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[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge In Kee Kim for his special
contribution to ICAS of the paper and his
written permission to publish it on the ICAS
website. He was a panelist at the 33rd Annual Conference of The Association of
Korean Christian Scholars in North America, May 10-12, 2000, Princeton
Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. It is his generous gift to
In Kee Kim
I met John when he was a high school student. He was, at that time, the president of his church high school group. He was born in Korea but when he was very young, he came to Canada. Culturally and linguistically he is more Canadian than Korean. When he was in high school, he was very devoted to the church and was at the core of the leadership within his community. Even in university, he was heavily involved in the Korean Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. As many Korean-Canadian young people experience God and conversion at the retreat setting, he also was heavily influenced by these "spiritual" retreats. Almost every Korean church has these retreats which emphasize conversion, strong spiritual renewal, and rededication. As well, they have rallies or crusades which promote strong evangelism. Many young Korean-Canadians have their spiritual experiences either through retreats or these rallies. John is not an exception. John is a very talented and capable person whose strong leadership had much influence on his peers. He even once considered going into ministry.
John is now a different person. If he was involved wholeheartedly before, now he is involved with "no heart". He used to lead prayer meetings and, as a gifted musician, singalongs, but now he feels very awkward praying or playing any kind of leadership role in the church. For a while, he was quite cynical about the church. He did not think that the church could ever play a significant role in society. He was critical of institutionalism and the narrow view of the church. That does not mean that he is not searching. He came to my Bible Study but this time with a lot of questions that other people in the group were not ready to handle. After a few meetings, he stopped coming to the Bible Study.
I met John once to talk about the change that he went through. He said that in high school and university, he had simplistic faith that accepted many things without questioning. When he came to my church in his university year, he said he was exposed, for the first time, to liberation theology and feminist theology, and was drawn to them. Justice elements of Christian theology strongly appealed to him and OBEDIENCE to God's call for justice had become his central concern. We had social justice group gatherings early on Saturday mornings. This was to create a base community model which Latin Americans first introduced to talk about their socio-political context. This group was formed to talk about the socio-political context of Korean-Canadians in North America. In this group, we studied the Canadian socio-political context and various issues such as racism, sexism, and so on. Many people at that time felt that they were so ignorant of the social situation that it was difficult for them to understand issues in the newspaper. So we started this group to raise consciousness. John was heavily involved in the group. But as he pursued these issues, he started questioning fundamental assumptions he took for granted. The apparent contradictions in the Bible led him to question the validity of the Bible itself. There were two issues he said that particularly troubled him the most. He could no longer reconcile a just God with the violent acts in the Old Testament and the inequality of women in the Bible and the Christian tradition. Further questioning led him to more fundamental issues such as salvation, resurrection, and even the existence of God. He said he considers himself an agnostic.
He said, unlike other Canadian young people, the Korean-Canadians did not have other means of approaching the Bible. He said they entered the Christian faith through only one narrow channel: the very narrow way of the evangelical teachings of para-church organizations and the conservative faith of their Korean parents. Their parents and grandparents instilled in their belief system a deep respect for Scripture and the Christian faith. And yet the secular influence from their social context created conflict. John's spiritual journey occurred in isolation within the Korean churches and campus groups.
There are many Korean-Canadian young people who struggle with the same questions that John raises but their questions are put down as "weak faith" in the church. Some find the church stuffy and others leave the church altogether. Some remain in the church deciding not to ask these questions. And there are also those who vehemently defend a very conservative theology and a literalistic view of Scripture.
John's experience is similar to many second generation Korean-Canadians, especially those who leave the church. John's case study opens up many of the issues that the Korean churches are facing as they try to minister to the second generation Korean-Canadians. Many Korean churches have difficulty meeting the needs of the second generation Korean-Canadians. Like many of the non-Korean churches that are losing their young people, Korean churches, without exception, also are losing many of their second generation people. In the May 9th, 1994, issue of the Los Angeles Times, there was an article entitled "Silent Exodus" which reported on the phenomenon of the Korean second generation North Americans leaving the church. The same trend is happening right here in Toronto. This challenges the Korean churches in North America to take a serious look at the situation of the church and the future of the second generation Koreans in North America. We cannot say that John's experience represents all second generations' experiences but John's case study certainly reveals many important issues that the second generation ministry needs to deal with in the context of Korean churches losing their second generation people.
