Grace Ji-Sun Kim ‘Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love’ – A Review

embracing-the-other

Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book ‘Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love’ is an excellent introduction to the creation of a more just world, she comes from the perspective of the ‘othered’ and builds her theology and philosophy of justice from there, she provides an excellent overview of several topics, ranging from feminism to injustices faced by the black community, she speaks about immigration and the challenges faced by immigrants, a topic that has been in discussions of late, and to the great shame of the United States, those discussions have not been just, but to the furthering of the other for the protection of the priviledged and those in the center who hold the power, this is shameful and clear in my mind while reading this book.

In the past, Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s books have been instrumental in reshaping my views of the world, filling in the gaps I had, answering questions of my own, and challenging notions that need correction. It was Grace Ji-Sun Kim that first presented to me a view of God that I found to be relate-able, in her book ‘The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American’s Christology’. Her book ‘The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology’ was instrumental in bridging my questions with an answer that finally made sense, I had already encountered the concept of Chi through my language studies, and it was this particular concept that began the questioning in my heart of the White Christianity that I had grown up in. That was the first time that my faith had really been shaken to the core of its identity, and the book ‘The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other’ provided answers to the questions I had after that occurrence, as well as reminding me that White Christianity is not God’s ideal. Another book, ‘Contemplations from the Heart: Spiritual Reflections on Family, Community, and the Divine’ felt as though I had sat down at a dinner table and listened to someone sharing their heart, as though it were a conversation with a friend. Having read these books and each of them holding a profound impact on me, I approached this book with eager expectations, and was not disappointed.

In the early chapters, she tells her story as an Asian North American growing up in North America, experiencing racism, prejudice, discrimination, and alienation from a white dominate society, she speaks of the experiences of being othered both within her own community, as well as by society as a whole. She speaks of how Christian theology and patriarchal views contribute to or develop systems of oppression. She tells of the plight of foreign women in the Hebrew Bible, bringing a historical perspective to her own story from the scriptures and how parallels are established between them. In regard to the Bible she tells of Ezra and how the foreign wives were expelled from the land. So too today, under the names of things such safety and yes, holiness, prejudice remains a dividing force. How the foreigner, and the foreign woman, is objectified, dehumanized, considered a threat, or ignored, something seen in all corners of white society, from the white feminism’s general disinterest in the plight of women of color to the assumed normality and self-assigned superiority of a white­ male-­centered theology, a theology where the actions of Ezra are held up as a positive example, that men were willing to live holy lives, etc. This book establishes a much more honest perspective, that it isn’t about holiness, but prejudice.

I really liked a paragraph on page 27 (paperback):

“Can we replace xenophobia with the gospel claim of all now being God’s people (1 Pet. 2:10) through the adoption of grace? All ethnic groups are part of the family of God and are equally accepted and loved.”

In regard to today’s world, I find it alarming how the foreigner is treated, for example we have several Presidential candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election promising to oppress and expel the foreigner as key parts of their policies, even more alarming is that much of the white-centered society is not only okay with that, they are actively supportive of it. This is utterly and completely wrong.

The book spoke of the plight of the foreign woman, and other ways in which women, particularly women of color, are treated by a white and patriarchal society.

The book contrast Ezra with Hosea, and while Hosea does contain a great deal of patriarchal imagery, it also presents that expulsion is not the answer.

Other things that the early chapters spoke of that I really liked or found thought provoking:

She speaks of the beginnings of hope that one day the world will find all women to be important.

She speaks in detail of the lives of Asian American immigrant women, and how Asian immigrants are often viewed as being a perpetual foreigner.

She speaks of how women are made to be the other, particularly in the third chapter, a chapter that explores feminism, colonialism, and the limitations of liberation theology among other topics.

She speaks of the subject of western Christianity’s image of God, and how damaging that image really is. I like how she spoke of the need for a more life-giving, and culturally-transcending, image of the Divine. This is the subject of much of the remainder of the book.

She speaks of overcoming the gendered division of humanity, and introduces Spirit God and Shalom justice.

The last chapter, the transformative spirit of Love was excellent, teaching me new things I had not encountered before, as well as teaching me to look at things in an alternative light. I admit, I had been a bit nervous before reading it due to the chapter’s centering around the word Eros, but my nervousness was unfounded, and in the end the chapter was both liberating and illuminating, tying together some of the threads of the mysteries in my heart.

