Michael Luo on Jeremy Lin

HT: Ryan Cheung. An excerpt:

Some have predicted that Lin, because of his faith, will become the Taiwanese Tebow, a reference to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, whose outspokenness about his evangelical Christian beliefs has made him extraordinarily popular in some circles and venomously disliked in others. But my gut tells me that Lin will not wind up like Tebow, mainly because Lin’s persona is so strikingly different. From talking to people who knew him through the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, and watching his interviews, I have the sense that his is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith.

Lin comes across as soft-spoken and winsome; he comes across as thoughtful. He comes across, actually, as a distinctly Asian-American Christian, or at least like so many that I know.

An Asian-American Christian? What’s that?

Many in this country have probably never even heard of this subcategory on the religious spectrum. But if you are a relatively recent graduate of the Ivy League or another top-tier college, you will probably recognize the species.

Harvard’s Asian American Christian Fellowship, which started in the 1990s, is one of the most active student groups on campus. You will also immediately know it if you are part of a historically orthodox church in a major metropolitan center like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles because your pews are probably filled with them. Like Lin, many Asian-American Christians have deep personal faith, but they are also, notably, almost never culture warriors. That is simply not what is emphasized in their churches and college Christian fellowships, including the one that played such a formative role in Lin’s life at Harvard.

In trying to explain why my Twitter and Facebook streams in the last week have become overrun with postings on Lin, I have struggled to convey to my friends the sense of connection. But it boils down to a welter of emotions from finally having someone I can relate to enter the public consciousness.

The last time I felt anything resembling this was Yao Ming’s first season for the Rockets. I experienced a similar mix of pinch-me-am-I-dreaming befuddlement and chest-thumping pride when I traveled to Houston to do an article on him and heard an arena crowd singing his name, on Chinese New Year, no less. And, yes, I followed Tebow’s extraordinary ride this season, in part because of his faith. More than anything, though, I found the fierce emotions he incited on both sides of the religious divide depressing.

The feelings the Lin phenomenon instill in me are orders of magnitude greater because he is an Asian-American, like me, whose parents were immigrants to this country, like mine. He grew up, like me, in the United States, speaking English; his Chinese, like mine, could use improvement. He went to my alma mater. And, yes, he is a Christian, too, but with a brand of faith, shaped by his background, that I can relate to much better than many I have seen in the public arena.

The whole thing.

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