By the time you read this, we will have rung in a new year and inaugurated a new president. I might be ready for the Bible verses about God’s sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness. I am hoping I will be ready to talk about unity so long as we are all ready to acknowledge that unity is not assimilation or conformity. These are not new wounds that need a few weeks to heal. This isn’t about getting over being the loser. This isn’t actually about one person.
This is about 81 percent of white voters who identified themselves as evangelicals in exit polls choosing a candidate whose campaign and supporters made clear in both coded and overt language about immigrants, ethnic, racial and religious minorities, women, and people with disabilities that they denied our imago Dei.
And that is why it may still be too soon, because I worry that I might be sitting next to someone on Sunday who doesn’t have to ever think about being kicked out of the country, told to get out of the country, reminded this isn’t my country. Telling me that God is faithful doesn’t mean the same as feeling safe or welcome in this country—my country—and now even my church.
Telling me that God is faithful doesn’t mean the same as feeling safe or welcome in this country—my country—and now even my church.
It is a terrible reminder that, even as I cling to hope in Jesus, my white sisters and brothers can worship the same Messiah, but they do not need assurances of physical safety in their country. It is a terrible reminder that, even as we have been talking about racial reconciliation and becoming an incredibly diverse denomination, in the end people of color, immigrants, refugees, and women are told to remember that Christians don’t need to fear—that we should dismiss the demeaning and threatening words from the president-elect as harmless political talk.
This pain isn’t something I choose to carry. I wish it were that simple. This is the kind of chronic pain that gets triggered—a wound that is re-opened. I carry it in my bones. It is not because I cannot forgive individuals for racist comments or ignorance. It is not because I want everyone to be politically correct. It is not because I put my ethnic identity or gender above my faith.
It is because being a Korean American woman informs and shapes my faith, just as my faith informs and shapes how I express and live life as a Korean American.
My story isn’t one of slavery but of ancestors who endured centuries of oppression and strife—occupation by the Chinese and Japanese and then a military “conflict” that left my homeland divided by a border still guarded with the help of the U.S. military. I grew up with stories spoken and unspoken by almost every older family member—stories about my homeland’s suffering, struggle, oppression, and attempts at resilience and revenge. Those stories tried to connect my first generation birth in South Korea and my second generation English-speaking tongue to my heart and soul to help capture that cultural pain.
In Korean it is called “han.” There is no adequate translation that can carry the weight of this word. It’s not quite sorrow or sadness. It’s not quite regret or anger. It’s all of that with a lack of resolution or justice or closure, carried in our culture, stories, and lives. I’m fairly certain Job and Naomi understood and lived han.
And that is what I am feeling today. I’m okay with han. I’m just not okay with people who do not understand this kind of sorrow telling me to get over it.