To sum up my thoughts about Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s ‘Embracing the Other’, the book is an excellent book, and I feel it delivers a desperately needed message.

This is one of the books that I’ve read over the past year that has held a profound impact on me, The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other being another one as well as Cindy Brandt’s book ‘Outside In – Ten Christian Voices We Can’t Ignore’. Outside of that personal perspective, the book provides a much needed voice and message, and I recommend it highly.

Like I often do, I read the book slowly, it is the sort of book where one wishes to linger over the pages with eager ears and eyes, trying to take in all the knowledge presented within.

Again, I definitely recommend Embracing the Other.

(This is a slightly longer version of a review written for Amazon.com of this book, mostly the difference is featuring time relevant statements, such as referencing the 2016 Presidential Election.)

You may visit her website at:
https://gracejisunkim.wordpress.com/

Amazon:
Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love

Listening In Silence

There is value in silence, in knowing that your voice isn’t the only voice in the room, crowd, or online world. At first, it is an odd sort of exciting feeling, realizing that you are not the center of the universe, and that that is okay. In fact, there comes a freedom to stepping back, and being silent, and listening to others voices.

Listening, one thing I’ve been seeing a lot lately has been the importance of listening, especially when it comes to listening to the voices of those who are oppressed, and by listening, I mean listening to all that is expressed, not just the nice bits that flatter or are comfortable to hear.

There are many voices which need to be listened to. Not all of the things heard have been pleasant to hear, but they have been extremely valuable in confronting harmful ideas and thoughts I hold. So while they may seem to lack niceness, they do not lack kindness. We are called to be kind, not nice after all. There is a difference between them I should think. Niceness tolerates harm, while kindness tells of it. If you are called out on something, it may not seem nice to you, but it is a kindness.

Listening is important, much more than speaking in many ways, it’s not that my ideas do not have value, they do, but they are not the most important ideas, and for goodness sake, it is good for me to allow others the honor of speaking their minds, especially those whose voices are talked over.

It is good to listen to the thoughts of others, and try to see things from their perspective, to take them seriously and not dismiss them due to tone or other insubstantial reasons that have no bearing on the truth of their words. In my country, though not often acknowledged by the dominate group, the dominate group holds the words of the other with a grain of salt. It is the dominate groups voice which is considered the more truthful or substantial. The dominate group usually means a white male in my country. While not morally wrong to be a member of that demographic, it is morally wrong to insert dominance whether that is personally or corporately, and one of the ways that is done is by the dismissal of other voices as not holding as much weight in the conversation.

Listen. Your opinions are not the only opinions of value, nor do you need to be the loudest voice in all conversations.

Listen, in silence. Sometimes the best thing to be done is to simply not say anything at all.

Day 28. reflection. (Post-A-Day)

70841ceca0bd11e3a591125a4e142759_81. you – 2. favorite

3. something orange

4. childhood – 5. square

6. C is for… – 7. utensil – 8. water

9. details – 10. i am…

11. mistake – 12. out + about

13. perfect – 14. heart

15. my drink of choice

16. create –17. vegetable – 18. magic – 19. feet – 20. peace – 21. funny

22. an act of kindness – 23. this is where i relax! – 24. half – 25. cut – 26. light

27. my view today – 28. reflection.

This has been an interesting month, but I am glad that it is over, upon reflection, I did not enjoy the post a day or the photo a day challenge quite nearly as much as I thought I would, and to be honest, the project has left me feeling rather discouraged much more than encouraged, as I have not liked the results of my efforts, and while I succeeded in my goals, I am not happy with the results. It felt like, especially in the later half of the month due to a number of unfortunate but relatively minor calamities about the house and such that I found the idea of pouring my thoughts into a blog post to be more an idea of dread than something I actually wished to do, and in that, I have not really put as much of my heart and soul into my writing as I would wish to do so. However, I am glad that despite the fact that last thing I felt like doing, was writing, I wrote something anyways. Yes, a lot of it is, I’ll admit, not my best work, but I am happy with the fact that I did write when I did not feel like writing. That is something, and upon reflection, I would say that it has not been a wasted effort.

