I wrote an article for ESR Reports, Peace, Justice and Embracing the Other, for the Fall 2015 issue.
Below is my article.
It is a delight to be a new faculty member at Earlham School of Religion. The Quaker tradition of welcoming outsiders is comforting and heartening to me as I have been warmly welcomed by students, staff and faculty into the ESR teaching and learning community. The diverse range of students representing a diverse range of denominational and educational backgrounds, as well as gender, sexual, racial and ethnic backgrounds, make this learning community a fertile and promising place to theologically explore one’s beliefs and spiritually grow as individuals in community.
I immigrated to Canada from Korea when I was five years old, and since then I have always felt like a stranger in North America. I reflect on my personal experiences of being marginalized and discriminated against in my new book, Embracing the Other (Eerdmans, 2015). As a young girl, I found myself being taunted in the schoolyard during recess because I looked different than the rest of the white kids at school. Racial slurs, discriminatory songs and chants were sung out loud to ridicule my Asian features and country of origin. These discriminatory school experiences continued and also morphed into other forms of prejudice and marginality into my adulthood.
In my pain, I search biblical stories and explore how we are to embrace those who are different from us. I write,
“The biblical story demands of us today that we consider how we will live in peace with those who have different cultural, religious, and social backgrounds and often speak a language we do not understand. Because people immigrate, move, and are forced into exile, there are many strangers and foreigners in our midst. Will we find new ways of living in peace with those who are different from us? For perhaps it is in the differences that we find meaningful life and richness in our own lives” (Embracing the Other, p. 19).
From my point of view, teaching theology involves embracing those who feel lost, disenfranchised and marginalized, and encouraging others to do the same.
ESR envisions and builds a community where all are welcome to join in the theological journey of how to live peacefully and coexist lovingly in a world that so often sows distrust, xenophobia and fear. ESR is committed to working towards peace and justice in the service of encouraging students to embody reconciliation, conflict resolution, moral development, nonviolent peaceableness, interfaith dialogue, liberative theology and much more. This makes ESR a unique place in which to study and live out what Christ has mandated all of us to do, “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
I explore the important pressing question of how we are to live peacefully and justly in Embracing the Other. I reflect,
“Prophetic Christianity today must critically engage the problem of Euro-American racism and sexism. As Martin Luther King Jr. said at the Riverside Church of New York City on April 4, 1967: ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal.’ The church needs to wake up from its slumber and prophetically confront the sins of racism and sexism in our society today. If we do not do anything about racism and sexism — even creating awareness in one’s church is something proactive — then we are contributing to the problem. If we sit around and do nothing, we are permitting racism and sexism to exist and grow, because we do not insist that oppressing others because of their race or gender is contrary to Christian beliefs” (Embracing the Other, p. 4).
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author of Embracing the Other; Here I Am; Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justiceco-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”.