Wednesday, May 6, 2009

wild flowers and cultivated flowers

Did I do wrong when I planted wild flowers in a little garden at our home? Walking on neighborhood streets, I found a bunch of beautiful wildflowers, all different by shape and color. I transferred some of them to our garden. First of all, I am not sure whether these flowers will survive in our garden, away from their original place. Second, I am not sure whether these flowers get along with other cultivated flowers. However, there is no question that these wild flowers are also flowers – beautiful and unique. I will keep vigilant eyes on this garden to see what happens next.

Actually, the above episode or reflection of mine has much to do with my theology or worldview. When I wrote Christ's Body in Corinth, one of the largest concerns was the issue of diversity. How do we live in this wild and cultivated world? How do we treat others? How do we examine ourselves in the presence of others? What is an ideal state that we seek to achieve when we live in one world?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Deconstructing a social world through metaphor

I am very excited that my book Christ's Body in Corinth like new baby was born on July 1, 2008 by Fortress Press. I am thrilled as a parent on the one hand, and fearful on the other hand, because I have to watch this baby breathing briskly and busily in this "uncertain" world. Feel free to engage this book. The crucial issue for me in Pauline studies is how to reclaim Paul's radical, contextual theology of "soma christou" re-imagined through Christ's own body -- his crucified body which can be identified with numerous broken bodies in the world.

"I highly recommend this work to all who take seriously Paul's metaphor of 'the body of Christ.' Kim interprets the metaphor as an alternative vision of vital reconciling community, over against conceptions that emphasize boundary markers to establish social groups. What is at stake in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians, he argues, is not just the ways first-century Christians constructed and lived out social unity but the consequences of our choices for the way we live out our own responsibilities today." -David Odell-Scott, Professor of Philosophy, Kent State University

"Reading as a citizen of an increasingly diverse postcolonial world, Yung Suk Kim protests the scholarly consensus that reads Paul's language of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians as a metaphor for social unity, current in Hellenistic and Roman philosophical and political discourse, in which the integrity of the social body required the vigilant maintenance of group boundaries and the harmony of its members. Kim points out the potential of this reading to promote coercive patterns of enforced unity in the contemporary world.

Kim argues instead that in speaking of the church as Christ's body, Paul relies upon the metaphoric language of embodied vitality and growth, seeking instead to nourish the life-giving practices of a diverse community and to oppose the ideology of a powerful in-group that threatens to "disembody" the Christic body in Corinth. Reading the language of soma christou exclusively from a sociological lens fails to comprehend the important christological coordinates of Paul's thought, which nevertheless have clear and urgent social and political implications. Paul's exhortation is a message of particular importance, Kim suggests, for us who seek to discern the true value of difference in the contemporary world."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Movie review of Slumdog Millionaire & the "body"

Yung Suk Kim

When the Apostle Paul talks about "the body of Christ" (as Christ's broken body) in his letters (1 Corinthians in particular), the image of the body provokes the image of the destitute, uncared, broken bodies in the Roman Empire. With this kind of imagination in mind, we can watch the movie, Slumdog Millionaire.

Then we can see the issue of body and suffering, love and destiny, and body and economy. Slumdog Millionaire shows the underside of the "normal" city in India, which thrives on its own fleshy desires, mingled with a manly will. The image of slum permeates the entire movie. The city has two faces: a machine-like uncaring fastidious city and the varied city people accustomed to it.

In particular, I am captivated by the word “destiny” in the movie. Slum children give into their destiny of living on the threshold of a city. It is a cruel destiny if any; they did not choose it. There is no immediate hope that they could get out of their misfortune. Their destiny holds them together wherever they go.

At times, their destiny is challenged, and yet it is hardly broken down. Salim, Jamal’s older brother, rebels against the slum masters to protect and rescue his brother. Yet he himself is under the control of the master, depending on him to survival. It is kind of vicious circle.

Although it does not answer the question of how to break away from the shackles of such a destiny, the movie raises plenty of destiny-driven questions: Who are responsible for this destiny if there is a destiny at all? How do they break away from it? What are roles of other people in the city who live normal lives?

On the last scene of the movie, the meaning of destiny shifts dramatically and emphasizes the bonding love between Jamal and Lakita: “it’s our destiny; kiss me.” Something destined for them is not a slum but a love that they want to keep even in the midst of difficulties of daily lives in a slum. Perhaps, my book Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor would be an interesting read along with this movie.