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.

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Can you relate to a nerd?

Tony Kim loves to go to Comic Con. This is his 5th time going, to celebrate all things nerdy. He made this audition reel for an epic documentary film that’s in the works about Comic Con, being done by the same guy that did the Super Size Me movie.

Tony mentioned that one of the many reasons he auditioned was because: “… hardly any Asians auditioning and I hope to represent”. Thanks for stepping up, Tony!

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When a father’s love goes unexpressed

This USA Today commentary by Ray Wong, In death, assumptions about Dad melt away, seems typical of a child’s (or more specifically, a son’s) yearning for the blessing and love of a his Father. And it’s not really limited to Chinese or Asian cultures; it’s a common thing in many (most? all?) cultures for a son to want his father’s approval.

I didn’t think my father cared about me. I left Hong Kong at age 5, when my mother divorced my father in 1968. My father never contacted me. I lived in America. He lived a world away. …
…. After I married my wife, Quyen, in 1998, I visited Hong Kong again to introduce her to my father. When Quyen and I had kids, I heard through my mom that he wanted to see our children. So I invited him to the U.S., told him I would pay for his plane ticket and that he could stay with us. But I never received a response. I didn’t think he cared. So I went about my life.

… my father suffered a stroke and died. … my father’s younger brother brought my father’s possessions to me. … My father had kept every item relating to me and my family. … As I looked upon the pictures of my family with tears in my eyes, I knew I was wrong.

Read the full article.

Love unexpressed and love that doesn’t connect with the “love language” of the person of affection is love lost. What healing and joy there could be when love can freely flows, especially across cultures and generations.

Top Asian Americans on YouTube

Entertainment is the draw for viewers in the online video world of YouTube. Education, not so much.

The top 4 Asian Americans on YouTube were recently listed over at sublimesilence:

3 of the above are noted as comedians. 1 is a musician. Hmmm.

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survey on Asian American women and physical activity

Received this request in the inbox; help spread the word to qualifying women if you’re so inclined.

Research is being conducted by the School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin, about the attitudes toward physical activity among middle-aged women (40-60 Y/O).

The internet survey is related to women’s health studying how different ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes view physical activity. They are especially in need of participation from Asian Americans and low-income Asian-Americans.

Dr. Eun-Ok Im’s work involves conducting an Internet study on the attitudes toward physical activity among diverse ethnic groups of middle-aged women (40-60 Y/O). All women will benefit from participating in this study and with more participation they will be able to make their data more complete.

In this study, each participant will be reimbursed with a gift certificate of 10 dollars per Internet survey.

Please note that the survey will begin with some eligibility questions to determine if our study has fulfilled our sampling quota for an individual with certain characteristics.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our study. Thank you so much for considering this study.

e-MAPA Research Team
Hannah Lee, Research Assistantd
School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin
1700 Red River, Austin, TX 78701

what the Gospel looks like in Taiwan

Missiologist and researcher Ed Stetzer (and a group of pastors) are on a Taiwan vision trip. They’ve observed several things that make the Gospel obviously and visibly different than what the Gospel looks like in a typical mostly-Caucasian majority-culture American evangelical context.


Ed blogs in Ancestor Worship and Taiwanese Christians about an interview with Robert Young in this video — Contextual Response to Ancestral Worship (7:37)

And, this video in blog entry, Meeting and Learning from Pastor Chen (6:18)

Does this suggest that the Gospel should look differently among Asian Americans?

In this blog post, I’m using the term “Gospel” broadly, in the sense of how the Gospel and its implications is lived out in particular contexts of an ethnic and/or racial grouping. And in so exploring and forming, even the language and terms used to explain the explicit and implicit theologies may need adaptation too.

How intergenerational worship can be creative and inclusive

The Next Gener.Asian Church conversation kicks off with David Park talking about his and Dan Ra‘s experience at the 12th annual Korean Worship & Music Conference.

Listen to this conversation (running time=14:17 min; powered by podOmatic)::

This was the first time that this conference had an English track, and it was fascinating to hear how the Korean-speaking and English-speaking could harmoniously worship with one another and learn from one another.

Why so many Asians love education

Amidst a rather morbidly morose topic, albeit candidly true, the author of this article dug deeper and excavated our East Asian roots and its Confucian influence — this is a selected excerpt:

But why is education so deeply ingrained in the Confucian culture?