ALIENATED (MARGINAL) EXISTENCE
One of the most critical issues that the Korean churches face is the alienated existence of the Korean churches in North America. Alienated existence refers to the isolated experience of the Korean immigrants in Canada. As the first generation Korean immigrants encountered this culturally and linguistically foreign land, they found it very difficult to adjust to this society. Since linguistically they were limited, they had to find jobs which did not require much language usage. The only option they had was menial labor work, such as working in factories or running small variety stores. They did long hours of work without much social life, usually working from 8 o'clock in the morning until 11 o'clock at night.
When I went to the Second Generation Korean Ministry Conference held at Princeton Theological Seminary, there was a picture, which metaphorically described the situation of Koreans in North America. The picture goes like this:
Living in marginality or "being marginalized" has many implications on individuals and the church, one of the most detrimental effects being a total lack of ownership and empowerment. The marginalized lose interest in a larger society beyond their personal realm. A wall of separation is created between the public and the private, the political and the personal.
A generation is passing away as we approach the end of 30 years of Korean immigrant history and a new generation is coming up, the so called 1.5 or second generation Korean-Canadians. Most of their education was done in Canada. At the cost of the previous generation's "sacrificial" dedication, "adjustment" mentality and the influence of the "success" mentality of modern Canadian society, they are relatively well adjusted to the present culture and structure. They are much better adjusted than their previous generation. However, the cruel reality of marginalization continues. The marginalization of the second generation Korean-Canadians is worse in the sense that they belong neither to the western nor to the Korean culture. The first generation at least has a strong sense of ownership of the Korean culture and find their identity in it even though they may feel excluded from the dominant Canadian culture. The second generation Korean-Canadians are cut off from the Korean culture because of language barrier. As well they are cut off from the dominant Canadian culture because of their racial and cultural barrier. They do not go to Canadian churches because they feel uncomfortable. Even if they do, they just attend the service without wanting to have any ownership or strong bond with the congregation. They come to Korean churches and probably feel more comfortable but they still do not want to have a strong ownership or bonding with the congregation.
This affects their personal, spiritual, and church life. They try to forget, erase, and demarcate the experience and memory of marginality and welcome uncritically the culture of the dominant group. Some completely negate their Koreanness even though it is a big part of their lives. To survive, adjust, and succeed, they deny a big part of who they are. To them, religion is a very personal and individual thing. Collective identity has not been embraced; perhaps, it is not even desired. This was intensified by the influence of western individualism.
THE CHURCH'S RESPONSE
The Korean-Canadian Church has played an important role in serving the personal needs of the Korean immigrants. However, in turn, she became marginalized with her theology that did not extend beyond the private and individual realm of the people. The church's only effort has been to comfort the marginalized in their situation without finding a way to improve the situation; or to keep their old tradition in an extremely nationalistic way without suggesting the new meaning of it in a new context; or at most to help the marginalized to adjust to the dominant group and its structure and culture, without helping to take a critical look at what they were adjusting to. The only goal of the Korean immigrants was economic prosperity in a new land of milk and honey which they later discovered was a wilderness where they were to live as aliens and strangers. They worked hard to survive, their only hope being to provide a better future for their children. But, to be an important and critical part of this society was not part of their vision. This was due to a lack of leadership in the community and to the lack of empowerment as a result of marginalization.
