This ethnography is about the subculture of a Hmong Baptist Church, it focuses on one church, called The First Hmong Baptist Church. It takes place in Minnesota and every Sunday followers or worshipers of God go to church to discuss and learn further the true and deeper meaning of what it is like to know God and follow God and Jesus. This paper starts off with a little about each writer and their backgrounds. We covered the daily schedule of what it is like to be in a church and what is taught every Sunday. With spending more and more time at the church we have a more in depth meaning of what it is like to be a follower of God. With the interviews that we have conducted we have found out so much about the two followers of God and what made them turn. This paper ranges and compares a few ways on different religions and also talks about how the first Baptist Church started and where it came from.
Where We come from…
My name is Mee Xiong and I come from a family of nine kids, five older brothers and three older sisters. My family’s values are based on respect and we come to have respect our elders and older siblings no matter what it may be. Our religion is Shaman, we believe in spirits and herbal medicine. Always growing up in this type of environment I don’t think that any other religion is for me, except for Shaman. I also feel that I grew up never really wanting to learn or even try to understand other religion other than my own because of that I feel that no other religion would even be of help for me. My family and I are very into our own religion and as tradition the boys must learn how to do the rituals and it must passed down from father to son. But when it came down to the girls, the only thing they were to do was to marry a man that did believe in our religion. Shaman was a very big and serious thing in our family, my parents never wants any of the family to stray away and were very strict on the boys in the house learning it. If any other religion were to be talked about they would laugh and not believe, but yet talked about how people didn’t believe our religion but have experienced an encounter of spirits.
I’m Myrah Lee and I come from a family of seven, four of them are sisters and two are brothers. I’m like the middle child. We live a very American lifestyle, but my dad was one of the chosen ones to be a shaman. A shaman is basically spiritual beliefs, you believe that spirits are the cause of everything and that only the spirits make things better. My dad said he’s a “shaman 2000”, which is the newer generation of shamanism described here. My dad uses meditating, lighting candles, and the use of bongs to connect to the spirits. It was really only a thing my dad did on his own, he was the chosen one out of his family at a young age to receive this gift. My dad didn’t really expect us to carry out his traditions because only the chosen one would have to. I don’t want to be too traditional and I feel like all my life I’ve stayed away from trying to commit to a culture. If anything I think I would choose to be atheist, or just be open to study other cultures to see how they live their life.
The subculture that we have decided to take on would be a religion called Baptism and the reason why we have chosen this subculture is because it interest us, the way Baptism works when a child or person is baptised. We are interested about how the religion works, what they use for their religions and what they talk about. Since we’ve only known one religion our whole lives, Baptism would be something totally new and different for us. It would be a new environment, new people and new ways on how we would see things. Also the reason why we are interested is because we want to know what goes on in the minds of people who are so convinced that only one way of life is the way life should be, we want to know that reason.
Walking Back to the Past
Baptism is a religion focused on God and saving yourself, for you to be in salvation. A religion where Christians are baptized either from birth or later on in their lifetime when they have accepted Jesus as their savior. Matt talks about Christianity, categorizing “the body of Christ” in two groups, those who are baptized and those who aren't, he compares the two groups in such a interesting way. For those who are, they are considered “‘regular’ Christians” which he says is an incorrect way to put it. He compares those who are baptized as to be stepping into a “torrential rain, you’d be drenched quickly” As for those who weren't baptized he describes those as “the ones in the gentle mist who experience the Lord over a long period of time and get just as blessed as those who suddenly step into the torrent of the Spirit’s presence” (Slick,M). Comparing these two groups in this sense often seems to be depended upon if you were baptized or not, paints us a picture of if being in an actual baptism church and in a culture would make a person feel they would have to put their full faith and belief into the religion, and if you weren't baptized you would still be “blessed”. Matt sees Baptism in a very different way and doesn't favor how one would view it from another and describes it as a “deeper devotion to God” (Slick, M). It paints a picture Baptism being a fully committed mind, body, and soul believer.
