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Preserving Ethnicity through Religion in America

Preserving Ethnicity through Religion in America: Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus across Generations

Pyong Gap Min
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 280
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    Preserving Ethnicity through Religion in America
    Book Description:

    Preserving Ethnicity through Religion in Americaexplores the factors that may lead to greater success in ethnic preservation. Pyong Gap Min compares Indian Americans and Korean Americans, two of the most significant ethnic groups in New York, and examines the different ways in which they preserve their ethnicity through their faith. Does someone feel more "Indian" because they practice Hinduism? Does membership in a Korean Protestant church aid in maintaining ties to Korean culture?

    Pushing beyond sociological research on religion and ethnicity which has tended to focus on whites or on a single immigrant group or on a single generation, Min also takes actual religious practice and theology seriously, rather than gauging religiosity based primarily on belonging to a congregation. Fascinating and provocative voices of informants from two generations combine with telephone survey data to help readers understand overall patterns of religious practices for each group under consideration.Preserving Ethnicity through Religion in Americais remarkable in its scope, its theoretical significance, and its methodological sophistication.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5958-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    PETER PARK IS a 28-year-old, 1.5-generation Korean who works as an assistant salesman. He immigrated to New York City at the age of 8, accompanied by his mother. Although his mother was a Buddhist in Korea, she chose to attend a Korean immigrant church in New York so as to give her children the opportunity to meet other Korean children. As a young adult, Peter attends, twice a week, an English-language Korean evangelical church in New York City for 1.5-and second-generation Korean adults. Because he belongs to the church’s praise team, he spends eight hours at his church on Saturday...

  5. 1 Theoretical Frameworks
    (pp. 15-28)

    THREE MAJOR THEORETICAL perspectives are useful for comparing Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus in the intergenerational transmission of ethnicity through religion: (1) participation in congregations, (2) the association between religion and ethnicity, and (3) the theological difference between Korean evangelical Protestants and Indian Hindus in their acceptance of religious dogma. This chapter reviews the literature related to each theoretical perspective and discusses the implications of the theories for comparing the two groups.

    An abundance of literature focuses on the earlier white immigrant and ethnic groups—Italian, Irish, German, Jewish, and Greek—stressing the positive effects of religion on ethnic preservation...

  6. 2 Religions in India and South Korea
    (pp. 29-46)

    IMMIGRANTS’ RELIGIOUS PRACTICES, like other aspects of their lives, have transnational components (Ebaugh and Chafetz 2000; Levitt 1999, 2001, 2007; Menjivar 2000). To better understand the relationships between immigrants’ religion and ethnicity, we first examine the historical development and current distribution of Indians’ and South Koreans’ religions in their home countries. Although both countries are home to several religions, historically India has suffered far more social conflicts related to religious division than South Korea has, but more recently the emergence of strong evangelical Christians has contributed to some religious conflicts in South Korea.

    Table 2.1 shows the religious distribution of...

  7. 3 Korean and Indian Immigrants’ Religious Affiliations and Participation in Religious Institutions
    (pp. 47-74)

    ONE OF THE chapters of the first major book on the Korean immigrant community in New York, by Illsoo Kim (1981) is devoted to Korean immigrant churches. At the beginning of the chapter, he summed up the importance of church to Korean immigrants (Kim 1981, 187):

    By opening membership to all segments of the population, the churches provide a grass roots base for common action. At least for members, the churches provide some degree of integration that does not exist in non-religious organizations. In the absence of a territorial base for a “natural” community, church activities are all the more...

  8. 4 Ethnographic Research on the Shin Kwang Korean Church
    (pp. 75-90)

    In 1989, I conducted a survey study of the social functions of 131 Korean immigrant churches in New York City. Based on the results, I concluded that Korean immigrant churches play a central role in enhancing Korean immigrants’ ethnicity by facilitating their ethnic fellowship and preservation of their cultural traditions (Min 1992). In this chapter I examine the ethnicity functions of Korean immigrant churches based on ethnographic research on the Shin Kwang Church of New York.

    The Shin Kwang Church of New York opened its doors in October 1985 with a worship service for about thirty Korean immigrants at a...

