Tag Archives: Racialigious

The Struggles of Discussing Race In The Asian American Evangelical Church [Racialigious]

by Guest Contributor Paul Matsushima, originally published at Eesahmu

Courtesy: Christianity Daily

Recently, while attending one of the most ethnically diverse evangelical seminaries in the nation, I found myself in an environment where I had to defend the argument that race still matters. Don’t get me wrong; students and faculty alike openly discussed ethnic and societal culture; and, although all were unanimous that racial prejudice is wrong and diversity is good, when it came to America’s original (and continuing) sin of racism, there were choirs of crickets.

I, in partial reaction, left. After stepping back from my enmeshment in the evangelical world, I gained some clarity for why I felt so isolated. Personal reasons aside, my qualm with the (white) evangelical community was its hesitancy to analyze–much less struggle against–the historical and continuing racial bias in America. This “don’t go there” mentality is further compounded within evangelical churches that are predominantly Asian American. Here are my speculations why.

1. Unity in Christ, aka Colorblindness

Firstly, we who seek to discuss race in the Asian American church go head-to-head against the banner of colorblindness. Colorblindness, while it may value ethnic diversity, seeks to ignore one’s race in order to avoid giving differential treatment on account of it. In other words, it attempts to treat all people equally regardless of race.

This thinking is interwoven into the Christian doctrine of the primacy of one’s Christian identity. Common phrases such as “unity in Christ” or “children of God” shape American evangelicals to value their Christian identity over any other. Tim Tseng, in his article “The Young Adult Black Hole,” explores how Asian American young adults leave their immigrant-ethnic churches for white or multiethnic ones because the influence of colorblind thinking. The message of one’s Christian identity as most important, combined with assimilation into American culture as good and being too ethnic (i.e., too Asian) as bad, is thoroughly ground into these young people’s minds. The result: many Asian American evangelicals believe “the goal [of Christian identity formation] is to shed, not affirm their [racial] identities.”

In 2009, the Urbana Missions Conference hosted around 16,000 attendees, 30% of which were Asian American. I was shocked and disturbed when I, along with three other conferees were the only ones who attended the Asian American prayer workshop, a session devoted to exploring how racial identity shapes the way one prays. Asian Americans flocked to workshops on international and missionary issues in Asia, but when it came to the single workshop focused entirely on Asian American issues, their attendance was extremely minimal. Continue reading

Racialigious? [Series Introduction - Racialigious]

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been fascinated by religion most of my life.

This is probably because I wasn’t raised with one.

When I say this, people – particularly other black people – tend to hear what I say and interpret it as “lapsed Christian.” As in, a girl who used to go to church and doesn’t go anymore.

Before the age of 21, I can count how many times I’ve been to church on one hand. With fingers left over. All my knowledge of Christianity comes from what my friends tell me and pop culture. And my knowledge of Judaism. And atheism. And any other religious belief system or lack thereof.

So, over time, I think I came to like listening to stories about religion and why people choose their specific belief systems. It’s interesting to listen to the reason for belief (or non-belief) and the battles to fight misconceptions. It’s even more interesting when analyzing the effect of race, gender, and class on religious practice and religious perception.

In launching Racialigious, we hope to explore where race (among other things) intersects with religious practice and belief.

Submissions welcome.