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by Phung Banh
MANIFESTO STATEMENT

You were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world

Journeys of Becoming

Brandi Miller

Based out of Seattle, Brandi Miller is the host of Reclaiming My Theology, a space to take out theology back from ideas and systems that oppress. She is a staff member and justice program director with a college campus ministry and works at the intersection of faith, politics and justice.

Who we are, in all of our messy human-ness, matters. As we set our trajectory toward being people of peace in the world, it comes as no surprise that often the things that have formed us or are a part of us too need peace brought to them. We are not robots or shells of people trying to restore shalom, but rather individuals that are parts of cultures and nations within a global community that is in need of collective healing. The stories that we write with our lives have the potential to not only bring restoration now, but to form legacies of peace that follow us. It is the very intersection of who God made us to be in all of our cultural identity, and the needs of the world, that pave a pathway to our unique contributions to God’s healing work. At the core, there is a simple truth as we find ourselves caught up in God’s redemptive story: You were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world. 

The story of God has always worked through people’s cultures and unique stories, not in spite of them.

Our cultural identity is expressed through the world as we live our stories out. It is the complex combination of the places, people, ideas, histories, politics, and experiences that have formed us. Who we are exists at these complicated intersections. In this social and political moment, with so much division and chaos around identity, it could be tempting to believe that nothing good comes from exploring our culture and stories, that it is simply another concept that divides an already divided world. It may seem frivolous or self indulgent to do the deep work of knowing who we are over the long haul when there are so many needs present to engage with outside of ourselves right now. The problem is that, as people attempting to follow Jesus, the story of God has always worked through people’s cultures and unique stories, not in spite of them. 

Stepping into God’s Story

The loop of cultural narrative and expression are demonstrably obvious in the story of Moses. His background and life are complicated to say the least. He is born of a Hebrew mother in the midst of an infanticide (Ex. 1:15-22). Pharaoh, after enslaving Moses’s people, becomes fearful that they will be too powerful and begins to enact violence against their children. This political backdrop intersected with the faithfulness of midwives who refuse to do violence is the moment that Moses enters the world. He is then put in a basket by his mother and sent down the river in hopes that he might have a better life. Before Moses is even 6 months old, the political and social realities of his world, shape his culture and experience deeply. He is rescued by the Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the trappings and locations of power. This is a complicated reality. Moses is now a Hebrew but with a bi-cultural identity. He is Hebrew and knows who his people are, but those very people are enslaved to the people that raised him. 

The journey of discovering the beauty of our stories comes as we figure out who we are, who God is, and look at both the failures and successes of our lives to ask where God might be inviting us.

From there we find that Moses lives in the legacy of the freedom-bringing, life-protecting midwives before him. He sees, as I imagine he has many times before, an Egyptian slave driver abusing his people and, taking justice into his own hands, he kills the abuser. His attempts to do “right” only make his own people afraid of him and he is forced to flee to a 3rd culture, that of the Midianites in the wilderness. At this point in Moses’ life, it would be hard to see his culture as a gift. His own character dysfunction, namely his uncontrolled anger and propensity toward violence, prevent his good desire, the desire for justice, to create peace in the world. His stories don’t seem to be serving him as he navigates being a man on the run and eventually going from spending his time in the courts of power to sheep in the wilderness. 

Many years pass Moses as a shepherd. I imagine the quiet of the wilderness, combined with a lot of time, seemingly decades, did the necessary maturing for him to understand his culture, even in a small way. It is at this point that God iconically calls to him from a bush and knowing who he is in all of his fullness, invites Moses to use his identity as a multi-cultural, complicated storied person to use those very things for the liberation of God's people. 

What Moses’ life tells me is that our stories and our formation matters, and that as we step into ourselves, messiness and all, we step deeper into God’s story. What is striking about Moses, among many many other people in the Bible, is that like us, they don’t have control of most of what shapes them and their culture, only how they respond in each moment. The journey of discovering the beauty of our stories comes as we figure out who we are, who God is, and look at both the failures and successes of our lives to ask where God might be inviting us. Moses’ story is famous because when he partners with God to emancipate the Hebrews, he does so with the language of power, experience in the wilderness, and a desire for justice for his people. 

Some of us, before we can bring peace to the world, need to make peace in and of ourselves.

Making Peace with Ourselves

Moses likely carries his story and experience of his culture with a mixed bag of emotions - anger, shame, despair, and hope. He is like us. We may want to be bearers of peace in the world, but may not have taken the time to ask God who we are and who we are being invited to become. God is aware of our stories, God is aware of the world we live in, and God is gracious to us in our discovery of how that all works together. We need to lean into this. 

