Monday, February 20, 2012

radical choices

on my lunch break, i just read this nytimes op-ed about dolores hart.  the article started with the question' how do you marry god after you've kissed the king?'  an intriguing start, don't you think?  it then went on to talk about hart's career that reached its zenith in her role as elvis's sweetheart and her sudden departure from the star-studded hollywood to become a nun.  she's been a nun for the last fifty years.

there is much to be commended in dowd's treatment of her faith.  i do think faith forces us to choose radically.  jesus, after all, calls us to pick up our cross if we are to follow him.  the gate is small and the road narrow.

the piece ends ends with mentioning don robinson, whom hart almost married before she entered into the convent.  as she was preparing for her marriage to him, the thought that she was 'in love with god' apparently struck her.  so she traded her designer wedding gown with a coarse black and white nun's wear.

it's an interesting article, worth a read.  but i lamented this presentation of love of god vs. love of husband by dowd.  perhaps it's unfair to blame this on dowd.  after all, she's only covering hart's choice.  

i can't remember how it exactly goes.  c.s. lewis pointed out that it's not the fierceness of our love for our spouses that's wrong with us.  it's the lukewarm love that we have for god in comparison that's wrong.  i wholly agree.  as we love the god-given partners and experience its oneness, we are to be reminded of god's fierce love for us.  

i hope all of you love your spouses fiercely.  i hope you are reminded then of god's love for you.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Suffering and the Retarded

I've been going through Stanley Hauerwas Reader and am almost done with it.  In an attempt to resuscitate this blog that has been dead for a while, I'll post a series of my engagement with the text.

I do this all the time.  In fact, I'm a professional at it, for I make a living by carefully crafting a reputation.  Igf my reputation has holes, it's because I have thought about how others might interpret those holes.  They're calculated and shaped.  They're never too big, and hopefully never out of my control.

In an article about suffering, Hauerwas rebukes me.  He says I need to learn from the retarded, those who constantly need help.  He says that the reason why we're so uncomfortable with the retarded is because they are sacramental reminder of who we are - people who are not self-sufficient, self-possessed, those who are needy.  He puts it this way: "We especially fear, if not dislike, those whose suffering is the kind for which we can do nothing.  The retarded... are particularly troubling for us.  Even if they do not suffer by being retarded, they are certainly people in need.  Even worse, they do not try to hide their needs.  They are not self-sufficient, they are not self-possessed, they are in need.  Even more, they do not evidence the proper shame for being so.  They simply assume that they are what they are and they need to provide no justification for being such.  It is almost as if they have been given a natural grace to be free from the regret most of us feel for our neediness" (572).

The Trinitarian God is love, and love is the trinity.  Even God reveals God's very self as one who lives in a community, one whose existence is contingent upon relationships with others.  What must our churches do in order for us to grow into communities where being in need of one another's help is the norm?

Article #28, 'Should Suffering Be Eliminated?' is not one of Stanley's best, but here are some fodders for thoughts:

  • "More important is the question of what kind of people we ought to be so that certain forms of suffering are not denied but accepted as part and parcel of our existence as moral agents" (564).
  • "Our neediness represents a fundamental flaw in our identity, a basic inability to rest securely with those things which are one's own and which lie inside the line between oneself and the rest of reality....  The irony is, however, that our neediness is also the source of our greatest strength, for our need requires the cooperation and love of others derives our ability not only to live but to flourish...  Prophetlike, the retarded only remind us of the insecurity hidden in our false sense of self-possession." (566). 
  • "Too often the suffering we wish to spare them is the result of our unwillingness to change our lives so that those disabled might have a better life.  Or, even more troubling, we refrain from life-giving care simply because we do not like to have those who are different from us to care for" (569).  
  • "By its very nature suffering alienates us not only from one another but from ourselves, especially suffering that we undergo, that is not easily integrated into our ongoing projects or hopes.  To suffer is to have our identity threatened physically, psychologically, and morally.  Thus our suffering even makes us unsure of who we are" (572).  
  • "By learning not to fear the other's retardation, they learn not to fear their own neediness" (573).  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John Stott's Bed

I first met John Stott personally in his study in February 2006.  I had seen him a couple of times before during my time at Wheaton College, but this time his last study assistant Chris Jones arranged for a few of us from Yale Divinity School to meet with him during our class trip.  I remember walking through his bedroom to reach his study on the top floor.  The simplicity of the room struck me.  There wasn't any frivolous adornment.  I can't think of anything that looked new, and everything in the room seemed like it came from the 80s at best.

And to divulge a little secret, in my excitement I plunged onto his bed.  I wanted to see what John Stott's bed felt like!  (I'm blushing a bit.)  There was a surprise there.  The mattress was so old, that it was curved in.  The springs in the middle of the mattress had collapsed over many years of use.  As I proceeded to go up to his study I wondered loudly in my mind how it could be that John Stott, one of Time magazine's 2005 100 most influential people, could sleep on a mattress that was falling apart.

