A Faith Of Our Own: Second-Generation Spirituality in Korean American Churches 9780813549477

Second-generation Korean Americans, demonstrating an unparalleled entrepreneurial fervor, are establishing new churches

174 55 997KB

English Pages 214 [212] Year 2010

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Recommend Papers

A Faith Of Our Own: Second-Generation Spirituality in Korean American Churches
 9780813549477

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

A Faith of Our Own

L

A Faith of Our Own Second-Ge ne ration Spirituality in Korean Ame rican Churche s

Sharon Kim

Rutg e r s Unive r si ty P re s s New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London

Library of Congress Cataologing-in-Publication Data Kim, Sharon, 1969– A faith of our own : second-generation spirituality in Korean American churches / Sharon Kim. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978–0–8135–4726–8 (hardcover : alk. paper)—ISBN 978–0–8135–4727–5 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Korean Americans—Religion. 2. Korean Americans—California—Los Angeles. I. Title. BR563.K67K535 2010 277.94'94083089957—dc22 2009025370 A British Cataloging-in-Publication record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2010 by Sharon Kim All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Please contact Rutgers University Press, 100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854–8099. The only exception to this prohibition is “fair use” as defined by U.S. copyright law. Visit our Web site: http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu Manufactured in the United States of America

To my husband, David, and sons Daniel and Joel

Conte nt s

ix

Acknowledgments

1

Introduction

1

2

Generational Tension within Korean Immigrant Churches

21

3

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

50

4

Spiritual Laboratories

83

5

Reaching Out

110

6

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

133

7

Conclusion

159

Appendix A. Description of Churches Appendix B. Congregational Survey Bibliography Index

169 171 177 195

vii

Ac k nowle dgme nt s

I am deeply grateful to many people who helped me with this research in its many stages. Without the collaborative support of institutions, informants, mentors, colleagues, friends, and family, I would not have been able to write this book. This book was generously supported by two grants from the Louisville Institute—the Dissertation Fellowship and the First Book Grant for Minority Scholars. I would like to thank Jim Lewis, executive director of the Louisville Institute, for his ongoing support for this project, and for creating venues for collaborative conversation between academics and religious leaders. This project began as a dissertation project when I was a graduate student in the sociology department at the University of Southern California. I am indebted to my faculty mentors, Jon Miller and Edward Park, who supportively guided and shepherded this project in its earliest stage. I am deeply grateful to Donald Miller, religious studies professor at the University of Southern California and executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, who has mentored me over the years. His generosity of spirit and model of blending brilliant scholarship with compassionate service have been invaluable and inspirational. I had the privilege of working with an interdisciplinary group of scholars of the Asian American Christian experience on a research project on pastoral leadership funded by the Lilly Endowment: Peter Cha, Faustino Cruz, Antony Alumkal,Young Lee Hertig, Jung Ha Kim, Ruth Narita Doyle, Timothy Tseng, Russell Jeung, and David Yoo. In particular, Russell Jeung read several drafts of my manuscript and gave invaluable feedback, in addition to serving as a helpful guide in the process of publishing this book. I am deeply grateful to these colleagues and friends for the role they played in shaping my thinking about Asian American Christianity. ix

x

Acknowledgments

I am indebted to the all the ministers who enthusiastically carved out time, in the midst of their very busy ministry schedules, to speak candidly with me about the rewards and challenges of ministering to second-generation Korean Americans. I am thankful to Rutgers University Press, particularly my editor Adi Hovav, for supporting this work. Her insights and support were invaluable. Peter Cha and Pyong Gap Min, both highly respected scholars in Korean American religion, provided enormously helpful suggestions on an early draft of this manuscript. Rebecca Kim, a valued friend and colleague, offered an insightful and in-depth review of this manuscript in its final stages. The Sociology Department at California State University Fullerton and Dean Thomas Klammer graciously provided me with the teaching relief I needed to complete this manuscript. In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to Dennis Berg for his mentorship and unflagging support. Along the way, a number of friends and colleagues have given invaluable input and advice. In particular, Michelle Kim, D. J. Chuang, and Eric Cheng read portions of this manuscript and provided helpful comments and suggestions. My family deserves the lion’s share of credit for their unwavering support of this book. My mother, Jae Park, continually encouraged me with her words and prayers, as did my sisters Janice, Lynn, and Kathy. My late mother-in-law Myung So Kim’s faith and passion for God made an enduring impact on my life. I am blessed to have these remarkable women in my life. My two precious sons, Daniel and Joel, are the kindest, brightest, and most lovable boys a mother could ever hope for. Most important, I thank my husband, David, whose sharp insight, love, and encouragement I can always rely on. It’s a pure joy and privilege to journey through life with him.

A Faith of Our Own

Chapte r 1

Introduction

Samuel Hurh immigrated to the United States in 1973 at the age of six. His family settled in a quiet southern Californian suburb, where he rarely saw other Koreans aside from those he met every Sunday at the nearby Korean immigrant church where he and his family worshiped. At the church, Samuel was exposed weekly to his Korean culture; it was where he regularly heard the Korean language, enjoyed home-cooked Korean food, and adhered to numerous cultural norms such as deferentially bowing and showing respect to his elders. In his teenage years, however, the church became an increasingly uncomfortable and oppressive place for Samuel, who was trying desperately to disassociate from his Korean identity so that he could “fit in” with his mainstream white American friends. Much to his parent’s dismay, Samuel, at the age of fifteen, left the Korean immigrant church to attend a large, predominantly white Protestant church where he subsequently accepted Christ into his life, was baptized into the faith, and grew in his spiritual walk. Although he shared a common faith with others in the church, there was a continual nagging sense that he did not fully belong because of his racial status. As a result, he left the white church to return to a Korean immigrant church to serve as its youth minister. Assimilating back into the Korean immigrant church required a significant amount of resocialization for Samuel, who once again had to converse in the Korean language and conform to Korean cultural expectations. After several years of serving in the immigrant church, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s leadership paradigm, which he felt was overly hierarchical and dictatorial. He resented the fact that he was viewed by the senior pastor as merely a worker at the very bottom of the chain of command. Hence Samuel left the immigrant church for the second time and accepted an internship at 1

2

A Faith of Our Own

a large white church in Fullerton, where he was ordained and licensed for full-time ministry. It was a wonderful place for Samuel to grow as a spiritual leader, and for the first time in his life, he was personally mentored by seasoned ministers who cared more about him as a person than about his level of productivity. Despite the many growth opportunities at the church, Samuel was uncomfortable with the reality that there was an invisible cultural barrier between him and the white pastors at the church. In short, he felt very Korean there. Although no one had ever implied or explicitly suggested that he was an outsider, his cultural upbringing would bleed through in everyday interactions, reminding him and others of his outsider status. So Samuel left the church in Fullerton and accepted a position to lead the English ministry at a large Korean immigrant church in Washington, D.C. After spending seven years in Washington and experiencing tensions similar to those that he encountered at previous first-generation Korean churches, he left the immigrant church for the third and final time and returned to the white church in Fullerton. Samuel served there for several years as the pastor of evangelism and outreach. After much discussion with the leaders of the church, who felt that he was best suited to be a church planter, Samuel was commissioned to start his own church in Orange County. Not feeling comfortable at either immigrant Korean churches or white mainstream churches, and bouncing back and forth between the two, Samuel tried unsuccessfully for many years to find a church that he could call home. Out of that sense of discomfort and spiritual homelessness, Samuel started his own independent church to reach out to others like him who exist on the margins of multiple cultures. Samuel’s story reflects the experiences of many second-generation Korean American pastors who have opted to leave the churches of their immigrant parents and, instead of joining mainstream white churches, have established their own independent churches where they are creatively fashioning a faith of their own. This book investigates the development and growth of secondgeneration churches in the Los Angeles area, where the largest population of Koreans in America resides. Second-generation Korean Americans, with an unparalleled entrepreneurial fervor, are developing new churches in major cities throughout the United States that aim to shape the future of American Christianity. In Los Angeles alone, over fiftysix new churches have been established in the past ten years, and these

Introduction

3

churches are flourishing––the largest boasts an active membership of three thousand. Immigration historians have depicted the second generation as a transitional generation—on the steady march toward the inevitable decline of ethnic identity and allegiance. My book suggests an alternative route. By harnessing religion and innovatively creating hybrid religious institutions, second-generation Korean Americans are assertively defining and shaping their own ethnic and religious futures. Rather than assimilating into mainstream churches or inheriting the churches of their immigrant parents, second-generation pastors are creating their own hybrid third spaces—new autonomous churches that are shaped by multiple frames of reference. Furthermore, within these churches, the second generation is reaching out to all Americans, irrespective of their ethnicity or race. The growth of second-generation hybrid churches marks an empirical and theoretical turn from past patterns among immigrants. Within these new churches, second-generation Korean Americans are fashioning a faith of their own—a hybrid second-generation spirituality that incorporates elements of Korean Protestantism and various expressions of American evangelicalism. The leaders of these new churches aim to adopt what they perceive to be essential beliefs, symbols, and practices from diverse sources and to anchor them in their newly formed churches. Their goal is to create a new and distinct expression of spirituality with discernable fingerprints of their ethnic, racial, and generational selves. They do not want to remain in their ethnic religious enclaves, however, shut off from the larger society. Rather, their goal is to evangelize and welcome all people into their churches without having to compromise their unique identities. They aim to do this by developing and reflexively practicing religion that is flavored by multiple sources, including their ethnic culture. In so doing, these churches are challenging and blurring the boundaries that distinguish “ethnic” from “mainstream” churches. They are demonstrating that in today’s society, particularly in racially and ethnically diverse cities such as Los Angeles, there are hybrid third spaces to inhabit. In analyzing this hybrid third space, I focus on the following questions: What are the forces, both internal and external, that motivate secondgeneration Korean Americans to construct and inhabit new secondgeneration churches? What do these new churches look like and how do the multiple identities of their members as children of immigrants, as racial

4

A Faith of Our Own

minorities, as Protestants, and as Korean Americans shape their practice of religion? How and to what extent are these new churches engaging with the larger community outside its boundaries? Finally, what does the future hold for these newly established churches, particularly in their boundary construction—will they remain ethnic specific, become Asian American, or evolve into multiracial religious institutions? My book demonstrates that the development of second-generation Korean American churches is a religious movement in its own right. Ethnic churches are often viewed as socially and culturally marginal, with limited impact on mainstream society. In focusing on mainstream society’s impact on ethnic minorities, researchers have failed to call attention to the ways in which ethnic minorities have influenced the broader society. With remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, American-born Koreans are establishing new churches that aim to influence the practice of Christianity in the years to come. Korean Chri st i ani ty Since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, there has been a dramatic shift in immigration to the United States, whereby “Europe has dried up as a source of immigration and has been replaced by new sources in Latin America and Asia” (Kennedy 1996: 64). The growing entry of new immigrants, primarily from Asia and Latin America, to the West Coast has had noticeable consequences in reshaping and revitalizing religion in this country. Although some immigrants practice non-Western religions, so that the visibility of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam has increased, the most dramatic impact on American religion is felt as new immigrants change the racial and cultural composition of American Protestantism. Scholars have pointed out that the manner and pace in which mainline and evangelical denominations integrate immigrants and their children is a major engine of religious change (Levitt 2007; Machacek 2003). According to R. Stephen Warner (1998), post-1965 immigrants are “de-Europeanizing” American Christianity. By some estimates, immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries account for nearly 40 percent of Roman Catholics in the United States (Levitt 2007). While Latinos are contributing to this process significantly, Korean Christian immigrants are also fueling many of the dynamic changes. Korean

Introduction

5

churches continue to grow and proliferate in major cities throughout the United States. By 2001, there were 3,375 Korean churches in the United States listed in The Korean Church Directory in America. In Los Angeles alone, there are over 1,000 Korean churches, and eight of them are megachurches with an average attendance exceeding 3,000 members. Korean Americans form the largest nonwhite group in American evangelical seminaries—they make up over 25 percent of the student body at Fuller Theological Seminary (H. Lee 1996). Korean students on college campuses throughout the nation are a dominant presence within campus evangelical organizations. For example, UCLA alone claims more than ten Korean American Christian student clubs (R. Kim 2006). Among post-1965 immigrants, Koreans demonstrate the highest percentage of Protestant affiliation—studies show that over 70 percent of Koreans attend church weekly (Hurh and Kim 1990; Min and Kim 2005). The vitality of Christianity among Korean immigrants is directly tied to the dramatic growth and impact of Christianity in their country of origin. Christianity has exploded in South Korea, and its influence has extended globally.Today, South Korea sends out more Protestant missionaries than any other country except the United States (Moll 2006). These missionaries are evangelizing in some of the most challenging places, including predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East. Scholars believe that Koreans are ushering in a new missionary movement that will supplant centuries of Western-dominated Protestant missions. South Korea is also home to the largest church in world history, Yoido Full Gospel Church, which boasts an average weekly attendance of 750,000 (S. G. Kim 2007). In fact, Korea is home to twenty-three of the fifty largest mega-churches in the world (Freston 2001; S. G. Kim 2007). Church leaders from around the world have traveled to South Korea to visit and learn church growth strategies from Yonggi Cho, the senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church. It is within this context of familiarity and widespread affiliation with Christianity that second-generation Korean Americans are empowered with a high level of freedom and boldness to innovate and assert their voices in American Protestantism. E th nicity Perhaps more than their parents, the lives of the children of immigrants hold important clues about the struggles, complexities, and realities

6

A Faith of Our Own

of “becoming Americans.” Much of the literature on the second generation has tended to portray them as being “between two cultures.” The focus has been on their level of assimilation or integration within mainstream society and the extent to which they retain the culture of their parents. However, recent studies in immigrant adaptation have shown greater sensitivity to the malleability of identity formation. Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut, in their book Legacies (2001), document the processes by which the new second generation engages in constructing their identities. However, what is missing in their analysis is the crucial role that religion plays in these new identity constructions. My research fills this void by focusing on the creative ways that second-generation Korean Americans are fashioning their identities within the boundaries of their newly established churches. Second-generation Korean Americans who are the focus of this study meet all the criteria of integration into mainstream society in terms of linguistic proficiency, occupation, education, and housing. Unlike their immigrant parents, whose linguistic and cultural barriers prevented them from joining mainstream churches, the second generation should be able to “fit in” and feel “at home” in mainstream churches.Yet they have chosen to establish their own churches, and in so doing have demonstrated that their ethnic and racial identities matter to them. Scholarly work on immigrant adaptation offers a series of competing explanations on the salience and persistence of race and ethnicity in the United States. Ethnicity marks a socially constructed group around shared ancestry, history, culture, and symbols (Cornell and Hartmann 1998). Primordial ethnicity theorists contend that people have an essential need for “belonging” that is met by groupings based on shared culture and ancestry (Geertz 1973; Isaacs 1975; Swidler 1986). They argue that primordial ethnic bonds continue to powerfully influence the children of immigrants into the third and fourth generations. In contrast, a second group of scholars assert that as the United States has become more open to cultural diversity, groups are free to practice their ethnic identities symbolically (Alba 1990; Gans 1979; Steinberg 1981). According to this view, the social costs of ethnic identification have declined, and hence individuals are free to choose how, when, and where they want to express their ethnic cultures. A third view regards ethnicity mostly as situational and instrumental for social, economic, and political purposes (Glazer

Introduction

7

and Moynihan 1963; Espiritu 1992; Yancey et al. 1976). Groups holding common interests will often mobilize along ethnic lines in order to increase their level of competitiveness. For example, Zhou and Bankston (1998) found in their study of Vietnamese youth in New Orleans that attachment to the ethnic community functions as a positive resource for second-generation adaptation. Those who access their ethnic communities, particularly its networks and resources, have higher levels of socioeconomic advancement in U.S. society. The fourth paradigm claims that ethnicity is neither “collective fiction” nor mere preservation of old-country ways; rather, it is an ongoing process of invention that “incorporates, adapts, and amplifies preexisting communal solidarities, cultural attributes, and historical memories” (Conzen et al. 1992: 4–5). Conzen and her colleagues argue that throughout U.S. history, ethnic groups and American society at large have continually engaged in a process of “ethnic invention.” The process of inventing ethnicity not only affects the ethnic group itself but also transforms and reformulates the very definition of “American.” In a similar vein, Kim and Hurh coined the term “adhesive pattern of adaptation” to describe the growing acculturation among Korean immigrants in select dimensions of their lives while they simultaneously retain elements of their ethnic culture and networks (1993: 700). These immigrants engage in a process of ethnic invention in which they “adhesively” attach certain elements of American culture to their existing ethnic identity. Similarly, sociologist Fengyang Yang observes that Chinese American Christians endeavor to integrate three distinct identity constructions, namely, Chinese, American, and Christian; those who succeed in this process engage in what he terms “adaptive integration,” which is the process of “adding multiple identities together without necessarily losing any particular one” (1999a: 185). Furthermore, Yang argues that Chinese immigrants selectively embrace and integrate cultural elements that are not in direct conflict with Christian beliefs and practices. Instead of choosing either American or ethnic identities, immigrants may construct adhesive identities that integrate both. Every immigrant group in U.S. history has experienced a period of generational transition when the second generation came of age and challenged their parents for leadership over their community’s ethnic institutions (Conzen et al. 1992). The greatest levels of innovation

8

A Faith of Our Own

and experimentation in ethnic invention have taken place during these transitional periods. Deborah Moore (2006) found that secondgeneration Jews in New York during the interwar period developed indigenous American Jewish religious practices that survived for subsequent generations. Similarly, Rebecca Kim (2006), in her study of second-generation Korean American evangelicals on college campuses, focuses on the development of an emergent culture that is “made in the USA,” which is neither mainstream nor immigrant ethnic-based. My research builds upon these studies of “ethnic invention” and “adhesive adaptation.” Rather than viewing ethnic and religious groups as isolated and self-contained units, however, I present second-generation Korean Americans existing in a reciprocal and dynamic interchange with mainstream religion—both shaping and being shaped by the other. As Wade Clark Roof points out, all religions continually engage in a process of reconstructing their religious traditions, “at times absorbing, other times resisting, influencing their environments . . . they are unfinished creations, always evolving, their boundaries drawn and redrawn to fit new circumstances” (1998: 5). Recently, there have been several important studies on the role of the Korean church in transmitting ethnic culture to the second generation (Chai 1998; R. Kim 2006; Min and Kim 2005). These studies largely find that second-generation Korean Americans embrace and practice a religion that is modeled after mainstream evangelicalism, not the religion of their immigrant parents. Kelly Chong, however, argues that the church plays a significant role for second-generation Korean Americans in instilling and reinforcing ethnic identity. The ethnic church serves “as an institutional vehicle for the cultural reproduction and socialization of the second generation into Korean culture” (1998: 262). My research likewise suggests that second-generation Korean Christians in Los Angeles are not rejecting the faith of their parents in exchange for mainstream evangelicalism. Rather, those in my study who have left immigrant churches to develop independent churches are striving to fashion a distinct hybrid second-generation spirituality by appropriating elements from Korean Protestantism and various expressions of American evangelicalism. Previous studies on the second generation focused primarily on English ministries within immigrant churches, where generational tensions and debates are played out within the same church

Introduction

9

(Chong 1998; Chai 1998). The churches in my study are not affiliated with immigrant congregations, and this independence coupled with distance provides a level of perspective and appreciation for their immigrant parents’ faith. In addition, my study focuses on religious developments in Los Angeles, where the largest number of Koreans in the United States reside. The “critical mass” of Koreans in Los Angeles, coupled with the city’s racial diversity, affords second-generation Korean Americans freedom and the fertile soil to innovate and improvise in creating new ethnic and religious identities. R ace The significance of race in the life cycle of ethnic churches has been debated by cotemporary scholars of religion. In the introduction to the anthology Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration, R. Stephen Warner stresses “the continuity of the immigrant religious experience between the nineteenth century and the present” (1998: 14). He argues that racism and racial dynamics will not significantly influence the life cycle of post-1965 immigrant churches and that “the irreducibility of ‘race’ applies primarily to the African American experience.” In contrast, Asian American scholars of religion highlight the importance of race in the development of ethnic churches (Iwamura 2003; Jeung 2005;Yoo 2000). David Yoo, in his study of the Nisei, found that second-generation Japanese Americans responded to racism and the racial realities surrounding them by creating a world of their own, complete with Nisei sport leagues, Japanese American YMCAs and YWCAs, and ethnic church activities. For Japanese American Protestants, “a shared faith with the dominant religious tradition of the nation was not enough to bridge the gap created by race”; in the mid-1900s, race continued to function as a barrier to their full inclusion into mainstream American churches (Yoo 2000: 40). Russell Jeung, in his book Faithful Generations (2005), asserts that Asian American Christians have developed “pan-Asian” churches in response to the prevalent racial dynamics in this country. However, mainline Protestant and evangelical Asian American congregations approach the issue of Asian American identity construction in diametrically opposite ways. According to Jeung, mainline Protestant Asian American churches view themselves as belonging to a racial minority group that shares a common

10

A Faith of Our Own

history of racial oppression, while evangelical Asian American churches see themselves as a group bound by personal networks and similar lifestyles. Jeung argues that “the fact that Chinese and Japanese Americans band together along panethnic lines—even despite acculturating—indicates that racial dynamics continue to play a significant role in their lives and in the lives of their institutions” (2005: 7) The analysis of race among second-generation Korean Americans underscores the need to move beyond the binary, black and white, racial framework that is still dominant in the United States. Asian Americans are generally excluded in the discussion of the relationship between race and Christian identity. Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, in their book Divided by Faith (2001), argue that white evangelicals have an individualized approach to combating racism in the United States while black Christians embrace a structural strategy. Black Christians are more prone to view economic inequality between black and white Americans as resulting from institutional discrimination rooted in history. Emerson and Smith focus exclusively on the experiences of black and white Christians, and the experiences of Asian Americans, who are not marginalized in the same manner as African Americans or as fully integrated into the mainstream as white Americans, are largely ignored. Antony Alumkal (2008) provides a helpful theoretical framework for understanding the multiple variables that shape a congregation’s ethnic and racial profile. He argues that a congregation’s membership is largely shaped by the following four dynamics: demographics that determine who is available to join, the internal subculture of the church that defines who are insiders and outsiders, a process that involves who wields power, and social networks that determine who will most likely be invited to attend. First, the demographics of a church’s location shapes whether a multiracial congregation is viable. In her study of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at West Coast University, Julie Park (2009) found that the sharp decline in the population of black and Latino students, largely due to the passage of Proposition 209, negatively impacted the group’s goal of becoming more racially diverse. Although the group had intentionally increased its efforts to reach out to black and Latino students, they found themselves contending with the constraint of demographic change. Second, the internal culture of the congregation dictates whether it will pursue racial diversity. For example, Alumkal (2003) notes that the

Introduction

11

American evangelical subculture’s emphasis on pursuing racial reconciliation influenced a Chinese American and a Korean American congregation from his study to modify their mission statements so that racial diversity became an officially stated goal. Third, churches may change their “official” goals with respect to racial diversity, while their actual behavior and culture remains largely unchanged. Finally, the social networks of church members shape the future ethnic composition of the congregation. If church members have friends who are primarily from the same ethnic and racial background, they church will continue to remain racially homogeneous. Race is a key variable in understanding why second-generation Korean Americans, unlike the second generation of white ethnic groups, choose to develop their own ethnic religious institutions. Sociologist Mary Waters points out that ethnic identity operates differently for white and nonwhite groups, “the ways in which ethnicity is flexible and symbolic and voluntary for white middle-class Americans are the very way in which it is not so for non-white and Hispanic Americans” (1990: 156). In her book Forever Foreigners or Honorary Whites? (1998), Mia Tuan asserts that the ethnic identities of Asian Americans differ from those of white ethnics because of their racial status. Unlike white ethnics, Asian Americans continue to face marginalization as foreigners and face expectations to be culturally different. No matter how hard they try, they cannot avoid the label of forever foreigners, even if they are the third, fourth, or fifth generations who are born in the United States. The problem with focusing exclusively on ethnicity at the expense of race is that the acculturation process in America has been far from uniform. Race has been and continues to be an important reality in America. Despite the increasing numbers of Asian Americans in this country and the changing nature of racial politics, Asian Americans continue to be viewed in public perception as foreigners and not “authentically” American. According to Michael Omi and Howard Winant, “One of the first things we notice about people when we first meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is” (1986: 62). Because race forms an important part of the context against which individuals negotiate their affiliations and understandings, it strongly influences the formation of second-generation churches and the decisions that individuals make to join them.

12

A Faith of Our Own

The second generation experiences a host of tensions that emerges from their status as members of a racial minority, including feelings of marginalization and not quite fitting in. Although the majority of them are highly acculturated, well educated, and upwardly mobile, because of their status as a racially and culturally defined group, differences continue to exist between them and other Americans. These perceived differences in values, life experiences, struggles, and worldviews prevent full identification with the mainstream society but at the same time they also serve as the point of common identification, comfort, and connection that bind fellow Korean Americans together within this third space. Although race is not a biological concept, neither is it an illusion. Rather, it is a social and historical construct that continues to be a salient element of contemporary society with a range of impacts in the daily lives of my respondents. Race matters in this book, and I highlight the manner in which second-generation Korea Americans, who have grown up in the U.S. racial context, make sense of their own nonwhite status. Second-G e ne rat i on A dap tat i on These second-generation churches are not mere way stations en route to assimilation. Rather, they operate as spaces of creativity and hybridity and play a central role in the invention of new identities (Lowe 1991). Newer literature on assimilation has challenged the notion of a universally accepted “core culture” into which immigrants adapt. Today, there are multiple reference populations and correspondingly segmented forms of assimilation (Portes and Zhou 1993; Waters 1994). Assimilation can no longer be viewed as a linear, single process. Rather, it is a complex set of processes that vary by group and social context. In multicultural Los Angeles at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the children of immigrants do not face a stark choice between assimilation and cultural pluralism. Second-generation Korean Americans are not joining mainstream churches or remaining within the churches of their immigrant parents. Rather, they are charting out an entirely new path, by creating and inhabiting an innovative, self-constructed third space. In a critique of essentialist understanding of culture, scholars have emphasized the fluid and interstitial nature of identity constructions (Anthias 2001; Bhabha 1994; Hall 1990). The concept of “hybridity” is useful in this regard because it captures the process of both resistance

Introduction

13

and affiliation. Renato Rosaldo provides a useful definition of hybridity: “Hybridity can be understood as the ongoing condition of all human cultures, which contain no zones of purity because they undergo continuous processes of transculturation (two-way borrowing and lending between cultures)” (1995: xi). Homi K. Bhabha argues in his book The Location of Culture that cultures must be understood as “narrative” constructions that arise from the “hybrid” interaction of contending cultural milieus. “It is in the emergence of the interstices––the overlap and displacement of domains of difference––that the intersubjective and collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or cultural value are negotiated. . . . The social articulation of difference, from the minority perspective, is a complex, ongoing negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation” (1994: 2). Bhabha’s notion of hybridity describes the process of creative mixing of traditions and cultures that the colonized must negotiate. He distinguishes hybridity from antagonistic resistance on the one hand, and from simple compliance to the dominant culture, on the other. “Hybrid agencies find their voice in a dialectic that does not seek cultural supremacy or sovereignty. They deploy the partial culture from which they emerge to construct visions of community, and versions of historic memory, that give narrative form to the minority positions they occupy” (1994: 170). He argues that it is within the margins that hybrid identities are fashioned and practiced. The concept of hybridity is especially relevant to my study. Secondgeneration Korean American churches are creatively renegotiating their condition of marginality by fashioning a hybrid identity, by adopting and reinterpreting elements of Korean and American spirituality within their newly formed churches. García Canclini underscores the value of hybridity for its ability to help us “understand . . . ways in which communities imagine themselves and construct stories about their origin and development” (2005: xxvii). However, my objective is not to pose hybridity as a facile, syncretic “solution” to the tension between two cultures. Rather, the concept of hybridity provides a helpful and meaningful theoretical lens through which to view and analyze the ways in which second-generation Korean Americans are, by creating hybrid third spaces, defining their own identities, and in the process blurring the boundaries between the mainstream and the margin.

14

A Faith of Our Own

The hybrid third space is born as a response to the lived tensions associated with the sense of discomfort and “not quite fitting in” in either the immigrant or mainstream American religious institutions. These new churches serve as arenas where people seek to find comfort and meaningful resolutions to their conflicted sense of identity. However, the hybrid third space is not simply a retreat or refuge from marginalization. In addition to being a place of refuge it is also a place of experimentation, self-definition, and empowerment. Within the third space, second-generation Korean Americans are articulating a hybrid secondgeneration spirituality and identity. In addition, it is within this hybrid third space that younger Korean Americans are mobilizing to confidently engage and assert their voices in the larger mainstream society. Second-generation Korean Americans can be viewed as border inhabitants, not in a territorial sense but in a cultural one, for Los Angeles is a city of diverse cultural borders. First, Los Angeles is home to one of the most racially and ethnically diverse populations in the nation. Writing about the turn of the past century, the historian Robert Fogelson (1993) called Los Angeles the “fragmented metropolis,” a characterization that is even more appropriate today with the dramatic changes in the city’s population. In 1920, during the tail end of the last great immigration wave, only 17 percent of Los Angelinos were foreign born. By 2000, immigrants made up 31 percent of the region’s population and 35 percent of all those living in Los Angeles County (Alba and Nee 2003). Within the next few years, no racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of the city’s population. These dramatic demographic changes in Los Angeles are challenging the very definition of what constitutes the “mainstream” and the “margin.” In addition to the demographic changes in Los Angeles, secondgeneration Korean Americans are coming of age within a historical and social context that no longer pressures immigrants toward Anglo-conformity but rather encourages the expression of ethnic difference. The civil rights movement and the resulting social movements in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s challenged the notion that incorporation and integration into American society must come at the expense of ethnic identity and difference. This shift in attitude has had direct consequences on the development and future visions of a number of ethnic institutions. For example, the black church underwent

Introduction

15

a period of marked transition during the late 1960s with the rise of the Black Power movement, which called for the maintenance of autonomous black institutions such as the church to empower and address the specific needs of African Americans (Lincoln 1990; Nelsen 1975). During this period, individual assimilation into the dominant society as both a political and personal solution was rejected due to the awareness that it weakens group integrity and denies cultural heritage. Rather, collective strategies were undertaken to ensure social solidarity and collective consciousness. The sixties was a watershed decade in American history on many levels, but particularly because it was during this decade that groups collectively began to question and challenge the very definition of “American.” There was a rejection of the previously accepted notion that in order to become truly American, you needed to strip off all ethnic differences in order to blend into an Anglo mainstream. It is within the backdrop of this changing social context that secondgeneration Korean Americans are carving out new institutional niches to accommodate the intersection of race, generation, and ethnicity in the context of their Christian faith. My research provides compelling evidence that ethnic minorities, in this case second-generation Korean Americans in Los Angeles, are using religion and religious institutions to challenge the very notion of the “mainstream” and to carve out a place for themselves in a reconfigured American society. In the minds of the second generation, residing in hybrid third spaces does not make them any less American. Rather, particularly in ethnically diverse Los Angeles at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the terrain of American society looks more like a compilation of border spaces than one that is composed of a central “mainstream” and a peripheral “margin.” Method and Data This book is based on data obtained through participant observation, interviews, surveys, and reviews of relevant literature that I collected for over ten years (1996–2006) at twenty-two different second-generation Korean American churches in the Los Angeles area. The total number of second-generation churches was calculated in 2007 first by counting the churches listed in the Korean American Ministry Resource (KAMR) Web site (www.kamr.org) and second, by distributing the list of the churches on the KAMR Web site to ten second-generation pastors to see if they

16

A Faith of Our Own

knew of other churches that were not listed. On the basis of this information, the total number of second-generation churches in Los Angeles was calculated to be 56, and I conducted ethnographic research at close to half of them. (I did not include English ministries that are housed within immigrant Korean churches.) In order to examine and present a broad portrait of second-generation churches, I chose the twentytwo churches in this study because they represented the salient areas of diversity among the churches, specifically size, denominational affiliation, history, and ethnic composition. At all twenty-two churches, religious services as well as informal conversations are conducted in English; the overwhelming majority of their members are highly acculturated, welleducated, upwardly mobile professionals and college students, and were either born in the United States or immigrated when they were children. More descriptive information on the churches in this study is provided in Appendix A. I have used pseudonyms to preserve the anonymity of respondents and the churches. I engaged in participant observation at worship services, conferences, small group Bible studies, retreats, and various other church-sponsored events. In addition to participant observation, I conducted 108 structured in-depth interviews with pastors, leaders, and members of these newly formed churches along with three immigrant churches. I first contacted and interviewed several prominent pastors and asked them for the names of other second-generation pastors and people in their churches whom I could contact for interviews. Of the 108 interviews, fifty-eight were conducted with pastors and church leaders of second-generation churches; thirty-eight were conducted with second-generation Korean American as well as non-Korean members of the twenty-two churches; and twelve were conducted with immigrant Korean pastors and leaders of English ministries within immigrant churches. Each of the interviews lasted between one and two hours, and they were conducted in a variety of locations, including private homes, churches, offi ces, and cafes. Technically, the term “second generation” refers to those who were born in the United States and “1.5 generation” refers to those who were born in Korea but raised in the United States. However, in this book, I collapse these two categories and use the term “second generation” to refer both to Korean Americans who were born in the United States and those who immigrated to the United States as children.

Introduction

17

In addition to participant observation and interviews, I also administered a simple survey consisting of thirty-six questions at the following five churches: Faith Church, Fruitful Church, Family Church, Flowing Life Church, and University Church. The survey questions focused on demographic information as well as general attitudes on racial and religious issues. I distributed approximately 510 surveys to the five churches and received back a total of 340 completed surveys (a 67 percent response rate). The five churches were selected for their large congregation sizes as well as the willingness of the church leadership to administer the survey. The surveys were passed out during small-group Bible studies and collected immediately after they were filled out. The survey, hereafter referred to as the congregational survey, provided general descriptive data on the values, trends, and demographic profiles of these churches; a copy of the survey can be found in Appendix B. Of the twenty-two churches in my study, six are monoethnic churches, where over 80 percent of the members are Korean. Sixteen are pan-Asian churches where over 80 percent of the members are Asian but fewer than 80 percent are Korean. At present, none of the churches in my study is multiracial––which would be, as DeYoung, Emerson,Yancey, and Chai (2003) have defined it, a church, in which no one racial group is 80 percent or more of the congregation. In this study, I will refer to all twenty-two churches as second-generation Korean American churches, although some of the churches would self-identify as either Asian American or multiracial. I do this because all twenty-two of the churches were started by second-generation Korean American pastors along with a core group of Korean American members. However, in chapter 6, I discuss and analyze the various ethnic boundary distinctions among the churches in this study, and the ways in which these boundaries are being stretched and renegotiated. The majority, fifteen, of the churches in my study were established during the nineteen nineties; two of the churches began in the nineteen eighties, and five were planted in 2000 or later. With respect to church size, seven of the churches have fewer than one hundred members, nine of the churches have one hundred to two hundred members, five of the churches have between two hundred and five hundred members, and one church in my study has over three thousand members. Ten out of the twenty-two churches are nondenominational, and the remaining

18

A Faith of Our Own

twelve churches belong to one of the following denominations: Southern Baptist, Presbyterian USA, Evangelical Covenant, United Methodist, Missionary Church, Korean Presbyterian Church of America, and the Christian Reformed Church. Appendix A provides more descriptive information on the churches in this study. Being a second-generation Korean American Christian proved to be an enormous advantage in conducting this research. All of the pastors were open and willing to share their views and stories with memore than they would have been with a researcher who was an outsider. One minister expressed the view that “It’s great that you’re a Christian too, Sharon. There are so many academics who’ve written about the church with a non-Christian bias. I don’t have to worry that you would misrepresent us and cast us in an unfair negative light.” There is a great desire among the pastors and members of these churches to have their stories told faithfully and sensitively; they trusted that I would do my best to carefully represent their voices within this book. Even after the conclusion of “official” interviews, several of the pastors e-mailed me with follow-up comments, suggestions, and leads to other individuals who would be good resources for my research. Fortunately, throughout this research project, I had more than enough people who wanted to be interviewed. As a second-generation Korean American Christian who is an active member of a church in this study, one of the biggest challenges was to navigate through the “insider/outsider” dilemma in the study of religion. In studying religious groups, some believe that outsiders can never truly understand the religious system, however close they may come. On the other hand, religious insiders may be too close to obtain unbiased information, particularly if they fear that such information may undermine their religious convictions or portray fellow believers in a negative light. It is important to note, however, that all researchers have a particular social location that influences their findings. My status as an insider provided a useful vantage point from which I could conduct research on second-generation Korean American churches with an empathetic posture. Gaining access to informants and establishing rapport with them came much easier because of my insider status. Relationships of trust are an essential element for gathering data; invariably, the quality of data is shaped by the rapport a researcher has with the subjects under study.