THE INADEQUACY OF THE KOREAN CHURCH'S RESPONSE
The Korean churches served three basic needs of the first generation Korean immigrants: 1) Keeping their cultural heritage 2) Providing an outlet for a social life 3) Healing their wounded souls. All three aspects of the church are carried over to the second generation Korean-Canadians as a way of serving their needs. But the most crucial need of the second generation Korean-Canadians has been neglected; that is, their struggle to "enter" into the mainstream Canadian society. The Korean churches have only dealt with the problem of the people who are comfortable with their Korean identity and could comfortably exist in the Korean community without having to deal with Canadian cultural reality. For example, racism has not been much of an issue for the Korean churches, not because it does not exist but because the socio-political issue is not at the top of their list of priorities. Whenever the church dealt with the people who experienced racism in the society, they only dealt with their hurt, pain, and woundedness, but they did not go beyond that; they did not do anything or even attempt to stop the racism. They did not ask what caused this racism. Most sermons were preached to comfort the people's private pain and struggles. Worship was understood exclusively as a "healing time" for the wounded soul and an "equipping time" of power for the individual so that they could survive and continue in this "hostile" world.
The theologies operating in the Korean churches have been very much privatized and personalized and therefore they find the traditional and conservative theologies most comfortable because they often focus on the personal needs of the individual. Having grown up in this kind of conservative church environment, even on the university campus, the second-generation tend to join the conservative Christian groups. But as they face many intellectual and social challenges in school or in their jobs, they encounter many issues that they never had to deal with before and were never equipped to deal with. Their traditional belief system becomes challenged and as a result their faith is often shattered. This is what happened to John in the case study.
The Korean churches did not take seriously the socio-political and cultural reality of the second generation Korean existence in North America. It was due to their conservative theology and also due to the lack of leadership which could facilitate theological reflection on the second generation Korean-Canadian's socio-cultural reality. John was comfortably involved in the more conservative theological milieu until he came to face his socio-cultural reality honestly and seriously. When that happened he found that he could not find a way to deal with his questions within the traditional Korean churches.
John still struggles quite a lot with his own identity. Unlike the first generation Koreans, to John being Korean is not enough and being a good Christian and a nice person is not enough. What he needs is a way to critically reflect upon his situation, his identity, and his struggle with faith questions. But the private, individualistic and exclusively "Korean" attitude of traditional Korean churches became only a burden to people like John, leaving them with a "stuffy" feeling about the church. Many second generation Koreans left the church as they moved into the larger socio-cultural reality which exists beyond the Korean community but to John the solution is not so simple because the church is his spiritual home and yet he finds the Korean churches unable to meet his needs. This leaves John in a dilemma.
EFFECTS OF THE BIBLE
The Bible has been at the centre of Korean Christianity. Not only is the traditional interpretation of Scripture, which concentrates mainly on the personal needs, inadequate for equipping the Korean-Canadian churches in ministering to people like John, but it is also oppressive in the sense that it justifies and encourages the separation between the private and the public thereby promoting alienation and marginalization. Narrow and doctrinal interpretations of Scripture does not give a holistic understanding to the Korean-Canadian second generation individual; such ways of interpretation do not take into serious consideration the socio-political reality of the in-betweenness-of-Korean-and-Canadian which shapes the identity of the Korean-Canadian individual.
The traditional individualistic hermeneutics sees the problem of modern society but only in terms of how it affects an individual and provides an insight or remedy for individual problems but it does not consider its effect on the collective consciousness of the whole. It cannot help people like John who are struggling between two cultures and who are struggling to deal with the emerging new socio-cultural reality. To help people like John a theology must be more than a collection of coherent metaphysically meditated ideas whose validity is not and cannot be proved nor disproved by socio-political reality. It has to concretely reflect the cultural, the social, and the political reality within which the second generation people live.
Traditional theologies of ministry which concentrate on the private is not only inadequate for equipping the Korean-Canadian churches for these challenges and for preparing them to be a prophetic voice but it is also oppressive in the sense that it justifies and encourages the separation between the private and the public which is pathological and intensifies marginalization. Individualistic theology, metaphysical theology and existential theology in themselves do not give an adequate understanding of the Korean-Canadian individual; they do not take into serious consideration the socio-political-cultural reality of the in-betweenness-of-Korean-and-Canadian which shapes the identity of the Korean-Canadian individual.
