Category: Academic

Beyond “Allah Ahu Akbar”: Islam as a Title Categorizing Individual Identity in Modern Society

Islam

“Once you become Muslim, it’s not just a matter of a religion. It becomes a way of life…” (Living Islam) comments Ny’Kisha Pettiford, a Muslim convert from a Christian household. Islam has become one of the biggest religions on the 21st century. The Muslims include powerful Imams from the Arabic Peninsula to a liberal activist from America. The two in the context of Islam seem radically different; they seem to exist a stronger bond than just spiritual similarities, desire to fulfill certain values in society. Islam in the modern world has surpassed the identity of religion, geopolitical ethnicity, or even culture, rather Islam has become a communal value system in which all Muslims abide to.

The religious definition of Islam as an indicator for one’s identity is extremely outdated and far too simplistic to be used in the modern society. Islam is most commonly referred to as a religion. Firstly, Islam started off as a religious set of beliefs and throughout history, Islam was identified as a religion. Also, Islam fulfills the modern definition of what a belief system qualifies as a religion. Islam provides its believers answers to questions of essence and existence with a connection to a divine entity, beyond human perception. It not lonely applies to individuals but also binds numerous Muslims together into one community. Yes, it is true. Islam, in its most traditional definition, is Religion. It is also reasonable to argue that one’s identity as a Muslim is probably out of their religious faith. A person, who would identify themselves as a Muslim would most likely be implying that he believes in the religious belief system of Islam more than anything else. However, there seem to be stronger bonds between Muslims than simple spiritual assimilation. Islam, in the modern society is more than just religion. Firstly, the fusion between the religious property of Islam with political perspective of Islam has created a level of complexity within population that identify as a Muslim. The appearance of the Islamic State shows commingling between the identity of Islam and political units. For example, countries in the Arabian Peninsula such as Qatar and Bahrain identify as Islamic States meaning that well above 75% of their total population are Muslims. However, in those countries in specific, along with Indonesia and Bangladesh, more than 10% of their population identify as a non-Muslim. This creates several issues. A person living in these Islamic states that believe in other religion, Christianity supposedly, can be easily generalized as a Muslim in statistical data, assumed to be a Muslim by foreigners, or simply say Muslim themselves to avoid awkward explanation of being a Christian in an Islamic state. This demonstrates that one need not necessarily believe in Islamic faith in order to share the Islamic identity as a Muslim by living in an Islamic state. Assimilation between Islam and politics can be seen in Islamic Radicalism. Radical political groups such as Al Qaeda claim to be Islamic. However, their purpose of attack lies majorly in secular political reasons rather than a completely religious one. Secondly, there have been a consistent culture of atheism in Islam since the 8th century. Amira Nowaira, a journalist in of The Guardian exclaims that “there is a long and vibrant intellectual tradition of dissidence and freethinking” (Nowaira) and that “they lashed out against the notion of prophethood and argued against the privileged position occupied by the Prophet Muhammad and his followers”, consequently opposing the most basic Islamic belief. However, those scholars such as Abdel-Rahman Badawi consider themselves as Muslim for their cultural and intellectual heritage of Islam. Islam in the modern definition cannot simply be categorized as a religion.

However, the identity of Islam also cannot be defined by geo-political factors for it ignores the global population of Islam from a diverse national and ethnic identity. As analyzed above, Islam to the western hemisphere is often associated with the Arab World. There have existed numerous Islamic Empires in which a large portion of the world Muslim population resided. In the modern world as well, there are Islamic states where much of its population is consisted of Muslims. The Islamic states have ruled abiding to the ethics of the Sharia law and used religion as the justification of their dictatorship. The citizens of Islamic states have also commented that they demand a state that rule according to religious morals. It is also true that a large number of Islamic states are on the Arabic region. This demonstrates the correlation between ethnicity and Islam. However, this definition of Islam as a geographical unit, a political theocracy, or ethnic group has become an oversimplification. It is now hard to define Islam as an ethnic identity for there are far too many people in other parts of the world (Indonesia, central Asia, India, China, and North Africa) that make up more than 80% of the global Islamic population. According to Esposito and Mogahed, “The majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and Africa, not the Arab world… Only about one in five of the world’s Muslims are Arabs” (2). The Story Map, The Muslim World: Sunnies and Shiites, a visualization of Muslim population around the world today reveals that indeed, Islam is a diverse and widely dispersed faith; a larger population of Asian and Africans identify themselves as Muslim than people of Arabian Peninsula. Islam is neither an ethnic group, a geographical unit, nor political sector.

There have been attempts at defining Islam as culture; similar to the previous two definitions, equating Islam to a particular culture and utilizing it to describe one’s identity has failed to achieve its purpose. Since the 20th century and the rise of a global Islam, cultural aspect of Islam has been emphasized. The culture of prayer, alcohol prohibition, charity, equality, and also oppression has been prevalent with the Islamic population that the cultural generalization of Islam had no problem in defining it as well. However, doing so completely ignores the diversity that is as equally widespread in the Islamic communities. With the dawn of the 21st century, the century of diversity, there seem to exist contradictions on the claim equating Islamic culture and Islamic identity. Firstly, the Islamic feminism activists have claimed themselves a Muslim, yet opposed to the Islamic culture of oppression prevalent in the Islamic society. Increasing Islamic feminism points at the fact that Islam and oppressive culture is different. Muslim women clearly show their sentiments against the oppressive culture of Arab. They oppose to wear hijab, they advocate for women’s rights to higher education, and they drive in public, seeing all of them as a form of oppression. However, they need not necessarily oppose Islam. As correctly analyzed in Who Speaks for Islam, the Muslim feminists indeed are favorable toward the Islamic code of life. Numerous polling data suggest that “women overwhelmingly say that their faith is personally important… a significantly higher percentage of women… cite people’s faith as their most admired aspect of the Muslim world” (Esposito, 113). This shows that although opposed to the culture of the Islamic societies, women identify themselves as women for their religious affiliation. Similarly, homosexuality has clashed with Islam on several notions. A gay Muslim Daayiee Abdullah comments that “to be gay and Muslim, at times, people will say that it is an oxymoron. But in actuality, it’s a formulation that shows the diversity within Islam”. This clearly draws on the difference between the culture of homophobia in Islamic society and Islam itself. This idea is further elaborated in Abdellah Taia in his talk about his identity in context to Islam. Taia comments that although he was angry at the society for treating him the way they did – including verbal and sexual harassment – for being a homosexual, he understand that “the way the [society] was acting [was] just an expression… of the way… the people running the country were pushing [them] to”. This shows that he analyzes the suffering that he had to endure as the product of culture, not Islam itself. During the entirety of his talk, he refuses to blame Islam as the reason for his suffering, and condemns the oppressive culture built by years of patriarchal discrimination.

Rather than categorizing Islam within a certain vocabulary, Islam is a set of values that Muslims abide to. The term value system is a broad terminology. It is similar to religion that it provides answers to how one should live life and is communal, yet is different that value system does not have to be related to faith. The two most important values that Islam embodies are morality and equality.

Firstly, morality is an important value for people who identify as a Muslim. This is shown through Sayyid Qutb’s ideas of anti-secularism and his foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sayyid Qutb exclaims in his book The America I Have Seen, “the American is primitive in his artistic tastes, whether in his judgment of art or his own artistic works. Jazz music is his music of choice. It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires…” (Qutb) later further developing his argument using his observation on overflow of sex in American culture. This shows that Sayyid Qutb condemned the American culture based on its deterioration of morality, thus justifies his creation of the Islamic Brotherhood based on anti-secularism within the context of creating a moral state. This political movement toward creating nation based on morality has been approved by the majority of Muslims living in the Islamic state. This is also shown through the increasing women population who choose to wear hijabs. Some Muslim women are required by law to fully cover themselves in public, while others are prohibited from displaying the Muslim headscarf. A growing number of Muslim women are choosing to cover their head. Their choice of wearing their veil does not come from legal obligation or religious compulsion but with individual decision out of completely moral reasons. They feel that the western way of life has demolished the boundaries of morality. Who Speaks for Islam comments that “While admiring much about the West, the majority of Muslim women do not yearn to become more like their Western counterparts. While they favor gender parity, the likely want it on their terms and within their own cultural context” (107). This shows that although a large part of women advocates for basic women right such as suffrage, they still retain to their method of life, distinguished from the western form of living, by morality. An American Muslim woman, living in Seattle who chooses to wear hijab expresses her views on clothing, saying that “they’re beautiful… on the religious side, you don’t have to struggle… with is the shirt long enough to cover my bum? An abaya just makes my life so much easier. I wear whatever I want underneath, pop an abaya over it and wrap up a hijab… No worries. So I’m covered in the way I believe I should be covered, seriously” (Living Islam, Maria Romero). This shows that she does not cover herself out of oppression but rather out of her personal choice. Her last comment, “I’m covered in the way I believe I should be covered” has a moral overtone implying her judgement on what righteousness is within the context of clothing. This leads to a conclusion that the deliberate choice that she made to wear the Islamic cloth was compelled by her own moral values which she calls Islam.

