Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an associate professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion. Grace Ji-Sun Kim obtained her M.Div. from Knox College and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is the author of 16 books, most recently Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love. You can find more of her writing HERE or at the Huffington Post blog.

Posts By This Author

They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our ‘Jeong’

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 12-28-2018
Five Asian concepts that can deepen our understanding of the Holy Spirit.

I GREW UP IN LONDON, Ontario, a small city west of Toronto. As an immigrant, my dad wanted to make sure that his daughters grew up with an accurate understanding of Western culture, so he acculturated us to this strangely foreign world by taking us to non-Korean church services throughout the week. After our regular Korean Presbyterian Church’s Sunday service, he took us to a Sunday night Baptist service, a Wednesday night Baptist service, and a Friday night Missionary Alliance Bible study and youth group. Church also served as a free source of English lessons for me and my sister.

My parents loved to go into Toronto and Detroit to attend revival services. These revivals were out-of-this-world experiences, and at times they frightened me. I saw things that I had never seen in any other church visits, and it was during these services that I first witnessed the effects of the Holy Spirit.

My early experiences of the revivals involved adults gathered in the sanctuary for hours, and the only hint as to what they were doing was the eerie muffled sounds of their yelling, laughing, shouting, screaming, and crying. One day, as I tell in my 2018 book The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Holy Spirit, my curiosity got the better of me. I naively peeked inside the room. What I saw was a jarring scene of the adults in frenzied states of devotion. Some threw their arms up, with tears streaming down their faces, praying and crying out to God. Some people lay on the floor weeping and shaking uncontrollably. I saw my mother, illuminated in the yellow sanctuary light—she stood upright with her hands high above her head, eyes closed and tears rolling down her face as she spoke in tongues.

This was my earliest encounter with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Due to the inconsistencies of what I saw and my fear, I didn’t do much to explore the Spirit for much of my life, until I started teaching theology and encountering people of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. As I listened to them, I reflected on my own background—my Asian culture, religion, and heritage. I believe that knowing one’s own culture and heritage is imperative to understand the religious landscape in a globalizing world where cultures clash, immigrants come together, and refugees seek new homes away from home.

Asians comprise 60 percent of the world’s population. Major world religions such as Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, and Sikhism were born in Asia. But Christianity soon became Eurocentric, influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy. Today, as Christians grapple with faith in a globalizing world, it may be helpful to see if Asian culture can bring some insights into the Western Eurocentric portrayal of the Holy Spirit.

People who speak multiple languages can attest to how different languages give deeper insight to our concepts and experiences. The five Asian words and concepts that follow can help us enrich and reimagine the Western understanding of the Holy Spirit.

Removing the Burden of Shame: Sexual Assault in Asian-American Communities

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 10-15-2018

Now as a mother of a young adult and two teenagers, I believe it is important to share my story so that society is aware that sexual assault occurs frequently, even in Asian American communities. Just because we do not share our experiences publicly does not mean that Asian Americans are immune to sexual violence. Just because we carry the burden for decades doesn’t make our experiences untrue. Just because we do not share our stories doesn’t mean that we need to continue to live in shame. 

Why I Vote

Seven contributors share why they show up at the ballot box.
A Deeply Moral Act

Voting is a decisive statement of Christian faith that I matter, justice matters, and others matter.

by Richard Rohr

Low voter turnout is generally a sign of a demoralized society, and people of power feed on that demoralization, knowing that they can then easily gerrymander, suppress and limit voting rights, and give elections to the rule of money and lobbyists—and there will be little outcry, because there is so little trust or even interest in the whole system anyway.

Yet this is largely where the U.S. is today.

The powers that control society are quite happy that it is always minorities of all stripes that first feel this powerlessness and this demoralization. Since the early days of representative government, it has been believed that democracy would only work if there was a truly free and informed citizenry. We presently seem to lack both in the U.S. This is why voting is a deeply moral act for me—in rebuilding confidence and encouraging an intelligent and hope-filled society. It is also a decisive act of Christian faith that I matter, society matters, justice matters, and others matter.

Not to vote is to hand our power and our dignity over to people who fear actual freedom, honest intelligence, and faith in the very goodness of humanity.

Voting for Change

I vote because many of my brothers and sisters can’t.

by Myrna Pérez

I vote for a lot of reasons. I love joining my fellow citizens in a community-minded act. I love having a say in picking the leaders who get to decide on things that matter to me. Increasingly, I love to vote and feel compelled to vote because I know there are about 4.5 million Americans living and working in communities across the country who cannot because they have a criminal conviction in their past.

Peace in Korea Requires Diplomacy, Not Provocation

by Jesse Jackson, by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 05-25-2018

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a cancelled summit between the U.S. andNorth Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The historic meeting was set for June 12 in Singapore, but was cancelled by Trump this month. The U.S. approach to this meeting was concerning. Trump felt that the U.S. did not have to do anything to prepare for the June meeting. He  continues to keep a military presence in South Korea with joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises that have always been a threat and irritation to North Korea. The mere presence of 25,000 U.S. Troops in South Korea heightens the suspicions and anxieties of Kim Jong un and the North Korean people. Trump has become blind to the need for diplomacy.

‘Koreans Live in Hope:’ What the Summit Could Mean for Reunification

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 04-30-2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un raise their hands at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

Even though many view this summit with cynicism, it is an important step towards any possibility of peace on the Korean peninsula. The summit was historic because Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met for the first time and agreed to end the Korean War. They also agreed on the Panmunjom declaration which seeks a denuclearization of the peninsula. Russia, China and Japan have also welcomed the agreement.

A Green Reformation

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 04-25-2018
Protestants turned the world upside down once. Is it time to do it again on climate change?