Traditional individualistic theology sees the problem of modern society but only in terms of how it affects an individual. It provides insight or remedy for individual problems but it does not consider how it affects the collective consciousness of the whole. The Kingdom of God is merely interpreted as salvation of the individual soul or the mental/spiritual state an individual experiences, mainly the state of flight from an evil and troubled world. Worship is understood exclusively as a "healing time" of the wounded soul and an "equipping time" of power for an individual so that he/she goes on in the troubled world, continues and survives. Eschatological hope is interpreted as merely waiting for the better time which means better conditions of life such as better financial security and future. Many of the second generation Korean-Canadians do not seem to care about either their parents' culture and history nor those of Canada. Their main concern is to adjust to the econo-technological society for their individual benefit and therefore it is very difficult to form a meaningful community if not impossible. All these things are symptoms of deprivation from the society and the split between the private and the public. All of these deprived them of their creative imagination and impulse/desire to change even though this is what the society needs and should encourage from its members, to use them for the sake of its own transformation.
Sang Hyun Lee, Korean-American theologian who developed pilgrim theology and who is presently the professor in charge of the Asian-American Centre at Princeton Theological Seminary, saw a dehumanizing force working in Korean churches in North America and attempted to shine a different light on the Korean existence in North America and a different insight and purpose for the situation when he developed pilgrim theology. It was a product of the agonizing immigrant experience and as well as a protest against the dehumanization of the modern world. He sees immigrant life as the life of a pilgrim and considers it as a vocation(1):
He uses the term marginalization to describe the Korean immigrant situation in North America and this is a journey into the wilderness. However, he claims that Korean immigrants in North America should turn this terrible situation into an opportunity for pilgrimage and for discipleship(2):
Lee clearly saw the deprived situation of Koreans in North America and as a way of providing an alternative to the meaning of immigrant existence, he developed the pilgrim theology. His theology is based on the marginal existence of Koreans in North America and the valuable experience of the wilderness. However he did not foresee that the history of Korean immigrants in North America would become a history of "running away from the wilderness" rather than "journeying through the wilderness". Did immigrant experience in North America really give them a creative force and imagination to change the North American society? How much change did Korean immigrants bring to this society? Was their struggle the struggle to change or the struggle to adapt to the society and use it for personal well being? After 20-30 years' immigration history, we see much improvement in the individual lives of Koreans in North America. Our second generations are better adapted to this society in terms of their career. But was there really the creative contribution which we made to this society as marginal people? Have we really fully identified ourselves with the marginal people or have our efforts been the efforts of running away from the marginality and adapting to the powerful and the dominant? Privatized theology is still prevalent in Korean churches in North America and this time not just for their survival but for maintaining their status quo, keeping them away from the life of the wilderness. Are we not adapting too well to this society and becoming just a part of its modernization process? What happened to all our struggles in the wilderness? These are important questions still to be dealt with. When it comes to the second generation, the experience of the wilderness is completely forgotten, denied and hidden behind their consciousness. Pilgrim theology does not mean anything unless we find a new way of experiencing the pilgrimage, the journey through the wilderness.
At this point, I turned to political theology to see whether it can give me some insights on this problem of forgetting our marginality and wilderness experience. I found two people: Johann Metz and Jurgen Moltmann. Metz sees the pacifying role of the religion as the problem of bourgeois religion(3):
The danger that the Korean-Canadian church is facing presently is its tendency to fall into bourgeois religion which Metz describes above. According to Metz, bourgeois religion is a religious superstructure that seeks only the self-interests of the church and promotes only the believed-in faith. Bourgeois church is the 'Church for the people' rather than 'Church of the people' in which people become "simply consumers of religion or an object of care and attention"(4). Moltmann identifies this theology as a religious ideology of romanticist subjectivity(5): "Hence this theology threatens to become a religious ideology of romanticist subjectivity, a religion within the sphere of the individuality that has been relieved of all social obligations."
As Metz and Moltmann saw the problem of the modern church, the negative effect of modernization also occurs in Korean churches. I think the modern techno-economic society has two ways of controlling religion: absorption and compartmentalization. It absorbs religion in its power and influences the religious ideas to become an instrumental reason for its techno-economic progress and advancement. One's religious goal is not much different from the goal of the techno-economic society; that is, economic success. As a result, our religious imagination has become instrumentalized, our faith has become materialistic and utilitarian, expecting "blessings" and our understanding of salvation has become financial success and well-being, and the goal of our church has become focused on the size of membership and the budget.
