anti-religious sentiments among Asian Americans

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: DJ Chuang
Subject: re: PK Racial Reconciliation Theological Summit Report
Date: 9/18/96 5:34 PM

> From:, on 9/18/96 1:02 AM:
> however, it became clear to me that PK’s agenda would focus on
> person-to-person relationships.
> While I believe that developing personal relationships with “men” of
> race is healthy and might lead to a common effort to end institutional
> racism, I’m skeptical.


Thank you for the summit report, and appreciate reading your thoughts.
Having been active among PK clergymen in the Raleigh area, where we have
a pastor’s group of about 50 men who gather on a monthly basis for
mutual prayer support as well as relationship building as a means of
racial reconciliation, I’d like to add and comment on how it works for
me as an Asian-American among whites & blacks. [background: I attended
the PK Clergy conf in Atlanta in February, on a 50-passenger charter bus
with other Raleigh pastors, where we had great fellowship; attended a
Pastor’s Prayer Summit for 3 days in March with some of them; attended
Promise Keepers in Charlotte in June; continue to meet with some of
these men, some of which are sporadic in attendance, but others are
consistent and actively engaged]

I believe they recognize that there is both personal and institutional
‘racism’, but the solution is not either/or, but both/and, that there
needs to be both one-on-one relationship building (done thru small group
weekly prayers, dinner for 8) as well as organizational & institutional
involvement (pulpit exchange, choir swap, joint services, service
projects). I’m not sure which you would prioritize, or what it would
look like to address both aspects of racism. To only do the latter feels
quite sterile and impersonal, and doesn’t get to the heart, and that is
the backlash that some Raleigh blacks are reacting against.. that white
churches do a ‘service project’ for the black church as a ‘one-shot’
high-publicized “stunt” and there’s no follow-thru of sustained personal
relationship, nor is there an active integration between races as such.
So the tendency here is to engage personally first, while recognizing
the latter is necessary also, as the opportunity arises.

Now for Asians, I believe there needs to be racial reconciliation among
us, between Japanese and Chinese and Korean and Vietnamese, and other
ethnicities. And the active-ness of the black-and-white racial
reconciliation which is more prominent in America (with its history of
slavery, civil war, affirm.action for instance), there is much to learn
by us as Asians on how they are trying to put into deed the mandate of
Scripture, that we would come together as a Body of Christ, reflect a
clear picture of heaven, and show the world that we can be one in

However, this is foreign to Asian culture, it seems, where racism is an
implicit part of being ethnically Asian, from what traditions I
understand.. that to be Chinese is to be proud to be a Chinese, and
likewise for other ethnicities. There is much ethnocentrism, and racial
reconciliation is more of a foreign concept, reinforced by language and
cultural differences (which may be there, but that doesn’t have to keep
us apart).

I have learned much from the black/white racial reconciliation that
would be helpful in the Chinese church, as there are similarities of
“tension” between OBC and ABC, for instance; that if both would humble
themselves, and come to the table, recognize that culture is a product
of fallen and sinful man, that direct communication is necessary to
understand one another, give one another the freedom to express their
pains and desires, that the basic foundation in the authority of the
Word be established, then the Chinese church can make some tremendous

As I see black and white brothers identify themselves with the sins of
their ancestors and repent for them, and become intentional in action
and in deed, something is truly happening in my community (although my
church doesn’t participate in it, I myself, I can, and hopefully by my
personal example, others will follow, as they see the fruit).. during
this past week of recovery from Hurricane Fran, we saw a community come
together out of shared humanity, no longer hindered by the shallow
barriers that have kept us apart in the past.


* my page at * John 2:17 *


To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Subject: Re: re: reconciliation
Date: 9/18/96 12:28 PM

Hon-Wai, you wrote:

>>you seem to think that there are other areas of denomination
reconciliation issue which you are think are important. Have I read too
much into it?<<

Yes, I do that there are other areas, but we did not spend much time
talking about them. In fact, what was equally clear was that the PK
leadership did not appear very interested in working with mainline
Christians. In the minds of many evangelicals, the gap between
"conservative" Catholics and evangelicals is narrower than the
insurmountable differences between so-called "liberal" Protestants and

Re: Catholicism. There is also a "culture war" going on within the RC
communion in N. America. A generation of bishops (like Bernadine who
now has terminal cancer) supported the New Deal coalition and its push
for welfare. Like their "liberal" Protestant and Jewish counterparts,
they justified their political perspective by appealing to portions of
Scripture and their religious traditions which called for welcoming the
stranger, working for justice and peace, etc. Thus, the traditional
political liberals like Moynihan and Cuomo were given much Catholic
support. Today, the conservative, nativist wing within Catholicism has
become much more prominent and have not supported the Democratic party –
the traditional base for Catholicism. Thus, Buchanan and Michael Novak
have become outspoken conservative leaders.

I think that the resurgence of evangelicals in the Republican party
joined by the growth of Catholics who have abandoned the Democratic
Party represents a process of white racial formation. Among Catholics,
memories of their Italian, Polish, etc. immigrant parents or
grandparents have faded. Ethnicity for many of them has become largely
symbolic and a matter of choice (see Mary Waters, Ethnic Options).
Thus, when they saw the Democratic Party allowing Blacks and other
racial minority concerns to be discussed, they were turned off. After
all, as children of European immigrants, they believed that they were
able to "make it" without the help of affirmative action policies – so
why should Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians want special
treatment? Thus, by joining ranks with other white ethnics on the
political front, a subtle and undefined racialized political block has
been formed with its origins in the Reagan administration.

What do you think?

Also, I'd like to pass on to you a note from a good friend of mine in
response to my report on the PK summit, Robert Hubbard – Prof. of Old
Testament at North Park Theological Seminary and nephew of the late Robert
Allan Hubbard (President of Fuller Seminary). – Tim Tseng

Thanks for the summary. Very helpful and insightful. Evangelicals have
trouble with the transition from "personal" to "structural" evil (in
this case, racism), probably because of their privatistic approach to
spirituality and their "just-passing-through pilgrim" mentality with
respect to their relationship to the larger society. Ultimately, the
issue is whether PK will be able to face up to the economic and
political hegemony of whites and move toward promoting powering-sharing
with non-whites. Given human nature, only a work of the Holy Spirit can
make that happen.

Again, thanks for the update. Hope all is well with you. We're having a
lovely fall here. I'm getting ready for classes which start Sept. 30th.
Greetings to Betty, Nathaniel, and Benji.



To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: DJ Chuang
Subject: re: reconciliation
Date: 9/18/96 10:33 AM

** message posted on behalf of Hon-Wai Wong **

From:, on 9/18/96 2:52 PM:
Dear Tim,

A question more out of curiosity than anything:

when you write

> We spent some time discussion denominational reconciliation. But as we
> discussed it further on Saturday afternoon, it became clear that the
> concern was how to include Roman Catholics into the PK umbrella.

you seem to think that there are other areas of denomination
reconciliation issue which you are think are important. Have I read
too much into it?

Talking about RC, I wonder what people think of the role of RC in
the current politics of racism and social justice? Clearly, a lot of
attention has been paid on “the culture of death” by the RC hierarchy
and this is also the concerns of many white evangelicals. On the
other hand, RC has maintained many social service programs, and
presumably, should have some sympathy for the “liberal” welfare and
economic policies. Given the huge number of RC members in this
country, I would like to know what influence the church is
exercising. (Both Patrick Buchanan and Moynihan are RC members!)

It is time to introduce myself. I grew up in Hong Kong until I
went to England for undergraduate studies, and then the U.S. for
graduate studies. I grew up in a fairly sectarian, non-denomnational
(excuse the oxymoron) church in HK. I called myself an evangelical,
and I still do sometimes. I am now a member of the Episcopal Church;
while I also join the activities of a fellowship group in a Chinese
church at central Jersey.

I consider myself quite conservative, more of a mix of the Catholic
and evangelical types of conservativism; to my dismay, this is
considered liberal by many Chinese Chrsitians I know.