Equality is another value that Islam weighs heavily on. Islam is recognized by world religion scholars as a religion of equality and brotherhood. This is mainly shown through their canon, There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God. Their main belief reveals that all believers are equal under God, including Muhammad, the model of a perfect Muslim. This implies a great degree of equality between all human being, regardless of race, social status, and later on gender. This value of equality can be also seen in Islam’s long legacy of hajj. Hajj is a religious pilgrimage that a Muslim has to participate once in their lifetime. Suroosh Ali, a tour journalist, describes hajj and analyzes equality as the central belief of Islam. He observes that all pilgrims are told to strictly wear only seamless white garments, eradicating discrimination from clothing and all pilgrims are required to participate in seven sacramental rituals equally. This, Ali demonstrates, is eradication of discrimination based on social status or circumstances and enforcement of the sense of equality among all believers. This value of equality can also be found in Islamic feminist movements. The Islamic feminism movement rose from the idea of equality under God. Women from Tunisia, the most liberal Islamic country, as well as one of the most liberal country in the world, remarks on the idea of equal right to faith compared to social rights. They comment that all Muslims are entitled equal right to faith under the same God regardless of gender, sexuality or any social titles. This shows that Islam embodies the value of equality.

In conclusion, Islam is a broad term when defining one’s identity. With the dawn of the century of diversity, definition of Islam as religion, geopolitical ethnicity, or culture started to deteriorate. But rather, a much comprehensive understanding of Islam was needed to interpret in context to individual’s identity. Islam, as a result of several analyses on modern culture and diversity, can now be classified as a value system in which people abide too. “Once you become Muslim, it’s not just a matter of a religion. It becomes a way of life…” (Living Islam), Islam is now beyond simple social norm; instead, it is how one defines life.

 

Works Cited

Nowaira, Amira. “When Islamic Atheism Thrived | Amira Nowaira.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 May 2010. Web. 19 June 2017.

OsloFreedomForum. “Abdellah Taia – African, Muslim, and Gay.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 July 2015. Web. 19 June 2017.

Pennington, Rosemary. “Daayiee Abdullah: Being Out And Being Muslim.” Muslim Voices RSS. Muslim Voices, 8 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 June 2017.

Qutb, Sayyid. “The America I Have Seen.” Full Text of “Sayyid Qutb”. Archive.org, n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.

“Story Map Series.” Story.maps.arcgis.com. Arcgis, n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.

Tippet, Krista. “Living Islam -.” On Being. On Being, 24 Sept. 2009. Web. 19 June 2017.

TunisiaLive. “Women’s Rights: The Tunisian Experience, Thus Far.” YouTube. YouTube, 08 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 June 2017.

Vice. “World’s Largest Pilgrimage – Hajj Documentary.” YouTube. YouTube, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 June 2017.

 

La Oda al Chile Seco

Esta nadando

en la sopa templado.

El aceite

lo lava con el repollo su ropa.

La trufa es

en el título del plato,

el azafrán es

la flor de la comida,

la gamba,

el caballo salvaje,

el foco de la comida.

Es el campo herboso,

donde las flores

pueden florecer,

donde los caballos

puede acelerar,

el Atlas cogiendo en sus hombros

el cielo con estrellas caras.

La base

de todos los sabores.

 

Como los dedos de la bruja,

es flaco y apagado,

arrugado y huesudo.

A tiempo, parese como si

se libera de la superficie,

sale corriendo

a bajo del techo del vegetal

Pero es

un petardo,

la saliva enciende.

Estalla

solo en la boca

con los sabores,

se revela

su hermosura.

Como un cisne

en la balsa de los patos,

como una ballena

elegante

planeando y sepenteamente

su cuerpo

en el cielo,

eleva desde

el agua mero,

y realza

todos los patos,

ayuda

todos los patos

subir

a un nivel

inconfundible.

La base

de todos los sabores

 

Es como la abuela.

Se ve débil

y marchitando.

Necesita

la atención delicada.

Se tarda mucho tiempo

para ser que es.

Pero, los años

que ha vivido han profundizado

su sabor

y su habilidad de coordinar

con otros componentes

de la comida.

Es la base

de todos los sabores

 

Fue con nosotros

por muchos años.

De América

a Italia

a China,

es la base

de todos los sabores.

Aunque se usa

en las maneras diferentes,

es que se unen

todas las personas global.

Es la base

de humanidad

How to be Daniel Ahn

To become Daniel Ahn, you should be an omni-loving person. Embrace everyone with your agape love. A faithful Christian from birth, romanticize the love story of God and his action of sacrifice. Grow your personal belief under strictly moral and selfless parents. Learn that refusing an offer is bad. Understand that the most important value of life is service for others. People will make fun of you and use you for their benefit. But, still love them. Indeed, let them make fun of you and use you for their benefit. Follow the footsteps of Jesus. With your sacrifice, the society will prosper.

Despite of your piety and faith, consistently challenge your beliefs. You should have attended church straight from your birth. Your family must be religious and conservative. You should let your environment of your youth shape you as a devout Christian and a conservative student. However, you certainly cannot allow your surroundings to rule your entire life. As you grow up and encounter more people, persistently question your canon. Confront a diverse group of people who will widen your perspective of the world. This does not imply that you should abandon your faith in Christianity and parental guidance; they are still an indispensable part of your life. But realize that the world is changing and that you must change accordingly. Indeed, start accepting and loving heterogeneous cultures of the 21st century like how Jesus did couple of millennia back. Before you know, you should have become a rather liberal advocator of the society, the embracer of the divergent humanity.

Constantly be on stage. Do not fear the mockery of the crowd, but enjoy the laughter and cheer they provide. You will in no time ridicule yourself once more. You do not need to be the best actor in the house for the art of acting does not lie in imitating well but with expressing your personal self in the context of the play. A well written play most delicately manipulates the common human emotion. All you should do is to carefully develop them to paint your beliefs in the minds of the audience using your voice, posture and reaction. With the excuse of drama, expose your liberal persona hidden behind a traditional figure. Proclaim your deep affection for the social minorities. Your audience will know who you really are.

Always prepare few ways to entertain your companions. Maybe play a couple of instruments. Or if time permits, be well versed with a dozen of instruments. Do not give up because the instrument is hard to perfect. You don’t need to play well in any of the instruments; just be able to produce tolerable sounds in all the instruments that you possibly know. The purpose of doing so is to help the whole band fill up empty sounds. Serve, with all your might, your community. Remember that sacrifice and love beyond reason is your primary character. Religion or family does not have to be the justification of your service. Your love for humanity and relationship should be the driving force of your self-immolation.

Evolving Society and Religion: The Present State of Religion in a Diversifying Society

religion.jpg

The modern society has altered the interpretation of democracy. Thanks to several civil rights movements of the past century and the increased desire of general social equality, the popular voice of the current democracy has become the crying of the diversity of people: the black activists against racism, the women against sexism, and added quite recently, the minorities of sexual preference against homophobic culture. However, religion among all the diverse categories has been easily undermined by the society. Thus, to adapt to the concurrent democratic evolution, study of religion and the wider education of it is inevitable.

Firstly, there are numerous simplifications, the current society makes, which result in misunderstandings of religion. Diane L. Moore, the director of Harvard Divinity School stated that “there are four fundamental assumptions that… religious scholars share when… [discussing on] the nature of religious literacy… that there is a distinction between… [a personal belief] and… an academic study of belief… that religion is internally diverse… that religion evolves…” (Moore). Her speech challenges the current journalism in specific for not addressing the assumptions mentioned above but simply using the assumptions to jump to conclusion. She mentioned that the evangelists of the Heartland America were assumed to vote for Hillary Clinton since the Democratic Party candidate provided more religious rights and critically, the religious leaders supported the policies of her. However, the reality was that the majority of the evangelists supported Donald Trump. Here, it is evident that the journalists downsized the poor white evangelist population of the Heartland as a couple of religious leaders. Also, Dr. Moore emphasizes the tragic reality that the Muslim population of the world is being stereotyped and is being simplified to just radical religious believers of the performance of jihad through terrorist actions. In order to widen the scope of understanding of the Islamic World, she gives examples of Muslim religious leaders that discourage terrorist actions of the radical groups. Furthermore, she gives examples of several daily headlines of Islamic Newspapers and compares it to the coverage and the titles of Islamic topics in American media. She explains that these denunciations have been created due to the nature of media to portray the world the way readers want to perceive.

