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Asian Christ

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I don’t know how many times I’ve been in this conversation.  I’m in a gathering of largely ‘white’ folk, and the conversation veers over to Jesus being for all nations and multiculturalism…

Someone usually mentions how they believe that every culture has something unique to offer to the body of Christ…

Since I’m avoiding eye contact at this moment, though it’s probably not true, I feel like every eyeball starts honing in on me.

There’s a lot of conversation that needs to happen about multiculturalism and the church and how to go about it all, but before that I’ve had a sense of having to get my own cultural story straight.

I hear lots about the roots of the reformation in Europe, liberation theology out of latin america, the oppression shaped narrative from African American brothers and sisters… but what about them Asians?

What do Asians uniquely bring to the table?

How does being Asian shape your understanding of Christ?

If God is the redemptive creator of all cultures, why’d he make you, what you are?  (and yes, I know you’re so much more than your ethnic/cultural heritage)

From people I’ve asked so far… 2 people said “they work hard”, one person said “Good or bad, they have a high regard for authority”… and the Chinese house church movement gets mentioned a lot when people are looking for good news about Christianity…

But there’s got to be more than that…

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Parke May 1, 2009, 11:09 am

    Enjoy the journey of it. You know I’m a white guy from Pennsylvania, but I tend to hear a few stories from time to time through my work and from friends. I don’t have to tell you there are many still waiting to be told.

  • Weewian May 1, 2009, 5:12 pm

    Good question. Superficially, Asians are known for being academically smart, hard-working and subservient – which sounds rather unexciting. But I think all of these qualities, which have negative connotations, can be reinterpreted biblically.

    It wasn’t until this year, since I started teaching at a middle school with the majority of students being Chinese Canadian, that I’ve come to appreciate how distinct the Asian culture really is. All the values that I’ve associated with simply growing up, are not shared by every other culture. We’re not known to have loud cultural voices, but there’s still a strongly embedded cultural identity.

    Asians make good students because we’re taught the importance of focused learning and respecting teachers and mentors. In education, it’s this attitude of perseverance and practice which propel Asian students to the top. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard other students say, “This is too hard” and gave up just shy of being able to complete the task.

    Asians do church the same way. We are probably too works-oriented in our understanding of faith because we are always willing to work hard in ministry.

    Regarding respecting authority: what some might call subservience, I call being teachable.

    There’s always a down side to these characteristics, which manifest themselves in having a lot of followers and very few strong leaders and visionaries, or lacking understanding that sometimes, no matter how hard we work, people have their freedom to choose and to fail and that God doesn’t work according to action plans.

    I used to resent that Asians seemed to be known for being boring and predictable and maybe a little robotic – but there’s something to be said for being part of a culture that has an understanding of steadfast commitment, servanthood and a high regard for the family.

    If I could sum up the beauty of the Asian culture, it’s in the idea of subtlety.

  • Lon May 3, 2009, 7:14 am

    Parke, would love to hear those stories

    Weewian… those are phenomenal thoughts! Thank you, I really apprecaite them!

    • kahli June 19, 2010, 4:45 am

      WHO IS THE ARTIST????

  • kevin kim May 5, 2009, 11:36 am

    weewian…those ARE great thoughts. personally, i’ve always sided with the negativity of my asian culture. you talked about the boredom and predictability of our culture…here’s what i think…

    i tend to think that because of that or the cause of that is the fact that asians tend to repress feelings…at least the males do. so what comes out is a robotic, stoic, hard-worker who may be a complete utter mess and cries himself to sleep but will kill himself before he lets anyone know it.

    i’m not sure what causes the physical display of emotion in our culture but it has stunted family growth and relations between parents and their 2nd gen children. there is a high value put on lacking emotion…”i dont care if you dont want to do it, just do it” is a familiar phrase in my head.

    anyone have sources to cite on this?

  • Lon May 5, 2009, 3:36 pm

    Thanks for chiming in Kevin. your comment makes me think of the trekkie portrayal of spock…

    i think that repression is one reason why asians have been flocking to the church, suddenly there’s this overt language of love and intimacy they haven’t been tangibly exposed to before…

  • kevin kim May 5, 2009, 4:27 pm

    i agree. there’s two responses i think in the culture. one is to drown the pain and somehow let go and only show emotion in the clubs or parties with alcohol…something we’ve learned from our parents. only to show emotion or feelings if it’s spurred by drunken stupor.

    the other is to go to church … beautiful aint it?

    i wrote a post actually on my blog about the perception of Asian males
    http://hour9.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/i-told-ya-so/

    check out it if you have time.

  • Lon May 12, 2009, 2:11 pm

    btw all, there’s been quite the discussion going on along similar lines here:

    http://nextgenerasianchurch.com/2009/05/02/is-francis-chan-a-sell-out/

    check it out, i’d love to know what you think.

  • David Park May 13, 2009, 4:05 pm

    hey lon, thanks for the question, insight, and the link love.

    i think at some level, we as asians can add to the conversation a deep sense of hospitality, and loyalty, and trust. i also believe that we understand pain and suffering for the sake of future generations. that can have a destructive, but constructive side as well. but i think that asian americans CAN (not always do) offer a similar emphasis away from the here and now, which is where our common american ethos tends to lead. but all good thoughts. what makes this discussion really difficult is the fact that many asians defer to authority, and because of colonialism and western progress, we assume that the west has an authority that we ourselves don’t have. so most asians have given very little thought to this, especially in church contexts. which is why so much of our christian life is dominated with expressions of faith that are not indigenous to us.

    that is not to say that there is something wrong with the faith, it just means we potentially may be lacking an integrity and awareness of what those gifts are.

  • Lon May 13, 2009, 8:10 pm

    David, really, really great last point about the assumed authority… i also wonder if two, three generations down, how much of an indigenous faith is really left, or ought to be?

  • Maggi October 29, 2011, 2:51 pm

    Hi! I am interested please..could you tell me the name and artist of the painting that goes with your article…or at least where you found it..or which country it’s from. Thanks 🙂

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