Introduction

19

Although I recognize that my own background inevitably colors this research, I hope that I have given voice to second-generation Korean American Christians and their churches. Chapte r s The second chapter documents the cultural and generational conflicts within immigrant congregations that fueled many younger ministers to leave immigrant churches and develop independent second-generation churches. The majority of Koreans in Los Angeles are post-1965 immigrants, so for nearly two decades Korean churches did not face the challenge of providing religious services to an English-speaking population. With the rising population of second-generation Korean Americans, however, generational conflicts and schisms began to emerge and quickly multiply in immigrant churches. I provide a detailed description of the different models of ministry to the second generation that have emerged in the midst of the generational upheaval within immigrant churches. The third chapter provides a descriptive portrait of second-generation Korean Americans whose makeup has been forged largely through their experiences as children of immigrants and as members of a racial minority. I also present and analyze the different forces that draw American-born Koreans to the newly developed ethnic churches. Second-generation Korean Americans are congregating at these newly developed churches because at these churches their hunger for connection and spiritual enrichment are being met in a comfortable environment in which their unique selves are understood and affirmed. Chapter 4 focuses on the inventive ways in which the leaders of these new ethnic churches are drawing from a variety of cultural and spiritual resources in fashioning a hybrid second-generation spirituality. In their quest to invent an independent second-generation spirituality, the younger ministers aim to incorporate what they perceive to be essential Christian principles and practices from immigrant Korean Christianity and mainstream evangelicalism into their newly formed churches. The newly developed churches are not insular communities whose concerns are limited to the immediate needs and issues of their own congregation members. Viewing themselves as part of the larger American society, they have been active in a host of outside activities, such as reaching out to other communities in building coalitions, establishing

20

A Faith of Our Own

social service ministries to needy communities, and participating in mainstream politics. Chapter 5 highlights the ways in which these new ethnic churches are reaching out beyond their ethnic and religious boundaries to others outside of their church walls. The sixth chapter highlights the divergent paths that secondgeneration churches are currently taking in its ethnic and racial composition. Each church’s ethnic composition––monoethnic, pan-Asian, or multiracial––is directly tied to the vision of its senior pastor. Some desire to reach out primarily to other Korean Americans, others want to enlarge their target population to include non-Korean Asian Americans, and still others are determined for their churches to become fully multiracial. In the concluding chapter, I offer a discussion of how these new ethnic churches provide further insights into the patterns of adaptation among the children of post-1965 immigrants.The chapter concludes with some reflections and predictions of how relevant and appealing secondgeneration churches will be for future generations of Korean Americans.

Chapte r 2

Generational Tension within Korean Immigrant Churches At one church meeting, a deacon brought a gun and started waving it around threatening to shoot if he didn’t get his own way. Soon after, the church quickly divided into two bitterly opposing factions. The fight was over the use of funds in building a new structure. The whole culture of the church degenerated. The fighting got so ugly, that once an elder charged at me in the church parking lot and took me by the collar and called me all kinds of names. Within a month, the church went through a split with nearly half of the congregation leaving to start their own church. —Pastor Chang, minister of a second-generation church

Korean immigrant churches have experienced more than their share of internal conflicts and tensions. Sadly, numerous reports are heard of bitter church splits within Korean congregations where long-simmering tensions boiled over into shoving matches and fist fights that brought in the police. In fact, several scholars have argued that the large number of Korean churches in this country has been due, in significant part, to the high rates of internal strife that have led to church splits (Shin and Park 1988). Dissatisfied with the heated political struggles within immigrant churches along with a host of other generational tensions, second-generation ministers have launched out in new directions, fashioning their own independent and improvisational models of ministry. As the second generation started coming of age, generational tensions and challenges began to emerge and occupy center stage within 21

22

A Faith of Our Own

immigrant churches. In the first half of this chapter, I document the myriad of generational conflicts that erupted within immigrant churches, particularly during the late eighties and early nineties. In the latter half of this chapter, I present the different solutions and ministry paradigms that were birthed from these generational schisms. The available literature indicates that generational clashes are common among many immigrant churches in the United States; what is unique to second-generation Korean Americans, however, is the manner in which they have attempted to resolve these conflicts (Ebaugh and Chafetz 2000; Williams 1996;Yang 1999b). It is only within the Korean American community that one witnesses large numbers of the second generation leaving the immigrant church to develop entirely autonomous religious institutions apart from the immigrant context. In order to understand the causes of the generational conflicts within immigrant churches and the differing responses by the first and second generations, it is necessary to understand the traditional role of the ethnic church for the immigrant generation. Th e Trad i t i onal Func t i ons of th e Korean I m m i g rant Churc h Scholars have identified three distinct waves of Korean immigration to the United States. The first was in 1903–1905, and consisted primarily of laborers seeking work on the sugar plantations in Hawaii. Religion played an important role from the beginning, as recruiters for American companies called upon Protestant missionaries in Korea to persuade Koreans to immigrate to Hawaii to fill the need for plantation labor. Consequently, Protestant converts were among the first Koreans to travel to the United States, and approximately 40 percent of the first wave of Korean immigrants was composed of Protestant Christians (Yoo and Chung 2008). The churches functioned as quasi-governmental and cultural centers; pastors possessed the dual roles of community leaders and spiritual counselors. In contrast to the Japanese and Chinese immigrants in Hawaii, almost every Korean in the Hawaiian Islands eventually came to be identified with the Christian faith (Hurh 1998). The first wave of immigration ended with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the National Origins Act, which made immigration from Asia illegal. After World War II, a limited number

Generational Tension

23

of students and professionals were permitted to enter the United States— about 6,000 between 1945 and 1965 (Hurh 1998). Students and their families were thus the most visible segment of this second wave within Korean American communities and religious institutions. In addition, during and after the devastation of the Korean War (1950–1953), large numbers of wives of American servicemen and Korean War orphans came to the United States. The third and largest wave of immigrants occurred after the passage of the 1965 immigration reform act, which removed restrictive and discriminatory measures that had been firmly in place for close to five decades. The year 1965 marked a true watershed for Korean immigration because it was only then that significant numbers of Korean immigrant families began to be able to immigrate. Today, post1965 immigrants and their families make up the overwhelming majority of the approximately 1.1 million Koreans in the United States. Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Korean immigrants in the United States. According to the 2000 census, there are approximately 250,000 Koreans residing in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and their population has grown since the 1990 census by 34 percent in Los Angeles County and 63 percent in Orange County. As a group, Koreans are older (median age thirty-four) than the general population’s median age of thirty-two. Close to 74 percent of the Korean American population was born abroad (Asian Pacific American Legal Center 2004). The church has been, from the first wave of immigrants in the early 1900s, the central institution within the Korean community. In the United States, as in Korea, Christianity has experienced phenomenal growth among Koreans. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Korean immigrants are affiliated with Korean churches, with roughly 40 percent converting after immigration (Hurh and Kim 1990). The high post-immigration conversion rates are attributable to the role of the church as the center of community life, contributing to the daily lives of immigrants in the midst of the pressures of economic survival and sociocultural adjustments set into motion by the migration process (Choy 1979; Hurh and Kim 1990). The churches play a significant role in the adaptation process of new immigrants by providing invaluable social services, community networks, and places of meaning. Past research has identified four basic sociological functions of the ethnic Korean church. First, churches function as social service agencies,

24

A Faith of Our Own

providing members with programs such as health care, language and citizenship classes, as well as information about jobs, housing, and business (Hurh and Kim 1990). Upon arrival to the United States, many Korean immigrants began attending the ethnic church because the church met their practical needs associated with immigrant adjustment (Min 1992). In an article in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Doreen Carvajal writes, “The Korean churches have offered not only spiritual comfort, but worldly advice on every topic from paying traffic tickets to finding a job or the best school. People could pray to God, find a mate, make business connections, and read about a young member’s acceptance to Harvard in the Sunday bulletin” (1994: A16). Immigrant churches also help co-ethnics with small business ventures in various ways. For example, churches are often the best places to draw members into rotating credit associations, kyes (K. Park 1997). These associations have regular meetings where each member contributes a fixed sum of money to lend to one of the members. Churches also serve as important sites for business networking and information exchanges. Second, Korean churches provide an important space where immigrants gather and socialize with one another on a weekly basis; they serve as substitute ethnic neighborhoods for those who are residentially assimilated. Typically, members spend their entire Sundays at church, participating in a host of church-sponsored activities such as early morning prayer meetings, Korean language classes, Bible study classes, regular worship service, staff and committee meetings, lunch, and evening worship. In addition to meeting with co-ethnics on Sundays, most of the immigrant churches also offer kuyok yabaes, or regional home Bible studies, where members gather regularly for worship and fellowship together. In addition to official church meetings, members spend informal time together playing golf, shopping, visiting one another’s homes, and socializing. The relationship networks that they develop within their churches become their primary vehicle for community and socializing. Third, the church confers social status along with positions of leadership upon the members, many of whom experienced downward mobility after immigrating to the United States (Hurh and Kim 1990, Min 1992, Shin and Park 1988). This compensatory reality is an important feature of immigrant churches that create “a hierarchical structure which can serve as a ladder of achievement for church members” (K. Park 1989:

Generational Tension

25

62). Lay leadership positions such as elders and deacons are highly coveted and esteemed. As Shin and Park noted, “The ‘status-anxiety’ which stems from marginality of the Korean immigrants in American society tends to precipitate factional strife within a church. The immigrants who are underemployed, discriminated against, and oppressed by the white majority American society tend to consider the immigrant church as a place where their desire for recognition can be satisfied by being elected as elders and deacons” (1988: 241). Finally, at immigrant churches, Korean culture is practiced and preserved through the celebration of shared history as well as the instruction of second-generation Koreans with Korean language and customs. Ample research has demonstrated that the Korean immigrant church plays a significant role in ethnic culture retention (Hurh and Kim 1990; Kim and Kim 2001; Min 2005). Min found in his study of a Korean immigrant church in New York City that ethnic culture is practiced and preserved through a variety of means, including celebration of major Korean holidays, consumption of Korean food, instruction in Korean language for the younger generation, and the practice of Confucian values such as filial piety (Min 2005). Because the church is so well established and prominent within the community, the majority of the immigrant community’s resources are invested in improving and growing the various ministries within the church. As the churches grow, both in the numbers of attendees and in the quality of its programming, its appeal to both Christians and non-Christians also grows. The high post-immigration conversion rate among Korean Christians is due largely to the prominent role of the Protestant church in the community. In my interviews with the first generation, particularly with those who converted after immigrating to the United States, there was a distinct immigrant conversion narrative. Generally, newly arrived non-Christian immigrants were introduced to the church through their church-going relatives or friends. These newcomers were initially attracted to the ethnic church for its various “non-religious” services such as weekly fellowship with co-ethnics, status compensation, quest for psychological well-being, Korean language classes for their children, and business connections. However, after attending the church for these “secular” or “functional” reasons for a period of time, many accepted the teachings of the church and converted to Christianity. Hence, for many

26

A Faith of Our Own

Korean immigrants, these practical services served as entryways for their conversion to Christianity. The Eme rg e nc e of th e S e cond G e ne ration The majority of Koreans in Los Angeles are post-1965 immigrants, so the need for English-language programs did not surface until the late seventies, when the children of immigrants started coming of age. During these early years of transition, when the second generation was composed primarily of children in elementary school, every adult church member who could speak English or could capture the attention of the children was recruited to volunteer in the children’s ministry. In most of the churches, the volunteers developed their own Sunday school curriculum that was often supplemented with Korean language classes. In the early eighties, several of the larger immigrant churches began adopting mainstream Sunday school curriculum and programs. Pastor Cho, who has ministered to the second generation within immigrant churches since the early seventies, clearly remembers the strategies that large firstgeneration churches employed: “Whatever was working at the American churches was imported into the Korean churches. We tried to copy programs such as AWANA [an international evangelical organization that focuses on Bible verse memorization for children from preschool through high school]. Also, the David C. Cook Sunday school curriculum was popular at many churches.” At about the same time, as the children entered into their teen years, immigrant churches began hiring English-speaking youth ministers who were always in short supply. Pastor Cho recalls that young Korean seminary graduates who could speak English fluently were highly sought after by several large immigrant congregations who competed with one another to recruit them. Due to the shortage of English-speaking Korean American seminarians, several immigrant churches resorted to hiring Caucasian ministers to serve as directors of their children and youth departments. The second generation, as they entered young adulthood during the mid to late eighties, began to vocalize discontent over the immigrant churches, which they felt catered primarily to the needs of their parents’ generation. During this period, tensions and schisms between the first and second generation began to surface and multiply. The most acute tensions revolved around three issues. First, younger pastors began

Generational Tension

27

to view the immigrant churches as dysfunctional and hypocritical religious institutions that were modeling a negative expression of Christian spirituality for second-generation Korean Americans. Second, there were continual clashes between the generations over issues involving cultural differences in the styles and philosophies of church leadership. Finally, the younger generation felt that they were being treated as second-class citizens in the church because their needs were consistently unmet and viewed as inferior to those of the first generation. Dysfuncti onal Sp i ri tual i ty Several second-generation Korean American pastors expressed their belief that the immigrant church subculture was dysfunctional because, for the majority of Korean immigrants, the church is not just a religious organization but is also the primary arena where their identities and self-worth are established. Unable to reestablish themselves professionally due to their language and cultural limitations, many Korean immigrants experienced downward mobility upon their arrival to the United States (Abelmann and Lie 1995). In addition, migration to the United States has had a great impact on Korean American families by altering the traditional power balance between husbands and wives and between parents and their children. This reality has been documented by sociologists Hurh and Kim (1990), who found that the church plays a compensatory role in the lives of Korean male immigrants, for whom holding a leadership position in the church is positively correlated with mental health. Because Korean immigrants see themselves as outsiders in American mainstream society, the church plays an important role in gratifying their need for inclusion, significance, social status, respect, and power. This reality, according to a second-generation Korean American pastor, allows the church to become the fertile ground for “flesh, fights, and fury.” Interestingly, Sheba George (1998) found similar compensatory dynamics operating in an Indian Orthodox congregation where the male members transformed the church into an arena where they could reclaim the power and respect that they were deprived of upon immigrating. Immigrant churches often serve as arenas where first-generation Koreans can gain recognition from co-ethnics as well as a sense of personal significance. Pastor Kang of Voyage Christian Fellowship noted that at the first-generation church where he served for over ten years, many

28

A Faith of Our Own

immigrant members tried to gain significance through their involvement, service, and sacrifice at the church. The more hours they spend, the more they give, the more programs that they have, they feel like they are more committed, spiritual, and significant. There was a program going on every night. We had prayer meetings almost every night that lasted until 11 p.m. These first-generation Koreans have a hard time not doing anything. They feel like they have to be doing something to be somebody. Churches are always looking for more workers, and Korean immigrants are always looking for ways to gain significance. So it’s a perfect yet dangerous match because the people get a false sense of significance and they get burned out from too much serving. There is a desire among the younger pastors to shield second-generation Korean Americans from what they perceive to be a harmful and dysfunctional church subculture. They point to the high rate of church splits in the Korean community as evidence of this dysfunction (see Shin and Park 1988). Korean immigrants are, on average, more highly educated and more likely to have professional occupational credentials than the American mainstream population. However, due to their linguistic constraints, they confront insurmountable barriers to continuing their professional careers in the United States (Min 1998). Official positions and titles within immigrant churches function, as I have said, as compensatory measures for many immigrant men who experienced downward mobility (Kim and Kim 2001). Because the church functions as an important milieu for men to assert their power and influence, it often evolves into a battleground where their pride and position are challenged and defended. In Los Angeles, Korean church splits have become so common that 60 percent of second-generation church attendees has personally experienced at least one in their lifetime (S. Kim 1996: 50). David Shin, an undergraduate student at UCLA, distinctly remembers the numerous fights and quarrels among the members at the immigrant church that he attended during his high school years. His parents were deeply enmeshed in church politics and would passionately talk about church issues almost every night at home. After months of heated turmoil and bitter conflicts, they eventually left the church, along with a group of dissenters. David, on the other hand, remained at the church without

Generational Tension

29

his parents because the majority of his close friends were children of the opposing faction. He remembers how difficult it was for him to endure the criticism and passive hostility that he received from his friends’ parents. He believes that this unpleasant experience has left him disillusioned and cynical about church politics and Christians in general. Christine Kim, an immigrant minister’s daughter, also vividly remembers the pain that she and her parents repeatedly suffered during the four times that her father’s church split. In one incident, several church members falsely accused her father of embezzlement and spread rumors to other parishioners, who eventually banded together and stormed out of the church. Within several months, her father’s name and reputation were cleared when the church treasurer located the missing funds. These experiences have left lasting scars on Christine and on her entire family. She remarked that having personally witnessed and experienced the ugliness of immigrant church politics has caused her to become more cynical and suspicious of all churches. Second-generation Korean Americans who have experienced church splits tend to be more cautious and hesitant in committing to a church because they are afraid of getting hurt and disappointed. Therefore, many resort to “church hopping” as a solution in which they can be fed spiritually without having to risk the painful consequences of commitment to a single institution. Many second-generation Korean Americans are critical of their parents’ spirituality, which they feel is watered down and compromised. They questioned the ways in which their parents placed socioeconomic advancement above spiritual growth. Several said that their churchgoing parents wanted them to be committed to Christianity and to their church only to the extent that it would not interfere with their educational or occupational pursuits. Susan, a senior at UCLA, commented that her parents, who are elders at an immigrant church, repeatedly pressured her to not invest too much time in church activities. They were afraid that her church commitments were taking up precious study time and threatening her chances of getting into medical school. In an effort to maintain peace, Susan resorted to keeping her church activities hidden from her parents. For many Korean immigrant parents, socioeconomic mobility is a greater priority than spiritual growth, and many fear that their children will become “too religious” and might give up their secular aspirations in

30

A Faith of Our Own

order to become ministers and missionaries. Only 22 percent of secondgeneration Koreans stated that their church-going parents would support them if they decided to pursue full-time ministry. Immigrant parents draw a sharp distinction between being “religious” and “too religious,” where the latter involves a full-scale commitment that entails jeopardizing secular aspirations. One second-generation man remembers that at a church revival that he attended during his college years, nearly 50 percent of the attendees made commitments to give up their careers to pursue full-time ministry. This led to an enormous level of outrage among their first-generation parents, who immediately and furiously called the leadership of the church to voice their complaints. Some even threatened to destroy the reputation of the church by spreading rumors among other Korean parents that the church was a cult. One week later, nearly all of the students were coerced by their parents to renounce their commitments and continue pursuing their occupational goals. Karen Chai, in her study of Paxton Korean Church in Boston, similarly found that many second-generation Korean Americans doubt the authenticity of their parent’s spirituality. For example, they are critical of the way their parents prioritize ethnicity over religion in marriage decisions: “Several second-generation members stated that while they themselves would like to marry committed, ‘born again’ Korean American Christians, their parents, some of whom are active churchgoers, emphasize the Korean over the Christian criterion. That is some ‘religious’ parents would not object to their son or daughter marrying a non-Christian, but they would definitely object to him or her marry a non-Korean” (1998: 309) Diffe re nc e s i n Cultural Paradi g m s of L eade r sh i p The two generations embrace differing paradigms on church leadership and decision making. For the immigrant generation, lines of authority are drawn rigidly along age and gender, where the top levels of leadership are reserved exclusively for men who are more than fifty years old. The second generation, influenced by Western ideals of egalitarianism and autonomy, have rejected the older generation’s emphasis on hierarchical authority, which they feel were more consistent with traditional Korean cultural values than Christian values. In the minds of the first generation, respect flows only one way—upward, with the younger generation giving

Generational Tension

31

respect to the older generation. However, the younger leaders believe that respect should not be given exclusively on the basis of age. Rather, they argue that respect should flow both ways, with each demonstrating a willingness to listen and learn from the other. The younger leaders were frustrated and offended by the reality that although they were treated as adults in mainstream society, exerting authority and commanding respect in their workplaces, they were continually treated as children in their churches by the immigrant generation. John Lee, a lay leader at an immigrant church who works for a large mainstream engineering corporation remarked, “The first-generation leadership had the final say over all our decisions. It’s so ironic. At my job, I oversee important large projects. I’ve interviewed over one hundred people for positions. I’m respected at my job and have very important responsibilities. However, at my church, the first generation treats me like an incompetent child.” Because they were perceived as children, the leaders of the English ministries essentially had no voice or influence in the church’s decision-making processes. In staff meetings, second-generation Korean American leaders protested the use of funds, which they felt were primarily geared toward the maintenance and further development of the first-generation congregation. There were also constant battles over various issues such as the style and form of worship. For example, at one immigrant church, the board of elders established a rule that the second generation could only use the acoustic guitar and piano during their worship time—drums, electric guitars, and other instruments were strictly prohibited. The younger pastors became increasingly frustrated and discontent over having to operate under traditional first-generation paradigms of ministry. Convinced that immigrant churches exist to cater exclusively to first-generation needs, Pastor Chu of Joyful Life Church, after serving for nearly a decade at three different immigrant churches, decided to start an independent church for the second generation. He remembers the years of frustration he felt over the immigrant senior pastors’ limited vision for the second generation. For Chu, whenever he wanted to implement a new idea to expand and grow his ministry, he was met with repeated resistance from the board of elders, which was composed entirely of immigrant males. After years of being denied financial resources and emotional support, Chu decided to leave the immigrant church to launch an independent church where he would have full autonomy.

32

A Faith of Our Own

Pastor Hurh realized that there was a noticeable difference in the expectations that he and the first-generation senior pastor had of one another. He viewed the senior pastor as a father figure and hungered for a type of relationship where he could be mentored and empowered to grow as a leader. After serving for several years at the church, however, he realized that the senior pastor saw him primarily as an employee and was more concerned with his level of productivity than his personal growth. “It’s like we [the senior pastor and himself] were working under different assumptions. I wanted so much to be mentored by him . . . for him to be a spiritual father figure, but that’s not what he had in mind. He saw me as a worker. I think many second-generation pastors are disappointed because their expectations of first-generation pastors are not met.” Second-generation leaders also reacted against what they perceived as an overly authoritative, forceful, and heavy-handed leadership style of the first generation. Pastor Suh of Joyful Sound Community Church recalled an incident at an immigrant church where he was serving as the youth minister: “One day, a first-generation leader cornered me, shoved me into an empty room and angrily asked me, ‘Do you speak Korean?’ When I replied, ‘no,’ he yelled at me in outrage ‘you should learn!’ and walked out of the room.” Many told me that one of the reasons why they left the immigrant church was that the leadership style of the first generation was heavy handed and dictatorial. Second-generation leaders were convinced that they would always remain at the bottom rung of the leadership hierarchy in immigrant churches, with little or no control over their respective areas of ministry. In addition, most immigrant churches do not have a defined, practical strategy for generational succession of leadership, and this was a point of tension for several pastors that I spoke with. One pastor recalled, “several times the senior pastor would promise me that in twenty years, this church will belong to the second generation . . . but I don’t think they really mean that. A thirty-year-old Korean-speaking member will be given authority, while a thirty-year-old English-speaking member will be seen as a child.” Another second-generation minister, who left a large immigrant church to plant an independent church, commented, These Korean first-generation pastors . . . they want to lead and control the church until the day they die. I don’t know what it is . . .

Generational Tension

33

could it be insecurity, or maybe they’re super power hungry . . . it’s most likely the Korean culture. The senior pastor of the church that I was serving at finally retired when he turned seventy-five but he still controls the church. The new senior pastor is just a puppet leader. They don’t know much about empowering leadership. They’re of the mindset that the leader does everything and controls everything. We younger-generation ministers just have a fundamental difference in leadership philosophies. One minister who served in the youth group at a large immigrant church remarked that “We younger pastors are fully capable of making decisions but we’re never allowed to do so. They [the first generation] basically expect us to go along with whatever decisions they make. If we object in any way, we’re seen as disrespectful and rebellious.” This sentiment was evident at a conference on second-generation Korean American ministry that I attended at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena where, in the midst of a heated discussion, a first-generation pastor vehemently accused the younger ministers of disrespect and arrogance. “We are building an invisible wall between the generations in the church . . . you must not demand that we, the first generation, must throw out our paradigm. You are always trying to teach us without being humble enough to learn from us. You have much to learn from us and need to be more respectful. You are all so proud and disrespectful.” From that point on, the discussion quickly turned from English ministry models to a heated debate over generational control within the churches. One second-generation pastor angrily exclaimed, “The main issue is control. We are wasting our time and energy on issues of control. In the meantime, our English-speaking generations are leaving the church and are rapidly becoming a large unreached group of people.” Second-C lass Ci t i z e nshi p Finally, tensions between the generations arose over commitment and ownership issues. The younger pastors argued that the lack of autonomy and control they had over their ministries was causing a lack of ownership among the second-generation population as well as among the pastors who were hired to minister to them. This lack of ownership was evident in many ways, one of which was financial giving patterns,

34

A Faith of Our Own

commented one pastor who served as the English minister at a first generation church. “In the English services, the second generation would continually give a dollar for offering during Sunday worship services, even though they were young adults with high-paying jobs, because they figured that the first generation would pay for all the church expenses.” The younger ministers argued that because the second generation was viewed and treated as children, they continued to behave like dependent children relying on the stewardship of the first generation for their ministry’s survival. In addition, youth ministers began to exhibit a low level of ownership and commitment to the immigrant churches they were serving, and would often move from one church to another, depending upon which church had more to offer them personally. Over 50 percent of second-generation Korean Americans have had at least three different youth ministers during their teenage years (S. Kim 1996). Because their spiritual leaders changed so often, it was difficult for second-generation Korean Americans to maintain deep relationships with them, and this reality further caused the second generation to distrust authority figures. Second-generation ministers within the immigrant churches felt more like hirelings employed by the first generation rather than true shepherds of the second generation. Their motivation to grow the ministry and invest themselves in the second generation was stifled by the fact that they had no autonomy or control over their own ministries. One minister, after serving for nearly eight years in an immigrant church, left to start his own church. “What’s the point of growing the English ministry in an immigrant church when they [the first generation] have all the power and control all the decisions? We don’t even have freedom to cast a vision and develop a strategy for the future of our own ministries.” In addition, English ministers who spoke the Korean language were expected to spend up to half of their weekly hours on duties that were not directly related to the English ministry. According to one minister, “At the immigrant church they expect me to do all sorts of things such as attending tons and tons meetings, attending early-morning prayer, picking people up for church, translating for them, helping with administrative details . . . basically things that don’t have a thing to do with building up the English ministry.” Directly and indirectly, the fact that the immigrant leadership was communicating the message that ministry to the

Generational Tension

35

second generation was not as important as ministry to the first-generation population inevitably fostered a “hireling” rather than a “shepherd” mentality among the younger ministers. In response to the generational rumblings within the churches as well as to reports of an increasing church dropout rate among the American-born generation, many immigrant churches were pressured to accommodate in some way to the demands and needs of the second generation. The immigrant churches began to implement a variety of solutions, ranging from purchasing simultaneous translation equipment, hiring non-Korean ministers, to replacing Sunday school classes with Korean-language classes in the hopes that their children would learn enough Korean to participate in the main worship service. However, second-generation Korean Americans were largely unsatisfied with what they considered were “Band-aid” concessions. Beginning in the late eighties, three distinctly different approaches to second-generation Korean American ministry began to emerge. First, many of the larger immigrant churches, wanting to retain their younger pastors as well as the younger generation, began to establish and fund official English ministries as opposed to just offering a worship service in English. The second approach was to develop what are generally known as townhouse churches, where an independent English-speaking congregation exists side-by-side in the same facility as a Korean-speaking congregation. Finally, several younger pastors, convinced that ministry to the next generation would be most fruitful apart from the first generation context, left immigrant churches to start their own churches. English Ministry within an Immigrant Church An English ministry that is housed within an immigrant church is considered a separate department of the immigrant church and enjoys its own senior pastor as well as a degree of autonomy over its own governance. However, the final decisions and control over the governance of the English ministry still remains within the hands of the immigrant leadership. Los Angeles Korean Church, the largest Korean immigrant church in the United States with a weekly attendance of nearly 6,000, was one of the first churches to initiate an English ministry in the mideighties. Since its inception, the ministry has grown to a weekly average attendance of over 900.

36

A Faith of Our Own

At Los Angeles Korean Church, the first- and second-generation congregations have separate worship services, programs, and budgets. However, the two congregations collaborate on programs related to foreign missions and education, because in these two areas “generational differences in language and culture are the least divisive,” remarked Pastor Song, senior pastor of the English ministry. Collectively, both congregations raise funds, pray, and send missionaries abroad. Currently, the younger generation has been more active in being sent out as foreign missionaries, while the immigrant generation has provided most of the prayer and financial support. The two groups also work cooperatively in the education department, where over six hundred children, largely the offspring of members of the immigrant congregation, attend the weekly Sunday school classes. Because the majority of the children’s ministry teachers are recruited from the English ministry, the immigrant congregation has a high level of dependency on the second-generation congregation for educational needs. Financial stability is the main advantage of staying connected with an immigrant church, explained Pastor Song: “If you lead an English ministry that is attached to a large immigrant church, you never have a shortage of human or financial resources. There are always enough people and enough money to get the work done.” Song observed that his church, with its long-standing reputation for abundant financial resources, has attracted many mission-minded second-generation Korean Americans. “Our church attracts young people who are excited about foreign missions because they’ve heard that there is great support and heart for missions here . . . they all come. We have no hard time trying to raise people who want to go to missions. They come here. They find us.” Theological stability is another advantage of remaining connected to an immigrant congregation. According to Song, when second-generation Korean Americans launch out and leave their parents’ churches, they are susceptible to embracing aberrant theology or adopting the latest theological fad. “There is theological stability here at L.A. Korean Church because there is a tradition of beliefs that will not change. We do not flip flop over whatever is popular.” On the other hand, Song feels that this type of stability and tradition could also be disadvantageous because it makes it difficult to take risks, facilitate change, and introduce innovative new approaches.

Generational Tension

37

The primary disadvantage of having an English ministry within a Korean immigrant church is that it limits the outreach potential and fosters evangelistic complacency within the membership. In my interviews with members and leaders of English ministries, I found that one of the primary disadvantages of this model is the inability to reach out to nonKoreans. One member at L.A. Korean Church who works in a mainstream law firm expressed her frustration at not being able to bring her non-Korean friends to her church. “I have all types of friends. Not all my friends are Korean. Even when I want to share my faith, I hesitate in doing so because I cannot bring them to my church. They wouldn’t feel comfortable there because they are not Korean.” Ironically, although the church is active in “spreading the gospel” in foreign nations, their hands are tied when it comes to evangelizing within the United States. Because they are an ethnically homogeneous congregation, they are essentially limited to evangelizing fellow Korean Americans. When asked if L.A. Korean Church would eventually become multiracial, Pastor Song replied, “We talked about us becoming more multiethnic but as long as we stay within the perimeter of this church it will be nearly impossible to be multiethnic because as soon as you walk in, you smell Korea. You smell gook bap [Korean soup with rice] because we serve 2,000 gook baps every Sunday. You smell kimchee and all these signs on the walls are written in Korean. You also see thousands of Koreans walking around here every Sunday. It is difficult for non-Koreans to come in here and feel like they fit in.” The prospects of churches like L.A. Korean becoming multiethnic is further dampened by the reality that continuing immigration from Korea helps maintain the vitality of ethnic and immigrant congregations. During the eighties and early nineties, the immigrant leadership of the church had envisioned that the second generation would eventually inherit the church and would take over the helm in navigating its future course. However, in recent years, this vision has changed in light of the continuing stream of immigrants from Korea who make L.A. Korean Church their spiritual home. The immigrant leadership is no longer speaking of passing the church to the second generation, according to Pastor Song, but rather to the younger first-generation population. “We’re investing quite a lot on ministry to Korean-speaking young adults. They have two full-time pastors and the church is continuing to make a huge investment in this particular group. Why are they making

38

A Faith of Our Own

that kind of investment? It’s because they want the immigrant church to continue. They [the Korean-speaking young adults] are the heirs. We [the second-generation young adults] are not the heirs. They will be inheriting the church, not us.” The continuous immigration and supply of firstgeneration participation in L.A. Korean Church poses many challenging issues for the future of its English ministry. Independent Church Independent churches first began to emerge when younger pastors felt that their demands for an adequate ministry for the second generation were not being met within first-generation churches. Ministry to the second generation became something of an afterthought in the churches’ schedule of significant ministry, commented a second-generation pastor who served for many years in the college department of an immigrant church. “The senior pastor viewed the second-generation population as more of a hindrance to his ‘real ministry,’ which is to the first generation. His priority was the first generation but he knew that he had to keep their children happily distracted so that they could participate in the religious services. I don’t think he really cared about the spiritual welfare of the second generation. What he really wanted was a babysitter for the second generation, not a legitimate minister.” However, increasing numbers of second-generation Korean Americans who were entering early adulthood were not satisfied with a “babysitter-mindset” ministry and demanded a viable separate English-speaking church that would adequately address their needs. The majority of pastors that I interviewed who had founded independent churches similarly indicated that immigrant churches were not doing an adequate job of ministering to the second generation. But in addition, some also experienced a “divine encounter” that propelled them to launch their new churches. For example, Pastor Suh’s decision to plant an independent church came as a response to a spiritual encounter that he had with God: “I was resting at a Holiday Inn in Irvine and while I was there, I heard a voice saying Psalm 40. I heard this twice. I think I heard it twice because God knew I was from Dallas seminary. So I looked at my Bible to see what it was and it read, ‘you know, I took your feet out of the miry clay and I’ve placed you upon the earth. You put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.’ When I looked out my window, I

Generational Tension

39

saw Orange County and knew that this is where God was calling me to plant a new church.” Similarly, Pastor Chang of Family Church planted his church in response to a repeated series of dreams in which he saw large waves, within which were a multitude of Asian faces, crashing onto a white sandy beach. He believes that the dreams were divine promptings calling him to begin a pioneering work among second-generation Korean Americans, who, he believes, will play a significant role in ushering in a new era of revival and repentance in the United States. On a slightly different note, Pastor Kang’s decision to leave the immigrant church to begin Voyage Christian Fellowship was a decision based primarily on the need to grow up and be an adult. “I never thought that turning off the lights was important until I left my parent’s home and had to pay the bills on my own. When I moved out, I made sure that everything was off when I left. I think this is an important lesson that young people have to learn. We are really spoiled, spiritually and in other ways . . . unless we go on our own, we’ll never learn . . . it’s like having a thirty-five-year-old stay at home with his parents who provide everything for him. If you’re thirty-five, you need to be independent and move out.” Kang was convinced that he needed to move away from the immigrant church so that he could have the opportunity to learn, to make mistakes, and to grow up on his own. In my interviews with pastors of independent churches, I found that the main advantage of establishing an independent ministry is the newfound sense of autonomy and ownership that they and their members enjoy. . They have more freedom to take risks, commented one member of Joyful Sound Community Church. At our church we try things and if they don’t work, we’ll just can it. For a time, some people wanted to have more traditional services, so for a time we tried to make a separate service at 9 a.m. that caters to those who wanted a more traditional service. We tried it for awhile. We had liturgy, responsive reading, and hymns. We found, however, that the reason why people were coming to this service was not because it was traditional but because it was early and they could have the rest of the day to do other things. The service didn’t really flourish or grow. We eliminated that type of service. So now, all three services are the same.

40

A Faith of Our Own

Because they are not tied to an immigrant congregation, the independent churches are free to try new and experimental approaches without having to convince a board of immigrant leaders whose cultural and spiritual orientations are often at odds with theirs. An increased level of ownership among church members is another noted benefit of independent churches. No longer viewing themselves as passive participants in their parents’ church, and realizing that the fate of the church lies largely in their own hands, second-generation Korean Americans have sacrificed to invest their resources to establish and build their churches. This sense of ownership was missing among second-generation Korean Americans at immigrant churches, remarked one Joyful Sound member: “I have more ownership of the church. At the other churches that I attended before, I felt like it was my parents’ church or the adult congregation’s church and I was just a part of that. At Joyful Sound, if I don’t give and if I don’t participate, the church cannot function . . . in the Korean churches, I thought, oh, the adults will take care of it.” Despite the many advantages of independence, second-generation ministers expressed the feeling that they missed certain aspects of worshiping with the immigrant generation. When the initial newness and excitement of launching his own independent church wore off, Pastor Ahn found himself longing for a church with a multigenerational membership. “I’ve been coming to an epiphany recently. The way that God intended the church is that there should be elderly, middle-aged, and children in the same church but because of the linguistic and cultural differences, there are no older generations in our churches. There is a lack of depth and history in our church. We are always inventing and trying to figure things out for ourselves.” The greatest disadvantage of leaving the immigrant church is the lack of accountability and the challenges and potential dangers that accompany it. According to one pastor, “it’s kind of scary being a pioneer, you’re going into uncharted territory and if there’s nothing holding you in check, you are in danger of really messing up.” Hoping to address this felt need, a group of second-generation Korean American pastors formed a new organization called Disciples Ministries International (DMI) to provide accountability and mentorship for younger Korean American leaders like themselves. According to Pastor Cho, one of the five founding members, the leaders of the organization hope to serve as

Generational Tension

41

mentors and role models for the increasing numbers of younger secondgeneration Korean Americans who are entering the ministry. “One of the main reasons why we started Disciples Ministries International is because we saw younger ministers coming onto the scene who were making the same mistakes that we made. Sure they are more articulate than we are because they have better command of the English language but they are making the very same mistakes that we made and the sad part is that they don’t even know it. We want to share our hearts with them and help them along so that they don’t just buy into the latest fad in Christian ministry.” Denominations also serve as accountability structures for several pastors like Kang of Voyage Christian Fellowship who, while serving as a youth minister at one of the oldest and largest Korean immigrant churches in Los Angeles, was recruited by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination to plant a multiethnic church. Motivated by the desire to try something new and feeling frustrated over his limited level of influence in the immigrant church, Kang decided to accept CRC’s offer and has partnered with the denomination in planting a multiethnic church. The greatest benefit for Kang has been the high level of accountability, support, and mentoring that he has received from numerous people in his denomination. Among the twenty-two churches in this study, twelve have denominational affiliations and ten are nondenominational. Most of the churches’ ties to their denominations are loose. Pastor Yoon remarked that the Southern Baptist denomination has almost no impact on his church. “We send our money as a cooperative gesture to keep up the seminary. We’ve benefited from the seminaries that are below the market price. Aside from that, the denomination affects us in no ways. We have a lot of autonomy.” A number of the pastors who are currently unaffiliated with a denomination said that they are open to joining a denomination on one condition—that the denomination affords a high level of autonomy to the local congregation. R eact ion aga i nst I nde pe nde nt Ch urc h e s When independent churches first began to emerge in the early to mid-nineties, the majority of first-generation pastors and church members adamantly opposed them, and the opposition took many forms.

