AA101: A series presenting the quick bullet points of Asian American Studies



What does Asian American Studies have to say about Christianity?


Asian American Studies is of two minds about it.

Why is it of two minds: it’s really hard to study Asian American religions.

  • Asian American Studies scholars who study religion have been trained in orientalized systems, the very thing Asian American Studies is against.
      • Religious Studies departments recognize that their studies have been steeped in Orientalization.
          • Talad Asad calls “religion” as studied in Western countries as a Western concept.
          • Hindu Scholar at University of Chicago Wendy Doniger calls herself a recovering orientalist.”
          • As a result, Religious Studies is currently redefining “religion.”
  • Asian American religions are often confused with Asian religions.

  • Asian Americans do not necessarily think of “religion” as Westerners do.
      • If you survey Asian Americans on religion, they will claim they are not religious.
          • If you substitute “family” for “religion x” with the same religious definitions, Asian Americans overwhelmingly say they are religious.
          • Chinese Americans are not necessarily worshiping Gods or a shrine, but the family unit.  Thus, for the Chinese, religion could actually be your family.  (See Russell Jeung)

What do Asian American scholars think about Christianity/Evangelicalism?

  • Rudy Busto ‘hazards’ a guess as to why evangelicalism prevails among Asian Americans on college campuses: it’s a place for personal support to maintain a model minority stereotype.

  • Antony Alumkal, Rebecca Kim, and Sharon Kim challenge Busto, as they talk about Asian American evangelicals as an emerging ethnicity with new practices of religion and ethnicity.  Alumkal also suggests that they might be elevating Christian identities above ethnicity.

  • More Asian American Studies articles are on American Protestant Christianity than any other religion.  (See Roger Daniels)



Further Reading:

David K Yoo, ed. New Spiritual Homes: Religion and Asian Americans (1999)
Expands Asian American Studies past its neo-Marxist anti-religious origins to talk about how Asian Americans think
Jung Ha Kim and Pyong Gap Min, eds. Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities (2001)
A key structuring institution in Asian American communities is faith communities.
Jane Iwamura and Paul Spickard, eds. Revealing the Sacred in Asian and Pacific America (2003)
Asian America itself is religiously constituted.
Carolyn Chen and Russell Jeung, eds, Sustaining Faith Traditions: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion among the Latino and Asian American Second Generation (2012)
Second generation Asian Americans keep both race and religion in tension. They are not shedding one for the other, but living within the intersection of both.

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ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG primarily asks how we are to be, think and respond to being Asian, American and Christian in Christ. Towards this end, we are extremely interested to learn from others and hear viewpoints different from our own. Please note that the views represented here are not necessarily those of ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG.


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