Colonialism Han and the Tranformative Spirit, consumption, Don St. John, eco-justice, ecology, exploitation, grace ji-sun kim, Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary, religion department, sustainability
I was invited by Moravian College’s Religion Department to give a lecture entitled, “Exploitation, Consumerism, and Eco-Justice” to fit the college’s “In Focus” theme this year on “Sustainability” (April 2, 2013). I have given lots of lectures and talks in the past, but for some reason, I was really nervous all day before my 7p.m. lecture. A colleague said to me at noon that ‘if I was a good procrastinator, I wouldn’t be nervous until evening….”
Well, the evening started with a warm welcome by Dr. Don St. John. He organized the event and made the event possible. Then Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug, the chair of the Religion Department gave me a great introduction. I think she made me sound much better than I thought of myself.
Amidst the nervousness, I spoke about globalization, colonialism, and consumerism and how these three aspects contribute to the exploitation of people and our planet. Religion has also contributed much to the exploitation of people and our planet as we misinterpret some of the stewardship passages within the Book of Genesis and how we ‘spread the gospel’ written in the New Testament.
I connected the pain we are causing each other and the planet through our domination and exploitation. A Korean term which captures this suffering is han. Han means “unjust suffering” which occurs when we use up all the earth’s resources for our selfish means and when we continue to exploit people in order to make more money or buy cheap goods.
The evening ended with a lively Q &A. I really appreciated some of the enthusiasm from the college students as their questions really showed their dedication to environmental justice and concerns. Here are some of the things that people mentioned.
“I greatly appreciated Grace’s eloquent lecture/discussion “Exploitation, Consumerism, and Eco-Justice.” Thanks for bringing these crucial ideas into the campus conversation.” Nicole Tabor, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of English, Moravian College.
“As a behaviorist, I feel the need to say something about identifying small positive actions that are already practiced by individuals/groups and acknowledge/praise them. If you catch people doing good, positively reinforce their actions and invite them to expand their practice by additional measures or inviting others to join in the eco practice. The one comment last night about not eating meat one day a week as an eco-measure was a good example of what I am talking about. As you said, the problem is gigantic and one can feel overwhelmed. So focus on small positive steps.” Andrea Miles, MAPC graduate 2013 & Moravian College alum 2008.
“It was a pleasure listening to your inspiring talk. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and your important concerns with us. We are privileged to have you among us. I am looking forward to more events of this kind.” Dr. Arash Naraghi, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Moravian College.
It has been a particular joy for me to hear from Rev. Kim her thoughts regarding her new book. Having previously read her other book on the Holy Spirit and Chi, Dr. Kim seems again to have offered sensitive and affirming views in Christian spirituality, this time as they apply to the problems of colonialism and world ecology. She brings to us again real fresh air, and true, living Spirit (ruach), as they might heal the all too pervasive ecological suffering (han) of humanity, and the unjust ecological suffering of our whole world.” Joseph Arnoldin is a MATS student, Moravian Theological Seminary ’14.
Much needs to be done to reverse the problems we have already caused one another and the environment. To reverse this tragedy, we need to work for a just, sustainable planet, to imagine new models of development, and to rediscover the inner resources needed to empower and sustain our spirits.
[read also: Reflections on Writing my Book]
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is the author of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).