Philosophical Explorations and Documentary Strategies for Global Missions
Professor Gary Mar
Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life,
which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month:
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:2 (KJV)
Figure 1. Sadao Watanabe's "The Angel Ascends from the Rising Sun"
In loving memory of RKI, LAM, DJM, and JWM.
— GRM, June 2007
The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) noted that there was a Tree of Life at the center of the first paradise (Genesis 2:9) and that there will be a Tree of Life at the center of the new paradise (Revelation 22:2). What is this Tree of Life? According to Spurgeon:
I say that Jesus Christ, my Lord and Master, is in Heaven and is there comparable to a tree planted in the very center of the City! Under his broad shadow, the redeemed delight to sit, and His leaves, as they are wafted down to earth, bring health with them! If we would be healed, we must gather those leaves and apply them to the wounds and bruises of our souls and we shall surely recover….”The leaves of the trees were for the healing of nations.”
According to Spurgeon, Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. What then are the “leaves of the tree … for the healing of nations”? Spurgeon extends his interpretation as follows:
“The leaves of the tree”—that is to say, even little portions and single pages about Christ will do good… Do not despise a mere leaf, or as you say, ‘a leaflet,’ for if Christ is in it, it is a leaf of the Tree and he will bless it…. Scatter the leaves! Let them fall as thickly as leaves descend in the last days of autumn. Scatter them everywhere, since they are for the healing of the nations!
This article is about
one such leaflet—an original documentary project “Like a Family
At that time I said that it would be very educational and personally meaningful to create a documentary about the process she went through to recover our family history. Probably assuming that I wouldn’t see her again for another 20 years, Theresa agreed it was a good idea. Less than two months later, a series of events conspired to turn this wishful thinking into a reality. With a team of talented friends and colleagues and with some funding from Allstate and OCA, we were able to create “Like a Family Reunion” and to distribute it to school teachers at a Conference on Prejudice Reduction later that year. Making this documentary is part of a larger project to donate an interactive computer kiosk to the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation in 2010 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Angel Island Immigration Station (1910-1940)
This article explores how this documentary “leaflet” can be part of the larger project of global missions in which the leaves of the Tree of Life are for the “healing of nations.” In this article I will briefly explore the following questions:
· What is the theological trunk of the Tree—that is, what is the scriptural basis for a type of spiritual warfare known as “identificational repentance”?
are the historical roots of the Tree—that
is, what is a theology of history that allows us to understand the relation of
divine purposes and human history? In
particular, we will explore how the unduly neglected history of the Angel
Island Immigration Station at the crossroad of American immigration history and
the history of Christian missions in
· What are some principles for pruning the leaves of the Tree—that is, what are some strategies for making effective digital tracts or “leaflets” that can be drawn from the experience of Asian American documentary filmmakers?
The story of the making of “Like a Family Reunion” is a tale about the recovery of family history hidden in shame and silence, giving voice to ancestors by honoring the legacy of their struggles, and experiencing the healing that comes through placing one’s family story in the public history of a nation. As historian Ronald Takaki has persuasively urged in his book A Different Mirror, America, as a nation, needs to cultivate a “larger memory” of who we have been and that “much of our society’s future will be influenced by which ‘mirror’ we choose to see ourselves.”
passage relating to the Great Commission is Matthew 28:19, where believers are directed
to “… go and make disciples of all
nations [panta ta ethne].....” The Greek word translated ‘nations’ is ethne (from which we get the word
‘ethnic’). So the word ‘nations’ does
not necessarily refer to ‘nations’ in the geopolitical sense but to people groups—races,
sexes, ethnic communities, economic classes, religions, church denominations,
families, or generations, to name a few examples. Although Matthew 28 is the most frequently
cited reference, the Great Commission is also echoed in each of the other
gospels (Mark , Luke 24:47, John ). Indeed, the Great Commission is a theme that
winds, like a
In the call of Abraham (Genesis 12), known as the “Great Commission of the Old Testament”, God promises that through Abraham’s seed “all the peoples of the earth will be blessed” (see also, Genesis 26:4, 28:14). The Great Commission is reflected in the “all peoples” perspective. This perspective recurs in many passages of the Old Testament, e.g., Psalm 2:8 proclaims “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Beginning in Genesis and winding through all of scripture, the theme of the Great Commission ultimately issues forth in the eschatological vision St. John in Revelation 21:24-22:2:
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
This healing of nations is, therefore, central to fulfilling the Great Commission. “The Bible does not speak about ‘humanity’ but about ‘all the families of the earth’ or ‘all the nations’, notes theologian Lesslie Newbingen: “It follows that this mutual relatedness, this dependence of one on another, is not merely part of the journey toward the goal of salvation, but is intrinsic to the goal itself.”