Reflecting on things can be very valuable, and one of things that makes it so valuable is that we can learn from ourselves. It can also be very uncomfortable. You have to face yourself, and that includes the things about yourself that you are afraid of, or simply do not like. Reflecting on them can be a painful experience, but it proves valuable, or maddening. It’s not without its risk, and reflecting upon yourself can induce a madness of sorts, I’ve thought myself into states of absolute discouragement before. Self-reflection is very much like going to war with yourself, and sometimes it does hurt. Yet, it can also lead to greater victories than one can imagine if they did not take the time to challenge themselves in that internal battle.

Reflection is honestly a dangerous activity, yes, but just because something is dangerous doesn’t mean that is evil, or should be avoided. Sometimes battles do need to be fought, sometimes dangers do need to be faced. Sometimes dangerous is a good thing. Danger is not something we should avoid at all cost, nor is safety all that we should seek. We were born to face danger, to survive, to live. We are made in the image of a God that is not safe, we are not robotic beings, we are supposed to be dangerous in a sense. Reflection is one of the means in which we face the greatest danger we will ever face, and that is ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we should run from it, or that because it is dangerous that it is something evil or wrong. We are human, and to be human is the most incredible thing in all the Universe.

Day 27. my view today. (Post-A-Day)

674310f69fe211e3b149127a02d3ccc9_8My view today, like many days, I’ve gotten up, I’ve grabbed a bite to eat for breakfast, and checked some websites to see if there is anything new. Got ready, left, stopped for coffee. Which is where I am now. After that, I’ll spend a bit of time shopping for tonight’s dinner, and then return home. Cook dinner, do some studying, work a little on various projects, and probably try to find something to eat at some point. If the pattern follows what it has been, I’ll have a hard time falling asleep until late, late, late, and finally will repeat the whole process all over again.

One side of my personality: I do not like repetitiveness. I hate repetitiveness, and I think if it wasn’t for the fact that I need to eat and sleep for the sake of survival, I would find it too repetitive an activity.

On the other side of my personality: I like repeating things if I have a mindset that is intent upon re-experiencing a pleasant memory, and can hold almost a sentimentality about things, I will actively seek to repeat something that I associate with pleasant experiences, if I’m in the mood for it. If I’m not in the mood, even the most pleasurable experiences are too repetitive and feel vain and empty.

I am glad the month is almost over, I thought that having a set topic everyday would help, but it hasn’t, I feel very frustrated with writing these post now that the end of the month is here, and if not for the fact that tomorrow is the last day, I would consider abandoning the project, but that would be stupid now, what with one post left after this one. I would have thought the boundaries would help me, but I think that in the end, I do not work well within the confines of rules and such. I never did, and I knew that, I am better when I walk on my own road, doing my own thing, I do not work well inside boxes. I never have worked well inside boxes, something which has made many of my attempts to involve myself in things a little difficult. I am never content to not ask questions, nor do I wish to simply silence doubts. The result is having to face ideas and thoughts and journey on roads that many do indeed fear to tread, and many never do. Sometimes I do wish I could have a quiet mind, just for a bit. Thinking outside the box tends to be quite lonely, and perhaps that is why it is so much more comfortable for folks to work within boxes, but once I hit the walls, I am anything but comfortable. I should not be surprised that classroom settings were never pleasant experiences for me, despite my love of learning, and my enjoyment of being around people.

I suppose that is my view today.

Day 26. light. (Post-A-Day)

f7ed81549ee311e39b8212c6d7e511b6_8Light is an interesting subject, it is something that we tend to be familiar with to the point of noticing its absence when it is not found more than we notice it in itself. It is like a song we’ve heard all our lives, we do not hear it, but if it ceased the silence would reveal its absence.

We know light by its absence in many ways more than we know light for itself, if we found ourselves in a world of darkness, we’d notice it much more readily. Yet, at the same time, the light can be hard to notice and it is the shadows that catch our eyes.

How does one explain light? To be honest, aside from that it has something to do with electromagnetic waves and such I find it rather confusing. There will of course be arguments about the exact nature of it, some say it is always the same, others suggest it changes, I just know I see better with the light on and do not care much how fast it goes the vast majority of the time.

Light is often used figuratively as well, usually as a representation of something good. (At least in western culture. Not sure about others.)

I was kind of looking forward to this post, but now that it’s here, I’m completely blank about what to say. Hate it when that happens.

 

Day 25. cut. (Post-A-Day)

tumblr_n1kgr2XM821qm6kn9o1_500Nothing to say about this topic really, nothing that I can think of that I would use the word cut for in a positive sense except for perhaps in movie making. That would work, though it is only very loosely connected to it, and even then, is a bit of a negative, considering that a lot of great scenes are often cut out of a film, there have been so many deleted scenes that would have been far better left in.

