Embracing the Other

The Transformative Spirit of Love

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Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Prophetic Christianity (PC)
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
    , October
     2015.
     192 pages.
     $25.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780802872999.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book, Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, maps the unique and distinctive historical markers that have othered the broader Asian community, with special attention to women, who by virtue of their sex have been deemed foreigners, both within the larger Christian tradition and in U.S. society. She examines how the academic discipline of theology, and the Christian tradition, have done a disservice to marginalized peoples as they both maintain power structures which have resulted in the oppression of the foreigner, that is, the “Other” (120). Kim challenges individuals of good will, and scholars in theology and religious studies in particular, to reflect on the profound influence of a historic patriarchal Christian theology which has been complicit in the racialization of non-White females in the United States. Drawing on her Asian cultural heritage, Kim offers a new lens where those on the margins have agency and wisdom which can help persons of faith re-understand the scriptures and reimagine God as a liberating erotic spirit that moves us to engage in the work of justice. Both individuals on the margin, and a feminist intercultural hermeneutics, says Kim, have much to contribute to new ways of thinking about God, who “dwells among the disinherited” (115). She offers pragmatic metaphors that envision a more just God reclaiming the value of Spirit as manifest across religions, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. For Kim, Spirit-God is ruach in the Hebrew Scriptures, pneuma in the New Testament, and Spirit-Chi, life-energy force in the Asian tradition. Personally, I like how Kim frames her critique of U.S. privilege and white supremacy. Amidst the contradictions within theology and the Christian tradition, Kim reframes Jesus’ prophetic role as that of “border crosser” (124), one who stands with individuals on the margin.

For Kim, it is not enough for theologians and individuals of good will to discuss the injustices that currently plague our world. She urges all individuals to live out the prophetic witness of a Spirit-God and the prophetic Jesus who modeled shalom justice for all. In a seemingly democratic society, where all individuals have the opportunity to be free and live out the American dream, the United States nevertheless lacks respect for individuals who do not reflect traditional cultural, religious, national, and ethnic backgrounds or skin color. The Southern Poverty Law Center documents a total number 892 hate groups around the United States. Animosity is aimed at immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and Christians by the Ku Klux Klan, Black separatists, Neo-Confederates, radical traditional Catholicism, racist skinheads, Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers. In this context, Grace Kim’s book is a much needed theological reflection for individuals of diverse faiths to bring about God’s healing in the world through crossing borders as Jesus did in his first century Palestinian world.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Theresa Ann Yugar is Lecturer in Liberal Studies, Chicano Studies and Women's Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.

Date of Review: 
August 30, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim is associate professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion and a regular blogger on The Huffington Post. Her other books includeThe Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women's ChristologyThe Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology; and Contemplations from the Heart: Spiritual Reflections on Family, Community, and the Divine.

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