My former Knox College classmate, Rev. John A. Giurin reviewed my third book, “Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit” and posted it on his site. I am reposting his review on my site with his permission. Rev. Giurin is a man of many talents, one of which is song writing. His song “Excuses” is posted on Youtube.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book “Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit” is a challenging, inspiring and at times troubling read. Grace lays out a clear picture of the world and society as it stands today, with all of its unfairness, destructiveness and sinfulness. This is the troubling part of the book for anyone that claims to love this planet and all that lives upon. The ways we have preyed upon it and our neighbours is embarrassing and shameful.
Grace, however, does not present this picture in order to frighten or cajole the reader into action; rather, it is a statement of fact. By making clear the current global social, political, economic and environmental situation, Grace helps us understand where humanity stands. As she makes her case, Grace challenges the Christian with the Godly vision of creation, a vision that is clearly not being reflected by the large part of humanity. Here she begins to challenge the reader. By making a theological case for the preservation and enjoyment of creation, as well as the fair, just and Christ-like treatment of all human beings and, indeed, all living things, she helps us envision a new way of practicing what God preaches and being people of faith.
Having stated her case, Grace introduces the concept of “Han,” which, to the best of my understanding, is a soul-deep suffering caused by mistreatment, abuse, neglect and betrayal. This “Han” appears to be the norm for the majority of people on this planet that have been treated unfairly in so many ways and for so many years. Here again, the reader is troubled by being made to realize the true depth and cost of human sinfulness, especially when it is the sin of a powerful few impacting on the weak majority.
As Grace troubles the reader, she also provides inspiration, both in her indefatigable belief that there is hope and that we can overcome the problems facing us, but also by offering ideas and approaches that can help bring about this necessary transformation. In response to the deep-seated pain of Han, and to its root causes in sin, Grace offers the idea of the “Transformative Spirit.” The Transformative Spirit is the God-enabled power by which people of faith can begin to change the way we treat one another. It is a powerful force that, if harnessed properly and lovingly, can lead us to new and better ways of understanding one another and our place on Earth, and in turn, finding new and better ways of taking care of each other and our God-given home.
As part of the “Transformative Spirit” or perhaps at its core, Grace introduces the concept of the “Erotic Spirit.” This is not societies understanding of eroticism; rather it is a radical, albeit historic, understanding of a passionate, sensuous Spirit that embodies a far broader understanding of God. This understanding takes us into feminist territory that has long been suppressed or ignored by Patriarchal society. Grace argues that we need this “Erotic Spirit” if we are to bring about true and meaningful transformation of our broken, sinful way of life. While at first glance it might be discomforting, the “Erotic Spirit” bears closer examination and understanding.
Grace makes it clearly, our planet and all it’s inhabitants are being stressed by the sins of the corporate few and consumerist many. Offering a bit of personal insight beyond Grace’s book, I believe that we are not in this position because we have been discovering new, exciting ways to sin. We find ourselves in this predicament because we have been finding new, exciting ways to improve upon and glorify the same old sins that have plagued humanity since the day Cain killed Abel.
Grace’s proposal of the “Erotic Spirit” may be radical and discomforting, but it, within the context of the “Transformative Spirit” is part of a new and fresh approach to an ancient and pervasive problem. The comfortable, traditional, so-called “tried and true” methods are clearly not working. Sin, on the other hand, is clearly gaining the upper hand, learning and adapting itself so that it is no longer easily visible or grasped. Corporations adopt eco-friendly faces that mask their people-unfriendly techniques. First-world individuals fritter away precious resources unaware of the way others are deprived of the basic necessities. Theses advances and improvements on good ol’ sin require a commensurate, and immediate, improvement and advancement in our approach if we are truly serious about honouring God and the bit of Creation God has entrusted to us. This is the crux of Grace’s “Transformative Spirit.” The “Erotic Spirit” forms a vital part of the transformation of our Theology and its practice if we are to make true, lasting and Christ-reflecting change to how humans treat one another and the planet they call home.
“Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit” is indeed a challenging, troubling and inspiring read, and one that is worth every moment of the spent within its pages.
John A. Giurin thinks of himself as a wimp: White, Italian, Male, Preacher. Born in Canada of 100% Italian heritage, John’s faith journey started in the Roman Catholic church, but as happens with many teens, he drifted away during high school. John married a nice Canadian girl, Lois, who as a daughter of a Presbyterian minister, thought a nice ex RC computer technician was a safe bet to keep her out of manses for ever. God simply laughed at Lois and called John into Ministry four years after they were married. Since that time his passion for music expanded into singing and song writing and musical theatre. John and Lois have two teen-aged children, a poodle and two cats.