The rules of our Five Questions interview series are simple: we send authors a long list of questions. Some are serious, and some are . . . not so serious. They choose their five favorites and respond.
Our guest today is Grace Ji-Sun Kim, who is associate professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion and a regular blogger for The Huffington Post. Kim is the author of the newest book in Eerdmans’ Prophetic Christianity Series,Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, which offers an innovative, feminist perspective on the Holy Spirit.
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1.What led you to write Embracing the Other?
My own deep pain of experiencing racism and sexism in the church, the academy, and in larger society provided the fertile soil from which this book sprang. My theological reflections on painful life experiences led me to explore what I might say about God in a broken world. How can God be the healer and the liberator while I experience unsettling discrimination not only in society but also in the church?
In my theological quest, I encountered the Spirit God, who not only loves us in all our weakness and despair, but who reaches out and embraces us that we might love one another.
2.What makes Embracing the Other such a unique contribution?
The book is culturally provocative for our time. We live in an age of local racial strife and global cultural conflict. It is an agonizing time for people of color as they encounter overt and hidden strains of subordination, prejudice, and racism. The Black Lives Matter movement has responded to overzealous police profiling of African Americans. Other racialized groups are also trying to fight racism and white privilege.
Asian Americans experience racism in a different fashion as we are often viewed as “model minority” and “honorary whites.” These misconceptions marginalize Asian Americans as a subordinate and subjugated group. Both concepts define us in relationship to whites. They are used not only to marginalize Asian Americans but to wedge a cultural barrier between Asian Americans and other people of color. We are often viewed as the other.
This concept of the “model minority” is a myth based on the faulty misconception that since many Asian Americans work hard and have succeeded, we must not have suffered the difficulties or hardships of racism and stereotyping that other racialized groups have. In this way, the wider society denies our real experiences of discrimination and racism. Furthermore, Asian Americans being understood as “honorary whites” indicates that we are viewed as almost like the dominant white community. White Americaindicates to our society that Asian American voices are not different from white voices, thus silencing us and our real experiences of pain.
I want to provide hope to readers that Christianity breaks down barriers and provides hope and grace to all.
Additionally, Asian Americans are viewed as the perpetual foreigner, no matter how many generations we have lived in the United States as citizens. This view of Asian Americans as foreigners places an extra burden on us and continuously reminds us that Asian Americans are merely “visitors.” We are not permitted to feel at home in America.
In such times, how do we work toward healing, reconciliation, and justice among all people, regardless of race or gender? In Embracing the Other, I approach this question from a feminist Asian perspective and work to develop a new constructive global study of the Spirit (pneumatology). I draw on concepts from Asian cultures to reimagine the divine as “Spirit God” who is restoring shalom (Hebrew for peace) in the world. Ultimately, it is through the power of Spirit God that our brokenness is healed and we can love and embrace one another and work toward gender and racial justice.
3.What do you hope readers take away from reading Embracing the Other?
I hope readers will absorb a refreshing pneumatology that informs their theological understanding and shapes how they live in this difficult and xenophobic world. I am always hoping that readers will be inspired to work towards building a better world for our children that welcomes differences and all people of color.
I want to do my part in constructing a better world by reimagining a theology that is not exclusive and oppressive but rather is loving of all people. I am hopeful we can all participate in building a flourishing world in which we learn to love and embrace one another. I want to provide hope to readers that Christianity breaks down barriers and provides hope and grace to all.
4.What are you doing when you’re not writing, reading, or answering questions for EerdWord?
I am a chauffeur — I have three wonderful kids who take up most of my time when I am not writing, reading, or teaching. Two are in high school and one is in middle school. They are all extremely busy with extracurricular activities. I am forever driving them to ballet, soccer, basketball, Korean Language school, parties, social events, and more, on weekdays and on weekends.
5. What’s next for you?
I am co-editing a new book with Hilda Koster entitled Planetary Solidarity: Global Women’s Voices on Doctrine and Climate Justice. It is volume 3 of a book series I have been co-editing with Jenny Daggers on reimagining church doctrine from a global feminist perspective. This volume will look at church doctrine and climate change, which is one of the most pressing issues of our time. We hope that our book will bring fresh perspective on how feminist theologians can speak theologically about climate change and sustainability. To this end the book gathers contributions by feminist theologians from around the globe who bring their own geographical, cultural, racial, ethnic, and social-economic contexts to bear on doctrine and climate change, with a specific concern for climate justice. Contributors include Sallie McFague, Ivone Gebara, Sharon Bong, Fulata Moyo, Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Heather Eaton, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and others.
I am also finishing up another book, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Holy Spirit which will continue my work on the Holy Spirit. This one is written for the general public and is part of a ten-book series, all of which spring from the Homebrewed Christianity podcast. It’s the most popular theology podcast in the world, and if you don’t already listen to it, you should start.
I also write regularly for the Huffington Post. More of my writings can be foundon my blog.
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Click to pre-order Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, and read and introduction to the Prophetic Christianity series here on EerdWord.