Long before America existed, something of the American dream already had taken root in East Asia through the scholarship and examination system of the Mandarins. Villages and towns pooled their resources and sent their best and brightest to compete in the imperial court, hoping that one of their own would make it to the center of power.

Mandarins of various ranks were selected by how well they fared on extremely rigorous examinations. The brilliant few who passed ran the day-to-day operations of imperial China and Vietnam. A Mandarin could become a governor, a judge, or even marry into the royal family. A peasant thus could rise high above his station, elevating the status of his entire clan and honor his ancestors in the process. It all hinged on his ability to pass the difficult exams. 

Of all the temples in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, the most beautiful is arguably the Temple of Literature, dedicated to all the laureates who passed the extremely rigorous imperial exams… Dedicated to Confucius and founded in 1070, it was Vietnam’s first university. It eventually became a temple, as if only befitting a trajectory in a world where education is literally worshiped. 

So worshiped that not getting good grades often means failing to achieve your destiny and thereby failing your own and your family’s expectations. Many of us consequently learned to measure the world and ourselves solely through a pedagogic lens. You are how well you do in school. Indeed, many are being caught in the Asian educational pressure cooker and, with little time for anything else, also robbed of much-needed social skills and independent thinking that could give them a different way of looking at themselves. 

An old mythology follows many of us across the sea: Only perfection matters and, by logic, its opposite, failure is rooted in shame. In his analects, Confucius recommended this philosophy when it comes to ruling people: “Lead the people with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously.” Even if much of the Confucian ethos have eroded, many old rites and ritual practices long forgotten since communism takeover and modernization began, the one thing that remains in operation is that sense of shame, and how it still profoundly grips the East Asian psyche. To lose face may still cause many an Asian to commit suicide. 

Asian Americans have excelled higher education in the last few decades. Less than 5 percent of the country’s population, Asian Americans typically make up 10 to 30 percent of the best colleges. What’s barely explored, sadly, is the darker narrative, that subterraneous stream that runs parallel to this shining path to academic success: stress, disappointment, depression, and, when failing to make the grade, a profound if not deadly identity crisis.

It’s been said that if you build your identity on anything other than God, that’s idolatry. If the ethnic Asian church doesn’t call it idolatry, who will?

Sulu actor is also a Pastor’s Kid

In this Asian Pacific Arts interview, John ChoThe Game-Changer: An Interview with John Cho, by Oliver Wang, we discover a bit of the actor’s family background and intersection with faith. Arguably “Hollywood’s most visible Asian American” with his latest role as Sulu in the Star Trek reboot. I first saw John Cho in the infamous Harold and Kumar movie.

APA: Your father was a minister. What denomination?

JC: This was a denomination called Church of Christ.

APA: Many of my Asian American friends growing up attended Christian churches where they would have weekend night services filled with singing, playing music, and performances. Was that what your father’s church was like?

JC: Actually no. There were no musical instruments allowed in this church. Their philosophy is based on the absence of the mention of musical instruments in the New Testament. They took it very seriously.

APA: Wow, so no organs or guitars, I’m assuming?

JC: This church would call all that stuff entertainment. And the church wasn’t a place for entertainment. So we didn’t have a choir. It was only communal singing. We sang together from the pews, four-part harmonies, and no one was allowed to get up in front and solo. Or have a special light shown on them.

A post-racial church for the next generation

Can a church become post-racial?” Efrem Smith tackles this question over at Theooze.TV:

The embedded video is a preview. Watch the full video at Theooze.TV, and see the discussion already going at the comment thread there.

Also see this response to this video was posted at the Storrs Community Church blog (the church is located in Storrs, Connecticut):

… My immediate response to seeing the question, “Can the church become post-racial?”, was one of frustration that we are bandying about the wrong word and at the wrong time, when every well-being statistic you can look at across the country shows extreme white privilege and a sizable racial/ethnic gap. This is not by chance. It shows up in almost every category. And its a direct result of slavery and our policy making and community building that favored Whites over anyone else. It’s most likely not intentional racism from anyone nowadays, but racial inequity nonetheless.

… The church is not separate from culture, but quite collusive historically. Hence, we see similar inequities within. We’re not talking about overt, Jim Crow racism (i.e., race relations), but rather the scaffolding in our communities, however unseen to some/many.