Another way in which modern society influences religion is to compartmentalize religion so that it does not critically influence the larger society, especially not in a way which hinders the techno-economic progress. It compartmentalizes the religion so that it only deals with the personal needs of an individual. These two (absorption and compartmentalization) have been very strong forces in Korean immigrant Christianity and their influence penetrates even into the second generation Koreans' consciousness. The second generation Korean-Canadians' understanding of religion and church is very much limited and conditioned. They compartmentalize religion into the realm of the "supernatural" and the private. This compartmentalization also brings the split between the private and the public and puts religion in the realm of the private. For the first generation parent, Christian faith was important for their survival and for keeping their hope in this extremely marginalized immigrant life but the relevance of their Christian faith was limited to the private reality. The second generation Korean-Canadians have inherited this sort of Christian faith. That, in combination with the influence of the modern individualistic society has molded the Christian faith of the second generation Korean-Canadians to be personalistic and individualistic. Their effect is further encouragement and promotion of alienation from the mainstream society.
Now facing the danger of falling into the mainstream bourgeois religion which promotes further alienation and marginalization of the Korean churches, what should the Korean-Canadian churches do? We cannot assume that the second generation will have their consciousness raised about their marginalization. In other words, the marginalization cannot be an entry point. As a matter of fact, the sense of marginalization in the second generation has been forgotten, denied, or internalized. There is no solidarity that comes from their experiences of marginalization. Lee's "pilgrim" is not possible unless the sense of marginality is brought up to the consciousness of the second generation. Lee is also aware of this in his later work.(6) Awareness of marginality is the important first step that Korean-Canadian second generations have to experience. Lee writes about how the tragic events of 1992 in Los Angeles brought together the first and the second generation Koreans together in solidarity.(7): "Awareness then led to sympathy and solidarity. The first-generation and the younger second-generation Korean Americans suddenly forgot all of their generational conflicts and joined together in relief work and marched together in a peace demonstration. A Korean American young woman told me that the pain she felt at the sight of other Koreans' suffering told her that she was a Korean after all." As we become aware of our own marginality, we can be also aware of the marginality of others and at the marginality we will experience the solidarity(8): "Whatever else it may mean to become pilgrims for Asian Americans, it does mean to become self-conscious strangers and thereby to become capable of solidarity with other strangers."
The second generation Korean-Canadians have to step into the second journey through the wilderness. It is a second journey because their parents took the first journey when they came to North America. It is a second journey also because it is a continuation of their journey. The marginality of the first generation Korean-Canadians placed them in a special position in this society and it was a calling of the creative minority to use marginality as a creative force for social change. Their experience of marginality brought them an impulse to protest against suffering and to reform the present situation. They were in a special position because as a creative minority, they could see what the people in the centre could not see. The second journey should continue its calling in this land. Again, it is a second journey in the sense that it should take a different path from the first. In the course of the journey of the first generation Korean-Canadians through the wilderness, they somehow took the wrong path, a wider road, and not the narrow road. They wanted the second generation to take an easy way out. The material wealth and security of the second generation is precisely their temptation to stop the journey at the wrong destiny. There has to be a reinterpretation of the second generation's experience and a new understanding of marginality. The path of history for the second generation has to be different from the one the first generations have taken; it should be the history of identifying with the weak, the powerless, the defenseless and the rejected. It should be the journey of discipleship, the journey of responding to God's call for the new future. Our attitude should not be to adapt and to benefit but to get to know, to critique and to change.
To start the second journey through the wilderness, we need to leave behind our desire for survival, security, success and prosperity. We need to hear Jesus' calling: "If anyone desires to come after me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." "Unless a grain of seed falls on the ground and dies, it does not bear fruit." Metz identifies this process as an anthropological revolution(9):
The anthropological revolution requires more than changing systems here and there, changing a few habits. It requires more than a sensational movement led by a prominent leader. It is a movement of new birth and new journey. As Jesus came to a well-cultured, religious and noble man, Nicodemus, and said, "to enter the Kingdom of God, you must be born again", if we expect the Kingdom of God to be established, we have to be born again. It is not just a religious change but in a true sense a spiritual change that affects their social, political, cultural, and religious understanding. This is where the political, social, and personal life can meet without split. This is where the impulse to change begins.