42

A Faith of Our Own

Some argued that it is essential for family units to worship together in one church, and that independent churches are exacerbating existing generational conflicts between immigrant parents and their children. According to Young Park, a mother of three second-generation Korean Americans, “The only time that my family has to spend together is when we go to church on Sunday mornings. My husband and I are so busy at work during the week that we hardly spend any time together as a family. I don’t want my children to go to a different church. I know that they complain that they can’t understand the Korean sermons, but there must be another solution besides a separate English-speaking church.” In response, second-generation Korean American leaders argue that the structure of immigrant churches do not necessarily promote a sense of intimacy and unity within Korean American families. Although families may come to church in the same car, each family member would worship in different services—the adult worship, the youth worship, the college worship—and in different physical spaces. In addition, the younger pastors argue that immigrant churches undermine family cohesion by expecting their members to spend their free time in churchrelated activities rather than with their families. One second-generation minister commented, Korean churches talk a lot about family values but I don’t think they’re really helping the families. Look at how many meetings the parents go to every week.The kids are on their own, going to arcades, smoking pot . . . if I were a teenager, I would not want to go to our church. You’re stuck there every Sunday from eight in the morning until six at night. These are the children of typical deacons and elders who are really committed to the church. They stay at the church because their parents are there. To me, it would be more important to do things together as a family. The churches, particularly the ones that are really ambitious to grow their churches, are literally pulling the families apart from each other. Immigrant parents have also feared that independent churches would not adequately preserve and pass down Korean culture to their secondgeneration children. In the minds of the first generation, the church is more than a site for religious activities. A variety of other “nonreligious” needs are serviced within the congregation (Choy 1979; I. Kim 1981;

Generational Tension

43

Min 1992). In particular, these parents view the church as the primary site where their children can learn about, embrace, and develop pride in their ethnic culture. In speaking with many first-generation parents, it was evident that they viewed the church as a type of protective sanctuary for their children against the influence of negative “secular” and “American” values. The church’s teachings and influence are the primary ways in which the second generation would be socialized with “Christian” and “Korean” values. According to Tae Kim, an elder at a first-generation church, The American society is very evil and a bad influence for my children. I see some of my kids’ American friends and am shocked at how disrespectful and out of control they are. Some of them call their parents by their first names. They stay out late at night. They have no discipline. I can only imagine what kind of sins they are committing. I really worry for my children. I tell them every day to hang out with their Christian friends from church. I would feel much better if they would spend more time with other Korean kids. I pray every day that they will obey God and be good Christians. Past research has identified the ways in which Korean immigrants have conflated Korean culture with Christian values (Min 1992). Many Korean pastors tend to think that American society, which originated from a Christian heritage, is turning against the Christian ideology. They argue that Korean traditional values such as respecting adult members and serving parents are more consistent with Christian values than are American values. Although Christianity was a Western import that came to Korea via American missionaries in the late nineteenth century, Korean Christians feel that they are doing a better job than Americans of preserving and practicing the original and essential beliefs of Christianity. In their efforts to preserve Korean culture and values through their involvement in ethnic churches, Korean immigrants have significantly Koreanized Christianity in such a degree that for many, being “Korean” is synonymous with being “Christian.” There is also a strong desire among the immigrant generation to see their children marry co-ethnics, and they believe that the Korean church is the ideal place to meet future spouses. A common topic of conversation among immigrant parents and grandparents at first-generation churches is over which single church members are saekshi gam and shilang gam

44

A Faith of Our Own

(ideal potential brides and bridegrooms). “I want my children to marry people from my church,” commented Tae Kim, “that way I will know something about their family and will have peace in my mind about their marriage.” When asked how he would feel if his children married a non-Korean, Kim adamantly replied, “I would not allow it!” Interracial marriage is a matter of great concern to first-generation parents. From a very young age, second-generation Korean Americans are inundated with the message that marriage to a non-Korean is unacceptable and shameful. These negative attitudes toward interracial marriage reflect not only strong ethnocentric views but also stigma, due to its historic association with marriages between U.S. servicemen and Asian women. In addition, I found that first-generation parents view interracial marriage as the death knoll for the Korean American identity and culture. They are convinced that ethnic identification will not be successfully passed down to subsequent generations unless both parents are from the same ethnic group. Their admonitions appear to have been fruitful, because nearly 81 percent of second-generation Korean Americans indicated that they preferred to marry co-ethnics. In his study of interracial marriage, Paul Spickard (1989) found that the immigrant generation’s aversion to interracial relationships carried much weight and also spoke to a strong sense of peoplehood. Many immigrant Japanese Americans believed that interracial relationships shamed the family in the eyes of the larger Japanese American community. In a similar vein, many second-generation Korean Americans feel that they would disgrace their families if they married a non-Korean. Another source of criticism of the independent churches by leaders and members of immigrant churches is their belief that second-generation leaders take away English-speaking Sunday school teachers who are much needed workers in their churches. Pastor Kang recalls that when he left the immigrant church to plant an independent church there were rumors circulating among the immigrant congregation that he was taking all the second-generation teachers with him to start this new church. Immigrant churches are always in short supply of English-speaking teachers for the children’s ministry, and they have been concerned that a majority of this much-needed volunteer force would leave. Many immigrant leaders have felt betrayed and abandoned by the younger leaders who, they feel, lack loyalty and respect for their elders.

Generational Tension

45

They also believe that a negative impact from these new churches will be felt by the Korean American community for many years to come. One immigrant pastor that I interviewed expressed a sentiment that is held by many first-generation Koreans, that the development of these new independent churches is yet another expression of American individualism and rebellion that is threatening to undermine Korean cultural values and the institutions that embody them. “These second-generation Koreans have no real respect for their elders. This is the American way of thinking. American children will just leave their homes and their parents without any sense of guilt. The second generation has no sense of loyalty or obligation to their parent’s generation. Instead of learning from us and staying loyal to us, they think that they can do better than us . . . they have that American rebellious mindset.” In my conversation with Korean immigrants, there were repeated references of how the Japanese tried to destroy the Korean culture when they colonized Korea during the early 1900s, and the threat of an extinction of the Korean culture remains at the forefront of many immigrants’ minds. There were many instances in history when the Korean culture was threatened with extinction, explained one immigrant Korean male. “The second generation should value their culture. They shouldn’t take it for granted. Their parents and grandparents went through much suffering when the Japanese took over our country. They made us change our names to Japanese names. We were forbidden to speak Korean or to hold onto anything that was Korean. We fought for our culture. So, you [the second generation] should not just give it away. Koreans must always be Koreans.” There is a strong conviction among the first generation that the Korean church is the main institution responsible for the preservation of the Korean culture. Some have suggested that an English-speaking Korean church is just one step toward the steady decline of ethnic identity for subsequent generations. According to an elder at a first-generation church, “First they want an English-speaking Korean church, and then I am sure other non-Koreans will start to attend the church. Eventually there will be no more Korean churches for the following generations . . . and this will lead to interracial marriage and then the Korean identity will completely disappear.” For them, religion is the key to cultural reproduction. For this reason, the protest against the development of separate churches was emotionally very heated.

46

A Faith of Our Own

In recent years, the attitudes among the first generation have begun to change as they realize that the younger generation has their finger on the pulse of something with unlimited potential. They are poised to accomplish what the immigrant church could never do, namely, to reach out to a niche far beyond the Korean community. This attitude shift is reflected in the ways in which several first-generation pastors have taken younger leaders under their wing with financial, spiritual, and emotional support. In describing his newfound relationship with immigrant pastors, a second-generation minister remarked, “It’s like coming back home after you get married.You and your parents can now relate to each other differently . . . as adults.” Conclu si on In this chapter, I focused on the generational schisms and tensions that have motivated younger Korean American ministers to leave immigrant churches to establish their own spiritual homes. Conceptually, it is helpful to view the churches as a type of family, because the intergenerational tensions within the churches mirror those found within immigrant families. At one level, the generational conflicts within immigrant churches can be viewed as a universal phenomenon implicit in the process of growing up and becoming an adult. Challenging parental authority is a normal part of the process of individuation and self-definition during adolescence (Erickson 1963). However, studies have shown that for immigrant families, these developmental processes are often exacerbated by an additional set of variables such as shifts in cultural environment and differential rates of acculturation among family members (Abelmann and Lie 1995; Kibria 1995). Within the immigrant church, the generational tensions were heightened by the reality that for many immigrants, the church functions as the primary site where they can reclaim the status and power that they lost after immigrating to the United States. Immigrant leaders forcefully clung to the reins of power and control within first-generation churches, and their resolve to maintain control grew even stronger in the face of resistance and challenges from the younger generation. Rather than prolonging the tug-of-war between the generations, the younger ministers have launched out on their own to develop their own autonomous churches. In the perspective of second-generation ministers, the

Generational Tension

47

development of independent churches is an effort to control their own destiny. Generational tensions over issues such as control over decision making and cultural differences in styles of leadership essentially “pushed” the younger leaders out of the immigrant church. What “pulled” them out was a vision of “what could be” in their newly established churches. Contrary to the predictions of past theorists, second-generation Korean American Protestants are neither assimilating into mainstream churches nor abandoning their faith. Herberg (1955) predicted religious activity would diminish among the second generation because of their alienation from the ethnic church and their uneasiness with the nonethnic church due to incomplete assimilation. He argued that the second generation would turn away from the church, but a renewed interest would occur among members of the third generation. On a slightly different note, Mullins (1987) predicted that with the cultural and structural assimilation of the second generation, the appeal of ethnic churches would diminish because social and religious needs can be better met within religious organizations of the host society. The predictions of Herberg and Mullins were incorrect, however, with respect to secondgeneration Korean Americans in Los Angeles at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Second-generation Korean Americans are roughly just as religious as their immigrant parents, and instead of joining mainstream churches they are carving out their own institutional religious niches in a self-constructed hybrid third space. The development of second-generation churches, in many ways, is a distinctly Korean American Protestant phenomenon. First, with respect to the Protestant variable, it is important to note that Protestantism was born as a protest movement, and this legacy or mantle of protest has in many ways been encoded into the DNA of Protestantism. There have been numerous studies on the dynamics of polarization and division among American Protestants, particularly at the denominational level (Atkins and Fagley 1942; Finke and Stark 1992; Stark and Glock 1965). And, consistent with the “Protestant Principle,” the themes of “protest” and “reform” are repeatedly woven into the narratives of many of the second-generation pastors that I have interviewed. What about this phenomenon is distinctly Korean American? Research has shown similar generational conflicts and tensions within other Asian immigrant churches (George 1998; F. Yang 1998). It is only

48

A Faith of Our Own

within the Korean American community, however, that one finds large numbers of the second generation leaving the immigrant church to develop entirely autonomous religious institutions apart from the immigrant context. In this chapter, I have highlighted the multiple layers of generational tensions within the immigrant church between the first and second generations that have caused the younger generation to leave their parents’ church. In addition to the generational conflicts, there are two other factors, unique to the Korean American experience, that have contributed to the second-generation church planting phenomenon. First, the maintenance of ethnic identity and the preservation of the Korean culture are very important priorities for Korean Americans, perhaps even more so than for other Asian immigrants. Data from the 2000 census reveal that Korean Americans have the third lowest level of interracial and interethnic marriage among fifteen Asian groups (Yu 2001). Only Vietnamese and Hmong have lower rates. Historically, Koreans in America have had a stronger sense of peoplehood and ethnic solidarity than the Chinese and Japanese (Takaki 1989). This is attributable to the unique historical experiences of the Korean people. The first wave of Korean immigrants in the early 1900s were strongly influenced by a feeling of necessity in the face of Japanese annexation of Korea and the attempted obliteration of the Korean identity. Korea has been a country on which many wars have been fought, and within the twentieth century alone the nation has endured the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. The decades of suffering and pain have wrought within the spirit of the Korean people a fierce resolve to maintain their ethnic identity and culture. So at one level, the generational tension within the Korean church embodies a dilemma over the maintenance of the Korean identity. Koreans immigrated to the United States through their own choice. However, they recognize, with fear and anxiety, the subtle yet strong forces of acculturation that are threatening the very survival of the Korean identity and culture, particularly among their children’s generation. Although this is a normal process that accompanies immigration, first-generation Korean Americans will not allow it to happen without a fight. In the minds of the immigrant generation, the church holds the key to this fight for survival. Ironically, their rigid insistence on holding the reins of power and maintaining “Korean ways” has alienated the very children

Generational Tension

49

they are trying to influence and have pushed them out of their churches. Nonetheless, the second generation has inherited the spirit of the Korean people, albeit to a lesser degree than their immigrant parents. The fact that they are developing second-generation Korean American churches reveals that their ethnic identity is still important to them. Second, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 played a pivotal role in altering the balance of power between the generations in a number of community organizations, including churches (Chang 2004; E. Park 1999). It was in the midst of the civil unrest that younger pastors began to emerge as viable representatives of the Korean Christian community. Due to linguistic and cultural constraints of immigrant pastors, it was largely the younger pastors who were at the forefront in representing the Korean community in the media and in coalitions with ministers from different racial communities. The riots, in many respects, elevated the status of the younger ministers within the community and empowered them with a newfound confidence that they could function independently apart from the first generation. The event functioned as a catalyst for several leaders to leave the immigrant church and to develop their own independent churches. Seeing the success of these first few independent churches, many others were inspired and motivated to follow in their footsteps. In Los Angeles, prior to 1992, there were four independent second-generation churches, but since 1992 the number of independent churches has grown to fifty-six.

Chapte r 3

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

According to the 2000 U.S. census, there are nearly 1.1 million Koreans residing in the United States (E.-Y. Yu 2001). As the numbers of American-born Korean Americans entering early adulthood increases, second-generation churches have been multiplying rapidly. The majority of the fifty-six independent second-generation churches in the Los Angeles area were established in the past ten years. In this chapter, I argue that second-generation Korean Americans, despite their high level of acculturation and socioeconomic mobility, are congregating at these newly developed churches because at them their longing for fellowship and spiritual enrichment is being met in an environment in which their ethnic, racial, and generational selves are understood and affirmed. Past studies have highlighted both external and internal variables that shape involvement in ethnic institutions among the American-born generations. Some scholars have emphasized external factors such as intergroup conflict, racism, and societal marginalization that have motivated minority groups to retreat to ethnic institutions (Nelsen 1975;Yoo 2000). According to Jonathan Tan, the racial marginalization that Asian Americans experience within white churches causes them to choose ethnic churches. “It appears that assimilation into existing American congregations is not a viable option for many Asian American Christians not because of differences of language, or theological or doctrinal positions, but primarily because of discrimination and stereotyping arising from their physical inability to blend in with the dominant white American society in the same manner as nineteenth-century and early-twentiethcentury European Catholic and Jewish immigrants to the United States were able to do so” (2008: 60). Continuing racial divisions in the broader 50

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

51

society lead to the construction of separate Asian churches that join together distinct ethnic groups such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Americans, and researchers have shown that pan-ethnic churches have formed to minister to the second and later generations of these Asian Americans (Iwamura and Spickard 2003; Jeung 2005). In contrast, Eric Liu, in his memoir The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker , argues that because second-generation Asian Americans do not face significant levels of racial discrimination in contemporary American society, their decision to embrace their ethnic identities is entirely voluntary. He states that “Asian Americans are only as isolated as they want to be. They—we—do not face the levels of discrimination and hatred that demand an enclave mentality, particularly among the second generation” (1998: 78). In short, Liu believes that, like white ethnics, Asian American ethnic identification is purely symbolic, harmless, and voluntary. Others have highlighted the ways in which particular characteristics inherent in the groups themselves have led to a propensity for the establishment of and involvement in ethnic institutions (Chong 1998; Fujita and O’Brien 1991). For example, Stephen Fujita and David O’Brien, in their book Japanese American Ethnicity:The Persistence of Community (1991), explain why contemporary Japanese Americans, in contrast with white ethnic groups in the same stage of assimilation, exhibit a higher degree of ethnic identification through the attachments and involvements with their ethnic community. They argue that a core set of traditional Japanese cultural principles of structuring social relationships, such as the notion of peoplehood, emphasis on collectivism, “mutually dependent hierarchical relationships,” emphasis on harmony, and “quasi-kin” as opposed to “strong ties” networking are what accounts for the persistence of involvement in ethnic institutions among American-born Japanese. There is likewise a combination of factors that account for the proliferation of new churches and the attraction they hold for secondgeneration Korean Americans. I found that people’s decisions were shaped by a variety of interconnected variables that cannot be simply reduced to racism, symbolic ethnicity, or cultural orientations. These combined realities form the context in which second-generation Korean Americans make their everyday decisions. Certainly, as a racially defined group, second-generation Korean Americans continue to experience

52

A Faith of Our Own

racial marginalization and a host of challenges due to the perception by the mainstream that they are different, foreign, and not authentically American (Tuan 1998). In addition, there are distinct “Korean” sensibilities, as well as shared experiences within the second generation, that facilitate a greater level of comfort and ease with co-ethnics. However, I found that these churches are not merely refuges or reactions to racial marginalization, nor are they essentially co-ethnic cliques. I aim to steer away from an analysis that masks the nuances and complexities that shape the rapid growth of these churches as well as the motivations to join them. In essence, second-generation churches are an expression of creative resolution to the constraints and opportunities tied to the multiple identities of their members. In addition to analyzing the role of race and ethnicity, I highlight the ways in which these new churches are intentionally and effectively reaching out to a particular niche by providing religion in a language, setting, and subculture that speaks to the experiences and worldview of second-generation Korean Americans. Recent studies on church growth have emphasized the importance of creating a church culture that communicates to the distinct experiences and sensibilities of that particular church’s target group. Many of the pastors that I interviewed have embraced and implemented church-growth strategies popularized by several high-profile mainstream evangelical pastors and seminary professors. For example, some adhere to the homogenous principle popularized by missiologist Peter Wagner (1990), who teaches that churches naturally attract the kind of people that make up the majority of their congregation. Instead of trying to reach out to diverse populations, the successful and rapidly growing churches in contemporary America, according to Wagner, understand this principle and have used it to their advantage by tailoring their religious institutions to meet the specific needs of a particular homogenous population. Rick Warren (1995), bestselling author and pastor of Saddleback Community Church, describes his church’s target customer as Saddleback Sam, who is the typical unchurched male with a college degree, and in his late thirties to early forties. He is married to Saddleback Samantha, and they have two kids, Steve and Sally. Warren’s church offers Saddleback Sam and Samantha a type of worship service and a church subculture that perfectly caters to their taste. Church growth experts have encouraged churches to follow in the footsteps of

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

53

Rick Warren and other megachurch evangelical pastors in order to keep up with increasing competition in the religious marketplace. Sociologists of religion have offered a number of economic propositions about religious markets (Finke and Stark 1992; Ianaccone 1994). Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, in their book The Churching of America, argue that religious affiliation is a matter of choice and that religious organizations compete for members in the open religious marketplace. They argue, “religious economies are like commercial economies in that they consist of a market made up of a set of current and potential customers and a set of firms seeking to serve that market” (1992: 17). According to the authors, the use of market-oriented analysis can illuminate what might seem like a random, disorderly religious landscape. The high degree of religiosity in America is a function of there being a free market in religion in which deregulation leads to pluralism, pluralism to competition, competition to specialization of product and aggressive recruitment, specialization and recruitment to higher demand, and higher demand to greater participation. In a similar vein, Donald Miller credits the rapid of growth of Vineyard Fellowship, Calvary Chapel, and Hope Church, three movements which he refers to as “new paradigm churches,” to their ability to effectively communicate the gospel in the distinct language of Baby Boomers and Baby Busters. “If Christianity is going to survive, it must continually reinvent itself, adapting its message to the members of each generation, along with their culture and the geographic setting” (1999: 18). There have been numerous resources and handbooks published by Christian presses in the past several decades that provide strategies for reaching out to the postmodern generation (Long 1997; McClendon 2000). In these books, the central argument is that churches, rather than expecting individuals to deny or shed their identity, need to understand and accommodate to the unique makeup and worldview of generations and cultures. The appeal of the second-generation Korean American churches lies in the fact that they accommodate to the experiences and struggles of American-born Koreans whose identities have been forged largely through their experiences as children of immigrants and as racial minorities. In this chapter, I highlight the ways in which these new ethnic churches are catering to this specific niche and providing an innovatively

54

A Faith of Our Own

reconstructed spiritual space where their desire for spiritual growth and fellowship is met in a context where they feel at home. The Pull Fac tor s: What D raws th e Second G e ne rat i on to N ew E th n i c C h urc h e s Growing up as racial minorities and as children of immigrants, the second generation possesses a distinct point of view with which they make sense of their lives, think about themselves and their society, and finally, practice religion. These new churches appeal to the ethnic, racial, and generational commonalities that bind second-generation Korean Americans together. During the mid-nineties, there were widespread reports as well as fears within the Korean Christian community of an ongoing “silent exodus” among the second generation (Carvajal 1994; H. Lee 1996). In a front-page article in the Los Angeles Times, Carvajal (1994) reported that the majority of second-generation Korean Americans, frustrated and discontent with their parents’ churches, were leaving the faith and immigrant churches altogether. In a similar vein, Helen Lee reported in Christianity Today that “at an alarming rate, many young believers who have grown up in these Asian congregations are now choosing to leave not only their home churches, but possibly their Christian faith as well” (1996: 50). However, there are scholars who argue that the silent exodus claims are exaggerated (Chun 2002; Min and Kim 2005). Pyong Gap Min and Dae Young Kim concluded, after surveying 102 and secondgeneration and 1.5-generation Korean American young adults in the New York–New Jersey metropolitan area, that “despite pessimistic speculation, our data reveal that Korean Protestant immigrants are fairly successful in transmitting their religion to their children. About two-thirds of 1.5 and second-generation Korean American Protestant adults have preserved their childhood religion” (2005: 279). Contrary to popular reports that the second generation is leaving the faith and church en masse, my research indicates that second-generation Korean Americans in Los Angeles are busy forging their own hybrid ethnic religious communities. Although no survey data is available on the subject, whenever I asked second-generation ministers to comment on the silent exodus phenomenon, most of them expressed the view that it was a problem but not as dramatic as some have claimed it to be. One minister said, “We don’t really talk about the silent exodus issue as

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

55

much today but it was a big deal in the nineties. I know that there are second-generation Korean Americans who give up their faith after college but I don’t think that the majority of them do that.” I am inclined to believe, on the basis of interviews with twenty-two pastors who are well attuned to the religious patterns of the second generation, that the fears of a silent exodus played a significant role in motivating immigrant churches to establish and support official English ministries, as well as propelling younger ministers to launch out in planting new independent churches apart from immigrant congregations. In Los Angeles, these new churches currently serve as spiritual safety nets for secondgeneration Korean Americans who were tempted to leave churches and their faith altogether. The primary reason why second-generation Korean Americans choose to attend a Korean church is because they feel more comfortable worshiping alongside co-ethnics. For the majority of second-generation Korean Americans, despite the apparent high level of acculturation, differences continue to exist between them and other Americans. These differences, rooted in their racial status and cultural orientation, cause them to both see themselves and be seen by others as outsiders. Nonetheless, these differences also serve as the point of common identification and connection among fellow Korean Americans who congregate at these new ethnic churches. In my interviews, I found that there is something about the Korean church which calls the second generation back home. Many stated that they felt a sense of homelessness and alienation until they settled in a Korean American church. Commonal i t i e s as Chi l dre n of I mm i g rants The second generation, as children of immigrants, experienced a cultural upbringing that connects them to one another. They understand the reality of being both Korean and American but not fully either, of having parents who worked eighty hours a week, of living with grandparents who did not speak a word of English and spent all day growing Asian vegetables in the backyard, of having to play the piano whenever guests came over for dinner, of being scolded for getting a B on your report card, of constantly being compared to the children of your parents’ friends who were admitted to Ivy League schools, and of having to spend all day on Sunday at church. These experiences are instantly recognized

56

A Faith of Our Own

and understood among the children of Korean immigrants, without having to be explained. Repeatedly, those that I interviewed said that they chose to attend an ethnic as opposed to a mainstream church because they wanted to worship with others who understood them. According to Myong, a physician in his mid-thirties and member of Resurrection Church, “I like this church because I am around people with a similar background and I feel more comfortable with them. You don’t have to constantly explain yourself. I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville and after that I served in the U.S. Air force. During those years, I interacted only with white people. I had to constantly explain myself. Now at this age, I don’t want to explain myself all the time. It’s too tiring.” There is a common unspoken understanding among secondgeneration Korean Americans, and one woman expressed it this way: “I’m not the only one who knows what it feels like to have grown up with immigrant parents. My Korean friends also know. Among my non-Korean friends, I am always conscious of my Korean American identity. However with my Korean friends, my Korean identity is more of an unspoken and unconscious identity.” This commonality of experience provides a sense of community and belonging among second-generation Korean Americans at these churches. Pastor Koh of Resurrection Ministry, who grew up in a predominately white suburb in the Midwest notes, There is also a distinct second-generation phenomenon. Regardless of whether you grew up in a white community or an ethnic community, you tend to polarize with people like yourself. . . . We have a need to identify with those who shared in the same experiences and life struggles. I’ve done a lot of preaching at revivals and retreats and it’s amazing. When you start talking about some of the struggles that you had growing up, immediately no matter what area of the country you may be, you just connect so quickly. Something clicks. On the basis of that commonality, they begin to open up and this commonality becomes the bridge toward the faith. According to Koh, the commonalities that revolve around shared “Korean” values and shared experiences growing up as racial minorities and as children of immigrants become important in communicating the faith. When I asked individuals to elaborate on what they viewed as “Korean” values, they most often referred to a set of core traditional Confucian

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

57

values such as filial piety, respect for parents, family-centeredness, emphasis on education, and strong work ethic. In addition to values, they also share a distinct set of experiences as second-generation Korean Americans, navigating through issues such as parental expectations, identity crisis, racial discrimination, and Americanization. At these new ethnic churches, their shared life experiences, struggles, and worldviews provide the second generation with a common ground to negotiate their identities. Personal stories and struggles are openly shared within these churches, particularly in small-group settings, and many of the stories as well as prayer requests revolve around family and generational issues. The second generation experiences an inordinate amount of tension that revolves around relationships with immigrant parents. This tension is fueled by the convergence of the following realities in which immigrant parents and their children are embedded: a Confucian understanding of filial piety, an immigrant Protestant subculture that views material success as evidence of God’s favor, an intergenerational mobility strategy where success is deferred to the second generation, and a Korean cultural style of expressing affection. First, immigrant parents embrace a Confucian definition of what is means to be a “good son” or “good daughter.” According to Pyong Gap Min, Confucian values that emphasize filial piety, family/kin ties, the patriarchal family order, and children’s education “still have a powerful effect on the behaviors and attitudes of all Koreans, whether they are Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or atheists” (1998: 25). In a Confucian worldview, a good son elevates the interests of his parents over his own. Filial piety or hyodo is considered one of the cardinal virtues in contemporary Korean society, and many generational clashes within immigrant households are caused by the perception that the second generation is not fulfilling their filial roles in honoring and serving their parents. In relation to the conception of the good son, second-generation Korean Americans experience painful clashes with their parents over their autonomy in making important life decisions, particularly in relation to career plans and marriage partner selection. Karen Chai (1998) found in her study of second-generation Korean Americans in Boston that generational differences are often most vividly expressed in issues related to marriage. First-generation parents see marriage as a union of two families, whereas the second generation sees marriage as the union of two individuals.

58

A Faith of Our Own

Studies of immigrant families have shown that heated clashes between parents and their children often arise over value contrasts between individualism and collectivism (Ho 1987; Min 1998). In immigrant Korean families, the successes and failures of a family member is a reflection on the entire family. In my conversations with second-generation Korean Americans, it was evident that their decisions over issues such as marriage partner and occupation selection involved not just themselves but their entire families. There is a tremendous level of stress over not failing or shaming their families or parents.This Confucian understanding of “good son” generates tension within the second generation to honor their parents through their self-sacrifice, hard work, and accomplishments. In addition to Confucian influences, the Korean immigrant church subculture reinforces the idea that all truly spiritual individuals or “good Christians” will work hard and succeed at what they do. The version of Protestantism that the majority of Korean immigrants practice in Los Angeles is Presbyterianism that has its roots in Calvinist theology (Min 1992). One of the central tenets of Calvinist theology that emerged from the Protestant Reformation was the concept of “calling,” in which the mundane duties of life are viewed as a way of serving God. For the Catholic, a calling was reserved for a small segment of the people who were to live the religious life in a strict, disciplined manner apart from the world in a monastic setting. The concept of calling for Protestant Reformers, however, was meant for all believers and basically enjoined the individual to remain and work in secular professions but to work unto the Lord with diligence and self-discipline. Coupled with the concept of calling, the doctrine of predestination, as articulated by Calvin, stated that each person was predestined by God for heaven or hell. However, the unavoidable consequence of the doctrine was the consuming question of how one was to be sure of one’s destination. Out of this question rose an emphasis on good works as evidence of salvation, and “hard work and sincere efforts in making money are justified in religious terms” (Weber 1930: 171). Hence, good works are not the means through which one receives salvation but rather become a sign of salvation. This emphasis on work and socioeconomic achievement permeates the Korean immigrant church subculture, where rotating credit associations (kyes) are established among church members to finance business ventures, and where labor pools and business networks abound (K. Park

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

59

1997). Jamie Lew, in her book Asian Americans in Class (2006), found that the Korean church played a significant role in shaping the level of academic achievement among the second generation. She states that by attending Korean churches with their parents, Korean American students were part of what Coleman and Hoffer (1987) referred to as a “closed functional community,” where they were socialized with values and attitudes that are conducive to academic achievement. In addition, how parents were perceived by fellow church members was, in large part, determined by how their children performed academically. It is important to note that the Korean immigrant Protestant theology inextricably binds and buttresses their drive to succeed economically. The twin influences of Confucianism, with its high regard for education, and Calvinist theology, with its emphasis on hard work and material success, have shaped a subculture within immigrant churches whereby educational and economic success are viewed as expressions of spiritual maturity and divine favor. Third, the second generation inherited from their immigrant parents the burden and responsibility of having to achieve the American dream. Nancy Abelman and John Lie (1995), in their study of Korean Americans in Los Angeles, found that due to linguistic and cultural barriers, the American dream remains elusive for most Korean American immigrants. In response, they have resorted to embracing a second-generation mobility strategy whereby their children would realize the dreams that the immigrants themselves could not attain. Repeatedly, those that I interviewed expressed a sense of duty and pressure to pay back their parents for their years of sacrifice and hard work to ensure a better future for them. Alex, a lawyer in his early thirties and member of a secondgeneration church, feels a strong sense of obligation to his parents, who continually remind him that they immigrated to the United States so that he could get a good education and “make it” in this country. For the past twenty years, Alex’s father, who was a schoolteacher in Korea, worked sixteen to eighteen hours a day at his liquor store in an impoverished neighborhood in South Los Angeles. Alex vividly remembers his father coming home late every night, disheveled and exhausted. Every so often, his father would say to him, “study hard Alex, get good grades, go to a good school, and find a good-paying job. Then I will be happy and all that I sacrificed will be well worth it.” Alex rarely saw his father at

60

A Faith of Our Own

home during his childhood years, and his family has not taken a vacation together since they immigrated to the United States. The fact that his parents have sacrificed and suffered for his sake has fostered within Alex a tremendous level of guilt as well as a heightened sense of obligation to achieve the American dream. Korean immigrants are fiercely determined that their children will succeed academically and economically in the United States; they have resolved to make sure that their children take advantage of all available opportunities in the United States. For instance, Korean families have flocked en masse to suburbs like Fullerton, La Canada, Cerritos, and Torrance that are noted for their excellent school systems. Kelly Oh’s family moved from a large home in the San Fernando Valley to a small condo in Fullerton so that she and her two brothers could attend Sunny Hills High School, one of the top public high schools in California, where now nearly 30 percent of the student population is Korean American. The pressure to study hard and get good grades starts at a very young age, remarked Pastor Choi of Fruitful Church. “Korean parents are obsessed with education and elite universities. I personally know three people whose names are Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. They were given their names because their parents were hoping that they’d attend those schools. Unfortunately, Harvard and Yale went to Berkeley and Princeton went to UCLA.” Responding to the demand for college preparatory classes, Korean-operated after-school tutorial academies and SAT prep courses have become ubiquitous in the Los Angeles area. Parents, eager to ensure their children’s acceptance into elite universities, have spent enormous amounts of money and time for prep schools, music lessons, sports lessons, and private tutoring. Kevin Kim, a senior at an elite private high school in La Canada, told me that his parents have done everything in their power to increase his chances for acceptance into Harvard University. Each day is packed with a plethora of college preparatory activities. In a typical week, his parents spend $40 per hour for a math tutor, $35 for a SAT tutor, $55 for flute lessons, $65 for piano lessons, $20 for art classes, and $20 for Tae Kwon Do classes. What is most remarkable is the fact that Kevin’s parents are not wealthy—they own a modest dry cleaning business, live in a small home, never purchase luxury items, and seldom take vacations. They intentionally live frugally in order to invest all of their money in his academic future. Kevin said that he felt

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

61

a tremendous amount of pressure to yield a productive return on their sacrificial investment, and make them proud. When I asked him if he had any free time for friends, girl friends, or personal hobbies, he responded in an exasperated tone of voice, “I wish . . . no time . . . it’s just study, study, study for me.” His remark is indicative of the sentiments of many second-generation Korean Americans. Driven by parental pressures to succeed academically, many focus all of their energies, time, and selves solely into their academic pursuits, which in turn leave no room for development in other areas. Sarah, an attorney and member of Disciple Church, referred to an informal study conducted by the UC Berkeley newspaper in discussing the differences she notices between Korean and Caucasian students: “When asked, what are your passions and interests, the white kids had a lot more to say in terms of what their interests were. They would say a variety of things like the economy, homelessness, racial injustice, women’s rights, and politics. However, the Korean students were stumped with the question and didn’t quite know how to answer. Most said things like ‘shopping, movies, or studies.’ Their answers revealed their shallowness. This was Berkeley, the supposed hotbed of political activism and critical thinking.” There is a tremendous level of pressure that second-generation Korean Americans endure to meet their parent’s expectations for educational achievement, and this pressure is a recurring theme at these churches. At one home Bible study session that I visited where the topic of discussion was in finding God’s will for your life, nearly all sixteen of those in attendance openly shared their struggle with the conflict they felt between pleasing God and pleasing their parents. Their parents wanted to them to pursue high-paying, high-status professions, but some felt that God was calling them into occupations that were against their parent’s wishes. In addition to inheriting the expectation to achieve the American dream, second-generation Korean Americans also experienced a form of parental inversion. Parent-child roles and power relations are altered because the children often acculturate and acquire English fluency more rapidly than their parents (R. Kim 2006; Portes and Rumbaut 2001). Equipped with a greater level of understanding about American society, children are often placed in the position of teaching their parents. A study of Chinese American immigrant families conducted by Chan and Leong (1994) found that Chinese immigrant families undergo dramatic role

62

A Faith of Our Own

and status changes, particularly in parent-child relations. The children function as cultural brokers, assisting their parents by acting as translators, cultural experts, and family representatives to the outside world. Christina immigrated to the United States at the age of eight and remembers the helplessness that her parents experienced during their early years in the United States. In Korea, she and her two brothers respected their father, who earned a good living as a pharmacist. However upon immigrating to the United States, her father, unable to obtain a pharmacy license due to linguistic constraints, found a low-paying job in a manufacturing company. In the United States, she and her brothers had to shoulder many adult responsibilities in the family. As an eight-year-old, she had to assist her parents in managing day-to-day tasks that required fluency in English such as resolving bills with the telephone company, reading mail for her parents, applying for credit cards, and interpreting for her parents when they spoke with non-Koreans. Kibria (1995), in her study of Vietnamese immigrant families, found that this reversal of roles and the subsequent alteration of power relations between the generations contributed to decreased parental self-confidence and inflicted undue burdens upon the second generation. This reversal of roles in the immigrant family has had many negative consequences for the second generation. Among them, many said that they had a low level of respect for their parents and were often embarrassed by them in public settings. Rebecca, a second-generation Korean American who grew up in a predominately white suburb of Los Angeles, admitted that for most of her childhood she was embarrassed by her parents. For example, during her elementary school years, she did everything to prevent her parents from coming to PTA meetings. “First of all, for the longest time, they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a PTA but when they found out about it through some of their friends at church, I lied to them by telling them that the school already had it and it was too late for them to go. . . . I think I was most embarrassed by their broken English, which made them appear dumb. I know that they’re not dumb but the way they speak English makes them sound dumb.” In addition to embarrassment, many said that they experienced undue stress during their childhood years because they had to bear the burden of listening to their parents’ worries in addition to witnessing their day-today struggles associated with adjustment to life in the United States.