It is imperative, if we are to know and honor God, that we honor the people that God creates. This is easy to do in a more disconnected way as we seek justice, freedom and peace for others, but is less easy to do for ourselves. If we are to honor God, we must honor the person and culture that we embody. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a challenge to love those that you don’t know and spend time with, yet, many of us go without asking ourselves and those around us, who we are and who we are becoming. Some of us, before we can bring peace to the world, need to make peace in and of ourselves and in so, join God on the journey of partnering for the renewal and healing of all things, including our cultural identities. 

We start this journey where we are, God doesn’t expect that we would start elsewhere. The journey of becoming who we are is, obviously, a lifelong one, but the earlier we start the work of figuring out who we are becoming, the more likely we are to honor the beauty of the people and places that formed us as well as who we are as a result. There are countless stories in the Scriptures to guide us, to offer us grace, and to help us see the countless and expansive ways that God works to redeem all parts of God’s people such that they would work for and live at peace with themselves and their world.

Who we are, in all of our messy human-ness, matters. As we set our trajectory toward being people of peace in the world, it comes as no surprise that often the things that have formed us or are a part of us too need peace brought to them. We are not robots or shells of people trying to restore shalom, but rather individuals that are parts of cultures and nations within a global community that is in need of collective healing. The stories that we write with our lives have the potential to not only bring restoration now, but to form legacies of peace that follow us. It is the very intersection of who God made us to be in all of our cultural identity, and the needs of the world, that pave a pathway to our unique contributions to God’s healing work. At the core, there is a simple truth as we find ourselves caught up in God’s redemptive story: You were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world. 

Our cultural identity is expressed through the world as we live our stories out. It is the complex combination of the places, people, ideas, histories, politics, and experiences that have formed us. Who we are exists at these complicated intersections. In this social and political moment, with so much division and chaos around identity, it could be tempting to believe that nothing good comes from exploring our culture and stories, that it is simply another concept that divides an already divided world. It may seem frivolous or self indulgent to do the deep work of knowing who we are over the long haul when there are so many needs present to engage with outside of ourselves right now. The problem is that, as people attempting to follow Jesus, the story of God has always worked through people’s cultures and unique stories, not in spite of them. 

Stepping into God’s Story

The loop of cultural narrative and expression are demonstrably obvious in the story of Moses. His background and life are complicated to say the least. He is born of a Hebrew mother in the midst of an infanticide (Ex. 1:15-22). Pharaoh, after enslaving Moses’s people, becomes fearful that they will be too powerful and begins to enact violence against their children. This political backdrop intersected with the faithfulness of midwives who refuse to do violence is the moment that Moses enters the world. He is then put in a basket by his mother and sent down the river in hopes that he might have a better life. Before Moses is even 6 months old, the political and social realities of his world, shape his culture and experience deeply. He is rescued by the Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the trappings and locations of power. This is a complicated reality. Moses is now a Hebrew but with a bi-cultural identity. He is Hebrew and knows who his people are, but those very people are enslaved to the people that raised him. 

From there we find that Moses lives in the legacy of the freedom-bringing, life-protecting midwives before him. He sees, as I imagine he has many times before, an Egyptian slave driver abusing his people and, taking justice into his own hands, he kills the abuser. His attempts to do “right” only make his own people afraid of him and he is forced to flee to a 3rd culture, that of the Midianites in the wilderness. At this point in Moses’ life, it would be hard to see his culture as a gift. His own character dysfunction, namely his uncontrolled anger and propensity toward violence, prevent his good desire, the desire for justice, to create peace in the world. His stories don’t seem to be serving him as he navigates being a man on the run and eventually going from spending his time in the courts of power to sheep in the wilderness. 

Many years pass Moses as a shepherd. I imagine the quiet of the wilderness, combined with a lot of time, seemingly decades, did the necessary maturing for him to understand his culture, even in a small way. It is at this point that God iconically calls to him from a bush and knowing who he is in all of his fullness, invites Moses to use his identity as a multi-cultural, complicated storied person to use those very things for the liberation of God's people. 

What Moses’ life tells me is that our stories and our formation matters, and that as we step into ourselves, messiness and all, we step deeper into God’s story. What is striking about Moses, among many many other people in the Bible, is that like us, they don’t have control of most of what shapes them and their culture, only how they respond in each moment. The journey of discovering the beauty of our stories comes as we figure out who we are, who God is, and look at both the failures and successes of our lives to ask where God might be inviting us. Moses’ story is famous because when he partners with God to emancipate the Hebrews, he does so with the language of power, experience in the wilderness, and a desire for justice for his people. 

Making Peace with Ourselves

Moses likely carries his story and experience of his culture with a mixed bag of emotions - anger, shame, despair, and hope. He is like us. We may want to be bearers of peace in the world, but may not have taken the time to ask God who we are and who we are being invited to become. God is aware of our stories, God is aware of the world we live in, and God is gracious to us in our discovery of how that all works together. We need to lean into this. 

