HE GOT GAME, TOO: Knicks guard Jeremy Lin drives by Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant at Madison Square Garden on February 10. Lin Scored 38 points, and the Knicks defeated the Lakers 92-85. (Photo: John Angelillo/Newscom)
Even if you do not follow professional sports, you have probably heard that there is a whole lot of fuss going on about someone named Jeremy Lin. He’s the 23-year-old New York Knicks point guard who has transformed from last man on the bench to the team’s savior faster than you can say “Linsanity.”
A man of committed Christian faith, Lin has attributed his successes to God and directed all accolades towards his fellow teammates, prompting television commentators to dub him “the humble hero from Harvard,” which by the way is an unlikely source for professional basketball players. Born in Los Angeles, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, Lin experienced success at the high school and collegiate levels, yet was not drafted by any NBA team. Instead, he bounced around the league until he finally landed with the Knicks late last year.
Just a little over a week ago, Lin was sleeping on his brother’s couch and wondering if the Knicks were going to keep him on the team. But as injuries whittled down the Knicks’ roster, Lin’s number was called against the New Jersey Nets on February 4th. He scored an improbable 25 points, started in the next four games, and repeated the seemingly impossible by scoring in double digits each time, including 38 points in a prime-time, nationally-televised performance against Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
It’s an amazing, Cinderella-esque story. Some have even made parallels between Lin and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow due to their shared Christian beliefs as well as their improbable success. But what truly sets Lin apart in his profession, besides his Ivy League education and unexpected rise, is his Asian American background.
Judging by the frenzied response of the Knicks’ multiethnic market of fans, it doesn’t matter that Lin is Asian American. Most see him as a superhero, swooping in from out of nowhere to save a seemingly doomed season. Others may be thinking he’s winning despite being Asian American.
But, make no mistake about it, Lin does mean something particularly special to those of us in the Asian American community. I have not seen Asian Americans galvanized in this way for anyone before Jeremy Lin. Not Barack Obama, not Tiger Woods in his pre-scandal days. If Asian Americans formed a political party, Jeremy Lin would clearly be the uncontested nominee for president.
The role of Lin’s ethnicity in this extraordinary narrative cannot be ignored. Coaches and scouts were quite likely unwilling to give Lin a chance purely based on his ethnicity. Phil Taylor wrote about Lin in SI.com, “I knew on some level that part of the reason Lin was so quickly dismissed was that NBA people had a hard time believing that an Asian-American could play point guard in the NBA.” It’s a testimony to Lin’s tenacity and faith that he refused to accept the reality that he saw around him. He had never seen an Asian American man play in the NBA, but he stayed fixed on his goal of being a professional basketball player, even when no one else was giving him the chance.
People have been describing Lin’s breakthrough as a “Jackie Robinson” moment, and perhaps one of the eventual results of Lin’s success is that in a decade or so, we’ll start to see more Asian Americans in the NBA. But what I find fascinating about “Linsanity” is how the Jeremy Lin story reveals racial and ethnic differences amongst us and illuminates assumptions that still persist.
For one thing, Asian culture is collectivistic rather than individualistic, which essentially means that it fosters thinking such as “we’re all in this together,” and “what happens to you, happens to me.” When an Asian American reaches a particular level of accomplishment and achievement, we all feel the sense of sharing in his or her successes (and the reverse is also true, such as the deep shame many of us experienced after Seung-Hui Cho went on his murderous rampage at Virginia Tech).
In Asian American churches, adults go by the appellations “Auntie” and “Uncle,” further communicating to the next generation that we are all just one big family. Given Lin’s clear profession of faith, Asian American Christians in particular embrace him both as fellow ethnic kin as well as a fellow believer. He is a “brother,” in every sense of the word. And so when he does well, it reflects positively on the larger family of Asian Americans everywhere.
MORE THAN BASKETBALL: Jeremy Lin's significance as an Asian American athlete playing at the highest level of his game goes beyond mere sports.
But why do Asian Americans need the collective ego boost that is coming from one, singular professional sports figure? Aren’t they already considered the “model minority,” rightly or wrongly? Don’t Asian Americans easily assimilate into the larger culture, just like Lin is fitting seamlessly into his team of non-Asians?
Often when I write or speak about matters of race, I invariably hear questions like this, implying that we now live in a color-blind society, that racial conflicts are relics from the past. But I think the excitement that Asian Americans are demonstrating over Lin reflects the exact opposite: that racial and ethnic differences still matter a great deal. As Michael Luo reflected in the New York Times on his own thrill over Lin’s success, “It boils down to a welter of emotions from finally having someone I can relate to enter the public consciousness.”
If you think race does not matter in the 21st century, you likely have never been that lone ethnic minority walking into a room. Asian Americans (and other minorities) know and feel it instantly when they are the only non-white face in any gathering. We feel it whenever we walk into a classroom, a conference room, a coffee shop … a church.