Figure 2. Bishop Tutu on Restorative Justice
The greatest sins and injustices in history have not been committed by individuals acting independently, but by groups of individuals committing collective atrocities and then rationalizing their actions in the name of patriotism, racial superiority, political ideologies, and even religious zeal. Sins of nations (or “people groups”) committed by one group against another, must be confessed and forgiven corporately. Unless those who inherit the responsibility for those sins are willing to identify with their people groups, to confess their corporate sins, to seek forgiveness, and to walk in obedience to whatever reparations are required to restore relationships, generations will be locked into the sins of their fathers. In Exodus 20:5b we read: ”I the Lord your God am a jealous God punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”. If the deep wounds of history remain buried and unresolved, there can be no deep and lasting peace. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah ( and reiterated in ): “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ’Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
The title of Bishop
Desmond Tutu’s essay on the work of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission in
True forgiveness deals with the past, all of the past, to make the future possible. We cannot go on nursing grudges even vicariously for those who cannot speak for themselves any longer. We have to accept that what we do, we do for generations past, present, and yet to come. That is what makes a community a community or a people a people—for better or worse. 
Some might object that such lavish and radical forgiveness is fundamentally unjust. Again Bishop Tutu:
One might go on to say that perhaps justice fails to be done only if the concept we entertain for justice is retributive justice, whose chief goal is to be punitive so that the wronged party is really the state, something impersonal, which has little consideration for the real victims and almost none for the perpetrator. We contend there is another kind of justice, restorative justice, which was characteristic of traditional African jurisprudence. Here the central concern is not retribution or punishment. In the spirit of ubuntui, the central concern is the healing of breaches, the redressing of imbalances, the restoration of broken relationships, a seeking to rehabilitate both the victim and perpetrator, who should be given the opportunity to be reintegrated into the community he has injured by his offense.
Forgiveness, argues Tutu, is not contrary to justice, but part of a different conception of justice: restorative justice is a conception of justice that includes and extends the more common notion of retributive justice.
II-C. Identificational Repentance.
The healing of nations comes about by prayers of identificational repentance. Although this term is due to John Dawson, theological models can be found in Daniel 9:4-19, Nehemiah 1:1-10, and Ezra 9:5-13 and the scriptural basis can be found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turns from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Identificational repentance typically involves confession, repentance, reconciliation and restitution.
Legal models of pursuing racial justice and reparations have been successfully argued before the Supreme Court and articulated by University of Hawai’i law professor Eric Yamamoto in several books including Interracial Justice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post Civil-Rights America (NYU Press: New York, 2000) and Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment (Aspen Press: 1999) co-authored with Chon, Izumi, Kang and Wu, which received national attention in light of its relevance to the post-September 11th tension between national security and civil liberties in America.
second inaugural address is a striking historical example of identificational
repentance. At the time Lincoln delivered
the speech, the London Spectator commented, “We cannot read it without a
renewed conviction that it is the noblest political document known to history,
and should have for the nation and the statesmen he left behind him something
of a sacred and almost prophetic character." Historians have traced
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
history is full of examples—from
For Christians to participate in the Great Commission, then, is to engage in the “healing of nations” and to engage in the healing of nations requires identificational repentance. For identificational repentance to be rooted in the truth, Christians must struggle to recover the sometimes shameful hidden history of nations or “people groups” inflicting wounds on each other. Historical research alone, however, only goes so far in revealing the horrendous evils of hatred and the wounding of nations. And there is no future without forgiveness—the mystery and power of the cross of Christ to reveal the historical wounds in our national souls, to cleanse our souls from these buried sins in the light of truth, and to give us the courage to walk in obedience towards a future of restored relationships. In the next section, we articulate a Christian philosophy of history.
History, according to a Christian perspective, is not merely a random series of happenings, but a meaningful sequence of events in the grandest of all narratives—a narrative that lead to the end of history in the final fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity. Moreover, the acts of God in history are not limited to the Old and New Testaments, but continue today in the unfolding of current events. To clarify how this might be conceived, I borrow two contrasting pictures from Robert Farrar Capon’s Parables of Judgment. The first picture sees God as transcendent upon, but connected to, human history through a few critical biblically-recorded divine interventions. Robert Capons explains:
Since God, the Alpha and Omega, the A and the W, is up there above history, I shall draw a series of descending lines to represent his several comings down—his interventions in history, his intersections in history…. The picture we have drawn looks like nothing so much as a divine sewing machine, with the needle coming down at various points… and tacking God to history. It is salvation as the divine basting stitch. 
Figure 3. The “Divine Tailor” or Interventionist Model of God’s Relation to Human History
The above divine tailor or interventionist view of history with its occasional biblically-recorded accounts of divine actions connecting heaven and earth can be contrasted with what might be called the divine iceberg or sacramental view of God’s relationship to human history. Capon contrasts and continues:
Figure 4. The “Divine Iceberg” or Sacramental Model of God’s Relation to Human History.
