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the conundrum of the asian-american christian

the following is an excerpt from a recent chat i had with DJ Chuang…

DJ Chuang: my theory is this, re: Asian cultural pride… since Asian culture is hierarchial, the place for repentance and cultural change is at the top. if the person (or few persons) who hold sway and influence at the top is willing to repent and to call what's wrong as wrong, then the whole deal can change. so, in a church context, it would be the senior pastor acknowledging a wrong, then proposing and taking steps to correct it

exportjoy: i've seen that done in an "american" church, but never in a korean or asian church

DJ Chuang: and what Asians have in common is that "save face" kind of pride and it is very rare to see open confessions by top Asian leaders

exportjoy: do you think that could change in the next generation of leaders? and would that alter our sense of cultural identity? i mean, would korean christians deem me less korean, if i dared to not save face? to downplay my own culture to lift up my faith? would the church embrace? or push me away?

DJ Chuang: yes, i think that would be the cultural / corporate reaction, to deem you less korean, for changing culture from the position that you have and the church would push you away

DJ Chuang: it's common for Chinese and Korean churches to uphold culture higher than faith

exportjoy: isn't that our Achille's heel? our idol, perhaps? that i loved my culture more than my savior?

DJ Chuang: it'd take a very patient and wise top leader to change that culture

DJ Chuang: that is an idol, but not unique to Asian

exportjoy: i agree, it is not unique to asians

DJ Chuang: every culture, every person, has an idol that wars against God maybe the way to say it is: what is it about being Asian that keeps us from making Jesus our first love

exportjoy: yes, i believe that is a better way of putting it and i suppose it is hard to lay down my asian-ness

DJ Chuang: and does loving Jesus then make us less Asian?

exportjoy: quite a conundrum. i don't even know how to be less asian. i just am! right? i mean, i didn't ask to look this way…to grow up loving kimchi

DJ Chuang: some asians are stuck, some change pretty well or, better, i should say most people can't change, but a few can change well.

exportjoy: yes, i have seen many who will not reconcile the two

DJ Chuang: and, well, those that can't reconcile the two, most would choose Asian over Christ, eh?

exportjoy: yes, culture appears to be very safe. for instance, my mother-in-law (who is indian, by the way) was shocked when she discovered that her daughter left Hinduismshe said, "how could you leave your religion? it is like leaving your mother."

DJ Chuang: and scripture has something to say about that. to follow Christ is costly, and to really follow, means forsaking friends and family and in this case, culture..

DJ Chuang: that's a true comment, it is like that

exportjoy: yes…we don't like forsaking much

DJ Chuang: and, Jesus, speaking as a person of Eastern mindset, said that very thing

exportjoy: yes, that's actually the irony of it…to follow him is to lose yourself, isn't it? the funny thing is most of us are still looking to find ourselves that we just don't want to stop the search

DJ Chuang: For I came to turn A man against his father , a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her law (Matthew 10:35)


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

2 responses to “the conundrum of the asian-american christian

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  2. William

    Interesting conversation. I wonder if the question for the Asian American is which do you choose, Asian or American…or perhaps there is really no question…just being a Christian and following the Holy Spirit’s leading. When we follow our culture ahead of Christ, we are disobedient to him…or rather if we love our culture more than Christ that would be idolatry. Sort of like modern day Judaizing.

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