Today — on the 4th, 2019

Art by Steve Pavey

Art by Steve Pavey

Today I saw
A young man, half my age
Stumble out of a car
At the handicap parking spot
To help his mom load groceries
He wore a military cap
Had a military physique
But his damage was under the skin, deep

My father was in the military
And I saw that damage
And this brown boy could have been my own son
And I saw him as such
Pride should be shattered in humility,
Like broken bones and minds
Things we don’t proudly display and march around
Those sent to fight for freedom but not to heal
Damage still left for someone else to carry

Excerpt from Jesus of the East

From Jesus of the East:

The word “han” is used to describe the deep woundedness of the Korean people. Han is a sense of unresolved victimization that can lead to anger, hatred, and violence. The history of Korea is a history of han. This small country has been the focus of attempted conquests from the Japanese, Chinese, and even conflict with the U.S. on more than one occasion.[1]Han is a ubiquitous theme among the people of Korea that sits just below the skin of Korean culture. In my research of the idea of han I discovered a related term in the Vietnamese language, hận and oán hận, translated as hatred and animus, respectively.[2]It is no surprise that the Vietnamese borrowed this term given a similar history with the Chinese, Japanese, French, and United States. Like han, oán hận is animus or ill filling towards another because of some kind of offense. 

In the United States, something like “the blues” is the han for African-Americans. It is ingrained in the culture as music and lyricism. Where there are cultures and people who are oppressed, han seems to exist in their language and grammar. Korean-American Theologian, Andrew Sung Park, refers to the killing of Abel and the blood that cries out for justice as an image of han.[3]In the story of sibling rivalry, Cain kills his brother and there is seemingly no consequence, no justice, for Abel. Rather, the blood of Abel that saturates the ground cries out. Han is the cry of the victim whose wounds are unvanquished, unjustified. But what happens when this han is untreated? When the victim(s) of han is not healed then a cycle of han can be created and there can be continued violence toward not only the perpetrators, but also the victims and those who are innocent. Consider this example. A little girl is the object of abuse. She is an innocent victim. No one would blame her as a “sinner” or say that she caused what happened to her. What happens if she does not receive treatment for the trauma of her abuse? She then has the potential of abusing others and even herself. Violence then begets violence, and the cycle continues, unless her han is treated and the wound is healed.

[1]         Even before the Korean War the United States was tangled in conflict during an expedition to Korea in 1871.

[2]         Other scholars, such as Andrew Sung Park, have also made this connection. 

[3]         Andrew Sung Park, “The Bible and Han,” The Other Side of Sin Woundedness from the Perspective of the Sinned-Againsteds. Andrew Sung Park and Susan L. Nelson (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001), 48.

Good Friday / Bad Friday: a Meditation

Phuc Luu

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the name “Good Friday” for a day that celebrates the killing of an innocent person, a victim of the political and religious powers of his time. Christians around the world will celebrate it as a day when “Jesus gave his life to redeem humanity.” This is indeed a good thing.

Imagine the scene from a film were the soldier jumps on a grenade to save the lives of her comrades. She willingly does this, without force of coercion. She can be praised and commended for this brave act. But if she was forced to do this, if someone pushed her onto this grenade instead, then this is another matter, perhaps another theology.

On Good Friday, we must not celebrate the killing of an innocent in order to satisfy wrath, whether human or divine. Jesus’s purpose, his life and ministry, was not to go to the cross, but to bring healing and wholeness to the world. The cross was only the unbearable consequence of this work of restoration. In other words, God’s true gift was not in the sacrifice of God’s son, but the gift of God’s son to the world, in order to renew and heal the cosmos. Humans, who could not deal with this alternative vision of the universe, who could not see God in this way, sought to kill what was true, good, and beautiful. Jesus was the target, a scapegoat, of religious orthodoxy and political empire. This was Bad Friday.

What is good about Good Friday takes place on Sunday. Friday is good because of the resurrection of the Son of God from the clutches of death. Sunday reinstates Friday and shows God’s work against the forces of evil.

On Friday, Rome orders an innocent man to be nailed to a cross.

On Friday, all the disciples except the women and perhaps John, abandon Jesus to die.

On Friday, Jesus is flogged and stripped naked. He is forced to carry a cross he could not carry all the way. He given a crown of thorns to wear. He is mocked. He is nailed. He is stabbed. 

Then finally, when God’s son could not take what the world was giving him, he dies. But with his last breath he asks for forgiveness, not because the cross brought about forgiveness, but because God was a forgiving God. 

If the events of Good Friday, did not happen, could God accomplish what God was doing in the world? Of course, because God was doing this in the life and ministry of Jesus. Friday attempts to put an end to all of this. No more sight to the blind. No more giving life to the dead. No more healing of the sick. No more teaching about the kingdom. 

How can Good Friday be called good?
How can government executions be called good?
Lynching trees?
Gas chambers?

What was good was in God’s continued loving kindness.
God took our cruelty and ugliness.
God took our mistreatment of those different from us.
God took our need to blame the outsider for all our shames and fears.
And God did not return it for evil, but brought good out of it.
No wrath here, except what came from humans.
Healing came from woundedness. 
But not yet, not yet. 

So, Friday should be a day of mourning, not for celebration. I save that for Sunday, with anticipation and hope, with fear and trembling.