The heart of AAI’s approach is its seeing and understanding the Asian American context through four distinctive, dynamic lenses. As when getting an eye exam at the optometrist’s office, each student will be asked to view essential elements such as God, self, family, gospel, church, gender, power, etc., through each of these lenses and to reflect on the relative significance of each of them.
Just as every person has a precise prescription that allows her or him to see the world with the greatest clarity, each AAI student will come to realize and appreciate her or his own way of looking at themselves and their ministry context and how to sharpen their focus.
Here are our four interpretative lenses:
This lens helps you see the various social, political, and religious traditions with their long development and many interpretations and embodiments. These function implicitly as well as explicitly within the Asian American context -- traditions such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, and folk religions. This heritage is shared with contemporary Asians, many of whom, like Asian Americans, must also negotiate between this heritage and the Western/global influences, albeit from a different trajectory.
This lens deals with immigration, post-immigration, and their related phenomena such as acculturation process, intergenerational conflict, and identity formation. These issues are shared with a wide range of immigrants, from Hispanics to Irish and Germans, although because of their externally distinguishing physical features, Asian Americans face unique challenges.
This lens encompasses not only the multicultural contemporary American culture, in which Asian Americans actively participate, but also the Western intellectual tradition and the missionary history of which Asian Americans are heirs.
This lens articulates the particular form of racism and discrimination that Asian Americans face as a people of color. Asian Americans are beneficiaries and heirs of the long struggle and resulting accomplishments in which African Americans have engaged for common equality and dignity. While all minorities face interpersonal and structural racism in various expressions and degrees, Asian American marginality might be best summed up in its “perpetual foreigner” status, the inability to fully affirm the Americanness of their identity.
This four-lens approach allows AAI to articulate the complex, overlapping issues of Asian Americans with nuance and clarity, while also reflecting the intricate, diverse, and constantly changing reality of our various life and ministry contexts.
But raising up capable Christian leaders to reach the emerging generation of Asian Americans amidst daunting challenges will require more than prescribing the right set of lenses to sharpen their vision. Our spiritual and theological sight comes when, like Saul, we are upended and led toward a continuing conversion by the disruptive grace of the risen Christ. Only then do the scales fall from our eyes, enabling us to see Christ, ourselves, our neighbors, and our circumstances in the clear light of the gospel.
The time at Fuller is about so much more than becoming competent theologians. It is much more about surrendering to the transforming power of the grace and mercy of Jesus, about becoming humble, wise, and courageous servants of God’s Spirit.