Baptism started around the 1700’s and it’s culture throughout the world. But was seen in the 1600’s but not fully established to how it was today, it was considered as “limited” as the article would state. Baptism was to be started by Roger Williams and he was the one who started the first Baptist Church in America, with the Baptism Association made up by five churches in all dating back in the 17th century taking place in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Towards the late 1700’s the article lists “35 Baptist associations, and approximately 560 ministers, 750 churches and 60,000 members in the U.S.” with Baptism spreading and being known, the religion still had problems of it’s own or rather any religion in general. With Baptism being established with churches and as a religion back in the 17 century the problems they faced was whether or not they need to pay for the established churches for taxes. Starting out so early in time, religion was always a debate on if it needed to be free, or not. During at the time, the bill of rights was still being made to and with religion being a big argument on if it should be free, with it being ended as a free religion and with free religion comes no taxes. The Baptist religion has come a long way and growing bigger in it’s religion and it’s people.
A New Environment
The Hmong Baptist church is an interesting variety of the people and they way they teach about their religion. The place where the religion is taught is what they would call a church, the outside of the church is made out of bricks with the sign to the church’s left stating the name, and the service on Sunday’s. Inside the church is the main floor, past the main doors in front is another set of double doors that opens to the a floor starting with rows of long seats op made by wood and it’s called church pews that is separated by an aisle. Behind every bench is slots for a book that they use to teach their religion and that book is what they call a bible. There are many copies of the bible set in the slots behind each church pew. Also within those slots are envelopes that has a picture of their church name and a cross on it, there are also requirements that you need to write on that envelope. You would need to write the date, your name, the amount, and if you were a guest or member of the church. These envelopes are used for the members or guest that’s coming to church to put in money to help out the church and the pastor for his service. The main floor has three chandeliers aligned lighting the room with three more ceiling fans with lights on each side of the chandeliers. Within the main room are windows, large windows that are curved to one point at the top. There are three windows on each opposite of the room with one giant one on the top floor or balcony. Each window has a focal point of an image to represent a dove, or the bible or a goblet. The basement floor is split into four parts separated by curtains and there’s a room to the right at the end of the hall for infants and toddlers cared by the teachers and ladies of the families that come to the church. The basement is mainly for school for the younger kids, split up by grades to learn about God. The grades are group by every two grades for example pre-K and kindergarten together, then first grade and second and so on all the way up to the sixth grade.
God in our discussions
They start off every Sunday with school or groups split up in the morning from the young toddlers together, to the young teens and then the young adults. There are three groups one on each part of the church, the basement, the main floor to the balcony. The young teens had around thirty kids, the young adults had around ten to fifteen people in the group. I sat in with the young adults but they seem to look like college kids also. When sitting in and hearing the young adults talk in the groups it was all focused around God and Jesus. They would always refer back to the bible and reference verses from the book. They talked about various of things. There was one guy in particular who looked around seventeen to eighteen, he talked about how knowing God will not make them hinder and that other preachers can also hinder you from knowing God. The language that they use when talking is very respectful, the use the words, blessed, amen, worship, sin and god. The young man also talk about how you need to realize that you are blessed and you need to be grateful for that from that they also referred to Israel and how Israel wandered for forty years. He said that we as people we feign on support and help from our families and that we need to obey and love Christ and each other. Now our cultural broker introduced us to an older man around his early thirties, He goes by the name of Joe. He also leads the young adult discussion or class. After hearing what the young man had to say, Joe also put his input and said to the group that you come to church because you need Jesus and not because you want something from it. He used a general example of how Hmong couples can’t conceive a baby and they come to church asking for help from God and the members to pray for them to help them conceive a baby. Joe talks about how that’s selfish and is not the way to God. He then turns to talks about a Prosperity Gospel church and the way they teach and their ways are fake, they are not real and mocks other churches. They end the group discussion with one final person, another young man. He talks about some of his sins and he feels that when he watches inappropriate things he would think about going to hell and with that leads him to talking about how if you are just a person on morals and values, if you focus your life on just that than you are going to hell and Joe comes in and says that the reverend did say that there are good people who are in hell. When it gets to ten o’ clock they would conclude their discussion with the week coming’s schedule and when bible study and also other important matters like field trips and chaperons.