It is imperative, if we are to know and honor God, that we honor the people that God creates. This is easy to do in a more disconnected way as we seek justice, freedom and peace for others, but is less easy to do for ourselves. If we are to honor God, we must honor the person and culture that we embody. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a challenge to love those that you don’t know and spend time with, yet, many of us go without asking ourselves and those around us, who we are and who we are becoming. Some of us, before we can bring peace to the world, need to make peace in and of ourselves and in so, join God on the journey of partnering for the renewal and healing of all things, including our cultural identities. 

We start this journey where we are, God doesn’t expect that we would start elsewhere. The journey of becoming who we are is, obviously, a lifelong one, but the earlier we start the work of figuring out who we are becoming, the more likely we are to honor the beauty of the people and places that formed us as well as who we are as a result. There are countless stories in the Scriptures to guide us, to offer us grace, and to help us see the countless and expansive ways that God works to redeem all parts of God’s people such that they would work for and live at peace with themselves and their world.

The story of God has always worked through people’s cultures and unique stories, not in spite of them.
The journey of discovering the beauty of our stories comes as we figure out who we are, who God is, and look at both the failures and successes of our lives to ask where God might be inviting us.
Some of us, before we can bring peace to the world, need to make peace in and of ourselves.
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by Sophia Park

Kimchi Jar Baptism

Tasha Jun

Tasha is a biracial Korean American melancholy day-dreamer, wife to Matt, and mama to three little warriors. She’s lived and stood in places where cultures collide for as long as she can remember, and most days you’ll find her homesick and thinking about identity, belonging, and lost things becoming found. You can read more from Tasha at tashajun.com.

0:00
0:00

My mom fell into a kimchi jar 

at night

She was twelve.

She tells me 

how the red stained her clothes

soaked into her thick hair

like conditioner.

How she shouldn’t have 

snuck out in the first place.

She tells me stories like these.

I listen

to the sound 

of mahogany-colored earth under her size five feet:

stories of roads that lead nowhere

roads that lead to more questions.


My mom sang me a song at night.

After she pressed 

the blankets all around my body,

the way she tucked tasty things tight

into Mandu skins

she sang a song about a bunny far from home

My mom sang 

songs of longing and lament

while she leaned over our American sink

washing the remnants of our Korean dinner down the drain.


My mom gave me a kimchi jar

in my thirties

I told her I was ready

to baptize the cabbage 

in salty water. 

She prepared the spicy paste 

and instructed me 

in songs and poetry:

A pinch here,

A stanza there,

metaphors for spirituality stirred 

everywhere.

There are no measuring spoons 

or fractions

Her recipes are love

they are story jars

They are her remembering 

how it felt to be submerged 

in kimchi juice,

The ingredients sloshing

surrounding

staining

sustaining her until

She emerged,

surrendered

to the color, scent, and story,

God-given,

Too pungent and vibrant 

to be hidden.

We dressed the prepared leaves

with red

like blood

bright sirens 

of flavor and healing.

I fall into these stories

I sing the same sad songs

I paint the same paste on the doorposts

of my cultural identity

and discover a reflection in red

I see  하나님 모습  in my hands

pressed deep 

into a kimchi jar.

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Pax Culture Loop: A Reflective Journey To Better Understand Cultural Identity

J.W. Buck

Josh is a co-founder of Pax. He has a B.A. in Biblical studies, M.A. in Ministry, and is working on a P.h.D. in Intercultural Studies. His doctoral work involves qualitative research that platforms the voices and stories that have experienced racially motivated violence. He is an adjunct professor at Eternity Bible College, was the co-founding pastor of Antioch City Church of Los Angeles, and is co-founder of an after-school arts program in L.A. called AMP Los Angeles. He has produced and directed documentary films including the life story of Dr. John Perkins. His wife Sarswatie and three kids (Aahana, Anaia, & Azariah) all live in South Bend, Indiana.

Culture Loop

You were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world. The Culture Loop is a tool to help you better understand the beauty of your own culture. 

The concept of culture is generally defined as a group of people’s way of life - the behaviors, beliefs, values, stories, and symbols that they accept and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. Our culture is an essential part of who God made us to be. Sadly, the concept of culture has also historically been used to dehumanize, coerce, and marginalize people. Many people don’t even know what their culture is. The Culture Loop is meant to demystify and offer a basic understanding of culture in order for you to have a tool that equips and empowers you to reclaim and develop your cultural identity. The better you know your own culture and how it works, the easier it is to also reject rhetoric and ideology that keep you from flourishing as a cultural being. 


Cultural Identity 

Your cultural identity is the narratives and expressions that you hold most dear to your heart. These narratives and expressions are at the crossroads of your values and morals. In other words, we grow up surrounded by cultural expressions and stories that create a vision of life that we consider good, right, and preferable.