But now, let me posit God not as a divine tailor in heaven sending down an interventionist needle from time to time but as a divine iceberg present under all of time. On that analogy, one-tenth of his presence to history will be visible above the surface of its waters and nine-tenths will be invisible below the surface, but his presence out of sight will be as much a part of history as his presence in broad daylight…. The divine acts in history are not just occasional interventions of a reality that wasn’t present before, they are precisely acted parables—sacraments, if you will, real presences--of a reality that was there all along.
If God’s interaction
with human history is more like an iceberg than a sewing machine, then it is
reasonable to suppose that the particular cross section of the iceberg
represented by the narrative of scripture might intersect with the cross-sectional
histories of many nations. Martin Luther
King Jr., for example, could direct and inspire the Civil Rights struggle in
If a Christian philosophy of history connects divine action in history (not like a sewing machine, but like an iceberg), then one can expect that even at times of greatest darkness (in the 10% of highly visible events of world history), there can be, at the very same time, a divine rescue operation at work (in the 90% of the iceberg of history below the level of visibility). We can see this at work in scripture by revisiting the Old Testament Great Commission. The Abrahamic promise was that his seed would be a blessing to all nations. In Galatians 3:16, Paul explains: “The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” The seed, therefore, is Christ (vide Acts ), and by extension all who believe in Christ “are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians ).
That seed, however, was already promised in the first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15: ‘I will put enmity between you [the Serpent] and the woman between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’ This prophecy states that the seed of the woman—Jesus Christ--will crush the serpent’s head—Satan--at the cost of the serpent striking his heel—the crucifixion of Christ. And adding to Spurgeon’s interpretation, Christ is also the Seed of the Tree of Life, a sacred metaphor for the reconciling work of the Great Commission.
If the above philosophy of history is correct, then a Christian view of history is indeed a “grand narrative.” Theologians Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh admit, “Scripture discloses a worldview in storied form. It is difficult to see how one could take the biblical presentation of creation, fall and redemption as merely a local tale. Indeed, it is difficult to find a grander narrative, a more comprehensive story anywhere. Christianity is undeniably rooted in a grand narrative that claims to tell the true story of the world from creation to eschaton, from origin to consummation.”
According to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s famous remark, Postmodernism can be “defined… as incredulity toward metanarratives”—as skepticism towards all “grand narratives”. The Grand Narrative of the Enlightenment, for example, is a story of the triumph of science and rationality over superstition and religion. However, a closer examination of the Enlightenment reveals the collaboration of philosophy with the rationalization of racism and colonialism. For example, John Locke justified the Royal Africa Company’s slave expeditions as “just wars,” and recently Immanuel Kant’s racist remarks have been much discussed. Contemporary scholars of race theory¾such as Paul Gilroy, Theo Goldberg, Charles Mills¾have convincingly argued that such examples are revealing, not because they contradict Enlightenment ideals, but because they flow naturally from its commitments to categorizing, classifying, and controlling. Generalizing from such examples, Postmodernism preaches skepticism towards all grand narratives. No narrative is able to encompass the experiences and perspectives of all peoples and hence all Grand Narratives inevitably serves to legitimate and universalize the perspective of the ruling elite and to marginalize the experiences of others.
How can a Christian philosophy of history respond to the critique of Postmodernism? A Christian philosophy of history can, and should, take advantage of the incisive Postmodern critiques of the Grand Narratives of the Enlightenment, Marxism, and Darwinism. The folly and deceptiveness of human philosophy compared to the wisdom of God (Colossians 2:8, 1 Corinthians ) is a well-known theme from scripture. However, these critiques—and even critiques of Christian scripture twisting—can be acknowledged without embracing Postmodernism’s grand claim of universal skepticism and relativism. Alistair Macintyre in After Virtue (1981, second edition, 1984) insightfully points out that Postmodernism is, in fact, “the inverted mirror image” of the Enlightenment. According to Macintyre’s diagnosis, the unwarranted power of relativism in contemporary intellectual life derives largely from the simplistic “inversion of certain central Enlightenment positions.” Isn’t Postmodernism itself caught in an inconsistency in preaching “universal relativism” and in assuming the privileged perspective of an “all-knowing skepticism”? If Postmodernism is itself a kind of Grand Narrative that is open radical doubt, then this leaves open the intriguing possibility of a true Grand Narrative or a “true myth”.
J. R. R. Tolkien in his Andrew Lang lecture “On
Fairy-Stories” given at the
It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any especially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical, or allegorical significance that it has possessed….
[I]n God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them…. The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that … he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation.