  9. 5 Ethnographic Research on the Hindu Temple Society of North America
    (pp. 91-110)

    IN THIS CHAPTER we move to the Hindu Temple Society of North America for ethnographic information about Hindu temples’ ethnicity functions. We found that members of the Shin Kwang Church preserve their ethnicity mainly through church-related close fellowship and active social networks. In contrast, the Hindu Temple Society does not contribute much to its devotees’ fellowship. Instead, the temple contributes to Indian Hindu immigrants’ ethnicity by reproducing Indian cultural traditions and enhancing ethnic identity through its architecture, rituals, and cultural activities.

    Ganesh Temple is so named because the name of the main deity housed there is Ganesha. Its full name...

  10. 6 Participation in Religious Institutions, Family Rituals, and Identity
    (pp. 111-128)

    IN THIS CHAPTER, I supplement my ethnographic information about the relative importance of the fellowship or cultural retention function of Korean Protestant churches and Indian Hindu temples with interviews with Indian Hindu and Korean Protestant immigrants.¹ My interviews with fifty-six Korean Protestant immigrants and fifty-nine Indian Hindu immigrants provide information not only about their participation in religious institutions but also about their family rituals and the relationship between their religious and ethnic identities.

    The advantage of interviews conducted outside a religious institution is that I could ask the informants about their views of the relationship between religion and child socialization,...

  11. 7 Younger Generations’ Preservation of Ethnicity through Participation in Religious Institutions
    (pp. 129-160)

    WE HAVE EXAMINED how Korean Protestant and Indian Hindu immigrants use their religion to maintain their ethnic heritage and cultural traditions: Indian Hindu immigrants take their children to the temple partly or mainly to teach them ethnic traditions, and Korean Protestant immigrants consider their children’s participation in the Korean church helpful to preserving Korean cultural traditions. To determine the extent to which each group has achieved the intended goal of transmitting its ethnicity through religion, we need to study second-generation Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus. This chapter looks at how second-generation Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus have retained their ethnicity...

  12. 8 Younger Generations’ Preservation of Ethnicity through Domestic Religious Practices
    (pp. 161-174)

    ALTHOUGH MOST YOUNGER-GENERATION Korean Protestants actively participate in Korean English-language congregations, these congregations have eliminated much of Korean culture from worship services and other sociocultural activities. By contrast, although second-generation Indian Hindus do not go to temple often, their occasional visits still help them retain their Indian cultural heritage and identity. This chapter examines the extent to which younger-generation Indian Hindus and Korean Protestants continue their domestic and other noninstitutional religious practices and their effect on their ethnic retention.

    To assess the level of intergenerational transmission of religious practices at home, we asked the fifty-five 1.5-and second-generation Hindus questions about...

  13. 9 The Importance of Religion to Younger Generations’ Identity, Socialization, and Social Relations
    (pp. 175-196)

    KOREAN PROTESTANTS’ and Indian Hindus’ significantly different levels of religious faith are reflected in their personal identity, child socialization, friendships, networks, and selection of marital partners. In this chapter, I emphasize the differential levels of what Donald Smith (1970, 175) called “dogmatic authority,” “the degree of conviction that one’s religion has the absolute value,” as the central reason for the difference in younger-generation Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus in the importance of religion for ethnic identity, child socialization, and social relations. Like other evangelical Christians, younger-generation Korean evangelical Christians accept three or four principles from the Bible as absolute...

  14. 10 A Summary of Major Findings and Their Theoretical Implications
    (pp. 197-212)

    Religious organizations help both Korean Protestant and Indian Hindu immigrants preserve ethnicity, but in different ways. First, Korean Protestant immigrants have a huge advantage over Indian Hindu immigrants in maintaining ethnic fellowship and networks through their frequent participation in religious institutions. Korean Protestant immigrants probably attend church more frequently and spend more hours a week in church than any other Christian group in the United States. This and various other congregation-related small-group activities, along with their cultural homogeneity, help them maintain strong friendship networks and ethnic ties rarely found in other religious groups. The Shin Kwang Church of New York...

  15. Appendix 1
    (pp. 213-220)
  16. Appendix 2
    (pp. 221-236)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 237-244)
  18. References
    (pp. 245-258)
  19. Index
    (pp. 259-264)
  20. About the Author
    (pp. 265-265)