To add further to our sense of marginalization even in the Christian subculture, when none of the role models presented to us in Christian contexts look like someone we can relate to, little by little we begin to doubt that our voices will ever be heard, that we are valued contributors, that anyone even notices we exist at all. If all we ever see in the pulpits, at the podiums, or on the covers of magazines and books are the faces and names of majority America, then those institutions and places of influence are missing a significant part of the American story.
Jeremy Lin gives us a great story that we can all rally around — America loves nothing more than an underdog tale. And the fact that Lin has gained such widespread, mainstream acceptance has filled Asian Americans with a collective sense of sheer, unbridled joy and pride. Lin’s popularity has suddenly given Asian Americans a gift we have not always experienced: acceptance, from a society that still mistakes us as outsiders.
Talk to any Asian American, and you will likely find that he or she has a story to tell about being on the receiving end of a racist epithet or some racially charged comment. Just the other day, I was speaking with a Korean-American named Susie who recounted a recent experience in a Wal-Mart parking lot. As she walked toward the store with her family, a pickup truck sped by with its passengers yelling “Hi-yaah!” at her and her family in a cartoonish mockery of martial arts screams. The truck then passed them, turned around, and returned for a repeat performance before peeling away. On the night of Lin’s incredible 38-point performance against the L.A. Lakers, I watched my Twitter feed spew comment after comment celebrating Lin while still regarding him as a foreigner. “So excited #jeremylin speaks solid English,” read one such tweet.
Jeremy Lin’s recent successes won’t wipe away all the years of racial stereotyping, all the ways that ceilings and misconceptions still block the paths of Asian Americans and other minorities in countless institutions, the church included. But shared appreciation for his extraordinary story is binding together both his fellow Asian American “brothers and sisters” as well as his fans from every tribe, tongue and nation. I don’t think the fact that Lin’s team is located in one of the most multicultural cities in the world happened by chance. Behind all the amazing events surrounding this young man’s rise is a deeper purpose, and I believe there’s way more to this story than just basketball.
Nicole Cleveland always thought her marriage would be over if her husband were unfaithful. But then it happened. In her new book, So He Cheated, Now What?, she examines the reasons for infidelity and advises women that there’s still hope for their marriages, even if he cheats.
What do celebrities Fantasia Barrino and Alicia Keys, who have been in the news recently for having affairs with married men, have in common with author Nicole Cleveland? Nothing. Cleveland does share a bond with actress Sandra Bullock, who recently divorced Jesse James because he was unfaithful. The difference is Cleveland chose to stay with her husband, Jerry, even after his affair produced a baby. She writes about it in her book, So He Cheated, Now What?
Cleveland (left), a development manager with the public broadcasting station in Norfolk, Virginia, has turned the experience into a ministry that helps women heal. She launched BreatheAgainMagazine.com in 2006, where others who have overcome major obstacles encourage women. To Christians, marriage represents not only a lifetime commitment to one’s mate but a foreshadowing of the relationship between Jesus and His church. However, several published reports estimate divorce among Christians in the U.S. is higher than the 50 percent national average. Infidelity is often the main reason. Published reports indicate an estimated 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women have been unfaithful. I talked with Cleveland about her book and message, which is also instructive to us men who have been unfaithful or are considering it.
URBAN FAITH: When you see news stories about infidelity what’s your reaction?
NICOLE CLEVELAND: I tell everyone that it’s never going to stop. When it’s high profile celebrities, like in the case of Sandra Bullock, it’s unfortunate because they don’t have a chance to heal. I wasn’t in the public eye like that.
Could dealing with it privately be worse?
In public it’s worse because you can’t really grieve. Everyone, even people you don’t know, is telling you what you should do. The one who was cheated on doesn’t have time and space to do what they need to do to heal. But on the flip side, when you’re suffering privately by yourself, it’s particularly hurtful because you don’t have anyone to talk to. You don’t want others to know and you can feel ashamed.
Why is So He Cheated, Now What? more of a workbook than a narrative about what happened with you and your husband?
I wanted to give actionable steps. I wanted to speak to the person who is going through it and tell them what to do. I wanted to let them know that they are not alone. I really wanted to hone in on that person who is hurt now. I wanted less drama. People want to talk about whether the other woman or the man is wrong, but what about the person who is hurting right now? The focus is off of that hurting person and it’s on revenge instead.
How does it affect you to hear of others wounded by infidelity?
I hear from women everyday through my website. They email me and tell me they don’t have any idea what they’re going to do. People call me at 10, 11 o’clock at night because they’re having an episode or flash back. I sometimes laugh because it takes me back to the same state. I can tell them what stage they’re in and what they’re going to feel or do next. Sometimes I cry with them. They say, “You think I’m stupid, you think I’m dumb.” Absolutely not. I’ve been there. My heart goes out to them.
