For those who don’t know, Jeremy Lin is a point-guard for the NY Knicks basketball team. He was a surprising star in college having received no scholarship offers to play after highschool. He then went undrafted in the Pros and only recently, in his 2nd year, got an opportunity to play because of teammate’s injuries. He surprised everybody by leading his team in incredible ways and scoring more points in his first series of starts than any superstar. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for two consecutive weeks and even made the cover of Time.
He has gained notoriety for some amazing play, for being the first Asian-american superstar in the NBA and now for being a “New kind of Christian” (according to CNN). *
Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, has also triggered some racial insensitivity with both ESPN and Ben & Jerry’s committing blunders
I am hoping that three things come can potentially come out of the Jeremy Lin meteoric rise
1. There is no such thing as Asia – not in the way that it gets used to describe so many diverse cultures and peoples under a generic geographical term. Edward Said has changed the way I think about Orientalism and ‘other-ing’.
Therefore as much as the West itself, the Orient is an idea that has a history and tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West. The two geographical entities thus support and to an extent reflect each other.
Though Said was not addressing ‘Asia’ specifically, it is this romantic creation of the other that is so rooted in our mentality and needs to be addressed for the 21st century. All projections point to there being no white majority in the USA by 2050. Race will be one of the biggest issue in my lifetime.
2. There are many ways to be a Christian (or religious) athlete. Not everyone is treated like Tim Tebow was. Tebow is both vocal and demonstrative about his faith – but what the evangelical fans did with it was nearly frenzied. In the CNN article it is clear that Lin goes about his faith a little differently than Tebow. It will be interesting to watch as his popularity grows, how he handles his faith, his fame, and his image.
3. There is really something significant about immigrant communities, generational gaps, and how they practice faith. The CNN article introduced it well, but there is so much more to be examined.
I grew up outside Chicago then my family moved to Saskatchewan Canada where my dad worked at a Seminary with a missionary denomination. He has been in NY for the last 20 years at a sister school and I am now studying in Southern California. It might be my affiliation with seminaries that has thrown off my perception but I was shocked to hear that just 5% of the population is of Asian descent.
I have met so many Vietnamese, Hmong, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, and Malaysian believers who have incredible stories about generation differences, immigration and how those two things affect faith communities and language.
I know that Lin is just a basketball player – but in the hyperreal world of modern TV and sports it is conceivable that he will play an important role in awareness that there is an issue to be addressed.
*The phrase really caught my attention because I am a big fan of Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity.