Why we need Asian Americans 3
The third reason we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans is multi-cultural competency. 2 Asian American authors have described this as third-culture adaptability (via Dave Gibbons‘ The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church) and cultural intelligence (Soong-Chan Rah‘s Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church).
What is cultural competency anyways? This is from the National Center for Cultural Competence: a Definition and Conceptual Framework = the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities they serve.
Many Asian Americans have lived and worked in at least 2 vastly different social-cultural contexts. This life experience can be incredibly valuable for the increasingly multiethnic world in which we live. It seems to me that quite an effort is needed to reframe this as an asset rather than liability. Incredible potential; not yet fully developed IMHO.
I asked an Asian American leader about how his heritage was an asset to his leadership. He’s a leader with an organization that’s connected with college campuses, where the demographics tend to be Caucasian and Asian, with varying proportions from campus to campus. He responded that he couldn’t think of any way that his Asian American heritage affected his leadership.
This would be understandable if he was adopted by a non-Asian family. But this response was a little puzzling when he also mentioned attending an Asian American church. Wondering out loud: do Asian American compartmentalize more than other racial groupings? How do we all lose out when Asian Americans are unaware and/or unconscious of our multi-cultural competency? Another way to say this: what would it look like if being Asian Americans was more than a generic American?
Many if not most leadership wisdom agree that diversity is a good & valuable thing. And yet, the American church on the whole stay in the pragmatic shadow of the so-called homogeneous unit “principle”, which is more of a sociologically observed description rather than a bona-fide principle. In so doing, settling for an incomplete aspiration than that of the powerful Gospel that breaks down the dividing walls between races & ethnicities as well as the spiritual separation between people and God. Both are important.
Few churches intentionally address the issues of faith & race. In a racialized society, it does matter. A notable portion of living out theology is culturally-colored and not culturally-neutral. Of course, I am not suggesting race & ethnicity should be a part of every sermon and curriculum. But then again, those football illustrations come from a particular cultural context, eh?
[photo credit: seeminglee]