“The Asian American community is far from unified in its perspective, but a growing number are pushing our community to confront the racism that exists in our own communities and how we reinforce anti-Blackness and benefit from white supremacy. If you want to know more, track the hashtag #Asian4BlackLives and amplifying this growing ally group.”
— Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor, author, church coach
I remember first hearing the name Bruce Reyes-Chow in 2008 when I worked at the San Francisco Theological Seminary and he had just become the youngest person ever elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the highest elected office of the denomination. There was a lot of excitement around this young up-and-coming pastor who had founded a young, multi-cultural and progressive church in San Francisco and was “social media savvy.” There was extra special buzz around the fact that he was going to use social media as part of his tenure as Moderator, exploring cutting edge ways to communicate to and within the Church. Back in 2008, not many of us knew what social media was, but we knew it was going to be cool, and young, and hip, and good for the Presbyterian church.
Nearly a decade later, Bruce is still a social media guru and a pastor on cutting edge issues such as racism, parenting, and the future church — all with his signature boundless energy and optimism. He’s written four books: The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church; But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race; 40 Days, 40 Prayers, 40 Words: Lenten Reflections for Everyday Life; and his latest, co-authored by his wife, Robin Pugh, Rule #2: Don’t be an Asshat: An Official Handbook for Raising Parents and Children.
I caught up with Bruce to find out what is inspiring him these days and what his guilty pleasures are for our Patheos 10+1 Interview Series, in which we ask the same 10 questions (plus one bonus question) of Christian game-changes and thought-leaders who are inspiring us today! His responses are below.
What, in the broadest sense, is your work in the world?
I often tell folks that I am “mediocre at a great many things” because I am fully engaged in the gig economy AND I love finding way to integrate new passions into my work life. In the few areas that I dive deeper in my work, I cover such issues as culture shifts, organizational change, parenting, race, and church planting. How this gets played out in particular is that I pastor a congregation, write books, speak at events, and consult and coach with a church-based organization.
What are you most energized by, professionally or personally, at the moment?
There are many things that inspire me these days but personally, I had a revelation the other day. We are family that is deeply passionate about soccer. Two of my girls play a pretty high level of soccer and while there are certainly many problems with the development of youth soccer in the United States, these two daughters love the game. Both are good players, but one is excelling at a faster pace than the other. Both work hard, never complain about going to practice, balance school work, etc., but one daughter keeps hitting obstacles in her game.
She’s hard on herself and there many times, we ask, “Are you still having fun?” She gets so frustrated that her hard work and time are not translating to her on field performance, team advancements, etc. Sometimes it’s excruciating to see her sad and struggling. Yet she wants to keep going. Her coaches are encouraging, know that much is mental, and continue to invest time into her training, but there are times when, I want to go in and help her, fix the situation, and make it all better — or I just get caught up in the idea that one has to be the best in order to enjoy the experience.
Hello, culture of American “exceptionalism” and discomfort with struggle.
And much to my own surprise, time and time again, after a tough game, the next day she is ready to get at it again. My daughter has reminded me of a few things: one, dad doesn’t have to fix everything, two, everyone moves through frustration differently, and, three, you don’t have the be “the best” in order to want to keep trying.
What’s inspiring your work right now?
I was recently at a #BlackLivesMatter action protesting police shootings and was challenged to do better in my own work. I certainly did not agree with everything that was said from the platform, but one thing that I was reminded over and over again was that marching and protesting is important, but if we are not willing to do the work and challenge that which feeds anti-Black institutions and actions in our culture, our public actions are hollow. “Activism” is relative, but I have felt convicted not to succumb to the seduction of false harmony that exists in some of the communities in which I work and serve. While I will engage in these acts and conversations differently than others, I must engage and push more than I have before.
I try to read a few at a time, darn Kindle culture. Right now I am working my way through three books all at once:
Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions For the Church in a Time of Empire curated by Rick Ufford Chase. This is a new collection of essays looking at how the church can radically address issues of race, gender, secuality, capitilaize, education, etc. Great offerings from some top-touch thinkers.
Ready Player One: A Novel, a little late to the game on this one, I have really enjoyed this read. If you played video games and grew up on the 80s you will enjoy the walk along memory lane.
Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America by Jeff Chang. One of my favorite writes about culture.
What’s something few people know about you?
Ha. Because I am pretty open on social media there really is not much that people don’t know. No seriously, I’m a pretty open and public book. That said, while my public disdain for all things pumpkin spice has been well documented, here are three things that many people do not know: I had my driver’s license suspended as teenager after a series of speeding infractions; I was once the president of Junior Achievement; and I have never seen a complete episode of Lost.
Why are you still a Christian?
I am still a Christian because I choose to believe that it is in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that I am now and forever connected to the God — and that this belief has yielded blessing in and around my life, has challenged me to grow as a person into who God intends me to become, and has given me hope for the future in the midst of a today’s world that carries the burden of so much despair.
And coffee hour.
What’s your favorite theological word?
I think it depends on the day and the rhythms of life, so it seems only right to go with “kairos” or the understanding the nature of the right — God’s fluid — moment in time as opposed to “chronos” or the exact — my planned — moment in time.
How do you pray?
People-watching and being forced to take the time to notice the reminders and signs of the breadth of joy and struggle in the world. My prayers are always for the unspoken, even unrecognized pains that folks carry with them every day.
What’s a guilty pleasure?
Rizzoli and Isles.
Prosciutto and Chevre.
There are so many things going on in the world around #BlackLivesMatter, and one aspect of that is how Asian Americans are reacting to the killings, protests, and judicial system. The Asian American community is far from unified in its perspective, but a growing number are pushing our community to confront the racism that exists in our own communities and how we reinforce anti-Blackness and benefit from white supremacy. If you want to know more, track the hashtag #Asian4BlackLives and amplifying this growing ally group.
Your new book is titled Rule #2: Don’t Be an Asshat: An Official Handbook for Raising Parents and Children. What’s Rule #1?
Rule #1 is “Make good choices;” something that my mother (And I am sure parents the world over) said and says to any and all of her children, grandchildren, and loved ones.
If folks want to check out more like, “Rule #2: Don’t be an asshat,” “Rule #38: Don’t flip off the truck driver,” “Rule #43: Protest,” or “Rule #48: Have good sex,” check out the online Table of Contents or, better yet, pick up a copy on Amazon.
A 3rd Generation Chinese/Filipino, armchair sociologist, and technology enthusiast Bruce Reyes-Chow speaks and teaches on faith, race, parenting, and technology in a variety contexts from seminaries to conferences to congregations to pre-schools. While he speaks to both religious and secular audiences, he committed to living and expressing a Christian faith that is beautifully complex, unimaginably just and excruciatingly gracious.
Bruce is the part-time Transitional Pastor at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley, CA and is a Coach and Senior Consultant with the Center of Progressive Renewal. He has been a Presbyterian pastor for nearly 20 years and founded Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco, a church of young, multicultural and progressive Presbyterians.
Bruce currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, three daughters, and two canines. You can connect with Bruce via @breyeschow on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, visit his blog, www.reyes-chow.com, and/or see what others say about him on wikipedia.