we the people, the Asian Americans 13


Asian Americans number right around 15 million in the United States right now. And it’s a very diverse bunch, with people from many ethnicities and heritages from many Asian nations. (cf. 2008 Statistical Portrait of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Other Pacific Islanders from UCLA and U.S. Census)

Some things that keep us apart: (extended) family history, focus on differences rather than commonalities, no common national media to connect us. I think advertising don’t work with Asian Americans because of diversity fragmentation, except for those with big budgets to target each and every ethnicity.

2 upcoming events I just found out about, and then a few personal thoughts:

Aside: For 10 years or so, I’ve been trying to join in an open conversation– on mailing lists (like CAC), discussion boards, and in the open internet via blogs– about issues related to Asian American Christians. I’m that open source kind of guy, and freely share the wealth of knowledge and information, and much less concerned about copyrights or monetizing. In those years, I’ve found few conversation partners, though I have found a few. The numbers tell us there are many Asian Americans Christians. About 4,500 Korean churches and 1,000 Chinese churches dot the land, even if most of them are intergenerational ethnic Asian churches, at least 100 have English ministries. Plus, there’s bunches of college campus ministries, like InterVarsity, AACF, Epic Movement, and mentions in articles like “Young, Asian American, and Christian” and papers like “Asian Americans for Jesus: Changing the Face of Campus Evangelicalism“.

A huge gap glares between the numbers and the proportionally few voices online. I’d think there would be more talk from Asian Americans about working out the implications of their Christian faith, at the very least their stories of their faith journey and the redeemed saying so. This gap means the online voices are dominated by the shrill and angry, the anti-Christian and anti-faith, alls the while the mainstream media perpetuates antiquated stereotypes.

A few months ago, I talked about this discrepancy with a 2nd gen Asian American English ministry pastor. “What’s up with that?” I asked. He goes on to explain how being a pastor in an Asian context, he has to “save face” and be careful (i.e. filtered) with what he says, to uphold certain expectations (even if ill-conceived). He adds that for Asians to speak up in public (i.e. online) would open themselves to misunderstanding, and how it’s very difficult to speak without knowing who the audience is, and it’s weird to talk to strangers, and how Asians don’t want to speak in any manner that would reflect poorly on their kins, and some other lines of reasoning.

Would love to hear your feedback. Add a comment. If my words can encourage you to type out that 1st ever public comment, I encourage you to do so. I give you permission.


13 thoughts on “we the people, the Asian Americans

  • Donald Kim

    Hello DJ. My name's Donald, and I've been subscribing to your blog for a few months now. I've been enjoying your lone Asian voice in the blogosphere. Some good thoughts!

    All the best, brother!

  • David Park

    hey dj, thanks for the link love, but more than that, thanks for being a true conversation partner.

    i think the pastor you spoke to has a point. you and i are a bit outside of a particular congregation or ministry which gives us, me moreso to say what i want or observe, without any professional ramifications. however, even when ranting, i try to do so diplomatically although i know that by putting my thoughts out in the blogosphere, some people will already make up their mind about me negatively or positively without ever getting to know me. while we can get some “real” commentary a la cuttingtruth with anonymity, it does to a large degree remain disembodied.

    as for ng.ac, i've tried many times to make it a more collaborative blog in the hopes that a shared journey would encourage other voices to come out, but not with much luck outside of you or daniel so, both of whom are already prolific and busy bloggers.

    but we'll see and keep working. maybe something like kac media is part of the solution, but maybe not. it feels a little strange to have a media group contend to play a role in reversing the silent exodus, and it seems to perpetuate a korean exclusivism that koreans tend to have, even in church. but again, whatever works for the kingdom, i am friendly toward. but i think asian americans need to have a larger framework in which to work out their faith than the channels that are currently available now. in other words, the technology won't help their disenchantment with church. what we need are some new vehicles which will help give voice and creative space, which may show up on the web, but churches don't seem to be it right now.

  • Glennis

    Hey DJ! I always appreciate hearing your thoughts on Asian Americans & Christianity. I am interested in KAC and wonder what EM can do to partner in helping them with their mission (I guess just letting our students know its out there). As for why Asians don't dialogue more on the Internet, for me…I am 1) lazy/busy 2) am afraid what people will think of me. I wonder if others feel the same way?

