- Reference Points
- Asian American Christians
- Asian Americans
- Christianity in the World
- Christianity in America
- Spectrum of Views
Hey! Yes! This is me! This is us!!!
This giddy excitement is what I felt when I first heard about the Sociologist Rudy Busto’s oft-cited 1996 article in the academic journal Amerasia. I was so excited about it, I couldn’t calm myself to read it. My mind kept playing out it’s implications, my heart kept racing—this is me, these are the people I’m familiar with—and he notes a trend! A trend that we Asian Americans are becoming/staying Christian at elite colleges! Sure, his article is more about why this could be the case (and it’s not particularly flattering), but I was more interested in his stated assumption: that we indeed exist.
We more than exist, as Busto and so many media outlets proclaim (for example, see here and here): Asian American Christians since the 1990s have become “central players” on college campuses. We exist, Michael Luo tells New York Times readers as he puts words to his emotions welling up around Jeremy Lin’s rise to the world stage. We more than exist to Carl Park! Writing also in February 2012 and building on Luo, he explains us further to evangelicals in The Gospel Coalition Blog: “in some pockets of the country, such as Harvard and the New York that Luo knows we’re majority—not minority—Christianity.”
To Luo, we have a “quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith” like Jeremy Lin:
“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. You will also immediately know it if you are part of a historically orthodox church in a major metropolitan center like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles because your pews are probably filled with them. 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.”
And here is Park after the prerequisite caveats (we are all one in Christ, and this is an oversimplification):
“First, in some pockets of the country, such as Harvard and the New York that Luo knows, we’re majority—not minority—Christianity. In much of the country, Asian American Christians may be relatively unknown: they don’t top best-seller lists, they don’t pastor largely white megachurches, and they are not a large presence in smaller cities. But, as Luo writes, if you are a part of an historically orthodox church in New York or San Francisco, or if you’re a student involved in a parachurch at Harvard or Stanford, chances are that you know plenty of them. Christianity’s non-white face in these places reminds us what Christianity increasingly looks like at a global level.”
Park continues to detail our differences to make his point that we come to evangelical conversations as outsiders, and remain that way even after we’ve been invited in. His goal is for evangelicals to recognize our different experiences, and to include us better. Though this is a great topic—it is for another day. His definition of “Asian American Christianity” quoted above is what I want to put forth for discussion.
On one had, is it too obvious to say that this story cannot possibly represent the literally millions of us in this country? We did not all go to top-tier schools. We do not all live in major metropolitan centers. And what about other generations like our parents? Where do they fit in to this rubric? Are they not also Asian American?
On the other hand, though I don’t know Luo or Park, I can’t help but sense a familiarity, a resonance to what they are describing. Like Luo, I became a Christian in college at Stanford, and I was an intern at a “historically orthodox church.” (Let me just name the main one I think he means: Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.) In fact, I had more than a few conversations with Asian-Americans in the congregation watching his/her face fall as I told them that City Church San Francisco was theologically evangelical. They were really quite startled to hear that, just as I was when first heard the term repeatedly at InterVarsity’s national offices in my early 20s. Like Park, engaging in conversations with Evangelicals was a shock to my system, but it is a conversation I deeply care about. I feel like they both describe the crowd I’m most familiar with, the friends I perhaps am still most close to. Luo and Park are my people!
Of course, they are not only “my people,” my people, our people are the entire body of Christ.
But overall I’m really quite thankful for these two. Writing a summary like this is quite difficult. It is a bold task. And it gives us a place to start.
Other notable coverage of Luo’s story:
Luo’s interview in Patheos
Join our mailing list
Like us on Facebook
SUMMER AND FALL 2015
Asian American Ministries
Frames of Reference
7 challenges to
Asian American Ministries
Asian American Ministers,
this mainly is for you.
Other ways to give here.
All gifts are tax-deductible.
2015, 2014, 2013