Narratives

Your cultural identity is built on the foundation of stories. This is the top half of the culture loop. These stories help you answer some of life’s most important questions. They tell us right from wrong, who is our enemy, who is our friend, how to interpret our thoughts and feelings, and what to think about people that act differently than us. We receive these stories from our families, our ethnic heritage, from the generation we find ourselves located in, from our nation, and from our religion.

Reflection Questions 

What narratives (stories) are most important to you?

In what ways do these narratives give you meaning and purpose?

Which of these narratives do you look at negatively?


Expression

The second part of our cultural identity is the ongoing expressions that we engage in. This is the bottom half of the culture loop. We have daily habits, routines, and traditions that have cultural meaning. In many cases, we just grow up “doing what we do,” not even knowing that we are largely driven by these cultural habits. Some of these expressions carry great cultural significance in our life while others do not. As the culture loop shows, these expressions almost always relate to our cultural narratives. The top half of the loop reinforces the bottom half of the loop and vice versa.   

Reflection Questions

Think about your daily rhythm: How might the things you eat, the places you go, and the choices you make represent cultural expressions?

What expressions (i.e., actions) are most important to you?

In what ways do these expressions give you meaning and purpose?

Which of these expressions do you look at negatively?


Cultural Identity Discovery

The constant circling of cultural narratives and expressions reveals the deep and inherent power of our cultural identity. It’s important for us to spend time reflecting on the narratives and expressions that drive our own convictions as well as the convictions of others. We also need to consider how the peace and justice of Jesus should shape our cultural identity. Take some time to identify the cultural narratives and cultural expressions that dehumanize others and then begin to imagine what stories and expressions from the life of Jesus can lead us out of the injustice that surrounds our bodies, our communities, and our world.      

Reflection Questions

How do your cultural narratives and cultural expressions drive your convictions?

How does (or should) your faith shape your cultural identity?

What stories and expressions from the life of Jesus should you factor into your culture loop?

Culture Loop

You were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world. The Culture Loop is a tool to help you better understand the beauty of your own culture. 

The concept of culture is generally defined as a group of people’s way of life - the behaviors, beliefs, values, stories, and symbols that they accept and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. Our culture is an essential part of who God made us to be. Sadly, the concept of culture has also historically been used to dehumanize, coerce, and marginalize people. Many people don’t even know what their culture is. The Culture Loop is meant to demystify and offer a basic understanding of culture in order for you to have a tool that equips and empowers you to reclaim and develop your cultural identity. The better you know your own culture and how it works, the easier it is to also reject rhetoric and ideology that keep you from flourishing as a cultural being. 


Cultural Identity 

Your cultural identity is the narratives and expressions that you hold most dear to your heart. These narratives and expressions are at the crossroads of your values and morals. In other words, we grow up surrounded by cultural expressions and stories that create a vision of life that we consider good, right, and preferable.

Narratives

Your cultural identity is built on the foundation of stories. This is the top half of the culture loop. These stories help you answer some of life’s most important questions. They tell us right from wrong, who is our enemy, who is our friend, how to interpret our thoughts and feelings, and what to think about people that act differently than us. We receive these stories from our families, our ethnic heritage, from the generation we find ourselves located in, from our nation, and from our religion.

Reflection Questions 

What narratives (stories) are most important to you?

In what ways do these narratives give you meaning and purpose?

Which of these narratives do you look at negatively?


Expression

The second part of our cultural identity is the ongoing expressions that we engage in. This is the bottom half of the culture loop. We have daily habits, routines, and traditions that have cultural meaning. In many cases, we just grow up “doing what we do,” not even knowing that we are largely driven by these cultural habits. Some of these expressions carry great cultural significance in our life while others do not. As the culture loop shows, these expressions almost always relate to our cultural narratives. The top half of the loop reinforces the bottom half of the loop and vice versa.      

Reflection Questions

Think about your daily rhythm: How might the things you eat, the places you go, and the choices you make represent cultural expressions?

What expressions (i.e., actions) are most important to you?

In what ways do these expressions give you meaning and purpose?

Which of these expressions do you look at negatively?


Cultural Identity Discovery

The constant circling of cultural narratives and expressions reveals the deep and inherent power of our cultural identity. It’s important for us to spend time reflecting on the narratives and expressions that drive our own convictions as well as the convictions of others. We also need to consider how the peace and justice of Jesus should shape our cultural identity. Take some time to identify the cultural narratives and cultural expressions that dehumanize others and then begin to imagine what stories and expressions from the life of Jesus can lead us out of the injustice that surrounds our bodies, our communities, and our world.      

Reflection Questions

How do your cultural narratives and cultural expressions drive your convictions?

How does (or should) your faith shape your cultural identity?

What stories and expressions from the life of Jesus should you factor into your culture loop?

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MYTH   >