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

63

Finally, there is a basic disconnect between immigrant parents and their Americanized children over how to express love and affection. The second generation hungered for the expressive communication and affirmation that they saw in mainstream American families. Their parents, particularly their fathers, were unexpressive and impossible to please, and this left within them a painful longing for parental affirmation. James, who immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old, grew up feeling like a perpetual failure because he was unable to gain his father’s approval. He remembers one incident during his teenage years when he finished as the first runner up in a Tae Kwon Do competition. When he arrived home that night, eager to show his father his trophy, he distinctly remembers his father’s unenthusiastic reception. Sitting in the living room recliner, his father peered over the Korean newspaper that he was reading, looked into his son’s eyes and remarked in a disappointed tone of voice, “You lost, didn’t you?” With that comment, he raised his newspaper back up again and indifferently continued reading. According to James, this was one of the many devastating and painful incidents that communicated to him that, in his father’s eyes, he was a source of disappointment. Many people that I interviewed shared similar stories of how difficult it was to please their parents. Kelly, a second-generation UCLA student, remarked, “it’s always the same. If I bring home my report card and I have all As with one B, my parents will focus on that B and ask me why I got that B. They never talk about all the As I got.” The two generations express love in different ways, and this reality leads to a fundamental cultural clash of expectations between immigrant Korean parents and their American-born or raised children. The latter want their parents to be openly expressive, communicating love, affection, and affirmation in ways similar to mainstream American families. The former shy away from public displays of affection and believe that they are expressing their love for their children by sacrificing, working hard, and providing financially. Many are convinced that pressuring their children to study hard and to succeed in this society is a way of expressing love. According to one first-generation parent, “We Koreans are not good at openly showing our love. We don’t know how to because our parents were not like that with us. If we put food on the table and a roof over our family, that’s how we show love. That’s the Korean way. We feel uncomfortable kissing, hugging, and saying ‘I love you’ to our children.

64

A Faith of Our Own

I wish our children could understand that.” The second generation has difficulty accepting their parents’ style of communicating love. This breakdown in communication has had adverse consequences in the lives of the second generation. Pastor Cho of Mission Church refers to second-generation Korean Americans as the “walking wounded generation” because they have never received unconditional parental affirmation, which in turn has had devastating effects on their identities and self-esteem. According to Cho, having a parent who is impossible to please is one of the heaviest burdens that an individual must shoulder. He encounters countless numbers of individuals who are desperately seeking affirmation, and this hunger manifests itself in numerous ways at his church. “We have so many-second generation people who are people pleasers. They try so hard to gain approval in the church that they will serve and serve until they completely burn out. This is very common among the second generation. They feel like they have to perform to earn worth. They cannot separate their personhood from their performance.” In addition, according to Cho, this low level of self-esteem expresses itself in an inability to take advice or correction. “Whenever I try to give advice or constructive criticism to one of these types of people, rather than appreciating the advice, he would get defensive and take it as an insult or an attack to his personhood.” Convinced that the second generation desperately needs inner healing, Cho has devoted much of his ministry to addressing these issues and helping his members gain self-acceptance. He has been a much-sought-after speaker in the Korean American community, and his message on emotional and spiritual healing has struck a deep chord with second-generation Korean Americans. The Signi fi canc e of R ac e In addition to being children of immigrants, second-generation Korean Americans share a set of distinct experiences growing up as members of a racial minority. For the most part, the second generation’s desire to connect and worship with others who share a similar set of experiences is the primary draw for these new ethnic churches. However, their choices are also shaped by feelings of marginalization and the perception held by the mainstream that they are different, foreign, and not authentically American. Race is a key variable in understanding why secondgeneration Korean Americans, unlike the second generation of white

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

65

ethnic groups, remain within the Korean church. According to Omi and Winant, “One of the first things we notice about people when we first meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is” (1986: 62). Because race forms an important context against which individuals negotiate their affiliations and understanding, it strongly influences the formation of second-generation churches and the decisions that individuals make to join them. Almost all the individuals that I interviewed said that they had personally experienced racism in their lives. According to a survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 1993, Asian Americans ranked second only to African Americans in experiencing racial discrimination (T. Lee 2000). However, depending on where one grew up, the participants in the racist exchanges varied. Laura, a second-generation Korean who grew up in a predominately white suburban neighborhood, remembers how being one of the only Asian students in her high school crippled her self-esteem. “I really had low self-esteem during my high school years. During your teenage years, popularity is everything. I now consider myself a very attractive and outgoing person but during those years, I felt so unattractive and different. I felt so Asian, so Oriental. No matter how hard I tried, because everyone in the school saw me as an ‘Oriental girl’ it was hard for me to gain popularity and acceptance, particularly with the guys. I hated it when the school dances came around because I never could find a date.” Danny, a second-generation student at UCLA, remembers the racism that he experienced growing up in a largely Latino neighborhood. “I was living in Lakewood. I remember we used to go to the park nearby and there were a group of Hispanics and they would always push us around and take away our lunch money. They used to call us names. I remember that my friends and I would try to not walk that way. They would pull their eyes and call us Chinks, China boys, Japs, and some other bad names. These experiences really shaped the way that I see all Hispanics.” When I asked second-generation Korean Americans if racism and feelings of marginality were less acute for them than for their parent’s generation, several expressed the view that it was actually worse for them. When I asked one individual to elaborate, he said that it revolved around the issue of acceptance as an American. His parents had no problem when white people treated them as foreigners because that’s the

66

A Faith of Our Own

way they saw themselves––as foreigners, as Koreans. He, on the other hand, sees himself as an American. He’s an American citizen, speaks English fluently, and has embraced American culture. However, mainstream Americans still see him as a foreigner because of the way he looks. He believes that he experiences a more painful form of racism because for his parents, the treatment that they received from outsiders was consistent with their self-perceptions but for him it is not. Interestingly, among those who did say that racism against Asians remains a problem today in the United States, the majority stated that it is not the church’s role to speak out against this social problem. Rather, they believe that other institutions such as the media, politics, and education must carry the responsibility of solving the problem of racism. One member of Joyful Sound Church believes that the media is largely responsible for perpetuating the negative stereotypes of Asians, and feels that there needs to be a radical shift in how the media portrays Asian Americans, “Look at the media. Look at the way Asian males have been depicted in films or TV programming. They portray Asian males as weak, passive, and without sexuality. Oh yeah . . . and they have to do kung fu moves. We’re entering into the twenty-first century and we don’t have any Asians who could be compared to a Tom Cruise. Look at The Joy Luck Club. God bless Amy Tan but look at how the Asian males were depicted in that movie. The media needs to take more responsibility in eliminating racism.” Second-generation Korean Americans are convinced that although they were born in the United States and are highly acculturated, due to their racial and cultural differences they are not embraced by the mainstream as authentic Americans (Tuan 1998). Repeatedly, they shared stories of incidents in their past where they were perceived as foreigners by mainstream Americans. During his years practicing medicine in the U.S. Air Force in Mississippi, Brian repeatedly encountered white Americans who saw him not as an American but as a foreigner. “When I practiced in Mississippi, a lot of my patients were retirees and predominately Caucasians. They’d come in and want to know whether I was Japanese or Chinese. After that they’d say, you know I helped your people during the Korean War. Here I am a member of the U.S. Air Force in uniform treating them and they keep insisting that they helped my people. They saw me simply as a Korean—a foreigner.” These types of experiences

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

67

create, for second-generation Korean Americans, an uncomfortable and often inhospitable environment in mainstream settings, including mainstream churches. What is interesting is that although the second generation recognizes the existence of racism, only 52 percent of them indicated that they felt that racism against Asian Americans was a significant social problem in the United States. These seemingly disparate views can be reconciled in light of the second generation’s view on the interrelationship between racism and opportunity structures. For the most part, second-generation Korean Americans believe that the form of racism that they encounter from other segments of the society is primarily attitudinal prejudice that does not significantly hinder them in their pursuit of economic advancement and upward mobility. As Ogbu and Gibson (1991) argue, “voluntary migrants” are more likely to be optimistic about their economic futures despite the existence of racism; they typically react to racial discrimination by dismissing it and not internalizing it. In order to further understand the impact that racial marginalization had on the second generation’s decision to chose an ethnic church over a mainstream church, I interviewed individuals who told me that they had attended white churches before joining their current secondgeneration Korean American churches. Among the 108 individuals that I interviewed, only fourteen had attended white churches for a significant period of time. The majority of my respondents went directly from an immigrant church into a second-generation church without trying out mainstream churches. In specific, I asked the fourteen who attended white churches why they chose to attend white churches initially and what made them leave. They gave many different answers, but the following three were the most common responses: the desire to attend a multiracial congregation, burnout from serving in immigrant churches, and feeling insecure among other second-generation Korean Americans. First, the desire to be progressive and open-minded drove several to initially choose a white church over a second-generation Korean American church. Kevin, a second-generation male, explained, I wanted to go to a multiracial church and that’s why I joined Calvary Church. After several years, I realized that what was keeping me at the church was a sense of stubborn pride and self-righteousness

68

A Faith of Our Own

. . . that I’m superior because I can “fit in” with white people, unlike my other insecure Korean friends. The reality was that I didn’t really fit in. Sitting next to white people and singing the same songs did not mean that I fit in. All of my close friends were second-generation Korean Americans so, after much thought and prayer, I decided to join them at their second-generation church. Feeling “burned out” from serving in immigrant churches was the second most cited reason for joining a white church. Several said that they wanted to rest and be nurtured without the pressure of being noticed or asked to serve. One of the respondents served as a youth minister in an immigrant church for several years, and after being emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted, he decided to attend a large white megachurch known for its strong preaching, so that he could get fed spiritually without feeling pressured to serve. He, along with several others that I spoke with, wanted to blend in into a large congregation and be anonymous attendees. They felt that if they had joined a second-generation church, it would have been impossible for them to rest and remain anonymous. Third, several said that they attended white churches because their status and experiences did not conform to second-generation Korean American norms. For example, one woman said that she did not feel comfortable around second-generation Korean Americans because she, unlike the majority of them, never attended college. Another woman commented that she always felt abnormal and insecure about herself when she was around other second-generation Korean Americans because she was in her late thirties and unmarried. However, after attending white churches for a period of time, such people felt that the marginalization they endured for deviating from second-generation Korean American norms was more bearable than the racial marginalization they experienced at their white churches. Feelings of racial marginality and “not quite fitting in” were the most common reasons cited for their reason for leaving predominately white churches. Although none of them recalled experiencing any blatant forms of racial discrimination at white churches, they all said that, no matter how hard they tried, they just could not “fit in.” A member of Faith Church believes that racial marginalization might have played a subconscious role in her decision to attend a second-generation church.

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

69

“Racism plays a part to some extent in everything. There may be an underlying agenda in the psyche that we don’t belong. I felt that way in Berkeley when I was attending a mainstream white church. It was a great church but there was always something there that made me feel that it just wasn’t working out for me there.” One of the pastors of a second-generation church said that when he first planted his church, he wanted to join the Southern Baptist denomination, but after hearing one of their leaders make a racist remark, he decided against aligning with them. I experienced a very blunt form of racism from the denomination. I attended a city-level denominational meeting. There the head of the L.A. branch made a racial joke. There were about 700 to 800 people in attendance and there weren’t too many Asians in the group. About 50 percent were white and 50 percent were black. He went up to the podium and said something like “in some places in L.A. you feel like you’re in some remote village or jungle in Asia.” Everyone in the audience had a great big laugh. I knew then that I didn’t want to be a part of this very politically incorrect, racist, white denomination. Steven, an engineer in his mid-thirties, started attending an immigrant church with his parents when he was in the sixth grade. At that time, that particular immigrant church did not offer any special services or ministry to the second generation aside from occasional Bible lessons delivered in broken English by a few first-generation members. When he left home to attend UC Davis, he stopped going to church altogether and instead joined a popular, mainstream, predominately white fraternity. Wanting to disassociate himself from other Asians, he tried intentionally to blend into white mainstream organizations. He remembers that during his college years, many of the other Korean American students were actively involved in a rapidly growing English ministry within a large Korean immigrant church in Davis. He, on the other hand, immersed himself in an “un-Christian” fraternity lifestyle replete with partying, dating, and drinking. After graduating from college, sensing a need for God during a particularly difficult period and a hunger to connect with believers in a local church, he joined a large Caucasian church. In describing his experience

70

A Faith of Our Own

at that church, he remembered, “I felt like I was out of place. It felt really awkward for me. It was a different environment altogether. It was hard for me to fit in . . . maybe because the whole thing about churches has to do with the social situations and family and values. I wasn’t raised as a Caucasian so I didn’t feel like I fit in.” It was in small-group Bible studies and informal intimate gatherings that the differences in cultural upbringing were most noticeable. He had difficulty relating to the issues of the other members and they in turn could not understand his issues and struggles that were so intricately tied to his experiences growing up as a Korean American with immigrant parents. Desiring to be “one of them,” he found himself increasingly withholding information about his personal life because they made him feel different and like an outsider. After months of trying to fit in, he gave up and sought out a Korean American church. Currently, he attends Faith Church, where he and his wife, a Korean woman whom he met at the church, are serving faithfully as lay leaders. Since joining Faith Church, he has “come to terms with his ethnic identity” and has developed a deep appreciation for the Korean culture. He feels as if he has finally found a place to call home. When I asked Karen, a second-generation Korean American, why she decided to join an ethnic church rather than a white mainstream church, she said that her experiences at white churches have been uncomfortable. For example, she and several of her Korean friends visited a predominately white church where, after the worship service, they stayed to participate in the potluck meal that was prepared by members of the women’s ministry. During the meal, one of the women approached Karen and said, “Welcome, I’m so happy that you’re here today. If I knew that you and your friends would be visiting us today, I would’ve had our ladies prepare some rice dishes.” Karen said that, at that moment, she did not know how to respond or feel because on the one hand, she knew that the lady was simply trying to be hospitable and yet on the other hand, she was abruptly reminded that, in their eyes, she was not simply a “sister in Christ” but an “Asian” or an “Asian sister in Christ.” For Karen, a shared Christian faith was not enough to bridge the chasm created by race. Within mainstream society, including churches, second-generation Korean Americans continue to face marginalization as foreigners and face expectations from others to be culturally different (Tuan 1998). No matter how hard they try, it is nearly impossible for them to hide their

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

71

racial and ethnic identities to blend in and become an unhyphenated Christian within white churches. As sociologist Mary Waters persuasively notes, “the ways in which ethnicity is flexible and symbolic and voluntary for white middle-class Americans are the very ways in which it is not so for non-white and Hispanic Americans” (1990: 156). It is important to note, however, that not all second-generation Korean Americans chose to attend their second-generation churches because they felt racially marginalized or had a negative experience at a white church. In fact, the majority of my respondents have never attended a white church for an extended period of time. One member stated, “if second-generation churches did not exist, I would have probably gone to a white church and made the best of it if I had no other options. I would not be fully comfortable because of my race but it’s better than not going to church at all.” Most of them chose their ethnic churches because it was simply, in their estimation, the best option—one that places them in a context where they can grow spiritually and develop friendships with others who share similar values and life experiences. E mb racing the R eal M e : R e solving I de nt i ty Cri si s Korean American pastors adamantly rejected the notion that a Korean church exists for the English-speaking generation merely because they feel unaccepted or uncomfortable at mainstream churches. Nor do they believe that the existence of a second-generation Korean Americans church is a barrier to full adaptation and incorporation into American society. Rather, their goal is to transform the Korean church into an empowering institution by offering Korean Americans who were either born here or who immigrated at a young age the context in which they can connect with and develop pride in their ethnic identity. They desire their church to be safe places for ethnic healing. Several individuals that I interviewed commented that upon joining a Korean church, for the first time they felt free to explore and embrace their ethnic and racial selves. One male student who grew up in a suburb of Orange County recalls his embarrassment over his ethnic identity during his high school years: “I used to be so ashamed whenever I heard a bunch of other Korean students at my school speaking Korean to each other. They looked so nerdy and out of place. I used to pretend that I couldn’t understand them . . .

72

A Faith of Our Own

all of my friends during high school were white. I wanted to be popular so I tried to make all white friends. I tried really hard to be as white as I could.” Now, after having joined a second-generation Korean American church and making close Korean friends, he feels proud of being Korean. Second-generation pastors believe that developing pride in your ethnic identity is an important step in fulfilling your God-given destiny. Being yourself, finding your identity, coming to embrace who you really are—these are recurrent themes in the churches that I visited. Second-generation Korean Americans see their lives lived out on two separate worlds, one safe and the other unsafe. There is a longing among them to belong to a group where, according to one individual, “you can just let your guards down and be yourself.” Nazli Kibria (2003), in her study of second-generation Asian Americans, found that for the large majority, a sense of “not belonging” marked their growing-up years. For second-generation Korean Americans, unlike second-generation European immigrants, problems of “not fitting in” were often easily recollected and served as constant reminders of their identity as ethnic individuals. Fully a part of neither the Korean immigrant nor the mainstream society, second-generation Korean Americans live in a state of dual alienation. Herberg (1955), in his study of European immigrants in the early 1900s, argues that the second generation experiences the most heightened level of identity conflicts due to their marginalization from both their immigrant families and the broader mainstream society. Herberg found that second-generation European immigrants, in an attempt to assimilate into the mainstream society, abandoned their ethnic ties and their religion. However, for second-generation Korean Americans, their religion becomes the primary venue through which they attain a sense of belonging and a meaningful resolution to their identity crisis. At these new ethnic churches, there is a concerted effort, particularly on the part of the leadership, to provide a cultural and spiritual solution to the identity crisis that many younger Koreans struggle with. In teaching and preaching, leaders construct an interpretive framework through which individuals can make sense of their multiple and often conflicting identities. At all the churches, Christian identity is taught to be the most important. Ethnic, racial, and generational identities are also important, but they are essentially secondary identities. Rudy Busto, in accounting for the large presence of Asian American students in evangelical college

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

73

ministries, argues that the students are essentially trading their ethnic identity for an evangelical Christian identity with the hopes that by denouncing their ethnic selves, they will enjoy a greater level of acceptance in the mainstream society. It may be helpful to think about Asian American evangelicals as part of a larger Christian “people” or “incipient ethnicity.” Conceptualizing evangelical Christianity as “ethnicity” may account for the curious disappearance of Asianness in the discourse and practices of Bible study groups organized, paradoxically, by and for specific Asian groups. Evangelicalism as a common religious ideology and culture shared by a diversity of students in large parachurch organizations seems to function like ethnicity in supporting and protecting otherwise stigmatized brothers and sisters from outside political tempests and negative stereotypes. In addition, Asian Americans benefit where evangelicalism overlaps and coincides with dominant American culture rendering them less foreign. (1996: 135) Contrary to Busto’s position that embracing the Christian identity comes at the expense of ethnic identity, I found that at second-generation churches identity formation is not a zero-sum proposition. Relegating ethnic identity to secondary status does not mean that it is unimportant or a barrier to full integration into mainstream society. According to Pastor Chung of Neighborhood Church, “At our church, the Christian identity is definitely the most important because it’s the identity that will last into eternity. This does not mean that you have to shed your other identities however. You should not have to be less Korean to be more Christian. We hope to create in our church culture an environment where you can be true to who you are. It’s only then that you can live a genuinely free and meaningful life.” Those that I spoke with said that they possess multiple identities simultaneously, and that their Christian identity was the most important. However, their ethnic identities also matter to them, and the very fact that they chose to attend a predominately Korean church acknowledges the continued importance of their ethnic identity. Nonetheless, the ministers are sharply aware that addressing ethnic concerns may alienate the non-Koreans who attend their churches as well. This is a dilemma that the pastors currently face and are trying to skillfully and sensitively navigate. In the next chapter, I

74

A Faith of Our Own

examine the ways in which ethnic culture is woven into the spirituality of these newly formed churches. Mot ivat i ons for Churc h At te ndanc e The majority of research on Korean immigrant churches has highlighted the church’s important role in providing social and cultural services for the immigrant community (Chai 1998; I. Kim 1981; Min 1992). First, Korean churches play a compensatory role for Korean immigrants who, when given titles and positions of power, experience an elevation of status and respect among co-ethnics. Second, Korean churches help immigrants retain and celebrate their culture through various activities such as the observance of Korean holidays, the consumption of Korean food, and language instruction for their children (Min 2005). Third, hunger for co-ethnic fellowship is what drives many immigrants to join Korean churches (Min 2005). Finally, studies have demonstrated that the desire for spiritual enrichment and growth play a significant role in shaping church attendance among immigrant Koreans (Hurh and Kim 1990; Hurh et al. 1978). Do second-generation Korean Americans go to church for the same reasons that their immigrant parents do? Although fewer in number than studies of the first generation, studies of second-generation Korean American participation in ethnic churches have also highlighted compensatory, cultural, social, and religious motivations (Chai 1998; Chong 1998; H. Kim and Pyle 2004; R. Kim 2006). I found that there is some overlap between the first and second generation in terms of their motivations for church participation. Because the second generation has integrated and attained upward mobility in mainstream educational and occupational institutions, they are less inclined to look to the church as a compensatory provider of status and significance. They view leadership roles in the church as necessary and functional rather than as vehicles for power and respect. Previous studies have argued that culture retention is not an important feature of second-generation ministries (Alumkal 2003; Chai 1998; Min 2005; S. Park 2001). Sociologist Pyong Gap Min (2005) examined the extent to which ethnic culture is transmitted to the second generation through religion. Focusing primarily on the visible markers of ethnic culture such as language, food, and holidays, Min found that second-

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

75

generation congregations have eliminated the practice of Korean culture within their ministries because of their strong evangelical orientation. However, I have found that the second generation desires to preserve and practice certain aspects of their ethnic culture in their congregations. In the next chapter, I examine which aspects of Korean culture and Korean immigrant spirituality are embraced and why. Religious Motivations Through my conversations with second-generation Korean Americans, I have discovered that matters of faith and spirituality are very important, if not central, motivations for church attendance. When I asked my respondents what their primary reason was for attending church, nearly all of them answered that it was to grow spiritually. Furthermore, when I asked the question, What is it that you like most about your church?, a large percentage of them gave answers such as “it’s a place where I can grow spiritually,” “my life has changed since I came to this church,” and “I really experience God in this church.” These answers reflect the fact that for many, their church’s appeal lies not so much in its cultural or social dynamics as in its spiritual dimensions. According to Rachel, a member of a second-generation church, My goal in life has changed since I became a Christian. I used to really love myself and it was difficult to give up the reins of my life to anyone. Now, my values have totally changed. Now, it doesn’t even matter whether I become a professor or a small shop owner, or even a missionary. The fact that I’m willing to do whatever God calls me to do is the biggest difference in my life. My passion now is primarily for the Lord. My passion for studies has gone down a whole lot. But this does not mean that I’ve become a worse student. Rather I’ve become better because I feel God’s power working within me to study smarter. Many of my interviews with second-generation Korean Americans focused on their experiences with God and the sharing of their personal testimonies of how faith in God mattered in their everyday lives. The results of the congregational survey I conducted show that second-generation Korean Americans exhibit a high level of religious commitment and practice—75 percent stated that they pray every day, 49 percent stated that they

76

A Faith of Our Own

read their Bibles every day, and 65 percent stated that they tithed on their income. Growing up in the immigrant church and in Christian homes, the second generation has had a foundation of faith laid in their childhood years that continues to influence their lives today. Second-generation Korean Americans are spiritually hungry and are active spiritual seekers. For many, their college years were the turning points, because for the first time they were free from parental pressures to attend church. A recurring theme among those that I interviewed was that upon entering college, they would leave the church to dabble, in some cases immerse themselves, in the “party scene.” When they realized that “worldly fun” could not satisfy their deep longings for meaning or a sense of purpose in their lives, they would return to the church and realize for themselves that only God could fill their spiritual void. For others, it was some point of weakness, suffering, or struggle that revealed their state of helplessness and hopelessness without God. I have heard countless numbers of testimonies of changed lives shared at worship services, revivals, and small-group gatherings. For second-generation Korean Americans, church is not merely a place where they can meet and socialize with other Korean Americans. Nor is it merely a place where they can find cultural or psychological support. Among those that I interviewed, the church is primarily a place for developing, experiencing, and growing in their relationship with God. Second-generation Korean Americans do not seek spiritual growth individualistically. Rather, they are convinced that in order to grow spiritually, you need to be connected to a community of believers. According to the results of the congregational survey, nearly 80 percent indicated that in order to grow spiritually, you need to be actively involved in a local church body. The fact these new ethnic churches offer spiritual nourishment in an environment where the intersections of ethnic, racial, and generational identities are understood and affirmed is what make these new churches appealing places to worship for the second generation. Social Motivations The second generation attends church not only for religious reasons but also for the meaningful friendships that develop there. They have a deep longing for an intimate and comfortable community where, according to one individual, “you can be yourself and know that you

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

77

will be loved, accepted, and encouraged.” Due to cultural, linguistic, and generational differences, their families were unable to provide the support and intimacy that they craved and, as a result, the new churches fill the void, suggested one member of Joyful Sound Church: “Church is not just about hearing lectures on the Bible. It’s about community, relationships. So there’s a higher degree of intimacy in relating to other people as opposed to a school or job. When you go to school, it’s about learning, and when you go to your job, it’s about making money. When you go to church, it’s about connecting . . . relating . . . it’s like a family.” The new churches provide for the English-speaking population, as their churches do for the immigrant generation, a sense of an integrative community in which individuals who would otherwise be isolated in impersonal environments become part of a family network of “brothers” and “sisters.” According to one individual, community and comfort are interrelated, “You want to connect and be intimate with people that you’re comfortable with. How in the world can you experience a true sense of community with people that you are not comfortable with . . . people who don’t understand you because they’ve lived such different lives?” Establishing comfort as an important prerequisite for community, second-generation Korean Americans make sharp distinctions between primary and secondary communities, and in the latter, comfort is integral. In my interviews, both pastors and members said that “fellowship” and a “family-like environment” were very important elements of their congregation. Churches, functioning as surrogate nuclear families, are communities where members want to connect and associate with others with whom they feel comfortable. Placing a high value on community, for many second-generation Korean Americans, the church is the center of their lives—68 percent stated that the majority of their close friends are fellow church members. In addition, the majority (62 percent) of church members spend at least ten hours a week in official church activities, and many (23 percent) spend more than twenty hours a week involved in church functions, according to my congregational survey findings. Being a church member involves more than just attending worship service on Sunday mornings. All the churches offer weekly small-group Bible studies that often meet in member’s homes, and it is at these meetings where their hunger for connection, intimacy, and community are largely satisfied. In addition

78

A Faith of Our Own

to official church-sponsored meetings and functions, the members also spend countless hours together in informal social gatherings. According to Pastor Noh, “The second generation comes to this church because we provide a close knit family-like community for them. They engage in all sorts of activities together outside of official church functions. They are married to other Korean Americans and are intentional in spending time with Korean Americans. They are attorneys, CPAs, doctors. They all work in non-Korean American environments but their close friendships are all fellow Korean Americans that they meet in the church.” For the second generation, the church is not simply a religious organization.They do not compartmentalize their lives and view their church attendance as just one of many different affiliations. Rather, the church plays the most important if not all-encompassing role in their lives. One church member expressed this truth explicitly when she shared during her small-group Bible study, “all my non-Christian friends ask me why I spend so much time at church . . . what they don’t understand is that my church life is not just a passing side hobby. It is my life.” One minister observed that “white Americans want a community church, but for Korean Americans, the church is their community. That is the case for Latino and black churches as well. That’s their core identity.” In short, these churches provide the focal points of social belonging. In my interviews with members of the different churches, many also suggested that the appeal of these new churches lies in the fact that they are ideal places to find future spouses. Many commented that most people are too embarrassed to admit this, but a large percentage of single young adults go to second-generation churches because of the opportunity to meet other co-ethnic singles. One single woman described the “dating scene” at a large second-generation ministry, One of the things that troubled me about this place was that there is too much emphasis on looking for a mate. I remember once when I walked into the sanctuary during the middle of the pastor’s sermon. Everyone just shifted in their seats because they heard the door opening and everyone looked back to see who it was rather than focusing on the message. When the service was over, I was waiting in an extremely long line for the bathroom and by the time I had gotten into the bathroom, I realized that no one was using

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

79

the stalls. The ladies were just fixing their makeup. As the women filed out of the bathroom, there were large groups of single men waiting to check out the women. It felt more like a nightclub than a church service. Some of the churches that I visited discouraged their members from treating the church as a place to find marriage partners. Others, however, openly encouraged dating and marriage among church members, and even gave practical tips on how to pursue a person you are attracted to. At one worship service, the senior pastor in his message entitled “Finding Your Soul Mate” encouraged the congregation members to look for a marriage partner within the church. “One of the best places to meet a mate is the church because you’ll be meeting someone who has the same beliefs and values. If a guy asks you out ladies, please say yes at least the first time and especially if he has the character over the cosmetics. Give him a shot.You don’t know how hard it is for a guy to ask you. Guys, you gotta ask. Don’t be afraid to ask. Take the risk . . . what do you have to lose? Ask many of them out . . . one of them has to say yes.” Because a significant percentage of the population at these new churches is single adults in their twenties and thirties, marriage and dating are central topics of conversation at church gatherings. Peter, a secondgeneration male, described the subculture of his church as “ridden with anxiety and longing for the opposite sex.” One woman in her late twenties commented that the social pressure to marry is enormous at her church because it is the constant topic of conversation among her church friends. In addition, she said that it is difficult for her to just “release her desire to God” and focus on spiritual matters because every month a fellow church member’s bridal shower or wedding reminds her of her status as an unmarried woman approaching thirty. At many of the churches that I visited, there were efforts by the church leadership to address the subject of dating and marriage. At Fruitful Church, Pastor Choi encourages his members to diligently pray to God for their future spouses and then to trust that God will provide in his time. At his church, marriage is a very sensitive and prominent issue— a wedding takes place almost every other month, and there is fear among the singles that they may be part of the unlucky few who never get married. According the congregational survey, at Fruitful Church nearly 75

80

A Faith of Our Own

percent of the married couples met their spouses at the church, and Choi expects those numbers to increase as the church continues to grow. The churches also appeal to young families who desire a supportive community that will support them in raising their children. Several parents that I interviewed communicated their appreciation for their church because they were able to raise their children alongside other families in similar stages. One mother of two toddlers who attends a secondgeneration church commented, “I’m really blessed to attend this church because there are so many other young moms like me. We help each other by sharing information and giving advice about raising kids . . . during the first several months when I had my first child, my friends at church were enormously helpful. I called them all the time to get advice on breastfeeding, bathing, getting the baby to sleep through the night. I also saved a lot of money because we all shared baby equipment with each other.” These young parents see their churches as an invaluably supportive community that helps them in the very challenging task of raising children. Many of these churches offer specials events and programs, such as mothers’ Bible studies and parenting seminars, to attract young families and to express their desire to be a family-friendly place. Conclus i on In conclusion, there is a strong desire among the second generation to practice their faith in an institutional setting that understands and addresses their needs as a racial-ethnic group and as children of immigrants. The Korean church is the only viable option for immigrants because of their cultural and language limitations, but supposedly not so for the second generation. Nonetheless, I found that the second generation is continuing to join ethnic churches rather than mainstream churches. For a group that has been immersed in American culture and speaks English fluently, their motivations for attending a Korean church hinge around the comfort they feel there with co-ethnics who have shared a similar set of experiences growing up as racial minorities and as children of Korean immigrants. Researchers have demonstrated that in the United States, individuals are most likely to marry, live near, and become friends with others who are similar to themselves, and among the social boundaries that separate people, race and ethnicity are among the most formidable (Kao and Joyner 2004; R. Kim 2006; McPherson et

The Quest for a Community of Comfort

81

al 2001). Sociologists refer to this phenomenon as “homophily,” which is proverbially understood as “birds of a feather flock together” (Marsden 1987; McPherson et al. 2001). The principle of homophily is pertinent in this study, as it influences the decisions second-generation Korean Americans make in selecting a church to call home. Rebecca Kim found similar dynamics in her study of second-generation Korean Americans at West University who, when given the opportunity to participate in a variety of campus ministries, chose to associate with those which were most familiar and similar to them. Furthermore, Rebecca Kim rightly points out that the principle of homophily also applies to whites: “White students also want what is most familiar and similar, their desire for homophily is evident in their interactions with and reactions to the different ethnic groups” (2006: 114). When Asian Americans became the numerical majority within evangelical campus ministries at West University, whites who were accustomed to having majority power and status gradually left their ministries in search of another organization where they could enjoy their own homophily. In addition to homophilic forces, the rapid proliferation of new ethnic churches that are tailoring their message and methods to communicate to and address the needs of the second-generation Korean Americans further increases the overall appeal and participation in these new churches. Raymond Breton’s discussion on the role of institutional completeness in determining the direction of integration among immigrants is helpful in understanding why second-generation Korean Americans are drawn to these new ethnic churches. Breton argues that an immigrant can become integrated into any of three different communities: the community of his or her ethnicity, the native or mainstream community, or another ethnic community. Which community the individual becomes integrated into depends primarily upon “the forces that are generated by the social organization of the communities,” which he defines as the community’s level of “institutional completeness” (1964: 193). These new innovatively and efficiently organized churches are appealing places for second-generation Korean Americans because at them a variety of their felt needs are met. In addition, they serve as arenas where their interpersonal spaces are reconstructed and their hybrid identities are developed and embraced. However, unlike Breton’s findings, my research demonstrates that for second-generation Korean Americans, there are more

82

A Faith of Our Own

than just three communities into which integration occurs. Rather, there is an entirely new, independent, and hybrid community that is formed by the members of the second generation themselves. Their choices are not constrained by the available options. Rather, they are creatively picking and choosing aspects of the various different communities in creating a hybrid third space of their own. This study of second-generation Korean churches gives insights into the ways in which ethnic groups, in creating their own hybrid third spaces, can and do shape their own lives.