The majority of the modern society: believers of diversity in democracy, is represented as a secular group since religion is scapegoated to cause current inequalities regarding race and sexual preference. This inaccurate representation of society has led the popular media to condemn religious practices. However, the faith that the secular mass believes in is indeed wrong. Religion and the civil rights movement have a strong correlation in history and cannot be seen as rivals.

The Black Lives Matter movement activists have often mistaken American churches to have absolutely no association with them. However, Dr. Moore and her team of religious journalists argue that the American church was indeed very much involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. Firstly they proclaimed that during the Ferguson unrest of 2014, church institutions not only protected the demonstrators but also stood at the frontline of riot to even force the policemen to repent their sins. These active protests that religious institutions executed shows how religions in the modern world are working to achieve a truly equal society as well as accepting diversity.

Although religion has been a powerful weapon in the racism front, it has been long criticized for not accepting minorities of sexual preference: LGBTQ. It is true that many Christian divisions do not allow gay marriage and that other religion of the world do too. However, it is important to highlight that in spite of numerous efforts done with the religious doctrines and its interpretation, the LGBTQ communities and the general society refuses to deny that religion is a tool of expressing homophobia. In the last decade, Christianity has made progress in accepting LGBTQ culture into its religion. Many theologians have debated whether the Bible denies homosexuality and divided amongst themselves for these problems. After numerous debates on October 2016, Pope Francis has commented on homosexuality and said that the Catholic Church should embrace homosexuals as a member of the communion. Despite these efforts, advocates of LGBTQ refuse to accept the struggle that the church has had but instead denounces religion as a whole to be a rival of democratic society. Furthermore, from time to time, when the voices of criticism get louder, it is rather easy to find homosexual activists condemning the religious leaders more brutally than they did to the homosexuals. A religious journalist Sanghyun Paik criticizes this situation in his book Homosexuality is that “It is an irony that it is phobia when Christians, who advise not to participate in homosexuality, criticizes [the homosexuals], but when [the homosexuals] criticize the Christians, it is a declaration” (Paik, 116). The fact that defenders of equality and diversity refuse to accept religious diversity and difference in belief does seem controversial. Thus, to prevent these misunderstanding of diversity, it is important to teach religion universally, even to non-believers.

All in all, the modern society is a mass of diversity. In order to become a democratic citizen, one has to accept diversity. It is true that religion is illustrated conservative. However, the wide variety of religious diversity as well as efforts that each sectors of religion are performing in order to evolve concurrently to the changes in society has to be accepted by the world. Thus, it is a necessity to teach religion in order to become an enlightened democratic citizen of a global society.

How Can The Hater Look Up to The Lover of All?: The views of Korean Christians on who Jesus is based on their positions in the debate between Homosexuality and Religion

In 11th June, 2016, there was a colossal festival and an equally enormous demonstration outside the Seoul City Office. The battle between the cultural extremists caught the eyes of numerous citizens and the media. The supporters of sexual liberalism and the strong believers of conservative religious beliefs clashed in several points. However, one of the biggest problems that arose between the two groups was that the either groups refused to listen to their opponents. Due to the increasingly liberal social media, the world has started to support the sexual minorities. In contrary, the religious groups were scapegoated as the ultimate evil of conservatism in Korea. This essay will assess the beliefs of Korean Christianity and furthermore will try to explain their reason for action in terms of their image of Jesus.

Korean Christianity is a wide classification inclusive of myriad divisions. The diversity in Korean Christianity spans to about 200 groups including not only various denominations such as the Catholics, the Presbyterian Church, and Methodist Church, but also numerous orders of Christianity such as the 합동 [Hapdong], 통합 [Tonghap] and the 고신 [Goshin] Presbyterian Church. According to the Korean Ministry of Culture and Sport, Hapdong and Tonghap Presbyterian Churches along with other orders in the same denomination have been the biggest orders of church for the past 20 years. Other than the churches mentioned above, Korean Church also includes a large number of believers of Methodist and Adventist Church. One of the similarities that the popular church orders in Korea share is that they are based on the beliefs of Christian Fundamentalism. Moreover, Christianity in Korea, in specific, displays conservative and traditional values, even more so than Christianity abroad. They rely on the literal translation of the scripture and the traditional church canons. Also, due to Korea’s Confucian socio-cultural influences and the outnumbering Presbyterian popularity, several non-Presbyterian orders of Christianity have also developed a system of Elders in the church hierarchy.

The majority of the Korean churches have declared Homosexuality sinful based on the scriptures and its emphasis on the natural law­­­­­­. The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea, which represents a significant voice of Korean Christianity, has mentioned in their canon that they hold no other scriptures as their center of belief other than the Bible. However, they have allowed one exception to the former statement: the Larger and Shorter Westminster Catechisms. They view the two books as the appropriate interpretation of the Bible and incorporate them in sermons and often use them to educate the believers for baptismal ceremonies. The Westminster Larger Catechism states that “The sins forbidden… are… sodomy, and all unnatural lusts” (139). When sodomy has numerous meanings, the Korean translation of the Catechism more explicitly opposes homosexuality by saying that “금지된 죄는… 남색… 이다” [The forbidden sin is… homosexuality] (139). The argument that the Westminster Assembly is based on the natural laws that God has set.

 

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were… the man and his wife. (Genesis 2: 24-25, ASV)

 

This shows that in the beginning God has created man and a woman to form a family. The Christians believe that this act of creating both a man and a woman is significant and that it is indeed the rightful law that the man and the woman become the family. This natural law is further established in the context of homosexuality in the New Testament.

 

25 Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves… 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. (Roman 1:25, 26-27, ASV)

 

In Roman, Paul states that lust between a man and a woman in general has been forbidden. He also progresses and says that since a relationship between a man and a woman can be unnatural, homosexuality is even more so and is obviously “against nature”. The Fundamentalist Korean Christians, reading the Bible, would have interpreted the quote literally. On the basis of the above, the churches define homosexuality unnatural and sinful.

The Korean churches use the uniformity of scripture and God to repeal the oppositions’ argument. A popular vindication that several advocates of sexual minorities proclaim is, like how the sins of Old testaments have been reestablished by Jesus, Jesus’ last commandment, to love your neighbor, along with his revolutions against the Jews have redefined sin. They argue that, after Jesus, sin is the opposite of love: hate, including any type of love. However, the Korean church views these actions as renewal of God’s law according to popular culture. The interview with pastor Sunjae Jung of Hana church has revealed that sin is caused by misinterpretations and exaggerations of the scripture. He stated that it is wrong to argue that the words of Bible should be interpreted differently from 20 centuries ago, even after proving the sinister nature of homosexuality through both the old and the new testaments, is unacceptable. He argued that the Bible should be viewed absolute and constant and that like God, his words as well should be eternal and just. As mentioned above, Christianity in Korea is mainly a Fundamentalist Christianity. The Bible and the scriptures are central to their belief. If the interpretation of Bible is tampered, the central doctrine the churches are founded upon fall down. Thus, Korean Churches believe that the interpretation of the Bible have to be solid and consistent.

Although the Korean churches disagree with homosexuality, they still view themselves as in duty to serve the sexual minorities. An interview with a preacher, Jonghyun Kim, demonstrated that although the sexual minorities are sinners, they have to be admitted by the church as the part of the community. He emphasized that normal believers are innate sinners. He continued to argue that like how Jesus said “he that is without sin among you… first cast a stone at her” (John 8: 7 ASV), no one in the church has the right to stop a homosexual person from entering the church. However, pastor Sunjae Jung adds to the argument that allowing them into church does not mean that homosexuality is not a sin. He argues that the purpose of accepting homosexuals into the church community is to convert them into a Christian and to help them repent their sins. He further claimed that the ultimate goal of church is to help society return to God and repent for their sins. He calls it a duty to God to shout out to the society to guide them to the righteous path. Thus, he approved of the so-called “hate protests” and sit-ins in occasions such as the Queer Festival for they were for the sole purpose of helping the society realize that homosexuality is sin.

The analysis of Korean Christian’s views on homosexuality revealed three major perspectives on their understanding of who Jesus is; Jesus is the mediator of the natural law, the absolute and constant interpreter of the Bible, and the embracer and the guidance of all sinners.

