Monday, December 26, 2011

A New Wave of Scholarship

I came to the United States in 1984 to begin my doctoral studies at Harvard Divinity School. It was an exciting time to do feminist theology and religious studies. Womanist ethics just began to emerge, as Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon had just completed a dissertation on the subject at Union Theological Seminary in 1983. I count it as a blessing that she was teaching at the Episcopal Divinity School, on the other side of the Cambridge Common.

The mid-1980s saw the paradigm shifts in feminist studies in religion, as womanist, mujerista/Latina, Asian and Asian American women began to articulate their own theological understanding. If Womanspirit Rising (1979) was a reference text for our field, which contains essays by white women, we had the first reader by radical women of color, This Bridge Called Our Back (1981).

We began to discuss multiple oppressions and multiple identities, and the need to integrate race, class, and gender into our analyses. We challenged white women who have universalized their middle-class, white experience as if women are all the same.

In the past several years, I participated in a group investigating the intersections among race, sexuality, and postcoloniality, since we were using critical race theory, queer studies, and postcolonial theory in our work. We wanted to see what are the commonalities and differences if we looked at the intersections through different racial lenses, sexual practices, and (post)colonial experiences.

I am glad to see many new works have been published that push us to see the intersections in radically new ways. The subtitle of Strange Affinities is worth paying attention to: “The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization.” The cutting-edge essays explore the production of racialized, genderized, and sexualized difference, and the possibilities for progressive coalitions or the “strange affinities.” Even the headings of the different sections make me think, “alternative identifications,” “undisciplined knowledges,” and “unincorporated territories, interrupted times.”

If you are one of those who think psychoanalysis is nothing more than a mind trick of middle-class Europeans, think again. Unconscious Dominions says, “By the 1920s, psychoanalysis was a technology of both the late-colonial state and anti-imperialism.” In Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism, Ranjana Khanna reveals “the psychical strife of colonial and postcolonial modernity.” The collection of essays in Unconscious Dominions pushes the envelope even further, with the ambitious subtitle “Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties.” The contributions touch on French West Africa, Algeria, Australian aborigine, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Haiti. It is nothing less than “psychoanalysis writing back.”

If you are puzzled by why the police and officials used so much force to harass and arrest the peaceful Occupiers, Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the US State will offer you much food for thought. Chandan Reddy examines “a crucial contradiction at the heart of modernity: the nation-state’s claim to provide freedom from violence depends on its systematic deployment of violence against peoples perceived as nonnormative and irrational.” Remember that Newt Gingrich told the Occupiers to “go get a job right after you take a bath”?

If I belong to the generation that has pushed against the boundary of the white canon and scholarship, I see a new wave of scholarship is on the horizon. This new wave radically interrogates assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, culture, national citizenship, global sovereignty and global futures. Brilliant and groundbreaking, these new works stretch our static concepts and methods, introduce the new vocabularies of globalized unconscious and fragmentation of sovereignties, and investigate the connection between violence and social formations of difference. It theorizes the nation and the global in ways much more sophistically than what our generation has done.

There is a time lag between religious scholarship and scholarship in other disciplines, usually about 10-15 years. Edward W. Said published Orientalism in 1978, and the first essay on postcolonial biblical criticism by R. S. Sugirtharajah was not published until 1994. The first book on postcolonial theology appeared in 2004.

I sincerely hope that the upcoming generation of religious scholars will catch up sooner and engage with this new wave of scholarship in earnest. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jesus Would Have Been Born in the Camp

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy London. Occupy Harvard. Occupy your school. Occupy your office. Occupy everything.

Occupy Christmas? Yes, Jesus would have been born in the camp.

On October 27, the Rev. Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, spoke about his resignation because of his objection to the use of force to evict the protesters of Occupy London Stock Exchange, who have camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

He said, “What the camp does is challenge the church with the problem of the incarnation – that you have God who is grand and almighty, who gets born in a stable. St Paul was a tent maker. If you tried to recreate where Jesus would have been born, for me I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp.”

Even if Jesus was not born in the camp, he would certainly join the Occupy movement, for he was part of Occupy the Temple of his day.


Jesus and the Disciples in an Occupy Drum Circle by Sudeep Johnson
When I saw this picture with the article on The Huffington Post, I began to laugh. Yes, Jesus and the moneychangers. How could we have forgotten?

Don’t the conservatives always ask, “What would Jesus do?” Tell them, Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables and drove them from sacred ground. As Richard Eskow said, “It’s hard to describe Jesus’ action against the moneychangers in today’s terms without calling it ‘Occupy the Temple.’”