Chapte r 4

Spiritual Laboratories

Second-generation churches, as they emerge within congregational spaces, draw from a variety of cultural and spiritual resources. In their quest to invent an independent second-generation spirituality, the leaders of these new churches aim to adopt what they perceive to be essential beliefs, symbols, and practices from Korean Protestantism and various expressions of American evangelicalism, and to anchor them in their newly formed organizations. The dominance of a Western, Euro-American Protestantism in the United States has meant that racial minorities and their religious institutions have had to operate from the borders. However, in the minds of second-generation pastors, existing on the borders or being a “marginal man” is viewed as an asset rather than a liability. Milton Gordon defines the marginal man as a person who “stands on the borders or margins of two cultural worlds but is fully a member of neither” (1964: 64). In a similar vein, according to Sang Hyun Lee, Korean immigrants are not only “in between” or “on the boundary” but also “outside,” or at the periphery of American society (2001). However, for second-generation Korean Americans, this position affords them a special vantage point from which they can view and incorporate what they perceive as positive aspects of diverse cultural expressions of Christianity. In multicultural Los Angeles, where communities are largely drawn along ethnic lines, second-generation Korean Americans do not see themselves or their ethnic institutions as inside or outside of American society. Rather, they are carving out and inhabiting a rapidly expanding hybrid third space. “In-between spaces,” H. K. Bhaba argues, are where hybrid identities are created, because they “provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood—singular or communal—that initiate new signs of identity and innovative sites of collaboration” (1994: 1–2). The second-generation Korean American 83

84

A Faith of Our Own

churches provide an excellent case study of how religion and religious institutions that exist on the borders serve as important vehicles for cultural and spiritual innovation. Contemporary scholars of religion have suggested that the second generation, in their quest to differentiate and distance themselves from their parents’ religion, have rushed into the arms of mainstream evangelicalism. In her study of second-generation Indian Christians, Prema Kurien (2004) found that the younger Indians continually compared their parent’s ethnic church unfavorably with the mainstream American churches that they had attended. Other scholars have pointed to the manner in which second-generation Korean American college students, when afforded independence from their parents, are constructing campus groups that reproduce the values and practices of mainstream evangelicalism (R. Kim 2006; S. Park 2004). These studies depict secondgeneration churches and ministries as replicas of white evangelical institutions, albeit with a nonwhite membership. In contrast, the members of churches in my study are much more cautious and deliberate in choosing which elements of mainstream evangelicalism they want to embrace. The majority of the churches do not want to be carbon copies of successful white evangelical churches. Rather, they want to carve out a hybrid third space, distinct from both mainstream evangelicalism and Korean immigrant Protestantism. Second-generation churches are not identical to one another. There are marked differences as well as similarities in their philosophies, styles, and approaches. For example, there is a range of views on how much ethnicity should express itself in the churches. Several ministers desire to practice a religion that is heavily flavored by their ethnic culture. In contrast, other ministers argue that churches should primarily be in the business of sharing the gospel and helping people grow in their faith. In response, the pastors who want to preserve ethnicity argue that mainstream Protestantism is not, in the words of one minister, “a-ethnic,” but is very much flavored by European ethnic culture. Not to see it as such is another example of white privilege. They desire a higher degree of reciprocity wherein their hybrid spirituality, flavored by their ethnic culture, can take its place in the landscape of mainstream Protestantism. At the current stage of development, the second-generation churches exist largely in isolation from one another, and there is very little if any

Spiritual Laboratories

85

dialogue among the pastors about second-generation Korean American spirituality. But although there is no intentionally unified movement in defining second-generation spirituality, I found numerous points of consensus and shared values among the pastors that I interviewed. In this chapter, while documenting many of the common themes and convictions among second-generation churches, I also highlight the disagreements, tensions, and differences among them in their process of inventing a hybrid second-generation spirituality. As with all creative spaces, conflict and tension exists within and among these churches. The development of hybrid spirituality is very much in process and is far from uniform or complete. Despite the differences in opinions, the twenty-two pastors in this study share the desire to emulate the strengths and avoid the weaknesses of both American evangelicals and Korean immigrant Protestants. What they value most about American evangelicals is their worship style and high level of efficiency and organization. However, they are critical of the individualistic worldview that American evangelicals embrace. With respect to Korean immigrant churches, the second-generation leaders want to preserve tongsongkido (unison prayer) and embrace the emphasis on the collective over the individual. They admire these aspects of Korean Christianity, which they feel are absent in mainstream white churches. Finally, the second-generation leaders desire to break away from the materialism and status preoccupation that they observe in both mainstream evangelical and immigrant churches. Although these churches seek to combine the best of two worlds, they also inadvertently suffer from the worst of both worlds. One minister lamented, “We’ve gotten all the worst aspects of the immigrant church and not any of the good parts. We’ve also internalized all the negative aspects of American culture and brought them into our churches.” At the present stage of development, despite their intent and determination, their goals of creating a unique spirituality have yet to be fully realized; it is in its beginning stages of formation. Recognizing the significant number of hurdles that stand in their way, second-generation Korean American ministers are resolved to create churches that fuse the best of two expressions of spirituality. Several sociological studies suggest that second-generation Korean American churches are heavily evangelical, and because they want to reach out to all people irrespective of their ethnic identity, they have

86

A Faith of Our Own

intentionally buried their ethnic identity and have embraced a “colorblind” evangelical identity (Alumkal 2002; Chai 1998; Min 2005; S. Park 2001). In order to answer the question of whether or not the second generation is preserving ethnic culture within their newly formed churches, it is important to define what elements of ethnic culture remain alive and exert influence within these congregations. The visible markers of ethnic culture such as language, holidays, and food are rarely highlighted; in fact, many of the churches intentionally refrain from uttering Korean words and serving exclusively Korean food at “official” church functions. Rather, their practice of religion is heavily influenced by the Koreanized form of Christianity that their parents practiced within immigrant churches, which researchers have shown is influenced by both Confucianism and Shamanism (Baker 1997; A. Kim 2000; Min 2005; Yoon 2005). In her study of second-generation Korean Christians in Chicago, Kelly Chong (1998) found that “core values” of Korean culture—which she identifies as filial piety, respect for elders, familycenteredness, and a strong work ethic—are clearly evident in the church subculture. Likewise, I found that second-generation Korean Americans, rather than exchanging their parents’ faith for white mainstream Christianity, are reinterpreting and nurturing their parents’ Koreanized expression of Christianity. Jonathan Tan, in his book Introducing Asian American Theologies, points out that “Asian immigrants to the United States have contributed to religious diversity and pluralism in the United States not only by bringing their ancient faiths to the United States, but also by introducing Asianized forms of Christianity and establishing new Asian American Christian churches that are different from mainstream white Christian churches” (2008: 58). Second-generation churches are not simple replicas of immigrant churches or white mainstream churches. Rather, they are creatively constructed, using available resources from various milieus. Wor ship Sty le s The praise at second-generation Korean American churches in Los Angeles demonstrates many of the same characteristics that Don Miller (1999) identified in his study of “new paradigm churches.” At these churches, a contemporary “Vineyard” style of worship is led by a band of musicians on electric guitars, drums, and synthesizers with lyrics

Spiritual Laboratories

87

projected onto large overhead screens. On a typical Sunday at Mission Church, the morning worship service opens with a brief prayer by the senior pastor followed by a word of welcome, inviting the people to “celebrate the presence of God.” Then for the next thirty minutes, a group of musicians composed of vocalists and instrumentalists leads a set of upbeat contemporary praise songs. The first two songs have a fast tempo, and the lyrics focus on the themes of joy, celebration, and victory. The last three songs are slower and focus on the themes of love and intimacy. The three hundred people who have gathered stand and sing along with the praise team. Some clap while others raise their hands as gestures of worship and adoration. Music plays a central part in the worship services at most of the churches––so much so that many second-generation Korean Americans base their decision to join a church on how good the praise team sounds. A number of the churches have intentionally focused on experimenting and developing new and different approaches to worship and praise. Second-generation ministers believe that art and music are key ways to reach and influence this generation that has been significantly educated and influenced by the media and pop culture (Beaudoin 1998). Embracing and utilizing pop cultural forms of communication to reach out to them, Joyful Sound Church, in addition to attracting large numbers of artists and musicians into their church, has been on the forefront in creating new culturally connected approaches for communicating biblical truths. “At Joyful Sound, we want to produce original pieces of music and art that will complement our biblical message,” stated Eric Kim, an associate pastor who overseers the music ministry, which aims to generate worship that expresses itself through a variety of creative venues such as music, multimedia, drama, painting, graphic arts, and poetry. In order to accomplish this vision, Eric has motivated and led the church’s group of artists to invest their creative talents in doing “God’s work.” He says, “We have many graphic artists, painters, and illustrators who have used their talents to create a visual rendering of biblical themes. Currently, one of our artists is working on reproducing Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son in the Joyful Sound way. This picture and this message represent the ethos of our church. Our church is a church for the prodigals. We want to also commission some of our artists to produce works of sculpture that will impact nonbelievers and believers.”

88

A Faith of Our Own

Joyful Sound’s subculture reflects the emphasis on developing spiritually relevant art and music. Each year, the church offers a host of programs and events that highlight the creative energies of the members of their congregation. For example, periodically the church sponsors an outdoor art gallery where church members can display original pieces of artwork for others in the congregation to admire. More recently, with the hopes of reaching out to non-Christians and to provide a venue for church members to showcase their artistic talents, the church held a nontraditional worship service where worship was offered through a variety of different nontraditional expressions such ballads, poetry, prose, rap, and painting. Reclining in comfortable sofas, over four hundred people enjoyed this “non-churchy” evening worship service in an atmosphere that resembled a trendy café. There are some who lament this emphasis on the arts and pop culture and see it as a sign of superficiality among the second generation and a manifestation of a comfort-oriented Western Christianity. Sarah, an active lay leader at Disciple Church, expressed the feeling that the “praise phenomenon” among the second generation is a tangible sign of their superficiality. “Second-generation Korean Americans are overchurched. They’re spoiled. They get excited about praise more than anything else. They are so superficial. They could care less about the meatier things in scripture. What attracts them to a church is how good the music or praise team sounds.” Some leaders also commented that the second generation is more concerned about experiencing an emotional high than to truly being transformed by the renewing of the mind, which they believe occurs primarily through studying the Bible. One minister said that at his church there are many second-generation Korean Americans who participate in the worship enthusiastically—crying, lifting their hands, and sometimes even dancing—despite violating God’s moral standards in their everyday lives. One pastor argued that today’s religious culture that elevates certain aspects of participatory worship, such as music and praise, has negatively misled many to believe that they have genuinely “experienced God if they’ve experienced him emotionally.” Another pastor asserted, “The Jesus movement is to blame. They replaced one high for another . . . from drugs to Jesus. They want that emotional experience. That’s the goal.” To counteract this trend of experiential spirituality, some of the churches have consciously chosen not to focus on providing polished,

Spiritual Laboratories

89

professional-sounding praise teams at their worship service. Pastor Yoon of Disciple Church casually commented, “We have terrible music.” When I asked him if this was intentional, he replied, “well . . . I guess we could improve. But we have other objectives.” He explained that the fact that they have “terrible music” is tied to their overall vision of trying to develop committed, deep, countercultural Christians who are not slaves to the latest fads and trends in pop culture spirituality. E fficie ncy and Organi zat i on In addition to music, second-generation ministers are highly influenced by the organizational structures of mainstream evangelical megachurches, particularly their emphasis on efficiency and strong leadership. In the Christian publishing world, there are more books written on ministry effectiveness than on any other topic (Mancini 2008). Rick Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Church, sits on the bookshelves of nearly all the pastors in this study. In his book, Warren establishes a blueprint for how churches should be organized for maximum efficiency. First, he highlights the importance of a clearly articulated church vision that serves as the foundation on which all other church ministries and activities are built. The Web sites of nearly all twenty-two churches in this study prominently publicize their church visions, which are essentially spin-offs of Warren’s vision. Furthermore, he encourages pastors to intentionally harness the resources of their members and invest them in some area of meaningful ministry. Heeding his advice, second-generation pastors have encouraged lay members to discover, develop, and deploy their spiritual gifts, with many of the churches offering special classes or seminars on the topic. To ensure all that all members are actively engaged in some form of ministry, the churches offer a variety of ministries ranging from sports outreaches, women’s ministries, and homeless ministries to drug rehabilitation ministries. From the pulpits, members are repeatedly encouraged to be contributors to the church body and not just consumers. At a majority of these churches, nearly 80 percent of the members are actively involved as volunteers in some form of churchsponsored ministry. At Joyful Sound Church, a new ministry group typically emerges within the congregation as two or three members begin meeting together around their shared interests. These shared interests, whether

90

A Faith of Our Own

sports, cooking, or helping the elderly, provide the common ground for the development of new ministries. Without layers of administrative red tape that work to discourage and dampen individual initiative, churches like Joyful Sound have been successful in encouraging creativity and a greater level of involvement among its members. The church offers a wide array of options for its members, with specialized ministries in guitar, tennis, volleyball, swing dancing, rock climbing, and cooking to cater to the wide variety of interests among the different segments of the congregation. According to one member, “basically, if you have a passion for something, there’s nothing stopping you at this church. You can make it a reality and use it for God’s glory.” Through sermons and teaching, the church members are encouraged to use their education, talents, and resources for the advancement of the “kingdom of God” and not for personal advancement. They emphasize the point that personal resources are given by God for the purpose of doing “God’s work.” In a plea for more volunteers in the church, one pastor urged, “Among our congregation, I sincerely believe we have some of the most gifted people around. We have people with skills in music, creative arts, technical skills, and teaching. They are treasures that are needed in our church for us to be what God wants us to be. . . . For us to be an effective community that impacts our world, every one of us needs to step up and serve. So don’t just sit there!!! Get involved and serve.” The rapid growth and vitality of second-generation churches is due in large part to the fact that they are effectively tapping into the large pool of talent and resources within their church membership. Second-generation ministers have attended a myriad of conferences sponsored by megachurches such as Saddleback Community Church in southern California and Christian leadership experts such as John Maxwell. They admire and want to emulate their ability to apply corporate standards of excellence to their churches. One of the greatest weaknesses within Korean immigrant churches is the lack of organization and “professionalism,” according to one minister. “Korean immigrants don’t really think about long-term consequences. If they feel passionate about something, they’ll just assume it’s God’s will and dive right into it. However, half way into the project, they realize that they can’t finish it. I’ve seen immigrant pastors jump into a ministry without really thinking about the long-term plans or consequences.” Most of the second-generation

Spiritual Laboratories

91

pastors that I spoke with believe that Korean immigrant pastors do not organize their churches as efficiently as mainstream white pastors and, therefore, they want emulate the latter. When I asked the ministers which Christian leader they respected the most, nearly all of them chose white Protestant ministers. For example, Pastor Hurh, of Vision Church, answered, “I am modeling my leadership after Chuck Swindoll. He had a healthy level of openness and dialogue with the members of his church. He had an open-door policy; there was no wall between him and his congregation.” In a similar vein, Pastor Yim of Agape Church replied, “I’m trying to model myself after Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York. His preaching appeals to people; it is not authoritarian but more conversational in style.” Korean Praye r Although worship styles and administrative structures may resemble mainstream evangelical churches, second-generation churches are not exact replicas. In fashioning their own expressions of spirituality, the younger ministers feel that there are several elements of immigrant Korean spirituality that need to be preserved and practiced within their newly formed churches. When asked which aspects of Korean Christianity are important to preserve, almost all the ministers told me that they wanted to preserve the “Korean” way of praying. The Korean way of praying is a historical product of Korean Christianity that is marked by intense passion, fervency, and urgency. Fervent prayer has frequently been cited as a key factor in the rapid spread of Christianity in Korea, and many pastors around the world have made “pilgrimages” to Korea to learn the secret of powerful, effective prayer. Undoubtedly, fervent and passionate prayer is an integral part of the Korean Church––so much so that Korean Christians have invented several indigenous prayer rituals such as sae byuk kido (early morning prayer), tongsongkido (unison prayer), and kido won (prayer mountain) (Yoon 2005). At one prayer meeting that I attended at an immigrant church, after the pastor gave a brief message reminding his members that God heard their earnest prayers, the people knelt on the ground for a time of tongsongkido (unison prayer). Inside a dimly lit sanctuary, those gathered began to passionately and emotionally cry out to God in prayer. Some were weeping, others were pounding the ground with their fists, and still

92

A Faith of Our Own

others were shouting “Jesus” and “Lord” at the top of their voice. The themes of “deliverance” and “blessing” resonated through most of the praying, with members petitioning for spiritual breakthrough, physical well-being, and material provisions for themselves and their children. Kelly Chong (2002), in her dissertation titled “Agony in Prosperity: Evangelicalism, Women, and Politics of Gender in South Korea,” provides an extended description of a similar prayer meeting. Within Korean immigrant spirituality, there is a sense that the more earnestly and desperately you pray to God, the more likely he will be to answer you. This perspective is embraced and communicated by the majority of Korean Christians both in Korea and in the United States. Yonggi Cho, pastor of the 700,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, when asked by American Christian leaders to share his secret of church growth, simply answered “passionate prayer moves the hand of God” (S. G. Kim 2007). Korean Christians adamantly reject a laissez-faire, purely cerebral attitude toward prayer. Rather, prayer is a holistic exercise that involves the individual’s body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Korean Christians both in Korea and in the United States, regardless of their denominational or theological persuasions, practice a passionate form of prayer that, in the United States, would be practiced primarily among Pentecostals and charismatics. Prayer at second-generation churches mirrors the prayers offered up in first-generation churches. It is noticeably more passionate and fervent than what one would witness at mainstream evangelical churches. Tongsongkido is not practiced at weekly Sunday worship services, but rather reserved for special settings such as retreats, revivals, and prayer meetings. However, I have witnessed abbreviated forms of tongsongkido within Sunday worship services, where church members stretched out their arms toward the stage to corporately and audibly pray in unison for individuals who were being sent on missions or appointed to leadership positions. At one prayer meeting at a second-generation church, a group of nearly fifty church members gathered together on a Friday evening. After clearing out several rows of chairs in the sanctuary, the group sat in a circle on the floor and readied themselves for a time of intercessory prayer. After a few brief words from the pastor encouraging the group to pray with faith and fervor, the people promptly got on their knees and began to engage in tongsongkido in a loud chorus of voices. The

Spiritual Laboratories

93

prayer meeting lasted for nearly one hour, and in a spontaneous manner the participants cried, screamed, pounded the floor with their fists, and prayed for each other with a heightened level of intensity and fervor. Most of the younger ministers desire to appropriate “Korean prayer,” and have experimented with ways of integrating this practice within their church culture. One of the primary purposes of tongsongkido is to try to persuade God, through desperate and emotional pleading, to answer prayers. This, according to some scholars, is a relic from Korean shamanistic practices. Shamanism, the indigenous religion of Korea, with roots tracing back to 2332 b.c.e., focuses on the relationship between humans and spirits; it is a religious tradition in which humans connect with spirits through shamans in an effort to acquire material blessings and protection from harm (Jang 2004). Scholars have traced Korean shamanistic practices to the ideas of kipok shinang (Seo 2002; Yoon 2005). The concept of kipok shinang, popularized in the 1970s by Pastor Yonggi Cho of South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, focuses on the role of prayer in acquiring material blessings and physical healing (Jung 2002). In Korea, Pastor Cho is believed to be the person largely responsible for connecting shamanistic ideas of kipok shinang with tongsongkido, a connection that scholars say did not exist prior to his teachings (Jung 2002; H. Kim 1999; Y. Lee 1996). Heung-soo Kim (1999) argues that kipok shinang gained popularity after the Korean War because many Koreans were looking for comfort and solace in a period of uncertainty, poverty, and anxiety. Although officially rejected by Korean Christians, shamanistic views and practices remain as undercurrents in Korean and Korean American Protestantism (Kim and Kim 2001). Moreover, Tong-Sik Yu (1975) proposes that shamanism is the lens through which every Korean subconsciously encounters Christianity. Second-generation Korean Americans are largely unaware of the academic discussions and research that have linked tongsongkido with shamanism. Most of them grew up with this style of prayer within immigrant churches, and they view it as a way of practicing a “Korean” style of praying. When asked why they thought Koreans practiced this type of prayer, they most often attributed it to the “emotional and hot” personality of Korean people and the internalization of han, which one individual defined as “a deep shared feeling of oppression and injustice

94

A Faith of Our Own

among Koreans that is caused by a long history of suffering.” According to one minister, “the embrace of pain is a big part of our culture. Pain leads to understanding and our culture helps us to embrace that more. You see it in our music and our forms of prayer.” These, they claim, are the “authentically Korean” reasons why they engage in this form of prayer. Furthermore, they point to various Bible passages on prayer to support their view that Koreans more accurately understand and practice “authentic biblical prayer.” Second-generation ministers believe that tongsongkido is an effective and appropriate way for Christians to pray, and many assert that it is a more authentic expression of Christian prayer than the prayers of white evangelicals. Mark Mullins argues that in order for ethnic churches to survive beyond the immigrant generation, they need to, “de-ethnicize their religious tradition” (1987: 327). On the contrary, second-generation pastors want to preserve certain elements of their ethnic religious tradition. They want to invite and integrate non-Koreans in their church and create an environment that would be appealing to them, but not at the expense of denying their ethnic identities. This tension is difficult to navigate. How can Korean culture remain alive in their churches and not be alienating for non-Koreans? One pastor resolves this tension by creating a church culture that practices “Korean” values without explicitly stating that they are Korean. Rather, he interprets scripture to validate certain Korean expressions of spirituality. For example, he believes that the way Koreans pray is more in line with biblical prayer. “When you read the Bible, you see that people prayed with a lot of passion and emotion. They were desperate for God. There are many verses that mention ‘crying out to God’ . . . ‘pray without ceasing’ . . . ‘fasting and prayer.’ When I read my Bible, I don’t see prayer described as a purely cerebral reciting of words. Koreans understand this concept better.” He believes that Western culture does not have the definitive interpretation of scripture, and it is limiting to impose that one interpretation on diverse groups of believers. Rather, each ethnic group experiences God through their own cultural frames of reference. Within his church, he wants to present an alternative expression of spirituality to his nonKorean members with the hope that they would embrace it as their own. Visible signifiers of ethnic culture such as food and language are less evident at these churches. Rather, certain Korean values, worldviews,

Spiritual Laboratories

95

and religious practices are woven into the fabric of this newly invented hybrid spirituality. R eclaiming Com muni ty Convinced that second-generation Korean Americans have been negatively influenced by many Western values and ideals that they feel are inconsistent with true biblical Christianity, younger ministers, within their newly formed churches, hope to reeducate and influence Korean Americans to renounce “un-Christian” thinking and acting. Most important, many believe that immigrant Koreans better understand and practice the key biblical concept of community because they come from a Confucian society that stresses the importance of the collective over the individual. Instilling this value within second-generation Korean Americans who have been heavily influenced by American individualism is one of the greatest challenges that church leaders face. “The second generation is much more individualistically selfish than the first generation,” remarked Pastor Moon. “We don’t have our parents’ work ethic or their commitment to their church community. Our parents sacrificed everything—their time and money to build up their churches. We’re just not willing to do that.” The pastors that I spoke with believe that, like most mainstream Americans who view the world through an individualistic lens, the second generation is committed primarily to themselves and secondarily to their own immediate families. Unlike their immigrant parents, their commitment to their church community is a distant third or nonexistent. Their decisions are based on what is in their own best interest. A minister observed, “They’ll do whatever is good for them but they don’t realize that the decision that benefits them personally may also hurt us corporately. . . . Whenever a person leaves the church for a better job or school, they leave a vacuum in our community that negatively impacts us. I don’t think they see this . . . or maybe they do but they just don’t care because it does not affect them personally.” There is a preoccupation with the self within American evangelicalism, and second-generation Korean Americans have been influenced by this value system. Pastor Chang of Family Church believes that the American ethos of individualism has adversely shaped the ways in which mainstream Christians practice their faith.

96

A Faith of Our Own

I went to a youth conference in New York where 6,000 high school students attended. I was asked to lead the prayer time and had to change the entire plan that was assigned to me. I didn’t like their plan of first praying for the world, then their country, their city, then their family, then themselves. I said that every time you focus inward, you become so self-centered and individualistic. At the end of the prayer time, you are essentially praying about yourself. This should not be. You should pray for yourself briefly at first, and pray more for others. At these new ethnic churches, there is an attempt to reclaim what the leaders view as “biblical community.” They lament what they see as the toxic elements of American individualism that encourage the second generation to be more concerned with the question, “how will this affect me?” than with “how will this affect us?” Commitment to churches and to ministries is determined largely through a self-centered, cost/benefit calculation, observed West Coast Church’s Pastor Pak, who has been ministering to Korean Americans for over two decades. Pak expressed that the most difficult part of ministering to the second generation is their lack of commitment and individualistic mindsets. The second generation has a real independent spirit. They don’t want to commit to the leadership with one mind and one thought to make a solid, winning team. They tend to calculate more and they always want to see what’s in it for them. That’s their mentality. Rather than wait and sacrifice, if they see that it will not personally benefit them, they will take off. They are basically looking out for themselves . . . very individualistic . . . very frustrating for me. They have no loyalty. After they get what they want, they will just take off when they don’t see more personal benefits. That’s the American mindset. Pak has been an active leader in a large Korean parachurch ministry that began in the late seventies among first- and 1.5-generation Korean American college students in the San Fernando Valley. During the ministry’s early years, there was a common understanding and conviction among the members that they were to be committed to both God and

Spiritual Laboratories

97

to the group. However, as more Americanized Koreans joined the ministry, the common language and understanding rapidly began to erode as more and more members viewed their commitment to the ministry through a self-centered, personal benefit-oriented perspective. This change in the ministry’s subculture has made it increasingly difficult for the ministry to hold onto its second-generation members, who will easily “jump ship” and join one of the many other ministries that might have more to offer them. American individualism, coupled with the proliferation of choices in religious organizations, has created an environment where, in employing the language of economic markets, church members view themselves as consumers and churches as providers. Further, product loyalty does not exist. Without any commitments to a particular church community, second-generation Korean Americans will quickly move from one church to another. In describing the constantly shifting composition of their membership, one minister observed, The young people’s spirituality matches their general worldview and lifestyles. Their commitments are very short lived, passionate in the moment, and very flighty. People will quickly change their commitments. Our generation will jump ship for the smallest reasons. They’ll change companies, churches, they’ll move to new locations. We have a huge migration every year in our congregation. Fifty percent of our members will probably leave this year and we’ll have another new group of people to fill the pews. Their spirituality is basically the same way . . . inconsistent and uncommitted. In casual conversations and in interviews, I have noticed that secondgeneration Korean Americans chose their churches on the basis of which church would provide them with the best “benefit package.” The topics of church hopping and church shopping are talked about very matter-offactly and casually by the second generation. There seems to be no hesitation, guilt, or shame over a lack of commitment to a particular church. In some cases, this absence of “being tied down to one congregation” is seen as a smarter, more spiritual way to practice Christianity. According to a second-generation male who attends a new ethnic church, “I’ve never stayed at one church for more than a few years at a time. Once I feel like this church has nothing more to offer me or if I feel like they

98

A Faith of Our Own

really don’t need me anymore, or if I feel like I’m not growing spiritually, I start up at a new church. I have to be faithful to God and have to go wherever he leads me and He leads me to different places a lot.” In addition, many ministers are highly critical of modern, consumerdriven approaches to evangelizing that focuses on creating comfortable, user-friendly church environments. They argue that the seeker-sensitive movement, popularized by megachurch leaders such Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, have shaped an evangelical subculture that feeds into the self-centered, individualistic mindsets of Americans rather than challenging them to reorient themselves to embrace a biblical version of Christianity, which is essentially a God-centered and community-centered religion. Seeker-sensitive churches, they argue, are concerned primarily in building bigger churches rather than developing dedicated disciples. With the hopes of growing their organizations or “corporations,” in the words of one pastor, they are packaging religion to make it more appealing to the consumers. Recognizing the pervasiveness of individualistic thinking, the pastors of the new churches are determined to create churches that embrace a greater level of concern and emphasis on the collective. The ministers view their churches as deprogramming centers where the second generation can be resocialized into a subculture that rejects “negative” values such as American individualism. In creating their hybrid spirituality, they hope to draw from their Korean cultural worldview, which they believe fosters a greater level of awareness and appreciation for community, family, and group. According to one pastor, “Koreans inherently understand the concept of community better. In traditional Confucian thought, the family is the central unit. This emphasis on the family enables Koreans to understand that the group is more important than any single individual. I really think that second-generation Korean Americans need to embrace this Korean understanding of community in order for us to truly be the kind of church that God wants us to be.” Taking a critical stance against American individualism, which they perceive to be a destructive ethos, many second-generation pastors have instructed their congregants that individual goals, identities, and viewpoints are secondary to the group’s goals, identities, and viewpoints. When Pastor Chung started his church on July 4 in 1999, he preached his first sermon, which was entitled “The Declaration of Inderdependence,” because from the very beginning he

Spiritual Laboratories

99

wanted to embrace an interdependent model of Christian spirituality. Chung commented that his church’s mission is to “incorporate body theology within a hyper-individualized society and culture.” He believes that his theology was shaped by being raised in a Korean home and attending a Korean church. There are some elements that dominate Eastern thinking as opposed to Western thinking. One of them is collective versus individual identity. Asian cultures tend to be much more bound by corporate identity encapsulated in the fact that in our culture, the family name comes first before your individual name. I read scripture a certain way. I always had a gnawing feeling that the hyper-individualized interpretation of scripture was wrong. There is something lacking in mainstream evangelical faith. The people were not growing in the Lord in a healthy way if it’s just about me and Jesus. Reinforcing this theme, theologian David Ng states that all Christians have unique gifts from their ethnic and cultural contexts that they can share with the larger Christian community. In particular, Ng argues that Asian Christians better understand and practice the biblical concept of community. “The Confucians sense of community is similar to the New Testament sense of koinonia. This sense of community is their contribution to the Church, and calls the Church away from an individualistic faith back to a corporate faith” (1999: 101). Second-generation ministers want to emulate their parents’ sacrificial commitment and loyalty to their churches. Immigrant Koreans, compared to other ethnic groups, contribute more time and money to their congregations (Kim and Kim 2001). In particular, first-generation Koreans are known for their generous financial giving; many have sold their homes or have taken second mortgages on their homes to help finance church-building purchases. Many immigrant churches, irrespective of their size or the socioeconomic status of their parishioners, are able to purchase their own buildings. In contrast, among the twenty-two churches in my study, only one church has purchased it own property. Although several of the churches are engaged in building campaigns, they are having difficulty raising funds. This is because, according to the second-generation pastors that I interviewed, the younger generation has a lower level of commitment and vested interest in their churches.

100

A Faith of Our Own

Although they are affluent and earn high incomes, possibly higher than their immigrant parents, they have a lower level of giving to their churches. One minister commented, “They are just very selfish and very individualistic. They live in these big, luxurious homes in gated communities but when we ask them to contribute to our building fund, they ask, ‘Why do we need to buy a building, why can’t we just rent?’ To that comment, I would always respond, ‘Why did you buy a house, why can’t you just rent and live in an apartment?’” All of the church leaders that I interviewed hope to create churches where deep, committed relationships would develop naturally among their parishioners. Pastor Yoon of Disciple Church believes that the church is responsible for modeling a quality of relationship that goes beyond self-centeredness and superficiality. “I’m trying at my church to develop quality relationships. Although the word ‘community’ is thrown about, in my judgment we live in a society where the sense of relationship is so shallow. Just look at the divorce rates. Church fellowship often does not go beyond getting together for birthdays. There is no authority to say that blood is thicker than water. We need to truly learn to love one another like we belong to each other. I cannot stand up on my own. No man is an island.” Religion in America has always placed a high premium on the individual (Wolfe 2003). Robert Bellah and his colleagues, in their book Habits of the Heart (1985), found that Americans view religion as essentially a private, individualistic matter that is independent from their church, the Bible, or tradition. They argue that American individualism has grown cancerous because Americans are increasingly measuring their marriages, families, careers, and churches by such standards as utility, self-expression, or self-realization. Even institutions such as the church, which was intended to mediate private experience, have been reduced to private experience. At all the churches in my study, alongside the main Sunday worship services, a variety of mid-week small groups gather together in homes where members learn about one another’s needs and provide the members with a sense of family and community that they would not get from Sunday worship services alone. Whereas the American culture of rugged individualism discourages individuals from being transparent and sharing honestly about themselves, the churches hope to forge intimate

Spiritual Laboratories

101

communities in these small groups, where individuals communicate honestly with each other, and according to one individual, “feel free to take their masks off, and develop a deep commitment to support, weep, and rejoice with one another.” At one service that I attended, the pastor, in preaching on the topic of biblical community, observed how members within the church are finally beginning to understand, appreciate, and develop true Christian communities. In particular, he mentioned a men’s accountability group within the church that had “finally broken free of superficiality” and had gotten to the place where the men felt safe enough to share their deepest secrets and struggles. In that group, after one married man openly shared about his ongoing struggle with pornography, the other men in the group actively came alongside him to provide prayer support and accountability. For over a year, every time he left home for a business trip, the first thing he would do upon checking in at a hotel was to call one of the other “brothers” in the group to give him the telephone number where he could be reached. He did this because he had a job that required a lot of travel and every time he was alone in his hotel room, he would succumb to the temptation to watch pornographic movies. Each evening, one of his “brothers” would call him, pray with him, and hold him accountable by asking, “what will you be doing tonight? You need to answer to us. You better not watch any porno movies. They will destroy your marriage, your family, and your spiritual life.” This communal accountability and care freed him from his bondage to pornography. The preacher then went on to encourage the members of the congregation to denounce “lone ranger Christianity” and embrace “connected communal Christianity.” Although the ministers want to root out the negative influence of American individualism from their churches, they themselves are not immune from its influence. Several of their parishioners point to a discrepancy between what their pastors teach and what they model to their followers. According to one member, “My pastor continually asks us to give more and more money to God, but I wonder how much he has given personally. He lives quite comfortably in a large house but he’s always telling us to sacrifice our personal finances for God’s kingdom. I wonder if he’s doing that himself.” Pastor Ahn, of Inland Church, commented that in order to effect change within second-generation Christianity, the leaders of these churches must model the behaviors that they

102

A Faith of Our Own

want to see in their followers. Unfortunately, the ministers are embedded in the same cultural milieu as their congregants and have to battle the same individualistic and self-centered tendencies. According to Ahn, there is a high level of entitlement among second-generation pastors because they are highly sought after when they graduate from seminary. Unlike immigrant pastors who feel privileged and honored to be paid by the church, many second-generation ministers feel entitled to high salaries. “Second-generation pastors think, ‘man the church sucks because they’re not paying me more . . . they’re taking advantage of me. I have a masters degree,’” observed Ahn, “I know that pastors are always blaming the laypeople and how uncommitted they are but I think the laypeople are fed up with pastors who are not sacrificial and unwilling to be a servant. By and large, laypeople are willing to follow the pace of the leaders. If the leader is making genuine sacrifices for the group, then they will too.” At immigrant churches, pastors who sacrificed their families for the sake of their ministries were celebrated and viewed as spiritual heroes. Immigrant pastors placed the needs of their church members above their own needs, as well as the needs of their wives and children. They would spend countless numbers of hours at church, engaged in ministry to their members. As a result, their children grew up with absentee fathers and developed bitterness against the church and God. This bitterness often manifested itself in rebellion and rejection of the faith. The common stereotype of PKs (pastors’ kids) is that they are angry, rebellious, and bitter. In reaction, second-generation ministers have swung in the other direction and have made their children and families top priorities. They have ordered their priorities, placing God first, their families second, and their ministries third. This ordering is preached from pulpits and taught to their parishioners. However, this message has had negative repercussions, because in prioritizing their children above their churches, many of the members do not have time to invest in church activities. Parents have become so tied down to their children’s extracurricular and academic enrichment activities that they have less time to attend church or church-sponsored events. “So many of the parents at my church are kidcentric,” lamented one second-generation minister, “There are parents who miss church services because it conflicts with their children’s nap time.” Some second-generation ministers realize that in reacting to the

Spiritual Laboratories

103

immigrant ministers’ neglect of their own families, they have gone too far in the opposite direction and have inadvertently fueled the second generation’s narrow and individualistic mindsets. R e nounci ng M ate ri al i sm Bruce Nicholls, in his book Contextualization: A Theology of Gospel and Culture, declares that “A contemporary example of cultural syncretism is the unconscious identification of biblical Christianity with ‘the American way of life.’ This form of syncretism is often found in . . . middle-class, suburban, conservative, evangelical congregations who seem unaware that their lifestyle has more affinity to the consumer principles of capitalistic society than to the realities of the New Testament” (1979: 31). At these newly formed churches, there is an emphasis on fighting against the materialistic impulses of second-generation Korean Americans who are increasingly well educated and upwardly mobile. Pastor Yim, of Agape Church, commented, “it’s difficult to plant a church with people who are really educated and career oriented. Everything revolves around graduate school or their jobs.” Their attitude and stewardship of their material resources are of central concern at these churches. The younger ministers are quick to reject certain aspects of mainstream evangelical Christianity, in particular the influence of materialism and comfort, which they feel are inconsistent with their understandings of true biblical Christianity. For example, Pastor Noh of Mission Church reflected on the dangers of modeling second-generation churches after mainstream American churches. American Christianity is a ghetto Christianity. The American church is not globally minded but is a comfort religion that is concerned primarily with the here and now. Historically, Christians used to look forward to the future and to heaven. Today in American churches, most of the teaching is about marriage, healing, time management, budgeting. . . . I don’t think this is pleasing to the Lord. The reference point is wrong. Second-generation Korean Americans need to be more globally minded. They need to be more militant. I don’t want the second generation to drive to church in their Volvos with their 2.5 children all neat and comfortable. American churches are so non-threatening. . . . I think it’s sickening.

