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February 21st, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Jeremy Lin emerges as emblem of burgeoning Asian-American Christianity

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - When Jeremy Lin was a sophomore at Harvard, he was struggling emotionally. A good guard on an awful basketball team – the Crimson finished the season with an 8-22 record – he needed something more than hoops.

Lin, who had been baptized into an evangelical Chinese church near San Francisco in ninth grade and had come to value Christian fellowship through his youth group, was part of the  Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship group, regularly attending Bible study.

But most of his life was spent with his basketball teammates and other athletes, he later told the Student Soul, a website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

“It’s a tough environment and if you don’t have appropriate boundaries, you’ll compromise your faith,” he told the website, run by a major Christian college ministry, in 2010.

So, during his sophomore year, Lin stepped up his involvement in the Asian-American Christian group, about 80 members strong, gaining a sense of community that had eluded him.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

Those kinds of stories are becoming increasingly commonplace as more second generation Asian-Americans like Lin join campus Christian groups, said Carolyn Chen, who directs Asian-American Studies at Northwestern University.

"What's happening at the college level, for students this is a really important time and this is a really important form of community," Chen said. "It is also somewhat like an extended family for them."

According to the latest census, the Asian population in the United States grew by 43.3% between 2000 and 2010, the largest percentage increase of any ethnic or racial group. Asians make up just under 5% of the population.

Asian-American Christianity, experts say, is growing along with that population boom, especially among second generation Chinese-Americans. Jeremy Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and who talks openly about his Christian faith, has become a symbol of that trend.

Pyong Gap Min , a sociology professor at Queens College in New York, said there has been growth in the number of Asian-America Christian churches, though it is hard to get reliable numbers on the size of the community.

But Min said the number of Pan-Asian churches is increasing, especially on the West Coast, where congregations that have traditionally been dominated by one ethnicity have become multiethnic. Many of those churches are adding services specifically for second generation Asian-Americans, many of whom want services in English.

Chen said more Asian-Americans are also joining traditionally white evangelical congregations.

“You see Asians gaining more visibility in American evangelical circles,” Chen said. “What you are seeing is more integration.”

Lin grew up in Chinese churches. On college campuses, Asian Christian groups have grown up separately from the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Jeremy Yang, a senior at Harvard who sits on the board of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, said his group offers a place where faith and culture intersect. Students feel comfortable being with and sharing their faith with other Asian-Americans, he said.

The Harvard group began in 1994 as part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. So many Asians joined their Bible study that the founders decided to form a separate entity, he said.

“The growth was really explosive,” he said. “There is something about being Asian-American that attracted people into the fellowship.”

Fenggang Yang, author of “Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities” and a professor at Purdue University, said Asians are drawn to Christianity partly by values that dovetail with Asian culture, including thrift, education and family.

“In that way it helps them assimilate into the U.S. culture while preserving important aspects of their cultures,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Evangelicals tend to have a value system that fits a widely held Asian desire for order and success, he writes in his book, adding via e-mail that Lin is being lifted up as an example of those values.

Despite being a superstar in high school, Lin received no scholarship offers to college. And despite being a high-scoring player by his senior year in college, he didn't get drafted by the NBA.

Lin signed a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors and seemed to get in the game only when his team was way ahead or far behind.

The Warriors sent him down to a developmental league, where he fought emotional battles while on long, late-night bus rides, he told an audience at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, California, last year.

Lin, who until last month was sitting on his third bench in his short pro career, was given a chance to play when some fellow New York Knicks were injured. He responded with a record-setting stretch of games in which he scored more points in his first five starts than stars like Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson had over a similar number of games.

As a student, Lin led what the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship calls a "family group," a small group devoted to Bible study and praying for others.

"A lot of people looked up to him because he was good at sports and really solid in his faith," said Yang, the Harvard senior.

Lin, who has said he may become a pastor someday, credits his rise as a professional athlete to understanding the way God was working in his life and developing a trust in God’s plan.

"I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore," he told the San Jose Mercury News last week.

But there have been plenty of struggles.

