This school year, we are illustrating our aspirations for AsianAmericanChristian.org.
In September, we looked at how Christian world history has been taught and revised.
In October, we have been looking at Christianity in America and Asian American Christians.

 

Starting November 25, we looked at Asian America and Asian American Christians

Special thanks to Tim Tseng, a historian and a pastor who served as our guide!

 

How many are we?  Who is an Asian American according to the US Census?
18.9 million Asian Americans (including mixed race).  We are Americans with origins in the “Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.”

A short (and of course incomplete) primer on our immigration history
There are pre-1965 Asian Americans and post-1965 Asian Americans.

Pre 1965:

  • After 1850s: Chinese mostly from Guangdong (Canton).  Excluded from entering the US in 1882.
  • After 1880s and 1890s: Japanese.  Excluded in 1907.
  • After 1898: Filipinos who were US nationals of the new American territory, the Philippines.
  • All Asians excluded: 1924.  Except Filipinos.
  • 1934: Planned independence of Philippines meant Filipinos were no longer nationals.  Filipinos excluded.

1965 Immigration Act allowed Asians to have the same quota as the Europeans

  • After 1965: Immigrant working class Cantonese from Hong Kong.
  • After late 1960s and 1970s: Chinese from Taiwan, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Koreans whose immigration peaked in 1987.
  • Mid and late 1970s: Southeast Asians as refugees
  • After 1979: Chinese from China, and especially after Tiananmen Square in 1989.  Many are still coming.
  • Many others!

 

ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES AS A RESPONSE TO OUR HISTORY

AA101: our crash course to Asian American Studies (from Spring 201, revised)
Asian American Studies is about identifying and resisting orientalization that paints us as perpetual foreigners and racializes us as model minorities who have little need for public funding, laws or justice. Physical acts of terror and legislation made it hard to live and work. In protest, some Asian Americans have responded through the Asian American Movement via Asian American Studies.

 

OUR COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP WITH ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES

Why Asian American Studies does not always seem to be about Asian Americans
“Asian American Studies [began as] a grassroots movement. It didn’t start in universities per se, but in Chinese and Japanese communities…. In the 1980s, Asian American Studies became more focused on gaining legitimacy in the academic community…. The nature of recent writings—even historians have done this—has shifted from looking at Asians as objects or victims of racial oppression or economic injustice to looking at the Asian American subject themselves.”

What Asian American Studies misses about Asian American Christians, especially before 1965
“The surprising thing that has not been highlighted is that historically, it’s been the Asian American Christians (or those who grew up in churches) who were among the most outspoken leaders of community activism.”

Asian American Studies and Asian American Christians
“A large majority of Asian Americans (Christian or otherwise) have never taken Asian American Studies classes….Few Christians have engaged Asian American Studies’ critical and conceptual awareness of what was really happening in a racialized society.”

“Some scholars, teachers, and students can make you feel that in order to become a real Asian American, you have to reject the Western Christian colonization of your brain (Western equals Christian according to their analyses). Consequently many young people who grew up in church reject their faith and/or adopt community activism when they imbibe Asian American Studies.”

“My personal view on this is that Asian American Studies, when it is not contextualized or nuanced properly, can be very dangerous…. I think the danger is that if you’re not theologically sophisticated enough to dance through those assumptions, you can wind up questioning your faith or converting your faith into activism or academic work. These are not necessarily the safest places to work out your faith.”

“On the other hand, Asian American Christians who have completely bought into a de-contextualized (or color-blind) theology are also a danger. By completely rejecting or dismissing the insights from Asian American Studies, they unwittingly perpetuate the Western colonization and White supremacist heresy within the Christian faith….Asian Americans Studies can be the best dialogue partner for the development of contextual theology and ministry within Asian American settings.”

“If Asian American Studies has led anyone away from Christ, it is because Christians have failed to listen and provide a positive response.”

“Isn’t it all about the Great Commission and making disciples of all nations!?!  How do you do that?…. The process cannot be done through the traditional colonial approach which is akin to saying “I’m going to bring my gospel and unconsciously impose my culture and make everyone like me.” That colonial approach to the Great Commission is ineffective, unbiblical and immoral….It unconsciously imports the evangelist’s cultural baggage and tries to make everyone a clone. I don’t think this is intentional but it does happen. This happens with many Korean and Chinese pastors too. Wherever they go they do the same thing. For instance, immigrant pastors who don’t learn how to do contextual theology and ministry are inept at relating to the next generation and the wider American scene. As a result, too many Korean and Chinese language churches are not just ethnoburb ghettos, they are transnational colonies that cannot or will not adjust to the changing realities in the U.S. Most believe that they proclaim a colorblind gospel, but like so many white evangelicals, they wind up unconsciously imposing their ethnic baggage into their ministry and theology.”

 

 

 

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