After six and a half years within Chrisitan publishing first as an assitant editor of devotional material then as an associate editor of adult Sunday School curriculum, I am now embarking on a new career: freelance writing. As I have been researching and studying possible markets to write for Sacred Journeys: A Woman’s Book of Daily Prayer has been helping me to clarify what I want to write. Here are some excerpts from what I prayed last week:
When I first went to meet my birth mother and listened to the stories of her hard life’s journey, I felt that something in my deepest being was broken open. It was like the experience of baptism: something was washed away and I felt truly free. Through this ill, seventy-two-year-old woman, my mother, I felt that I was encountering the power of the despised in my people’s history. “Hyun Kyung,” I said to myself, “you have studied theology for more than eleven years. For whom have you done your theology? Why did you want to do theology? You always thought you studied theology in order to empower the oppressed people in your country. But face it! Have you really paid attention to the culture and history of the poor in the development of your theology? Have you been willing to learn from them? With whom have you spent most of the time in order to formulate your theology–the poor or the intellectuals in academia? You have tried so hard, consciously and unconsciously, to prove yourself, your intelligence, to the dominant theological groups using the language of those very groups.”
For Asian women, theology is a language of hope, dreams, and poetry. It is firmly based on concrete, historical reality but points to the mystery and vision that calls. Asian women from the future and the depth of all that is. The power of this vision and mystery carries Asian women through the han and impasse. It enables them to keep moving, flowing with the rhythm of the universe even when the heartbeat of the universe seems to be destroyed by human greed and hatred. Theology as a language of hope, dreams and poetry is not a luxury for Asian women. It is an active healing power in the midst of despair. Theology as a vision quest is not an escapist, other worldly addiction of the oppressed. It is remembering the original wholeness of creation and activating the dangerous memory of the future.
Who are the theologians in emerging Asian women’s theology? If Asian women’s theology is people’s theology and popular theology, then every Asian woman who believes in and reflects upon the meaning of the goodness of creation, the radical egalitarian values of Jesus Christ, and the coming of God’s justice in her midst–and tries to live out that reality–is a theologian. Asian women have expressed their theology through their prayers, songs, dances, devotional rituals, drawings, and the way they live in the community. They are the theologians who are carving out oral theology and non-verbal theology from body languages. The majority of such women have not received formal theological training from traditional educational institutions.
[Korean women’s theology] starts with women’s storytelling. Women from various backgrounds gather and listen to one another’s stories of victimization and liberation. Educated middle-class women theologians are committed to inviting or visiting poor farmers, factory workers, slum-dwellers, dowry victims, and prostitutes and listening to their life stories. Storytelling has been women’s way of inheriting truth in many Asian countries because the written, literary world has belonged to privileged males. Until the turn of the century many Asian families did not teach girls how to read and write. Women sustained their truth, which was distorted by the definitions of the male literary world, by telling stories mouth to mouth. The power of storytelling lies in its embodied truth. Women talked about their concrete, historical life experience and not about abstract, metaphysical concepts. Women’s truth was generated by their epistemology from the broken body. Women’s bodies are the most sensitive receiver for historical reality. Their bodies record what has happened in their lives. Their bodies remember what it is like be a no-body and what it is like to be a some-body. . . .
When women hear other women’s stories, they cry, experience anger, and console one another. The boundaries between storyteller and listener become softened. Listeners feel the oppressed women’s pain deeply; their hearts are touched and transformed when other hearts reach out for healing on the personal and political level.
–Chung Hyun Kyung, Struggle to be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women’s Theology in Sacred Journeys, p. 280-2.
These were some of the reflection Questions that went along with the readings and my answers:
- What does theology mean to you?Theology means knowing God and how he works in our world. It means talking to other people about God and how God works in all of our everyday lives. It’s correcting the misconceptions we have about God, and the misrepresentations of him as well. It’s letting people know that they are not alone, that God walks with them through everything.
- What images, stories, dreams, experiences and visions help define your theology?Dancing, sunsets, hugs, community. It is many people coming together to more fully reflect the image of God.
- How does theology help you to keep moving through the greed, hatred, and despair of the world?It gives me hope that things can change–that God hasn’t left us to our own devices. It gives me hope that since he has called me, that I can a be a part of that change, and part of bringing God’s kingdom on earth, no matter how small my contribution may be.
- What does it mean to you to claim the title of theologian for yourself?It means that I am serious about talking about the places where God’s grace intersects with our world. It means that I take the incarnation seriously, and that I believe God is in our world and in us, reconciling creation to himself.
- How do you express your theology?Most of my theology is expressed in my head, but I want that to change. Like the Korean woman, I want to embody and live my theology. I want to talk about “concrete, historical life experience and not about abstract, metaphysical concepts.” I want to be comfortable with this idea that “women’s bodies are the most sensitive receiver for historical reality. Their bodies record what has happened in their lives.” My body has recorded what has happened in my life, yet my culture tells me that the historical record of my body is not to be left there–it must be tightened and trimmed and tucked. I am to cover the historical record of my body. The lines that map out where I’ve been, and the mountains and valleys of my body are to be done away with in preference to the eternal child. Part of my theology needs to be reclaiming my own body–the way Christ is incarnated in my body, and let “the historical record of my body” speak for itself.
As I have been thinking about what I want to write and why, I keep coming back to theology, but not the abstract, metaphysical meanderings normally associated with the word. In fact, the scholary and academic journals I used to drool over in college and seminary don’t interest me. I don’t want to do theology for other academics. I want to do theology for the ordinary people. Theology combines two Greek words: theos–God and logos–word. Words concerning God–how we talk about God. How we talk about who God is and how he works in the world, and how we have a relationship with him. Words about God that help us live our day-to-day lives with jobs, spouses, kids, being single, aging, becoming grandparents, losing jobs, going to school, and trying to figure out when the hell the we’re going to get to the grocery store with everything else. How does God fit into all that? How does God come and have a relationship with us in this life. That’s what I want to write. That’s who I want to do theology for. That’s what theology really is. If it doesn’t connect to our everyday, ordinary lives, it is philosophy, not theology. That is what I want to write.
This is going to be a place for me to work through some of this rough stuff until it solidifies into actual article, essay, and book ideas. It will also be a place where I respond to what I am reading and studying, so there will be book reviews as well as reviews and thoughts on news, TV shows, and movies.