growing impact on college campuses

March 14, 2007

Amidst this collection of essays about the religious engagement among undergraduates, hosted by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is this article by Rebecca Y. Kim, Asian Americans for Jesus: Changing the Face of Campus Evangelicalism, which re-explores the growth and impact of college campus ministries and the active participation of many by Asian Americans. Rebecca Y. Kim is assistant professor of sociology at Pepperdine University, and is the author of God’s New Whiz Kids? Korean American Evangelicals on Campus (New York University Press, 2006).

The article‘s introduction is excerpted below:

One out of four Evangelical college students at New York City colleges and universities are Asian American. At Harvard, Asian Americans constitute 70 percent of the Harvard Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, and given the popularity of Evangelical Christian fellowships, one can easily spot students who proudly don t-shirts with phrases like “the Asian Awakening”. At Yale, Campus Crusade for Christ is 90 percent Asian, whereas twenty years ago it was 100 percent white. On the West Coast, the Asian American membership at Stanford’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) from 1989 to 1999, increased by 84 percent, compared to a 31 percent increase in its overall membership. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley and UCLA have more than fifty Asian Christian fellowships and most of their members are Asian American. UCLA alone has more than ten Korean Christian related fellowships.

Read the full article online and comment below.

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Comments:2 Responses

Find more like this: Asian American, college, L2 Blog, ministry, religion.

Link to this article:

Daniel Lui
March 14th, 2007

This article raises several pertinent issues for parachurch ministries on college campuses. There definitely has been an emergent group of Asian-American leaders. This has also caused a noticeable white flight. The last few paragraphs of the article about this white flight broke my heart. I personally have many white friends who have actually felt silenced and marginalized by the shift in power.

How do we engage these issues? The article is scant of solutions or starting points for engagement. The article raises several questions for me (Realize i am asking these questions as a leader of a multiethnic Intervarsity chapter):

What happens when the majority switches to the minority, and the minority becomes the majority? Are there healthy ways to engage this power shift?
How can Asian-Americans play a part in the pursuit of multiethnic communities without simply creating another majority culture? What would it really look like to have a multiethnic environment that is really a place where all can find acceptance, yet not experience the sublimation of our own identities?
How can Asian-American identity be developped into a missional identity that includes instead of excludes other students?
Do the strengths mentioned in this article (worship and the list quoted from Paul Takunaga) give us as asian-americans an excuse not to pursue areas where we have neglected (such as political activism)? I know these strengths are a reality for the Asian-American community, but I think we limit ourselves to our strengths, and that destroys much potential for our community.
How can multi-ethnic fellowships help Asian-Americans engage cross-generational issues instead of only being a place to run away from them?
Race as a “non-issue”? I have many issues with this statement. Yes, in the end, as David Paulumbo-Liu states in his book, “Asian/American”, the goal should be that ethnic difference should not be used as a grounds for discrimination. However, I feel that when Asian-Americans say that, they do not really express the reality that race still matters, and that ignorance becomes more dangerous than the actual reality that race is still an issue. How can we keep race an issue in a healthy manner?

okay, i’m done asking questions. I could come up with more.

This article resonates deeply with me. However, i feel it leaves some of these issues as they are and part of me very dissatisfied with the state of Asian-American Christianity and its engagement with a multiethnic context on our campuses.

March 15th, 2007

Daniel, those are excellent questions and very thoughtful about the incredible complexities in forming and reforming multicultural communities. I don’t think we can resolve it in a blog comment thread, and it’d take much discussion and practice to figure out how to navigate power dynamics within a diverse community.

Those in power, and those in majority (and the 2 are not necessarily identical!), cannot merely lay down their power, and the other people in the mix will pick it up. For example, I can set you up with the most powerful CPU in a laptop PC, but that doesn’t mean you’d know how to use all of that power :)

So, when a community’s diversity mix changes, and it often will, given time, it’s up to the leaders as well as the community to have their eyes open, and take very intentional efforts to manage the corporate ethos. This takes a lot of energy and effort on everyone’s part; and people being people, many choose to expend their energy elsewhere.

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