Friday, September 21, 2012


Most of this week was spent trying to keep track of which students haven’t turned in their homework, had to skip class because of a runny nose, and which ones can’t figure out where my office is despite both the sign on the door and me saying, “It is room 2. 3. 0. 9” in mounting tones of frustration.

But in between the joys of teaching Koreans—who are old enough to be adults, but act like American twelve-year-olds because, too busy studying, they were never allowed to be twelve years old—I’ve indulged in quite a few books, movies, and t.v. shows and, rather surprisingly, I have not been disappointed. Here’s the line-up:

     1.      Avatar:the Last Airbender (2005-2008)
This has nothing to do with James Cameron and everything to do with sweet writing, excellent plot, and all things geeky. The opening 30-second-narrated montage says it all:
“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the fire nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years past and my brother and I found the new Avatar—an Airbender named Ang. And although his airbending skills are great, Ang has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anybody. But I believe that Ang can save the world!”

     2.      Avatar:Legend of Korra (2012)
Okay, okay, okay. It’s the same thing, but the new avatar's a girl with tattoos who has a giant polar bear. Shoot me.

     3.      Redeeming Eve by Heather P. Webb
This is a book about counseling that I mentioned a couple posts ago, but I consider it a must-read for Christians. Saturated with equal parts empathy and practicality Webb’s stories and advice after years of counseling are full of wisdom on how to live and love fully within God’s redeeming love.

     4.      Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
“Women hold up half the sky” is a Chinese proverb proven true by the tales of women’s strength and rebirth told in this book. Kristof and WuDunn (a married couple) have traveled extensively and interviewed many women from different cultures so as best to depict the status of women everywhere and what can be done to give women a fighting chance.

     5.      ToKill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you only read this book as a kid, seriously. Read it again. It’s a riot.

     6.      BattleRoyale (2000)
I’m sorry—you thought Hunger Games was a bloodthirsty idea? The Japanese had it way earlier and way diabolical-er. In this alternate future, the government passed a law that said because high school students were getting too rowdy, one 9th grade class every year would be sent to a secure location where, given various weapons and survival supplies, they battle each other to the death. If they refuse to play or disobey the rules in any way, the metal collar secured around their neck blows their head off. I liked Hunger Games, too, but it is small potatoes folks.

     7.      HardCandy (2005, Ellen Page)
Brutal, in every way. A tiny fourteen-year-old lures a man back to his own home, drugs him, and ties him up in an attempt to prove he’s a pedophile guilty for the recent disappearance and subsequent death of a young girl. The dialogue and the dynamics between the two actors is breathtaking.

     8.      BattlestarGallactica (2004-2009)
Frack, yes. It’s like Firefly but more episodes, and if you haven’t watched Firefly, stop what you’re doing and watch Firefly. Don’t be stubborn; you’re only hurting yourself. And once you’re in love with that show, try Battlestar Gallactica to ease the pain of it getting taken off the air. An 8.8 on imdb, if you recognize that rarity of that.

Monday, September 17, 2012


So my friend from college whose name is (awesomely) Griffin, immortalized in this post by equally awesomely named friend from the same college Sanna, started a website. It's a completely sweet idea: a website written and run by 17-30 year-olds targeted at the interests of the same age group. I've been writing for it the past month-ish which might be one of my reasons for slacking on posts a bit lately.

All that to say this: check it out. Read a couple articles (I've linked mine here and here and here. Narcissism!) If you like to write, write for it. Seriously. More people need to be writing these days and yes, you are good enough. All the writers will tell you that writing is about practice more than skill. And with that rallying cry-!

And with this picture of a typhoon:

Love Me Some Maroon 5

I have now been to a grand total of three concerts that did not involve classical music: Muse (in Chicago), Elton John (Grand Rapids), and now Maroon 5 (Busan). And last night Maroon 5 knocked even some of my favorite Beethoven performances out of the water.

The energy was more than palpable—it was like sustenance. Koreans, I might add, are crazy about glowsticks. I’m not sure if it was the tomahawk motion with which they used them to cheer or the flashing Minnie Mouse ears everyone was wearing, but the auditorium visually pulsated with the beat of the music. The glowstick-carriers were, however, baffled when Adam sang She Will Be Loved with James accompanying on acoustic.

Anyway, as soon as Maroon 5 hit the stage, the place was a madhouse.

Or rather, as soon as the shockingly sexy Mr. Levine took the stage, the Busan-ites in the auditorium transformed from subway-riding automatons into screaming maniacs. He was our oxygen for two hours and we used it to scream ourselves hoarse, to dance and sing through every one of his songs. He, in all his slim-hipped dramatic-cheek-boned glory, was the drum major of it all, using the mic stand as his baton, half-dancing half-charging across the stage with trademark Adam-swagger. His charisma failed oozed from the stage and we lapped it up. And it was glorious.

So glorious that all of sudden I realized: this is what worship is supposed to be like.

So, why isn’t it? Does this worship cost us less? Or do we worship charisma more than actual authority? Jesus had authority, but “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” So, Adam Levine is the Antichrist.

I’m totally kidding! I still enjoyed every minute of the concert, but it confused me a lot about the roots of worship. We are so good at worshipping. Look at concertgoers, or sports fans, or at Pinterest for heaven’s sake! Worship comes more naturally to us than almost anything else. We love to worship, to obsess, to throw ourselves into a maniacal crowd of people and get lost in the meaning for the crowd. We pay money to worship, spend time worshipping; it’s practically the human hobby.

So why is it so hard to worship the right Person?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Kosin in cloud.

Discouraged is not something I get very often. I’m a nose to the grindstone kind of gal. Moreover (and embarrassingly), my modus operandi over the years has been excel or quit. Piano, track, poetry, Japanese—all too hard. I quit and avoided the discouragement my inabilities would bring. I like to do things well and if I can’t, well, there’s probably someone else who can.
But I can’t quit being a friend, for instance, nor can I quit my job. I simply have to excel at both, or, at the very least, do passably.
Until this last week, I definitely thought I was in the passable category for teaching. My kids tolerate me, I’ve had no major discipline problems, and most of my students can sometimes say “Excuse me” and “I’m from Korea.” That is, when they’re not taking picture of themselves on their cell phones. Passable.
But not recently. Really. I botched every English major conversation class I taught (and there were 6 for a total of 8 hours) and so much so that my students had to correct me on what was and was not the passive voice and mention my ineptitude specifically in our class prayer.[1] I’ve shown up late to classes. I’ve forgotten my cd player, lost papers, forgotten to assign homework, and told one class that corporal punishment and capital punishment are the same thing.This alone probably gives Calvin College the right—nay, the duty!—to revoke my diploma.
So I guess it’s time to accept what psychologist Karen Horney describes as the “ordinariness of one’s real self.” It’s time to be mature and live out the maxim that it’s important to fail. I’ve failed many things lately, including not being discouraged. Today I looked up from the grindstone I’ve been so happily working, to find that I am very much in need.In need of improvement, encouragement, and maybe three or four choco pies a night.
Ordinarily I avoid need like the plague. I hate being weak. It is, among other things, annoying. But it is also where God is. I cannot speak highly enough of Redeeming Eve, a book I’m reading by Heather P. Webb, which speaks to this. Ordinarily I loathe books like Webb’s, assuming them to be touchy-feely traps of angst. Her words are full of quiet wisdom and approachable grace. She writes, “We live in a dangerous world where to want is lunacy and to wait is cowardly. . .[but] To be alive is to need, to grieve, to feel, to laugh, to love.”
It’s more than okay to suck at things. And to suck in such a way that you continue to suck over and over and over. How comforting! Being needy is awful; I will always hate it. But I think Webb’s right: that’s what we are and it is right to be so.
MacrinaWiederkehr said it well: “God, you cannot hide from me. You cannot scare me with your face of absence. I scare myself with this hunger for your presence. . . . I feel so powerless, so little and so poor, so vulnerable, so terribly wide open, so seen. It hurts to be so hungry, so dependent on your bits of grace.”

[1] I maintain that I am so very not passive that the essence of the passive voice utterly eludes me. (If I could footnote this footnote, I would mention that “eludes me” always makes me want to write “alludes me,” which is just silly.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Complementarianism (analysis)

This one's a little longer, but it mentions both Mr. Darcy and righteous prostitution (though thankfully not in connection with one another).

I like complementarianism. I think it boldly speaks to several unpopular Biblical truths. For one, all people were not created equal. A single glance at a high school yearbook is enough to tell you that “God does not value intellectual or aesthetic equality among people.” (Piper, Grudem) Furthermore, men and women are undeniably different and they are different in ways modern feminists (myself included) don’t like to admit. The chick flick, timelessly popular and almost always as anti-feminist as fiction can be, proves that there is something to the Biblical assertion that that which is masculine should protect and lead that which is feminine. You’ll note that Mr. Darcy is the one with 10,000 pounds a year, saves Elizabeth’s family from ruin, and who takes all the initiative in the relationship.
Biblically speaking, complementarianism addresses important issues about creation order and the word “helper.” It incorporates I Tim 2 with ease and manages I Corinthians 11 with aplomb. As far as views about women in the church go, it’s a bold one.
Bold, but, in my opinion inadvisable. However much I like complementarianism, I can’t subscribe to it: it simply has too many inferences, too many ifs, too much reading into what isn’t there rather than what is—and too much trouble with reality. Even complementarians don’t actually live like complementarians these days. Most wives do an awful lot of initiating in relationships and very few husbands, complementarians or not, expect their wives to submit their wants and needs fully to them—without the husband himself coming to the table with the mindset of mutual submission. Moreover, a black and white view like traditional complementarianism lends itself to harmful generalizations that do not address the complexity found in men and women separately as well as their relations.
Many of the same verses the egalitarians struggle with, are problematic (sometimes more so) for the complementarians. Whereas egalitarians have a ready answer for the morass that is I Corinthians 14, complementarians remain unable to uniformly defend verses 34 and 35: “…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak . . . If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” Never mind the argumentation that starts with, “Does not the very nature of things…”
Perhaps the biggest problem I see with complementarianism is with its results. Though in essence it upholds the dignity and value of women, this fact gets lost in the mess between what is cultural and Biblical. I hope I don’t sound too simplistic when I say it is very hard to separate the Biblical portrayal of femininity from the many different cultural portrayals dealt with in the Bible, particularly when you consider the 180 our culture has taken from past cultures’ portrayals of femininity. The Bible does not directly answer the question “What is femininity (or masculinity)?”
Complementarians are concerned about the “strain on the humanity” of men and women who deny traditional gender roles, but bigotry and sexism festers in the meanwhile. (Piper, Grudem) When a young woman serves communion at her church, when a seminary-trained college professor gives a guest sermon, when women voice their opinions in the church, the reaction should never be wrath and bile. Yet in complementarian churches, that is exactly what is stirred up, rather than peaceful debate over the issues raised, a searching of the scriptures. Furthermore, complementarianism does not encourage women to take charge and be strong and that is unforgiveable. The superwoman from Proverbs 31 needs serious leadership skills and a church that is willing to nurture that within her.
While I admire complementarianism for searching out tough Biblical truths and defending them to the best of their God-given abilities, I am disappointed by their inability to accept other Biblical complexities about right and wrong. The mess that is the history of God’s people is proof enough of the existence of shady gray spaces: Tamar rightfully posing as a prostitute in order to sleep with her father-in-law, for example.
In the end complementarianism has a lot of integrity and truth to it. But today’s Christians need their church to be not only bold, but willing to admit weakness and fallibility. Crazy gifts—both the extravagant perfume-to-the-feet kind and the talent for wise leadership wielded wielded by an Old Testament Judge —are staples of the Bible, and we would do well to have flexibility toward those seeking to serve God in whatever way they feel called. Unlike Jesus, complementarians trade hospitality for the hardline and that benefits no one.

Complentarianism (the sparknotes)

  • non-Christians who don't understand what and how complementarians believe as they do.
  • Christian egalitarians who think their complementarian siblings in Christ have lost their minds. 
  • complementarians, who perhaps haven't researched their own position.

The complementarian or traditional view (summarized from John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) holds that a person’s “sexuality permeates one’s individual being to its very depths.” To deny the behavioral patterns implied by this “profound dimension of your personhood” dishonors both a person and his or her maker, putting “strain on the humanity” of men and women alike. “Men and women are of equal value and dignity in the eyes of God,” having both been made in His image and although they have different roles, it should be noted that “[t]here is no necessary relation between personal role and personal worth.” The insistence that leadership or authority is positive while submission is negative, is purely secular and unbiblical. Men and women both ought to conform to God’s design because this is “fulfilling in the deepest sense of the word.”
Biblical masculinity is a sense of “benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women” within the context of their varied relationships. This masculinity “accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements” and accepts responsibility for the family’s spirituality. Men should set a “general tone and pattern of initiative” in relationships with women.
Biblical femininity is “a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worth men” within the context of their varied relationships. Even if a woman might be in a position of authority over a man (a principle over male teacher, for example), she should affirm his unique role to protect and lead her through a general disposition to yield. Wives should act as though“[her husband’s] needs set [her] agenda.”
 These beliefs are undoubtedly countercultural, but are derived mainly from the Genesis creation account of mankind. Man was created first and enjoyed a special relationship with God. It was Adam alone who named the animals in the garden and to Adam alone that God ordered not to eat of the tree of good and evil. (Genesis 2) Woman was created “for man,” not man for woman (I Cor 11:2). He named her, she came from her. Several of the early church letters encourage women to submit to the authority of the male counterparts in both marriage and worship practices. (I Tim 2:11-15, I Cor 11 and 14) No women were chosen as leaders or apostles in the gospels, nor were any of the original seven deacons women. (Acts 7)

Have I lost you all to boredom yet? Hopefully not. For my opinion/analysis, check out part 2.

Phenomenally. Phenomenal Women. Everywhere.

Maya Angelou. Read it out loud. Maybe dance a little.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman.
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The wing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman.
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
THey say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman.

Phenomenal woman.
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman.
That's me.

Maya Angelou