Anne M. Blankenship's study of Christianity in the infamous camps
where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II
yields insights both far-reaching and timely. While most Japanese
Americans maintained their traditional identities as Buddhists, a
sizeable minority identified as Christian, and a number of church
leaders sought to minister to them in the camps. Blankenship shows
how church leaders were forced to assess the ethics and pragmatism
of fighting against or acquiescing to what they clearly perceived,
even in the midst of a national crisis, as an unjust social system.
These religious activists became acutely aware of the impact of
government, as well as church, policies that targeted ordinary
Americans of diverse ethnicities.
Going through the doors of the camp churches and delving deeply
into the religious experiences of the incarcerated and the faithful
who aided them, Blankenship argues that the incarceration period
introduced new social and legal approaches for Christians of all
stripes to challenge the constitutionality of government policies
on race and civil rights. She also shows how the camp experience
nourished the roots of an Asian American liberation theology that
sprouted in the sixties and seventies.