http://www.firsthmongbaptistchurch.org/ (Click link for schedule of when church is in session)
After the usual school group discussion have ended, the worships would start, on the main floor the younger kids and teenagers tend to sit on the right side of the room and the older adults and elders would sit on the left side of the room. With the top floor, the sitting is completely random. When the worships does start they start it with a few songs. It can range from songs written by different artists or songs from the bible. It all depends on who is leading the songs. Before the songs even start everyone is asked to stand up for during the songs and then after they songs are all done they can sit down and everyone and anyone is welcomed to sing along. The church does have a small band with four girls on the guitars and one on the keyboard and one on the drums with two singers, one boy and a girl. The band group looks to be a range of just high school kids. When they sing they would have a overhead screen above the giant cross in the center of the front coming down to show the song lyrics. They would sing on a regular to two songs, the songs are always about God and Jesus and the feel and vibe of the songs create a very uplifting feel to the people and in the room. It makes you feel that Jesus has a sense of worth and that they love him. After the songs are done and people have taken their seats, it is then open for anyone to start a prayer and after the prayer one of the three pastors that they have at the First Hmong Baptist church and they would greet everyone. They would have the guests that have never been to the church before stand up and wave and then have everyone stand up and wave to each other. After the pastor is done with the greeting, the church choir would stand up. The choir is made up completely of the adults of the church, the older people. There is a total of fifteen members, the songs they sing are completely from the bible. After the choir is done, the floor is open again to anyone who would like to speak, ranging from good news to their testimony, for example this older lady spoke about her testimony when she went to Laos and experienced the type of church and worship that they had over there in Laos. She talked about how even though they didn't have a lot over there and how all the ladies were carrying their babies on their backs and some even holding hands with their kids near them and with the sight of that they were still so joyous and so thankful about Jesus. After she was done with her testimony she congratulated her son about his wedding and had ended her speech with a prayer. When she had sat down the main pastor of the Church stood up and started his sermon, his topics all range about lessons from the bible. When the pastor preaches, his sermons are all in Hmong it’s rare to ever hear any English during the worship. English is only spoken more in the school discussions. Bringing us back to topic in one of his sermons, he talked about being a blind ghost. In Hmong it’s called, dab dig muag. The pastors says that the root of evil and mistakes is to your eyes.
Eyesight are the reason, the pastor states that because of eyesight it connects to all things. Your eyes sees things that sends signals to our hands and legs to move. Now if you were to be blind your legs, hands and body wouldn't work the way you want it to and you’ll be devastated so you have to love what you have. The example he uses to explain to us is about money from the government, he had a friend that pretends to be unable to work and when he goes to get money from the government he would have to pretend and he says he feels so shameful and embarrassed to face his friends and family because of this. He also says that some people have no embarrassment taking their bodies to go do sinful and wrong things. The pastor also says that you shouldn't take funds and help if you are able. If you have hands, feet, a heart and a brain you can work. He says you can’t keep being blind or else it’s going to get you in trouble. He uses a Facebook example of an american men and women calling over to Laos to find a girlfriend or boyfriend and keeps sending over money to them. People are blind to other people who just wants to live off of them. You must see this in people and you must see this to as you being a blind ghost.
He starts a new topic talking about starting over, you have to leave your old life with your old habits behind if you want to start over. When you start your new life you must do better. He says if you can’t even change your old clothes to new ones how are you going to change your life. When God gives you a fresh new start, a better start and washes you, you have to be better and thankful. You need to change your perception and attitude. He then lets us wonder and says how come women loves their husbands so much they are willing to change their last name and live with their husband’s family and people. They are willing to change their life and attitude for the husband’s family but can the husbands ever do the same back. He goes back to his original point to start over have your new life, you must be willing to change, lead your life better like Jesus. To follow Jesus you must be pure as Jesus in body and in soul. The pastor says God knows and sees everything and there will be a time when everything will be revealed. You have to change or your heart won’t. If you won’t even change yourself then it’s a waste of time believing in God. He concludes his sermon by saying if you don’t change your ways, one day God’s going to kick you out and tell you to leave. With that ending they end it with a prayer and everyone is told to stand up for the songs. After the songs have ended everyone if free to leave.
Now during this time of the project we had interviewed two people, the first one was Joe, the man who led the young adult discussion. Seeing how he lead this discussion we had heard him say he was going to college this coming year to further his studies about Jesus and it sparked our interest on him. We had asked him what college was he going to, he answered Mid Western in Kansas. He says he wants to major in Biblical studies, we had asked him for what, his reply was surprising and one of a kind. He answered that part of life growing up he had felt that there was a lack of Hmong male role models in his life. He says he feels there should be more Hmong male role models in the Hmong community. He says that you see so many Hmong males, older males these days are in abusive marriages and how they would go and marry younger girls in Laos who would usually end up taking their money and not loving them. He hopes that going to college for this major he would grow professionally and spiritually. He wants become a strong male leader, he’s going for four years and plans to start in the fall or spring. He was born, raised and baptized at the First Hmong Baptist church. But he said that he felt that he was really saved in 2011. From 2003 to 2011 he didn't really know what he was doing in life. So he went his own way and searching and was saved.
