Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life

Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life

by Elaine Howard Ecklund
     
 

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Scholarly and popular commentators lament the deterioration of civil society as a result of American individualism, a decline in some part based on eroding religious participation. In this context, it is important to ask how second-generation immigrants use religious resources to understand, participate in, and potentially change American religion. Scholars stress

Overview

Scholarly and popular commentators lament the deterioration of civil society as a result of American individualism, a decline in some part based on eroding religious participation. In this context, it is important to ask how second-generation immigrants use religious resources to understand, participate in, and potentially change American religion. Scholars stress that religion was vital for the civic integration of earlier European immigrants. However, studies of religion among our nation's newest immigrants largely focus on how religion serves the immigrant community — for example by creating job networks and helping retain ethnic identity in the second generation. In this book Ecklund widens the inquiry to look at how Korean Americans use religion to negotiate civic responsibility, as well as to create racial and ethnic identity. She compares the views and activities of second generation Korean Americans in two different congregational settings, one ethnically Korean and the other multi-ethnic. Surprisingly, she finds that the Korean churches de-emphasize ethnicity. They look like other evangelical congregations and are concerned about evangelizing in the context of providing social services. Multiethnic churches, in contrast, use evangelical Christianity to legitimate a political and social justice consciousness that values ethnic diversity and and individualized understanding of faith in the context of a conservative Christianity. Korean Americans in both kinds of churches are deeply concerned about helping those in their local community, including non-Koreans and non-Christians. In multiethnic churches, however, Korean Americans also develop an awareness of local politics and a concern with social justice for other ethnic and racial minorities. Ecklund's work is based on ethnographic data from two congregations in one impoverished, primarily non-white city on the east coast, which provided the opportunity to compare how members of each practiced community service in the same urban context. She also conducted more than 100 in-depth interviews with Korean American members of these and seven other churches around the country, and draws extensively on the secondary literature on immigrant religion, American civic life, and Korean American religion. Her book is a unique contribution to the literature on religion, race, and ethnicity and on immigration and civic life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Elaine Howard Ecklund has written a marvelous account of religion's crucial role among one of America's fastest-growing immigrant populations. Based on intensive ethnographic research and grounded in a thorough understanding of the sociological literature, Korean American Evangelicals casts important new light on longstanding questions about assimilation. Given the right circumstances, Ecklund shows, Korean American congregations provide far more than simply a refuge for their members and are poised to facilitate civic engagement that will alter the face of middle-class communities." —Robert Wuthnow, author of America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity

"Elaine Howard Ecklunds book, Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life, shows that second-generation Korean American evangelicals, unlike Korean immigrant evangelicals, focus on social services to non-Korean and non-Christian communities. More significantly, it reveals that the participants in Korean ethnic congregations and those in multiethnic congregations have established different schema for civic identities, civic practices, and political ideology. As the first book on both second-generation Korean evangelicals and civic participation among the post-1965 immigrant groups, it makes a significant contribution to the growing literature on the new immigrants and their religions. Written in engaging style, it should serve as an ideal reader for classes dealing with Asian American and new immigrant religious experiences." —Pyong Gap Min, author of Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles

"A richly documented institutional ethnography and narrative of Korean-American civic and religious communities. Cultural sociology is ably linked to the study of assimilation of the second-generation into mainstream civic culture in Elaine Ecklund's probing and insightful book on Korean-American cultural identity." —Victor Nee, Goldwin Smith Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for the Study of Economy and Society, Cornell University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195305494
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
10/10/2006
Pages:
222
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 6.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Howard Ecklund is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University at Buffalo, SUNY and a Research Affiliate of the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University. She is currently completing a nation-wide study of religion and spirituality among academic scientists at elite research universities.

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