Book of the Month

February 2024
Doing Asian American Theology
Daniel D. Lee

Book Giveaway

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About Doing Asian American Theology

A Conversation with Daniel Lee

Every Voice: What led you to write this book? What problem or issue(s) are you seeking to address?

Daniel Lee: Because of a general societal erasure of our community, including our history and features beyond stereotypes, Asian Americans struggle to clearly articulate our identity and experiences. When we do describe ourselves we end up doing so using white normative language that makes ourselves abnormal or pathological. This book provides language or contextual grammar appropriate to who we are so that we can engage all of ourselves with the gospel.

This is a book that I wish I had when I was a seminarian trying to make sense of faith and my Asian Americanness. Hopefully I’ll spare some folks the arduous roundabout journey to figure all this out.

EV: What is the thesis of your book?

DL: My thesis is twofold. First, that because God is a covenantal God who has entered time and space to be in relationship and partnership with us, who we are matters to God. That is the basis of faith and theology, which must take into consideration our context and identity. Denying this theological contextuality would make our God into a dead universal philosophical or spiritual principle instead of a living and active Being. Second, for Asian Americans a way to articulate our identity using a tool I propose entitled the Asian American Quadrilateral (AAQ), the intersection of Asian heritage, Migration, American culture, and racialization. Using the AAQ we can grasp the various dimensions of Asian American experience, reconciling them to God.

EV: Who’s your target audience, and what are you most hoping they hear from it?

DL: First, Asian American pastors and church leaders, seminarians, seminary professors. This book is primarily for our community. It centers our community as we seek to bring all of ourselves into God’s presence. Of course, everyone who is interested in doing ministry and theology in our multiethnic, multicultural society would benefit from this book as well. Because our label “Asian American” is the most complex racial category, one of our gifts to the broader church is teaching others how to see all kinds of people in their diverse particularities.

EV: Did you have any “aha” moments while writing the book?

DL: The importance of language for our existence. I knew that language was important for theology having been influenced by theologians like George Lindbeck and missiologists like Lamin Sanneh, but it was my forays into cognitive linguistics that helped me see the nature of the struggle and challenge that Asian Americans have with our own context. The words that we use not only describe but also generate our reality. Having adequate language to engage our experience is absolutely crucial.

EV: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

DL: Self doubt. As I struggled to finish the book, one of my mentors shared with me that my self doubt could also come from being a minority in a predominately white discipline. While not all of my struggles can be attributed to that racial experience, I realize that it was a significant part of it. I grew up with pretty much all white theological authorities that I struggled to see myself as a theologian who had something to say.

EV: If your book was made into a movie, what actor/actress would play the lead role?

DL: Maybe Randall Park and Ali Wong. They both have a background in Asian American studies, which is why how they represent Asian Americans is so nuanced.

EV: What kind of seminary/church classes should assign your book?

DL: Because my book is interdisciplinary in method, it could be used in a number of ways, i.e. theology, missiology, racial justice, discipleship, multiethnic ministry, etc.

About the Author

Daniel D. Lee (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is Academic Dean for the Center for Asian American Theology and Ministry and Associate Professor of Theology and Asian American Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.