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis recounts how a conversation with Tolkien removed the last intellectual obstacle to his conversion from atheism to Christian theism—the abundance of pre-Christian pagan myths with the idea of the dying and reviving god.
...now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all; again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself... I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in the Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meaning beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose what it meant. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call real things. Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a description of God (that no finite mind can take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God chooses to (or can) appear to our faculties. The doctrines we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Does this amount to a belief in Christianity? At any rate I am now certain a) That this Christian story is to be approached, in a sense, as I approach the other myths. b) That is the most important and full of meaning. I am also nearly certain that it really happened.
If Tolkien and Lewis are right, then skepticism towards Grand Narratives deconstructed by human minds does not preclude the possibility of seeking to understand a “true narrative” disclosed by God. Lewis is the first to admit that the theological concepts we draw from the narrative of scripture are less than completely true because they are limited by our finite minds. But this is a concession, not to relativism, but to epistemological humility. However, if God has chosen to express His story in a narrative form, then, Lewis supposes, God has the power and creativity to express Himself through real history. Human beings write their myths in words and images but God writes His Story in history. Human beings do not escape their finite limits by grasping transcendental knowledge of a world beyond, but the Author of history could choose to reveal himself by writing himself as a character in human history. The experience of the Resurrection that burned in the hearts of the disciples, and in the lives of believers throughout the millennia, is precisely the “shock of recognition” of the Living God. Lewis described this shock in one of his most memorable passages from his book Miracles:
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive’. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back--I would have done so myself if I could--and proceed no further with Christianity. An ‘impersonal God’—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads--better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap--best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband--that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
If, as we have argued, history from a Christian perspective is like an iceberg, then there is more to history than meets the eye. Below the surface, even local histories can be deeply connected to God’s global plan of salvation for all peoples. As Paul preached in his famous sermon to the philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts -28):
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ .
This essay has been an extended meditation on the scripture “And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of nations”. In section I, we set forth the sacred metaphor of the Tree of Life. In section II, we argued that the theological trunk for the “healing of nations” is the prayer of identificational repentance. Nations or “people groups” are natural and necessary units of reconciliation because of the history of the world’s sins have been nation against nation, or people group against people group. In this third section, we set forth a philosophy of history that attempts to give a model of God’s interaction in the human history of all peoples and to answer the postmodern skepticism towards all Grand Narratives.
In the next section we
will illustrate how the local is a connected to the global—how God’s healing work
in the recovery of a family history can be a point of connection to God’s
larger plans for global missions. We
shall do this by revealing the remarkable history behind some of the surprising
and historically significant records to be found at National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA) in
wealth of information in the
this practice of “paper sons and daughters” was illegal, one must not conflate illegality
with immorality. Ling-chi Wang, emeritus
professor of ethnic studies at U. C. Berkeley, has forcefully pointed out that
of all the immigrant groups, the Chinese have been subjected to the longest
history of legalized discrimination in
Although the Chinese Exclusion Act was
nominally repealed by the 1942 Magnuson Act, it only raised the national quota of 100 Chinese immigrants from anywhere in the world to a
yearly quota of 105. This quota compares
to the yearly quota of 65,721 from
On the walls of the barracks, the Chinese carved poems expressing their loneliness, disillusionment, and protest. The Chinese poems carved on the walls of Angel Island are especially poignant and reveal the hopes and hardships of the Chinese immigrants stranded in a “land without ghosts”—a place where people are so enchanted with the lure of wealth that they have forgotten where they came from and who their ancestors were.
There are tens of thousands of poems
They are all cries of suffering and sadness
The day I am rid of this prison and become successful
I must remember that this chapter once existed
I must be frugal in my daily needs
Needless extravagance usually leads to ruin
All my compatriots should remember China
have made some small gains,
You should return home early.
Felicia Lowe, cultural
activist and the director and producer of “Carved in Silence,” the classic
documentary on the Chinese detainees on
In 1999 the National Trust for Historic
listed the Angel Island Immigration Station as one of America’s 11 most
endangered historic sites: “A unique and
moving record of the hardships they endured can be found in the 30 years’ worth
of Chinese poetry—as well as other inscriptions in Japanese, Russian, Arabic,
East Indian, German and English—carved in the walls of the former Detention
Barracks…. Unless stabilization is undertaken soon, many of
The Chinese Exclusion
Act and the
mentioned above, it was on Mother’s Day 2006 when the project of creating a
documentary about researching one’s family history using the
Figure 8. Theresa Ihara at the
Figure 9. Author in
Having worked on a
project for the Angel Island Immigration Station foundation since 2000, I
called up the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (www.aiisf.org) to update them. While on the phone I found out from educational
coordinator Erika Gee that the AIISF was hosting, for the first time,
After talking to me on the phone for over an hour, Loni called back and said she would cancel her plans for the day and teach me how to shoot. Loni would personally show me how to get the kind of footage needed for a documentary that gave voice to those who are invisible in that history. With Loni’s patient and persistent coaxing, Theresa had the encouragement, and freedom, to express why she felt compelled to seek out her family roots. We brought her notebooks of research—with the family trees she had painstakingly created on her computer, copies of original documents, and the file numbers of the family documents that needed to be pulled. The raw materials of her historical research were at hand so Theresa could point to what she had done and how she felt about it. So many circumstances came together serendipitously to make “Like a Family Reunion” possible.