104

A Faith of Our Own

Pastor Noh encourages his members to live sacrificially, be globally minded, and radical in their commitment to God. In a similar vein, Pastor Yoon of Disciple Church rejects what he sees as the “Americanization of the Christian Faith” and argues that American religion is too concerned with comfort and preoccupied with what God can do for us. Yoon’s goal is to “bring out that uncomfortable aspect of following God,” which he describes as a lifestyle that is marked by “going beyond ourselves . . . reclaiming the centrality of the cross.” Convinced that there is a vacuum in spiritual leadership in the second generation, Disciple Church aims to influence the brightest, most ambitious segment of the second generation to live their lives not as slaves to materialism but as radical, uncompromising, servants of Christ. Intentionally, they have planted churches near prestigious universities around the nation to capture what in Pastor Yoon’s words is the “crème of the crop” of the second generation. “Given the American affluence and the ease with which you can be co-opted by materialism, I think we do lose some of the best, most brilliant Christian students to secular profession out there. So we need to reclaim that. We’ve tried to start a church where the best students come.” Currently, Disciple Church has planted churches near fifteen different universities, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, NYU, and Columbia. Influenced by the message that all material blessings are given by God for the purpose of blessing others, significant numbers of Disciple Church members are actively investing their educational and material resources for the sake of furthering the ministry. Susan Yoon, a member of Disciple Church and graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School, aims to live her life wholeheartedly committed to Jesus. Since joining Disciple Church, Susan’s life goals and perspectives have radically changed. She and her husband, also a graduate of Harvard, now define themselves not by their occupations but by their identity as “ministers of the gospel,” and this identification as ministers has significantly shaped their day-to-day decisions. Underscoring the fact that ministry is their top priority and their occupations and personal comfort are a distant second, Susan and her family have willingly relocated from city to city to fill the need for more workers in various Disciple Church chapters. In the past eight years, Susan, her husband, and her three children have lived in seven different cities. In 1995, they moved from Boston to

Spiritual Laboratories

105

Los Angeles, because the L.A. branch needed more committed workers. Hoping to start a campus ministry at UCLA, they first settled in Santa Monica, but after a series of staff meetings at the church, the leadership team decided that it would be more strategic for all the core members to move to the Fullerton area. So they bought a house in Fullerton. A year later, they moved to Irvine, because the church decided to relocate there to reach out to UC Irvine students. Then a year later, one of the key leaders of the Berkeley branch had moved to the New York branch, and Susan and her husband were needed in Berkeley to fill this position. Immediately, she sold her house in southern California and moved back to the Bay area. She remembers that they couldn’t find housing right away so she and her family lived for a month with a fellow church staff member in the Berkeley area. Soon after settling in a home in Berkeley, they packed up once again and moved back to Los Angeles because the church was opening up another new branch in the Torrance area. She exclaimed, in a comically exasperated tone, “I sure hope this is our last move!” During these series of moves, both Susan and her husband have had to quit jobs, find new jobs, and often were unemployed. She believes that the work of God is far more important than material comfort and occupational advancement, and her decisions have confirmed this conviction. At the majority of the churches in this study, there is an intentional effort to raise up countercultural Christians whose lives and decisions are shaped not by material concerns but rather by spiritual ones. Repeatedly, pastors point out in their sermons that identities should not be defined or tied to socioeconomic status. At these churches, there is a determined effort to counteract the first generation’s overemphasis on status and material success. As we have seen, many immigrant parents experienced downward mobility in the United States and hence have had to defer their hopes and dreams for upward mobility to their second-generation children. This has fostered a high level of pressure on the second generation to attend elite universities, find high-paying jobs, and prove to their immigrant parents that their sacrifices have paid off. The emphasis on educational and occupational success permeates the entire immigrant church subculture. For example, at many immigrant churches, attending a prestigious university is viewed as a sign of God’s favor and blessing upon

106

A Faith of Our Own

that individual. Regardless of whether or not they were Christian, firstgeneration Koreans yearned for their children to be influenced by Ivy League graduates, with the hopes that their children would follow in their footsteps. At immigrant churches, the topic of conversation during many informal fellowship gatherings is about whose son or daughter got accepted at which prestigious university. The parents of these children are highly respected in the churches and are often regarded as role models for other parents of aspiring Ivy League students. I have heard of nonChristian Korean Ivy League graduates who, upon returning home to Los Angeles, were immediately asked by church pastors to serve as Sunday school teachers for their youth departments.Viewing educational and economic success as signs of divine blessing, the subculture of immigrant churches reinforces and validates the emphasis on upward mobility. Generational conflicts over differing expectations of educational achievement abound in Korean American churches. Christina, a minister who works with second-generation Korean American youth, commented that many struggle with the issue of whether they ought to please their parents or please God. “I see numerous conflicts between immigrant parents and their children in term of the value that parents place on what type of college you attend. The parents at home are telling their children to study hard, but these students are coming to church and learning that their first priority should be God. At home they are learning that their first priority should be their school work. This creates a lot of stress for many young Korean Americans.” Korean parents direct their children to pursue high-status, high-income occupations such as law, medicine, engineering, and business. Nearly all of the members at the churches in this study are college-educated, upwardly mobile professionals who earn high incomes and enjoy a comfortable standard of living. “My parents wouldn’t let me pursue full time ministry even though I wanted to,” one individual declared, “so I decided that I’m going to try to live a life that is as sold out [to God] as possible and I have to tell myself that it doesn’t really matter if I’m a ‘full time minister’ or not.” To counteract parental pressures for socioeconomic mobility, the younger ministers are making a concerted effort to encourage their members to pursue what “God has called them to do” and not limit themselves to traditional money-making career options. For example, Joyful Sound Church encourages its members to develop, express, and

Spiritual Laboratories

107

pursue their creative and artistic sides. The church’s musicians compose original praise music, much of it centering on pain, healing, recovery, and reconciliation. Joshua Cho, who works full time on staff at the church to oversee its large and growing celebration arts ministry, expressed the view that there are many in the church whose creative talents have been stifled by their parents who pressured them to give up their art or music to pursue high-paying careers. “There are so many creative second-generation Koreans at our church but their creativity is stifled because their parents want them to make money. They want them to be doctors and lawyers and do the music and art things as hobbies on the side. The bottom line is that they want their children to make money. . . . I have some people in my ministry who struggle because they want to go to Pasadena Art Center but their parents are like, ‘what you’re going to be a cartoonist? I came to America so that you can be a cartoonist?’” For the immigrant generation, due to their experiences of downward mobility after immigrating, financial success is viewed as a tangible expression of success in America. In contrast, second-generation ministers define success not in economic terms but rather in the level of obedience to God’s call upon an individual’s life.They aim to construct an alternative church culture that esteems and rewards spiritual ambitions rather than educational or occupational mobility. They do this by redefining what it means to engage in “significant work.” At one church, the preacher in his sermon encouraged the members to “invest your life in truly significant work . . . God’s work, not man’s work. . . . What you do for a living doesn’t matter a bit to God. He’s not impressed. But he’s impressed by your faith and the work that flows out from your life of faith.” Conclu sion The development of second-generation spirituality is a project in self-definition. Contrary to what other scholars have argued, secondgeneration Korean Americans are not exchanging Korean Christianity for mainstream American Christianity. Rather, the pastors of these new churches are skillfully managing and rearticulating their condition of marginality by creatively fashioning their own hybrid expression of faith. Theologian Peter C. Phan states it well when he describes Asian American theology as “a hybrid theology, neither fully Asian not fully American, yet authentically American and authentically Asian,” which

108

A Faith of Our Own

is the “offspring of the marriage of two divergent cultural and religious heritages, a mixture of the two traditions” (2003: xiii). There are features of every culture that are not incompatible with the Christian faith, and which therefore need not be discarded, but rather preserved and rearticulated. For example, Fenggang Yang (1999a) found in his study of Chinese Americans that when they embraced Christianity, they did not abandon their Chinese cultural tradition and ethnic identity. Rather, they selectively embraced and practiced cultural elements that are not in direct conflict with Christian beliefs. When missionaries first came to Korea to evangelize, they decried animistic beliefs and rituals, and were determined to eradicate all form of syncretism. As a result, Korean Christians were forced to embrace a thoroughly Westernized version of Christianity that was devoid of any of their own cultural fingerprints. They were placed in a situation of having to choose and pledge loyalty to one or the other—Westernized Christianity or their traditional heritage (Jang 2004). Rather than having to choose one over the other, second-generation Korean Americans today have chosen to embrace certain elements of Korean culture that they feel are compatible with their Christian identity. In so doing, they are beginning to reflect critically on the impact of their own cultural heritage and personal experience on their understanding and interpretation of the Christian faith. As Pastor Hurh succinctly pointed out, “because I am Korean, the Korean culture is an important part of the DNA of my church.” My research demonstrates that second-generation churches are currently operating as laboratories where American-born Koreans have latitude to improvisationally and innovatively fashion religion that is uniquely their own. Their newly invented hybrid spirituality is qualitatively different from white evangelicalism and Korean immigrant Protestantism. There have been numerous studies on the ways in which immigrants’ faith is reshaped by its encounter with the American context, but little attention has been focused on the ways in which the children of immigrants have consciously resisted Americanized Christianity. Antony Alumkal argues that “second-generation Asian American Christians do not appear to be interested in developing their own contributions to Christian theology,” preferring to utilize theologies articulated by white evangelicals (2002: 249). However, my research

Spiritual Laboratories

109

demonstrates that second-generation Korean Americans are not passive recipients of Americanized or Koreanized Christianity. Rather, they are creating a faith of their own that is an amalgam of the two. The worship and administrative styles of white evangelicals are embraced, while their individualistic expressions of faith are not. Tongsongkido and the collectivism of Korean immigrant churches are embraced, while their materialism and status preoccupations are not. Furthermore, this unique expression of spirituality is not hidden for the second generation to practice exclusively among themselves, but is rather held out to the wider Christian community. The innovative energies of members of the second generation, who exists in a state of marginality, expresses itself in a level of freedom and creativity within these newly formed churches. As individuals who are coming of age between two colliding worlds, second-generation Korean Americans are managing to achieve a creative synthesis of exclusion and belonging within the confines of their self-constructed “imagined spiritual communities.”

Chapte r 5

Reaching Out

Fruitful Church sponsors an annual Christmas party at Township Gardens, one of the largest and reportedly most dangerous public housing projects in south Los Angeles. On an unusually warm December day, heading toward the main quad of Township Gardens, I noticed the numerous murals painted on the exterior gymnasium walls—the face of Martin Luther King Jr., five black fists, and large bold text that read, “Nobody can stop this war except us.” Around the corner, on an adjacent wall, I saw another mural—a memorial to all the residents of Township Gardens who were killed as a result of violent crime. The words “in memory of those we loved” were inscribed over nearly one hundred names. At around 11 a.m., Pastor Choi, the master of ceremonies for the event, welcomed over one thousand residents—75 percent black and 25 percent Latino—to the third annual Christmas program, and then proceeded to give detailed directions on where and how they were to pick up their free lunches. Immediately after the directions were given, all of the attendees rushed feverishly to the lunch line, where over 1,500 meals were distributed in less than thirty minutes. At another part of the quad, hundreds of children waited in four parallel lines to receive color-coded tickets that they would later need to claim their free toys. In the line, excited and impatient children shoved, shouted, and accused each other of “taking cuts.” The majority of the church members were engaged in crowd control—frantically keeping the individuals in their lines, diffusing their anger, and preventing people from hurting each other physically. In the distance, several Los Angeles Police Department officers were cautiously and vigilantly keeping watch over the activities. The environment was extremely tense, and I could see how things could rapidly spiral out of control. 110

Reaching Out

111

As contemporary Christian music blared over the sound system, small crowds of people moved toward the stage, while several families laid down picnic blankets in the sparsely shaded areas so that they could comfortably enjoy the day’s food and entertainment. The first performer, a heavy-set middle-aged African American woman in a leopard print shirt, sang a gospel rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Next, an African American male, in his early twenties and wearing a blue football jersey, performed an originally composed Christian rap song. After finishing the song, he shared a brief testimony of what his life was like before becoming a Christian—“I used to be a boozer, I did drugs, I had no car, I was hopeless like most of you in this crowd but now look at me, I’m up here praising the Lord. So join me in doing a running man for God.” The environment resembled an outdoor rap concert, with a very enthusiastic, energetic, and engaged audience. After the two solo performances, a children’s choir, composed of over thirty children who attend a weekly tutorial ministry sponsored by Fruitful Church, sang two Christmas songs. Throughout their performance, church volunteers repeatedly ushered children off of the stage with repeated warnings that “if you’re not a part of Living Hope, you cannot come to the stage to sing with us. This is only for the Living Hope children so please stay off the stage.” After the children’s choir, Charlie Lopez, a young man in his early twenties and a member of Fruitful Church, gave his testimony of how he became a Christian. He talked about how he had, with the help of God, triumphed over a serious of struggles, setbacks, and disadvantages. He was born in poverty to teen-age parents, an African American mother and a Latino father. Shortly after he was born, his father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to raise him and his brother alone in a south Los Angeles housing complex not too far from Township Gardens. Throughout most of his teenage years, he was immersed in the neighborhood gangs but remembers how his life took a dramatic turn after attending a revival at a nearby church. After becoming a Christian, his grades began to improve along with his outlook on life. He stated that, despite the odds stacked against him, God has been his source of strength, During my senior year in high school I had a meeting with my high school counselor. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I informed her I wanted to be an architect and maybe go to college

112

A Faith of Our Own

like USC. She told me “you can’t go to USC, no one had ever been accepted into USC from this high school and the previous students had better GPAs than you.” I went home that day and prayed to God and said, “God, if you are almighty and all powerful and you do indeed have good plans for me, then get me into USC if it is your will.” I applied to USC and was accepted! God literally parted the Red Sea for me that day as I began a new phase in my life. Charlie currently works at a prestigious accounting firm and is an active member of Fruitful Church. Hoping to serve as a positive role model for children trapped in poverty, Charlie has been an active volunteer at Township Gardens’ weekly tutorial ministry. After the testimony, Pastor Choi delivered a Gospel presentation that was simultaneously translated into Spanish by one of the church members. At the end of the message, an invitation for salvation was given, with approximately fifty people raising their hands, indicating their decision to receive Jesus Christ. After the individuals recited a prayer for salvation, the church volunteers distributed free Bibles. When the announcement was made that it was time to claim their free toys, all the children dashed toward the gymnasium doors, disregarding the instruction that only those with blue tickets could claim their toys at that time. The church appointed its own security officers, four large Asian males, to guard the gymnasium doors alongside two LAPD officers. Once the toy distribution got underway, things began to calm down significantly as overjoyed children ran out of the gymnasium with their new robotic dogs, backpacks, electric pianos, watches, and power rangers. At 4 p.m., all 150 Fruitful Church members gathered together, joined hands, and formed a large circle on the main quad to pray for God’s blessings on Township Gardens and to officially end the day’s event. According to Pastor Choi, “When you look at the tremendous need in places like Township Gardens, you can’t help but to say to yourself ‘I’m so small and insignificant. What possibly can I do to really make a difference?’ Instead of just passively feeling overwhelmed and defeated, we decided that we’d do what we could, as small as it may be, to somehow touch a life with hope and love.” Many of the church volunteers commented that they felt the impact of the day’s events. According to one member, “This was my third time volunteering at the Township Gardens outreach. It

Reaching Out

113

was such a joy to see the children’s faces. They were so happy with their toys. They were so friendly also. Many of them just came up to me and gave me great big hugs. Sure it benefited them but it benefited us also. Coming really convicted me that God has blessed me so much and that He wants me to use those blessings to be a blessing to others.” This is the third year that Fruitful Church has held the Christmas program at Township Gardens. In addition to the many volunteer hours planning and staging the event, the church had invested over ten thousand dollars to provide food and toys for the residents of Township Gardens. At the end of the day, many church members expressed a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that they had made a difference, even for just one day, in the lives of the residents of one of L.A.’s poorest and most disadvantaged neighborhoods. R e lig ion and Civ i c E ngag e m e nt Religiously motivated compassion is not a new phenomenon. The tenet of “loving your neighbor” is woven into the sacred scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. In the Jewish faith, caring for the less fortunate is commanded to the Hebrews. The Torah states in Deuteronomy 15: 7–8, “If there is among you anyone in need . . . do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.” In Islam, charity is also extolled in the Qur’an in Sura 9:60: “Charities shall go to the poor, the needy . . . in the cause of God . . . Such is God’s commandment” (Cascio 2003: 18). Christians are also commanded to love others; as Jesus said to his disciples, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than [this]” (New International Version, Mark 12:31). There have been numerous studies on the relationship between religion and social service (Lam 2002; Park and Smith 2000; Wilson and Janoski 1995; Wilson and Musick 1997). In the literature, there has been a long-standing belief that mainline Protestants are more active in social service programs than evangelicals—and that evangelicals merely serve their own congregations and are more concerned with evangelism than with social welfare programs. Some argue that because evangelicals see their faith as an entirely private matter, they eschew contact with the broader society and remain aloof from the poor (Greenwood 1967;

114

A Faith of Our Own

Quinley 1974). Jeung (2005) found similar dynamics in his comparative study of mainline and evangelical Asian American churches in northern California. Jeung asserts that mainline Asian Americans demonstrate higher levels of concern with social justice issues and caring for their communities than evangelicals, who demonstrate a more conservative, biblical interpretation by concentrating on salvation of the individual and his or her relationship with God. However, the distinction between mainline Protestant churches and evangelical churches is insignificant among second-generation Korean American churches in my study. Among the twenty-two churches, four belong to mainline denominations—two are members of the Presbyterian Church USA and two are members of the United Methodist Church. The four mainline churches do not demonstrate a higher level of engagement in social justice issues than the evangelical churches in my study. All twenty-two pastors, irrespective of their denominational affiliations, value civic engagement and social justice, although their level of activity varies according to their level of resources, intensity of commitment, and size of congregation. Similarly, Elaine Ecklund (2006), in her study of two evangelical second-generation Korean American churches on the East Coast, found that the members of these evangelical churches embrace an outward orientation and are actively serving the poor. She found that evangelical orientation does not necessarily suppress civic engagement or a commitment to social justice. The fact that evangelical and mainline second-generation Korean American churches are equally active in ministry to the poor is a reflection of larger shifts in American Protestantism. The conventional wisdom that mainline Protestants are more committed to social justice is beginning to change as evangelicals are increasing their social engagement. There is a noticeable generational change among evangelicals, whose foremost concerns have shifted from opposing gay marriage and advocating prayer in schools to fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa, stopping genocide in the Sudan, and engaging in environmental activism. Several scholars have found that today’s evangelicals nearly match mainline Protestants, Catholics, and black Protestants in level of faith-based engagement (Green 2003; Monsma and Soper 2006). The new face of evangelical Christianity was displayed when Pastor Rick Warren, one of the most prominent leaders of evangelicalism, declared in a 2006

Reaching Out

115

interview: “Jesus’ agenda is far bigger than just one or two issues. . . . We have to care about poverty, we have to care about disease, we have to care about illiteracy, we have to care about corruption in government, sex trafficking” (Dionne 2008). Among second-generation Korean American churches, the impetus for serving the poor and engaging in social justice comes largely from changes within the both secular and religious communities. In addition to shifts within evangelicalism, humanitarianism and philanthropy have become hip and trendy in contemporary American society. High-profile celebrities and businessmen such as Bono, Bill Gates, and Angelina Jolie have brought global poverty, disease, and humanitarian activism into the spotlight. “I’ve asked young evangelicals on campuses from Wheaton to Harvard who they view as their model of Christian activism. Their answer is nearly unanimous: Bono,” said Michael Gerson, a senior policy advisor for the Bush administration (Gerson 2006: 14). In a similar vein, Jae Kim, the former director of the World Health Organization’s department of HIV/AIDS, comments, “The Gates Foundation has made global health cool” (Ripley and Bower 2005: 72). For years, the Korean immigrant church was viewed and portrayed by certain sectors as a parasitic institution that drained valuable resources from the community. A Los Angeles Times article on Korean immigrant churches quoted an ethnic studies professor at U.C. Riverside who complained that “Too many Korean ministers are preoccupied with building the biggest and richest church. . . . Korean churches take tremendous financial and human resources away from the Korean community. Other organizations have a hard time raising money because it is all going to the churches” (Kang 1992: A29). This sentiment is echoed by members of nonreligious Korean community agencies who often find themselves in competition with churches for financial and human resources. Susan, an active volunteer in a Korean community organization observed, “The Korean churches drain the resources from the community. They suck you dry. I know this to be true from observation and personal experience. I grew up in the church and there is nothing left over because everything goes into the church. You have no time left over. Our pastor encourages you to come to church almost every day for one committee meeting or another. Many of us in this church are feeling very burned out. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon feeling.”

116

A Faith of Our Own

The majority of second-generation Korean Americans that I interviewed, however, did not view their churches as draining their or their community’s resources. Rather, I found that the second generation is determined to invest their resources in activities and programs that do not narrowly benefit themselves or their respective churches but rather ones that will make a positive impact in neighboring disadvantaged communities as well as the larger American society. Members of secondgeneration churches do care about the well-being and future of their communities, and their impetus for compassionate action flows from Jesus’ command to “love your neighbors” alongside the influence of recent trends in evangelicalism and the society at large toward a greater level of awareness and involvement in charitable action. With an energized vision to “be a blessing to others,” the new churches are actively, creatively, and corporately developing programs that focus on addressing social injustice and community empowerment. These programs are not merely supplemental or accessory programs within these churches. Rather, they are an integral component of their overall mission and a natural outgrowth of living out their faith. At second-generation Korean American churches, 61 percent of the members indicated that they had invested their time and/or money in various social service projects. Love Your N e i g hbor : Deve lopme nt of Com passi on M i n i stri e s Kim and Kim (2001) found that immigrant Koreans contribute more money and time to their churches than other ethnic groups. More than half of Koreans (54 percent) spend six hours or more at church events monthly, while for other ethnic respondents the figure is significantly lower (40 percent). The majority of Koreans (62 percent) contribute $2,000 or more to their churches annually, while only 8 percent of African Americans, 26 percent of Hispanics, and 40 percent of Caucasians report giving that much. Many have accused immigrant churches of using these resources for their own self-interest rather than investing them in helping those in need. “This is an unfair accusation,” asserted Pastor Park, a first-generation Korean and a pastor at World Mission Church, one of the oldest and largest Korean churches in Los Angeles. He told me that immigrant churches have made concrete attempts in the

Reaching Out

117

past to reach out to disadvantaged non-Korean communities, and the critics of immigrant churches have neglected to recognize these efforts. For instance, the World Mission Church, located in Koreatown, has had a long-standing reputation for being among the most socially engaged and active immigrant churches in Los Angeles. According to Park, “We try as best as we can given our limitations in language and cultural commonality to use our resources to serve others. For firemen and policemen, we have a special scholarship fund for their children. We also have a special scholarship fund for children of the Neighborhood Association. We give these scholarships out annually. We try continually to develop a good relationship with our neighbors.” After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, directed at Korean merchants who owned shops within poor black neighborhoods, World Mission Church was at the forefront in providing relief aid to the many Korean immigrants whose businesses were targeted, damaged, and destroyed by the rioters. In addition, the church has had a history of providing generous financial donations to victims of several natural disasters around the world. We helped the flood victims in Central America. We gave five thousand dollars to each of the three countries that were affected by the floods. We also gave money to the victims of the Taeman Korean earthquake. When the earthquake struck in Turkey, we gave a special donation to that crisis. Turkey has been a nation that is opposed to the gospel. However, since the earthquake, the nation has become friendlier to our missionaries. Our church is very good at giving special offerings to these types of disasters. Moved by the devastation caused by the earthquake in El Salvador in January of 2001, World Mission Church donated nearly three million dollars in medical and other supplies to victims of the natural disaster. According to the Los Angeles Times, this gesture “could be the start of a friendship between members of the [Korean] Christian church of about 5,000 and Central Americans in and around Koreatown” (Olivo 2001). Convinced that the Christian faith mandates involvement in helping those in need, second-generation ministers are determined to mobilize their churches around practical and effective projects that make a positive difference in the lives of the residents of underprivileged communities. Fear, coupled with cultural and language barriers, prevented many

118

A Faith of Our Own

immigrant churches from large-scale, sustained involvement with nonKorean communities, but second-generation Korean Americans, who are more accustomed to the way of life in American society, believe that they can more effectively serve as a bridge as well as a source of blessing to their non-Korean neighbors. Eighteen of the twenty-two churches that I focused on in this study were involved in some level of social service ministry, or what is more commonly referred to within these churches as “compassion ministries.” Resurrection Ministry has been involved in a variety of different projects, including Habitat for Humanity, Revlon Run/Walk, a community health fair, Meals on Wheels, and the Angel Tree Project. Social service has been a long standing priority in the mission of the church, and about 25 percent of the congregation is actively involved in one of the church’s ongoing compassion ministries. According to one member of Resurrection, who also serves as an active board member on a social advocacy organization, the church naturally attracts more communityminded Korean Americans. “Somehow, our church attracts more community-minded people. There are many people in our congregation who are leaders in the Korean American community. We have individuals who are involved with KAC [Korean American Coalition] and KYCC [Korean Youth and Community Center]. One of our most active church members is the senior editor of a community newspaper.” Resurrection Ministry also has its own community projects coordinator who oversees and organizes the church’s numerous social outreach programs. According to Pastor Koh, the numerous social outreach activities have been a powerful force in attracting community-minded second-generation Korean Americans into the church. Contrary to the popular perception of Korean Americans as self-centered and materialistic, Koh has noticed that there is a great desire among the second generation to reach out to others in tangible acts of Christian compassion. Fruitful Church has developed its own independent and innovative ministries to members of poor urban communities. Their weekly tutorial and mentoring programs serve nearly fifty children and youth residing the Township Gardens Housing Project. Every week close to twenty church members, the majority of whom are UCLA students and certified teachers working in the Los Angeles Unified School District, volunteer their Saturdays to tutor and mentor the children who participate in

Reaching Out

119

the program. In addition to the tutoring ministry, each year the church sponsors a summer camp where over sixty children from Township Gardens travel to the San Bernardino Mountains for a fun-filled week of camping, fishing, and hiking. Pastor Choi remarked that his members are enthusiastic about volunteering in his church’s various compassion ministries. “There is a great fervor among the people in our generation to give and serve. Our ministries at Township Gardens are very popular. We are never short on volunteers or donations for these projects. The people are very generous and enthusiastic about reaching out to underprivileged communities.” In addition, Fruitful Church also has an ongoing weekly ministry that focuses on serving and caring for the elderly at a nearby convalescent home. Each week, over twenty committed volunteers who have a special compassion for the elderly visit the residents of nursing home to, in the words of one volunteer, “offer companionship, hope, and love in a setting where despair and loneliness is sadly the norm.” After working for many years as an English ministry pastor at an immigrant congregation, Pastor Na along with two other English speaking pastors started Christian Witness Church in Koreatown to minister to rehabilitated drug addicts and alcoholics. The majority of the one hundred congregants at Christian Witness Church are Latino and African American, commented Na. “For the most part, the immigrant churches and church leaders are very insular and focused solely on the immediate needs of their own congregation members. All the church resources are channeled in that way. . . . I believe we’re called to be a blessing to others, not just Koreans but anyone who is around and that is what I like to see happen among our generation.” Along with religious services, Christian Witness Church has developed a job-training program, which focuses on developing home repair skills. Na along with several private sponsors supplied the start-up money for individuals to buy necessary equipment for the home repair business. Currently, the individuals involved in the business are getting numerous calls for work. Fifty percent of the earnings are channeled back into the business, while the worker receives the other 50 percent. This in turn provides more opportunities for other members to gain invaluable skills and employment. Los Angeles Church’s English ministry has been active in a variety of service projects that target disadvantaged communities. First, the church

120

A Faith of Our Own

sponsors an ongoing homeless ministry where every Sunday, after the worship service, a group of over forty people travel to two different locations, L.A.’s skid row and MacArthur Park, to distribute food and provide hands-on ministry. Each Sunday, the English ministry works in cooperation with the first-generation ministry—the older members cook and prepare the food at the church while the younger members take them to the people at the two locations. One pastor commented, “There is actually a lot of ministry that happens in those two locations. We put on an outdoor worship service on the street and in the park. After the worship service is over, our members pray for the people and minister to them in tangible ways. In addition to the spiritual ministry, we also have a mercy ministry where we provide the people with clothes and food.” In addition to their weekly program, the English ministry is currently working in conjunction with World Impact to plant a church in the McArthur Park area. Several members and families have already moved into the McArthur Park area with the hopes of establishing a new church and transforming the area into a safe, stable community. In addition to their weekly ministry at Skid Row and McArthur Park, the English ministry of Los Angeles Korean Church has also reached out to the largely Latino residents of their immediate surrounding neighborhood. They sponsor a Christian after-school youth program for over fifty Latino children and reach out to Latino families through various community programs, banquets, and activities that are hosted within the church facilities. Joyful Sound church has been actively engaged in providing services to predominately Latino residents in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in southern California. The church works with existing community organizations to provide free child care, tutorial services, and food. There are nearly four hundred church members who serve monthly in this capacity. Also, close to two dozen members of the church travel weekly to an orphanage in Mexico to take supplies, help prepare meals, hold babies, play with the children, and help with various projects such as plumbing and painting. In addition, through the financial support of several church members, many of the orphans have been given the opportunity to attend private school. All of the monetary offering collected from their children’s ministry has been donated to the orphanage.

Reaching Out

121

Joyful Sound was one of five second-generation Korean American churches in my study that responded with relief aid for Hurricane Katrina victims. Three days after Hurricane Katrina struck, church leaders from Joyful Sound traveled to Louisiana to partner with local churches to assess the community’s immediate needs. The following Sunday, the leaders presented a compelling video of their trip and asked their church members to contribute their money and time. In addition to donating cash and supplies, the church sent three to five members weekly to provide support. Individual members of the church also sacrificed to provide aid to victims. One member who owns a hotel housed ten families displaced by the storms, and a restaurant owner provided jobs for people temporarily located in the area. In addition, Joyful Sound partnered with Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church to raise awareness and resources for the AIDS crisis in Africa. In order to highlight this cause, the church invited Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, to come and give a presentation on AIDS. For one week, the church hosted the interactive 2,000-square-foot AIDS Experience Tent that provided a vivid educational experience of what life is like for an HIV-positive African child. In response, fifty members of the church traveled to Africa on a short-term humanitarian mission trip to work with HIV-positive children in Africa. The leaders and members of second-generation churches are motivated to serve those outside of their churches, particularly the disadvantaged and the poor. Their motivation is influenced primarily by the increasing engagement among evangelical Protestants in social justice initiatives as well as the increasing visibility of humanitarian work in society at large. Typically, evangelical programs tend to more explicitly integrate religious elements in their programs, whereas in mainline programs, faith tends to be more implicit. However, the majority of the programs within both evangelical and mainstream Protestant secondgeneration Korean American churches incorporate religious elements such as prayer, Bible studies, and devotional activities. The ultimate goal for their social justice engagement is evangelization and conversion. Reducing poverty, alleviating physical suffering, or eradicating racism are seen as secondary objectives. Second-generation churches do not want to limit their service and outreach to fellow Korean Americans or even to fellow Americans.

122

A Faith of Our Own

Rather, they are global in their outlook and are diligently sending out missionaries, church planters, and humanitarian workers to various countries throughout the world. For example, Mission Church established two underground churches and a Bible college in Vietnam, sent four full-time missionaries to live and start churches in the jungles of Peru, opened an orphanage in Romania, and started a church in India that reaches out to teenage prostitutes. Pastor Cho, senior pastor of Mission Church, observed, “We currently have two churches in the jungles of Peru. We sent out four full-time missionaries to live with the indigenous people of Peru to help them establish churches along the river that connects the Amazon. We send our medical missionaries who go there for week-long trips. They use their vacation time at work for these mission trips. In addition, our college students spend one month during their summer break helping our missionaries in Peru.” Mikyong, a member of a second-generation church, has been actively involved in humanitarian aid to residents of China and North Korea for the past three years. She, along with fellow church members, started a vocational school in China that serves nearly one hundred students and a bread factory in North Korea that feeds two thousand elementary school students daily. She travels to China and North Korea every three months to monitor and oversee these projects. When asked what motivates her charitable activities, she responded, “I don’t want to waste my life on stupid things like just improving my standard of living. I am comfortable already and it would be sin to use God’s money to buy more things for myself and my family. I want to live life differently and use my resources to bring God glory.” Viewing themselves as global Christians, they are actively traveling to different countries to, in the words of one minister, “join God in the work that he is doing throughout the world.” Although most of my respondents expressed the belief that they and their churches are active in sacrificial service to the needy, several that I spoke with felt that their churches were not doing enough. Mary is a member of a second-generation church and an attorney at a prestigious law firm. I asked her if she thinks her church is active in community service; she observed, Our church talks a lot about social justice and helping the poor, but I think it’s more talk than action. There’s a lot more that we can do

Reaching Out

123

but people, in general, don’t want to sacrifice their high standard of living or get out their comfort zones. There is a small minority of people in our church who are really dedicated to helping the poor, but the overwhelming majority is consumed about remodeling their homes, buying nicer cars, sending their kids to the best schools, and taking extravagant vacations. It’s the latter group that shapes our church culture more than the few who are committed to social justice. Like Mary, others that I spoke with felt that their churches were not active enough in meeting the needs of the disadvantaged sectors of society. Gary, a graduate student in history and member of a second-generation church, stated, “The majority of the people at my church are highly educated with great professional jobs and high incomes. They insulate themselves with others who are in their same class background. If you surround yourself with others who have a similar standard of living, you feel less guilty about your own lifestyle. We just don’t want to see others who are poor because as Christians, we might feel obligated to share with them . . . to help them financially.” Although the leaders of the churches value community service and may publicly advocate it from the pulpit, not all of their members are equally motivated to participate in community volunteer activities. Th e Ch urc h i n Pol i t i c s Religions around the world, particularly over the past two decades, are entering the public sphere. José Cassanova in his book Public Religions in the Modern World argues that “We are witnessing the deprivatization of religion in the modern world.” By deprivatization, he means “the fact that religious traditions throughout the world are refusing to accept the marginal and privatized role which theories of modernity as well as theories of secularization had reserved for them” (1994: 5). He argues that religions both can and should have a public role in the modern world. An important body of scholarship today examines the political and civic influence of American religion (Ammerman 2005; Lichterman 2005; Wuthnow and Evans 2002). American churches have played a significant role in many political movements, such as the abolition movement, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Christian Right

124

A Faith of Our Own

movement. It is within churches that many Americans learn civic skills, such as the ability to communicate and organize effectively, and come together to share information about opportunities for civic engagement (Ammerman 2005). John Orr and his colleagues argue that religion in Los Angeles has taken an increasingly public role, particularly in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Although religious institutions have traditionally been concerned primarily with spiritual transformation, there has been “a profound shift in the orientation of the political and social ministries and the human services programs of the Los Angeles religious community” (1994: 7). Churches in Los Angeles have created various political ministries that engage in political strategies for racial reconciliation along with the implementation of initiatives directed toward economic empowerment of the community. For the Korean immigrant community, the Los Angeles riots were a watershed event that transformed their thinking on the role of the immigrant church in community and national affairs. Elaine Kim (1993) argues that the riots have been to Korean Americans what the internment of World War II was for Japanese Americans. In the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, second-generation ministers, inspired by the activities of black churches and pastors who served as vocal leaders and spokesmen for their community’s social and political agendas, realized that the Korean church could no longer remain silent and inactive politically. They organized demonstrations on street corners in Koreatown and worked alongside black churches to promote understanding and reconciliation between the two communities. Karen, a member at a second-generation church, recalls the many post-riot events that she and her fellow church members attended. Two days after the outbreak of the riots, her pastor called all the church members to meet in Koreatown, on the corner of Wilshire and Western, to demonstrate for justice and peace. Close to fifty second-generation Korean Americans answered the call and were present on the corner to, in Karen’s words, “let America know that Koreans are not going to passively put up with this injustice. We are going to make our voices heard.” She remembers that it was an extremely emotional and powerful experience, “We knelt on the street corner and cried out to God for justice and peace. It was a crazy experience. I remember TV cameras. There were many cars that

Reaching Out

125

drove by us. Most of them were African Americans and they were angry. They shouted, cursed, and yelled at us . . . telling us to go back home . . . that we deserved for this to happen to us.” In the midst of the social upheaval, younger pastors began to emerge as viable representatives of the Korean American Christian community. From church pulpits, second-generation pastors preached on the historical experiences of African Americans, the injustices of American capitalism, and strategies toward more peaceful relations between blacks and Koreans in Los Angeles. Convinced that the Christian faith with its message of forgiveness and grace is the only solution to America’s racial tension, they were at the forefront in encouraging dialogue among the different races as well as forming coalitions with pastors of different racial communities. Thus, in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, the Korean churches began to emerge as important community institutions with the potential to serve as agents of change. The riots also influenced the way many second-generation Korean Americans viewed themselves and their position in American society. Because of the government abandonment of the Korean community during and after the unrest, the United States took on entirely new meanings for the younger Korean Americans. The absence of police protection during the riots, the delayed appearance of the National Guard, and the insufficient, frustrating government relief programs communicated to the younger generation that Korean Americans are still a marginalized and discriminated-against minority group in this country. This heightened awareness of the subordinated position of Korean Americans in American society had an impact on Korean American churches, observed Andy, a member of a second-generation church. The riots made a big impact on how we second generation viewed ourselves and how we viewed our position in the American society. The lack of police protection in Koreatown proved that we are still discriminated against. There is a sense among the second-generation population that we must cling to our ethnic heritage and bind together to exert an unified voice and message to the mainstream institutions. There is no better place than the church to build a grassroots community of people who are ready and positioned to speak on behalf of the community.

