Asian American Religion and Politics
The Asian Americans
Nowadays, Asians are seen all over the world, dominating a big portion of a country’s population whether that is their country of origin or are just immigrants. In America, for instance, the presence of the Asians became very apparent and consistent that a community of Asian Americans have gradually emerged over the years.
The first believed Asians to ever arrive in the western hemisphere were some Chinese Filipinos who went and settled in Mexico.
This migration trend greatly increased during the year 1840 when the slave system is in dire need of more slave workers. Some people from India, China, and the Philippines were brought in America to increase the workforce in the production process of America’s industries (Le, 2008). Ever since the migration of people from Asia to America took place, the influx of Asian immigrants grew rapidly.
According to Tony Carnes and Fenggang Yang, when the Asians crossed the American border, most of them brought their religious practices and traditions with them witth a few gaining their religious inclinations in the latter country (Carnes & Yang, 2004).
They also assert that the Asian Americans who have been in the country for almost five generations have also established a number of religious sites and other Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) which was also a distinctive feature of Asian American social and cultural life.
The image associated with the old and new generation of Asian Americans is also uniquely consistent, which Carnes and Yang assume to be some form of a redemptive energy transforming neglected, worn-out street corners into a haven for meditation (Carnes & Yang, 2004). A Hindu diorama of the Himalayan mountain is presented in some old warehouses, Christian music resounding in street corners and fruit stands accompanied by street dancing, the towering Korean steeples, and other faith-based representations are seen to be scattered all over America (Carnes & Yang, 2004).
However, the emergence of religion and faith-based organizations did not easily surface. Considering that Asians are primarily immigrants in the US, their influx in the country somehow disrupted the societal undertakings in the country and their religious traditions. Aside from that, the presence of many religion and religionist from the Asian American community also challenged the activities and decisions of a number of American political parties (Carnes & Yang, 2004). It ranges from building controversies up to ethnic disparities. Because of this, the strong interaction and relationship of religion and politics is inevitably observed in the Asian American community wherein questions emerge on how each one significantly affects the other. This issue will be further analyzed in the progression of the paper from having an understanding of each concept individually and scrutinizing them together.
Asian American Religion
As stated earlier, the arrival of the Asians basically marked the beginning of the emergence of new religions in the western hemisphere. Religions such as Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism were brought to the US as the foundation of the paths Asians had to take in discerning what they are supposed to do. The Christian religion has also influenced the Asian Americans in the US (Yang). For instance, around 20 percent of the Chinese immigrants are associated with Christian churches and many Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants are Catholic Christians as influenced by the French and Spanish colonizers (Yang). Ultimately, these Asian religions brought in the US are very unique and diverse. The matrix below presents the different denominational and religious affiliations of the Asian Americans in the U.S.
Religious and Denominational Affiliations
of Asian Americans in the U.S.
% of all Asians
Number of Adults
None / Agnostic
Assemblies of God
Churches of Christ
(Le, C.N. “The First Asian Americans,” 2008)
The figure above was the result of the most recent study entitled, The American Religious Identification Survey 2001, which was conducted by the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (Le, 2008). As observed in the figure above, Roman Catholicism garnered the highest percentage with 21.0 percent of all Asians. However, according to the group who conducted the survey, there was a discrepancy between the Roman Catholic and Protestant respondents considering that there are around 5.8 percent or 435,700 adults who simply categorized themselves under the lable “Christians” which could either fall under Catholic Christians or Protestant Christians. Yet, regardless of the said discrepancy, the group asserts that Christianity is still the largest religious group in the US (Le, 2008). Furthermore, it is perceivable that there is a large amount of Asian Americans who assert that they do not belong to any religious groups nor practices religion. However, this does not hinder other significant denominations to pursue including the Buddhists with 9.1 percent, Muslims with 5.2 percent, and Jewish with 0.4 percent.
To briefly explain the different religious practices of the given denominations in the US, the Catholics are primarily guided by one of their oldest principle, the Apostle’s Creed. It encompasses the fundamental practices and belief of Christianity with great emphasis to Jesus Christ and redemption (“Catholic Tradition”). The Protestant Christians, in the same manner, profess that their beliefs are highly based on the teachings of the Bible and to the one true God (Anderson, 2006). Buddhism on the contrary, preserves their belief in concepts such as Nirvana, karma, and that there is a right thinking and a right action. The faith of the Muslims declares that they believe in the power and Divinity of Allah who is the Lord and that the Holy Qur’an is Allah’s words revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. They are also known for their fervent prayer practices five times a day as a sign of worship to Allah. There are a lot more religious practices and groups all over America who may have some commonalities with the given faiths. However, similar as they may be, these religious groups still stand differently from each other.
Comparing the Asian American religious practices to other ethnic group in the U.S., the congregation comprising the Asian American denomination has a deep historical and cultural root which is predominant until the present generation.
According to David Yoo and Ruth Chung, the formation of Asian American religion is in part due to the need of new immigrants to cope with their transition and adaption to the American way of life (Yoo & Chung, 2008). Catholic churches, for example, are not just seen as the people’s place of worship but a refuge for those who have just immigrated to the States and are struggling with overcoming cultural differences (Ecklund & Park, 2005). Korean Catholic churches were also regarded to support immigrants to preserve their Catholic identity and strengthen their faith especially in today’s environment wherein almost everything is easily destabilized. Moreover, considering that there are Americans who practices similar religious beliefs like Catholicism and Protestantism, the Asian American religion and even religious group has a different arrangement. As observed by Yoo and Chung, the concept of race plays a crucial role in the Asian American religion especially since most of its churches are brought together by their perceived commonality.
