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Poll Studies Chinese Americans, Religion

July 05, 1997|JOHN DART

More than four of every 10 Chinese Americans in Southern California say they have no ties to organized religion, according to a recent Times poll.

Asked "What religion--if any--do you currently consider yourself?" 44% said "none," while 32% identified themselves as Christian and 20% as Buddhists. (One percent said "other" and 3% declined to answer.)

The no-religion response is more than twice that of the general population in California, according to some surveys. Twenty percent said "none" in a statewide poll by UC Santa Barbara researchers in 1989 and in a Times poll of the San Fernando Valley in 1991.

The survey of 773 ethnic Chinese in six counties was taken in May.

The finding of a relatively low religious affiliation among Chinese Americans in Southern California was not surprising, said Sister Lucia Tu, director of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese's Asian Pacific and Ethnic Groups Ministry.

In the Times survey, 6% said they were Roman Catholic, 19% said they were Protestant and 7% answered simply Christian--accounting for the 32% total who regard themselves as Christian.

"Those are reasonable figures--we say that 5% of Chinese Americans are Catholic," Tu said.

Comparing religious affiliation in other Asian Pacific ethnic communities, Tu said studies and her experience indicate that "the majority of Japanese Americans do not associate with any religion" whereas 80% to 85% of Filipino Americans say they are Catholics and more than half of U.S. Korean Americans call themselves either Catholic or Protestant.

Survey figures relating to formal religious identity, however, do not tell the whole story for Chinese Americans, Tu said.

"Confucianism has been embedded into the Chinese way of thinking," she said. She added that she and her family were converted to Catholicism in Hong Kong in the early 1950s. But, as scholars have noted, the moral virtues and filial piety taught by Confucianism remain part of the religious identity of Chinese who practice Buddhism or Christianity.

"Before his conversion, my father would say we have 'this religion,' which is a very humanistic approach to relationships, including the idea that good work is rewarded with abundance and blessings," she said.


About 6,000 people involved in teaching their children at home are expected to attend the three-day Christian Home Educators Convention opening Friday at the Disneyland Hotel.

Speakers will include Michael Horton, author, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Placentia and vice chairman of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals; ex-basketball star Jerry Lucas, now known for memory training techniques; and R.J. Rushdoony, exponent of so-called reconstructionist theology, which urges that society's laws conform to biblical law.

The 14th annual convention includes an introductory session open to the public at 6:30 p.m. Friday. An exhibit hall will have 200 booths. (800) 564-2432.


A diverse panel of nine health and spiritual care professionals will speak Wednesday on "Spirituality & Health: Healing the Body, Mind and Spirit" at St. Mary's Health Enhancement Center, 1055 Linden Ave., Long Beach. Speakers include Father Lester Avestruz, Rabbi Sidney Guthman and Lutheran minister Samuel Ujiie--all chaplains involved in health care. The 90-minute program will start at 2 p.m. (562) 491-9355.

* A Hollywood character actress and her seminary-professor husband will join a Benedictine monk in leading a weekend retreat, starting Friday, on "finding your own story in Scripture's story" at St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo. Mary Rose Betten, who performs religious plays in addition to her film and television roles, is married to Pat Mitchell, professor of theology and philosophy at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. The couple will lead the retreat with Father Paul Pluth of the host Benedictine abbey southeast of Palmdale. Costs are $150 and $130. (805) 944-2178.

* The Venerable Thich Man Giac, supreme patriarch of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in the United States, will begin weekly free sessions on Zen meditation, starting Sunday, at Chua Viet Nam Buddhist Temple, 857 S. Berendo St., Los Angeles. The introductory, hourlong class will start at 8 a.m. (213) 384-1523.

* Millard Fuller, founder-president of the Atlanta-based Habitat for Humanity, will describe the low-cost home-building ministry at 10:15 a.m. Sunday during the Rector's Forum at All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena. (626) 796-1172.


Music minister Daniel L. Sharp will be installed as national president of the Choral Conductors Guild next Saturday on the final day of that group's convention at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.

Sharp, who holds a doctorate in church music from USC, has been minister of music and worship since 1992 at St. Andrew's, 600 St. Andrews Road. He previously served at Lake Hills Community Church in Laguna Hills.

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