I am a mathematician by training and I am spenidng this year at the
University of Hong Kong

Hon-Wai Wong

Hon-Wai Wong
Department of Mathematics
The University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam Rd., Hong Kong
tel: (852) 28578571
Fax: (852) 25592225


To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Subject: American give more to lotteries than chuches
Date: 9/18/96 1:02 AM

Now, for something a bit on the light side. An article from the Sept.
11-18, 1996 issue of _Christian Century_ (p. 846):

“in 1994 Americans spent considerably more on lotteries than they gave to
their churches, according to Associated Baptist Press. The press service
compared figures from a U.S. Census Bureau report – according to which $26.6
billion was spent by Americans on state lotteries – with figures from the
_Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches_, which show that in the same
period total contributions to churches by American congregations were $19.6

Tim Tseng


To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Subject: PK Racial Reconciliation Theological Summit Report
Date: 9/18/96 1:02 AM

Greetings all!

The Promise Keepers’ theological summit on racial and denominational
reconciliation a week and a half ago (Friday-Saturday, Sept. 6-7, 1996)
turned out to be a good experience given its limited focus. Besides
myself, the only other Asian American in attendance was Dr. Bruce Fong
of Multnomah Bible School in Portland, Oregon. Daron Butler, a very
young Native American pastor represented that group. Dr. Danny Carroll
(Denver Seminary) – who is half Guatemalen and has spent most of his
adult life in Guatemala – I suppose, represented the Hispanics. Among
the Blacks were Malcolm Newton (Denver Seminary), Don Davis (Urban
Institute, KS), Dr. Bruce Fields (Trinity Evangelical), Dr. Harold Dean
Trulear (New York Theological Seminary), and Raleigh Washington
(co-author with Glen Kehrein of _Breaking Down Walls: A Model for
Reconciliation in an Age of Racial Strife_ Moody, 1993). Washington was
recently appointed the Vice President of Reconciliation for Promise
Keepers so it was his responsibility to prepare working papers for
racial and theological reconciliation and implement a curriculum for PK.

The presence of non-white PK staff workers helped to conceal the fact
that the majority of this group were White – most of whom I believe are
genuinely interested in racial reconciliation. Among the whites were
Dr. Dan Block (Southern Baptist Seminary), John Dawson, Dr. Walter
Kaiser (Gordon-Conwell), Dr. Ray Mitsch, Dr. Craig Blomberg (Denver
Seminary), Tom Claus, Dr. Craig Keener (Eastern Baptist Seminary),
Claude King, Dr. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical), and Dr. Jim
Westgate (Mennonite Brethren Bibical Seminary).

Coach Bill McCartney opened our time together with a devotional, highlighted
by his confident statement: “I believe that I will see the end of racism in
my lifetime.”

Then we got to work. After being presented with the PK promo on their
commitment to racial reconciliation, we had an open discussion in which some
urged that structural/institutional racial justice also be emphasized. In
the end, however, it became clear to me that PK’s agenda would focus on
person-to-person relationships.

While I believe that developing personal relationships with “men” of
another race is healthy and might lead to a common effort to end
institutional racism, I’m skeptical. More often than not, efforts that
focus on individual attitudes and reconciliation are unable to remedy
the consequences of institutionalized racism and give the impression
that the race problem has been solved. Benjamin DeMott’s book, _The
Trouble with Friendships: Why Americans Can’t Think Straight about Race_
(1995), demonstrates this point vividly. The inter-racial intimacy
developed on-screen by the characters played by Danny Glover and Mel
Gibson assumes that racism is overcome through “friendships” (the
reification of the “some of my best friends are….” formula). In
essence, PK is recycling the same strategies that have been attempted in
the past. It didn’t work for the National Council of Churches (in fact,
there’s evidence that when mainline churches began to put more emphasis
on racial and other forms of justice, their members abandoned them and
joined evangelicals who up until the 1960s were struggling with
inter-racial marriages), so it takes a lot of confidence (bordering on
arrogance) to think that PK can do better. (Personally, I believe that
community based organizing and racial identity politics holds more
promise for really addressing the problems of injustice in our society).

One other comment about the summit. Though a few Native Americans,
Hispanics, and Asian Americans were represented, it was clear that the
race problem is still seen as primarily a Black-White issue. PK’s board
of directors and upper echelon leadership positions are predominantly
White with a good number of Blacks and virtually no others. Part of it
could be attributed to a general ignorance of other evangelical racial
groups, but I don’t yet have an explanation. I think PK is now trying
to broaden.

