It’s hard to believe that just recently, when I mentioned my favorite NBA player to my boss at my old job, he had no idea who I was talking about.
But this month, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard whose underdog story (unrecruited in high school before playing at Harvard, undrafted in the NBA and getting cut by two teams before injuries to other players gave him a chance to wow the crowds at Madison Square Garden, an Asian-American in a league that’s seen almost none) has captivated people worldwide and sparked all manner of bad puns (including my subject line - the headline writer in me just couldn’t resist!).
I usually don’t care for pro basketball much, but I made an exception for Lin when I read this profile in Sports Illustrated two years ago. I admired his intelligence and his faith, and started following his career path.
Now, I’m happy I can watch him on TV - like this afternoon, when he scored 28 points and had 14 assists to help beat the defending champion Mavericks. (And, I hope fans and journalists will lay off the appalling racist remarks.)
Lin has also become a hero to many people who see themselves in him - Christians like me, for starters, but especially Asian-American believers, like Michael Luo of The New York Times. Like Lin, he went to Harvard and was involved with Christian student groups.
An Asian-American Christian? What’s that?
Many in this country have probably never even heard of this subcategory on the religious spectrum. But if you are a relatively recent graduate of the Ivy League or another top-tier college, you will probably recognize the species.
Harvard’s Asian American Christian Fellowship, which started in the 1990s, is one of the most active student groups on campus. … Like Lin, many Asian-American Christians have deep personal faith, but they are also, notably, almost never culture warriors. That is simply not what is emphasized in their churches and college Christian fellowships, including the one that played such a formative role in Lin’s life at Harvard.
That Harvard group is part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which I was also involved with during my college and graduate school days. At Northwestern, Luo’s description is certainly accurate — during my brief time in Graduate Christian Fellowship, I met quite a few awesome Asian-Americans, plus international students from Taiwan (like Lin’s parents) and other countries. Amid all the high-pressure stress of journalism school, I appreciated getting to know students in other disciplines, as well as professors and ministry staff members, who would pray with and for me and help me keep it all in perspective. (Plus, we ate a lot of good food!)
At Calvin, the focus was understandably different — it was a small group, and some may have thought a Christian college didn’t even need it. But again, I enjoyed studying the Bible my freshman and sophomore years with people outside my English major/campus newspaper bubble and occasionally doing things with groups from other colleges.
As some universities think about placing limits on Intervarsity and other Christian student organizations — or getting rid of them altogether — I hope they’ll reconsider and start appreciating what these groups and their members contribute to campus life.
And who knows? The next Jeremy Lin could be sitting in one of their meetings.
I’ll let him have the last word (from the San Jose Mercury News):
“There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now. To try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.”
(Photo of Jeremy Lin courtesy Wikimedia Commons)