126

A Faith of Our Own

Young ministers, in the aftermath of the riots, were determined to define the political role of the church and to involve the church in the various social and political issues that concern their community. All the pastors that were interviewed also expressed a need for unity and coalition building among the different ministries in Los Angeles. Because immigrant churches exist independently from one another with very little cooperative interaction among them, there is no unified Christian Korean American voice. According to one second-generation minister, during the Los Angeles riots, when the press and government agencies were searching for Korean leadership, “The church should have been the voice to represent Korean Americans. Rather, secular community agencies stood as the community’s leaders. How many Koreans are linked in any way to these agencies? The Protestant churches have the most connection and influence over the people.” The inability of the church to respond as the community’s leader was due partly to their traditional stance against political involvement as well as the diffuse, uncooperative relationship among the numerous Korean immigrant churches. In order to remedy this perceived problem, several second-generation Korean American pastors banded together to form the Christian Korean Union (CKU). The organization aims to unite younger-generation pastors from different churches and denominations and serve as the primary voice of the Christian Korean American community. Recent research has highlighted the generational cleavages in Korean American political involvement, particularly in the aftermath of the riots (E. Park and J. Park 1999; W. Park 1995). However, I found that within the second generation, there are tensions between the “secular” and “religious” sectors with regard to political representation. In the aftermath of the civil unrest, the Korean community was largely represented by 1.5- and second-generation Korean Americans who were affiliated with “secular” organizations. The younger religious leaders felt that their voices and views were not accurately represented by the “secular” community leaders. Ironically, although the younger ministers desire to be at the forefront in political mobilizing and advocacy, in my conversations with them, they admitted that they were reluctant to engage actively in political issues. There is a high level of ambivalence among the younger ministers over their church’s role in political issues. There may be many reasons for this internal conflict. First, because the majority of Korean

Reaching Out

127

Americans are actively involved in the church, the younger ministers feel a sense of obligation and entitlement to serve as the community’s public voice. However, they also feel that their main role is not to, in the words of one minister, “wage war in politics but rather wage war in the spirit.” They feel that they can have the most impact through spiritual renewal, or changing individual lives, rather than focusing their energies to change the society through political activity. This stance marks a shift in the relationship between politics and Christianity in the Korean American community. For the first wave of Korean immigrants in the early 1900s, Christianity had a very public, political face. The Protestant Korean church served as the central institution in the political fight for the independence of Korea. Politics and religion were so interconnected for early immigrants that Louise Lim in 1920 noted “the Korean’s social life in the United States consisted of two main activities: politics and religion. Both served a common purpose” (Takaki 1989: 279). Since the Los Angeles riots, political issues and concerns have largely receded into the background at most second-generation Korean American churches. Today, most of the churches’ energy and resources are channeled into other activities such as evangelism, missions, fellowship, and discipleship. The churches are hesitant about officially mobilizing around particular political issues or candidates. Since the 1992 riots, only one political issue has evoked any level of response among the Christian Korean American population. That issue was Proposition 22, a measure that defines marriage as between a man and woman, which appeared on the March 2000 ballot. Several of the churches collected signatures on petitions, conducted voter registration, and pronounced formal opinions on the subject from their pulpits. During the first three months of 2000, Joyful Sound Church posted on their Web site an official church statement that read: “Because some of you asked . . . In today’s culture, there is a debate about what a legitimate marriage is. At Joyful Sound Church, we have and will continue to believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman.” At other churches, pastors preached on what they believed were biblical definitions of marriage and encouraged their parishioners to take a stand against the secular influences that are trying to undermine core Christian values and definitions. At one of the largest immigrant churches in southern California, there was a pronounced rift between the first and second generations

128

A Faith of Our Own

over what the younger generation viewed as a lack of commitment and courage among the older generation in mobilizing around Proposition 22. The senior pastor of the immigrant congregation had volunteered to chair a committee composed of nearly twenty Korean pastors to collect 70,000 signatures among Korean Christians in Los Angeles for a petition against gay marriages. The churches purchased advertisements in the Korean ethnic newspapers, preached from the pulpit, and distributed petitions among worshipers at Sunday services. However, after having received threatening phone calls from various liberal advocacy groups, the senior pastor resigned from his position as the chair of this committee. This decision angered and frustrated many second-generation Korean American pastors who felt betrayed and embarrassed by the older generation’s lack of courage and resolve. One pastor explained, “We second-generation pastors, feel that many of the immigrant pastors copped out because there were some lawyers from the ACLU, gay rights activists, and media representatives calling Korean pastors to hassle them so I think they were threatened. They caved in because of the intimidation. I think the immigrant pastors were basically scared off.” In light of the unfavorable media portrayals of Korean immigrants in the aftermath of the 1992 riots, many first-generation pastors were reluctant to position their churches at the forefront of a highly controversial political issue. They were concerned that the media would once again portray Korean immigrants in a negative light. Despite these concerns, many of the younger leaders wanted their churches to delve into the political arena to make their voices heard. Against the wishes and warnings of the immigrant leadership, a few of the younger pastors resolutely continued to register voters after the worship services and continued to relay information about the proposition with admonition to vote in favor of the proposition. In a special-themed issue of KoreaAm Journal, “Born Again . . . Gay,” the relationship between the Korean church and sexuality was explored. According to an informal survey conducted by the journal, where seventy-four of the one hundred surveyed were Christian, 62 percent believed that homosexuality is a choice and 61 percent stated that homosexuals could choose to become heterosexual (Rhee 2006). Without a doubt, Christianity is the primary lens through which secondgeneration Korean Americans view homosexuality. However, they are

Reaching Out

129

quick to reject identification with what they view as “hate-mongers” within mainstream evangelicalism. According to one minister, “Yes, we do believe that homosexuality is a sin but so is greed, pride, and jealousy. It embarrasses me when I see Christian leaders speak so hatefully about homosexuals. They need to point the finger at themselves as well. We are all sinful . . . we need to approach this issue with humility, love and grace.” Christian Smith (1998) along with his colleagues found that most evangelicals do not identify with the confrontative and combative tactics of far-right wing evangelical individuals and groups who have been the center of media coverage. Consistent with the larger evangelical community, the pastors of second-generation Korean American churches tend to support conservative Christian political causes such as pro-life and promarriage issues; however, they do so less vocally. This finding is consistent with the research of other Asian American religious scholars (Alumkal 2003; Carnes and Yang 2004; Wong 2006). On the highly controversial Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, on the November 2008 ballot, Asian Americans were divided—51 percent of Asian Americans saw Prop 8 as a civil rights issue, while the other 40 percent saw it as a moral one (Jeung 2008). However, findings from the 2008 voter survey conducted by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center revealed that among the various ethnic subgroups, Korean American voters were significantly more likely to support Proposition 8 by a wide margin. The report concluded that the strongest indicator of Proposition 8 support or opposition was religiosity (Wang 2009). In comparison with Prop 22 in 2000, Prop 8 in 2008 prompted a quieter response from second-generation Korean American churches. This is largely due to a sense among second-generation pastors that engaging publicly in these highly contentious political debates would hamper their efforts to reach out to the larger population. Concurrent with their numeric growth and their desire to reach out to non-Koreans, the pastors of these churches have become more cautious about positioning their congregations publicly in divisive political issues. Nonetheless, with same-sex marriage at the forefront of contemporary American social politics, second-generation Korean American church leaders will have to grapple with this issue in greater depth. In general, second-generation churches are more prone to rally around issues that involve religious rather than ethnic concerns. Jerry,

130

A Faith of Our Own

a medical doctor and lay leader at a second-generation church, believes that because his Christian identity is the most important identity, the issues that involve his Christian values are what motivates him to go to the ballot box. “Other political issues don’t really fire me up. They just don’t seem as relevant for me personally. However, issues like Prop 22 where I feel like are issues that are tied to my Christian identity or my faith . . . those are the issues that are important to me.” Like Jerry, many church members believe that in today’s society, there is more threat to their religious liberties than their ethnic or racial ones. In addition, many claim that currently there are no ethnically or racially defined political issues that are pressing or urgent enough to warrant political mobilization within their churches. Conclus i on Second-generation churches are not insular communities that are indifferent to or unconcerned with the activities and issues in the larger society. Although they desire subgroup belonging within their own churches, they also strive for interaction with those outside of their church walls. Motivated by the Christian faith’s emphasis on compassion and “being a blessing to others,” particularly to the poor and disadvantaged, second-generation Protestants have developed a myriad of social ministries within neighboring communities. With programs ranging from inner-city tutorial programs to ministries for rehabilitated drug addicts and alcoholics, second-generation churches are mobilizing their resources to make a positive impact in the larger community. Research has shown that connections created by faith are powerful social capital generators (Ecklund 2006; Putnam 2000). Sociologist Robert Putnam asserts, “Faith communities in which people worship together are arguably the single most important repository of social capital in America” (2000: 66). He cites statistics that reveal that close to half the associational memberships in America are church related, half of all personal philanthropy is religiously motivated, and half of all volunteering occurs in religious contexts. In their study of volunteerism among Asian Americans, Ecklund and Park (2007) found that both Catholic and Protestant Asian Americans volunteer more than their nonreligious counterparts. Elaine Howard Ecklund, in her book Korean American Evangelicals (2006), argues that second-generation Korean Americans who attend

Reaching Out

131

multiethnic churches employ an individualistic ethic of civic responsibility, while those who attend Korean churches embrace a collectivist ethic toward volunteering. She conducted in-depth ethnographic research at two sites, one of them a predominately second-generation Korean American congregation that meets in the same building as its parent Korean immigrant congregation, and the other a multiethnic (predominately Asian American) congregation that meets in a building owned by an African American congregation. Although both congregations serve the needs of those outside of their ethnic, class, and religious communities, Ecklund found distinct cultural schemas that frame the members’ understandings of what it means to be a good American citizen. In the monoethnic congregation, volunteerism was connected to a communally obligated approach toward civic engagement that supported politically conservative explanations of racial inequality. In contrast, at the multiethnic church, members embraced an individualistic approach to the relationship between Christianity, race, and civic responsibility that encouraged a greater level of civic engagement. With respect to political activity, Ecklund found that second-generation Korean Americans are less inclined to engage in politics because they are more committed to evangelistic goals and have difficulty locating practical models of involvement. My research supports Ecklund’s finding with respect to political engagement. The pastors and members of second-generation churches are ambivalent about their and their church’s role in American politics; they see political involvement as peripheral and even digressive to their church’s central mission. However, the churches in my study do not exhibit the same distinctions that Ecklund identified in her study between monoethnic and multiethnic churches with regard to motivation for civic engagement. Of the twenty-two churches in my study, six are monoethnic and sixteen are currently pan-Asian, but among the sixteen pan-Asian churches, ten are poised to become multiethnic.The racial composition of the multiethnic church that Ecklund studied is very similar to the pan-Asian churches in my study. My research demonstrates that members of multiethnic churches are not more involved in community service than members of monoethnic churches; there is no discernable difference in the rate of volunteerism between the two types of churches in my study. She also states that members of monoethnic churches hold less progressive sentiments about the root causes of racial inequality; “they

132

A Faith of Our Own

do suspect that those who are not ‘making it’ are simply not working hard enough” (2006: 63). In my interviews with pastors and members of both monoethnic and multiethnic churches, I found that there were diverse opinions on racism and its impact on socioeconomic mobility, and these opinions did not neatly line up along the lines of monoethnic and multiethnic church membership. Unlike the churches in my study, the monoethnic church in Ecklund’s study shares the church building with an immigrant congregation, and therefore may be more influenced by the first generation’s conservative understandings of African American poverty (Abelmann and Lie 1995). Furthermore, all twenty-two churches in my study encourage their members to engage in social service as part of a team of volunteers, as reflected in the formation of compassion ministries and other collective approaches. Essentially, the majority of volunteering among second-generation Korean Americans takes place in the context of church-sponsored community service activities. The determination of second-generation churches to engage in social ministries is a reflection of the younger generation’s stance that its future lies in America, not Korea. Although they may belong to ethnic churches, they see themselves as full members of American society. Hence, they have a responsibility that is mandated by their Christian faith and by virtue of being American to reach out to neighboring communities in friendly gestures of relationship. At one level, these efforts to “be a blessing” can be seen as acts of obedience to God’s call. At another level, they can also be seen as an attempt by the second generation to prove to themselves and to the larger society that despite their involvement with ethnic institutions, they truly are “American” and they do care about the welfare of America. This is particularly important in light of the barrage of criticism, during and after the Los Angeles civil unrest, directed at Korean merchants. The basic criticism was that Koreans, concerned only about getting rich, neither cared about black communities surrounding them nor were they interested in adopting American ways. In short, second-generation Korean Americans, within their hybrid third space, are actively engaging in activities outside their church walls and by doing so are asserting that they can be “different” and “American” at the same time.

Chapte r 6

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

An internal tension exists in and among the different churches where the second-generation Korean American Protestants in this study make their home. This internal tension in their hybrid third space revolves around the reality that at the current stage of development, second-generation churches are confronted with dilemmas over the cultural substance within the boundaries of the church. None of the second-generation pastors want their churches to be exact replicas of mainstream evangelical churches. Rather, they hope to fashion and practice Christianity that is shaped by multiple frames of reference, including their ethnic culture. But although all of the churches are open to non-Koreans, not all envision or desire a fully multiracial church. There are thus creative tensions and differences among the churches over how much and in what ways ethnic culture will express itself in their ministries. Currently, second-generation Korean American churches in Los Angeles espouse three different visions with respect to their ethnic boundaries. Some desire to reach out primarily to fellow second-generation Korean Americans, others want to enlarge their target population to include non-Korean Asian Americans, and still others are determined that their churches become fully multiracial. Because these new experiments and paradigms in second-generation ministry have emerged within the recent past, this chapter examines the beginning stages of resolution and response, focusing on the following questions: in what ways are the ethnic boundaries at these churches being defined, stretched, and contested; how important is ethnic identity and culture within these churches; what are the inherent limitations and contradictions within each paradigm; and finally, what are their possibilities and hopes? 133

134

A Faith of Our Own

R e lig ious U nive r sal i sm ve r su s E thni c Part i c ulari sm The Christian faith instructs believers to “take the gospel” to all nations and evangelize people from all ethnic and racial groups. As a passage in the Bible states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (New International Version, Galatians 3:28). Despite this mandate, religious congregations in the United States have long been racially segregated. Multiracial congregations are very rare, and fewer than 8 percent of the over 300,000 religious congregations in the United States are racially mixed (DeYoung et al. 2003; Emerson and Smith 2001). Two primary reasons are generally given to explain this—racism and culture preservation. Historically, separate ethnic and racial congregations emerged as a result of racism. In reflecting on the experience of black churches, historian C. Eric Lincoln writes, “There was no room in the White Church for the black Christians who needed to be persons as well as believers. In consequence, even in the face of the formidable odds that would seek to suppress it, control it, or laugh it to scorn, the Black Church was as inevitable as religion itself ” (1999: 53). Cultural reasons are also often cited to support separate ethnic and racial congregations. For many Asian American groups, churches play an important role in assisting immigrants to pass down their respective cultures to their American-born children. Church members corporately celebrate ethnic holidays, eat ethnic foods, converse in their native languages, and engage in regular face-to-face contact with coethnics. Networks established within the church can become important resources for the generations raised in the United States, not only in terms of providing mutual support but also in finding potential spouses. The tension between ethnic particularism and religious universalism is not as strongly felt by immigrants, whose limited language ability and cultural familiarity in America make it hard for them to participate in mainstream religious organizations. However, the tension is pronounced among the second generation who do not have such limitations and adhere to a universal faith like Christianity (DeYoung et al. 2003). Currently, the second-generation Korean American churches in my study are grappling with this dilemma and striving to understand

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

135

and reconcile the tension between being a “church for all nations” and a “church for predominately Koreans.” Monoethn i c Churc he s Six of the twenty-two senior pastors in this study argue that Korean churches will not and should not disappear or evolve into multiracial organizations. All six of these pastors are 1.5-generation Korean Americans who immigrated to the United States in their teens. Their commitment to cultural preservation is largely a reflection of their bilingual and bicultural identity. They believe that the ethnic church is the main institution responsible for preserving the Korean culture and passing it down to the next generation and they also argue that there is a distinct “Korean American” spirituality, and it is the responsibility of Korean American churches to be carriers, preservers, and in some cases reinterpreters of this spirituality. Several second-generation ministers believe that Korean churches should serve as sites of resistance against the accommodative forces and pressures of the American mainstream; resistance, in the case of the Korean churches, takes the form of affirming one’s own cultural heritage. Although native-born Korean Americans are raised in the United States, the pastors assert that they should continue to be bound by cultural traditions, practices, and values from Korea that serve as a basis for ethnic solidarity. They argue that Korean churches must play an active role in preserving, fostering, and shaping Korean American culture. According to one minister, preserving the Korean culture is “not a God-given task but a culturally given task because in the Korean community, churches play a very significant role. In the Japanese or Chinese communities, they have their Japanese or Chinese associations, but in the Korean community, the church is the main organization. Therefore, the Korean churches need to take up this responsibility.” Those ministers who reach out primarily to fellow Korean Americans insist that although all Christians are called to be united, unity should not come at the expense of ethnic identity and ethnic difference. In addition, they believe that ethnic homogeneity promotes a greater level of efficiency within the churches. “I have not yet seen a successful multiracial church in America,” remarked Pastor Chang, who believes that a multiracial church is great in principle but ineffective in

136

A Faith of Our Own

practice—“as church growth experts say, the homogeneous principle does work. If you have a church with many different ethnic groups, you’ll be spending most of your time trying to sort through the differences, let alone getting the ministry done.” He is uncomfortable identifying himself as an Asian American, because for him it is an artificial identity that marginalizes certain ethnic groups. In his years at Fuller Theological Seminary, he joined an Asian American Ministry Organization and found that although the organization touted its multiethnic membership, in reality it was primarily the Japanese Americans students who led and controlled the organization. Although Korean Americans were the overwhelming majority of Asians on that campus, they were not included as part of the decision-making process nor were their needs adequately addressed by the organization. In response, he concluded that the different ethnic groups would benefit more if each retained its own small but unified voice. Chang strongly advocates the maintenance of Korean culture and identity. However, unlike the majority of first-generation pastors who view language as the primary determinant of culture, he is concerned with the passage of what he views as the ul or essence of Korean culture, which he describes as a unique expression of passion. “There is a distinct passion and drive among Koreans no matter where they are. This passion is a product of a history of suffering. I don’t believe that passion is limited to a certain generation. Rather, it is a trait found in all Koreans. This conviction or passion is what we need to pass down through the generations.” He also alludes to a common set of cultural values such as filial piety and respect for elders that are rooted in traditional Confucian value systems. Similarly, Pastor Moon of Flowing Life Church believes that Korean culture involves much more than language. “If the main component of culture was language, there really is no hope for the future generations in terms of culture maintenance.” He argues that the Korean community needs to grasp and articulate the true understanding of what it means to be Korean and, after accomplishing that, to focus on passing those qualities down through the generations. He describes the culture in terms of a Korean mentality. “The Korean mentality can only be learned through studying the lives of the great Korean heroes of history. By studying these people you can see the qualities that run through the people of our nation. What needs to be passed down is this Korean

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

137

mentality which encompasses the traits of perseverance, passion, and a strong survival instinct that have been wrought through a history of suffering among Koreans.” He believes that there is a specific reason why God created different ethnic groups, and that the goal of mankind is not to blend into one culture but to preserve the distinct cultures and exist in a state of cultural diversity. He cites the biblical reference to the different tribes in heaven singing and praising God in their native tongues as indication of the importance and persistence of cultural diversity in God’s perspective. There is a marked generational difference in how the Korean culture is defined. For the immigrant generation, language is seen as the essential component of Korean culture. Park, the pastor of a large Korean immigrant church, when asked how important it was for the church to be involved in the maintenance of Korean culture, answered the question in terms of language preservation. “That’s a tough question. We have a Korean school.When I think of Korean culture, the only thing that comes to mind is the Korean language. At the Korean school, we try to teach our children the Korean culture. At immigrant churches, we haven’t been doing a great job of passing down our culture to the second generation. For Korean people, when they think of culture, they think primarily about language. That’s all there is really in our minds.” An emphasis on language as the major determinant of culture has been documented in past research on European immigrants during the early 1900s. Herberg found that among the first generation of immigrants, because Americans did not recognize groups based on their regional source of origin but on their linguistic differences, “an emphasis on language gradually outlined the new character of the immigrant groups and answered the aching question of identity” (1955: 25). Despite efforts to preserve the original language, however, many European ethnic groups fought a losing battle; the United States has been a “cemetery of languages” where a variety of linguistic backgrounds have disappeared into a monolingual society in the course of two or three generations (Buczek 1976). The pastors who advocate a monoethnic congregation argue that there is a distinct Korean American spirituality that must be preserved, practiced, and passed down to subsequent generations. They point to the African American church as an example of an institution that fostered a unique cultural expression of spirituality. According to one pastor,

138

A Faith of Our Own

“Just look at the black church. If they had just blended into mainstream churches, they would not have the benefits of an autonomous black institution. The black church has done a tremendous job in developing a unique black Christianity . . . you can see it in their preaching, music, theology, community activism.” They argue that a multiracial church would inhibit the development of a distinct Korean American spirituality. According to one minister, “In a multiracial church, you might have a hodgepodge of different religious expressions but basically it’s the people in leadership that will be dictating and defining the culture of that particular church and then labeling it as multiethnic or multiracial.” They believe that the preservation of the ethnic Korean American church will provide the fertile soil necessary for the development of Korean American spirituality. In relation to the development of a distinct ethnic spirituality, one pastor also suggested that an individual’s experience of God is inherently tied to his cultural experiences and identity. According to Pastor Yoon of Disciple Church, “To a woman, God comes to a woman as a woman’s experience. God speaks uniquely to each cultural group and so we must all find our place within this larger message.” Yoon embraces the notion of a lived theology where the cultural experiences of second-generation Korean Americans are inextricably bound with their religious experiences. In Yoon’s perspective, in order for second-generation Korean Americans to authentically experience God, they need to do so within a context that understands and integrates their ethnic and cultural selves. Monoethnic churches provide a supportive community in which individuals can embrace a Korean American identity that is both dignified and affirmed. Kelly Chong (1998), in her research on second-generation Korean Americans in Chicago, observed that the strong sense of ethnic identity among second-generation church attendees reflects a form of “defensive ethnicity” against their perceived marginal status within American society as a racial minority group. The ethnic church, according to Chong, functions as a refuge from marginalization along with a positive social identity. A few of the ministers of mono-ethnic churches believe that God has given second-generation Korean Americans a distinct divine mission. One leader suggested that in the arena of Christianity, Koreans have enjoyed a special grace and favor from God. He points to the rapid rise of

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

139

Christianity in South Korea and the existence of Korean megachurches as proof of God’s special purpose for Koreans in this generation. “Koreans will be the leaders in the next big move of God. Nobody in this world can deny that South Korea has received a special visitation from God. Christian leaders from all over the world are going to South Korea to learn from the pastors there.” He believes that God has a specific, tailor-made mission for English-speaking Korean Americans to serve as a catalyst for spiritual revival not only in America but globally. The level of acculturation and comfort that the senior pastor feels in mainstream American society shapes the level of ethnic homogeneity in second-generation churches. Pastors of monoethnic congregations immigrated to the United States in their early teens and, although they are bilingual and bicultural, many said that they feel more at home with the Korean language and are more comfortable with their Korean ethnic and cultural identity. Their level of acculturation and comfort with mainstream American society, culture, and non-Koreans in general all play a significant role in determining the extent to which their church’s ethnic boundaries can be stretched. In describing his comfort level with non-Koreans, Pastor Yoon reflected, “Who I am is the whole of me from my language to my food preferences. If I invite a black person to my home, what kind of food would I serve him? Would he eat kimchee ji gae? Just as I would try to take a white pastor to Mimi’s Café, I’m certainly willing to accommodate to others as who they are but when we try to be as accommodating, we end up losing or denying who we really are.” Employing the family analogy, second-generation pastors insist that churches must be a place where Korean Americans feel comfortable and secure among co-ethnic “brothers” and “sisters” who have shared a similar set of life experiences. Because churches function so much like families, inevitably people want to join churches where they feel comfortable with like-minded individuals who have shared a similar set of life experiences. Christy, a 1.5-generation Korean American and mother of two young children, values her church because it’s the one place where she and her family can have weekly exposure to the Korean culture. “I want my kids to grow up knowing and being proud of who they are . . . that they are Korean Americans.” Many of the members told me that it was the ethnic composition that attracted them to their churches. They were explicitly looking for a predominately Korean American church and

140

A Faith of Our Own

appreciate the fact that their ethnic identity is practiced and celebrated within their churches. The fact that the majority of the members are fellow Koreans makes the church feel, in the words of one member, “more like a close family and less like an impersonal organization.” When I asked one pastor how he would respond to someone who would accuse his church, a monoethnic second-generation Korean American church, of being ethnocentric and overly insular, he replied, “There is something about ethnic and cultural bonds that remain alive even with the forces of acculturation into American society. There is a sense among people who come to this church whose outside world is all white. When they come to this setting, there is a sense of ‘wow, I like it.’” In monoethnic churches, the Korean ethnicity and culture are embraced and celebrated in a variety of ways. At Resurrection Church, the members are involved and committed to issues, causes, and organizations that affect the larger Korean community. Several of the key members of the church are also active leaders and members in community agencies such as the KoreAm Journal, Women’s Organization Reaching Koreans (WORK), Korean American Coalition (KAC), and Korean Youth and Community Center (KYCC). They were also actively involved in raising relief aid for North Korean famine victims during the nineties. At monoethnic churches, Korean phrases are embedded in sermons as well as in casual conversations among members. These churches offer Korean Americans who were either born in the United States or who immigrated at a young age the context in which they can connect with, explore, and reinvent their Koreanness. “I’ve become more Koreanized since I joined my church,” remarked one individual who immigrated to the United States when he was four years old. When asked to elaborate on what he meant by “Koreanized,” he referred to aspects such as food, language, ethnic locations, and values. Ethnic cues, such as Korean phrases used in sermons and food served at gatherings, establish insiders and outsiders to the church. By Koreanizing Christianity at these churches, second-generation Korean Americans are able to carve out spaces in which their ethnic and religious identities intersect. Several members of monoethnic churches remarked that cultural differences warrant the existence of an ethnic specific church, because although the Christian faith calls for all believers to be united in worship, each ethnic group’s unique culture influences and shapes its expressions of worship.

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

141

It is in the area of outreach and evangelism that monoethnic churches face their most significant internal contradictions and challenges. Although they are committed to fulfilling the great commission that calls all believers to “share the gospel” with others, they are also caught in a challenging dilemma because their ethnic exclusivity limits their outreach to fellow Korean Americans, which poses multiple levels of discontent, guilt, and ambivalence among their membership. Kerry, an active member of Resurrection Church, observed that she felt torn because on the one hand she loves her church because she feels comfortable among fellow Korean Americans, yet on the other hand she wants her church to be more active in sharing the gospel with all non-Christians irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. “On the one hand, I was looking for a church that is Korean American but I’m realizing that I don’t want it to stay Korean American. I want it to become more multi ethnic . . . the point of church should not be in keeping the Korean identity. Rather it should be on sharing the gospel.” Members of monoethnic churches have repeatedly expressed frustration with the limitation they experience in evangelizing and reaching out to their non-Korean friends. In many ways, monoethnic churches have crippled the evangelistic initiative of their members because the reality is that their members work, go to school, and associate with non-Koreans. Although they want to reach out to their non-Korean friends, they are reluctant to because their friends would not feel comfortable in a predominately Korean church. Pan-Asian Churc he s At many second-generation churches, the ethnic boundary of “Korean” has been stretched to a racial boundary of “Asian.” Sixteen out of twenty-two churches in this study have a pan-Asian composition and among them, six envision their churches remaining predominately Asian American while ten view their current pan-Asian composition as a transitional stage en route toward becoming a church for all races. None of the six ministers of Asian American churches are opposed to becoming multiracial, but they believe that due to the reality that most people would choose to worship with those who are racially similar, it makes more sense for them to focus their energies and resources on reaching fellow Asian Americans. One minister remarked, “The truth is . . . God is sending us Asian Americans to minister to . . . not whites, not blacks, not

142

A Faith of Our Own

Hispanics . . . they are not attracted to our church. They come once and never return again.” The fact that the majority of non-Korean Asian members were introduced to their churches through their friends indicates that among second-generation Korean Americans in Los Angeles, friendship networks are largely constructed along racial lines. This, according to many that I interviewed, is because individuals in American society view themselves and are viewed by the larger society in racial as opposed to ethnic categories. Paul, a second-generation male remarked, “You could be Japanese, Korean,Vietnamese, or whatever. But whatever your national differences, when you’re in America, they call you Chink or Jap.” The similarities in life experiences and cultural orientation, largely derived by their shared status as children of immigrants and as racial minorities in the United States, among different Asian American groups have served as the common denominator drawing Asian Americans together. Several scholars have pointed to the reality that second-generation Asian Americans tend to develop friendships with other Asian Americans (Kao and Joyner 2004; Kibria 2003). Nazli Kibria (2003), in her examination of the way panethnicity operates at the level of friendships, found that Asian American friendships are forged around commonalities of race and culture. Having shared a racial identity in the United States, Asian Americans have collectively experienced racism as well as being stereotyped as “nerdy,” “foreign,” and “passive.” In addition, they also shared common experiences that derived from the values of growing up with immigrant parents. The shared worldview or understanding that stems from the commonalities of race and culture is behind the friendships that are formed. Yen Le Espiritu (1992) similarly argues that racialist constructions of Asians as homogenous contribute in the forging of alliances and affiliations among ethnic and immigrant groups of Asian origin. She further argues that panethnic organizations build affective ties and develop panethnic consciousness where they did not exist prior to the organization. Espiritu concludes that an emergent subculture develops within organizational spaces; “by participating in these pan-Asian institutions, Asian Americans begin to develop common views of themselves and of one another, and similar interpretations of their experiences and of the larger society” (1992: 172). However, her focus is on how Asian Americans have institutionalized pan-Asianism as their political instrument and

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

143

in so doing, she analyzes panethnicity in its public and political dimensions but does not address its private or religious dimensions. Russell Jeung (2005) focuses on the role of panethnicity in the formation of religious organizations in northern California. He compared evangelical and mainline Asian American churches and found that the two employ different narratives in relation to Asian American group identity. Whereas evangelical ministers emphasize lifestyle, value systems, and social networks of Asian Americans as their defining characteristics, mainline ministers focus on their racialized experiences as the primary bond of pan-Asian solidarity. The churches in my study, both mainline and evangelical, are similar in orientation to the evangelical churches in Jeung’s study. Asians do not share a sense of common history or national roots, but they do share common experiences as children of immigrants and as racial minorities in the United States and a common value system that is derived largely from Confucian teachings. These commonalities increase the level of connection, identification, and camaraderie that binds Asian Americans together at these new churches. For example, Tom, a member of Resurrection Church explained that in any given situation, he would feel more comfortable with and would naturally gravitate toward another Asian American. There’s something about being an Asian American in this country. For example, I’d be at a big party and there would be another Asian person in the room. By the time the night is over, I’d be talking and socializing with that person only. I don’t know how that is. It’s strange but we feel more comfortable with each other maybe because we grew up in a similar way, as racial minorities with Asian immigrant parents. It doesn’t really matter what part of the country you grew up in. I could meet up with a person who grew up in Texas and still we’d have much in common because most likely we’ve had similar experiences. There’s just more to talk about because we can relate better. Second-generation churches provide the institutional spaces where Asian Americans, bound by shared values, life orientations, and experiences, can congregate together under a common religious identity. Many of the churches that began as exclusively Korean have modified and enlarged their vision to include other Asian groups. A host of

144

A Faith of Our Own

changes have been made within the churches with the hopes of stretching their target population beyond one ethnic group. They have intentionally omitted Korean expressions from sermons and teaching and have opted for more inclusive language, and are intentionally diversifying their leadership to include more non-Koreans in decision making. The fact that the ethnic boundaries at second-generation Korean American churches have been stretched to include other Asian American groups highlights the reality that the emphasis on ethnicity and ethnic group experiences in the United States has often confused the important distinctions between race and ethnicity. Unlike the immigrant generation, the second generation fundamentally identify themselves in racial categories because, on a day-to-day level, they are treated as Asian Americans as opposed to Korean Americans. According to one woman, “Most people here on campus or anywhere else for that matter don’t see me as a Korean but rather as an Asian. Because that’s how people in this country classify people—by their race.” Omi and Winant (1986) argue that race has always played a central role in American politics and life. Race in the United States, they argue, should be treated as a fundamental and independent category through which relationships are ordered. In a similar vein, Antony Alumkal (2003) asserts that Asian Americans retreat to churches and fellowships as an act of self-preservation in a society where “race” continually matters. The lives of Korean Americans are strongly influenced by their race or national origin, regardless of how much they may choose not to identify themselves in ethnic or racial terms. The majority of the respondents understood the boundary of “Asian American” as not simply racial but also cultural in substance. As Bacon (1997) notes, the second-generation experience in the United States is commonly understood and interpreted on the basis of an “immigrant narrative” that revolves around a series of oppositional dichotomies— immigrant versus American, traditional versus modern. When I asked Karen, a second-generation Korean American church member, why she feels more comfortable with Asians than with non-Asians, she replied, “My Asian friends have had a very similar upbringing to me. They know what it feels like to have parents who don’t speak English well. They understand the high expectations that my parents placed on me to get straight As, practice my piano, and never talk back to them. They may have spoken a different language and eaten different kinds food in

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

145

their homes, but we have so much in common because we grew up in Asian households with immigrant parents.” Integral to the “immigrant narrative” were having to grow up with parents who did not speak English, feeling torn by having to choose between American versus Asian values, navigating through identity crises, feeling a sense of not belonging to either the mainstream or immigrant society, and growing up with Asian values that emphasize family, education, hard work, and respect for elders. What is most puzzling about Asian American churches is that although the institutions are bound by race, the subjects of race and racism are never explicitly addressed within the churches. Race exists more as a silent subtext. There can be several reasons for the absence of discourses on race. First, the majority of Asian Americans who attend second-generation churches believe that racism against Asians does exist but that it is mostly attitudinal prejudice, which does not hinder them from succeeding in the United States. As middle-class, well-educated professionals, few of the members of these churches have experienced overt racism and harassment in diverse southern California to an extent that prohibited them from achieving their goals. Second, many are drawn to Asian American churches, not because of overt racism against them in mainstream institutions but rather because they feel more comfortable with others who have had a similar set of life experiences and therefore hold similar worldviews and values. Finally, there may be a lack of awareness or commitment to racial justice among the ministers. The pastors that I interviewed expressed the view that their primary responsibility was to help their parishioners grow spiritually, and feared that focusing on racial issues would, in the words of one minister, “waste our energies and take us down the wrong path.” Similarly, Gerardo Marti (2005), in his study of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, found that although the church is racially diverse, racism, race, and ethnic differences are never addressed publicly. Finally, because these churches are largely run by Korean Americans, non-Korean members can feel marginalized in a church subculture that is highly influenced by the Korean culture. At several of the Asian American churches, the non-Korean Asian American members have had to accommodate to Korean ways in order to fully participate in the activities of the church. For instance, according to one Chinese American member,

146

A Faith of Our Own

“I learned and use many Korean words since attending this church. I call my pastor’s wife samonim [honorific title for pastor’s wife] the older guys hyung [older brother] and the older gals unni [older sister].” Newcomers are expected to assimilate into the church culture, which inevitably reflects Korean culture. When asked if the Korean majority forces their culture on the rest, one minister remarked, “We don’t do it intentionally. We want to be sensitive to the other Asian cultures but it’s very tricky to determine how much and in what ways ethnic culture should express itself in our church.” Mult irac i al Churc he s Pastor Choi of Fruitful Church sees his current racial boundary as just one necessary step in the steady transition from a panethnic to a multiracial congregation. “When we first planted this church ten years ago, we were hoping to develop an Asian American church. Now that we are fully Asian American, I realize that this should not be our final destination. We need to stretch our boundaries even further and become fully multiracial.” He, along with several other ministers that I interviewed, embrace the goal of multiracial churches and argue that monoethnic churches are inherently problematic for those who adhere to a Christian worldview, because the Bible clearly teaches that within the church, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, New International Version).” They further argue that those who want to remain within their respective ethnic or panethnic congregations do so simply out of convenience and comfort—motivations that they believe are inherently self-centered, narrow minded, and unbiblical. Leaders who desire their churches to become multiracial argue not only on the basis of Christian teaching but also from the fact that multiculturalism is a given reality in American society, particularly in places like Los Angeles, and that churches need to embrace and appreciate this fact. The ten pastors in my study who desire to transform their churches into multiracial congregations embrace different strategies for accomplishing their goal. Seven of the ten embrace what Emerson and Smith (2001) refer to as the color-blind approach. Churches that employ this strategy emphasize a shared Christian identity to form the basis of community, and deemphasize the significance of ethnic and racial differences.