Firstly, Jesus is understood as the mediator of the natural law. The Korean churches along with the Westminster Larger Catechism base their arguments against homosexuality on the scriptures and the ways in which God has created the world. When the church puts forth the argument that homosexuality is unnatural because God has created a man and a woman and formed a unit, they had to create consistency between the Old and the New Testament in order to validate their argument. Jesus, in the Bible, is the bridge between the two testaments, and therefore serves two functions: to maintain what is said in the Old Testament and to renew the statements that may seem outdated after the sacrifice of himself. Thus, Paul referring to the natural law in the New Testament shows that Jesus too has to be coherent with the ideas of the natural law. Indeed, Jesus has to work as the continuator of what is said in the Old Testament about the natural law of God. This shows that the Korean Christians view Jesus as the perpetuator of the natural law. Another reason that may attribute to this perception is the incorporation of Confucianism ideas in Korean culture. The Confucianism emphasizes the natural order and hierarchy of all matter. It defines human relationships and orders its followers to strictly follow the canon. Thus, Jesus, under the Korean culture would have had to have elements of order and hierarchy. In terms of homosexuality, this structure is expressed as the natural law pre-established as early as since the book of Genesis.

Secondly, the Korean Christians perceive Jesus as the absolute and consistent interpreter of God’s words. It has been proven earlier that the Korean churches view scriptures of God as persistent. Referring to the Gospel of John, Jesus is also called “the word” (John 1:1 ASV). Literally, Jesus in Christian religion is the word of God. Also, in his 3 years of preaching, Jesus focused on explaining what the God wanted to tell the Jews. Jesus often refers to himself as the messenger of God. These accounts of Jesus in the Bible suggest why the churches might perceive Jesus as the absolute interpreter. In order to analyze why Korean Christians does illustrate Jesus as so, a study of the brief history of Korean Church structure is inevitable. As mentioned before, the majority of Christians in Korea are a part of the Presbyterian Church of Korea. Also, a large portion of believers are a part of the Methodist or the Adventist Church. The three churches indicated above holds to beliefs of strong Christian Fundamentalism. Due to the ideas of fundamentalism, the doctrines of the Korean churches rely on the literal interpretation and understanding of the Bible. Thus, Jesus, the first Christian portrayer of the Bible and the words of God himself has to be considered important by the Korean Church.

Thirdly, Jesus is illustrated as the embracer of all damned and more importantly, the guide for the sinners. The absolute mission for a Christian is to follow the paths of Jesus. The fact that they still wish to willingly embrace the homosexuals despite their terribly sinful nature, shows that Jesus embeds a characteristic of benevolence. During his 3 years of ministry, Jesus “[ate] and [drank]” with the “gluttonous man and a winebibber… publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11: 19 ASV). He never turned down the socially oppressed such as a tax collector, a whore, or a child. This shows that the central characteristic of Jesus is the agape love that he presents to all his company. Embrace is not only his character but also his mission. Jesus explicitly states that his mission is “to proclaim release to the captives… to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Matthew 4:18 ASV). However, the Korean Church does not only embrace but think that it is their duty to convert the individual, and furthermore guide the society to a righteous path. This embodies the ideas of Christ to lead humanity to a moral world. Although Jesus is the omni-lover, it is equally important that he, as a judge of human kind, is a guide that directs the course of life. The Apostle’s Creed explicitly states that “[Jesus Christ] ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father [and]… will come again to judge the living and the dead” (Apostle’s Creed). This shows that Jesus is also the judge of sin. However, not only is he the magistrate, but also is the guide out of sin. It is important to realize from several accounts of sinners with Jesus that all the sinners have repented their sins. The robbers crucified beside Jesus too repented for his sin by saying “Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom” (Luke 23: 42 ASV). This shows that Jesus, the embracer of all sin made each and one of his followers repent for their sin and return to the domain of heaven by themselves. This shows that the Korean Christians view Jesus as the embracer and the guide to all the sinners, including the homosexuals.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned ideas do not well represent the entirety of Korean Christian beliefs. There is a group of evangelist Christians who strongly believe that the homosexuals are the whores and the tax collectors of the modern society. There is also a growing liberal youth community inside conservative denominations, influenced by social media, who strongly advocate for the acceptance and embracement of homosexuals in the Christian community. They argue that Jesus is a figure of toleration, and espousal. They claim that Jesus, as the bearer of sin, will not only forgive but also forget about the sins of the homosexuals. Some of the extreme advocates insist that Jesus, the lover of humanity, does not view homosexuality as sin. These diverse views, also present under the overarching term “Korean Christianity”, reiterate the limitations of the assumptions that numerous people make when studying religion; religion is not necessarily bound by the most popular doctrine but by individual beliefs combined together under a concrete system.

All in all, Jesus himself can be interpreted under numerous different perspectives. However, according to the majority of current Christianity in Korea, Jesus is the mediator of the natural law, the absolute and constant interpreter of the Bible, and the embracer and the guidance of all sinners. However, the fact that Fundamentalist Christianity is not the only Christian doctrine, have to be considered alongside.

 

 

Works Cited

Primary Resources

The Assemblies of Divines at Westminster. The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proof Texts. Lindenhurst, NY: Great Christian , a Division of Rotolo Media, 2013. Print.

The Bible: American Standard Version. Irvine, CA: Magnanimous Enterprises, 2011. Bible Gateway. Web.

The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea. “Assembly Canon, Beliefs.” The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea. The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

“Homosexuality and Korean Christianity.” Personal interview. 19 Mar. 2017.

“Homosexuality and Korean Christianity.” Personal interview. 26 Mar. 2017.

Republic of Korea. The Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism. 한국의 종교 현황 (Hankuk Ui Jonggyo Hyunhwang) (Status Quo of Religion in Korea). By Byungchul Ko. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Secondary Resources

Paek (백), Sang-hyŏn (상현). Tongsŏngae Is (동성애 Is). Sŏul-si (서울시): Miraesa (미래사), 2015. Print.

 

Are You Christian? You Must be Straight: Analysis of Diversity in Korean Christianity Regarding Sexual Orientation

 

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Imagine yourself a homosexual. You have found out about your sexual orientation when you were in high school. However, after a series of bullying and mental torments, you decide to hide your identity for your entire life. You feel as if your life has divided: your homosexual self and a quiet and ordinary façade One day, you encounter a friend who shares your identity. Then, you realize that you have to raise your voice for the world to know that you even exist. You become an activist of a gay rights movement. Then, you encounter a group of Christian “hate protesters”. You first are ignorant of them. However, as you listen to them, you cannot bear their constant shouting of “God did not create you” or “God does not love you”. You feel alienated from your own society: your life for nothing.

In this story, the radical Christian protestors have dragged your self-esteem to ground. Also, similarly, they have ruined the lives of several homosexuals. Through this event, you would likely think that Christianity is a religion of hatred. You would possibly wish you will never face another Christian for your lifetime. However, the story takes an unexpected turn.

A few days later, you go back to the frontlines of the violent protest. There, you confront another group of Christians. With guitars and drums, they sing songs telling you how valuable you are. Also, they tell you that indeed God loves you and understands you more than any human being on Earth. Then, you decide to convert to Christianity, to deliver the comfort that you got from God to other torn and damaged people.

The story may seem far out of reality. However, it is indeed a real and concurrent event happening to hundreds of individuals in Korea. The two contrasting Christian groups have been active in the Queer Festival in Seoul 2014.

Especially in the context of sexual orientation, Christianity has played an enormous part in separating the two groups apart. However, unlike several other world religions that pick a side in a fight, Christianity in Korea has divided itself into several sects in terms of understanding sexual identity. The characteristic of Christianity – ambiguity in interpretation and existence of diverse denominations with myriad doctrines – has been both the shelter of the minorities and the sword of condemnation.

If so, what do you suppose as the solution to this situation: the divide between Christianity, portrayal of two different images of a single belief? The answer to the question is surprisingly simple. Like how sexuality is a diverse spectrum, religious beliefs lie on a wide range of ideas with no clear distinctions between them. Often times, the diversity of religion is ignored by several groups. Thus, acknowledgement of diversity, not only of sexuality but also of religion, could lead to further resolution of the current situation.

Korean Christianity is a wide classification inclusive of myriad divisions. The diversity in Korean Christianity spans to include more or less 200 distinct sects from well known denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Church to smaller orders of Christianity such as the 합동 [Hapdong], 통합 [Tonghap] and the 고신 [Goshin] Presbyterian Church. According to the Korean Ministry of Culture and Sport, about 39% of Korean Christian population is Catholic, 60%, Protestant, and a small portion consisted of Orthodoxy. Also, among Protestantism, Hapdong and Tonghap Presbyterian Churches along with other sects of Presbyterian Church have been the biggest denominations of Protestant Church in Korea. Other than the churches mentioned above, Korean Protestantism also includes a large number of believers of Methodist and Adventist Church.

Although many churches mentioned above show similarities, all divisions hold to differentiable positions especially on controversial topics such as homosexuality. The American model of the Presbyterian Church shows the distinctive nature of the Churches’ stances. The Presbyterian Church of America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church all argues that homosexuality is sinful in nature and thus disapproves of all activities related to homosexuality. Their position papers on homosexuality all condemn gay and lesbian identity and practices. In addition, the General Assemblies of the churches have clearly stated punishments for both homosexuals and Christians supporting them. However, not all forms of Presbyterian Church agree with them. The Presbyterian Church of USA (PCUSA) is the biggest denomination of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. The PCUSA Church Council held to conservative visions regarding homosexuality. They used the Book of Order as the prime way of justifying their actions. However, starting from 2011, several amendments were made to move the rights to bless gay and lesbian couples to individual pastors. Finally in 2014, the 221st General Assembly agreed to all terms and conditions on accepting homosexuality from marriage to sexually minor ministers. Although aforementioned churches are all based on Presbyterian origin, their belief on homosexuality greatly contradicts each other.

Korea shows similar traits to the American model. Among the shared values of Protestantism in Korea, the Presbyterian, the Adventist, and the Methodist Churches all disagree on their position on homosexuality. Firstly, the Presbyterian Church of Korea strongly believes in the eradication of homosexuality from Korea. An interview with two ministers of the Korean Presbyterian Church revealed that their Church not only condemns homosexuality identity for their ungodly nature but also believes in aggressive social protests against it. Pastor Jung of Hana Church strongly asserted that for homosexuality is a disease in society caused by sin, it is the responsibility of the church to cure the illness and guide the society into the righteous and holy pathway. He expressed his supportive sentiments toward “hate protests” that happened in Queer Festivals for the past several years. The coherence in his argument with other pastors has shown that the Presbyterian Church in general believes in audacious social movements against homosexuality. However, the Methodist Church and the Adventist Church disagrees on the aforementioned claim. The United Methodist Communications of Korea has published an article regarding the official position of the National Association Korean United Methodist Church on the rising popularity of homosexuality in society. The article proposed that although the Methodist Church believes that homosexuality is sinful, the church and its believers should embrace the sinners, pray for them, and respect their rights as human. Their statements were majorly based on the love and care that Christians should show to the homosexuals. The Korean Adventist Church took a step forward. The Adventist Church not only claimed the importance of equal rights among human beings and the necessity to welcome all sinners, regardless of their sexual orientation, but also argues differently about the relationship between sin and homosexuality. The Official Statement of the Adventist Church on Same-Sex Union published in 2012 states that “homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world”. The above excerpt and the entire statement do not explicitly say that homosexuality is sin: it just warns that it is forbidden by God. Instead, the sentence above implies that homosexuality is the result of sin, not sin itself. This argument describes homosexuality as the brokenness of soul and views the homosexuals as victims of sin instead of the active participants of sinister practices. Moreover, in modern Korean society, there has been an increase in Christian gay rights movements. As a devout Protestant Christians themselves, they oppose institutional oppressions to participate in the Korean Queer Festival to celebrate God’s love for the sexual minorities. The aforementioned views projected by several Korean Protestant sects show the diverse nature of beliefs within a single title of Protestantism. To further expand on the topic, consider the Catholic and the Orthodox Church in Korea as well. The two widespread churches also have a major impact on the Korean society. Yet, their doctrines are farther away from each other and the Protestants than is a protestant sect away from one another. This shows that in the issues of Homosexuality, Christianity shows a much wider variety of perspectives than does any other groups do in the global society.

Another type of diversity within Christianity derives from the understanding and the interpretation of the Bible. Traditionally there have been two different types of interpretation of the Bible: literal and figurative. The Catholic Church, as one of the denominations to figuratively understand Bible, has a lenient interpretation of God’s orders regarding homosexuality. The Catholic Church, rather than looking at specific details in Bible, believes that every story in Bible is symbols of a bigger concept of Christianity. They assert that the overarching theme of the Bible is God’s unconditional love for humanity. St. Augustine’s Confession, one of the founding documents of Catholic belief system, shows the process of realizing the figurative nature of Bible. Also, Augustine’s interpretation of the creation in terms of the new theme – God’s love overpowers all forms of power – depicts Catholic interpretation of the Bible. In the context of sexual orientation, the Catholic Church applies God’s eternal love to argue the acceptance of the homosexuals. They strongly assert that for God has loved all humanity and salvaged the sinners from their eternal damnation, God too has forgiven and is showing his eternal deep affection for the homosexuals. Catholicism holds to a highly orthodox faith; their doctrine is centered on the Roman Catholic Church and the Papal Office. Thus, Korean Catholic beliefs can be equated with the central doctrines announced by the Pope and the Vatican.

However, a literal understanding of the Bible opens a wider viewpoint in which homosexuality could be analyzed within Christianity. Rather than understanding the overarching theme, numerous Christian denominations choose to interpret the Bible from word to word, believing in the actuality of the events. This type of biblical interpretation has led to current Christian Conservative perspectives on homosexuality. There are several passages in the Bible that condemn homosexual acts. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 say that the act of a “man [lying] with a male” (Leviticus 20:13, ESV) is “an abomination” and worthy of a death penalty. The abominable nature of homosexual practices carry on to the New Testament where Paul most explicitly states that “men committing shameless acts with men” (Romans 1:27, ESV) have committed sin for they have went across the “natural relations”. Through these statements, they argue that homosexuality is against the natural law set by God in his creation of the world. They recall that “Therefore a man shall… hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV) to insist that for God has created a man and a woman to unite under the holy marriage. They also assure the legitimacy of the passage using Jesus’ own words in Matthew, “Have you not read that he who created… beginning made them male and female… Therefore a man shall… hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5, ESV). This reassertion of the importance of a male and a female strengthens the Conservatives’ argument on the sinful nature of non-hetero sexual orientation. Analyzing the passages under different lenses, some Christians argue differently. Several theologians claim that the words used in Bible to depict homosexuality were descriptive of only the homosexual practices, not homosexual identity. Through the argument, the theologians conclude that unless homosexual remain celibate and retain him/herself from sexual intercourse, the homosexual identity by itself is not sinful in nature. On the other hand, a group of new Bible theorists rose, calling themselves the Queer Theologians. Theodore Jennings’ book, The Man Jesus Loved, well illustrates the prime objective of the newly rising group: using the scripture to throw a new color of light in the balance between conservative Christianity and homosexuality.

With the emergence of social media, the rapid spread of progressive culture amongst Korean youth has directly opposed the conservative system that the generation before had created. The increasing social trend was unstoppable even for Korean Christianity. As the liberal social media turned supportive of the sexual minorities, the conservative Christian systems also had to fight for their traditional family values. However, this does not necessarily means that all Christians believe in strong conservatism. As discussed above, there are a large portion of Christians that indeed support the homosexual engagement in Christianity. Christianity is divided from its inside. Its numerous denominations and theological divisions among denominations account for different interpretations of bible and phenomenon. In the modern democratic global society, the embracement of other identity has been increasingly important. Like how racial, gender, ethnical, and sexual diversity have to be respected, it is equally important to acknowledge that religion is also a diversity of its own spectrum.

Let’s revisit the story told at the beginning. Although you could find only hatred in Christianity, at the end of the day, you converted to a Christian yourself. Christianity, especially in the Korean society has shown a wide spectrum of beliefs where two contradictory positions are included under the same denomination. As a third person watching the situation, we should acknowledge the different understanding of Christian beliefs. More importantly, regardless of your identity and your gender, it is the prime importance to acknowledge different people in society and respect them for their being.

 

 

Works Cited

Primary Resources

Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee. “Homosexuality.” Homosexuality :: The Official Site of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. Seventh-day Adventist Church, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.

The Assemblies of Divines at Westminster. The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proof Texts. Lindenhurst, NY: Great Christian , a Division of Rotolo Media, 2013. Print.

ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Bible Gateway. Web.

Communications, United Methodist. “전 현직 한인총회장 4명 교단 내 동성애 관련상황에 입장표명.” Korean UMC. United Methodist Communications, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 04 May 2017.

