resurgence of interest in Asian American Christianity
My presentation (PDF of Asian Americans & Faith Communities) at the Intro to Asian American Studies class went well this afternoon at the University of Maryland. About 40 students came out even amidst the wet and rainy day. I was pleasantly surprised that the professor polled the class on the religion they identified with: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other; I wasn’t even going to call that out, even though it did cross my mind. I commend Dr. Larry Shinagawa for creating space for the spiritual and religious part of Asian Americans. My sense was that most Asian American Studies scholars would avoid the potentially divisive topic in the classroom, but perhaps this is a new day, or more likely, he is an exception to the rule.
Good to see the ISAAC blog (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) getting active again. Learned of a new book, Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life by Elaine Howard Ecklund. I hope to meetup with ISAAC’s Tim Tseng at AAR/SBL in DC this weekend, and maybe the Walker Cleavelands too.
Tim helped me co-edit and wrote the foreword for an Asian American evangelical theologies book that I’ll announce next Monday. I wanted to get it into his hand before rolling the fanfare to the public, although somebody had found our online store for it and bought a proof copy. And, we‘ve reached a milestone with the Asian American Youth Ministry book – over 100 copies sold, with a total of over 400 copies in circulation! Pretty amazing for a self-published print-on-demand book for a very niche audience. Someone in Canada is even trying to sell this book for $119.95! Unbelievable! Don’t you do that! You can get it for just $10 each!
And, David “Next Gener.Asian Church” Park tipped me off to another new book, God’s New Whiz Kids?: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus. Interesting times!
Dr. Shinagawa and I had a great dialogue over lunch about the role of the church (both Buddhist and Christian) and how it could be both religious and cultural, that it is possible to function as a place that cultivated spiritual and ethnic social identity. However, I think churches (and people in general) would choose one or the other, to be spiritual, or to be social, but not both — it’s just too complicated to do both, and most people prefer simplicity. So we explored what it’d look like to have an institution that would primarily exist to cultivate and preserve a racial/ ethnic identity, without expecting the church to do that because not all churches will or should. Dr. Shinagawa was the visionary here, and believes an education institution like a high school and college could fill this vital role. And this kind of East/West school would respect the spiritual/ religious part of life, by giving fair exposure to many faiths in an interfaith ecumenical kind of way. There are African-American colleges, why not Asian-American? I commend his vision and foresight.
[update] In my over-enthusiasm for 2 new books I didn’t know about, I forgot to mention the brand new book I did know about from InterVarsity Press, More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership And Faith, by a diverse Asian American team including Tracey Gee and Nikki Toyama, Kathy Khang, Christie Heller de Leon, and Asifa Dean. I’ve met Kathy before, so if that’s any indication, this is a quality group of women, and voicing a perspective that is often not heard. They’ve done a couple of book-tour-like events already; be sure to read the chat transcript of an interview with the authors, hosted over at InterVarsity’s Asian American Ministry website.