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How being Asian American affects theology

Andy Cheung moved to Seattle from Austin and is in the midst of seminary studies at Mars Hill Graduate School. He blogged some thoughts about how being an Asian American could and should affect theology, alluding to how theology is not cultural-neutral [ed.note: emphasis added] —
Andy Cheung
New Perspective

. . . Tied to the dynamics of cultural identity are my understanding of theology and the Church. Being of Asian-American descent, two things have become apparent throughout my coursework: (1) a western perspective dominates our theological conversations and (2) there is a relative lack of Asian-American voices. As a result, I have become increasingly convinced the Church needs to hear the Christian narrative through different cultural lenses. This includes an Asian lens.

Strange and Unprepared

. . . Growing up as an Asian-American presented the challenge of living within two contrasting cultures. My conversations with fellow Asian-Americans have lead me to believe that the tension brought on by the oppositional nature of the two cultures is not something unique to my experience. In the Church, the Asian-American response has typically been to contextualize Christianity to Asian culture within the framework of dominant Western theology. While traditionally one might argue Asian-Americans have struggled within the context of dualistic culture, we are also in position to take on the unique role of bridging the two cultures together.

3 Rounds and a Sound

. . . The work required to fully realize an integrated Asian-American theology is substantial. In my conversations with those already at work in this field, I have come to learn of two issues that need to be addressed in order for there to be significant progress. The first is the need for a fully developed indigenous Asian theology. In order for an Asian-American theology to be realized, an indigenous Asian theology must continue to develop as it holds conversation with a fully expressed Western theology.

… The second issue calls for an increased awareness amongst Asian-Americans. In general, most Asian-Americans have willingly accepted a Western Christianity without considering there might be another alternative. The possibility of an integrated Asian-American theology goes far beyond maintaining the language and cultural traditions. It calls for active engagement in immigrant and indigenous cultures in order to reveal the presence of Western presuppositions and to discover where cultural and spiritual synthesis might occur.


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3 responses to “How being Asian American affects theology

  1. Bill

    Intriguing to say the least. Being Asian-American and having a close circle of Asian-American friends, some in the pastorate, this topic remains near and dear. I agree with your premise, and during seminary, spent some time reading, albeit only a few texts, from Asian theologians. What do you see as the necessary altering views that would result. How would a truly indigenous Asian theology look? Thanks for this posting.

  2. For Pieris, it is of prime importance that Asian theology be derived from the practice of religion. Spirituality, which should be intimately involved with the concerns of the culture, is not then the conclusion of theology but theology’s starting point. In an Asian context this requires a living involvement with Asian culture, one that creates a radical empathy with the central realities of Asian life – identified by Pieris as “overwhelming poverty” and a “multifaceted religiousness”

  3. Daniel ⋅

    This is a much needed voice in the discussion of American spirituality. However, we should be careful to note that the Gospel is the primary lens through which we truly see our culture and not the other way around. We need to remain anchored to the fact that we as children of God are foremost eternal beings that develop with cultural shrouds and that the point of all theology needs to point us back to 1 Tim 1:5. If our ultimate conclusions point to anything other than Christ, we need to tread carefully.

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