Then I got to know him better, and it made perfect sense.  He once wrote this about simple living: "Simplicity is the first cousin of contentment.  Its motto is, 'We brought nothing into this world, and we can certainly carry nothing out.'  It recognizes that we are pilgrims.  It concentrates on what we need, and measures this by what we use.  It rejoices in the good things of creation, but hates waste and greed and clutter.  It knows how easily the seed of the Word is smothered by the 'cares and riches of this life.'  It wants to be free of distraction, in order to love and serve God and others."

People around the world, evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike, will remember uncle John for many things.  I will remember him as a person who lived to de-clutter his life from the richness of this world to enrich lives of many with His great name.

Thank you for your teaching, but also for the example of your life uncle John.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

'hunt' for human beings

just a second ago i logged onto to see what's in the front page.  i saw this:

at the bottom right is the subscript, 'the killing raises new doubts about the us efforts to turn pakistan into a trustworthy partner in hunting terrorists.'

hunting terrorists.

many people believe that language is used merely to describe the reality that lies behind it.  this is true to a large extent.  words like 'green', 'blue', 'desks' or 'lamps'... are assigned to the things we recognize without the use of those terms.  but that's a primitive use of language.  language also performs and creates.  language is not merely 'used' to describe reality, but it is the medium through which we experience and create the reality around us.  differences in language allow us to experience the reality differently.

for example, i have noticed that korean is well suited for telling stories.  it's full of color and sound.  in a way, it's an imprecise language used by a people who love to tell stories.  koreans are like that too.  we experience the world through stories!  on the other hand, a little bit of german i know tells me that it is a very precise language full of grammar.  germans are inclined to invent new words by combining a few to create a very precise meaning.  it's no wonder germans are known for their philsophizing and theologizing.  their reality is full of sharp, penetrating logic.

'hunting terrorists.'   i'm not sure if nytimes is using these words in a precise or an imprecise way.  i hope it's the latter, for no man who bears the image of god should be hunted.

the world has been celebrating the death of a terrorist after being 'hunted' for many years.  there is a modicum of justice done in killing bin laden (though i know not why we christians who believe in the final judgment thought it such a priority).  i just want to make sure that we understand that he was killed, not hunted.  this isn't semantics.  it's a difference of how we look at people whom god created.

Friday, April 15, 2011

while preparing a short homily for the maundy thursday service, i ran into this quote: dale bruner calls these chapters “the church’s passion,” because “the suffering, death, resurrection, and sole universal lordship of jesus are what the church has always suffered most for preaching and yet has been most ‘passionate’ to preach.”

indeed let's preach the gospel passionately even if that means sharing in christ-like passion.  but first, let's meditate on this great god this coming holy week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Glee and Identity

glee is a popular tv series that's caught people's attention across the pond, and i watched a couple of episodes of it.  i liked the choice of songs and the light story line, but there was something that bothered me.  for a while, i couldn't put my finger to it, but i think i have it now.  the show pitches to a wide range of people and there's a character for everyone.  there's a jock, cheerleader, nerd, handicapped, asian, black, fat, skinny, smart, dumb, gay...etc.  characterisation lacks depth and that makes the show shallow and trite.  i wasn't expect shakespeare from fox tv, so that wasn't it.  there was one character in particular who bothered me.  it was kurt, the gay character.

it was the way that the show portrayed him.  kurt is gay through and through.  he talks like a gay person, walks dresses like a gay person, looks like a gay person, and does everything that a stereotypical gay person does.  therefore the character is uninteresting and annoying but what i found offensive was the fact that his being gay defined him.

one of the things that my postmodern education/culture has taught me is the fact that we are many things at once.  i'm a korean, american, minister, son, friend, american football aficionado...etc.  i recently enjoyed reading demetri martin's musings about the multiplicity of identities on the new yorker.  our culture wants us to move away from binary oppositions and celebrate the fluidity of identities.  that's precisely how 'gayness' has entered into our living rooms.  the culture has made a third alternative to the male/female binary.  we are no longer simply men, women, but also gay!  but the show absurdly pushes gayness (and therefore sexuality) as the defining identity for kurt and has self-defeated its own agenda.  there was now either gay or straight, not a spectrum of identities.  his being gay became the identity for kurt that affected every aspect of his being.

but this search for a core self is designed and the journey graced.  when i entered college long ago, i struggled with my ethnic identity.  i wanted figure out whether i was korean or american.  by god's grace i saw that my search itself was idolatrous.  god's grace allowed me to understand that before i was anything else, i was a christian.  'i have been crucified by christ and i no longer live, but christ lives in me' (gal 2:20a).  making any other identity central would be adulterous.   i saw that my being korean, american, son, friend, student, teacher...etc. were all secondary.  i also saw that christ allowed me to be a better korean, american, son, friend, student and teacher.  i could celebrate multiplicity of my identities when i'm rooted in jesus christ.

whatever defines the core of our identities, whether good or sinful, will be found wanting.  whether gay, straight, korean or british, we will all have to look to the cross to receive our new identity.  only that one will satisfy.  we will then be set free from others that seek to define us and praise him not only as a christian, but also as many other god-given identities he generously gives.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


this is from about a year worth of my xanga blog posts.  it looks like god sustained it all!