The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea. “Assembly Canon, Beliefs.” The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea. The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

The General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. “Humble Petition to President Clinton.” OPC. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, June 1993. Web. 04 May 2017.

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee. “Same-Sex Unions.” Same-Sex Unions :: The Official Site of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. Seventh-day Adventist Church, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.

“Homosexuality and Korean Christianity.” Personal interview. 19 Mar. 2017.

“Homosexuality and Korean Christianity.” Personal interview. 26 Mar. 2017.

Presbyterian Church of America. “PCA Digest Assembly Actions: 1973 – 1998.” PCA Position Papers: Assembly Actions on the Matter of Homosexuality (1996). Presbyterian Church of America, 1996. Web. 04 May 2017.

Republic of Korea. Legislative. 차별금지법안. By 재연 김, 미희 김, 병윤 오, 선동 김, 석기 이, 상규 이, 수경 임, 광진 김, 하나 장, and 정식 조. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Ser. 2463.

Republic of Korea. Legislative. 차별금지법안. By 한긴 김, 우 운근, 정학 홍, 기운 배, 병두 민, 성곤 김, 낙연 이, 동철 김, and Etc. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Ser. 3693.

Republic of Korea. The Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism. 한국의 종교 현황 (Hankuk Ui Jonggyo Hyunhwang) (Status Quo of Religion in Korea). By Byungchul Ko. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

South of Korea. 차별반대법안. By 원식 최, 용익 김, 춘석 이, 성엽 유, and Etc. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Ser. 3793.

The 36th General Assembly. Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality. N.p.: The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, June 2016. PDF.

 

Secondary Resources

Cruz, Eliel. “Seventh-day Adventist Anti-Gay Summit Held in Africa This Month.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Jennings, Theodore W. The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament. Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2003. Print.

Jones, Robert P., Daniel Cox, and Juhem Navarro-Rivera. “A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-sex Marriage and LGBT Issues.” PRRI. 2014. http://www.prri.org/research/2014-lgbt-survey/.

Paek (백), Sang-hyŏn (상현). Tongsŏngae Is (동성애 Is). Sŏul-si (서울시): Miraesa (미래사), 2015. Print.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Assembly Approves Allowing Pastors to Perform Same-gender Marriage Where Legal Sends Proposed Constitutional Amendment Changing Marriage Definition.” News & Announcements – Assembly Approves Allowing Pastors to Perform Same-gender Marriage Where Legal Sends Proposed Constitutional Amendment Changing Marriage Definition. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 19 June 2014. Web. 04 May 2017.

 

This Is a Story to Pass On: Analysis of the Sentence “This Is Not a Story to Pass On” on Its Irony and Its Revelation of the Novel’s Theme

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“This is not a story to pass on” (Morrison, 324), says Tony Morrison in her last chapter. The novel Beloved primarily is consisted of each character’s anecdotes of their past. Sethe and Paul D constantly brings back memories of their exposure to the world of Slavery; Denver and Beloved wants to listen to more stories from their mother. These dialogues of stories join as a literary work, making yet another story. However, despite Morrison’s efforts in putting the story together, she comments that “this is not a story to pass on” (324). The ambiguity of the phrase, to pass on, along with several types of story that Morrison outlines in the scope of the book creates obscurity in Morrison’s argument. Through the unclear maze of interpretation, Morrison guides the readers with confusing traces of bread crumbs, which at the end of the day, leads them to the same conclusion: history of slavery should not be repeated again.

Story, as its literal meaning, indicates the plot of the novel: the characters’ encounter with Beloved. The novel Beloved begins with a baby ghost, the spiritual incarnation of Beloved. Starting from the moment of introduction, Beloved deeply interacts and engages with Sethe and her family. The ghost of Beloved drove the two sons out of the house and from time to time takes tangible forms that physically come to contact with Sethe’s family through “mirror shattered… tiny hand prints… in the cake” (3). As soon as the ghost is banned from 124 by Paul D, Beloved takes the human form to come back to Sethe’s family in a shape of “a fully dressed woman” (60). As the story progresses, the relationship between Sethe and Beloved grows ill. First, Sethe engages more of herself to exclusively Beloved. She ignores Paul D and his criticisms on the parasitic love between Sethe and Beloved. She also insists that she continues her way of providing her children “safety with handsaw” (193). As soon as Paul D leaves 124, Sethe starts to abandon her responsibility as a mother. She prioritizes Beloved more “than her own life” (284). She spends more money for luxury and extravagance on Beloved’s demand than what she can afford that “they ran low on food” (285). As Sethe grows exhausted, “Beloved [slams] things, [wipes] the table clean of plates, [throws] salt on the floor, [breaks] a windowpane” (285) while “getting bigger” (285). This incident of Beloved has led characters astray of normality; Sethe grew thinner (both physically and emotionally) and devastated, Denver grew detached from her family, and Paul D was driven away from Sethe’s family. This unfair and sickening encounter between Beloved and Sethe’s family that only breaks the goodness of characters may be the story that Morrison does not will to be told.

Yet, under the overarching plot and series of actions, Morrison strongly outlines the real story that she wishes to convey to her audience. Story, to Sethe, Beloved, and Denver, is not simple a novel that can be lightly considered and forgotten with. The story connotes a larger meaning behind its facade. To the three women, story symbolizes life and the past they have lived in. Firstly, Morrison describes story to be a segment in memory that one has lived and can live again. This is explicitly demonstrated when Sethe “[steps] into the told story that lay before her eyes on the path” (36) and describes her past memory of Denver’s birth. Morrison strengthens the connection between story and memory by starting the anecdote with one and ending with other. As discussed above, Sethe’s memory of Denver and the first white conformity begins with her physically walking into the story. When the story comes to an end, Sethe refers to the memory as “rememory” (43) that “[goes]” and “[passes] on” while “just [staying]” at the same time. The description of a specialized memory connects to the terminology of story to indicate that apart from plots and dialogues, story also is one’s past, memory, and even inevitable identity. Also, story symbolizes life. Paul D is a character persistently willing for a stable family. He, a man who has lived a life of rather adventure and fluidity, now wants to settle down. Paul D wishes to achieve this goal by creating a family with Sethe. He describes his sentiment toward her by stating that “he [wanted] to put his story next to hers” (322). This shows that story not only means the past but also the present life that one lives in. As demonstrated above, Morrison broadens the scope of interpretation of the word story and uses them in distinctive contexts. Also, she develops the idea of story’s connection to one’s past, and addresses a bigger subject of slavery through Sethe and Beloved.

Sethe is a character obsessed with stories; Sethe’s own past captivates and mesmerizes her. Sethe is a former slave of Sweet Home. Her experience of slavery rips her of sanity and devastates her. The eternal scar that forces her to remember the past she wants to forget is best illustrated and symbolized by the “branches of her chokecherry tree” (20) made of her dead skin on her back. The chokecherry tree made of scar forces Sethe to face her destroyed past. She is reminded of the milk taken away from her. She is evoked with memories of her mother, killed as the result of slavery. This constant rememory to a past that she does not wish to remember drains her rationality. As a caring mother haunted by her past memory of slavery, Sethe desires to “[take] and put [her] baby where they’d be safe” (193) from the white treachery. However, this wish takes a shape of a monster in her insane mentality. Consequently, Sethe, traumatized by the white domination, “[kills] her children” when she sees the Schoolteacher walking toward her family. Yet, the safety that she wanted for her children turns into another trauma: Beloved. Tree appears several times in Beloved. Chokecherry tree is what stays on her back, reminding Sethe of her tainted past; mulberry tree is where Beloved walks from. This connection between the character of Beloved and Sethe’s inescapable past emphasizes the role of Beloved as the reminder of Sethe’s past. The manner in which Beloved achieves her virtue is by constantly keeping Sethe occupied, telling stories. This constant storytelling conjures Sethe up of her horrid past. Thus, she is worn down in the relationship between her and Beloved; the memory wears Sethe down. Through Sethe, Morrison lays out the connection between the word story and Sethe’s personal, abhorrent encounter of slavery.