Do you ever feel locked into talking and writing about infidelity only?
I do feel like that sometimes because it is reliving it again over and over. But when I tell my story I get healing from it each time. I believe it’s because mine is centered on faith and God and what He’s done for me. I have a mandate to tell the story. I don’t do it for me I do it for others. The bible says we overcome by the power of our testimony so someone needs to hear the story.
How can couples prevent infidelity?
You have to keep the communication tight. You can’t put things before your marriage. We were really busy in the church. Church is supposed to bring you together, but sometimes it can be that thing that helps pull you apart. We allowed the enemy to sneak in. I don’t condone what my husband has done, but we need to move forward. Our relationship is better now. We’re friends. We were like roommates before. We were like robots doing what we needed to do. We now take out time for ourselves. We laugh together.
I bet you’ve had women roll their eyes when you say that.
Oh yeah, but I say you never know what you would do until you’re in the situation. I was that woman who rolled her neck and rolled her eyes and said I would never do that. Then I had to eat my words.
Why did you stay with your husband?
I wanted my marriage to work. I love him. I love my family.
Why do people feel infidelity is the unpardonable sin?
We are so caught up with what others think about us. It comes from arrogance and what you would put up with. It’s also betrayal. I couldn’t have done it on my own. God took me through it. As women, we sit around and talk about stuff like that. “If he cheated, I would bust him upside the head.” Look at all the movies. There is such a big focus on adultery.
Why do you think?
It’s drama and people can relate to it. We like other people’s misery. Look at the Tiger Woods situation. Whose business is their marriage? I did a lot of interviews around that. I felt for his wife (Elin Nordegren) because she had no time to do privately what she needed to do for herself. A lot of times the people who say they wouldn’t do something are the ones that would.
That goes for people who say they would never cheat too?
That’s true, very true.
Why do people cheat?
I know my situation, but each is different. It goes back to that “make believe” aspect of it. You have to be who you really are at home. You have to come correct. The other person is allowing you to be king of whatever you feel you need to be king of. You don’t have to deal with laundry or picking up kids. Maybe you’re not hearing from your spouse that you look good or smell good. This goes both ways, by the way. Then there’s the conversation about the bills. At home it’s all about what you didn’t do right. My husband and I always go back to the movie John Q to the scene where the wife tells the husband “Do something!” He makes a very drastic decision that goes bad and he ends up saying, “Well, you told me to do something.” We don’t realize we’re doing that as women. We’re so focused on what we’re supposed to be doing – family and work and extra activities for the kids. Very few men marry their mistresses.
What’s next for you?
My goal is for the book to reach the people that it’s reaching. I want women to know that the pain will go away and someone else has been where you’ve been; they’ve cried the same tears and they’ve made it. So can you.
Before they called it an “addiction,” plenty of biblical figures fell victim to the same snare that took down Tiger. But where was their rehab?
Now that Tiger Woods is returning to golf next week to play in the Masters, does this mean he’s cured of sex addiction?
By now you know Woods was caught cheating on his wife, Elin, with multiple women, so he checked into sex rehab. Other high-profile people have done the same. Just today, it was announced that Sandra Bullock’s allegedly unfaithful husband, Jesse James, is taking his turn.
So I guess the biblical King David, who had multiple wives but just had to have one more who was already married, should’ve cried “sex addiction made me do it” too.
Face it. People cheat. Men do it. Women do it. Celebrities, politicians, executives, homemakers, and ministers do it. Crying sex addiction is not about seeking help, but saving face. It’s a weak excuse that does a disservice to people who truly have hypersexual disorders because of childhood abuse or other sexual trauma. It can also deceive the rest of us into thinking we’re immune from adultery.
There’s a debate among psychiatrists as to whether sex addiction actually exists. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t list it in its mental disorders manual, but may add it to the 2013 edition. Experts say hypersexual activity is so difficult to manage that it interrupts everyday life functions. Like an alcoholic, gambler, or crack addict craving the next fix, it’s difficult for someone who craves sex to focus on anything else. I doubt Woods could’ve dominated golf while battling a major addiction.
“The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior,” he said. “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.”
Right. Not sex addiction. Sin.
The thing we are all susceptible to.
Sexual sin has been around since the beginning of time. It’s documented throughout the Bible. Mainly it’s us guys who have had trouble keeping our tunics and zippers up, but women cheat too. Take, for example, the desperate housewife that hit on Joseph (Gen. 39:13-16). Joseph, at twentysomething-years-old, displayed the character and discipline that few men of any faith would have. He jumped up and fled. I wouldn’t dare deceive myself by guaranteeing that I would’ve chosen the same.
