Was Rick Warren being racist and offensive when he posted that picture from the Chinese Cultural Revolution? Many Asian-American Christians thought so and found it offensive. I respect their opinions and sentiments.
I, on the other hand, being a first-generation Chinese American who actually had life experiences living in China for many years did not find the picture itself and Warren’s initial comment to be too offensive.
I, like many people with a sense of humor, can take a joke like that. And I am sure that Pastor Rick Warren meant no harm. No, it wasn’t offensive to me. If anything, it was Warren’s reactions in response to people’s criticisms that struck me as inappropriate.
“People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!” Warren said on Facebook.
This, was outright insensitive on the part of Warren.
For those who are in the position of leadership, especially one of Warren’s stature, our words could either be constructive and build people up; or destructive and tear people down.
I am sure Pastor Warren is well versed in these Biblical teachings, that:
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (ESV I Corinthians 10:23-24).
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (ESV Ephesians 4:29).
Despite these Biblical teachings, Pastor Warren’s initial reaction of asking people to appreciate his jokes was disappointing and very unfortunate. As I already mentioned, I did not find his posting of the picture and the comment to be offensive. I can take that joke.
It was his attitude in reaction to people’s criticisms that struck me as insensitive and inappropriate. In his second comment, warren was basically saying, “it’s a joke people! Have a sense of humor! Come on! Get over it. If you can’t take my joke, don’t follow me on the social media!” As a pastor, this comment was very very unfortunate. As a pastor, his ensuing comment and attitude had failed to build people up.
It was not until later when things evolved further that Rick Warren took down the picture and posted an apology on Facebook.
Despite the succinctness of Warren’s social-media apology, I felt the apology was sincere. He is a brother in Christ, a fellow sinner who has sought our forgiveness. Asian-American Christians should forgive him according to what the Scriptures teach us (Matt.18:22, 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26), lest we also become hypocrites.