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS after Martin Luther’s charge semper reformanda (“always reforming”), we stand on the precipice of climate disaster.

In Marrakesh, Morocco, people of faith met at the 2016 U.N. Climate Change conference (COP22) to face an impending climate disaster—a disaster that now seems likely to be exacerbated by U.S. political leadership rather than mitigated by it.

The World Council of Churches held an event in Marrakesh to emphasize how transitional justice- and rights-based approaches, alongside faith-based moral perspectives, can address challenges as complex as natural-resource management and ecological, humanitarian, and spiritual crises exacerbated by climate change. WCC organizer Henrik Grape hoped that “COP22 will take steps forward to fulfill the expectations from Paris and that nations will raise their ambitions to keep the temperature [rise] well under 2 degrees Celsius.”

A wide variety of church bodies were represented at the gathering. The Lutheran World Federation brought youth delegates from Africa to Marrakesh to promote intergenerational collaboration and solidarity with people most affected by climate change. “One of our thematic approaches to the commemoration of 500 years of Lutheran Reformation is the theme ‘Creation: Not For Sale,’” said Caroline Bader, youth secretary for the federation. The Act Alliance, a coalition of 143 churches and parachurch organizations, established a gender-climate change working group to address sustainability among poor and marginalized people through a gender lens.

Catholic theologian Guillermo Kerber believes that Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is a turning point for the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, by including ecology in the social concerns of Catholics. “The celebration of the 500 years of the Reformation should be an opportunity to express an ecological conversion of all Christian denominations,” said Kerber.

What the Church Can Learn from NBC’s Offensive Korea Comments

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 02-14-2018

Noriaki Kasai of Japan carries the national flag at the games' Opening Cermony. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard 

The colonial narrative that colonizers sometimes improve the lives of colonial subjects is false and is used as a propaganda tool by those who seek to justify continued invasion and colonization of the world through imperialism.

We'll Always Have Paris (But Is That Enough?)

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 02-01-2016
The climate change conference was an important step, but progress will be marked by actions, not words.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

I LANDED IN Paris on Dec. 3, barely three weeks after the mass murder there of 128 people by armed extremists. On these same streets now gathered thousands from around the world—including from across the faith world—to hammer out an international agreement on climate change.

After checking in to my hotel, I made my way to the grand Notre Dame Cathedral for the ecumenical worship service organized by the Council of Christian Churches in France. While still blocks from the church, I began to hear the boisterous ringing of bells. Such joyous clanging from Notre Dame reminded the whole world that peace and hope were still possible, both on the earth and with the earth.

And the Climate Change Conference in Paris—COP 21, as it’s known—offered a needed opportunity to take a key step toward peace with the earth. The window to avoid total climate disruption is closing faster than many of us imagined possible.

I stepped into Notre Dame with awe—and an awareness that this kind of work requires prayer and miracles. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would worship in such a magnificent and historic place. The church was nearly full. I sat near the back. Voices from the choirs rang through the massive stone sanctuary. On such a cold evening, their beauty touched and warmed us with poetry and power. The worldwide church was in attendance, dramatically offering its gifts back to the Creator.

‘Leaders can’t afford to come home empty-handed’

Before COP 21, Bill McKibben—an environmental activist, author, and Methodist (and Sojourners columnist)—observed, “Paris isn’t the game, it’s the scoreboard. It shows us how much we’ve done—and haven’t done—over the years since Copenhagen (COP 15 in 2009), when we suffered a huge defeat. There is a big enough movement now—in no small part thanks to faith communities, patriarchs, popes, and the like—that we’ll see some progress in Paris. World leaders can’t afford to come home empty-handed.”

He was right. People of faith came to Paris from every corner of the earth. Some came as negotiators and political delegates, some as observers, and others as prophetic voices to hold political leaders accountable to the science and the moral imperative of safeguarding a living planet.

As a consequence of the November terrorist attacks, public marches for climate justice—which had been expected to draw more than 200,000 people—were cancelled by French authorities. In lieu of the marches, French activists called for a “global march” in solidarity with them. At the end of November, hundreds of thousands around the world took to the streets to make clear to the leaders headed to Paris that the whole world was watching. More than 570,000 people marched in 2,300 events in 175 countries, according to organizers, making it the biggest set of global climate change marches in history. “The charge from the streets for leaders to act on climate has been deafening, with record numbers turning out across the world,” said Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director for Avaaz, a global civic movement.

Religious Leaders at COP21 Issue Urgent Plea for Care of Creation

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 12-07-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

At COP21 last week, religious leaders participated in a “Fast for Climate” and delivered petitions with more than 1.7 million signatures to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, demanding immediate climate action.

These leaders, from different faith traditions, also held a press conference at COP21 with the message that they are united in the fight against climate change.

COP21 is not only a gathering of world leaders to achieve an agreement on climate change — it is a gathering for all concerned with the issue. This has included religious leaders from many of the world’s faiths and denominations, who realize a responsibility to speak out on grave societal illnesses and care for the world.

One of the most intriguing and lifegiving events at COP21 was an ecumenical worship service held at the Notre Dame Cathedral on Dec. 3, organized by the Council of Christian Churches in France.

COP21 Is Coming. What Will World Leaders Talk About?

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim 11-20-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

"The biggest open question in Paris may be how much aid goes to poor countries trying to leapfrog fossil fuels,” Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and founder of 350.org, said.

“For reasons both moral and practical the number should be large — larger than it likely will be."

As we think about the future of our children and our grandchildren, we need to rethink our use of water: how we store it, how we carry it and how we drink it. Water is a human necessity. Our ignorance can lead to the irony of spoiling watersheds — by robbing them of potable water while introducing mountains of plastic waste, impervious to decays which produce useful soils, and diverting water from useful work.

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