A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Asian American Ministry Program Inaugural Conference over at Seattle Pacific University (This has nothing to do with this post, but I am excited to see how their program develops over the next few years). The speaker line up was filled with the usual heavyweights that you expect in the field of Asian American Theology and there was much to be learned. However, as the conference progressed I couldn’t shake this growing sense of dissatisfaction within me, a sense that maybe we were missing more to this conversation.
Allow me to over generalize here. At the heart of the lectures and conversations heard was the desire to bridge the East and the West in the Asian American experience. In bridging the halves we can then apply it to our theological constructs. In other words, theology can be shrouded in the Asian American experience. The result would be a contextual theology that we call Asian American Theology.
Please understand that I am in no way disputing the importance or validity of this conversation. This conversation will inevitably happen and needs to be an important piece as we continue to move towards an Asian American Theology, but it is not the only piece of the conversation.
My critique (as simple as this might sound) falls into two categories: the Asian American experience and theology. I’ll start with the Asian American experience and save theology for my next blog.
It is only natural to want to bridge the two halves of Asian American experience. I can still walk into a room full of non-Asian people and get a sense of how Asian I am just as much as I can walk into a room full of Asian people and become keenly aware of how American I am. Reconciling the two worlds would free me from the anxiety of having to wear multiple hats and having to act the role of racial and cultural translator. However, the reality is my identity is between two worlds and two cultures developing simultaneously and parallel to one another.
So while the idea of bridging sounds good, it does not speak entirely into my experience. That is to say I am not the same as my brothers and sisters who live and grow up in Asia. Likewise, I am not the same as the dominant white majority here in the states. I am neither part of one or the other and yet I am both. I am not wholly Asian and I’m not wholly American. I am something other. I am Asian American. Therefore, maybe the work of reconciliation in the Asian American experience is not one of bridging but the discovery of something new and undefined,something that we don’t quite have language for yet.
And I recognize that I arrive at this conclusion without having considered a multitude of factors such as generational dynamics, immigrant experiences, or even the often forgotten population of Asian American adoptees into American families.
But with this shift in understanding, would it not change our approach towards Asian American Theology? And would that work better capture the Asian American experience and how we as a church minister to Asian Americans? And maybe most importantly, would it give the space needed for the prophetic voice in the Asian American church to rise up and speak into the world (particularly, when we consider how the U.S. is trending towards an increasingly multicultural society)?
So internets, I wait to hear from you. Am I touching on something that resonates with you or am I completely off base here?
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