On May 17, four days before residential staff would discover Azia Kim’s eight month ruse of posing as a Stanford student, Kim posted a message on her newly-created Xanga account. “I get too caught up in looking forward to summer and going home,” she wrote, “that I forget to be thankful for the beautiful people God has placed into my life. I love Stanford.” Stanford Daily, May 25, 2007
What is interesting for me about the recent news of young, infamous Korean-Americans is their encounters with the church. If you’re Korean-American, it’s almost assumed (for good reason) that you’ve experienced church at least a few times in your early childhood. For good and for bad, there’s no getting away from church in Korean-American culture. You can get out of the church, but you can never really get the church out of you (as Cho Seung-hui’s Christ-imbued rant recently showed). Like the problem of Christendom in general, this can greatly hinder one’s witness as a Christian or of Christians. Case in point: the 18 year old, church-going Azia Kim’s posing as a Stanford student. This appears to be a textbook case of academic idolatry. I’m struck though by how easy it is especially for Korean-American Christians to accommodate their idols along with their apparently sincere love for God. When Christianity so becomes integrated into the culture, such that one becomes a “Christian” by virtue of being born into a specific cultural context, it becomes that much harder to discern where true faith ends and culturally-derived idolatry begins. Those who consider Koreans to be God’s chosen people, uniquely blessed with special zeal, talents, and characteristics to carry out His mission on earth, should reconsider just what they are sowing in the minds and hearts of young Korean-Americans. In this light, the current “silent exodus” may in fact be as biblical as it sounds, and thus a hopeful phenomenon.