This past week the results from the Iowa caucus came in with Ted Cruz and Hilary Clinton barely edging Donald Trump & Bernie Sanders respectively. However if you're Asian American like me, you probably didn't notice...and you may not even know what the Iowa caucus is (I had to wikipedia it). Why so? Because for some reason Asians don't seem to care much about politics.
Asian Christians are no different. You may have also noticed how Christian sites are posting about how to approach this upcoming presidential election and how churches shouldn't use the pulpit to advance a political agenda. But these articles are almost never "shared" on facebook by my Asian friends because, quite frankly, they're not relevant to Asian American churches.
In other words, while the general public is talking a lot about the presidential election and the church at large is engaging in this subject, it seems like most Asians around me are quite apathetic. Quite honestly, a part of me is happy about this because I don't want people throwing political agendas down my throat. But another part of me finds this to be quite confusing.
Shouldn't Asians Care?
Logically speaking, Asian Americans should probably care about this stuff. After all, we are Americans. And these political leaders and policies will affect our livelihood. I mean, if Donald Trump (dear God) is elected president, some of us may have to wave bye to our friends as they get deported their motherland. But for some reason Asians seems to look at this stuff and just shrug.
And again, Asian Christians are no different. Though we're told to care and submit to the land (Rom 13:1-7), we don't seem to do much of that. If you're one of those Christians who are sick and tired of churches being too into politics, just go to an Asian church. Perhaps during this political season the Asian pastor will give one obligatory sermon on a citizen's duty to vote, but other than that you won't hear much politics out of our pulpits.
Why is this the case? Why do so few Asians actually participate in the voting booths? Why aren't Asian Americans aware of the GOP or ORC polls? Why do so few of us tune in to the presidential debates? Why are so many of us unaware of the media spin by the likes of Sean Hannity, Wolf Blitzer, and Chris Hansen?
The Factors for Apathy
I'm sure there are many factors behind this "Asian Apathy" towards politics. For some of us, politics are just boring and filled with political jargon that we don't want to bother researching. We have better things to do with our Tuesday nights than watch a political debate on CNN.
For others, they may say that this apathy is due to the overall millennial attitude towards voting. And it's true - the apathetic Asian Americans I'm talking about are primarily millennials. So I'm sure this overall skepticism towards politics that plagues our generation likely influences most Asians too. But while these factors may apply to any individual, I think there's another factor unique to Asians.
This may have just been me, but growing up I recall my parents paying way more attention to The Korean Times than The New Yorker and having the Korean news playing in the background over dinner rather than CNN. After all, my parents weren't American citizens; so they were much more engaged with what was going on over in Korea...and therefore less engaged with American politics. And this leads to perhaps the biggest factor for the Asian apathy.
Living in a Foreign Land
Whenever you watch the Olympics, which athletes do you root for? Being an American citizen, I should root for the Americans and I usually do...unless they're competing against a Korean. This is weird because I'm way more American than Korean. I don't speak Korean, barely eat Korean food, and only visited Korean twice - but I still root for Korea. I mean, think about the World Cup: If America and your "home" country played against each other, who would you root for?
And I think this most explains why Asians don't care about American politics. Even though we live in America, many of us still don't really see America as our "home." We're kind of like exiles by choice who live in a land that we like - but it's still not really our land. As a friend of mine once illustrated, it's like driving a leased car. Sure you'll try not to mess it up, but you won't care for it like you do your own car - because the car doesn't really belong to you.
And Asians perhaps don't see America as "their own" because even though they're citizens, they still feel like foreigners - particularly in the political field. After all, there are no Asians candidates; there are no leading Asian anchors on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.
Maybe Asians aren't platformed in this area because Asians aren't involved in the first place. So perhaps 2nd gen. Asians need to be pioneers here in order to get other Asians interested. But in the meantime during this election season, Asians will feel like individuals told to go to a dinner party that they don't aren't really welcomed at. And that's why many of them don't participate.
Don't get me wrong, I know a few Asians who are staunch Republicans/Democrats. But I can count them with one hand. As a result, I would probably never preach a sermon about politics to an Asian church not only because I don't want to be political but, quite frankly, I don't think the Asians in my context would care.
And this is a shame because I think Asians need to care more about politics - especially Asian churches. I personally intend to vote. And I hope the approach towards politics will change for Asian Americans - esp. Asian Christians who are called to love our neighbors.
And Asian churches are perhaps best equipped to do this because most Asians don't see this land as the "Promise Land" but already feel like exiles. We know our hopes and future don't like in the hands of the next president. But as exiles, we should "pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer 29:7).