Now the police and officials have raided the tent-cities in the U.S. The once vibrant encampment at Dewey Square in Boston is no more. When you pass through it today, the ground has been resodded and you would have not guessed that some 100 tents were there just over two weeks ago.

So this is it? Not quite.

I went to the general assembly at the Boston Common the night after the campsite was raided at 5 a.m. on December 10 to support the Occupiers. The Dewey Square camp was the longest continuous campsite in the U.S.—for 72 days. It was a peaceful demonstration and yet the authorities would not allow it to continue. 

But the Occupy movement was never about seizing public lands and establishing tent-cities. In this new Occupy 2.0, the movement depends on community and grassroots support. In Boston, St. Paul’s Cathedral was the first to open their sanctuary for the Occupiers to meet on December 13. Dean Jep Streit said that the church is not taking sides, but wants to provide a space for the important conversations for economic justice to continue.

In England, Occupy London Stock Exchange continues to camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. They will remain there until January 11, 2012, when the High Court makes its decision on eviction. The camp now has about 150 tents.

Asked in Radio Times what Jesus would do in response to the Occupy group, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said he would be there “sharing the risks, asking the long and hard questions.”

At the Christ Church Cathedral at St. Louis, Missouri, the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, USA, also made connection between Jesus and the Occupy movement. She said in her sermon “I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers. . . The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks.  Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.”

Churches in the U.S. have long been involved in social movements: anti-slavery, temperance, women’s liberation, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender liberation. On this Christmas day, I hope churches will provide hospitality for this movement to continue.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Postcolonial Theory and Newt

Who says that postcolonial theory is too difficult and abstract, and can only be discussed among the academics in their ivory tower?

No, it is discussed on the pages of the New York Times, in the heat of presidential politics. By whom? By the witty, irreverent, and red-hair op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd.

The same Maureen Dowd who wrote about the spellbound love story of Patti Smith, the volatility of Steve Jobs, and the sexual abuse at Penn State?

It is sometimes easy to forget that she was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize on commentary, and has been a White House correspondent and covered four presidential campaigns. She is so smart and covers much more than politics.

She knows Newt, in depth. Many of us know that Newt Gingrich, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential contest, is a historian—a pricey one at that. He charges about $1.6 million from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for consultation fee as a “historian.” The American Historical Association should crown him its Patron Saint or give him a Life Achievement Award.

Well, what does the professor write on? Novels and serious non-fictions. But he cut his teeth as a historian writing on Africa. On Congo to be precise. His dissertation at Tulane University submitted in 1971 was entitled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960.”

I am one of those busy academics who have heard about this, but have not actually read it. But Dowd told us what Newt wrote in “Out of Africa into Iowa.” Newt said that colonialism under Belgium was both good and bad. Until the Congolese had been educated enough by the colonizers, they were not ready to rule themselves. He also said that we should not “generalize” white exploitation.

Newt is not the only historian defending colonialism. The British historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson is another one. In Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, he states that colonialism is a benign form of global government. The British Empire collapsed not because of decades of struggles of colonized people, but because of the overreach of the Empire. He bemoans the fact that the U.S. is not prepared to take up the mantle and finish what the British Empire has started.

Now back to Newt. Congo is a country that captivates all postcolonials. Why, because Joseph Conrad wrote The Heart of Darkness, based on Congo. Edward W. Said has written about the novella again and again. Did Conrad try to contrast the darkness of the continent with the “light of civilization?” Or did he try to demonstrate the brutality of the Belgian colonial regime and the self-doubt of Marlow? Where can we locate the “darkness”—in the natives or in the hearts of the colonizers?

As a historian, Newt fails repeatedly to read the signs of the time. At the height of the civil rights and Black Power movement and global protest in 1971, he sided with the colonizers. In 2011, forty years later, the former professor has not become wiser. At the height of the Occupy movement, he said that the poor people are poor because they are lazy. He said we should abolish children labor laws so that the poor kids can work as janitors. He sides with the 1 percent.

Newt, the 99 percent are not stupid. They are the ones who will decide whether you can become the president or not.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said George Santayana. If the American people did not know the true color of Newt the first time he was around, they should know it by now. Otherwise, God save America.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running for the President of the American Academy of Religion

“Pui Lan, would you be willing to run for the Vice-President of AAR?” the chair of the Nominations Committee of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) called and asked me back in April 2008.

The AAR, with 10,000 members, is the world’s largest professional organization of scholars in religion. The majority of its members are from the U.S., but approximately 17 percent are international scholars from over 70 countries.

It was a great honor to have been nominated—for the Vice-President would be in line to become the President in 2011. The problem was that there would be an election and I would have to compete with another candidate, who happened to be a professor at Harvard University.

I thought, “If I win, that’s good. But what happens if I lose?”

That spring Hillary Clinton was competing with Barack Obama to be the nominee for the Democratic Party. She lost to Obama in the Iowa caucus and fought back tears after being asked how she kept going in New Hampshire.

Although I was rooting for Obama, I was deeply impressed by Clinton’s courage to face defeat after defeat so publicly.

I asked myself, “If Clinton can face losses in such a public way, what do I have to lose?”

Yes, what have I got to lose?

I decided to run for the AAR presidency because I wanted to stand up for others. Even when I was a doctoral student, I was frequently invited to speak in meetings in churches and academia. I would be the lone Asian woman speaking on a panel.

I generally preferred to stand up when speaking so that the audience could see me. Very often after my speech, there would be a soft-spoken, timid Asian female student, who would come up to tell me that she was glad to see me standing and speaking. In the 1980s, an Asian feminist theologian was a rare sight.

So when I received the call, I remembered these Asian women students who once told me they were proud to see an Asian woman standing. When I said yes, I was answering to a larger call in life.

In a Wabash workshop for pre-tenured Asian and Asian American faculty, I said that as leaders, we have to bring the tribe along. Those of us who are pioneers have the responsibility of opening the door a little wider for others to come.

After Hillary lost, she told the misty crowd gathered at Washington’s National Building Museum: “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” She also said, “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

I have received many awards and recognitions in life. The AAR presidency would be like icing on the cake. Like Hillary, I want to make the path a little easier for others next time.

In the 102 years of history of the AAR, only seven or eight racial and ethnic minority scholars have been elected as President. I am the second person of Asian descent to have been elected; the first one was Professor Vasudha Narayanan of the University of Florida, who specializes in Hinduism. She was also the first woman of color to have served in this prestigious position.

Some Asian American scholars and students organized a banquet to honor me on the eve of the AAR annual meeting at San Francisco on November 18. I said to them, “Tomorrow night I will deliver the Presidential Address. I hope that many years later, you will remember that I stood up and spoke from the podium.” I wanted to encourage them to answer the call and accept invitations and challenges that come their way. If I can stand up, they can too. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sugirtharajah's Exploring Postcolonial Biblical Criticism

R. S. Sugirtharajah and Pui Lan, 2010
What is the need for another introduction to postcolonial biblical criticism? Didn’t Sugirtharajah publish the highly acclaimed Postcolonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation (Oxford 2002) almost a decade ago? The answers to these questions are simple: postcolonial biblical criticism keeps on developing.

This text begins with an introductory chapter on postcolonial theory and concludes with an afterword that discusses the future of postcolonial biblical criticism. It charts the development of the field, criticizes Orientalist reading practices, and offers helpful reading strategies. It includes a chapter by Ralph Broadbent summarizing the foundational texts in postcolonial biblical criticism.

On the back cover, Stephen D. Moore says the book is accessible to novices, but “old hands will also learn enormously from it.” I couldn’t agree more. 

The first chapter offers an updated development of the postcolonial condition. In the past, postcolonialism was based on what Gayatri Spivak has called a “South Asian model.” But today’s Empire is decentered and deterritorialized (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) and different from the previous colonial period. I detect urgency in the book to address economic inequity brought by globalization. Sugirtharajah said, in the early stage, postcolonial critics focused on political independence of former colonies. Then attention moved onto the dislocation and displacement of migrants and diasporans. Today, postcolonialism must address global hunger and the plight of the rural poor and peasants (20). In this way, the book wants to respond constructively to the persistent Marxist critiques of postcolonial biblical criticism by David Jobling, Roland Boer, and Gerald West.

I was struck by Sugirtharajah’s suggestion that biblical studies be considered an essential component of Oriental studies. In Orientalism, Edward Said already indicted the philological work of Ernest Renan, a major contributor to the historical quest of Jesus in the nineteenth century (author of Vie de Jésus, 1863). Placing biblical studies within the parameters of Oriental Studies allowed us to distinctly see how Orientalist archetypes have been reactivated in social-scientific approaches to biblical studies. Sugirtharajah denounced the Orientalist construction of the “Mediterranean” in the works of John Pilch and Bruce Malina. The use of cultural anthropology in biblical studies has created the binary of “us” versus “them,” and gives further support to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Said’s contrapuntal reading has been well known in postcolonial criticism. In this book, Sugirtharajah insightfully uses Said’s exposition of “late style” to discuss the writings of Paul and John. Said discusses the two contrasting late styles found in artists and thinkers during the twilight of their creative careers. One is wisdom, serenity, and harmony. The other fascinates Said for its display of “intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction.” In music (Said was an accomplished pianist and music critic), Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and Mozart’s “Cosi  fan tutte” demonstrated this late style.

