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There are some people who are universally beautiful. Across ethnic and demographic lines, they are considered to be stunners. For example, during the Olympics, my non-Asian colleagues at work were gushing about Chinese diver, Guo Jingjing (above). Maybe it was because she was in a swimsuit, maybe it was the sleek-dolphin-like way she emerged from the water, maybe it was the shower, but they were all agog about her. Guo has universal beauty.


Then there are some who have an ethnic beauty. These are people who are considered beautiful only by members of their own ethnic group. Their appeal is in-group: outsiders just don’t get it. Korean actor Bae Yong Joon (above) of Winter Sonata fame has ethnic beauty. Asians look at him and see a serene and assured beauty topped by glowing passion simmering in his hair. Non-Asians see a wimpy dude in a turtleneck with orange hair. Bae has ethnic beauty. Reverend Eugene Cho (below) is another example. Although he often self-deprecates his own looks, he has an undeniable Asian masculinity-beauty about him. Non-Asians don’t see that, though. Cho is an ethnic beauty.


The same applies to spirituality. There is universal spirituality and then there is ethnic spirituality. Universal spirituality is that which is recognized and praised across ethnic-demographic lines. These are people with Mother-Theresa-like qualities, who have an overabundance of the fruits of the Spirit and a life of undeniable sacrifice and goodness. A person with universal spirituality is deemed by all ethnicities as holy and godly.

Ethnic spirituality is different. Only members of the same ethnicity recognize it for what it is: holiness expressed through the pores of ethnicity. There is an Asian-spirituality just as there is a latino-spirituality and a black-spirituality. A person with ethnic spirituality will likely not be viewed by a different ethnic church as the spiritual saint that he is in his own ethnic church. For example, an Asian Christian might be praised for his control over his tongue, his humility, and for being a great listener. Plug this person into a non-Asian church, and suddenly all these attributes are flipped on their head. Instead of a spiritual giant, he is viewed as sullen, a mere follower, a dullard with nary an opinion. In the same way, the white Christian leader, plugged into an Asian church, is often viewed as brash and a loudmouth.

The fact of the matter is this: every ethnicity measures holiness in a different way. This is not a bad thing or even something which should be done away with. But the sooner the church grasps the extent to which ethnicity is more part of the warp and woof of the church than e.g., its denomination, the faster the acceptance of monoethnic churches will flourish guilt-free.



  1. Stop by my blog and tell me what kind of beauty my little girl is!

  2. I completely agree with you on this, which tells me something is wrong with me or with you.

  3. oh bae yong joon, is that the best we’ve got?

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