For the second journey, the church should deliberately seek out those who are conquered, marginalized and victimized. The church seeks them out not just to help them but to get help from them. For the church to change, it is necessary that their experiences, their advice and their perspectives are heard, experienced, shared, interpreted, and confirmed. The Korean churches need to listen very carefully to the voice of their second-generation people like John. Their voice is a new cry protesting against alienation and calling for reforms in the present situation. Their voice is a prophetic voice speaking out against the simple acceptance of the status quo of the Korean people's situation in Canada. The church needs to seek out people like John not just to "help" them or convert them but to hear them. They are key people who can help in bringing around a real change in the Korean churches, if the Korean churches are to play a critical and a creative role in the larger Canadian society and also to respond effectively to a fast changing transition from the first to the second generation. Their existence determines the existence of the future Korean-Canadian churches but the church has been good at screening them out, washing them away and closing doors on them. It is necessary to see and understand how the church screens out people like John and to fight against the reasoning, the belief system and the structure that promotes the screening process. Their stories have a political implication to "change" while the stories of the so-called "faithful" have a political implication to "maintain". The church has to seek them out from within the church as well as to deliberately invite those who are outside, and form a group where they can share their stories without feeling the threat of being labeled as people of "weak faith".
HERMENEUTICS OF MEMORY OF SUFFERING IN THE MARGIN
We need to reconstruct our history by sharing our stories and collecting the stories of those who have the memory of suffering. This is where the first generation and the second generation come into solidarity. Unfortunately, the history of the Korean-Canadian immigrants, has been the history of the denial of suffering and the demarcation of the memory of the suffering. Here we need to reconstruct the history by recollecting and gathering the memory of suffering. Our human history has been the history of success, victory and conquest. In the course of the memory of history, the weak, the victimized and the suffering have been erased from our memory. That is the tendency of the modern techno-economic society. We are no exceptions. We are also victimized by the trend of the society. Now we need to protest against this trend by recollecting and gathering the memory of suffering within us and in our ancestors. Our parents have tremendous resources concerning the history of suffering. They witnessed the torture of Japanese Imperialism during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the cruelty of war during the Korean War, the dictatorship and totalitarianism of the Korean governments and the marginalization of immigration life in North America. The second generation Korean-Canadian church must be a collective witness to the dangerous memory of our ancestors. It is precisely this memory which will keep us from being satisfied and sucked into the system of modern society; it will remind us of the future towards which we should strive. Our future in the techno-economic world without the memory of the suffering is unimaginable. Our freedom will turn into a predesigned behavioural pattern that at most adapts to the power system and our reason will turn into an instrumental reason which merely functions to serve technological and economic processes. The memory of suffering brings us to a new realization of reason that opposes this unreflected and non-dialectical process of instrumental reason. In the process of modernization, our vision, imagination and dreams will disappear and we become mere instruments for economic progress. Our moral imagination and power to resist against this dehumanization come from the memory of suffering.
The memory of suffering will take a narrative form and the narrative nature of a person's story will keep the history of salvation from falling into mere theological ideas, a logical compulsion of totality, or a kind of transcendental necessity. In the narrative, an individual is never lost or drowned in empty ideas but is always a fundamental importance as a subject. The story communicates the historical reality which is our subject and the criterion of our understanding of salvation. In this sense, eschatological hope never becomes an ideological wish or a mere dream but a concrete vision for the better future which arises from the experience of the depth of human suffering and the commitment to transform the present historical reality. That is the only way to keep eschatological hope from justifying and encouraging us merely to wait for the unknown open future. The memory of marginalization and suffering provide us with the kind of eschatological hope which helps us work with the present reality towards the future promised by God. The margin is where eschatological vision and concrete historical redemption meet. This is where the second generation and the first generation meet in solidarity. If the second generation Korean-Canadians do not connect with the first generation through the dangerous traditions of the memory of marginalization, the second generation will lose the substance of faith and there will be no point of contact with the faith of our ancestors. This implies the loss of the second generation Korean-Canadian churches and another victory for the modern techno-economic society which absorbs another power into its own system. This implies the closing down of another crack in the system. Also at the margin, we will meet others who are marginalized. This is the "creative core" Jung Young Lee talks about(10).
