The Story of Us
The internet didn’t exist when I was growing up.
I belong to the final generation who had to use card catalogs to look up books and microfiche.
Wild, I know!
I remember going to the public library a few times a week to use the World Book Britannica for homework assignments.
I knew that the knowledge inside those massive volumes was specially curated and cultivated to tell only one side of the story.
I remember using the World Book to research the Japanese Internment for a U.S. history class.
I only found a few short paragraphs describing three terrible years, 1942-1945, in an enormous volume labeled “J.”
The entry was a cursory overview of Roosevelt’s executive order number
9066, written from a federal and military perspective.
There was no mention of what happened to the Japanese Americans who were rounded up.
There was no mention of holding areas like the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California.
Here, families wearing numbered tags huddled in horse stalls, waiting to disappear into camps across different deserts.
I had so many questions about this historical entry that read like swiss cheese.
What were their stories?
What happened to their homes, businesses, and places of worship?
What was it like inside the camps?
Were families separated?
Did people die there?
Were people born there?
I was struck by how the voices and memories of interned Japanese Americans were so easily erased from a book of history that was supposed to tell entire peoples’ stories.
I remember asking myself, “Who gets to decide who is part of “us” anyway?”
It’s nice to have Google now to help us expand our knowledge.
However, there is still so much more to the story of Us than we can ever understand through search engine algorithms.
We are walking texts.
We are the primary sources of our own lives and communities.
We have stories to tell that no book could ever fully convey.
In her iconic book, “Soul Stories: African American Christian Education,” Christian educator Anne Streaty Wimberly reminds us that our lives are woven into a great cloud of witnesses.
We are story-bearers who continue to tell about the lives of the faithful who have gone before us.
By adding our stories, we weave them into the patterns left to us by our ancestors, into scripture and its interpretations, and into the stories to come with future generations.
Our stories must be told and etched onto one another’s hearts.
Stories tie people together and help create a more profound and broader sense of “Us.”
As adults who study Christian education, we sometimes forget to pause and tell our stories alongside the Bible stories we teach.
We might think our stories are too mundane to share, or some of our stories might be far too painful to tell.
The heart of Christian education reminds us that we have stories worth passing on and worth hearing in and across communities.
The work of Christian education helps us initiate the weaving together of our stories with those who have gone before us.
In our busy lives, we can forget to share our stories and listen to those around us.
Attending to our stories and others’ stories in adulthood through self-reflection paired with an outward posture of openness connects us with communities and people in ways that deepen our theological and spiritual lives.
For most of us, there won’t be even a cursory encyclopedia entry about our lives.
It’s up to us to tell our tale, connect our histories with the past and present, and propel our narratives into shared futures.
What are the stories you need to share? What are the stories that
you might pause to hear today?
If you’re interested in sharing on your experiences and reviewing how current topics and trends impact ministry, take a look at my upcoming online course, Contemporary Readings in Christian Education: Adult Religious Education.
Univ. of Washington, BA; Princeton Theological Seminary, ThM and MDiv; Claremont School of Theology, PhD. Christine J. Hong is an Assistant Professor of Educational Ministries at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.
Her interests include anti-colonial and de-colonial approaches to religious and interreligious education and life. Hong’s interests also include Asian American spiritualties, and the spiritual and theological formation of children and adolescents among people of color communities. Hong is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has spent time as both as a religious educator and youth and young adult minister in New York and Southern California. She is the author of numerous articles, chapters in books, and two monographs, the first is, Youth, Identity, and Gender in the Korean American Church, published by Palgrave, and the second is, Teaching and Learning with Intercultural and Interreligious Intelligence forthcoming from Lexington Press.