The Religious Varieties of Ethnic Presence

The last case study I read, “The Religious Varieties of Ethnic Presence” by Carolyn Chen, is about how the religious landscape changes for the same ethnic group when they follow different religions. Chen talks about two Taiwanese congregations: a Buddhist Temple and a Christian Evangelical Church. The assumption is that despite the fact that these are the same ethnic groups, their social experience would be different because off their religion; Christian churches would have a greater interaction with those outside their ethnic, immigrant religious group because they’re “inner-worldly” and are more assimilated into American society, whereas Buddhist Temples would find the cold shoulder. However, what was found in a study is that the Buddhist temple was actually more engaged with American society than the Christian church, despite being “other-worldly” and a religious minority. Why this all boils down to how it is, is because religious ideals determine a congregation’s public presence. The Christian church emphasizes evangelism and the spreading of the word, however this method was limiting to outreach for members due to the fact that the Taiwanese Christian church was faced with the challenge of social and language barriers. These limitations only allowed members of the church to engage with others who they could talk to and interact with, most being people of the same ethnic group. The Buddhist temple on the other hand, emphasizes more of good deeds, world outreach, and religious tolerance. These ideals enabled the members of the Buddhist temple to be more involved with the outside world because they focused on charity which allows outreach everywhere and results in more exposure for the members. Furthermore, because the Buddhist temple emphasizes religious tolerance, the members have had more religious interactions and thus, more ethnic interaction. It was really interesting to read this article because it shows how even though one may pertain from the same ethnic group, one’s experience within religion can be completely different than another’s simply due to the religious ideals one follows.