The Conservative Silence on Race

How come conservative Asian American believers don’t want to talk about ethnicity and race?

In this conversation with Nate Lee, we explore the following:

  • Defining a conservative Asian American believer – 1) someone who is politically conservative – i.e. values limited government, lower taxes, and traditional values OR 2) someone who is theologically conservative – i.e. evangelical, literal interpretation of the Bible, gospel-centered, traditional view of Christian sexual ethics.
  • Nate’s experience with the “narrowness” of conservatism – how both ends of the political/theological spectrum believe they are correct and don’t want to listen to other people
  • Nate’s journey of discovery in seeing how culturally-defined his faith was/is based on mainstream white evangelical culture
  • How seminary caused me (Fred) to think more broadly about theology and culture and be more open to different points of views, especially concerning God
  • What is the role of “whiteness” for Asian Americans? Is it wrong or inappropriate that we, as Asian American believers, worship in ways influenced by mainstream white evangelical culture?
  • The importance of a group of people having a story – our person-hood, our history, our worship practices
  • Fred’s experience in the immigrant church that many Asian American Christians are fearful of beliefs that might threaten their faith values even though these values may be culturally-derived and derived from the gospel.
  • What we would recommend others do to have a more expansive view of the gospel that is open to other cultures and not simply what we have grown up in

How to Date an Emotionally Repressed Asian Guy

When I glanced at the title of Susan Walsh’s post How to Let Go of an Emotionally Repressed Man, my first thought was:

Wow. Sounds like most Asian guys.

And once I read it, that’s exactly who the emotionally repressed man turned out to be.

Here’s the advice I would write to the 29-year old presumably white woman who is dating a 30-year old Taiwanese American man:

My first instinct when I read about your situation is to tell you is to dump the guy and swear off emotionally repressed men forever.

But upon reflection, there may be hope for this relationship but change will require courage, humility, and trust by both parties.

I want to give some perspective about what it feels like to be an emotionally repressed Asian American man. Emotional repression is not my particular dysfunction (rage and insecurity are my modus operandi) but as an Asian American pastor in the Chinese church who has worked and counseled dozens of Asian men over the years, I can assure you emotional repression is fairly typical for Asian American men mainly because of cultural differences in the way Asians communicate. We tend to avoid conflict, be uncomfortable with emotional expression particularly negative ones like grief, pain, and loss, be self-deprecating, and have difficulty expressing our needs/desires/wants.

So this is what your man may be feeling when, in your words, you pressure him into responding emotionally:


He’s afraid of how you’ll receive his emotional expression. He’s afraid of being vulnerable. He’s afraid of sharing his feelings and being rejected. He’s afraid you’ll respond the way his parents did when as a child, he expressed his needs or fears and had them dismissed in a cursory way, was ignored, or was patronized with advice-giving. He has a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look when you ask him how feels because he has never been exposed to a healthy model of healthy emotional expression. He feels tremendous pressure to appease you because that’s how he dealt with his family’s expectations and thus he is afraid sharing anything deeper because he senses it might threaten your relationship. He is afraid to initiate conversations about improving the relationship because it implies your relationship isn’t good enough and that threatens him. He is afraid to initiate dates because the fear of rejection or failure is so strong.

All this fear causes paralysis and a feeling like he’s being flooded and his instinct is to retreat into himself. In the end, his emotional repression is probably some amount of shyness and cluelessness but mostly fear.

What can you do?

Turn the pressure way down. If you understand the fear behind his actions, then you will make an effort to help him feel safe and secure. Give him time to think about what he wants to say. He may even need a separate conversation to compose his feelings.

Re-frame his emotional distance. This is, after all, the reason you were attracted to him in the first place. Statements like “I’m not a thoughtful person” coming from an Asian guy should NOT be taken at face value. In a shame-based culture, self-deprecating remarks are self-effacing comments meant either to elicit humor or demonstrate humility.

Be explicit and specific about how you expect him to be thoughtful. I think all guys are clueless about this. And we are afraid to ask at risk of appearing clueless. Fear of rejection and failure is big. Look for signs of progress and be pleasantly surprised when he’s more thoughtful than he gives himself credit for.

To temper your expectations, I’m not convinced that a dating relationship is the best place for an emotionally repressed Asian guy to work out his issues. You also need to confront the reality that on an emotional expression scale (10 being unrestrained emotionality), he’s probably a 3. He may someday move from 3 to 5 but he will never be a 7 much less a 10. You also need to accept he may always be a 3.

Key Series: Why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans

Read this insightful series by DJ Chuang about why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans. It is a powerful introduction to many of the conversations we have here at Next Gener.Asian Church.

As DJ writes in his initial series post:

All to say that our American society needs more Asian Americans to be Asian American. It is to say that at this state of the union, we have too few. We certainly don’t have too many. We’d do well to have a few more to stand up and represent. We’d do well to think through and have more robust conversations about what it means to be Asian Americans. We’d do well to allow the richness of our Asian American’ness to overflow and not hide it under a bushel.

