Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Hybrid Spiritualities: The Development of Second Generation Korean American Spirituality

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Hybrid Spiritualities: The Development of Second Generation Korean American Spirituality

Article excerpt

This study focuses on the inventive ways in which second generation Korean Americans are carving out new institutional niches to accommodate the intersection of race, generation, and ethnicity in the context of their Christian faith. Situated on the margins of multiple cultures, second generation Korean Americans are engaged in a struggle to articulate a hybrid spirituality by appropriating elements of Confucianism, Korean Christianity, and various expressions of American Evangelicalism. Second generation Korean Americans, by forming their own ethno-religious institutions, are saying that they can be fully "American" without having to denounce their ethnic identity and difference. They are asserting that the definition of "American" identity is not fixed but is rather fluid and has the capacity to be redefined and reshaped by minority groups. By neither assimilating into mainstream churches nor remaining in the ethnic churches of their immigrant parents, second generation Korean Americans, through establishing their own independent religious institutions, are communicating the fact that in today's American society, there are third territories, or hybrid borderlands, to inhabit.

Cradled in one culture, sandwiched between two cultures, straddling all three culture and their value systems, la mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war. Like all people, we perceive the version of reality that our culture communicates. Like others having or living in more than one culture, we get multiple, often opposing messages. The coming together of two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference causes un choque, a cultural collision.

--Gloria Anzaldua

The dominance of a Western, Euro-American Protestantism in the United States has meant that racial minorities and their religious institutions have had to operate from the borders. However, in the minds of second generation Korean Americans, existing on the borders is viewed as an advantageous position for it affords them with a unique vantage point from which they can view and incorporate diverse cultural expressions of Christianity in forming their own hybrid spirituality. In multi-cultural Los Angeles, second generation Korean Americans do not see themselves or their ethnic institutions as inside or outside of American society. Rather, they are carving out and inhabiting a rapidly expanding third territory--an ethno-religious borderland. The development of second generation churches is a recent and rapidly growing phenomenon in the Korean community of Los Angeles with the planting of over forty six new second generation Korean churches in the past ten years. My research focuses on the inventive ways in which second generation Korean Americans are carving out new institutional niches to accommodate the intersection of race, generation, and ethnicity in the context of their Christian faith.

Spiritual borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races and cultures occupy the same territory (Anzaldua 1987). Arenas of change and experimentation, second generation Korean American churches, as they emerge within congregational spaces, draw from a variety of cultural and spiritual resources as they develop their own unique spiritual expressions and visions. Within these newly developed churches, the ministers hope to create a hybrid second generation spirituality by appropriating and fusing together elements of Confucianism, Korean immigrant Protestantism, and various expressions of American Evangelicalism. In their quest to invent an independent second generation spirituality, the leaders of these new churches aim to adopt what they perceive to be essential beliefs, symbols, and practices from diverse sources and to re-anchor them in their newly formed churches

Second generation churches are not identical to one another. There are marked differences as well as similarities in their philosophies, styles, and approaches. …

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