Story and Song: A Postcolonial Interplay Between Christian Education and Worship







In her book, Story and Song, Hyeran Kim-Cragg, a notable postcolonial feminist theologian, unravels the discrepancy between Christian education and worship through the unfolding of her comprehensive knowledge of Western and non-Western Christianity. Representing the voice of non-Western Christianity, the author argues for the formation of marginalized Christians through an interplay between Story (Scripture) and Song (hymnody), in both Christian education and in Christian worship.  To make this interplay possible and workable, Christian education and worship need to be reinterpreted following a postcolonial feminist approach. 

The audience she has in mind is primarily non-Western Christian immigrants in North America, especially “those who are marginalized in the Western center” (118). This book can provide answers to identity questions raised by those from non-Western minorities eager to reach the center by assimilating themselves into a Western culture and mindset.

This concise work is adeptly interwoven with postcolonial insights aimed at filling gaps in modern Western Euro-American centered theology. The author supports her argument by acknowledging the effect of the “hybrid diaspora identity” (116) of Christian education and worship on the life of a diasporic community. She points out the problematic “dualistic understanding of humans” (2) of Western Christianity, which is deeply rooted in “the colonial legacy and modernist ideas” (2), and which eventually separates Christian education from worship. Thus, Kim-Cragg offers postcolonial (biblical) criticism to provide an alternative way of rectifying incorrect ways Western theology characterizes non-Western people and their identities (29). She discusses the appropriateness of a non-cognitive verbal (non-Western) way of teaching to form a whole person (13–14). Beyond the rational-logic or cognitive-literal aspect of a person, there is a non-cognitive emotional being that is “complex and multi-layered.” (49). 

Because Christian education should embrace “the entire life of the church” (52), humans, not systems, matter; their lives are formed by multi-layered and complicated realities (59). In light of this, she argues for the significance and necessity of “the interplay between the Story and Song” (70). The “creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and a culture or cultures” gives the marginalized a chance for “hybridization” (84), which is the right way to live in the co-existence of Western and non-Western realities.  

Kim-Cragg argues throughout that the postcolonial approach neither replaces nor rejects all Western Christian tradition; it simply means carefully rethinking attitudes to one’s marginalized fellow human beings. Thus, in God’s peace, humans can embrace their past and have hope for a future where their children can keep moving forward with others as hybridized, yet still wholly concrete beings in Christ. She achieves her aim of revealing this vision. I strongly recommend this book and support the author’s vision. If anyone is looking for a precise, condensed, and heuristic text that can teach a reader about the modern dialogue between the theoretical, empirical, and practical realms of postcolonial theology and feminism, this would be thebook.

Heejun Kim

Wycliffe College/ University of Toronto

Categories: (M) Book Review

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