Well I normally never post without first thinking and editing carefully, but this one is on the fly. Please forgive any egregious errors and misspellings that may appear.
Firstly, I am very grateful to the hosts of the conference call for inviting and even welcoming my participation in the discussion. I am honored to be asked to “listen in” as an outsider to the culture to some of the challenging questions that face the next generation of Asian American Christians as they seek to engage the social, theological, and cultural issues that press the Asian American community. I do not take for granted that opportunity, but I will say that I have been time and again impressed by the hospitality of those in the Asian and Asian American community.
Secondly, I grieve the fact that these kinds of conversations are not happening more frequently than they are, although I suspect many more people that the 8 or 9 of us on that call are concerned and even actively pursuing solutions to these issues. Certainly my church is trying to be proactive in its engagement of some of these issues within the parameters of being an English ministy within a Korean church, and EM that is increasingly diverse, but which is also made up mostly of churched individuals. The question was raised during our discussion as to how such a group can become missional since it’s origins were based in serving the existing needs of the children of the 1st generation. That is certainly a question that we have much room to explore.
Thirdly, I continue to be intrigued by the parallels and distinctions between Asian and Asian American culture and community and the Black American church and community and I lament the fact that there is, at present, little interethnic dialogue that is not mediated through the dominant culture. Certainly the disparate racial histories in this country present very different scenarios and challenges to our respective church communities, but I am convinced that we have something to learn from one another.
One salient difference is the strong desire on the part of most middle class Black people to rear their children within the distinctive culture of Black America to the extent that many will drive great distances or make tremendous sacrifices to ensure that their children learn what it is to be “Black” by being involved in the Black church, even if that church is lacking in other dimensions. From what I have heard and observed, Asian Americans do not seem to share this strong desire – perhaps due to the natural rebellion against the immigrant culture that their parents brought with them, and perhaps due to the desire to assimilate as much and as quickly as possible into mainstream American culture. I am certain there are other factors at play.
Finally, the issue of Asian American cultural identity is very tied to place, as the majority of Asian Americans reside on or very near the West Coast, with others concentrated on the East Coast. This is somewhat reminiscent of the geographic concentration of Blacks in the earliest days of the twentieth century when most Blacks lived in the rural south. As Asian Americas increase in numbers and have their own “Great Migration” what changes will be seen in the culture and what new ways of cultural engagement will emerge? I suspect that the dominant desire for multiethnic engagement will be somewhat tempered just as the Civil Rights movement in the South (looking towards integration) and the North (economic & social empowerment) diverged.