The individual story of slavery narrated by Sethe is generalized by Beloved. Beloved devotes her chapter in describing the incident that happened to her before she first appeared in the story, in front of the mulberry tree. To picture the incident, she uses imageries of “sea-colored” (249) bread and the sensation of “vomit”. Through the imagery, she creates an atmosphere of ocean. Also, Beloved desire for “pretty white… teeth” (249), the crowded and “crouching” (248) people accompanied by “small rats” alludes to a ship, of rather poor condition. The “circle around her neck” (249) indicating a collar chaining her, along with several dead people and strong desires to die supports the connection between the narrative and slavery. All in all, the scene that Beloved describes in her chapter is a typical moment in the Middle Passage. Middle Passage was the Atlantic slave trade route between Europe, Africa and America. The slaves captured in Africa by Europeans were shipped to American plantation farms to be dehumanized and maltreated. The Middle Passage not only illustrates the brutality of slavery, but also is the symbol of white dominance and black subjugation. Beloved dedicates her chapter to describe her incident at the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on a slave trade boat. This shows that to Beloved, story not only is her encounter of Sethe, but also inclusive of her life as the first-generation slave, the crosser of Middle Passage, the commodity of a slave trade ship. Through Beloved, Morrison normalizes the concept of story to all slaves, ranging from the very first slaves of American Plantation to the very last slave of the abolitionists. Story, written in context of Beloved, refers to both the literal story that contains plots and dialogues and the connotation to one’s inevitable past. Morrison uses this nature of story to carefully lay out an explicit scene of slavery.

Like how the word story contains several different meanings, some more overarching than others, Morrison’s choice of the word “to pass on” (324) deepens the understanding of the novel. Primarily, the phrase passed on, as often used with stories, indicates that the story is told to a separate entity. This type of passing on is depicted in Sethe’s act of telling her story of the Sweet Home to others. There are frequent incidents of Sethe delivering her accounts of slavery to Beloved and her daughter Denver. However, when the story which is being passed on is interpreted differently as analyzed above, the term to pass on undergoes a slight modification. Story, to Sethe, Beloved, and Denver, symbolizes the individual’s life. Furthermore, the story is what binds the lives of hundreds of people who share the same historical pain of slavery. If so, to pass on indicates allowing its future generation to live the lives of the former generations: passing on of the story of slavery signifies letting the children be vulnerable to slavery. Sethe, as a firm yet traumatized mother, is haunted by this passing on of her story to her children. Sethe is extremely obsessed with not allowing her children to live her story of slavery. Also, the word pass on includes a passive connotation. To pass on from time to time implies no effort on the two entities taking part in the action. the passer and the passed. The act of passing on is a natural progress in which the story flows from the passer to the receiver. Sethe, while describing the story of Denver’s birth, mentions the phrase “pass on” (43). This act of passing on is not an active action of Sethe to forget her past. Sethe admits that “somethings you forget… other things you never”. Her tone of addressing the chance of remembering and forgetting almost sounds as if they are coincidental. Through this passage, Morrison defines passing on as a natural progress which can fortuitously produce either of the possible results. This interpretation of passing on creates an automatic nature to the action of passing on for it is not controlled by artificial force. By doing so, Morrison connotes that not only Sethe’s effort in preventing the stories from passing on to her children inevitable, but also that the repetition of history of slavery is unavoidable.

Through several types of stories that Morrison create, she creates a paradox in which she lays out her main argument: the story should be passed on. As mentioned above, to Morrison, story means several things. The story of the characters’ encounter with Beloved is what Morrison has narrated to the readers. However, within mere plot and dialogues, Morrison carefully lays out the pain and suffering that the black population of America had suffered. Surprisingly, the two stories mentioned above seem to contradict each other; when one is passed on, the other is not, and when one is not passed on, the other is. Consider a case in which the story of Beloved is passed on to future generations. If Morrison’s Beloved is brought more attention, and well read by the public, the explicit criticisms of slavery will be delivered to a large population. A mass population with a critical view of slavery will be able to abolish slavery with ease. However, consider a case in which the story of Beloved is not passed on to the future generation. The mass population, unaware of the horrendous results of slavery will not be able to recognize the falsehoods of slavery. If so, in later generations, when all awareness has passed, the atrocious act of enslavement will begin again. Since both stories cannot be passed on simultaneously, Morrison, by saying “this is not a story to pass on” (324), creates a paradox in which the statement of the sentence is not universal when interpreted with different significance of the story.

To resolve the paradox, Morrison prioritizes the stories to specify which story to pass and which not to. Firstly, even before the foreword and the epigram, she dedicates the novel to “Sixty Million and more” (Morrison, XI). This dedication, considering Morrison’s use of slavery and its impact on the black individuals as the main subject of the novel, alludes to the people who died in the Middle Passageway which approximates to about sixty million people. Also, Morrison states that she dedicates the book to more people than the estimated number of people killed in the Middle Passage. The extra people that Morrison included can be seen as the inestimable number of people killed by slavery in total. The dedication of the novel clearly shows that Morrison is prioritizing her audience of victims of slavery above all other readers, thus the story of slavery. If the story of slavery is prioritized before the encounter of Beloved, the quote “this is not a story to pass on” (324) can be reiterated into two separate sentences; the experience of slavery should never occur again; to do so, the story of Beloved has to be widely read.

Also, the word pass on can be emphasized in order to analyze what Morrison tries to convey. As discussed above, Morrison refers to the story as the past lives of slaves sacrificed in white brutality. Also, the specific phrase that Morrison uses, pass on, has a passive connotation. Hence when a story is passed on, it is a natural progression. Morrison, by saying that “this is not a story to pass on” (324), argues that the story of slavery and the lives of the slavery victims should not be repeated naturally and without resistance. Indeed, she advocates for her belief of strong opposition against slavery. Through the last sentence, Morrison firmly reveals her true sentiments toward slavery, that it should not be naturally inherited by her post generations.

To recapitulate, Morrison uses story in two major different occasions: to express the literal story told, and to refer to the lives that one lived and lives. This ambiguity in her style of writing leads to different possible interpretations of her line “this is not a story to pass on” (324). She adds to the vagueness by using the phrase pass on, connoting passivity in the action of moving on. This dubiety of Morrison’s intent shines light on several paths to analyze her last sentence. Eventually, through the unclear mass of literature, Morrison concludes that the story of slavery is what should not be carried out to the future generation. In doing so, she affirms that the story of Beloved is a story to pass on.

Are You Insane? Is Anybody Insane?; Analysis of Darl, an Insane Character from As I Lay Dying and Assessment of William Faulkner’s Attitude Toward Insanity

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Insanity is an arbitrary term created by society to categorize people who do not fit in. Mental illness is often used as the scapegoat of all antisocial behaviors. Darl, in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, is often categorized by other characters as an insane and mentally ill character. Through the ambiguous characteristic of Darl as both insane and sane, Faulkner proposes a deeper question to society: What defines insanity?

Darl is described to be insane by the community for his abnormal behaviors. Firstly, several characters analyze Darl’s peculiar characteristics from the earlier chapters of the book. Cora describes Darl to be “queer, lazy pottering about the place no better than Anse” (24). To add to her point, Tull describes Darl to have “queer eyes” (125). Faulkner’s constant repetition of the word “queer” (125) to describe Darl indicates abnormality and peculiarity in Darl’s behavior. These descriptions of Darl contribute to foreshadowing Darl’s revelation of his own insanity. Faulkner in the later chapters uses Vardaman as the core painter of Darl’s sanity. Vardaman through the last several chapters mentions that he has “[seen] something that Dewey Dell says [he] musn’t tell nobody” (225). He constantly builds tension and importance to the situation until Cash reveals the reality: “Darl set fire to the [barn]” (232). To other characters, Darl’s action of burning the barn, with no clear reason, is interpreted as the result caused by his previously mentioned mental illness. A single event, the incineration of Mr. Gillespie’s barn, leads the readers to conclude that Darl is insane.

His insanity is closely knitted with a major mental illness of the time Faulkner was writing; Faulkner implicitly states that Darl suffers from PTSD. The novel, As I Lay Dying, was written right after the First World War. This socio-political background that Faulkner wrote in inevitably affected him to write about concurrent issues: the effect of World War One on human psychology which later develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This idea is reflected upon several details that Faulkner leaves behind. Firstly, Darl describes his “little spyglass he got in France at the war” (254) and laughs deliriously at the “pistol” (254) as he is transferred to the facility in Jackson. These allusions to the First World War imply that Darl has participated in the Great War and is most likely suffering from PTSD. Several well-known symptoms of PTSD also affirm of the claim. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, a major result of PTSD consists of jittering, laughing and being hyper-alert of the surroundings. Not only his last chapters where he asks himself, “why do you laugh?” (254), but also several other accounts of Darl’s insanity mentions his laughter. Cash comments that “[Darl] began to laugh… he couldn’t hardly say it for laughing… it was bad” (238). Also, in his last chapter, Darl’s “[head turn] like the heads of owls when he [passes]” (253) and later, “he foams” (254) deliriously shouting “yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes” (254). Both his behavioral traits of sudden seizure and frequent impulsive glances side by side are symptoms considered a part of hyper-alertness. Darl’s laughter in combination with his other abnormal behaviors is the foundation to Faulkner’s successful introduction of a social issue into the story.