Anyone who has been married for a while knows the journey has rocky turns and hills. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And without God at the center, the covenant can become a labor without love. So as a married man in the middle of a 17-plus year marathon, I feel for Woods and his wife, Elin. Things go wrong. Sin makes justification appealing. Mistakes are made. Feelings are hurt and ripped. But a couple, even a celebrity couple, ought to be able to work things out before God without cameras rolling and flashing.
That’s the advantage King David had. After impregnating Bathsheba and having her husband killed to cover it up, he eventually confessed his sin to God. He suffered the consequences — the lost of their newborn son. He mourned and moved on. No sex addiction excuse to save face. God’s grace was sufficient rehab.
When a person falls, hypocrites gather stones. Then later it’s often unveiled that they were hiding their own rocks. For example, former Sen. John Edwards condemned President Clinton during his impeachment tied to Monica Lewinsky, though Edwards voted to acquit.
Now he has a love child and is in divorce court after his affair during his own presidential run. The next time you hear someone who is adamant toward a particular sin, realize they’re probably a closet sinner.
Jesus counsels on the matter in John 8 where accusers brought an adulteress before him.
“He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” Jesus told the accusers, before offering forgiveness to the woman. “Go and sin no more,” he said to her.
“Go play golf and sin no more,” is the cure for Woods.
Tiger Woods photo by Keith Allison from Wikipedia.
Tiger Woods was raised a Buddhist, and now he’s returning to his childhood religion. Hopefully, he’ll avoid one of the great pitfalls many of us Christians fall into when it comes to living out our faith.
Recently, Tiger Woods went before TV cameras and a roomful of journalists and friends to apologize for his marital infidelity and all the damage it has wrought. In the midst of his confession, he revealed what he considers to be a key component to his rehabilitation: A return to his Buddhist roots.
I admit, as a Christian pastor, I would’ve loved to hear him announce that he had committed his life to Jesus while in rehab, but I was nonetheless thankful that Tiger seems to be confronting the spiritual dimensions of his problems. He now takes responsibility for his actions and recognizes that true restoration will require something greater than himself. And, based on his family background, Buddhism was the natural choice.
The thing is, most Christians are as Buddhist as Tiger Woods wants to be!
Can you guess what I mean?
Tiger Woods is facing the same challenge we all do: What do we do with our desires?
Two basic answers: Feed Them or Deny Them.
Option #1 is fraught with promise and peril. When we feed our desires we can say, “We are doing what comes natural.” That is, God gave me these desires and it’s only right to follow their lead. The downside? Weight gain, broken hearts, STDs, debt, and, oftentimes, a secret life.
Secrecy sets in because something inside us knows that just pursuing our desires without limits is wrong. Tiger said as much.
Option #2, a denial of our desires, has one big downside: Suffering. We suffer when we don’t indulge our desires. There is a discomfort that goes along with not doing what you feel you have to do. Just try not to scratch your next itch and see if you wouldn’t describe it as suffering. Denial of desire carries with it ultimate satisfaction. But we rarely get to experience it, because we don’t like the suffering required to get there.
Tiger’s solution to the dilemma is to become a better Buddhist. This ancient philosophy teaches a great deal about dealing with desires.
Here’s a summary of “The Four Noble Truths” of Buddhism: Life leads to suffering; suffering is caused by desires; suffering ends when desires end; thus we should eliminate our desires.
I think that most Christians, in practice at least, are as Buddhist as Tiger wants to be … unfortunately.
Unlike Buddhism, Christianity has a very different view of suffering and desires. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Unearned suffering is redemptive.” Jesus didn’t exempt himself from suffering and he invites us to take up our cross and follow him (Matt. 16:24-25). Furthermore, desires are meant to be pursued to their fullest extent. That is, all the way to God.
That’s why Jesus is revealed as bread and water … so that we might feast on Him. That’s why the psalmist sang, “Fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11) . Our soul is able to sing because it is God “who satisfies our desires with good things” (Ps. 103:5).
Like Tiger Woods, we all need to confront the root of our sins and strive for healing and restoration. I just hope we recognize that genuine healing must eventually get beyond the act of simply denying ourselves and focus on the process of allowing ourselves to be filled with the good things of God.
C. S. Lewis was correct in The Weight of Glory when he said that our problem is that we satisfy with too little. Like little children making mud pies in the gutter when we are being offered a vacation to build sandcastles on the beach.
Fox News commentator Brit Hume certainly has started something with his unexpected advice to Tiger Woods that he drop Buddhism (if, in fact, he’s still practicing it) and embrace Christianity in order to recover from his personal problems. When Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked the show’s roundtable to predict the biggest sports story of 2010, Hume said:
Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him. I think he’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover — seems to me to depend on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, “Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”