Rick Warren apologises for ‘unchristlike’ Sunday school video that mocked Asian culture

Saddleback pastor Rick Warren has apologised after a racially offensive video was used as a Sunday school resource for children. 

The video featured a pastor wearing a traditional Chinese shirt and making Kung Fu noises while slicing up a fish for sushi in the style of a martial arts movie.

It had been posted to YouTube for the Saddleback Kids’ Church at Home series but has now been removed after critics accused the makers of cultural appropriation.  

Writer and podcaster Judy Wu Dominick said on Twitter: “If you’re a creator of Sunday-school content for children, please don’t do things like this.

“So many Asian kids have been demeaned by stereotypical portrayals like this, and when it’s in church curricula, the unwitting message is that God is ok [with it] too.” 

Duke Kwon, pastor and Co-author of Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance & Repair, said that “cultural denigration” through marital arts parodies like this were “so mainstream” and “unchallenged” that “few people realize how demeaning it is.” 

“Some people will even be bothered that we would say so,” he said. 

Michelle Ami Reyes, vice president of the Asian American Christian Collaborative, said: “Asian culture is being used as a prop for slapstick humor in a video to teach kids how to pray. It was wrong in 2011. It’s wrong now.

“There are layers to the problematic appropriation and use of Asian culture elements for slapstick humor here.

“This kind of humor only works because it’s deprecating. But you cannot appropriate and deprecate on someone else’s culture for your own personal comedy.” 

In a thread, she said churches needed to “do better” by hiring “sensitivity” consultants for church resources. 

“Better yet, don’t include segments that make fun of other people’s cultures at all in your teaching materials. It’s disrespectful and dishonoring,” she wrote. 

In a statement asking for forgiveness, Warren said he was “upset and embarrassed” by the video. 

“My instant fear was that the thousands of Asian American children who are a part of our church family would feel made fun of and that their families and so many others would rightfully be offended,” he said. 

He continued: “This is the very kind of cultural and racial insensitivity that we’re trying to eradicate in our church family. It’s unchristlike, demeaning, and it’s never appropriate to use a stereotype to teach.”

It’s not the first time Warren has offended the Asian American community after he used a propaganda image of a Communist Red Guard in a 2013 Facebook post alongside the caption, “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.”

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