Last April, I gave birth to my second child. In some ways, holding him in the minutes after his birth was a stranger experience than it had been with my first; in the two and a half years since that moment, as that child grew and became mobile and verbal, I had forgotten that babies were ever this small. As I marveled at the tiny, squinting, blinking face in my arms, I also thought about the toddler asleep in his bed at home and marveled at the active, curious, independently-thinking person he had become in the time since I shared this moment with him.
Progressive Asian American Christians is now two and a half years old, and as I think about where we are now compared to where we were when we started, I can’t help but draw a parallel. When we started at the end of 2016, in the wake of the seismic presidential election, we were babies — raw, distressed, in desperate need of a place where we could be nurtured. The group became a space where we cared for each other, where we lamented and raged together, where we saw and validated and heard each other. And after a long period of venting and healing together, something in the group shifted.
We started to move away from reacting to the ways in which society and the conservative church had wounded us and the most vulnerable, and we started to move toward making things of our own. It started with the PAAC Podcast, which David Chang launched in May 2017; the first PAAC Conference, which took place the following month; and the PAAC Fellowship, which launched two months after that. It gathered momentum the following year, as grassroots initiatives started emerging from the group: the Lent Devotional, spearheaded by Charlene Choi; As I Am, the narrative essay series launched by Chris Paek, Jennifer Duann Fultz, Katherine Kwong, and Lindsay Twigg; the Statement on God’s Justice, led by Ophelia Hu Kinney. The discourse in PAAC moved away from reacting to what was happening around us and toward creating new things, away from lamenting the lack of resources for people like us and toward making them ourselves, away from deconstruction and toward creation. PAAC is growing up — we’re experimenting with our own agency and finding new ways to engage with the world, thinking our own thoughts and making new things, and I am marveling at the active, curious, independently-thinking organism our community has become.
At the end of 2018, we looked at all the streams of content we had created and wondered if it made sense to merge them into a cohesive whole. And that’s when the idea of a PAAC magazine arose — a place where all of these things could live and new streams could develop; where we could deeply and collectively explore PAAC issues and be part of a broader conversation on faith, race, and politics; where some of the amazing ideas and content that arise from the group can be made accessible to the rest of the world. I think this magazine will be meaningful not only for PAACs, but also for anyone who’s also hungry for resources to help them grow and learn and talk about the things that matter to us. I’m so honored and grateful that PAAC gets to put this publication out into the world.
Progressive Asian American Christians
As a member of PAAC, I’ve found the community and solidarity in PAAC to be transformative and life-giving. In practicing making space for, centering, and loving those most marginalized, I began to learn to make space for and center my own queerness. It was PAAC members and mods who held my hands, through the internet, as I came out to my friends, my family, and even myself.
At PAAC it became possible for me to love myself and appreciate my God-given queerness. It was PAAC members who helped me discover and expand the vocabulary of my theology to be more inclusive for everyone born, and not just for the 1% of humanity throughout history that happened to fit the narrow definition of salvation that I had grown up hearing.
This transformative space has been a specific place and time where we got to explore deep issues, understand the intersection of our identities and faith, and learn to love and reconcile with each other. Now, we bring that to you, readers, as we launch Diverging as a place to share the wealth of all that we have learned and continue to learn every day. As our mission statement says:
This publication is dedicated to disrupting the existing narratives of American Christianity and sharing the unique viewpoints of our diverse community. Diverging is here to forge new paths and create new traditions and viewpoints while honoring the legacy from those who came before us.
“See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:10 (NRSV)
Here at Diverging, we will expand our collective knowledge of theology, of liturgy, and experience worship in different ways than we are used to. We will give and receive advice as a community in the Vigilaunties section. We will laugh and we will cry. We will tell our stories and be blessed by the stories of those who walk along this path with us. And maybe, just maybe, more lives will change because of this growing community.
Welcome to this new space, where we center and honor the stories of those who live at the unique intersection of faith that is being progressive, Asian American, and Christian. I hope that you find it as transformative and life-giving as this community has been for me.