  • djchuang

    @Donald, thanks for being a reader and subscribing here.

    @David, while I am outside of an Asian church pastoral role, I do have a vital role in the Asian American Christian community, so many of my personal opinions are not voiced online, actually.

    @Glennis, thanks for the comment, and being honest enough to say that there's fear in what people might think of you. That was also very much in the the commentary of the English pastor I was talking with, that some people are concerned about how they're perceived – and this isn't necessarily an Asian thing.

  • Guy

    I am an American who married an Asian… I pastor the English speaking side of a Korean church…I started ministry doing that and walked away very frustrated with the power and the role that culture played within the church and religion. I think there needs to be a voice crying out!

  • Jean

    Hey DJ, and all the commentators. I am currently a producer and head of public relations at KAC Media. Thanks DJ for being such a catalyst for awareness on the silent exodus phenomenon. It is so refreshing to see a deep need be put ahead of

    For those who are interested in knowing more about KAC Media, please feel free to email me at [email protected] to visit the studio and find out how you can get more involved. If you are also interested in attending our banquet, or being a table captain (making a commitment to filling a table of 5-10) – please let me know! You can also check out our site at http://www.kacmedia.org

    Just to clarify for anyone, KAC Media is not taking any credit or making any claims to 'reverse' the silent exodus. Our hope is to engage the silent exodus to look at their personal relationships with the Lord. We are using the new media (integrated with the arts, film, television, news, relationships with churches, non-profit partners, community partners, etc) to just 'start this particular conversation' with those who don't find relevancy in their parent's church anymore. While Koreans can come off as being exclusive – I don't think it's necessarily purposeful. Like with all immigrants in America, it was out of necessity. Culturally – we tend to be somewhat ethnocentric, but I don't think that's a bad thing. This is coming from a Korean-American who was born and raised for half my life in Oklahoma, and the other half in Seattle, WA – and now living in Los Angeles. Even though I grew up half of my life disliking the outer exterior of being Korean – inside, I was still very much Korean. I am very proud of my heritage and that is something unexplainably innate in me (and what I gather from others I know – even adopted Koreans). However, while being very proud of my heritage – I can still be very non-exclusive. I embrace and lean towards diversity. I have a wide circle outside of my Asian circle and they overlap often. I purposely sought out a diverse 'non korean exclusive' church about 10 years ago and my 1st generation parents also sought out the same around 7 years ago. Maybe it's because we are only in the second – going on 3rd – generations of Koreans in America that we can't see the dilution of our heritage as much as we can see through the 5th/6th generations of Chinese and Japanese in America. So while we cannot stop what may be the inevitable from happening – we can address it. DJ is addressing it as an Asian American/Chinese-American. We are addressing it as Korean-Americans, who see the strong need and the gap between the 1st and 2nd generations. Believe me – I didn't necessarily think I'd be at a 'Korean' institution for media as I have a heart for all of Hollywood and the industry not specific to Koreans. Going back to the topic of exclusivity, KAC Media is specifically leaning towards Korean Americans because it is a spin-off of from a 1st generation Korean Minisitry Broadcast organization called JSTV. The pastor/founder has a heart for the 2nd generation and had a vision to essentially sow into the 2nd generation by having 50% english content. His dream is being realized 20 years later. We are carrying the baton – but are also the only ones who can carry out such a specific task to bridge the gap between 1st and 2nd generation Koreans. No one else has a cultural reference point to do that except for Korean Americans who have 1st generation parents. Does that make sense? So we aren't exclusive -as we do have a diverse staff of volunteer interns and our content is actually interesting to non-koreans as well. We do book reviews, music/film reviews, cover news topics, etc).

    Sorry for the long response. I totally respect everyone's opinion – but also know that an opinion can be more rounded with more background. If you have any other thoughts or questions you'd like to address to me – please feel free to email! Thanks!

  • Jean

    Hey DJ, and all the commentators. I am currently a producer and head of public relations at KAC Media. Thanks DJ for being such a catalyst for awareness on the silent exodus phenomenon. It is so refreshing to see a deep need be put ahead of damage control.

