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Voices with Ed Stetzer: “Silent No More? Political Activism in the Asian American Church”

What is the level of interest in social justice in the Asian American community?

One way to gauge this is by examining what people have done since the march. Both marchers and non-marchers were asked whether they had engaged in the following four activities after the June 28 march.

  • Detailed and focused reading about social justice issues
  • Detailed and focused viewing of videos and/or other media about social justice issues
  • Wrote/blogged/communicated with others about social justice issues
  • Participated in other social justice activities (Ministry opportunities, other marches, gatherings, etc.) 

For all respondents, the Viewing of videos and/or other media about social justice issues was the most popular follow-up activity with an identical 73% participation for both groups, followed by Detailed and focused reading about social justice issues–73% for non-marchers and 69% for marchers.

Communicating with others in some form, written or verbal, was higher for the marchers, 45% to 31%, as was participating in other Social Justice activities, 38% to 25%.

Reading and Viewing are often solitary activities stoking the mind and imagination. Communicating with others and Participating in other social justice activities require action and interaction. More than half of the respondents who marched did not interact with others in these latter two categories, even fewer among the non-marchers. It should be noted, however, that the pandemic created conditions that made in-person interaction with others less accessible.

Of the four follow-up activities, how engaged were respondents? With how many were they involved? This graph reveals much similarity between these two groups. The marchers were slightly more engaged in multiple endeavors.

Did age make a difference? 

Were young adults more inclined to do more as might be theorized considering the interest of millennials regarding social justice matters?

Here is what the data shows: There are similarities that cut across all age ranges. The young adults in blue did not lead by percentage participation in any of the groupings. However, in terms of raw numbers, there were more young adults engaged and participating than in any other age group. The median age of the marchers was 34. So interest is clearly there if 50% of all the marchers fall into this one age bracket.

Did the immigrant congregation in your church support participation in this march?

Seventy-eight percent of the respondents worship at immigrant heritage churches. Only 31% said Yes, 16% replied No, and 53% answered Neutral/Not sure. These results are not ringing endorsements for the march from the churches where their members did take part in this highly visible public activity.

In your opinion, do you think Asian American Christians are willing to prioritize participation in social justice activities? 

As the responses from both marchers and non-marchers were similar, they were combined. Twenty-five percent answered affirmatively. Another 25%, answered negatively. Half said Maybe. Half were uncertain about the position of their peers.

Returning to the central question, “Are Asian American evangelicals now ready to engage in political activism based on their participation in the June 28 march as well as their subsequent activities,” the results of this survey indicate uncertainty as well as potential.

Conclusions

The overwhelming numbers who engaged in either extended reading or viewing about social justice matters in the subsequent months indicate interest, as well as growing knowledge and awareness about political activism.

However, as noted above, fewer than half felt supported by family, church or community. Public presentations and open conversations about social justice topics are still limited and controversial in a number of Asian American evangelical churches. This would be consistent with the reigning “model minority” script of ascending the socio-economic ladder through achievement and diligence rather than through political activism.