Long time readers might remember the Rickshaw Rally controversy.
In 2003, LifeWay Christian Resources published an Asian-themed Vacation Bible School curriculum called "Far Out Rickshaw Rally - Racing Towards the Son." Fraught with racist, stereotypical imagery, the materials were criticized by Asian American Christian leaders, who led a campaign to get LifeWay to halt use of the curriculum, which was designed for children. You can still see the old Reconsidering Rickshaw Rally website archived on Geocities.ws.
For the most part, LifeWay didn't give a crap and the issue pretty much died off. Until this week.
The company is apparently under new management. On Wednesday -- ten years after the controversy -- LifeWay president and CEO Thom S. Rainier apologized for Rickshaw Rally via video message at the Mosaix conference in Long Beach, California, a gathering of about 1,000 multiethnic church leaders.
You can watch the video of Rainier's apology here. And here's the transcript:
LifeWay ApologyBetter late than never. Considering the timing, LifeWay's apology was no doubt influenced by the recent open letter from the Asian American community, which outlined several instances of repeated, offensive racial stereotyping of Asians in the evangelical Christian church -- including Rickshaw Rally.
Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO
Nov. 6, 2013
Ten years ago LifeWay's Vacation Bible School material used racial stereotypes that offended many in the Asian American community. I wasn't part of LifeWay then, but I am now. And I've recently learned that decade old offense is still a point of hurt for some.
As president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, I want to apologize. I am sincerely sorry stereotypes were used in our materials, and I apologize for the pain they caused.
I agree with those who have helped us understand the offensive nature of that material. And I agree evangelical church and ministry leaders - particularly those of us who are white - need to commit to assuring, as best we can, these offenses stop.
Although I believe LifeWay has made progress in this area over the years, I want to make that commitment today for LifeWay Christian Resources.
LifeWay will continue to train our staff to be aware of and sensitive to ethnic and cult ural differences so that our materials continue to respectfully represent all people groups.
Finally, I will lead our executive leadership staff to engage in dialog and conversation with ethnic leaders that we might go forth together to strengthen believers and reach people in North America and around the world.
Yeah, we didn't forget about that. But wow, all these years later, I definitely didn't expect to get an official apology from LifeWay. Here's to people actually trying to make things right, even a decade after the fact.
More here: Southern Baptists' LifeWay apologizes for 'offensive' curriculum.