Book Dropped Following Protest Sparked by NPTS Professor

Post a Comment » Written on November 20th, 2009     
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CHICAGO, IL (November 20, 2009) – In response to a growing protest initiated by North Park Theological Seminary Professor Soong-Chan Rah, evangelical publishing giant Zondervan pulled its recent book, Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership and apologized for publishing the volume.

“We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently,” Maureen “Moe” Girkins, Zondervan’s president and CEO, wrote in an email to Rah on Thursday.

Rah responded on his blog, “It reflects a genuine repentant spirit and a deep willingness to hear and to act. I am moved by Zondervan’s willingness to act in this decisive and dramatic manner.”

Upon learning of the book’s recent release, Rah emailed its authors, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, earlier this month, telling them he liked the content, but was offended that they had “pimped out” Asian culture. They initially responded that his concerns were unjustified.

Rah subsequently complained on November 3 through his blog and social media, including Twitter and Facebook. That led to a groundswell of objections to the book. Among the critics were Evangelical Covenant Church pastors Eugene Cho of Quest Covenant Church and Kyle Small, co-pastor of Harbert Community Covenant Church.

On November 4, the authors participated in a conference call with Rah and Cho as well as two other Asian American Christian leaders, Kathy Khang of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and Ken Fong, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California.

Following the discussion, they published a release that included comments from the participants, including an apology from Foster and Wilhite. The others noted the “integrity” of the two authors, who later pulled down a website connected with the book. (Foster, the founder of, is the author of Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About Sex. Wilhite wrote That Crazy Little Thing Called Love: The Soundtrack of Marriage, Sex, and Faith.)

When Zondervan still had not responded to the concerns by Tuesday, Rah and others again posted calls for the publisher to respond. When Girkens responded on Thursday, she added that the publisher has appointed Stan Gundry to be its editor-in-chief and that he will “be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward.”

This was the third time that Rah has led protests against publications he and other deemed offensive to Asian Americans, including one published in 2007 by Zondervan and Youth Specialties. In an open apology for the book of skits that included an offensive portrayal of a “Chinese delivery man,” Mark Ostreicher, president of Youth Specialties, said he was “ashamed and embarrassed.”

In 2004, he and others pushed Southern Baptist Convention publisher Lifeway to pull its Vacation Bible Study curriculum “Rickshaw Rally,” but the company refused.

The full text of Girkins’ email follows:

Hello and thanks for your patience.

On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins.  It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.

There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.

We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.

It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.

Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.

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