ASIAN FEMINIST THEOLOGIES I: Chung Hyun Kyung
“In the beginning, woman was truly the sun. An authentic person. Now she is the moon, a wan and sickly moon, dependent on another, reflecting another’s brilliance.”
Hiratsuku Raicho (1886-1971)
APA: Chung, H. K. (1990). Struggle to be the sun again: Emerging Asian women’s liberation theology. New York: Orbis Books.
Delicate but not fragile, this powerful reading captures Chung’s unique style of theology which turns common misconceptions about strong femininity on its head. Through a personal, almost domestic lens, Chung skirts the edges of suffering caused by greater injustices, offering moral righteousness little room to escape, “Human sin, then, is manifested through colonialism, neo-colonialism, capitalism, racism, classism, casteism, and sexism.” (p. 40) Though she may embody an international collectivity of (Asian) feminism, hers doesn’t sound like anyone else’s work, and rightly so, “Asian women are not mere imitators of white women from the West. They have minds of their own. Some Asian men who claim that Asian feminists are brainwashed by white women presuppose the intellectual inferiority of Asian women in relation to white women. This illustrates that those Asian men are the ones who have internalized Western colonialism, and not Asian women. ” (p. 25) Within the privileged perspective of participating in elite education as a child, Chung Hyun Kyung identifies and notes the discrepancies of class and competition as a critique on its communal affectivity, “Even though we all wore uniforms, our class backgrounds were clearly visible by looking at the contents of our lunches….Extreme competition in the school dehumanized all of the students.” (p. 2)
MLA: Kyung, Chung Hyan. Struggle to Be in the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women’s Theology. New York, Orbis Books, 1990.
Chicago: Chung Hyun Kyung, Struggle to Be the Sun Again (New York: Orbis Books, 1990).
Footnote: “This song was written by Nargis Basu, a well-known Indian poet.” (p. 36-38, 119)
Morning Ritual Leadership
I wasn’t present for the in-person meeting this week. I attended the Southern Atlantic Modern Language Association in Birmingham, AL. And spoke about Comics in the Classroom on a panel called Heroes from the Gutter. The conference unintentionally continued Yohana Junker’s the conversation of artistic activism. SAMLA president Rafael Ocasio‘s lunch presentation featured artists like Yehimi Cambron studying migration (accent missing on o, see butterfly photo) and scholars studying slavery (Howe’s “Peter”). In the title slide picture (see slideshow), sitting in front of me was Argentinian, Internationalist, Margarita Drago who, on the eve of the conference, gave a rousingly artistic presentation on her experience as a political prisoner at the Civil Rights Museum.
The first thing I noticed was all the people and works that Hyun Kyung recognized as being vital to her life and theological journey. It reminded me of the concept of cooperative theology that we talked about earlier in class. No one does theology in a vacuum. Through interviews and historical analysis, Hyun Kyung covers much ground in the field of Asian Woman’s theology. She highlights ways in which Asian woman’s theology is distinct from western male liberation theology. I like learning the history, especially of EATWOT. The women formed such strong bonds over the years. They are working together to give voice to women’s issues in theology and in life. It seems that much of Asian Women’s theology comes out the necessity of survival. The word “han” (loc.598) It is described as “sadness and suffering” and also captures the sense that the sadness and suffering is “transformed to the power and hope for survival for the sake of children…” To be able to have a theology with that foundation is a powerful statement. I googled the word han, and one of the results was this song Chopin Prelude in E minor Op. 28 No. 4. I think it might capture some of the despair women have felt through the history of colonization and struggle for rebirth. It’s hard for me to sit with the foundation of such pain, but I’m also in awe of the women who do this hard work of creating and spreading woman’s theology because out of the pain has come hope and empowerment. What they say and do with their lived theology has extra weight because of the high cost of just demanding their voice.
“The note on the title of the book introduces a poem by Hiratsuka Raicho that portrays the idea that women used to be the sun. They were then relegated to being the moon, a reflection of man as the source of humanity, and Chung is showing the Asian Women’s Theology as way to re-assert our power as the sun, source, and strength for all.
This new theology is a critical examination of the old model to help women achieve their whole humanity. My work is also a critique of the old models in hope of healing across ideological divides. There are valuable ideas that can be incorporated but must be re-interpreted from the perspective that includes the whole. An old model of belief is that God is whole and good and already complete but the reality of the day-to-day lives of women and the poor is that, it is not a complete representation. One value that I often reflect upon is Imago Dei. I believe that we are all created in image of our Creator and are thus endowed with the ability to create–and as some theologies gloss over, the ability to destroy. To syncretize (113) a new theology we must start from the experiences of those that suffer from the destructive actions of those that seem to proclaim their ultimate supremacy (by whatever type of rationalization). We also have to confront our own destructive abilities, that as women are often self-inflicted, and empower our creativity to construct something new.
Another valuable part of Christianity to me is Christ himself. Patriarchy has us believe our value lies (double entendre!) is their definitions. Jesus is an ally for all. “Yet, Asian women still hope, still believe that, ‘Maybe someday, somewhere, somebody will love me and nurture me as I am.’ Is Jesus that somebody?” (54)
Something I have not considered much in my theology is the Virgin Mary as a role of liberation. Han Kuk Yum asserts that “that Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus means that ‘the human-male is excluded’.” and quotes Park Soon Kyung, “The fact that in Jesus’ birth, human-male is excluded connotes that a new human image, a new saving world could no longer be sustained through a patriarchal order.” (77) Hear, Hear (Her!)!!! *slow clap* *thunderous applause*
In her conclusion, Chung summarizes four themes to this new theology. 1. “Cry, Plea, and Invocation”-We must speak out, and we must empower each other through the telling of our own stories and through loving listening to those of Others. 2. “God-Praxis”- “Our concrete, historical, everyday, lived experiences must serve as the final test of our theology.” (6) 3.”Embodied, Critical Reflection”-I challenge everyone–if you have ever accepted anybody else’s truth or definition of anything without questioning it through your own lens, then question it. Now. Authentically to yourself. 4. “Vision Quest”-in our image of the Creator, we can create new realities. We can pray, meditate, imagine, artistically express, and otherwise mentally focus our humanity on creating something new.
She also emphasizes the importance of the artistic expression of our experiences. I want to thank Reed for his vivid imagery in class last week that expressed his pain and anger from trauma that has been exerted by a static patriarchal theological definition of his being. Let us all create a new epistemology and theology that speaks from our embodied truths.
“They no longer believe in an omnipotent, sovereign God who takes care of every agony in their lives, like a father or a big brother caring for a helpless little girl. Like the God of their colonizers and the God of the dominant institutional church,” (22)”
Thanks for reading,