Since this was the
very first time this type of workshop had been arranged between the AIISF and
I learned about the craft of documentary filmmaking from observing how Loni Ding patiently elicited from Theresa personal accounts of what she was doing, why she was doing it and, more importantly, how she felt about what she was doing. By giving Theresa the gift of her active listening presence, Loni created a safe space where Theresa’s feelings could be honestly expressed. When I reviewed the two 45 minute tapes of footage that Loni had shot, I realized that it was these moments of epiphany that give a documentary its ring of truth.
took me the next three months to produce the 9 minute and 48 second
documentary. The documentary was a
special feature on a DVD entitled
“Cinderella and the $10,000 Haircut”, which was created with the help of
friends—video editor, DVD designer, and Master of Fine Arts graduate student Ha
Na Lee, Christian musician and composer Chihwei Julie Li, and veteran TV
director Dini Diskin-Zimmerman. A grant
from Allstate and the Organization of Chinese Americans allowed of the DVD to
be distributed at the 14th annual Conference on Prejudice Reduction on
As I was editing “Like a Family
Almost all my work has
been for television, designed for reaching a mass audience. In doing that, I've made certain assumptions
about the audience. I assume, for
example, that they carry somewhere in their minds three common
misrepresentations of Asian Americans: the common stereotypes of Asians as
perpetual foreigner, as resigned, silent victims, and more recently, as
successful ‘model minorities’ who ‘contribute to
For the problem of absence, the main work is to create presence. My preferred approach is to displace stereotypes with individual faces, voices, and personal histories that we come to know and care about. They would not be the Americans whose differences are dissolved into the 'melting pot.’ But people speaking with the distinctive accents and rhythms of their real individual and family histories; neither looking nor sounding like the ‘typical American.’ 
Following Loni’s advice, I tried to imbue
“Like a Family
The voice of history
that emerges from “Like a Family
“Like a Family
According to Tolkien, such moments of true joy have “the very taste of primary truth”. The joyous turn around—the “eucatastrophe” in which good emerges out of the darkness of suffering—is true because it reflects the deeper truth of the Son of God entering into the prison of this world, to be interrogated by the Enemy, to die and then to be resurrected. Whereas we human beings tell our stories in words and images, God has told, and is telling, His story in history. As Tolkien puts it, “Legend and History have met and fused.” We should therefore be encouraged to tell our stories even if we think such stories have been told before. Our stories are unique and, if successful, pay homage to the one True Myth. Tolkien writes, “Spring is…not really less beautiful because we have seen or heard of other like events…. Each leaf … is a unique embodiment of the pattern, and for some this very year may be the embodiment, the first ever seen and recognized, though oaks have put forth leaves for countless generations….”
From 1910-1940, the
Angel Island Immigration Station processed about 175,000 Asian Immigrants, and
so it is uniquely situated at the intersection of the histories of the United
States and China, as well as other Asian nations. A brief history of the history of the
Angel Island Immigration Station is closed because the Administration building burns to the ground.
Congress repeals the Chinese Exclusion Act since
Hart-Cellar Act finally puts Asian immigration on an equal footing with other nations.
California State Park Ranger Alexander Weiss rediscovers the Chinese poems carved on the barrack walls and contacts San Francisco State Professor George Araki who, together with photographer Mak Takahashi, spark the interest of the Asian American community.
The Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory
Committee (AIISHAC) headed by Paul Chow succeeds in lobbying the
The barracks are opened to the public and the Angel Island
Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) is formed to partner with the
The Angel Island Immigration Station was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
The Angel Island Immigration Station is closed for renovations and restoration as a historic site.
Centenary celebration of the Angel Island Immigration Station.
result of the Angel Island Immigration Station being such an important
historical point of intersection, the archives at
It is clear from this small sampling that the
histories of the
The healing of Sino-American relations in today’s world is of increasing urgency in light of three factors: (1) China’s ascendancy as a rival global economic power to the U.S., (2) the conflicted history of U. S. indirect confrontations with China in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and now through the “war on terrorism”, and (3) the exponential growth of an indigenous Christianity in China after a tarnished history of Christianity’s association with Western imperialism.