Nevertheless, I commend PK for attempting to address the race problem
more directly. Racial reconciliation is one of the 7 promises that PK
“groupies” are encouraged to commit to. Yet, there is concern that
over-emphasizing racial reconciliation would undermine the widespread
support that PK receives from White evangelicals. Many letters of
complaint have been sent to PK along the following lines:

1. No where in the bible does it say that racial reconciliation is mandated.
The passages talk only about reconciliation with God. Therefore, PK is in
danger of becoming liberal-social gospel by diverting attention from the
primary task of preaching reconciliation to God through Christ.

2. Why should I engage in reconciliation when I did not commit the sin of
racism? It was my ancestors who owned slaves, not me.

Given this antipathy towards something as minor as racial reconciliation, I
can only imagine what it would be like to talk about addressing
structural/institutional racial injustices!

We spent some time discussion denominational reconciliation. But as we
discussed it further on Saturday afternoon, it became clear that the primary
concern was how to include Roman Catholics into the PK umbrella.

Finally, I was struck by the use of military and crusading images by PK
staff workers (personally, I felt that there was a bit of “overkill”
:-). It actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable because of the subtle
ways certain cultural ideas of “masculinity” are assumed to be found in
Scripture and therefore true for every Christian man.

I will send to this list the final draft of the PK statement on Racial
Reconciliation (I think it sound good, rhetorically-speaking, but only
time will tell) when I receive it. In the meantime, I encourage
subscribers to share questions, comments, and thought over the
discussion list (don’t email me privately unless it really is a private
matter). I would be interested in hearing your thoughts!

In Christ,
Tim Tseng


To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: DJ Chuang
Subject: anti-religious sentiments
Date: 9/12/96 7:46 PM

> From: Sze-kar Wan , on 9/12/96 6:58 PM:
> But I am concerned with 2d- and 3d-generation Asian-Americans, for whom
> anti-religious sentiments often pass for sophistication.

This “sophistication” is not limited to 2d- or 3d- generation, it seems
to me to be a common concept for Asian-Americans of any generation (or
perhaps even a common concept for all peoples, according to Romans 1).
They seem to me to pride themselves in being practical- minded instead
of religious, exception noted for Asians’ superstition tendencies. As
if, to say, they’re too smart for religion, they’ve had too much life
experience to not be gullible to be religious, much less fanatical.


* my page at * John 2:17 *


To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: Sze-kar Wan
Subject: Self-intro
Date: 9/12/96 6:58 PM

Dear CACers:

My hearty thanks to DJ (what does it stand for?) and Tim for getting
a heretofore dormant CAC-discussion off and running again–with vigor
and vitality. I have not been able to follow the recent discussion
closely since I’ve been away, but I am impressed with the quality and
quantity of the postings. The list server is a boon to our ongoing

Self-intro: Born in China, raised in Hong Kong and (since 15 yrs of age)
Boston. Came to the Lord at 16, right bef college, where I studied Math
and Computer. Have been in theology after a 2-yr stint as engineer, how-
ever, and am teaching NT at Andover Newton Theological School (since
1990). Not yet ordined but might one day in the Episcopal Church. Have
been involved in non-denominational Chinese Evangelical churches in Boston
until the power that be became suspicious of me bc of my positions on
women leadership (120% support, incl ordination and the works!), social
issues (let’s make the gospel work), etc. Am involved in an Episcopal
congregation in Boston ministering to recent immigrants from China,
Cantonese being the primary language, Mandarin the secondary. Bu I am
concerned with 2d- and 3d-generation Asian-Americans, for whom anti-
religious sentiments often pass for sophistication. On the Andover
Newton faculty, I am considered theologically middle-of-the road (perhaps
leaning right) but socially liberal; in the Chinese Evangelical circles,
however, (to my dismay) hopelessly liberal! Result: main circle (outsid
my small home church) among white, middle-class, mainline churches, from
which Andover Newton draws the majority of its students. Not the happiest
situation for me but am at peace for now with God’s arrangements.

Happy to make the acquaintance of you all!

Sze-kar (“SEE-KAH”) Wan