And the authors of Deadly Viper have removed all previous materials from their website and posted this apology:
Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins”
From Moe Girkins, President and CEO
Hello and thanks for your patience.
On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins. It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.
There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.
We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.
Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.
It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.
Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.
To our Friends and Family:
Due to an unfortunate conflict that arose around our use of Asian American themes, we have decided to close this chapter of Deadly Viper Character Assassins. This decision has been a very difficult one for us and one that we did not take lightly.
For the past 2 years we have had the honor to be part of an incredible movement of advocating for radical integrity and grace. We have been deeply humbled hearing your stories of how Deadly Viper has impacted your life, family, and relationships.
We and our team will continue to commit our lives to the message of integrity, grace, and most of all becoming People Of The Second Chance.
We thank you for your prayers, support, and kindness through this season.
We love you.
Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite
I heartily commend Zondervan and the authors for this action and am glad for this result. It is stunning to see authors willing to give up an invested brand identity in order to make things right. I am grateful for the dialogue that has taken place and that people in positions of power were willing to listen and learn.
Takeaway for the church overall: This is how it's done. This is The Next Evangelicalism that Soong-Chan writes about - a church that is stronger, more authentic and has more integrity in its witness when all members of the body are honored and respected. The church is becoming more global, more diverse, and the future of the North American church will depend on how readily it incarnates the totality of the body in all its ethnic and cultural dimensions.
Takeaway for Asian American Christians in particular: As I've said before, Asian Americans have an opportunity to become culture makers. It's not enough to protest when injustice occurs (as important as that is) - we must also be contributing to the conversation and involved in the business of creating cultural artifacts that shape society. We need Asian Americans (and people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds!) as authors, editors, marketers, designers, journalists, bloggers, publishing executives. It's likely that this Deadly Viper incident would not have happened if Zondervan had had more Asian Americans on staff. So Asian American community, as Paul Tokunaga says in Invitation to Lead, it's time to step up. Write books. Apply for jobs at Zondervan (and other Christian publishers). Get in the game.