Aside from that, the idea of race enables Asian American religious practices to have a certain degree of emphasis and focus which is accorded by racialization and categorization of some groups. This may be viewed to be beneficial, but there are some instances where this racial profiling caused negative effects to the religious freedom of some denomination. This is true for the Muslims during the 9/11 bombing wherein the ethnic group of the Muslims were discriminated and that Islam was also castigated.
Asian American Politics
From being immigrants and gradually increasing in their cultural involvement, Asian Americans moved to make a mark in the political undertakings of US. In recent times, these Asian Americans transformed from the marginalized sector to becoming political appointees, elected officials and significant players in the US election period (Chang, 2001). According to an account regarding the presence of Asian Americans in the political sphere, around 300 officials were elected into office in the mid-2000 including Senators, US representatives, state representatives, city council members, etc… excluding those who were not able to make it to the current administration.
But alongside the emergence of these Asian American government officials are their stakes and interests which they intend to push forward in the policy-making processes and in law implementations. It also enabled the Asian Americans who support them and voted them to have a voice in the American decision-making system wherein issues such as immigration reform, education, race relations, political and social policies and cultural endeavors of the people are taken into consideration (Chang, 2001). Moreover, having representatives in the whole decision-making process also empowers the Asian American communities to expand their sphere of influence and interact with other people of the same community. However, considering the strong link between an individual’s cultural roots and their religious practices, sometimes controversies and disparities among the Asian American communities emerge because of the policy choices and endeavors that are needed to be pushed forward.
Relationship of Asian American Religion and Politics
Linking the two significant aspects of the Asian American community, politics has a distinct implication in the Asian American religion.
Considering that the Asian Americans were historically linked to their motherland, they are greatly influenced by the happenings in their homeland and are even affected by their historical experiences. The Chinese Americans, for example, are usually supportive of the Republican party of the US because this political party greatly lobbied in opposition of Communism which these Chinese individuals have known to be oppressive and evil (Carnes & Yang, 2004). The Muslim Americans, in the same sense, have also divided its congregation between those who are political and non-political. Aside from that, most of the U.S officials especially those who are Asian Americans give attention to the religion-related concerns of the Asian American community above all others. Many Asian Americans are accounted to be very consistent in attending church services and in participating in their congregation’s activities. Political analysts believe that individuals who are active in their religious endeavors is, in the same manner, participative in the societal and political movements in the country (Carnes & Yang, 2004). This means that politicians who involve themselves in the religious undertakings of Asian Americans have great chances of convincing these people to be supportive in their projects and programs.
Other than the political affiliation and social involvement, as stated earlier, religion also plays a significant role in addressing the needs and problems of the Asian American communities. Considering the fact that religious conflicts occur among the diverse Asian American denominations, there are times wherein those who have the support of some politicians have a greater chance of being favored. This justifies the concept of politics that those who are closer in the center of power gain more benefits and favor (Mingst, 2004). Ultimately, as what has been observed even during ancient civilization, religion and politics are really difficult to balance especially those which are as diverse as those of the Asian American community.
Looking back at the analysis given, it is observable that the Asian American religion is uniquely solid and firm. This is part and parcel due to the faithful convictions of Asian Americans to their cultural heritage and how they wanted to maintain their religious tradition (Jeung, 2005). However, as observed in the political implication of religion, it is also because of this strong religious and racial inclination that a number of conflicts emerged between different Asian American religious groups. It is therefore important and imperative for US officials to have a clear perspective and understanding of the Asian American religion to be able to address their needs better and help them enhance their living status in the country they chose to find refuge.
Anderson, M. (2006). “Creeds of Christendom.” Retrieved May 23, 2008, from http://www.creeds.net/#pentecostal.
Carnes, T., & Yang, F. (2004). Asian American Religions: The Making and Remaking of Borders and Boundaries. USA: NYU Press.
Catholic Tradition. (n.d.). “Four Catholic Creeds.” Retrieved May 23, 2008, from www.catholictradition.org/Tradition/creeds.htm.
Ecklund, E.H., & Park, J.Z. (2005). Asian American Community Participation and Religion: Civil “Model Minorities?” USA: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jeung, R. (2005). Faithful Generations: Race and New Asian American Churches. USA: Rutgers University Press.
Le, C.N. (2008). “The First Asian Americans” Retrieved May 22, 2008, from http://www.asian nation.org/first.shtml.
Mingst, K. (2004). Essentials of International Relations, 3rd ed. New York: Norton.
Yang, D. (n.d.). “Asian American Religion.” Retrieved May 22, 2006, from http://www.danielyang.com/musings/asianreligion.php.
Yoo, D., & Chung, R.H. (2008). Religion and Spirituality in Korean America. USA: University of Illinois Press.
Cite this Asian American Religion and Politics
Asian American Religion and Politics. (2016, Jul 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/asian-american-religion-and-politics/