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

147

The other three churches have employed a different strategy. Rather than ignoring race, they have openly addressed ethnic and racial differences and have intentionally brought these issues to the forefront of their church’s culture and conversations. The senior pastor of Joyful Sound Church continually strives to highlight ethnic and racial differences in order to shift the ethnic composition of his church. “We discuss differences in ethnicity all the time, especially in preaching and in small groups. It’s part of the conversation of our church. Sure there are a lot of differences but like in any relationship where you are intimate, you will have to sort through differences.” From the pulpit, the pastor intentionally keeps racial and diversity issues on the front burner. For example, in 2006, drawing from racial themes in the movie Crash, the pastor of Joyful Sound preached a six-part sermon on the subject of racism and racial reconciliation. Another way in which ethnic and cultural differences are highlighted at the church is through music. Brian, the church’s praise leader, said that they have made intentional efforts to incorporate different cultural forms and expressions of praise music. “We have a gospel choir in our church that looks and sounds a lot like African American gospel choirs. A few weeks ago, we sang a Swahili song in our worship service. We’ve also sung Spanish songs.” Heeding the advice of recent church growth experts who have argued that churches essentially attract people with the same profile as the leadership, one strategy has been to diversify the ethnic makeup of the church leadership. With the hopes of attracting more African Americans into their congregation, Joyful Sound Church hired an African American minister to join the pastoral staff. This pastor, an engineer in his early thirties who, aside from his race, fits the general socioeconomic profile of the congregation, preaches to the congregation once a month in the main Sunday worship service. At one worship service, the African American preacher, dressed like the rest of the congregation in a simple button-down oxford shirt and khaki pants, stood on the stage holding a small Bible in one hand and preached, relying mostly on personal illustrations, on the subject of divinely opened doors. He spoke about his experiences growing up in a predominately African American neighborhood where every kid in the neighborhood “had the same poster of Martin Luther King hanging on his bedroom wall.” The majority of

148

A Faith of Our Own

the congregation, Asian Americans in their early twenties to late thirties, were being given a glimpse of an entirely different cultural experience. A few pastors, particularly those who advocate a monoethnic church, have been critical of these efforts to diversify the leadership and have accused these churches of administering an “affirmative action” policy within the organization. According to one minister, “I think many of the churches have gone too far in trying to become multiracial. I know of churches that have an affirmative action policy where they’re trying to fill some representative quota in leadership. They want their praise team to be racially and ethnically diverse, so they’ll just find any person who happens to be black or Hispanic to join the praise team, regardless of their spiritual maturity.” Despite the criticism leveled against them, there is a general conviction among Joyful Sound’s leaders and members that increased social contact and development of relationships across racial lines will naturally dispel racist stereotypes and contribute in the creation of a truly multiracial Christian community. However, much to the dismay of its leaders, Joyful Sound Church has continued to attract predominately Asian Americans, who compose over 80 percent of its membership. Whereas at Joyful Sound Church, ethnic and cultural differences are intentionally brought to the forefront in the church’s conversations and subculture, at Fruitful Church differences are rarely highlighted for the sake of emphasizing the areas of commonality among the members. In addition to sharing a common faith, the non-Asian members at Fruitful Church, who make up approximately 15 percent of the church’s population, share the same class, educational, and generational status.The majority of them were introduced to the church by their friends on college campuses or in the workplace, and they generally said that the primary reason for joining the church is because of the high level of friendliness among its members. Although they are racially distinct from the majority of the church members, the development of friendships along with commonalities in socioeconomic background, religion, and generation provided enough connective points for them to remain within the church. Mike, a half-black and half-Latino male in his twenties who was raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in south Los Angeles, has been an active member at Fruitful Church for over a year. He was introduced to the church through a Chinese American

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

149

coworker at a large accounting firm where he was interning during his undergraduate years at USC. Despite ethnic and racial differences, Mike said that he was immediately attracted to the church because the people were so friendly and welcoming toward him. In addition, he believes that a shared common identity as Christians overshadows cultural and ethnic differences among his friends at the church. In addition to the Christian identity, shared class and generational experiences provide the common ground for connection among the members. According to Mike, cultural differences are relatively minor in comparison to the wealth of commonalities that he and his fellow church mates share. “Sure, we may be different races or ethnicities but we also have a lot in common. Most of the people at this church are college students or have finished college. This alone makes us very similar. My church friends and I talk about sports, movies, music, our jobs, school, going to the beach . . . stuff like that.” At churches like Fruitful Church, shared identities that revolve around education, employment, generation, and religion provide the common ground on which people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds can come together. Gerardo Marti (2005) found in his study of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, which has a membership of one-third Asian, one-third Latino, and one-third Anglo, that racial diversity and difference is purposely ignored and obscured. According to Marti, ethnic differences are discussed in private interactions, but they are not central to the identity of Mosaic members or to the congregational culture as a whole. In contrast to this color-blind approach, Kathleen Garces-Foley (2007) found in her study of Evergreen Church, with a congregation composed of 75 percent Asian American and 25 percent non-Asian, that racial and ethnic differences are openly discussed and institutionalized into the vision and culture of the church. According to both authors, what is interesting about these differing approaches is that the churches that employ a color-blind strategy are attracting a more diverse membership than churches that are intentionally highlighting race and racial difference within their churches. Marti argues that intentionally seeking diversity is an ineffective strategy for gaining it. Despite efforts to diversify their congregation, all ten of the churches, irrespective of their differing strategies, have been unable to attract significant numbers of non-Asians. If a multiracial congregation is defined

150

A Faith of Our Own

as a church where no one racial group constitutes 80 percent or more of the membership, none of the churches in my study may be considered multiracial at the current stage of development. When I asked ministers and church members why it has been so difficult for their churches to attract more non-Asians, they answered in two opposite ways. First, some of the individuals insisted they were not doing enough to make their churches more comfortable for non-Asians. They suggested that nonAsians felt marginalized because of the strong Asian elements such as food, language, co-ethnic cliques, and cultural expectation that continue to bleed into the subculture of their churches. They place the onus of blame upon themselves for not being able to move beyond their ethnic and racial identity. In contrast, others argue that no matter how much they may try to hide their Koreanness or Asianness, it would make no difference because non-Asians simply do not want to attend a church where they would be racially in the minority. Pastor Chung of Neighborhood Church remarked, “Since we started our church nine years ago, we’ve had close to one thousand non-Asians visit our church . . . but about only twelve of them stayed.” Chung believes that white Americans, in particular, having always been in the majority, do not necessarily want to attend a church where another group sets the terms of the status quo. In this regard, Pastor Ahn of Inland Church observed from his own personal experience that Caucasians seem to have difficulty envisioning themselves having an Asian spiritual leader. “Whenever I meet the parents of my daughter’s Asian friends, they would ask about my church and seem to be interested in visiting. However, when white parents find out that I am a pastor, they would usually say, ‘oh . . . that’s nice.’ It’s strange that they would be comfortable having an Asian doctor or teacher, but not an Asian pastor. They just can’t envision it.” According to Pastor Ahn and Pastor Chung, their churches remain predominately Asian because it is a voluntary organization where members choose where they want to worship and whom they want for their pastor. Therefore, the onus of responsibility falls upon the non-Asians who are unwilling to move beyond race and accept Asian American leadership and minority status in a predominately Asian American church. Rebecca Kim (2006), in her study of evangelical campus ministries in West University, documents the process of white flight when racial minorities become the numerical

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

151

majority in a campus Christian club. When the demographics of a campus organization begins to shift, white students choose to join other campus ministries that remain predominately white or drop out of campus ministries altogether. In her study of Evergreen Church, Kathleen Garces-Foley found that “matters of communication, food, and marriage came up most frequently as a source of disconnective points caused by cultural barriers” (2007: 104). In my conversations with church members, I also found the same three areas cited as points of conflict and misunderstanding, with dating being the most sensitive and heightened source of tension. A large percentage of the members of these churches are singles in their twenties and early thirties who are very interested in finding future mates among fellow church members. While all the Asian singles that I spoke with seem to accept the idea of interracial marriage in theory, it is quite another matter for them to state that they themselves were willing to marry outside of their race. Although this issue is not highlighted and discussed openly among singles, it is very much an area of concern and tension, particularly among the churches’ non-Asian members. Peter, an African American male, told me that in the area of dating, there seems to be a glass ceiling for non-Asians: “I think I’m accepted and treated as an equal at this church in every way except in the area of dating. The dating scene is really confusing here at our church.” At these churches, a significant percentage of dating and marriage occurs outside ethnic lines but not necessarily outside racial lines. The majority of second-generation Korean Americans who attend the churches in the study do not plan to cross racial boundaries in marriage. According to my congregational survey, among unmarried Korean Americans, 12 percent indicated that in choosing a marriage partner, race is not an important variable. The overwhelming majority, 88 percent, stated that they preferred to marry within their own race. Furthermore, 81 percent stated that they preferred to marry someone within their own ethnic group. Among the married respondents in my sample, the overwhelming majority (93 percent) was married to co-ethnics. An interesting finding was that among the non-Asian church members (80 percent white, 10 percent Latino, and 10 percent black) in the survey, who accounted for nearly 10 percent of the survey population, 95 percent stated that race does not matter for them when choosing a marriage

152

A Faith of Our Own

partner. This figure points to the fact that the non-Asians who attend these churches embrace a higher level of “color-blindness” when it comes to dating and marriage. When individuals claimed that they were open to marrying outside of their race, they implicitly were referring to marrying whites and, in some cases, Latinos. Kathy, a second-generation student at UCLA, stated that her parents would adamantly disapprove of her marrying or dating an African American man. “My parents have always told me ever since I was really young that they want me to marry a Korean man. During high school, I only dated white guys and that bothered them but they eventually got used to it. If it was a black guy . . . well that would be another story altogether. They’d probably kill me or disown me. Korean is best. White is tolerable. Black is forbidden.” It is important to note that marriage partner preference among the second generation is formed by both personal preference and perceived constraints. Danny, a secondgeneration male, told me that his preference for dating Korean women is shaped by the fact in the United States, the media portrayal of Asian men has not been favorable and has negatively impacted their level of desirability. “I’ll most likely marry a Korean woman. I would be open to marrying a white woman but most white women are not attracted to Asian men . . . at least that’s been my general experience growing up.”Yen Le Espiritu (2007) found in her study that, in the United States, Asian American women are desirable to white men because Asians as a group are socially constructed as a feminine race by the dominant society. This reality also makes Asian American men undesirable to white women and to Asian American women who have embraced mainstream social norms. In the discussion over whether these churches will effectively become racially diverse congregations, it is important to take into consideration the rates of interracial marriage, which has long been viewed by scholars as a litmus test for the narrowing social distance between groups (Bean and Stevens, 2003; Kalmijn, 1998; Lee and Fernandez, 1998). Contrary to expectations, sociologists Zhenchao Qian and Daniel T. Lichter (2007) found that the rate of Asians marrying outside of their race declined from 42 to 33 percent from 1990 to 2000. This is due largely to the continual stream of immigrants from their native countries who increase the supply of potential marriage partners and reinforces ethnic culture. Thus Asian Americans today are more likely to marry people of their own ethnicity.

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

153

Another interesting feature of second-generation churches is that several of the pastors feel that they are strategically positioned to serve as a bridge for long-standing racial divisions within the American church. Multiracial congregations in the United States are rare, and it is estimated that fewer than 8 percent of the nation’s churches are multiethnic (DeYoung et al. 2003). It is popularly observed that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week. Nonetheless, one second-generation Korean American pastor observed that because he himself belongs to a racial minority, he can more compassionately and sensitively serve as a much-needed racial reconciling agent in this country. He believes that his church, along with other like-minded churches, can effectively alter the current reality of racially segregated churches. This sentiment is shared by several mainline denominations that are beginning to view second-generation Korean American Christians as agents in the development of multiracial congregations. Whereas in the past, mainline denominations have worked with ethnic pastors to develop ethnic churches, denominations today are beginning to woo second-generation Korean Americans with the hopes of developing multiracial churches. Pastor Yoo of Voyage Church believes that he can influence the Christian Reformed Church denomination in a significant way through his multiracial church plant. He believes that there is a sincere desire among mainline denominations to build churches “where people of all colors can come together to build a genuine color-blind Christian worshiping community.” Yet there is also a sense that due to the long-standing racial tensions within mainline denominations, Caucasians cannot effectively be the leading agents in building multiracial churches. According to Yoo, “Our church is one of the first multiethnic church plants. They [the denomination] are very interested in young people like me. We [second-generation Korean Americans] could very well be the answer to a pressing need . . . more multiracial churches and racial reconciliation among American Christians.” Second-generation pastors like Yoo believe that, whereas the African American church was used by God to fight against racial oppression, God desires to use Korean Americans as agents of racial reconciliation and unity among believers. Currently, Yoo receives a salary from the denomination and has hired two other staff members, an African American male minister and a Korean American woman, to assist him in his church-planting

154

A Faith of Our Own

endeavor. In order to attract a diverse ethnic population, Yoo has also formed a three-member advisory committee composed of a Latino, an African American, and a Caucasian minister who will take turns preaching to the newly formed church. Churches like Joyful Sound, Fruitful, and Voyage not only aim to transform their own churches; their larger goal is to serve as a catalyst in transforming American Protestantism, which has been deeply divided along racial lines. They hope that their churches can serve as examples to the rest of Protestant America, to show that it is possible for the faith to unite diverse racial groups into one unified worshiping community. Social scientists, in focusing solely on the influence of American society on immigrant groups, have neglected to study the ways in which ethnic groups have influenced mainstream America. The study of second-generation churches, particularly in the current period of transition, experimentation, and innovation, provides a colorful and intriguing case study of how ethnic minorities, rather than simply adopting mainstream Christianity, can and do create new forms of religious institutions, which in turn are poised to transform the practice and institutional landscape of religion in America. Conclus i on In the area of ethnic composition, second-generation churches are currently in a stage of experimentation and flux. It is well known that individuals and groups create boundaries as a way of differentiating themselves from the larger society and as a way of affirming their unique identities. At this juncture, second-generation Korean Americans in their hybrid third spaces exist in a state of creative tension in respect to their ethnic boundaries. Some churches draw tighter, more fixed boundaries around ethnicity while other churches embrace looser, more fluid boundaries that change in response to changes in the ethnic and racial composition of their membership. Documenting the current stage of experimentation and transition, this study of second-generation churches provides important insights on the role of religion and religious organizations in the adaptation process of the offspring of post-1965 immigrants. Among the three types of churches, monoethnic churches are the most explicit in retaining and passing culture down to subsequent generations. However, among

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

155

Korean American ministers, only a minority wants their churches to remain monoethnic, and those that do are predominately 1.5-generation ministers who are bilingual and bicultural. The growth and popularity of monoethnic churches in the future will be dampened, in large part, by the declining rate of immigration from Korea (Kim and Kim 2001). Nonetheless, monoethnic churches will continue to exist and serve second-generation Korean Americans who want to preserve their Korean culture and practice religion among co-ethnics. Currently, the majority of the churches in this study, sixteen out of twenty two, have a pan-Asian composition. However, ten of them view their current pan-Asian composition as a transitional stage en route toward becoming a church for all races. The remaining six ministers of Asian American churches are not opposed to becoming multiracial but they believe that due to the reality that most people would chose to worship with those who are racially similar, it makes more sense for them to focus their energies and resources on reaching fellow Asian Americans. Although it is still too early to determine whether they will be able to attract a significant number of non-Asians, it is important to note that several second-generation Korean American churches are making a concerted effort to move beyond a pan-ethnic church to a multiethnic church. R. Stephen Warner argues that racial dynamics are not permanent factors affecting post-1965 immigrant churches and that “the irreducibility of race applies primarily to the African American experience” (1998: 14). However, at the current period of development, second-generation churches, regardless of their efforts to attract other races, have largely drawn other Asian Americans into their congregations. It is important to note that where there is a concerted effort at several second-generation Korean American churches to become multiracial, rather than joining the “mainstream” they hope for the “mainstream” to join them. Michael Emerson and Christian Smith (2001) propose that multiracial congregations are rare in the United States because of the “niche overlap effect” and “niche edge effect,” which suggest that racial groups carve out niches within the overall church landscape. When one racial group becomes the dominant group in a church, this core group will form a critical mass that shapes the identity of the church. Furthermore, the church will attract mainly those who belong to the same race as the core group. In a predominately Asian American church,

156

A Faith of Our Own

non-Asians will perceive their minority status and most likely leave the church. In the current state of development, the vision of multiracial churches emerging from the hybrid third space has yet to be realized. Scholars have defined a multiracial church as one in which no one racial group is 80 percent or more of the congregation (DeYoung et al. 2003). However, does the general society share that same definition? Do whites necessarily have to be in the majority? What if a church is 79 percent Asian and 21 percent non-Asian, can that church be defined as a multiracial church? Would it be perceived, in the minds of non-Asians, as an appealing place to worship? Ken Fong, in his book Pursuing the Pearl, recounts an incident that points to the inherent racial bias embedded in our society. In seminary, Fong heard his professor exclaim, “the ethnic church in this country is an abomination to the all-encompassing gospel message. Eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour in America. We should all go to the same church.” In response, Fong asked his professor if he planned to begin attending the Asian American congregation where Fong was a member. The professor answered, “Why, no, I meant for you to come to our church.” Fong writes, “This fine Christian gentleman and world-class theologian could clearly imagine the cultural peculiarities of our church, but he was blind to those of his own” (1999: 3–4). Not surprisingly, those in the majority conflate Christianity and white American culture and in so doing are unable to recognize that their version of Christianity is far from color-blind. In a follow-up interview that I conducted in 2008 with Pastor Suh of Joyful Sound Church, the church in my study that is most committed to becoming multiracial, I noticed a shift in way he defined his vision. This shift came as a response to having employed a myriad of strategies for many years to attract more non-Asians, with few results. Currently, he has redefined the word “multiracial” to mean something other than numerical diversity. He explained that focusing on numerical diversity has frustrated and confused the members of his church. Instead of focusing on skin color and obsessing over whether his church was accomplishing its goal of racial diversity, Suh has shifted his focus to building a church of individuals who embrace a “third-culture mentality,” which he defines as “the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” The words “multiethnic” and “multiracial” are not highlighted any longer at Joyful Sound Church. In

Shifting Ethnic Boundaries

157

its place, Suh explains, “We needed to create a new language and that’s why we’re trying to talk about a third culture. We think that’s probably more gripping and has more similarity to what Jesus was going after in terms of kingdom community. We are affirming ethnic identity but also adapting to multiple cultures while staying who we are. Skin color is polarizing and messes up what we’re really trying to go after.” Similarly, Pastor Chung of Neighborhood Church has chosen to move away from intentional, “forced” methods of racially diversifying his congregation, and has opted to taken a more “natural” approach. In Chung’s mind, a church cannot effectively engineer its own racial composition because you cannot and should not try to control the choices that people make. Furthermore, it makes no sense to him for people to bury their ethnic identities for the sake of making non-Koreans comfortable. “People vote with their feet. People who’ve heard my sermons and understand who I am, they pretty much accept the fact that yeah, ‘I’m in a predominately Asian church and I’m okay with that.’ They are amenable to it.” This “natural” approach has come on the heels of being extremely color conscious and aggressively trying to reach out to and retain non-Koreans. Four of the churches in the study are approaching a congregational makeup of 79 percent Asian and 21 percent non-Asian, but they are seen by outsiders as well as among their own church members as an Asian American church. One of the pastors commented, “I think that as long as Asians are in the majority, our church will always be seen as an Asian American church. Even if 21 percent of our members are non-Asian, most people would not consider us a multiracial church. For white churches, this same logic does not apply. Why is that?” Mainstream churches have a hidden ethnicity that is normalized in our society. For example, the Dutch are an ethnic group whose ethnic culture is represented in the Reformed Church in America (Nemeth and Luidens 1995). The Dutch heritage and culture continue to play a vital role in the life of the laity and clergy of this denomination. Roof and McKinny (1987) found that in the General Social Survey, 43 percent of Lutherans reported German and 40 percent of Episcopalians indicated British as their principal ethnic ancestries. H. Richard Niebuhr (1929), in his study of European ethnic churches, wrote about the role of ethnicity in preserving denominational separations. Ethnicity was the primary source

158

A Faith of Our Own

of identity for the European immigrants, and denominations were the primary means by which they preserved their ethnic cultures. In essence, immigrant churches evolved into established denominations. Similarly, Andrew Greeley (1972) described American society as “the denominational society” and credited the survival of denominations in contemporary society to their ability to play an ethnic role. The main challenges that these churches face in becoming multiracial are a combination of sociological realities—comfortable associations with people of similar backgrounds, need for symbolic boundaries, and maintenance of the status quo (DeYoung et al. 2003). In order to combat these hurdles, second-generation Korean American pastors and leaders need to forge a sense of unity and collective solidarity within their churches by (1) focusing on a shared history, faith, and identity as Christians; (2) mobilizing around a shared goal of fulfilling the Great Commission; and (3) unifying around a sense of threat or opposition to their faith from outside, secular forces. While emphasizing these commonalities, it is important for these churches also to encourage the full expression of ethnic and racial difference. Ideally, these multiracial churches can serve as sites for culture sharing, and in the process of interethnic and interracial culture sharing, these churches can take on a truly hybrid “multiracial” subculture.

Chapte r 7

Conclusion

The ethnic church has been, from the first wave of Korean immigration to the United States, the central institution in the Korean American community. Today, there are more than 3,000 Korean American Protestant churches nationwide, and nearly 80 percent of Korean Americans are affiliated with them (Lien and Carnes 2004; Yoo and Chung 2008). Korean Americans—past and present—have been deeply influenced by the dominance of the Protestant church within their ethnic communities. However, today, as the children of post-1965 immigrants come of age, they are exerting new pressures and challenges to the existing immigrant religious organizations. No longer content with their parents’ churches, which they feel cater to the needs of the first generation, second-generation Korean Americans, with an unparalleled entrepreneurial fervor, are carving out new institutional niches to accommodate the intersection of race, generation, and ethnicity in the context of their Christian faith. The manner in which second-generation Korean Americans have constructed their own hybrid religious institutions reflects the complex and contradictory set of challenges and tensions that the group faces in the United States as a racial minority and as children of immigrants. Since the enactment of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which abolished the country-by-country quotas that had made it difficult for non-Europeans to immigrate, over 21 million immigrants entered the United States. In numerical volume, this rivals the great flood of European immigrants of the early 1900s (Zhou 2004). Recent studies have compared and contrasted the adaptation patterns of today’s second generation with those of the children of those who immigrated at the turn of the last century (Portes and Zhou 1993; Warner 1998). The adaptation patterns are significantly different today because the new immigrants 159

160

A Faith of Our Own

themselves are different, and the society into which they are adapting is markedly different from what awaited the European immigrants at the turn of the century. It is important to acknowledge the crucial impact of the historical and situational context that would differentiate the experiences of each immigrant group. First and perhaps most significant, the majority of the new immigrants who come from Latin American and Asian countries are racially different from the mainstream. At the turn of the past century, the majority of immigrants, like the native born, came largely from European nations. In contrast, the majority of the immigrants today come from Latin America and Asia, and together, immigrants and their children account for more than 60 million, or a fifth of all U.S. residents (Jacoby 2004). Furthermore, census estimates tell us that, in large part because of recent immigration, by the middle of this century Asian and Latino Americans will make up close to 35 percent of the U.S. population (Jacoby 2004). Because post-1965 immigrants are largely nonwhite, the current study of second-generation Korean Americans provides important insights into how the distinctive category of “race” figures into immigrant adaptation. Second-generation Korean Americans seem to defy established ways of thinking about racial inequality; their rates of education, income, and residential mobility suggest that that they have successfully integrated into mainstream society. However, regardless of their socioeconomic achievements, they are racially marginalized and not fully included as legitimate members within mainstream society’s primary associations (Kibria 2003). No matter how much they may try to conceal their ethnic identities in order to blend into the mainstream, race continues to set them apart as different and not genuinely American. In short, race is an important context in which second-generation Korean Americans form their understandings of what it means to be an American. Their choice to establish and attend second-generation Korean American churches is shaped, in part, by feelings of racial marginalization and the perception held by the mainstream that they are not authentically American (Tuan 1998). Undoubtedly, race is an important variable in understanding why second-generation Korean Americans, unlike the second generation of white ethnic groups, attend ethnic churches. The new immigrants also entered an American society that has been radically reshaped by the civil rights movement of the sixties. The civil

Conclusion

161

rights movement dramatically challenged and altered the traditional paradigms of minority identification and incorporation into mainstream society. Blending or melting into the mainstream often meant that immigrants would renounce their ethnic and cultural differences in order to embrace a monocultural American identity. The melting pot theory was more or less unchallenged for the first half of the twentieth century. However, arguing that the melting pot theory is essentially a hegemonic European American construct, many minority scholars during the sixties and seventies argued that ethnic and racial differences must not be disregarded or repressed. They rejected assimilation on the grounds that people of color in the United States were never included as a part of the assimilation equation. Additionally, they argued that assimilation forces the obliteration of ethnic differences and identity. Economic and technological processes of globalization and the increasing flow of migration to and from the United States have challenged the notion of a national American identity. With high-speed telecommunication and broadband links, as well as affordable global air travel, immigrants and their children today are no longer called upon to sever their ties to their homeland in the manner that their pre-1965 immigrant counterparts did. For example, the popularity and access to South Korean movies, music, dramas, and video games has grown significantly among Korean youth in the United States (J. Park 2004). With the development of its economy and media industries, South Korea has produced wellreceived popular cultural products such as film, music, and animation, which first circulated at the national level and then gradually expanded to the global market. The phenomenon of the Korean Wave, which refers to the global popularity of South Korean movies and music, has attracted much media and scholarly attention (Han and Lee 2008; Shim 2006). According to Hollywood Reporter, “Korea has transformed itself from an embattled cinematic backwater into the hottest film market in Asia” (Segers 2000). In addition to the flow of transnational popular culture, dual citizenship and allegiance to more than one country is accepted today; over 500,000 children are citizens of both the United States and of their parents’ countries of origin (Glazer 2004). As a result of these and many other globalizing trends, national identity has lost its exclusive, forceful edge. The concept of an American identity has taken on a more fluid and flexible nature, particularly among the second generation.

162

A Faith of Our Own

Studies have shown that one of the main characteristics of contemporary U.S. society is the instability of identities and the continuous invention of new identities (Conzen et al. 1992; Kim and Hurh 1993; R. Kim 2006; Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Yang 1999a). In fact, immigrants and their children are very much at the forefront in the dynamic of identity production. Kim and Hurh coined the term “adhesive pattern of adaptation” to describe the growing acculturation among Korean immigrants in select dimensions of their lives while simultaneously retaining elements of their ethnic culture and networks (1993: 700). These immigrants engaged in a process of ethnic invention in which they “adhesively” attached certain elements of American culture to their existing ethnic identity. Similarly, sociologist Fengyang Yang (1999a) observes that Chinese American Christian immigrants attached some parts of American culture to their existing ethnic identity. Both studies argue that instead of choosing either American or ethnic identities, immigrants may construct “adhesive” identities in which elements of American culture are selectively attached to preexisting ethnic cultures. In contrast, identity for second-generation Korean Americans in my study is better described as hybrid, for in the words of Floya Anthias, “the term hybridity opens up spaces hitherto foreclosed by traditional approaches to ethnicity and migration, and involve anti-essentialist projects and critiques of static notions of ethnicity and culture” (2001: 620). The term “hybridity” has been celebrated as a challenge to ethnic essentialism (Anthias 2001; Hall 1990). Research on second-generation blacks and Asians in Britain shows that instead of replicating essential identities, the descendents of immigrants sift and pick cultural tools to negotiate their positions within their structural contexts (Back 1996; Gilroy 1993; Hall 1990). In a like manner, second-generation Korean Americans are creatively renegotiating their condition of marginality by fashioning a hybrid identity, by adopting and reinterpreting elements of Korean and American spirituality, within their newly formed churches. The formation and growth of second-generation churches needs to be analyzed with respect to the changing definitions of what it means to be an American. The traditional vision of assimilation, or “becoming American,” has been one-directional: immigrants and their children shed their ethnic identities to adapt to the cultural and social norms of an idealized Anglo-American mainstream. The assimilation concept

Conclusion

163

of the earlier era is now contested and rejected by many scholars who point to the continued salience of ethnic cultures in the United States, as well as for its ethnocentric assumptions about the superiority of AngloAmerican culture. Contemporary scholarship on immigrant adaptation argues that ethnicity need not be obliterated on the road to becoming American; in some cases, remaining firmly ensconced in their ethnic communities ensures successful adaptation (Kibria 2003; Zhou 2004). Furthermore, assimilation is a two-way street: that in the long run, the mainstream will change too as it absorbs and accommodates the cultural variety of its newest members (Alba and Nee 2003). Research has shown that the primary site for the construction of ethnic identity among the second generation is voluntary organization (Bacon 1999;Yoo 2000). In the case of second-generation Korean Americans, churches serve as the primary site where their alternative identities are constructed. By forming their own ethno-religious institutions, they are saying that they can be fully American without having to denounce their ethnic identity and difference. They are asserting that the definition of American identity is not fixed but is rather fluid and has the capacity to be redefined and reshaped by minority groups. By neither assimilating into mainstream churches nor remaining in the ethnic churches of their immigrant parents, but establishing their own independent religious institutions, second-generation Korean Americans are establishing that in today’s American society, there are hybrid third spaces to inhabit. The growth of second-generation hybrid churches marks an empirical and theoretical turn from past immigration. Past studies have shown that ethnic institutions were established by the immigrant generation because of language and cultural constraints, but eventually disappeared as the American-born generation assimilated into mainstream institutions. Assimilationist studies of ethnic churches formulate a life-cycle framework of ethnic institutions (Gordon 1964; Mullins 1987). During the first stage, ethnic churches are initially established to meet the needs of the immigrant generation, and hence the services and activities are conducted in the language of the old country. With the cultural assimilation of the later generations and the inevitable language shift, the ethnic churches enter their second stage, making organizational changes necessary in several areas. Bilingual religious leaders must be recruited, additional English-language services must be implemented, and the materials

164

A Faith of Our Own

used in religious services must be made available in both languages. Structural assimilation, which involves large-scale entrance into the cliques, clubs, and institutions of the host society, brings ethnic churches to the third stage of development. The appeal of ethnic churches tends to diminish gradually, since social and religious needs can be met equally well within the organizations of the host society. Likewise, structural assimilation leads to increasing intermarriage among subsequent generations, contributing further to the decline of ethnic churches. The majority of research on ethnic institutions that were developed by white immigrants focuses on their transition from immigrant to ethnic to American institutions. Jay Dolan characterizes this generational shift in ethnic organizations. With each new generation, the ties to the cultures and languages of the Old World weakened. Immigrants passed their cultural heritage on to their children, and the national parish was an important agency in the process. During the era of the second generation, the national parish remained strong, but it began to encourage Americanization as well as loyalty to a particular national culture. After World War II a noticeable shift toward Americanization and assimilation set in. People now identified themselves as Americans of Polish or Italian descent, not Polish Americans or Italian Americans. (1975: 364–365) For white immigrants, the ethnic churches served to preserve the old culture and ease the process of adjustment to the new land (Radecki 1974; Stout 1975; Treudly 1949). However, the younger generations rejected the ethnic churches and were able to have their religious and social needs met by the mainstream institutions. In contrast to the straightline assimilation paradigm, my study demonstrates that the children of immigrants have agency in carving their own path of integration into U.S. society. Rather than integrating into existing options—mainstream white churches, Korean immigrant churches, or other racial minority churches—the second generation is building their own spiritual homes and welcoming mainstream Americans into them. The hybrid third space is not viewed by second-generation Korean Americans as an inferior space to inhabit. Rather, existing on the boundaries or margins is viewed as an advantageous position because

Conclusion

165

it provides a vantage point from which to view, adopt, reject, and reinterpret cultural and spiritual resources from diverse communities. The pastors are skillfully managing and rearticulating their condition of marginality. Within their new religious institutions, they are constructing a new form of collective identity that is open and “in between.” Herberg (1955) argues in his landmark study, Protestant-Catholic-Jew, that religious activity and affiliation diminishes among the second generation because of alienation from the ethnic church and uneasiness with the nonethnic church due to incomplete assimilation. In a similar vein, Gans (1994) argues that second-generation immigrants are less religious than their parents and that their religious identity is more symbolic than real. Similarly, since the 1990s, there have been widespread reports as well as fears within the Korean community that the second generation was leaving the church and abandoning their faith. Church leaders originally dubbed this outward drift the “silent exodus” because much of it went unnoticed by the first generation. People outside of the Korean community also took notice (Cha 2001; Chai 2001). In the front-page article in the Los Angeles Times, Doreen Carvajal (1994) reported that the majority of second-generation Koreans, frustrated and discontent with their parents’ churches, were leaving churches altogether. Similarly, Helen Lee reported in Christianity Today that “at an alarming rate, many young believers who have grown up in these Asian congregations are now choosing to leave not only their home churches, but possibly their Christian faith as well” (1996: 50). What these reports neglected to address was the development of autonomous churches created by and for the second generation. Contrary to Herberg’s and Gans’s predictions of a dramatic decline in religiosity among second-generation immigrants, my research demonstrates that second-generation Korean Americans, rather than denouncing their faith, are actively forging their own hybrid churches that are challenging conventional understandings of minority and mainstream churches.These new churches aim to attract and assimilate all ethnic groups without sacrificing their hybrid identity and spirituality. In other words, the response to marginalization and disconnection from both ethnic and mainstream churches has not been a decrease in the level of spirituality and commitment to church. Rather, building on a strong foundation of faith laid for second-generation Korean Americans as children, even if they did not

166

A Faith of Our Own

feel comfortable in the immigrant church or the mainstream church, it did not mean that they did not want some other spiritual home. In ways unparalleled in other ethnic communities, churches catering to the second generation have been rapidly developing and growing in Los Angeles as well as in other major cities throughout the United States. Contemporary scholars of religion have suggested that the second generation, in their quest to differentiate and distance themselves from their parents’ religion, have rushed into the arms of mainstream evangelicalism (Kurien 2004; S. Park 2004). However, my research reveals that second-generation Korean American Christians are cautious and deliberate in choosing which elements of mainstream evangelicalism they want to embrace. Their goal is not simply to disassociate with the religion of their immigrant parents and realign themselves with mainstream evangelicalism. Rather, in fashioning a faith of their own, they yearn to emulate the strengths and avoid the weaknesses of both American evangelicals and Korean immigrant Protestants. From American evangelicals, they have adopted organizational structures and worship styles, while rejecting their individualism. In respect to Korean immigrant churches, the second-generation leaders want to preserve tongsongkido (unison prayer) and embrace their parents’ emphasis on the collective over the individual. Finally, the second-generation leaders desire to break away from the materialism and status preoccupation that they observe in both mainstream evangelical and immigrant churches. Within their hybrid third spaces, they are selectively embracing cultural tools from various sources in order to invent distinct second-generation spirituality. They want their own voices to be nurtured and heard. Furthermore, they believe that their unique hybrid voices will be evangelistically appealing, even to non-Koreans. The verdict is still out on whether they are able to successfully attract non-Asians and become multiracial. Although I focused primarily on racial boundaries in this book, there are other boundaries for future researchers to examine. For example, are these churches reaching out to people who are from different economic backgrounds and if so, what are the challenges they encounter in negotiating class boundaries? Do these churches attract older immigrants, the parents of its members? Social scientists, in focusing solely on how American society impacted immigrant groups, have neglected to study the ways in which

Conclusion

167

ethnic groups have had an impact on mainstream America. The study of second-generation churches, particularly in the current period of transition, experimentation, and innovation, provides a colorful and intriguing case study of how ethnic minorities, rather than simply adopting mainstream Christianity, can and do transform the practice and institutional landscape of religion in America. By fashioning hybrid third spaces that are open to all races and ethnicities, second-generation Korean Americans are challenging conventional understandings of “minority” and “mainstream” church. Their goal is to influence mainstream Protestantism by practicing and marketing religion that is flavored by multiple sources, including Korean expressions of Christianity. Increasingly, Christianity in the United States is being transformed by its encounters with its own reimported and reinterpreted self. Peggy Levitt persuasively argues, “pluralism means not just letting individuals speak but letting them shape the collective narrative so they recognize their voice within in” (2007: 168). By creating a faith of their own, second-generation Korean Americans are declaring that in today’s society, there are hybrid third spaces to inhabit.

Ap pe ndi x A. D e scrip t ion of Ch urc h e s

Church

Pastor’s Last Name

Denominational Affiliation

Agape Church

Yim

Korean Presbyterian Church of America

Christian Witness Church

Na

Nondenominational

Disciple Church of Irvine

Yoon

Southern Baptist

Size

50-100 50-100 100-200

Disciple Church of West L.A.

Chun

Southern Baptist

100-200

Faith Church

Baek

Presbyterian U.S.A.

100-200

Family Church

Chang

Nondenominational

100-200

Flowing Life Church

Moon

Nondenominational

50-100

Focus Church

Shin

Nondenominational

Fruitful Church

Choi

Missionary Church

Glory Church

Han

Nondenominational