Megachurch pastor Rick Warren received criticism this week after posting a photo of a Chinese Red Guard on his Facebook page Monday.
The photo, which has since been taken down, showed a smiling worker in uniform for the Cultural Revolution, which was a social-political movement in China from 1966 to 1976. Millions of people died due to the impact of the revolution.
Along with the photo, Warren posted the caption, "The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.”
Much of Warren’s criticism came from Asian American Christian bloggers and others who deemed the photo and caption insensitive to Chinese culture, asking the Saddleback Church pastor to apologize for the post.
But Warren’s response wasn’t as apologetic as some were looking for. He explained the post was a joke more than anything.
“People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!” Warren posted as a comment. “Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines — jokes — in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtably giggling!”
Taking an issue with the post and follow-up comment, writer and speaker Sam Tsang wrote his own grievances with the posting in a blog post.
“Do you know what narrative is behind this picture you just posted?” Tsang questioned. Has any Red Guard ever raped your mother? How about having your joints dislocated and quartered by horses? How about having your arms hung up in an awkward position until they’re dislocated while being beaten merciless with all sorts of torturous devices? How about being made to stand near naked in freezing temperature outside? I can go and on but I won’t belabor my point.”
Warren, seemingly after reading the piece, posted a comment apologizing to Tsang for posting the photo on his page. “Thanks so much for teaching us! It was removed instantly. May God bless you richly,” he commented.
“Staff handed me a hard copy of an email from someone offended by a picture I posted," he wrote. "If you were hurt, upset, offended, or distressed by my insensitivity I am truly sorry. May God richly bless you."
In response to Warren’s apology, Tsang posted another blog post, saying he was going to leave the blog posts up for historical record “to show that a good man is good not because he is right all the time but because he owns up to this mistakes.”
Pastor Eugene Cho detailed the events of the photo’s posting and said the posting is “a learning opportunity” for everyone to be wary of each other’s cultures.
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