We’re sharing our thinking behind the 7 challenges that inform our mission. Our mission is to ask what God is doing in us to hear and gather all Asian American Christian voices and build inroads necessary for understanding, reconciliation and fellowship.

AsianAmericanChristian.org is a proposal for a new ministry that offers a framework and a way forward. If you’re wondering where these ideas are coming from, read this. If you’re interested and would perhaps like to join our feedback sessions this Fall, join our mailing list.

 

 

(1) Our diversity is astounding!
(2) Our diversity is dynamic!
(3) Our diversity is a strength!
(4) Interpersonally, our diversity makes things confusing and hard!
(5) Individually, our diversity makes things confusing and hard!

We need to address the challenge of our diversity

What we propose

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(1) Our diversity is astounding! 
As a whole—our diversity is astounding! Beyond ethnicity and Christian flavor, we’re diverse in every way imaginable! Living full and vibrant lives, it’s not realistic for us to have friendships with a member of every Asian ethnicity, every socio-economic background, every Christian tradition.

Even within our communities, where like seems to attract like—-our diversity is astounding! Our churches, families and marriages are diverse. We take on a variety of jobs, our churches represent a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. We come from different places in Asia, in America, we have different levels of schooling; we are male and female. We’re also more likely to marry a non-Asian American than any other race, and we marry inter-Asian.

Even within ourselves, we’re bi-cultural, multi-cultural and even transnational. We don’t have to be literally mixed-race to be affected by the multitude of cultures and subcultures around us.  We have all been influenced by many things, be it hip hop, Warren Buffet, the Food Network or Tim Keller.  We are individuals with our own preferences, interests and thoughts, and our own relationships with God. God certainly created each of us uniquely in our mothers’ wombs. We are indeed each fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139)

(2) Our diversity is dynamic!
As the world constantly changes—as technologies rise, as communication and transport become easier, as environments shift, as we age, as we get educated, work, move, travel and raise families—we change too. Our circumstances, tastes, and backgrounds keep changing as we grow, move, and encounter others.

Our cultures change too. People who immigrated from a 1960s India, for example, remember an India that is very different from India today. Speaking of Italian immigrants with strict parenting rules, Pico Iyer notes “They were probably more Italian than they’d be at home….Foreignness can intensify the cultures we’ve forgotten.” The same can be said of immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and other places. Newer Chinese immigrants, from a much more prosperous Asia, sometimes find their predecessors much more old fashioned, speaking a Chinese and holding on to a Chinese culture that’s moved on.

Calling oneself “Asian” in America also is arguably something learned. If you ask most of us what we are, we’ll tell you we’re Vietnamese, Sri Lankan or Japanese. Many of our countries were historic enemies—and many of the living still remember being at war.  We do not have a natural affinity for one another. So if we say “Asian” it was something we intuited, gleaned, and/or were perhaps taught in school, by the media, by friends, or census forms. Using the term “Asian” means we are aware of Asian others.

 

(3) Our diversity is a strength!
What we popularly hear is true: world is more global and people with bi-cultural, multi-cultural, transnational associations benefit. Asian Americans are those who bridge worlds.

What we hear from the Bible is also true: the body of Christ is one body made up of many parts that need one another. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12, etc.) We each have a part to play; we each have our different gifts, a diversity of gifts and talents and roles!

An amazing thing happened at Pentecost: “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11b)  God redeemed the Tower of Babel, uniting his children literally in Christ. As Peter declared: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-9) And repent they did, as God “added to their numbers daily.”

We’ve been repenting and getting baptized too, as God has been growing our numbers today. 42% of us are Christian–more of us than any other religion in America. Thanks to missionaries, some of us have been Christian for generations, even when our families still lived in Asia. And many of us became Christian here in America, like Fred Mok’s family.   Most of us can point to many people we know who have accepted Christ. While some Evangelicals lament that Christianity in the United States is dying, Soong Chan Rah and others remind us that that is not true! It only seems true, because they forget to consider Asian Americans and other minorities. We’ve been using our networks, the strength of our diversity—we’re speaking in our multiple tongues like in Acts—to share God’s love, to share the Gospel. We’ve been offering our picture, our taste of God’s love! We’ve been doing our part in the Body of Christ!

 

(4) Interpersonally, our diversity makes things confusing and hard!
While Pentecost may have redeemed the Tower of Babel, we’re not fully on the other side just yet. God’s kingdom is here and also not yet. While Jesus has the victory, he’s won, but as CS Lewis points out, we’re still living in “enemy-occupied territory.” News is still making its way to the troops, and the war continues.

Diversity makes communication and understanding hard. There’s a language barrier even if we all speak English. Our level of fluency varies according to our education, our reading, our opportunities. Some of us speak with accents as varied as Korean or Australian or even Southern (US). Our English is sprinkled with different references, allusions based off for example, Reformed theology, television or politics. Our givens are not necessarily the same: our assumptions about acceptable topics of conversation, forbidden subjects to broach, are not uniform. Who even has the right to talk freely? Much of this is dependent upon environment, comfort-level, status,  even our ability with language. And how do you know if your communication is accurate? How do you know what the hearer hears?

Our diversity can make interpersonal communication very uncomfortable, laborious and exhausting. It can compound misunderstandings, offenses and conflict.

It can be easier to connect with people who seem just like us. This is why we look for marriage partners that fit us, why companies hire folks that fit their “culture.” But even in our own groups, it’s not so easy to get along. Within our own groups, there are plenty of misunderstandings, offenses and conflicts to make things confusing and difficult. The dominant and outspoken can drown out other voices. We can be tempted to take the easy road, and not develop our own thoughts. It’s easier to ignore the feelings and voices inside that bother us, not bother to sort out those thoughts and just go with the flow. Sometimes it feels impossible to sort out these feelings and tending to them, is not always immediately helpful.

(5) Individually, our diversity makes things confusing and hard!
While being bicultural, multicultural, transnational even is as old as the history of human migration, globalism at this speed and in this quantity is a first. Old ways of doing things are being disrupted faster than we can adapt. (For example, college students need to be reminded to use email.) With new technologies constantly growing and shifting, it’s not possible to be 100% fluent in every mode of communication. While we may know how to get promoted at work, we may have no clue as to how to communicate with our parents. Being bicultural, multicultural does not necessarily mean complete fluency in these cultures.

We can intuit when we’ve entered a different world; we notice when we’re talking to a person with different assumptions or expectations, different reference points. What’s cool or taboo in one setting is not in another. This could be quite shocking or humorous, or it could anger us—especially if we think certain things are suppose to be a certain way. If we think being Christian means our lives will always be smooth sailing, we’ll have a hard time loving other Christians going through difficulties. Some may be prone to judge: “They must be doing something wrong / They must be the problem / They must not be Christian.”

More often, if we move in and between different worlds, it can leave us feeling confused and unsure. How then are we suppose to find a spouse? How then are we to talk to non-Christians? What then do I make of my ambition? How then do I love my family? How do we know what God wants our lives? Sometimes when there are no role models to follow, we can be rendered frustrated, immobile and even depressed as we’re trying to figure things out.  The way forward is not clear.

We need to address the challenge of our diversity

What we propose


We want to help sort out our complexity by asking people: What is God doing in us?  We want to ask this directly to know people’s stories and to see trends, and indirectly as we try to understand our various reference points.

As Jesus meets us where we’re at, we want to allow a way for all Asian American Christians to be themselves, to speak on their own terms. We want to champion all known (and not so known) ministries; we want to highlight what God’s already done and what he’s doing.

Eventually, we want to meet all Asian American Christians—at all levels and mold our growing research into resources that will propel us further towards Christ.

 

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