Hand-Raisers, Han, and The Holy Ghost
By Grace Ji-Sun Kim
A Review by Dwight A. Moody
I know what “hand-raisers” are and “The Holy Ghost,” but not until page 166 did I discover the meaning of Han. I had never even heard this word, which summarizes nicely now provincial my own intellectual formation has been. Han is a Korean word which means “unjust suffering.” Korean-American theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim uses three historical episodes to illustrate the mean of Han: American slavery, Nazi Holocaust, and the Japanese invasion of Korea and the subsequent abuse of Korean people.
Dr. Kim writes about Han to assert that one role of the Spirit—the Holy Spirit, in Christian vocabulary—is to release the Han (the memory or burden of evil suffered) that many people carry. This exposition is but one illustration of how opening up our minds and imaginations to other cultures, other religions can help us understand better what it means to be human and Christian.
That all came in chapter eight of this little but lively book. It is one of six in a series published by Fortress Press under the series title “Homebrewed Christianity” (which, in turn, arose out of a podcast by Tripp Fuller—somebody I surely need to invite into TheMeetingHouse!). The others treat traditional subjects like Jesus, God, Church History, The End Times, and Being Human.
The publication date on this Holy Spirit volume is 2018, and I have no idea if other volumes are planned. But they should be! Because this book on the Holy Spirit is so very attractive, so lively even entertaining, so wide-ranging and eclectic that other books like it should be written, read, and passed around.
Dr. Kim punctuates this book with story after story from her own life: of births and child-rearing, of Pentecostal shouting and Presbyterian silence, of travels to Africa and Asia and everywhere else. All of it piles into this book in such a delightful way. Because I heard her speak last weekend at the Southern Lights conference on St. Simons Island, I can see her smile and sense her joy on every page of this book; and that also makes it a joy to read and an even deeper joy to recommend.
I can see this book as reading material for a congregational class on Christian ideas and practices. There are eight chapters, each one better than the last. In fact, on the blank page (152, to be exact) at the end of chapter seven, I scrawled “Chapter 7—the best!!! But it wasn’t, because chapter eight with its call for an expansive, inclusive understanding of Spirit was better yet.
Seven was pretty good, though. It treats the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit during the 21st century and therefore touches upon Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, and Sallie McFague. These famous Christian thinkers possess an ever-widening opening to all that is going on in the world, especially world cultures and world religions. “Can one religion—Christianity—contain the Spirit, or does it belong to everyone?” Kim asks (140). Then answers: “…the Holy Spirit is the Christian vision of a universal human perception” (141) and “As the Spirit moves in our lives and gives us breath, life, and sustenance, we become open to all the movements of the Spirit in all parts of the world, traditions, cultures, and religions. This is the movement of the Spirit that no one person, doctrine, or church can stop” (143).
The two elements of her exploration of Holy Spirit that resonated most deeply with me are notion of Chi and the movements of vibration. The latter are connected to the Hebrew use of ruach or wind/breadth as the creative power of God. “Creation is not static. It is full of movement and vibration. The vibration of all living things reminds us of the Spirit’s creative, life-breathing work… .” (15). Pulling primarily from the Hebrew language and culture, she writes: “The Spirit is God’s presence in the world, and the Spirit blows, breathes, energies, and gives life to all of creation. The Spirit will take hold of us, and its effects will change our lives” (23).
At the other end of the book, she subtitles chapter eight as “The Spirit as Chi.” Chi is an Asian word and idea (not the Greek letter, and thus I am unsure how to pronounce it!). “Chi is an energy that brings wholeness, health, and vitality. Chi gives life, and without it, there is no life” (159). She describes her son as a high-Chi person and herself (at times) as being a low-Chi person. “Being full of Chi is so important because it is life-giving energy” (165).
To bring this review full circle: Chi (or Spirit) is that presence of God that liberates people from Han. Furthermore, “If we can start to truly embrace Spirit-Chi as the Spirit of God that enlivens all of creation, we can overcome our divisions and live in harmony with one another and with the rest of God’s creation” (178). A bold claim, she admits; but I like where she is going!