I am at the Society of Race, Ethnicity and Religion Conference at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Co.
I was on Panel #1 – “The Grammar of Suffering and Death”
Moderator: David Nelson
- Jeffrey Robbins, “The Secret of the Cross and the Lynching Tree”Kristian Diaz, “Mouseketeer Profiteers: Copyrighting Día de los Muertos and the Tradition of Exploitation”
- Justin K. H. Tse and Grace Y. Kao “Rethinking Reparations to Chinese North Americans: A Comparative Analysis Between the US and Canadian Case”
- Grace Ji-Sun Kim, “Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love”
My presentation was drawn from my forthcoming book, Embracing the Other: The Transformative. This book is part of Eerdmans’ “Prophetic Christianity Series”, coeditors, Peter Heltzel, Bruce Benson, and Malinda Berry. Below is a portion of my presentation.
Embracing the Other
In a broken world of misgivings, misrepresentations, and misunderstandings among the diverse human family created by God, we need to go to the margins to create a pathway toward healing and hope. As a poor Jewish peasant teacher from Nazareth, Jesus was marginalized and stood in solidarity with the marginalized throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus’s incarnate life, kingdom teaching, and crucifixion on a Roman cross unveil God as a lover of justice, peace, and liberation.
Those in power often share a gospel of an all-powerful God that is disconnected from the poor’s daily struggles through which their community resists oppression and struggles to achieve fullness of life. The God of the privileged does not exist in the margins but rather remains in the center, safe and secure from all alarm. The God of the center who may be spoken of in the margins, but never comes to live there, in the dire circumstances of dirt-poverty. The direct movement of coming towards the marginalized peoples with the intention of building deep solidarity with them as they “enflesh freedom” is an affront to the God of the privileged center.
Asian Americans have been relegated to the margins of society. They have been neglected, discriminated against, and stereotyped since they arrived in North America.
Pushed to the margins, Asian immigrants have an attentive sensitivity to experiences of oppression. The deep wounds of Asian American women are raw and painful within a patriarchal world. As a Canadian of Korean descent teaching theology in the United States, I have experienced the negative effects of structural racism and patriarchy in my own life. It is through entering my own places of pain that my theological vision of healing and hope has emerged. The places of pain in our heart need to be honestly acknowledged and shared with others so that healing can occur and we can do our part to work for a loving, just and sustainable world.
Traditional theologies posit that the God of the Center reaches out to the marginalized with inclusive love. Yet, in such theologies the center remains central command, determining who will be included and excluded. This creates an obvious structural disadvantage for those on the periphery. In many ways, church politics and theology still rely upon modern, masculine epistemologies of the center and continue to institute them. Epistemologies of the center only perpetuates the status quo and keeps power with those who are at the center. This center epistemology needs to be challenged and redefined so that the marginalized can claim their rightful seats at the table and voices in the dialogue.
 See womanist theologian M. Shawn Copeland’s Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009).
 Steven V. Sprinkle, “A God at the Margins? Marcella Althaus-Reid and the Marginality of LGBT People,” Journal of Religious Leadership, Vol. 8 (2009): 78, 79. Cf. Ivone Gebara, “Knowing our Knowing: The Issue of Epistemology,” Longing for Running Water (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), pp 19-66.
 An example of “peripheral” epistemologies might be found in the Preface to an edition of David Brainerd’s Journal, written by the Honourable Society (in Scotland) for Propagating Christian Knowledge (and not by Brainerd himself.) This Preface describes Brainerd’s Indians “…who have for many ages dwelt in the grossest darkness and heathenism, and are brought to a cheerful subjection to the government of our divine Redeemer, who from generation to generation have remained the voluntary slaves of ‘the prince of darkness’.” David Brainerd, David Brainerd’s Journal in Two Parts in The Life and Diary of David Brainerd (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition, 2013) Location 5260 of 7127.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author of Embracing the Other (forthcoming); Here I Am; Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice co-edited with Jenny Daggers; Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah; Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers; Contemplations from the Heart; Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit; The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other; and The Grace of Sophia. She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.