Stories of Faith, Resilience, and Politics: First-Generation East Asian American Christians - Princeton Theological Seminary

Stories of Faith, Resilience, and Politics: First-Generation East Asian American Christians

Christianity continues to be the dominant religion in the U.S., and the culture wars between “liberal” and “conservative” Christians unduly constrain the religious and political imaginations of U.S. citizens. What happens to our public and academic understanding of the Christian religion and civic discourse when the faith, practice, and politics of Asian American Christians are centered — especially first-generation, non-English speaking Asian immigrants in the U.S.? How do their transpacific experiences (often related to war, poverty, and violence) complicate the racial, religious, and political binaries assumed in U.S. discourses about Christianity, belonging, and politics?

Moreover, the rise of anti-Asian violence since the arrival of the pandemic has sparked intense Asian American activism. What has been noticeably absent through the op-eds, social media feeds, and public rallies spawned by Asian American activism represented largely by second generation voices is the presence of first-generation Asian Americans. Why is that? What does the absence of their perspective, experience, and voice say about Asian American activism today? Do the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of first-generation Asian Americans on social issues conform to that of their second+ generation Asian American counterparts?

This oral history project will consist of 50-60 interviews of first-generation East Asian American Christian (FGEAAC) immigrants in their native language. Through these interviews, the unique religious experiences and political orientations of FGEAACs will expand our understanding beyond the available scripts for religious and political engagement in U.S. society. Moreover, the audio and video testimonies and the published research findings (through articles and a book), made available through a digital humanities project, will complicate our public discourse and understanding of Christianity in the U.S.

David Chao, director of the Center for Asian American Christianity, and Eastern Law, assistant director for academic programs for the Overseas Ministries Studies Center, will co-lead this research project. This two-year grant is funded by the Louisville Institute.