Journal Article

The Religious Varieties of Ethnic Presence: A Comparison between a Taiwanese Immigrant Buddhist Temple and an Evangelical Christian Church

Carolyn Chen

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 63, issue 2, pages 215-238
Published in print January 2002 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2002 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712566
The Religious Varieties of Ethnic Presence: A Comparison between a Taiwanese Immigrant Buddhist Temple and an Evangelical Christian Church

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This study deals with the seeming paradox of why an “other-worldly” Taiwanese immigrant Buddhist temple is more publicly engaged in American society than an “inner-worldly” Taiwanese immigrant Christian church. Based upon an ethnographic study of a Taiwanese immigrant Buddhist temple and an evangelical Christian church, this article shows how a combination of religious ideals, outreach strategies, and representations of racial and religious difference shape their respective types of public engagement. The temple's inner-worldly orientation of Buddhist practice leads it to public interaction through charity while the church's evangelical ideal of exclusive salvation leads it to engagement through personal evangelism. Because of the linguistic and cultural obstacles that immigrants face when evangelizing to those outside their own ethnic community, Buddhist outreach strategies of charity are more culturally transferable to the wider society than evangelical Christian strategies. Furthermore, Buddhists are construed as religious foreigners and face pressures to prove their “American-ness” and engage in acts of public relations that the immigrant Christians do not.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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