So honored that my alma mater wrote a nice piece in their Alumna Story about my book, Hope In Disarray.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim (Knox MDiv 1995, PhD 2001) is Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion and an ordained minister in the PC (USA). The author or editor of 20 books, she is known for her work in feminist, post-colonial, and Asian-American theology. “Being an immigrant informs my experience as a woman, which informs my work as a theologian and thus as a Christian, just as being Asian American informs my experience of being a minority,” she writes. Her most recent book, Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women, will be released in November 2021.
The following introduces her theology of hope and the motivation behind her recent book, Hope in Disarray: Piecing Our Lives Together in Faith, published in December 2020.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
Early Christians depicted hope as an anchor to the very presence of God, the inner place in which we can be confident of stability. Let’s stop and consider, then: to what are we currently anchored? Is it the artifice of schedules, ambitions, or rules we have made for ourselves? Or is it to God’s presence?
When we become aware that God is present in all of life, in all our difficulties, we begin to live with hope. That anchor helps us look past the disorder and pain of the present moment; it reshapes our perspective.
Hope is a confidence that has altered my own worldview: it’s moved me from a worldview dictated by fear, to one that acknowledges peril as necessary for justice. It grows day by day. I live with an enduring devotion to this sentiment, that the longer I live, the more adversity I face and the more patience I cultivate for a growing hope.
In difficult times, we can only run on hope. When our world seems as “hopeless” and broken as it is, hope gives us the purpose to go seek out the meaning and the necessity of pain in our plight for justice. Faith and hope work together to remind us of our shared humanity and to strengthen us as one in our fight for social justice. Hope reminds us that God is working and present in our world and in our lives.
It’s what keeps me going, especially when times are hard. Because I grew up in a time and place of less social awareness, nearly all my early experiences were wrought with explicit prejudice. I continue to bear the internal wounds of this experience, and whatever labels or titles you bear have likely also brought you trouble. But our theology always emerges from our life experience and context. This is how we each come to know God.
And so I know that hope saves us – and that hope isn’t just optimistic thinking. It’s a biblical understanding that motivates us to take action, to do something about the situation where we find ourselves. Hope motivates us to work for justice.
As a result, I write books and speak to try to give a voice to those who are marginalized, in this case, particularly Asian-American women. At the end of the day, hope carries me through and keeps me working for justice and fighting against racism, sexism, and other forms of marginalization.
Living with hope is challenging. It begs you, despite your suffering, to confront life with all the dimensions of its complicated truth—to confront the truth that life does not end in vain. Living with hope is to uphold expectations for goodness and the ultimate revelation of the Son of God. In the end, hope is what saves us.
Over the years I’ve written about many overlapping topics, including the work of the Spirit, antiracism, and antisexism. In my latest book, Hope in Disarray, I reflect on seeking God in the midst of turbulence, inequality, and suffering – as well as when experiencing happiness and love. I hope that this book helps people, particularly when they’re struggling with hopelessness, to reflect on their experiences and see God’s presence in their lives.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim (Knox MDiv 1995, PhD 2001) is the author or editor of 20 books and is the host of Madang podcast (hosted by The Christian Century) which holds conversations on Christianity, religion, and culture.