When he was sent down to the minor league the first time, Lin told a church group last year, he turned to his pastor, Stephen Chen, at the Church in Christ in Mountain View, California. Chen told him to spend an hour a day with God.

Lin memorized a few Bible verses, Chen says, including a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament that reads in part: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Chen told CNN's Sandra Endo last week that Lin doesn't believe in a prosperity gospel, where having great faith means everything will always work out.

"It's true hard things may come and you're not guaranteed an outcome but through it all, there'll be joy because you're walking with the Lord," Chen said. "The greatest joy you could have. Greater joy than being a professional NBA basketball player all-star."

Michael Chang, a Taiwanese-American who was once the second ranked tennis player in the world, said Lin will need to keep a balance in his life that can be hard in the world of competitive sports.

Sports stars are offered a tricky platform, said Chang, who now plays tennis on the Champions Tour and runs a Christian foundation that administers several sports leagues. People will listen to your every word, but they also watch your every move, waiting to see what you will do in public, he said. They  equate your value with your success or lack of it in the spotlight.

"As believers, we don't measure it that way," Chang said. "For us, it's going out there, knowing the Lord, and being able to take all the talents and gifts that you've been given and use that as a platform to  touch lives and touch hearts."

Lin told the Mercury News that his own battle as a believer continues.

"There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now," Lin told the paper. "To try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that's not how I want to do things anymore. I'm thinking about how can I trust God more? How can I surrender more?

"It's a fight,” he said. “But it's one I'm going to keep fighting."

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

soundoff (629 Responses)
  1. Jackc

    This is exactly why there is so much Racism in America. The scu*mbag media can't write a story unless they make it known that Jeremy Lin Asian American. He can;t just be who he is, Lin the basketball player. If anyone wants racism to go away the media has to STOP writing this krap. Who cares what his nationality is?? Who cares if he is Asian black or white? Knowing his nationality does not change who he is to anyone, So why write about it. The Journalist are causing racism in the world with there incompetent stories.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer is talking with God
    A good man prays
    A great man acts on prayer

    February 22, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Jackc

      Right! and then there are people like you who try and throw your religion down someone else s throat. No one needs your dumb comments. Everyone has a right to choose, and just because you believe in a certain God does not mean your right either. NO go get down your your knees, and say 6 Million prayers and leave others alone.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Michael

      Prayer is not what is improving the children's lives. It's the sense of community that a church brings that improves their lives. But you can get that sense of community through other means, like joining the scouts or participating in sports.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Dan

      Just keep telling yourself that and you'll eventually believe it. Proof is irrelevant. I'm not denying that it may have a psychological effect, but it doesn't make the supernatural, or god, real. Besides prayer, there are many things we can do to produce positive psychological effects (sports, music, puzzles, reading, ...). Heck, compulsive liars believe all kinds of great things about themselves; it doesn't make those things true.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Prayer works, sometimes. When I'm playing Scrabble, I get a 100 point word, sometimes.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Charlene

    Very lift Lin to His hands. He will do keep Lin, guard Lin and protect Lin.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  4. chris

    White christians..........really???????If we could only measure dumb-!Just sayin..Jesus was a Jew...Lol...And nobody I know is all( WHITE)....Im of the christian faith and cant play worth a crap.Good for you Lin Whatever your color,religion,or beliefs.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  5. Jeremiah

    I'm so tired of the race segregation. Lin is not an asian-american. He is an American. We are all Americans.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  6. Dean

    It's laughable to keep reading about the "hardships" of someone who was fortunate enough to attend a school like HARVARD and get to go on to play basketball for a living. Gimme a break!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Maragie

      Dean you sound like a person without any dreams or goals. You know that anybody an go to Harvard if your work hard at it. but you sound lazy, stupid and jealous of this young man If you have children tell them, that they can accomplishes anything if ur they put their mind into it. If you work hard in whatever you want. I guarantee you that you too or your children can go to Harvard, Celebrate good morals and teach your children that.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  7. Johnny 5

    One word: Fossils.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Andrew

      You know it does say in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It doesnt say how he did it? It doesnt even describe a day in Gods' terms.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • That's interesting...