The disclaimers DJ writes at the outset are, alone, worth the price of admission:

Continue reading “Key Series: Why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans”

book review – Many Colors by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

[Review by Dr. Jack Lumanog]

Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church is the new book by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.  This is a follow up to The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.  His latest book both sounds the alarm for the need for the Church gaining cultural intelligence as well as some practical steps on how to get started.

The book is divided into three parts: Understanding Culture, A Constructive Cultural Paradigm and Cultural Intelligence in Action.  There were some parts of the book that were hard to get through – and probably because it was necessary groundwork to get through to the payoff of how do we see more multicultural involvement in our churches.

The book was an uncomfortable read in parts simply because I resonated with certain portions where Dr. Rah addressed Asian-American assumptions in a group dynamic. And, on the topic of uncomfortable parts, was where he shared some stories as it relates to minority culture and their food. He remarked how some caucasian students at his seminary reacted uncharitably when some Korean students shared some of their traditional food. I had that reaction from my neighborhood friends all growing up because of the very foreign look, feel, taste and smell of my very Filipino food that our family had to offer for dinner.

One of the most practical steps offered in the book is how our food and sharing meals and life together around a dinner table can help bridge the cultural gap that exists between us. He masterfully weaves in how Jesus did this with the Communion meal of bread and wine. Dr. Rah’s explanation of the life shared at the Communion table to the dinner table is well worth your time and attention.

For me, Dr. Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism is an important work as it gave me some resources to draw on in explaining the current problem in the Church as it relates to race relations. For his follow up work in Many Colors, essentially the same case is stated as he did in his first book but the presentation comes across more winsome – but just as compelling at the same time.

As an Asian-American pastor, I am thankful for Dr. Soong-Chan Rah for being a practical prophet for our times.  Not only speaking the uncomfortable truth, but for giving us in Many Colors some practical resources on how to get where we need to be as the Church in the 21st century.

reflections of a Filipino-American Priest

[Review by Dr. Jack Lumanog]

I have been wrestling with what to post here for a few weeks since being invited to be a contributor to yellowfaith blog.  Being an Asian-American is not as cut and dried as you might think.  It’s a vast territory and there is not one particular experience to speak of.  When you add being a Christian in there too, it gets very, very complicated.  Perhaps the safest thing to do is just talk about my experience instead of attempting to unpack what it is to be an Asian-American Christian – as if it’s possible to do that in one blog post!

My experience first as an Asian-American, particularly as a first generation American with parents from the Philippines, can best be summed up as it is very much an honor/shame way of being brought up.  And, a win/loss is not just individual, it’s for the whole family.  In the Philippines, the word for shame is hiya. As one author put it:

a universal social sanction, creating a deep emotional realization of having failed to live up to the standards of society”. Of course, HIYA is to be avoided at all costs by Filipinos. The greatest insult is to say that someone is WALANG HIYA (WITHOUT SHAME).
-Alfredo Roces and Grace Roces, Culture Shock! – Philippines, 1992

Again, I can’t speak for all Asian-Americans, but I do know the honor/shame part to be very real.  My grades in school reflect not only on me, but on my family.  My behavior in public not only reflected on me, but my whole family.  My decision to leave the church I was raised in and decide to go elsewhere was not only a reflection on me, but my whole family.

My experience of growing up Asian-American was that in order to obtain honor and avoid shame, it involves a lot of DOING.  So, “be the best” in order to obtain honor.  If you don’t do your best, then comes the shame and it is not just your burden to bear – it’s upon us all.

Now, when one such as myself comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Redeemer … what now?  I prayed to receive Christ into my heart when I was 16 years old.  When I confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord, I know that I received His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  I’ve never been the same since that day, June 14, 1992, and I have been mission obsessed with bringing this message of the Gospel to as many people and places as possible.

In the midst of all this spiritual transformation, something that seems to be firmly embedded in me and something that I war against in the flesh is still this cultural honor/shame.  Because there is always a temptation to always be DOING.  When instead, there is a rest that comes in fully receiving Jesus’ work on the cross.  The cross covers my shame and my faith in Him brings me honor – in this life and in the life to come.  My laboring for the Kingdom of God cannot add to the cross or take away from the cross.  The cross is a reminder that everything has already been DONE by Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.

Simply put, the Christian life calls me  —  this child of immigrants who is constantly entrepreneurial, working for honor and avoiding shame at all costs  —  to lay down this war in the flesh at the foot of the cross.  Our Lord took upon Himself our shame (our sinful nature and even parts of our cultural identity that don’t create new life in Christ) and He raises us to new life in Him.  Thanks be to God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!


Dr. Jack Lumanog is Priest and Senior Pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church in Lansing , MI.  He serves in the Anglican Mission in the Americas as the Clergy Formation Advisor overseeing candidates in the process of ordination for the Heart of North America Region.  His website is here: