Why Are Some Christians Such Losers?

Photo by proimos on Flickr

Whenever I talk about Christianity and the issues, passions and positions that so many Christians hold, someone inevitably lobs the “Why do you bother? What you are doing doesn’t make any difference!” argument into the mix. This comes both from people of faith who have been burned-out by living what feels like a life of futility as well as from those who are committed to work against the kinds of change that many Christians hope to see.

Believe me, there are times when I wonder the same thing . . .

Seriously, why bother? What we do, doesn’t do anything, anyway. What a bunch of losers!

At a certain level, the question of effectiveness is a valid one, but when it comes right down to it, I do not enter into these seemingly fruitless endeavors only to find success. Of course when facing some of the world’s messed up situations that need to change, success is fulfilling, perseverance is important and stewardship of resources vital, but for many Christians, we do not live and express our faith solely so we can get something in return. Instead, by living our faith in response to what and who God has been in our lives, we return thanks to God . . . even if/when those expressions don’t always lead to an immediate reward, success or victory.

Not just about semantics of faith, the perspective with one sees blessings, rewards and gifts from God greatly determines one’s perspective on faith. On one hand there are some who believe in what is often called the “property gospel” in that, if you are faithful, God will reward you. This is a very simplistic read, but basically you are faithful in order to earn God’s blessings of spirit and material prosperity. And yes, there are many passages in the Bible that are used to support this perspective, Joshua 1:8 for example:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

And then there are those, like myself, who understand blessings and gifts from God as something completely unearned or undeserved, so in response to God’s blessings in life: material, physical and spiritual, we live faithfully. We express love in the world, because of the love that God has shown us and not in order to earn it. There are also many passages that support the idea of grace freely given by God, such as Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Now keep in mind that there is much wrapped into all of this and we could go on and on and on: understanding of faith itself, the role of salvation, the nature of Jesus Christ, how we measure success, etc. but in case you were wondering why some of us Christian losers bother doing stuff that seems like a waste of time, now you know.

Book Review: Making Paper Cranes by Mihee Kim-Kort

Making Paper Cranes
Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology
by Mihee Kim-Kort [Mihee on Twitter]
Pre-order on Amazon

First, Mihee is a friend and colleague.

Second, I am in awe of my friend and colleague.

When I review a book by a friend, I am always a little nervous. What if it isn’t very good? What if I disagree? What if it just does not feel it was written by the person I know? Well . . . from the first sentence, I was hooked. This book is very good: culturally provocative, theologically solid and written with a narrative flair.

It begins with a honest and telling sentence.

“I know. It’s a bit cliche, making paper cranes-especially an Asian person doing origami.”

Mihee, a Korean American Presbyterian immigrant woman, takes us on a journey of honest self-discovery employing a wry sense of humor, keen cultural insight and an ability to ask and respond to powerful questions with which we can all identify.

In the first part of the book Mihee unpacks some of the realities of growing up as an Asian American women in the United States. As one who has a degree in Asian American Studies, I think Mihee does a wonderful job at surveying the vast ways in which Asian Americans in general and Asian American women, in particular, face exclusion and otherness. Mihee captures the nuances of being Asian in a society that often thinks of culture and race as a conversation between Black and White.

when the teacher is reading from
some book about the history of the people around her
something about pilgrims, slavery, wars, the Great Depression
it is supposed to be her history, too
but no one looks at her and things that
this yellow girl belongs in the same story
the story of America

An excerpt from a poem that Mihee wrote, paper margins, page 44-45

The last part of the book dives into some theological thinking, but not in a way that one might expect. The tone does not change, nor does the weaving in of personal stories that give depth to the thinking that we are asked to undertake. I love her nuanced look at “fragmentation” not as a negative occurrence, but as a process that we must all go through, culturally and theologically. What makes Mihee’s treatment of both culture and theology is that she does not call us to follow a tidy linear progression, but rather to an embracing of a spiraling web that does not create anxiety and confusion, but rather liberation and discovery.

As I reflect on my own faith journey, I realize a number of painful pieces that make up who I am. Some pieces I have chosen for myself, but other pieces have been forced upon me, whether according to assumptions and stereotypes, or in relation to categories about race, culture, gender or generation. I am learning how to feel this fragmentation by embracing the disjointedness as my own unique experience while recognizing the necessity for engagement and inquiry. I am slowly realizing how I have navigated and continue to operate and live through this fragmented existence. – page 74

In the end, Making Paper Cranes is not a book that should be limited to only Asian Americans, women or church folks, but rather this book should be read by any and all who yearn to know better and understand the complexities of American culture. While Mihee’s story is told through the lens of a Korean American Presbyterian immigrant woman, when we think about American history, in reality it is the story of us all.

Thanks Mihee.

Mihee includes a GREAT bibliography on race, culture and theology. Some highlights: