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Zondervan Issues Apology for Publishing 'Deadly Viper'

President and CEO Moe Gerkins says the book's contents, which used Chinese characters and illustrations, 'are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.'

Zondervan President and CEO Moe Gerkins apologized on behalf of the company for publishing Deadly Viper: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership, a book that uses Chinese characters and images for illustrations.

Gerkins said the company will remove the book and curriculum from stores permanently, according to an email to North Park Theological Seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah.

Rah called for an apology on November 3 on his blog because of what he perceived as insensitivity to Asian culture and to the Asian-American community.

Deadly Viper authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite have removed materials from their website, but their Facebook fan page is still up and Zondervan still has two chapters of the book on its website.

Rah cited the following examples as problematic:

This video clip is extremely offensive and portraying Asians in a cartoonish manner in order market your merchandise. Particularly offensive is the voiceover of a white person doing a faux Asian accent: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=35881373178&ref=mf

This image presents Asian as sinister enemies: http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=deadly+viper&init=quick#/photo.php?pid=2233965&id=101311418670

This quote reveals an insensitivity to the Chinese language and mocks Chinese names: "There is a killer called Zi Qi Qi Ren. No, this is not some communicable disease, but it certainly is deadly. This funky Chinese word"

The use of Chinese characters and kanji in a non-sensical manner.

Rah wrote that the authors were using cultural symbols to make a sale or to make a point.

"Mike and Jud, you are two white males who are inappropriately co-opting another culture and using it to further the marketing of your book," he wrote. "You are not from our cultural framework, yet you feel that you have the authority to represent our culture before others."

Rah had initially e-mailed Foster, who also founded XXX Church, saying, "What is the point of making an allusion to 'Kung Fu' and having a dragon on the cover. You need to respect the culture. Not mock the culture."

Foster responded:

prof rah…seriously?

dont you think its a little ironic that an associate professor of evangelism is practicing the philosophy of "judge a book by its cover"

do this…read the book first….then feel free to make any judgments or voice any concerns on its content….

On Thursday, Zondervan responded in their e-mail to Rah:

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.

"It reflects a genuine repentant spirit and a deep willingness to hear and to act. I am moved by Zondervan's willingness to act in this decisive and dramatic manner," Rah wrote on his blog.

Several bloggers had weighed in on the issue, and several are now praising Zondervan's decision.

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Posted:November 20, 2009 at 5:03PM
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