Friday, June 13, 2008

Religious Traditions: Kevin Kim on 'Switching'

Kevin's Stroll through the Country
(Image from Kevin's Walk)

Kevin Kim, a friend of mine who until recently taught English for several years here in Korea and had the advantage of being half-Korean and conversant in the Korean language, is a really big guy. Big as in football-player-size big. Big as in about six-foot-three-inches big. Big as in weighing nearly 300 pounds big.

Hence his blog, Big Hominid's Hairy Chasms.

Don't go there unless you're prepared for a 'hairy' experience, for Kevin has an unusual sense of humor. Anway, Kevin has put that blog on ice for the time being as he goes about the process of becoming a somewhat Medium-Sized Hominid through losing a bit of weight by walking a little more than usual.

He's taking a little stroll across the United States, starting from Washington State, where he touched the Pacific Ocean, and heading east, eventually to end up touching the Atlantic Ocean. He's calling this little constitutional Kevin's Walk: An Extended Inquiry into my Home Country's Religious Diversity.

Kevin is obviously more than your average English teacher. In fact, he has a master's degree in religious studies, and along his chosen path, he's visiting various religious sites -- churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and so on -- where he engages the devout and not-so-devout in discussions on spirituality and related topics and also asks for a bite to eat and a place to sleep in exchange for doing some chores. He then presses onward, ever eastward.

On Friday, June 6th, 2008 (for future reference), Kevin had an "Interview with Jay Rozendaal," the reverend of the Christ Episcopal Church of Blaine, Washington. In that interview, he learned that Jay had grown up Presbyterian and gone through a Buddhist phase before returning to Christianity. Kevin asked if Jay was also still a Buddhist, to which Jay replied no, but that led to discussion of Ann Redding, a professor at Seattle University who's an Episcopal priest as well as a Muslim. At this news, Kevin reflected on the words of one of his graduate-school professors:
I'll inject a remark here: back when I was in grad school, one of my profs, Father William Cenkner, said that it's not really possible to hold on to two religions at once in a purely integrated manner. In his view, the best one can manage is a sort of bifurcated stasis, where the two religious tendencies are held together in tension, not harmony, and the dual-adherent is obliged to "switch" from one religious mode to the other depending on the situation. I wasn't too comfortable with Fr. Cenkner's formulation, but I haven't had the chance to speak with people who openly proclaim themselves to be members of two distinct traditions. Given the subjective nature of religious belief, Cenkner's contention would be hard to test.
Let me interject my own thoughts here.

I think that many people do this sort of switching in the modern (and perhaps now postmodern) world between their religious selves and their secular selves, for these two selves are differently grounded. The Christian tradition's distinction between God and Ceasar, the church and the state, the religious and the secular, the sacred and the profane, the eternal and the temporal, and various other ways of expressing this duality makes room for such switching, which is perhaps necessary for believers (theocrats included) since they live in a secular world that is differently grounded than the religious world.

For Muslims, since Islam acknowledges no distinction between the religious and the secular, the problem posed by switching is particularly acute, which partly accounts for the rising influence of Salafi Islam in our contemporary world, for Salafis draw upon the srict Muslim doctrine of Tawhid, very rigorous monotheistic unity, to reject the secular, democratic state as inconsistent with true Islam because Muslim law, shariah, comes from Allah, whereas the laws of the democratic state come from human beings, which implies for strict Salafis that a Muslim who accepts a democratic state is associating something human with Allah and is thus committing shirk, the worst of all sins, and is effectively an apostate (cf. takfir).

The stakes can therefore be rather high for the believers in some religious traditions.

At any rate -- or, rather, at Kevin's rate -- the walk across America continues, and Kevin continues walking the talk, thereby increasing "in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (cf. Luke 2:52).

Though, to be upfront about it, Kevin is actually losing in stature as he gains in wisdom, for he is down to about 275 pounds.

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At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think that many people do this sort of switching in the modern (and perhaps now postmodern) world between their religious selves and their secular selves, for these two selves are differently grounded."

Seems a valid analysis to me. As well as necessary (at least in a democratic society).


At 5:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wonder what Kevin would say.

By the way, thanks again for providing the better link to Kevin's site (although I was having some access problems again this morning).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm experiencing some "unusual" net stuff today myself. Can't seem to ID the "why" or the "how."

It may just be the heat. I don't know. Oh, just particular links.


At 7:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that some of my problem downloading Kevin's Site is its size -- so many photos.

But I don't know.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

could be, sent rambling e. I'll be offline for about 1.5 hours.


At 7:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Got the email. Thanks for bringing sunshine into my dark morning...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:34 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

have been reading but am in singing school at Brockwell this week and too tired to think once I get home. I too sometimes have problems getting Kevin's site and the IT guy said to close my other things before opening his because of the number of pics. It really helped the time factor.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Perhaps somebody should send Kevin a message and let him know. He could solve the problem by archiving posts every few days or so.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been checking with some folks. Seems to be the case. Unusual but not something that has never recurred occasionally.

Jeani, by the way, thanks for a "certain" link you gave me some weeks ago. Turned out to be just the thing I needed.


At 2:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm at Yonsei University currently, and I can easily access Kevin's site on this university computer, so the problem must be all those photos that download slowly on my home laptop.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The local college here too has a rather more impressive speed than what I experience at home. But on campus is a dedicated sat-link, mucho bandwidth.

I didn't realize however you were accessing via a laptop.

But I feel comfortable still in saying, "I don't know."


At 2:57 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Neither do I, actually.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check "e", I wish I wasn't so dadburned curious.


At 7:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


(And yes, you are a curious fellow...)

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:53 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

I can try adjusting the frequency of archiving if that will help. Sorry if the pics are causing problems!

I do know that I'm not reducing file sizes when I upload pics to the site, which is something I always did on my other blog. Most days, I simply don't have the time (or the software) to do the necessary reducing, cropping, etc.

Photos from my digicam are 314dpi; before I started the Walk, I would normally reduce the resolution to 72dpi, resulting in far smaller file sizes. But I don't have access to Photoshop and can't always get on an actual computer (my BlackBerry also takes hi-res pics which I don't reduce, but the blog renders them as linked thumbnails on which you can click to get the full-size image).

Anyway, I'll check into the archiving issue. Perhaps that will help.


At 11:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin. I do want to follow your walk. Keep on truckin' . . . or walkin'.

Jeffery Hodges

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