Where are you from? DJ Chuang

As we start a new season here at Next GenerAsian Church, our team of contributors have reconnected and been reinvigorated to continue this team blog as a place for stories and conversations about faith and culture. Even though this blog had been dormant for quite some time, its appearance in the Top 200 Church Blogs list signaled significant interest in this blog’s topics.

To launch this new season, we’ll have a round of introductions from each of the contributors. By sharing our back stories, we hope this humanizes and personalizes our voices as we drill-down into issues regarding faith and culture.

Most of us Asian Americans have been asked the question, “Where are you from?” And that’s sometimes followed by “Where are you really from?” when wanting to find out someone’s ethnic identity. This can be annoying or offensive for some.

Let’s re-frame that question. I’ll share where I’m from, and where I’m coming from.

My name is DJ Chuang and I’m from Orange County, California. Moved here 4 years ago from metro Washington DC. I came to America when I was 8 years old; my family immigrated from Taiwan; I’m the oldest of 3 boys. My parents are Chinese, so our family was fairly traditional and not religious. Our family ran a motel business in a humble small Virginia town. Life was practical, routine and mundane, and I thought that’s all there was to life: you go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, have children, lather, rinse and repeat. A very predictable narrative. Intuitively, I yearned for something more in life.

I discovered this as I learned about the Christian faith during my college years. After working as an engineer for a few years, I sensed a disconnect between my (English-speaking) Asian American friends and the typical church — be it the ethnic Asian church or mainstream mostly-Caucasian church.

Thus began my life journey to see if God might use me to make a difference. I took a leap of faith and went to seminary. I pastored for 5 years — 2 years in an ethnic Chinese church and 3 years in a multi-Asian/multi-ethnic church plant. I started blogging. I worked with a private family foundation to develop Asian American leadership.

Now I’m well into my 40s, and the same issues keep recurring about the bicultural tensions of being Asian and American, both at the same time. The mainstreaming of Asian America hasn’t resolved this dilemma (cf. 20-something freddiew describing the sigh from his Asian parents).

Supposedly, there is a surge of Asian American participation in college ministries and American churches, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at Christian media and books and conferences. I’d like to think that being Asian American can be much more than just being Asian or just being American.

I believe how we live out our Christian faith is much more than prayer and Bible study and church attending and serving. There is a whole cultural and relational layer that’s has to be contextualized and incarnationalized into our lived theology. That is, an Asian American Christian marriage and an Asian American Christian family will look different in its practical theology because of its cultural and relational context.

More specifically, 2 issues I’m particularly passionate about (or, burdened for) are: 1stly, how we relate to one another. How can Asian American Christians better demonstrate reconciliation, conflict resolution, forgiveness, and restoring relationships? And, 2ndly, how we can accept and value the average Asian American person and the broken-hearted too. There’s an ugly side of Asian cultures that devalues those who don’t get the top grades, have superb performance, and/or attaining social status, not to mention those who are struggling with life, be it mental illness, addictions, hurts, and hangups. In Christ, we have nothing to prove and no one to impress. That’s good news! And we have a long ways to live that out as Asians and Asian Americans.

I’m glad there’s a place online like Next Gener.Asian Church to have these vital conversations to flesh out our faith in a richer and more fully-textured manner. There’s much to talk about — let’s get on with it!

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