Asian Pacific American conservative Christians mediating in culture war?

Asian Pacific American conservative Christians are playing an important mediating role between liberal and conservative Americans given that they hold views found in both camps and are increasingly engaging in political and civic life, write Joseph Yi and Joe Phillips in the social science magazine Society (online in January). The way in which conservative Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) interact with “both highly-educated progressives and less-educated conservatives…[gives] them a ‘foot in each camp’ when the political system is experiencing unusual polarization.” The authors cite research showing that conservative Christian APAs tend to hold pro-life and anti-gay marriage positions while supporting immigrant rights and anti-nativist positions. They point to the 2018 midterm elections, where Young Kim, a Korean American Republican candidate, ran a campaign where she distanced herself from some of President Trump’s rhetoric while agreeing on other positions, opposing California’s “sanctuary” policies, for example, but criticizing the federal government’s separation of migrant families at the border. She embraced the traditional Republican position on lowering regulations on businesses and described herself as pro-life on abortion and as supporting traditional marriage. Other APA conservative Christian political leaders who often eschew Trump’s nationalist rhetoric are Philadelphia City Councilman David H. Oh and Orange County (CA) Supervisor Michelle Park Steel.

APA evangelicals are also increasingly influential in such Christian organizations as InterVarsity, making up more than one-third of its national membership, including its president Tom Lin and director of internal relations Greg Jao. Both have partnered with the Aspen Institute to promote dialogue among persons of different and no faiths. Yi and Phillips place APA evangelicals close to the precincts of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church (which is over 40 percent Asian) and its pastor Tim Keller because of the influential megachurch’s blend of multi-ethnic outreach, conservative theology, and social justice concerns for the poor. In their greater political and civic involvement, conservative Christian APAs have also courted controversy. The most prominent example of this is University of California-Berkeley student senator Isabella Chow, who last fall publicly abstained from voting for student resolutions opposing the Trump administration’s Title IX changes regarding gender, saying she could not compromise her values and responsibility to the Christian community she represented. At the same time, she condemned discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Over 300 protestors demanded Chow’s resignation, the force of which reaction was probably “because hers was the only conservative Christian voice in the Berkeley student senate and the first in recent memory,” Li and Phillips write.