Film is a good medium, and I do not forget that it was film that introduced me to language, which I rather enjoy. It is something I have wanted to do myself for some years, but never really attempted pursuing with any seriousness. I suppose once I consider the reality of it, there is one particular problem that I haven’t been able to get around, and that is not having something to film, or someone. I haven’t given up on the notion, but realize that is not something that is currently feasible. I might be better off finding an existing project to invest myself in, though to be honest, I haven’t found one that would work, or is something I would consider appropriate for me, etc. I probably am just not looking hard enough. I do that, I make assumptions that blind me, and talk myself out of possibilities before I actually investigate them.

It is funny, because I feel like I’ve spent a lot of the time studying and such, when I think back on the past year, I feel like nothing happened, though in reality a lot of things happened, it just seems that last February was like a week ago. It seems at times that ideas and projects and goals get cut off as new things come along. That is normal I suppose. Yet, sometimes it is frustrating, I finally pieced together almost everything I needed to start playing music after about six or seven years of training and acquiring equipment, only to find one, I didn’t have anyone else to play music with and two, I started writing and music kind of fell by the wayside to make way for a long march of words. Now, after writing roughly twenty novels, I find the writing too is making way for something else, languages. I hesitate to invest into film when all that it involves will suffer from the same difficulties I faced in music, and I will probably not be that much better off for it. Perhaps I am just taking a wrong view of things, I’ve known of many, many, other people who have tried it, sometimes with the same difficulties and they have produced several wonderful works despite all that.

For me, I think I get a bit frustrated because I seriously don’t know that even if I live to an old age, I do not see how I am going to have enough time to complete all the projects I come up with to do. When you study almost every day for a year and a half it makes life seem to short to repeat it many-fold times over. Not to mention that lives are often cut short.

I suppose there is value in pruning, which I suppose is under the cutting category, sometimes a plant or a project carefully pruned can be more beautiful in the end for it.

Day 24. half. (Post-A-Day)

001e9cca9d8e11e3b08f0ef35654c932_8A half implies a whole. A whole can usually become half. A half is not a half unless there is a whole, but a whole can be whole without a half. But there are precious few things that cannot be made a half from a whole, though sometimes you have to break them to do it.

Yet there are also things that are distinct and yet are not comprised of halves. For example, it could be said that I am not half body, half spirit, in nature as a human being, I am fully body and fully spirit.

And in the spirit of halves, I’m going to keep this post absurdly short.

Day 23. this is where i relax! (Post-A-Day)

67186b909cd511e3bb44125da3cb3f33_8I like coffee shops. Honestly, I like watching the nearly constant hustle and bustle of the costumers coming in and out, and the stream of new activity and such. Apparently I do visit it quite often, but it is an excellent place for getting stuff done. Provided I do not get too sidetracked by facebook or some other such service. My particular favorite is one that goes by the name of The Riverbend, which is a small local coffee shop, but I’ll take a Starbucks when I find them.

I find it relaxing, but for all that I have not written a lot of my stories there, the activity, while stimulating to my creativity, is almost too much to really concentrate on the scene at hand. I’ve written some stuff, but as most of it requires heavily relying upon memories of things I’ve written, sometimes years prior, I usually need a place a little quieter. Still, I find it perfect for other thins, and I like the slight sense of pressure to finish more quickly so the table can be freed for other customers, that helps me focus better than trying to do it at home where all I can think about sometimes is that I’m tired and can hardly keep my eyes open. In an odd way the hustle and bustle at the cafe is more relaxing than trying to stay awake.

Outside the cafe, I think I find playing Video Games to be the most relaxing activity, which takes place usually in our living room or the kitchen, depending on how cold it is. It’s significantly warmer in the kitchen so sometimes we will set up the television there in the winter.

Another relaxing place is in the woods, but sometimes it’s rather muddy or there are bullets flying everywhere. (Stupid hunting season!) So, that’s not always a relaxing place.

That’s about it, for the moment. :-)

 

Day 22. an act of kindness. (Post-A-Day)

f573a4a49c0311e3be45126b40d57598_8An act of kindness, sometimes an act of kindness can change someone’s day, and sometimes, even someone’s life. Never underestimate the power of an act of kindness, even if it is something small, it may make a huge difference to someone. Some of the most powerful things that have had an impact upon me have been small acts of kindness extended to me, at times, I do not even think the person was aware of their doing so, they were just doing their own thing. They were just being themselves.

