The Land of Opportunists

If it's true that America is the "land of opportunity", then those of us whose families came here to seek out those opportunities (that means nearly everyone) are born of that strong American pragmatism — Go for what works, never mind what happens, take care of yourself and good things happen.

It's actually a maxim in economic theory — when the individual does what is best for himself, it is ultimately what benefits the entire system. Why? Because it rids the system of inefficiencies. Opportunity is alleviating inefficiency. By this definition, tradition and culture can prove to be impediments to efficiency, obstacles to opportunity, and resistance to working out some good for the whole. And yet, to leave behind tradition and culture seems incredibly difficult to do, some would say, near impossible. Even if you forsake the traditions and culture of your own, wouldn't you be taking on the traditions and culture of another? Continue reading “The Land of Opportunists”

Excerpt from chat with Peter Ong

exportjoy: do you preach mostly for chinese congregations or a variety?
Peter Ong: mostly for asian american but I have been known to preach at other conferences
exportjoy: i see. there are truly integrated asian american congregations in your area then?
Peter Ong: I have seen one so far but that is something that I am committed in developing. i was part of forming a youth ministry in a church where the immigrant and ABC youth was truly integrated
exportjoy: so would you say that you have more exposure in chinese american circles?
Peter Ong: yes, but recently connected with korean american circles
exportjoy: do you ever feel as though it is difficult with crossing over into other culture's churches? Continue reading “Excerpt from chat with Peter Ong”

What the 2nd-gener-asians stand to lose

There is a notion in economics known as "opportunity cost" – it is the idea that every decision you make, excludes the alternative — and that alternative was the price that you paid to make the decision. So for instance, if you were trying to decide between two things, whether to have the chicken sandwich or the meatloaf for lunch, not only did you pay whatever monetary difference between the two, but you also sacrificed one to have the other. It's a very interesting notion, although perhaps not in this example, because it really brings out the weight of significant decisions. What you have for lunch is simply not as signficant as who you decide to date, and who you decide to date is not as weighty as who you decide to marry, and where you decide to marry is not as important is where you decide to live, so on an so forth.

At some point in the decision-making process for the immigrant, this weighing of opportunities and the costs associated with the decision took place. For the first-generations, there was much to be gained — perhaps it was political stability, new business opportunities, freedom of religion, an outlet to graduate studies, a new life, more opportunities for the children, and for the adventurous in heart, a new culture. And it cost them individually, well, the sense of being a native, friendships and family ties, command of the language, and for the less adventurous of heart, their old culture. So along with their two sets of luggage (150kg total and often named 'emigration bags') and their two permissible carry-on bags, they boarded a plane carrying as much of their culture with them and brought them here. The chance at a new life for them and their children was too much to pass up.

Their decision obviously has some ramifications for the 2nd-generation, their children. Sure, we got the opportunities in education and we perhaps lived in a lot more prosperity than our far-off cousins. We have made out quite well in terms of those things. We are well-educated, well-paid, and relative to the general population, well-off. But it looks like we have some decisions to make as well. Because it has cost us something to live here and it will continue to cost us something.

And at some point we have to be conscious about this, because while with every decision, there is an opportunity cost to the alternative, there is an even higher cost when we decide NOT to decide.

Diagnosis: Ecclesiocarcinoma

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of cancer is that the problem originates with our own cells. The disease of cancer is endogenous, it happens within the system. Unlike other diseases which are transported into the body via bacteria or a virus, cancer begins in our very own cells with the tiniest of glitches. In the process of replicating hundreds of thousands of times throughout our lives, somewhere in the DNA of our cells, a break or a switch of nucleic acids occurs, and from that small change, a switch happens in the cell that causes it to keep replicating, to propogate ad infinitum. Cancer is a once-upon-a-time normal, healthy cell gone beserk – that cannot stop reproducing itself even at the expense of the survival of the body.

By that definition of cancer, I think it's time to say, we have the makings of a serious cancer in the Korean-American church. Too many churches Continue reading “Diagnosis: Ecclesiocarcinoma”

The rice-paper-thin sense of community

Asians pride themselves on their strong sense of community, but I would suggest that for Asian-Americans, we do not have as strong a sense of community as we would like to think.

We are strongly tied to our families and perhaps our small circle of friends, but any connection to a larger sense of community is so thin, I would say it's non-existent, or perhaps, easily expendable. It is perhaps a product of our strong opportunistic origins, after all our parents came here sacrificing community for the future, and we have inherited that sense of opportunity as well. Simply put, we would easily sacrifice community for individual opportunity. Which is to say, we, as Asian-Americans, value community very little. Don't get me wrong Continue reading “The rice-paper-thin sense of community”