In his remarkably revealing book Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, former Time Magazine bureau chief David Aikman has boldly speculated:
change the nature of
The Angel Island
Immigration Station is at the intersection of two histories—American labor and
immigration history and the history of
As Loni Ding noted
above, recovering Chinese American history is confronted with the problem of
absence. Indeed, Chinese enter into
American history by images of absence, even though their presence through their
technological and agricultural achievements was absolutely crucial to
When I began writing
this essay, I was in
Figure 11. Chinese Contributions to
Most history books now
include the historic photo of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad
at Promontory Point on
Figure 13. Chinese Labor &
Technology Created Prosperity for the
As Ling-chi Wang points out, in the second half of the 19th century and also the 20th century, Chinese Americans completed technological achievements—the Transcontinental Railroad and the Information Highway, respectively, that created great wealth for America and in both instances, they were repaid with racism—racial exclusion in the 19th century and racial profiling in the 20th.
How did Chinese come to
Figure 14. Chinese Struggles
for Justice Made
Stripped of legal
protections, the Chinese were victims of hate crimes such as the Rock Springs
Massacre (1885) and the
The stereotype of the
Chinese as the “perpetual foreigner” was created in part to rationalize blatantly
racist and discriminatory laws. If, unlike
other immigrants, the Chinese were not settlers, but mere “sojourners” who came
To sum up, the Chinese provided the ingenuity and muscle for the mines, railroad lines, farmlands, fisheries and factories that built the Frontier West. According to Sandy Lydon, it was the Chinese who created the “Chinese Gold” that made possible the great wealth of Americans:
Perhaps the greatest contribution the Chinese made… was the gift of vision—the ability to see potential value in the most mundane creatures, crops, and discarded items. The Chinese worked the edges, taking fish heads, mustard, sea urchins, culled apples, and willow swamps and elevating them from the status of waste products to healthy peripheral industries. More often than not, bemused white observers usually followed suit and copied what the Chinese did… Through their particular form of alchemy (insight plus ingenuity plus energy), the Chinese turned what they found into gold….
the Chinese were stereotyped as sojourners who came to “
The third wave of
Christian missions in
illegal opium grown in
Asian Indian and Chinese coolies were
exported around the world, as replacements for enslaved Africans. One impetus for the Coolie Trade was the
ending of British participation in the slave trade due to the reforms of
Christian activist William Wilberforce.
The British parliament passed the slavery absolution act in 1833, a
month after the death of Wilberforce in 1833.
(The feature film “Amazing Grace” was released in 2007 to coincide with
the 200th anniversary of the date the Parliament of the
One of the darkest
chapters of Christian missions in
Meanwhile, during the early years of
the Taiping Rebellion, Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) arrived in
One of the most
significant anti-foreign events occurred at the beginning of the 20th
century was the Boxer Rebellion (1900) which resulted in 230 Western
missionaries killed—189 of whom were Protestants, and 79 of whom were from
CIM. The Boxer Rebellion was suppressed
by eight foreign powers. Hudson Taylor
rejected any compensation from
In 1911 Sun Yat-sen
and his followers finally overthrew the corrupt Qing dynasty and established
the Republic of China, for which he is still honored by both Communists and
Nationalists. Born in
In the May 4th Movement in
1919, another notable anti-Western outbreak, 300,000 students and intellectuals,
demanded the national independence and territorial integrity of
Figure 17. How Indigenous
Mao Zedong’s Communist Party was formed in 1921. At this time the United States was still enacting discriminatory anti-Chinese legislation; for example the Cable Act (1922) stipulated that any American female citizen marrying a Chinese male non-citizen would lose her citizenship and the Immigration Act of 1924, excluded all “aliens ineligible to citizenship” including the Chinese wives of citizens.
In 1924 Sun Yat-sen turned to the Soviets for aid and formed a United Front with the Chinese Communist Party. In the 1920s and 1930s, John Song (also known as John Sung Shang Chieh) played a key role as an evangelist in revival movements on the Chinese in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, Wang Mingdao founded the Christian Tabernacle in Peking, and Watchman Nee, who became a Christian in 1920 and who was profoundly influenced by the British missionary Miss M. E. Barber, wrote influential books on the extraordinary “normal” Christian life.