The second we interview was on Mee’s sister or in other words our cultural broker. We started out easy, we asked her what made her want to believe or turn to God. Her response was that she felt that she had no family to turn to and felt that turning to God was the only way. The person who introduced her to God was her husband’s friend, he was a follower and had introduced them to the First Hmong Baptist Church. We asked her how does she think her parents feel about her turning to God. She replied that she thinks that when she made the choice of turning to God, she had her parents in mind knowing that he was strict on the family always being Shaman, it was hard but she feels that her father doesn't care that she turned to God because he believes that there is no God. But her parents still love her and supports her choice because if it fits her well being and health that’s all that matters to them. Even though deep down she thinks that her father thinks that her and her family shouldn't be a follower of Christ. We had then asked her how does she feel about following God from the beginning compare to now. She had answered, “I was unsure, but all my followers were very welcoming and made me feel as if I belonged there. They taught my husband and I to be better lovers, better people”. We asked her if she feels that there really is a God, she said yes. Which also led to the question, if she could ever convert back to being a Shaman, would she do it? She had answered almost instantly no, never. We then asked her if she was baptized? Her reply was that her family and she was. We ended the interview with when did she really feel that she was saved? She answered, “I was saved by God in 2005. I had nightmares and my marriage was going downhill. I prayed to god that if he is real, to help me. And never again did I have those nightmares, sleep paralysis. We were introduced to his friend and he introduced us to our followers and since then, our life has been so much better I would say it changed totally better considering 75% better then when we were still Shaman”.
With this project coming to an end we had felt so many emotions on this project. We felt that actually going into a church and learning about their ways was so different from what our religion has always taught us, Shamanism doesn’t offer pastors they offer people that connect our world to the other world and it was so different and new. In the beginning before we knew about how they were and how they act, we thought that followers of God, all followers were good and righteous. We felt that they were suppose to be welcoming and open minded. But then again we felt we were proven wrong in different aspects and it really surprised us. After spending some time in the group discussions we felt that some of the followers of God were narrow minded and that they didn't really think before they spoke of others. When the pastor said one day if you don’t change and keep on with your old habits, God’s going to kick you out the door when he said that it really surprised us because he was a pastor and those words were harsh. At that point it made us question if God was forgiving or not, also our cultural broker explained to us that the pastor’s kids were not all what it seemed it first. She told us that the pastor’s kids use to be in gangs and did really bad things but only because the pastor works so hard helping out other families that he really didn't always have time for his own. It really shocked us that his kids use to be that way, but it made us feel that even followers of God were not always welcoming, open and understanding but they were human. We felt that they were humans just like us and they make mistakes. Even if they don’t see it the things they were doing or saying came out meaning differently than they expect it to. We noticed that they were just like us, but we didn't really get to know every one in the church and every follower of God, so we can’t conclude to saying that every follower of God is like that. This project changed the ways we see things. But we do feel that God really forgives and if there is a chance in the future that when we do turn to God we would take a chance, but as of now we still think that Shaman is the religion for us.
Slick, M. (2013, January 1). What is baptism in the Holy Spirit? Retrieved April 7, 2015, from https://carm.org/what-baptism-holy-spirit Matt Slick is the author of this article, and he talks about his views on Baptism and what it is to him. He doesn't directly tell us what the religion is but more his perception on the religion. In his article he states different ways of how Baptism is perceived, he also describes to the readers about other Christians having a deeper connection to God. With that being said, he also gives us examples with lines from what he calls the scripture to prove his point of other important beings believe to have experience it. With his examples he starts to break down some of the deeper meanings and what they stand for. He ends the article with giving us some opinions on the idea and having the reader decide on their own what it truly means.
Our History. (2015, January 1). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.abc-usa.org/what_we_believe/our-history
This article talks about the early history of Baptism and how it started. It tells the readers about the who started it, and what the structure of the religion was based on. With that it also states that the first people that started it, were limited and how they were based on a strict mindset. It continues talking about how it developed and started growing through the world, gaining bigger churches and with that comes the struggles that the religion had faced because it was a religion. It also talks about who helped spread the religion to make it greater and make it more known and ends with Baptism today and how many more churches and associations that have been established.
Her, N. (2015, February 10). Hmong Baptist National Association. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from http://www.hbna.org/