      So as a Christian, I can believe in a God that created the universe, the Earth, plants and animals of unimaginable variety – but I can't believe He created dinosaurs?

      February 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • guest

      Actually Christians do believe that God made dinosaurs.....and then there is Leviathon

      March 13, 2012 at 2:05 am |
  8. Jesus

    ...and I always thought he was Jewish. He looks Jewish doesn't he?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  9. amy

    CNN-Stop trying to make Lin happen, it's not gonna happen.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  10. Devin

    Once again, CNN racistly categorizes people in its articles. I hate CNN - it always sees people as groups.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  11. Judas Shrugged

    Mbombo was alone, and darkness and water covered the all earth. It would happen that Mbombo came to feel an intense pain in his stomach, and then Mbombo vomited the sun, the moon, and stars.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  12. Reality

    Dear J. Lin,

    A prayer just for you:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    February 22, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • crazypete

      Nothing can be proven dummy. Everything we know is based on input from our senses which cannot be independently verified. We all take things on faith, or we believe in NOTHING. You are a silly fellow, masking faith in logic.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • ......

      Hit report abuse every time you see a reality post they are all copy paste garbage.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Lintasticinfo

      To which historians and theologians are you referring? Can you be choosing the research of these particular historians and theologians to fit into your agenda? I disagree with your "creed" whole heartedly. There are many historians and theologians that support the resurection of Jesus Christ- and my guess is- more than the number you used for your research. Have a good day and God bless you AND Jeremy Lin!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • ajal

      This is quite a distortion of early Christian history. The proximity in time between the writing of the Gospels and the events that they describe is less than 80 years. That is much closer than the Old Testament writings. In addition to these facts, the oral history is solid and continuous during the first 100 years of Christian history. You seem to ignore that the oldest Christian communities were numerous and spread throughout territories, like Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Northern Africa, including many black communities in Ethiopia.
      It is rather contradictory that you recognize Jesus's Jewish origins and of Mary and Joseph. I would like to remind you that without accepting Abraham as a profet, and without accepting that a supernatural revelation was made to Abraham, as well as Moses, etc, the concept of being Jewish is invalid. So you seem to be very selective in your acceptance of FAITH and you certainly tend to ignore sound Christian history.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • ajal

      It is also important to note that FAITH is pervasive in human societies. If you agree to meet a friend at 5 PM in some Cafe, there is no way to scientifically prove that your friend will be there. Most of our civilized society is based on massive consensus and we rely on each others good faith to uphold such commitments. Much of the legal system is based on human faith too. This is not religious faith of course, but we must understand that without FAITH we cannot operate in society.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/Disease:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • ajal

      Reality, you sound more like Lots of Nonsense to me.
      Both the written as well as the oral traditions of multiple Christian churches, which date back to the early years (Coptic Church, Maronite Church, etc) are consistent and unambiguous in describing the lives and acts of the apostles, including the appearences of Jesus to them after the Crucifixion. I understand your lack of Faith and to that I say that as Christians we believe that the redemption of humanity includes everyone, those of other faiths as well as those who do not believe in God.
      But in any case this very informative and interesting news article refers to Jeremy Lin and how he attempts to have a presence of God in his daily life. This is a very enriching aspect of a person's life, and it seems a little strange that someone like you would react with such an extreme view and what I interpret to be intolerance of Jermy Lin's personal convictions. After all he is a Harvard graduate and he is likely to constantly question his paths of intellectual exploration. Sadly he will also become a target of intolerance and bigotry for simply expressing simple things about his life, like having presence of God, and offering his works for the good of others.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  13. jlf

    we will never get use to being an ethnic diverse country because we always have to put a ethnic label on a success story! Lin's accomplishments on the court have nothing to do with him being Asian-American or a Christian !

    February 22, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Scott

      THANK YOU!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  14. Satan

    I shall posses the children of anyone who mentions Jesus on this website.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • crazypete

      Jesus!
      Ha! I tricked you Satan. I have no children. Sucker.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  15. lol

    You just had to drag your stupid Christianity into another sports story.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Andrew

      Really? This is what you chose to contribute.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Scott

      lol is right. And by the way, aren't most professional athletes Christians?

