Asian American Christians confront racism and evangelical 'purity culture' after Atlanta spa shootings

Jaweed Kaleem and Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

"There are so many questions around these deaths," she said. "There's no doubt racism is happening in the U.S."

"There's also no doubt that the fetishization of Asian women is normalized, even in church. And there is no doubt that there is a history in evangelical Christianity of promoting ideas of female purity," said Reyes, 34, who is Indian American. She grew up in a suburban Minnesota congregation where reading the book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" was "sort of required as a guidebook to female purity." (Joshua Harris, the former megachurch pastor who released the title in 1997, eventually apologized for the book and said he is no longer Christian.)

Americans are still seeking answers — and justice — in the deaths of those who died in Atlanta. The #StopAAPIHate marches continue, as do conversations on where church fits into it all.

The Rev. Kevin Park said the last weeks have been a reminder of his view that churches have long failed at teaching about sex or race. He's also seen the need for white communities to learn more about Asian American church traditions.

"Churches, in general, do not have Biblical healthy ways of talking about sex and sexuality," said Park, an associate pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. "It's a historic reality. Given the conservative nature of the Korean church, this also reflects on us too.


"The classic ways we teach about sex is to be very binary: 'This is evil.' 'This is not good,'" he said. "Once you shut down a behavior as a sin or evil, that means we can't go there, we can't talk about it."

That, Park said, is where the problems begin.


(Kaleem reported from Los Angeles and Jarvie from Atlanta.)

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