When Sun Yat-sen died
in 1925, Chiang Kai-shek, who was baptized a Christian in 1930, became
commander-in-chief. The Sino-Japanese
war broke out at Marco Polo bridge in 1937, the same year Wang Mingdao
dedicated his Christian Tabernacle in
allowed to return to
In 1971 the United Nations recognized
the People’s Republic of
Figure 19. The
According to David Aikman, the contemporary
House Church Movement in
Today the vision of taking
the Gospel “Back to
It was the Apostle
Paul who took the Gospel to
Mark Ma is vice-principal of the Northwest Bible Institutes in Fengxiang,
, under principal James Hudson Taylor III, grandson of Hudson Taylor. In prayer, Mark complained that the Shaanix Province Silk Road“is under the power of Islam and the Mohammedans are the hardest of all peoples to reach with the Gospel.” In prayer Mark Ma says he heard God reply: “Even you Chinese, yourself included, are hard enough, but you have been conquered by the Gospel…. I have kept for the a portion of the inheritance; otherwise, when I return, will you not be too poor?” Chinese Church
The history of
, therefore, reaches back into the intertwined histories of the Angel Island and United States —a history which is a rich source of prayers for identificational repentance. Perhaps our family history will be further connected with these histories as Theresa returns to China in July 2007 to teach at an English camp. China
Figure 20. Katharine Maurer,
the "Angel of
I returned to
I wanted to seek out more information about Katharine
Maurer, so I emailed Erika Gee at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Erika alerted me to the California State
Library, where there was a special archive with a file on Katharine Maurer. Since I was in
As I opened the box and the first folder in the file, a handwritten scripture passage in a plastic sleeve slipped out of the folder with a note on the back saying it had fallen out of its proper place in the files. There were other handwritten notes in the files containing quotations and poems, but this particular note contained a scripture verse:
Luke 21:14-15. “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”
In her quiet way, Katharine Maurer had been able to open the hearts of the officials at the immigration station with her years of ceaseless service and selfless acts of charity. As a result of her witness, when she talked officials listened. Leafing through the files, it was clear that Katharine Maurer viewed her ministry from the “Great Commission” perspective of the global missions:
“I’ve always spoken of this as a world parish. I like to think of my work in retrospect as candles being lighted all over the world, maybe dimly, but candles that were lighted by inspiration.”
Also in these files were testimonies by Chinese pastors. Some had gotten their start through working
with Katharine and then went on to pastor their own congregations in the
Oakland-San Francisco area. One pastor described
how children of former detainees would stop playing and call out greetings to Miss
Maurer as she walked through the streets of San Francisco Chinatown, a
testimony to the esteem in which she was held by the Chinese American community. As I spent the next few days reading the
file, I felt as if I had a glimpse of God’s working in history, a bright candle
light shining in the darkness of
This essay has been an
extended meditation on a sacred metaphor: the enduring Tree of Life which
occupies a central place in the paradise of
“Like a Family
As I was seeking an
ending for this article, I stopped by, as is my weekly routine, to bake bread
with Brother Clark Berge, Society of Saint Francis (SSF). Brother Clark is the Guardian of Little
Portion Friary in
· Communicating Through Words and Symbolic Actions: The peacemakers communicated not just through words but also through symbolic action. Presiding on Pentecost 2002 over the disarmament process, the Franciscan and Melanesian Brotherhood eventually collected the rifles that had been used for killing, including the guns held illegally by the police force, broke them and threw them into the sea so they would rust and never be used again.
On Good Friday
It was a very cold night and the Good Friday procession would stop along the way to observe the Stations of the Cross as one of the workers would wear a crown of thorns and carry a heavy eight foot wooden cross. As the Stations of the Cross were commemorated in both English and Spanish, I looked out into the gathering to see the warm glow of the candle-lit faces of immigrant workers. Perhaps this was a glimpse of the end of history when people from all tribes and nations will be worshipping together.
This essay began with Watanabe’s print
of “The Angel Ascends from the Rising
Sun” in which there is a picture of the Tree of Life. Watanabe’s work is to be found in collections
Professor Gary Mar
Department of Philosophy
Stony Brook University
Table of Figures.
Published in “Featured Article” July 2007 www.globalmissiology.org
 C. H. Spurgeon, “Healing Leaves”, a sermon delivered on May 9, 1875 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on behalf of the Religious Tract Society, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, sermon #1233, 1875 (vol. 21), p. 265.
 Spurgeon. op. cit., p. 295.
 The history of this larger project is recounted
in Gary Mar, “New Media and New Mirrors in Asian American Studies: Strategies
for Transforming Knowledge into a Pedagogy of Empowerment” in Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American
Philosophers and Philosophies, David H. Kim (ed),
 Lesslie Newbingin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Erdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1989), p. 82.
 Bishop Desmond Tutu, There is Really No Future Without Forgiveness, (New York: Doubleday, 1999), p. 279.
 Tutu, op. cit., “What About Justice?”, pp. 54-55.
 John Dawson is founder
and director of the International Reconciliation Coalition in
 Professor Eric Yamamoto served as a
co-counsel in the successful Coram obis
reopening of the infamous World War II internment case of Korematsu vs. the U. S. (1944).