      February 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • ajal

      Expressions like "stupid Christianity" or "stupid Buddhism" or "stupid Judaism" or "stupid Atheism" are clearly a sign of INTOLERANCE and the basis for BIGOTRY. I hope you can give yourself a chance to understand more about other people's set of beliefs, convictions and intellectual richness. Jeremy Lin, like any other American, is deserving of respect. These subtle insults are attempts to silence and sensor people's freedom of expression.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 22, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • Dan

      Actually, the Templeton Foundation did a prayer study on the effects of prayer on hospital patients. Look it up, you may be surprised at the results.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Republican Gomarrah

      Prayer is the LEAST you can do.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven*

      February 22, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • crazypete

      It's true. I pray to Odin daily and it has made my life much better. Praise Odin!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demon answers for idols

      February 22, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • humanbean

      That's because it's a psychological process Dan. Positive thoughts bring positive results. Once again people wanna give some imaginary being all the credit when it's quite simply the powerful brain at work.

      By the way, how are all those prayers working out for the starving and downtrodden peoples of the world?

      February 22, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Christ left us the job of caring for the starving and downtrodden . We are not doing very well, how is your part coming along? It is impossible in some instances to get food to the needy as demonic atheist warlords block supplies from needy children or steal them for themselves. The church has been on site around the world for centuries helping as many as we can. We can use your help, please consider helping.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • fact check

      More like an inconvenient lie. Atheists have nothing to do with demons or warlords or whatever other misinformed label you choose. I love how this whole, "you're either with us or against us" mentality. Just because we don't believe that there's a god, doesn't automatically put us with the devil either. See, we don't believe in him either.

      In all actuality it's your own religious brethren who do such evil things. Atheists actually involve themselves with the here and now, so we would more likely help those in need in this lifetime since it's really all we have. But you go ahead and believe that delusion. It's not so far fetched seeing as how your foundation of beliefs is based in delusion to begin with.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Gethetruth

    Lin is another mental retard who talks to himself and thinks he hears God talking back ! I am sure White Christians are feeling that they had sole propriety over Jesus and they secretly despise Asians or Hispanics or others of color hijacking their God ! What the white Christians don't want to believe is that Jesus was a raghead from the middle east and was of color, a brown man ! The fact is, he never existed, he was made up by Greeks based on Hindu mythical Krishna and teachings of Buddha. Virgin birth was taken from Krisha's birth, and all the Greek Gods are Hindu Gods adopted by the Greeks after their many study visits to India to learn of science and math. Nothing good came out of Europe then and even now !

    February 22, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • a little respect

      Why do you have to be so hateful? This is a news story about a athlete and his faith and is not meant to persuade you to that faith. Please at least be respectful, tolerance goes both ways.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • crazypete

      What about Pilsner? That came out of Europe and it is very good.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • That's interesting...

      So we "white Chrisitans" fully acknowledge and understand that the characters in the Bible are overwhelmingly Jewish, and that Jesus Christ was born in a Jewish culture. You refer to them as "ragheads" and yet your post seems to imply that WE are the racists...

      February 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  18. mommaearth

    Hopefully the media,money and NBA don't ruin him.There's alot of self absorbed players in the NBA these days,watching the whole spectacle is enough to make you hurl.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Republican Gomarrah

      Yeah, Godless Sinners!

      February 22, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  19. kuewa

    This pigeon-holing is ridiculous. Next we will see an article about how Mr. Lin is a role model for Christian Asian- Americans of Taiwanese/Chinese ancestry who are 23 years old, at least 6 feet tall and play in the NBA.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  20. Name*Chedar

    The next thing the supreme court rule for reverse discrimination in college admission, you can bet your bottom $$ that all ivy league school will be all Asians.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Dan

      After reading your post, I hope you're not blaming your college admission denials on reverse discrimination. Besides, Asians seem to be doing fine on their high school grades and SAT scores alone.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • That's interesting...

      That's fine by me. I'm far more concerned that the doctor treating me, lawyer representing me, or person handling my money was the smartest person I could find, not the whitest.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.