The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be an American and then write any kind of music you wish.
– Virgil Thompson
In a recent phone conversation with my father, I conveyed some of the questions I was wrestling with in terms of the 2nd generation church and its relationship to the immigrant church and his responses startled me somewhat. His responses have been translated here and in many cases, paraphrased by me.
John Park: “The 2nd-generation needs to figure it out for itself, don’t worry about the first-generation. They are two different things. One is an immigrant generation that needed to find that community and needed to make things work, but the other is a resident generation, you need to develop your own community and define how church will work for you.”
Me: Yeah, but Dad, don’t you think that we, as the 2nd-generation draw so much from you, the first generation? I mean, you raised me and I grew up in that church, much of that culture is in me as well.
JP: I know that, but it’s different. You’re no longer an immigrant. You don’t have to be like us.
Me: Does that bother you? That we’re not like you in some ways? Do you have regrets for coming here? That I am less Korean than you were to your parents?
JP: No. I don’t have regrets. We came so that we could have a better life. Things were hard here, but they wouldn’t have been any easier than in Korea. Koreans cannot help treating immigrants differently. We get treated differently when we go back now too. They can see it in the way we dress and the way we talk. On some occasions they’ve charged us higher prices because they know we’re not Korean Koreans. They’re very sensitive to that, but your mother and me, we don’t care about that. We’d rather be here.
Me: I know that other immigrants don’t feel that way. They’re very disappointed that their children are less Korean or too American. You don’t feel that way?
JP: No. I’m fine with that. Others may feel differently, but we received more than we gave up. You speak Korean well for the 2nd generation and you have a great deal of understanding for Korean culture. We’re happy with that.
Me: I’ve realized that I am more Korean than I thought, but what relationship should my culture have with my faith? I mean, shouldn’t my faith influence my culture, who I am, if I am Korean to whatever degree?
JP: Well you’re right, and being a Christian means change for a person, but it takes time for a group of people, especially twilight communities like the immigrant and 2nd-generation. It may be that it will be easier for the following generations, but it’s not easy now. I can see that it’s difficult being in sort of a sandwich of cultures, but in time…