The reversal of the Korematsu case
in 1983 set the stage for the reparations in the historic 1988 Civil Liberties
Act. Yamamoto has argued other cases
before the Supreme Court including the successful Hawai’ian Homelands breach of
trust class action resulting in a state reparations settlement and an amicus
brief in the Rasul v. Bush post-9/11
 Abraham Lincoln on-line, http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/inaug2.htm.
 Stephen L. Carter, “
 John Dawson, Healing American’s Wounds, p. 71.
 While it is true that
 Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Judgment (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Press, 1989), pp. 90-91.
 Capon, op. cit., pp. 92-93.
 There is,
of course, the danger of “over-spiritualizing” one’s autobiography—twisting
scripture to rationalize one’s self-importance, selfishness, and sin. The same temptation to invoke God to
rationalize a nation’s exceptional destiny is very real. On the one hand, George Washington regarded
as providential the narrow escape of his nearly defeated Army from entrapment
by the British under the cover of a fog in the summer of 1775. On the other hand, Governor John Winthrop
proclaimed the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be a “city on a hill” in 1630 before
colonists moved out to massacre the Pequot Indians. Jacksonian democrats appealed to
 J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh, “Facing the Postmodern Scalpel: Can the Christian Faith Withstand Deconstruction?” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, edited by Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 141-142.
 For example, Kant wrote in his book Physical Geography: “Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the whites. The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them, and at the lowest point are a part of the American people."
 J. R. R. Tolkien, “On
Fairy-Stories”, in The Monsters and the
Critics and Other Essays, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin
 Tolkien, op. cit., p. 156.
 Ling-chi Wang, “”Model Minority, High-tech Coolies, and Foreign Spies: Asian Americans in Science in Science and Technology, with Special Reference to the Case of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, Amerasia Journal, vol. 33, no. 1, 2007, p. 51.
 The poetic and
haunting description of
 Sandy Lydon, Chinese Gold, p. 6.
 Loni Ding, “Strategies of an Asian American Filmmaker,” in Russell Long (editor), Moving the Image: Independent Asian Pacific American Media Arts (UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Visual Communications, 1991).
 Tolkien, op. cit., p. 145.
 David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is
Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, Regnery
 Sandy Lydon, Chinese Gold, p. 504.
 Today is a few days
after Ruth Bell Graham’s death on
Ruth Bell was born on
Now the unnamed pastor
in Ruth’s biography was undoubtedly Wang Mingdao, the “Nelson Mandela” of the
indigenous, independent Chinese church.
Wang Ming-dao was arrested in 1955 for refusing to be associated with
the TSPM. In 1956, after signing a
confession and promising to cooperate with the TSPM, he was released. However, he was tormented and went around
confessing, “I am Peter!” Then in 1958
he, and his wife, were arrested again.
Wang Mingdao was imprisoned for 22 long years, and his wife was
imprisoned for 15. During the Cultural
Revolution (1966-1971), he was handcuffed for months and beaten daily. His uncompromising witness helped to ignite
and inspire the independent house church movement in
Ruth had unsuccessfully petitioning the Chinese government for this meeting for months before it was finally arranged as a personal favor to Billy Graham by President Nixon, who had taken the historic step of formally normalizing relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in 1972. Perhaps a condition of the arranged meeting was that the name of this dissenting Chinese Pastor would not be disclosed.
When Ruth first called at the apartment of the Chinese pastor and his wife, there was no answer. Ruth was disappointed and prayed, “You know I needed to see them. I need to learn from them. We who have never been through what they have been through need to hear how You supported them—it may help prepare us for what lies ahead.” Then words floated through her mind: “Look to the Rock from whence ye were hewn”, which Ruth interpreted as the Lord telling her to look to Him for support in the time of testing ahead. When Ruth returned to the apartment several hours later, her desire was to go “not in order to get , but to give.” A “thin, balding man who squinted … his eyes almost blind with cataracts” answered the door and there began the time of “healing of nations.”
As Ruth was about to leave, the Chinese pastor confessed, “Once … your father invited me to Tsiangking to hold meetings for the hospital staff and the patients who could walk and the families of patients.” Then he apologized, “I was too busy.” Ruth replied, “That’s understandable.”
This meeting, therefore, is another example of God working behind the headlines of history to accomplish the “healing of nations.” Ruth wrote about this meeting in her journals: “There was no bitterness or complaining, no hatred for the perpetrators of their suffering. They were at peace. They were grateful to God, not because He had shielded them from pain, not because he had prevented the loss of their human rights and for a while even the loss of each other, but because He had given them the strength to bear it all.” (Cornwell, p. 261).
 David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is
Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, Regnery
 Aikman, op. cit., p. 198
 “Lessons learnt from indigenous methods of peace-making in