Acts of kindness can be a smile, a word of encouragement, and sometimes just saying hello. It can come in the form of helping someone, or offering to help even. I like encouraging people, but even so, there have been a number of times when someone has mentioned that I was a ‘real encouragement’ to them, and I really didn’t set out to be an encouragement, I just was being myself. I was completely unaware of it sometimes. I hope that this is how I am normally. I know I am often quite touched by kind words said about me, or to me.

Kindness is a beautiful thing, and I do think it doesn’t mean that we have to be in perfect agreement, we can be kind to those we disagree with. Sometimes I think we think that we can only be kind if we are in agreement, but I don’t think that is true, we should be kind even if we do not agree. It seems like we tend to believe that if you disagree with somebody, you have to be unkind towards them. At the same time we also tend to believe that to be kind we have to agree with someone, but that isn’t true either. We should be able to hold to a conviction while still remaining kind. Perhaps it is not just about kindness, but also human decency as well. Kindness demands that we treat others with dignity.

Day 21. funny. (Post-A-Day)

e72b35049b3d11e3a1b60e9511671a79_8Sorry this is a day late, the basement flooded and I haven’t had a internet connections except for on my phone, which I have a hard time getting to work with wordpress sometimes.

Funny, I am, I admit, rather fond of humor. The more the merrier when I can get away with it. I like to make people laugh, I think, and am somewhat easily amused at times. Though not always. Curiously, when it comes to your average comedy performance, not a peep is gotten out of me, I guess it’s not my kind of funny, or something. I tend to find things that were not meant to be funny to be hysterical, and am somber in those things which were meant to be funny. For example I often find eccentric behavior of video game characters due to a slight software glitch to be funny, like in the game Aragorn’s Quest when Legolas announced the presence of a scout when we were standing in front of a wall, the scout could not be seen from that spot, even by those Elf Eyes that Aragorn refers to. For the next five minutes I was laughing about Legolas and his ‘X-Ray vision!’ and how now we know what ‘Elf Eyes’ are. Two hours of one comedian’s performing did not get a single laugh out of me, and that is pretty typical for me and comedians whenever I have seen them. I think different people find different things to be funny, sometimes the things that trigger it for a person are rather odd in and of themselves and to someone else there would be nothing remotely funny about it.

I’ve heard it said that one of the safest forms of humor is to make fun of yourself, which I have to say is probably a good form, as it requires enough self-confidence to laugh at your own absurdity, and is something that is universally related to. Humor that is not directed towards yourself is often quite offensive to someone of another culture context. I like humor, but I don’t like to offend unnecessary. A negative example of such humor: One time I heard a preacher crack a joke about a religion, and how one had a deity that to him looked like Spongebob Squarepants the cartoon figure. Unknown to him, there was someone in the area who happened to subscribe to the religion he was poking fun at, it was done for the purpose of a joke, but it left the person quite offended, and understandably so. It was an unnecessary offense, and not at all culturally sensitive to those who were listening. Even if you believe other religions are wrong, and your religion is right, humor is not a good method for saying so. Unfortunately, making fun of things we disagree with is fairly normal. I do it too, mostly in regard to politics I disagree with. In a religious context, however, it can be damning and the cost is simply too high to justify it’s use, if what you believe is true. It is something shameful to do. In my opinion if one truly believes that their way is right, why waste breath tearing others down like that to get a few laughs from people who agree with the scorning and mockery?

Enough of the complaining, it is true, humor is often abused, and nearly to the point that humor itself has a bad name. Still, despite that, I like to make people laugh, and that is what I attempt to do whenever possible. Yet, I find that people do not tend to laugh a lot around me, so I probably have a great deal of work to do. I do get told on occasion that someone finds me funny, I like that and find it to be one of the nicest of compliments, and I like that there are people who actually get my humor. Sometimes I say something that is intended to be funny and I feel like I am taken completely seriously even though the content is completely absurd. Questions like: “I have a computer shaped like a box, does that make me a Madman with a box? Or am I just a man with a box? Which would be boring.” (The Doctor in Doctor Who, calls himself ‘A madman with a box’ in a episode or two.) It’s not a question that is meant to be taken completely seriously.