The Bible story and Jesus' story of suffering challenge us as the story of marginal people. It is the story of the rejected and alienated, the story of the exiled, the story of immigrants. This story has to be recovered. Fiorenza's hermeneutical principle(11)is the effort of reconstructing history and theology from the Bible that has been viewed as androcentric. She wants to uncover the veil of androcentrism and recover the story of the liberation of women where women acted as agents of their own liberation in and through the patriarchal traditions. To do this, the Bible should be understood as a prototype, not as an archetype. Looking at the Bible as a prototype means that it can always be developed beyond androcentrism and transformed into a new structure.
Biblical interpretation should take the experiences of the pain and suffering of the people seriously. Chung Hyun Kyung, a Korean theologian claims(12) that the knowledge of God for Asian women comes from the knowledge of their experiences of pain and suffering(13): "Asian women's epistemology is an epistemology from the broken body, a broken body longing for healing and wholeness." This kind of epistemology is lacking in the Korean community in Canada. I think there are many symbols and stories in the Bible which will enlighten our marginal situation and help the second generation Christians claim the stories as their own without having to please the "orthodox" interpretation of the European hermeneutics. For a hermeneutic principle to be true to the people, there has to be a dialectic relationship between the Bible and the reader(14).
I chose biblical hermeneutics as the entry point to deal with the struggles of the second generation Korean-Canadian Christians. The Bible has played a central role in shaping the spirituality of the Korean immigrant churches. There is a strong emphasis on learning the Bible in the Korean churches. However, the Bible has also become a stumbling block for some second generation Korean-Canadians who cannot simply take their parents' traditional view of the Bible. They have many questions about the Bible but opportunity is not given to discuss these questions. In the Korean church, their questions have been discouraged as questions of "weak faith". Thus, most of them keep silent, feeling guilty for not being able to accept the Bible as some "religious" folk do. Instead of struggling with their spiritual search, many simply give up doing meaningful spiritual reflection. Some of them all together leave the church, silently.
I am interested in exploring this phenomenon. I am interested in finding out exactly what they are struggling with. What difficulties do they have about the Bible? How do they reconcile the biblical message with their experience of modern society, especially as children of the immigrants whose socio-cultural situation of the second generation Korean-Canadians is made complicated by the dual reality of their existence in both the Canadian techno-economic society and the immigrant Korean marginal experience. In what ways can the Bible be meaningful, relevant, and liberating to them? What are some hermeneutical tools that can help the process of transformation for the second generation Korean-Canadians? These are some of the questions I want to explore.
1 Sang Hyun Lee, ed. Korean American Ministry, (Presbyterian Church in U.S.A., 1987), 90-91.
2 Lee, 99-100.
3 Johann Baptist Metz, The Emergent Church (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1987), 2.
4 Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society (New York: The Seabury Press, 1980) 141.
5 Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (Great Britain: SCM Press, 1967), 316.
6 "Pilgrimage and Home in the Wilderness of Marginality: Symbols and Context in Asian American Theology", The Princeton Seminary Bulletin (p. 56): "I myself have written and preached about the Asian immigrants' Christian calling to be pilgrims, but have for some time been growing a bit suspicious as to whether or not such talk goes far enough in taking account of the full import of Asian Americans' marginality."
7 Lee, 57.
8 Lee, 58.
9 Johann Baptist Metz, The Emergent Church (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1987), 42.
10 Jung Young Lee, Marginality: The Key to Multicultural Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).
11 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1986)
12 Chung, Hyun Kyung, Struggle to be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women's Theology (New York: Orbis Books, 1990).
13 Chung, 39.
14 I will study philosophical aspects of hermeneutical principles and also concrete biblical hermeneutical methodology such as Pui Lan Kwok, Sandra Schneiders, Schussler-Fiorenza, Fernando Segovia, and others.