
    November 18, 2009

    Wait Ninjas aren’t assassins? Ninja are honorable? Oh noes. . . did the Samurai lie? Are Samurai honorable? Were they exactly like the portrayal in Last Samurai with Tom Cruise? Or more like the Book Shogun? I so confused!


  • haemin
    November 19, 2009

    maybe i’m saying what someone has already said, but the reason the marketing for this book (mildly) offends me is that it just cheapens east asian cultures. maybe it’s not a horrendous offense, maybe it was 100% innocent, maybe it’s even cool from a design standpoint, but it makes chinese and japanese cultures seem really… cheap.
    and on one hand, i do agree with the people saying we should all just get over it and turn the other cheek. i mean, racism will always exist on earth, so maybe it’s better to be as gracious about it as possible. but on the other hand, i think one of the reasons asian-americans get so upset over these things is because it seems like many people don’t believe that making fun of Asians is racist, just funny.
    a person calls as black man a nigger and he KNOWS he just said something really offensive. the same person might call an asian man a “chink” and just think it’s funny – like “what’s the big deal?” and that’s the part that bothers me.
    i’m still not 100% sure if it was the right decision for Deadly Viper to shut down their site entirely, but i respect both sides for meeting each other on common ground in the end.
    here’s to more love, more grace, and more of heaven on earth til Jesus returns.


  • gar
    November 19, 2009

    hey Peter (&others)
    I apologize for the slow response… I’ve been busy.
    I think at issue is the conflicting view that the Deadly Viper controversy is merely a “personal insult” versus a part of a systemic, repeated pattern of indifference and exploitation of Asian culture.
    Let me quote Tim Wise (who is white):
    “To white folks, racism is seen mostly as individual and interpersonal–as with the uttering of a prejudicial remark or bigoted slur. For blacks, it is that too, but typically more: namely, it is the pattern and practice of policies and social institutions, which have the effect of perpetuating deeply embedded structural inequalities between people on the basis of race. To blacks, and most folks of color, racism is systemic. To whites, it is purely personal.”
    You may not see nothing wrong with ninja marketing, kitchy kung-fu imagery because your lens is focused on the issue as something that’s just personal – “Just get over it! It’s not that bad! Ninjas are fun!” It’s much bigger than that.
    Try re-reading Prof. Rah’s letter of concerns with the perspective the concern is from a systemic, “big picture” level:
    http://profrah.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/an-open-letter-to-zondervan-and-to-mike-foster-and-jud-wilhite-authors-of-deadly-viper-character-assassin-a-kung-fu-survival-guide-for-life-and-leadership/


  • michael Lukaszewski
    November 20, 2009

    i think zondervan caved.


  • Randy
    November 21, 2009

    Kevin, They added the Christian witness argument after the fact. Professor Rah’s initial post articulates his initial reaction:
    ***********
    “Why can’t Christian publishers get a clue?
    Recently, I received my copy of the Zondervan catalog. In one of the circulars, there was an advertisement for a book called Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.
    So the “Kung Fu” part got my attention, as well as the dragon on the cover and the Chinese characters. I guess I was hoping against hope that it was the story of an Asian-American Christian rather than another example of Asian culture being pimped out to sell products.”
    *********
    Hence my original thoughts.


  • Michael Buckingham
    November 21, 2009

    I think Mike Fastor and the gang really showed the way to handle this. They handled it just in a way that was true to the content of the book (integrity).
    Zondervan…not as impressed. They handled it like a typical corporate body. Which, I think could have been avoided if they had decided to engage in the conversation.
    My heart hurts for Mike and Jud, it really was sad when I pulled up the site today and saw the notice. Please remember them in your prayers.


  • Ruben
    December 29, 2009

    Seems to me that this is pretty simple. Lots of folks got offended and complained. Enough did so and Z did the right thing.
    But you know what? This happens with every gender, race, nationality, language group, age group, etc. Personally it seems a bit blown out of proportion, but all I’ve seen is this blog and the cover of the books. It is to our glory to overlook an offense, but we should also be careful not to offend.
    The problem I have is with this continued trend to police everything in this world from any hint of offense is that it creates a cultural of whining. My kids can be mean to each other, and we rebuke our kids when they do so. SOmetimes though, I have to pull one of them aside and tell them to get some thicker skin. Yes, your sister is being a brat, but you need to learn not to take it personally, etc.
    Having been involved in Jewish ministry for many years, I find various degrees of anti-semitism in the church, but more often it is Judeophobia and ignorance of Jewish culture that is most disturbing.
    When I saw the inaccurate kanji, it just reminded me of the myriad examples of inaccurate Hebrew in Christian marketing, passion plays, church flags and banners, etc. that I’ve seen. My typical response is to roll my eyes and say “stupid Christians. What a bad testimony.”
    Anytime we put something in a foreign language, we must ALWAYS verify that it is correct. Dear Publishers: You proof the English. Why wouldn’t you proof the foreign language? I could give lots of examples of messed up foreign text in both Christian and mainstream media.
    My favorite botch is the beautiful rennaisance painting of CHrist on the cross with the sign over his head written in Hebrew, King of the Leftovers. OK people, hire a consultant already!
    What’s the answer in all this? 1. Try not to offend! If you’re a large corporation like Zondervan, do some research, present it to a test audience or something.
    2. Try not be offended! We all need to get over the fact that our particular demographic group wont always be portrayed accurately all the time.
    Whatever label we wear, we always have baggage that comes with it.


  • Katelin
    March 8, 2011

    Wow, a lot of interesting dialogue going on here. Thanks for the post, Klint. I stumbled across this post on a Google search. You and/or your readers my be interested in By Their Strange Fruit, a blog about racism and Christianity:
    http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/

    This post, on the importance of the issue, is a good place to begin: http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-it-is-important.html

    or on the recent 2011 Super Bowl ad controversies:
    http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/2011/02/pepsi-max-superbowl-commercial-love.html



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