Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or shun absolutely all sports news, then you’ve probably heard of Jeremy Lin by now. The New York Knicks point guard has come out of nowhere to take the sports world by storm. Lin was an undrafted free agent coming out of Harvard, and after being picked up by Golden State he played sparingly and was eventually dropped. He landed briefly in Houston before being cut again. He was then picked up by the Knicks but sat at the end of the bench until injuries to superstars Carmelo Anthony and Arare Stoudamire forced him into action. He made the most of his opportunity, scoring more points in his first five starts than anyone in NBA history.
Now I have to admit, I hate the NBA. Ever since the league went from being a team game that highlighted great rivalries between cities to promoting individual players and often glorifying thugs who happened to be good at basketball, I lost interest (somewhere back in the ’90s). But Jeremy Lin quickly caught my interest, not only because he is an incredible Cinderella story, but also because of his outspoken Christian faith. The inevitable comparisons were made to Tim Tebow, but it quickly became apparent that Jeremy Lin is his own person and represents a different perspective on Christianity.
This became apparent to me after reading Michael Luo’s great piece in the NY Times, ‘Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride and Points.’ The article is Luo’s intensely personal reflection on how Lin’s success is about so much more than basketball. Luo was the first to open my eyes to how Lin is beautifully representing his faith in a way that is true to his culture and heritage. His success has made Lin the very public face for a vibrant but often overlooked segment of American Christianity, and Keith Bradsher’s piece in the NY Times pointed out, he’s also making waves in China where Christians are still persecuted for their faith.
Then this week I read a great post by Carl Park over on the Gospel Coalition’s blog where he builds on Luo’s reflections on why Asian American Christians are connecting to Lin differently than they have to Tebow. Park does a great job of pointing out that the experience of being an Asian-American Christian is quite different from that of Anglo-American Christians, though that experience is not as widely known. The controversies of the Anglo-American church have not been their controversies. They aren’t experiencing the decline of the broader American church but are actually experiencing vibrant growth. The Asian-American church has an important voice in the conversation about Christianity in America that has been largely unheard. Park’s hope is that Lin-sanity is changing that:
Linsanity, for Asian Americans, is only partly about basketball. More significantly, it’s about that outside experience being recognized by others and, even further, evolving into inclusion. Can what happened to Lin in the NBA happen to him and other Asian American Christians in the broader American church? Can it encourage Asian American Christians to give more of their gifts and leadership to the community—and Community—at large? It sounds grandiose, insane. But, as we’ve seen the last two weeks, insanity happens.
After living in central Asia and eastern Europe for an extended period of time and traveling regularly throughout my life to serve churches around the world, you’d think I would be more consciously aware of the importance of learning about faith from other cultures. But it’s so easy to become ethno-centric – to spend time primarily with people who look and think similarly to you. It’s easy to only hear the loudest voices and assume they represent the whole picture of what God is doing in the American church. But Jeremy Lin has reminded me that even though we share the same citizenship – both on earth and in heaven – we have very different experiences of life and faith. There is much to learn from those who are different from me, but it is easy to forget that. Thanks for the reminder Jeremy Lin.
**Image from Flickr user nikk_la, used under Creative Commons license .