Although Darl’s behaviors show traits of insanity, his narrative style and other characters’ reactions toward Darl testify against the notion. In the early chapters of the book, Cora describes Darl to be “different from those [other brothers]” (21) yet he makes her feel “the bounteous love of the Lord… and His mercy” (24) when she “[loses] faith in human nature” (24). The human comfort that Darl gives to Cora questions the lenses of mental illness that other characters have for Darl. If a person is subject to insanity, can he or she show love and mercy of the lord? Also, Darl uses the most cultured language of the narrators. He uses meticulous yet unfathomable selection of vocabulary such as “shimmering dilapidation in the sunlight” (4) and “smooth undulations the mark of the adze blade” (4) even describe his situation. He has the most correct and formal use of the English language. He possesses the predominantly educated method of conveying his ideas. Moreover, he poses philosophical questions and answers them using sophisticated logical argumentation that halts the readers for a moment to make them think of what he tries to say. He says that he “haven’t got [a mother]” (101) since “if [he] had one, it is was. And if it is was, it cant be is” (101). This quote demonstrates Darl’s capability of intellectual reasoning and furthermore, his sanity.

As it has been discussed, categorizing Darl sane or insane, black and white, is an impossible task. Darl’s characteristic of ambiguity creates chaotic rush of questions within readers. The breakdown of conventional distinctiveness of sanity raises fundamental doubts about society. If sanity and insanity is indistinct, what defines them? To counter these queries, Faulkner uses Vardaman and compares him with Darl. Doing so, Faulkner creates two different societies to address the very characteristic of sanity.

Vardaman is also considered insane by other characters. Primarily, Vardaman is the youngest of the narrators. Faulkner successfully distorts the innocent and pure voice embedded in Vardaman’s perspective into insanity in two distinct ways. Firstly Vardaman has a distorted perception of reality. He first comments on how his “mother is a fish” (84). He not only repeats the statement but also dedicates a whole chapter to the specific sentence: “my mother is a fish” (84). This distorted reality starts to conflict with Darl’s as they interact with each other in the context of their mother’s non-existence. Vardaman’s question: “then mine can be a fish, cant it, Darl?” (101), shows how Vardaman’s internalized reality starts to take over his relationship with other characters. This insanity in Vardaman is reinforced by other viewpoints. Tull describes Vardaman as “a judgement on Anse Bundren” (72). This explicitly shows that nurturing Vardaman has been a burden to the Bundrens. This then implies that the reasons behind hardship are founded upon the mental illnesses that Vardaman has.

Vardaman’s ideals, similar to Darl’s, are oppressed by the society; regardless of Vardaman’s sanity, and indeed through his impeccability, the society chooses to subjugate Vardaman. Vardaman, as a child had only his selfish yet innocent motives to continue his journey toward Jefferson. Vardaman comments on the train and expresses his desires toward it, although not explicitly. Vardaman comments that “the train is behind the glass, red on the track. When it runs the track shines on and off… When it runs on the track shines again” (66). He then adds that “[the train] will be behind the glass… waiting” (100). Vardaman’s implementation of his own aspiration on the toy train visualizes Vardaman’s pure sincerity toward his goal. Vardaman’s constant craving for train drives him to take on the journey. The reason may seem absurd compared to the main objective of the trip: the burial of his mother. However, it seems the most innocent compared to hidden goals that other family members had; Anse wanted new fake teeth, Jewel wanted a wild horse, and Dewey Dell wanted to get an abortion from the doctors near Jefferson. Although most of the character’s hidden desires are fulfilled, only Vardaman’s wish is left unsatisfied and instead, rejected by the society. Vardaman successfully communicates his desire for the toy train to Dewey Dell. However, every time Darl asks for the train, Dewey Dell declines the request with excuse of the journey. This vexation of Vardaman aspiration represents the society’s failure at accommodating the innocent and the naïve when those with higher social status yet an impure dream have successfully reached their objective. This shows that although Vardaman is innocent and pure in his inside, the society refuses to accept it and thus oppresses Vardaman.

Due to these similarities, Vardaman and Darl seem to emphasize the parallelarity of each other, especially in the later chapters. Firstly, they identify each other as a bonded brother. Vardaman’s continuous repetition of calling Darl “our brother” (101, 249) helps the reader associate Vardaman’s identity especially with Darl. When Darl and Vardaman discuss about their analysis of their mother’s death, comparing her to several animals, Vardaman recalls the fact that Darl is his brother. Also, when Darl is being sent off to mental institutions, Vardaman desperately and repetitively says “Darl he went to Jackson is my brother Darl is my brother” (249). Faulkner distinguishing these words from the general text by using italicization shows how for Vardaman, Darl’s identity as brother overwhelmed all his current situations. This analysis of Darl as Vardaman’s brother leads to several parallel traits between them. Like how Vardaman projects a distinct love for Darl, Darl also shows great affection for Vardaman in particular. When all other family members ignore Vardaman’s sophistication of his mother’s death, Darl reacted to his thoughts and commented on them himself. Moreover, Darl and Vardaman are the only characters that share their frank ideas. Vardaman and Darl share their internal thoughts of their mother and her death to all characters, and more importantly with each other. Vardaman’s perception of his mother as a dead fish had persisted for several chapters. However, his thoughts are projected outward only to Darl. Similarly, although Darl has constantly depicted his complex conceptions of his mother to other characters such as Jewel, the only moment in the book where he engages with other character regarding the topic is with Vardaman. They talk to each other about how their “mother is a horse” (101) and “a fish” (101). Their conversation builds up level as they move on to conversing about the fundamentality of death: “because if I had [a mother], it is was. And if it is was, it cant be is…” (101). The interruption of this dialogue by another character also shows specialty and intimacy in Vardaman and Darl’s relation. This association highlights the commonality between the two characters: the insanity and the inadequacy to adjust to society.

The common traits along with their parallel life creates a different society of the two among the characters. This society contradicts the general public and thus becomes the minority. The two, as the only characters that can approach philosophical questions with level of sophistication, are discriminated by the group created by other characters. Using Vardaman and Darl, Faulkner creates a society of minorities that is oppressed and called insane by the bigger society. Also, by addressing the insanity of the major society, Faulkner answers the fundamental questions addressed earlier: What is the standard of insanity? What defines society?

An analysis of insanity prevalent among the general society reveals the connection between insanity and society. As discussed earlier, it is not the innate character in Darl and Vardaman, but the society’s characterization of them that classified them as insane. Also, most characters had different motives in committing an action. Anse, trying to look like a loyal husband carries the journey out to Jefferson. However, his acts of buying the fake teeth and introducing the children to the new Ms. Bundren right after the burial of his first wife can be easily interpreted as the deterioration of his morality. Cash’s description of Anse in the very last chapter being “kind of hangdog and proud… with his teeth and all” (261) creates irony between Anse’s projected motives and his real desire. Dewey Dell, as the embodiment of her mother, tries to portray herself as the loyal and subjugated female. However, her main purpose of going to Jefferson lied on her desire to get an abortion, again creating contradiction between her shadow and persona. These paradoxes show that the society that Darl and Vardaman live in is already corrupted by the immorality and evil, perhaps much more insane that themselves. This ambiguity on who really is insane is again addressed by Cash. In his later chapters, Cash states that he “aint so sho that ere a man has the right to say what is crazy and what aint” (238). This quote shows envisions that in reality, no one is definitively sane nor insane. Thus, through this ambiguation of insanity and Cash’s comment on the society and its irony of blaming other people for being insane, Faulkner conveys that classifying a person as insane depends on the society. He declares that no matter what an individual may be, if the individual cannot adjust to the changing trend of society, he or she is excluded from the it, being called insane.

All in all, Darl can neither be classified insane nor sane, like how Vardaman cannot be too. Also, using them as targets of subjugation in society, Faulkner reveals a bigger theme of the novel; insanity is not innate in human character but defined by society as inadequacy to adjust to it. Looking back at the period that Faulkner was writing the novel, the perspective toward mental illness is redefined. The patients of PTSD have suffered a lot and were traumatized by the war. Through As I Lay Dying, Faulkner asks the society; What if the soldiers were those who were enlightened by the war, being able to see the reality of death?