    For those who are interested in knowing more about KAC Media, please feel free to email me at [email protected] to visit the studio and find out how you can get more involved. If you are also interested in attending our banquet, or being a table captain (making a commitment to filling a table of 5-10) – please let me know! You can also check out our site at http://www.kacmedia.org

    Just to clarify for anyone, KAC Media is not taking any credit or making any claims to 'reverse' the silent exodus. Our hope is to engage the silent exodus to look at their personal relationships with the Lord. We are using the new media (integrated with the arts, film, television, news, relationships with churches, non-profit partners, community partners, etc) to just 'start this particular conversation' with those who don't find relevancy in their parent's church anymore. While Koreans can come off as being exclusive – I don't think it's necessarily purposeful. Like with all immigrants in America, it was out of necessity. Culturally – we tend to be somewhat ethnocentric, but I don't think that's a bad thing. This is coming from a Korean-American who was born and raised for half my life in Oklahoma, and the other half in Seattle, WA – and now living in Los Angeles. Even though I grew up half of my life disliking the outer exterior of being Korean – inside, I was still very much Korean. I am very proud of my heritage and that is something unexplainably innate in me (and what I gather from others I know – even adopted Koreans). However, while being very proud of my heritage – I can still be very non-exclusive. I embrace and lean towards diversity. I have a wide circle outside of my Asian circle and they overlap often. I purposely sought out a diverse 'non korean exclusive' church about 10 years ago and my 1st generation parents also sought out the same around 7 years ago. Maybe it's because we are only in the second – going on 3rd – generations of Koreans in America that we can't see the dilution of our heritage as much as we can see through the 5th/6th generations of Chinese and Japanese in America. So while we cannot stop what may be the inevitable from happening – we can address it. DJ is addressing it as an Asian American/Chinese-American. We are addressing it as Korean-Americans, who see the strong need and the gap between the 1st and 2nd generations. Believe me – I didn't necessarily think I'd be at a 'Korean' institution for media as I have a heart for all of Hollywood and the industry not specific to Koreans. Going back to the topic of exclusivity, KAC Media is specifically leaning towards Korean Americans because it is a spin-off of from a 1st generation Korean Minisitry Broadcast organization called JSTV. The pastor/founder has a heart for the 2nd generation and had a vision to essentially sow into the 2nd generation by having 50% english content. His dream is being realized 20 years later. We are carrying the baton – but are also the only ones who can carry out such a specific task to bridge the gap between 1st and 2nd generation Koreans. No one else has a cultural reference point to do that except for Korean Americans who have 1st generation parents. Does that make sense? So we aren't exclusive -as we do have a diverse staff of volunteer interns and our content is actually interesting to non-koreans as well. We do book reviews, music/film reviews, cover news topics, etc).

    Sorry for the long response. I totally respect everyone's opinion – but also know that an opinion can be more rounded with more background. If you have any other thoughts or questions you'd like to address to me – please feel free to email! Thanks!

  • margaret lee

    thanks for posting about the mental health conference. i'm actually one of the speakers! 🙂 i read your blog time to time. great work you're doing here.

  • David Park

    Jean,

    i spent 6 years in broken arrow, OK! wow, i wonder if we know some of the same people. in any case, thanks for your work at KAC Media, please don't mistake my reservations as critique of KAC, i'm very happy to see how God is stoking the imagination and creativity of Koreans in So. Cal. let me know if there's anything i can do to help from my corner in atlanta, GA. peace!

    david

  • Jean

    To David and Anyone else interested in helping out!
    Thank you for your valuable insights and opinions. Ultimately – I don't want to see KAC Media be a ministry of the flesh, but something that aligns with the heart of the Lord. This is a collaborative ministry of people who Love God and want to expand the kingdom into the hearts of the broken, desperate and disenfranchised. We also want to celebrate the passion, zeal, and accomplishments of the church, communities, and body of Christ. So with that – if you have any ministries, people, churches, community organizations, or special events that you want to highlight from your neck of the woods – whether Georgia, Oklahoma – East to West, North to South: Please let us know what's going on! Send us feedback and content that we can post on the website. If you have footage, send it to us or upload your own videos on the site at http://www.kacmedia.org

    Register to start your own discussion threads, upload videos, blog – and be an integral part of the community that we are trying to build. We need all of you – and your prayers most of all!

    Thank you,
    Jean

    [email protected]

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