Sugirtharajah says that Paul’s Romans represents the first late style. According to Acts, he was a troublemaker and arrested for resisting Roman authorities numerous times. But in Romans, he became mellow and told his followers to submit to the authorities (Rom. 13). John’s Book of Revelation represents the other late style, if John is taken to be the same author of the Fourth Gospel. The Book of Revelation is uncompromising in its anti-imperial stance, in sharp contrast to the apolitical nature of the Gospel of John.

The volume addresses the issue that male postcolonial biblical critics have not paid attention to feminist issues. Broadbent’s chapter includes a section on “postcolonialism and feminism” (83-86). Sugirtharajah points his readers to resources on mutual criticism between feminists and postcolonial critics (19-20), criticizes the misogyny in the Book of Revelation (161), and challenges the use of gender stereotypes in the construction of the Mediterranean (107-108). These are good attempts – but much more can be said.

The contribution of queer studies to postcolonial criticism is glaringly missing in the book. The leading queer theorist Judith Butler has written on war, Zionism, and American imperialism. Marcella Althaus-Reid’s work and some of the chapters in The Queer Bible Commentary include analyses of imperial power. Contrary to Sugirtharajah’s comment that the Song of Songs falls outside the concerns of postcolonalism (53), Christopher King’s reading of the Song in The Queer Bible Commentary shows that transgressive love prefers the outsider. This has implications for the construction of the “other,” an issue discussed throughout Sugirtharajah’s book. The intersection between postcolonialism and queer studies has been broached in other fields and ought to be included in discussing the future of postcolonial biblical criticism.

*This review first appeared in the Journal of Postcolonial Networks, November 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Published

In the past two years, two very talented racial and ethnic minority colleagues were denied tenure by their universities. Among the reasons given was that they did not have enough publications.

I want to share my experience as a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I especially want to speak to those of you who find yourself in the situation that you have little time to write.

To get published, you need to do 5 things:

1. You must have something to say. Many dissertations have been written, but only a very tiny number get published. Why? Because the dissertations have too many footnotes. When I published my first book, one reviewer said that the book had all the features of a dissertation, namely, lots of notes and short summaries. As all doctoral students want to do, I tried to document everything to impress my professors and to avoid plagiarism. I felt comfortable hiding behind what other scholars had said.

After listening to Pamela Johnson, an editor at Fortress Press, speaking to a group of young scholars and students, I knew why so many dissertations cannot get published. Many dissertations use many chapters to rehearse or explain what other scholars have said about the subject. This is called literature review. It is only in the final chapter that the author brings out his or her own viewpoints. Editors are not interested in a book full of citations of what others have said. They are interested in what you, as the author, have to say on the subject. Pam asked the audience to imagine what their book would look like if they start from the final chapter.

2. Learn the craft of publishing. Two university presses turned down my dissertation before it got published. I wish William P. Germano’s From Dissertation to Book had been available at that time. Unfortunately the book came out much later. In that book, Bill Germano guides the reader through the process of publishing your first book: from revising your dissertation, reading with an editor’s eyes, to making your prose speak.

Many of us think that if we have some good ideas, we will be able to get them published. Not so. We spent many years honing the skills of writing academic papers. Turning a paper into a published article for a journal is a learning process. Learning to publish a book is a learning process. Over the years, I have read many books on writing. I enjoyed Stephen King’s book On Writing and Bonnie Friedman’s Writing Past Dark. After I asked a professional editor to edit my work, I was surprised that she could spot so many mistakes, while I couldn’t. So I read the book How to Edit Your Own Writing. After the page proofs came back, I needed to know how to mark the corrections. I found out The Chicago Manual has a few chapters in the beginning that I had overlooked. They talk about manuscript editing and proofs. As you can see, I needed to learn each step along the way. When I became an editor, I had to learn many new things. After I submitted the manuscript for my most recent edited volume, Hope Abundant, the editor at Orbis Books was very pleased that the manuscript was in such great shape. I had published with the same editor 16 years ago. I told her that I have learned much about publishing in the intervening years.

3. Make your proposal stand out. Many trade presses have changed their editors in the last couple of years and publishing houses have slashed their programs. I spoke to one publisher recently. His press used to publish 75 books a year, but the number was cut to half last year. When I asked why, he said people are not buying books in this economy. Even university presses, which are non-profits, are watching closely the bottom line.

A book sells because of the author and the contents. If you are not yet a well-known author, your book must have a great title and attractive contents. Your proposal must convince the editor that the book will have a market. The marketing people will sit down with the editors in the editorial committee to decide whether to accept or reject your proposal. If your book can be adopted as a textbook, you will have a better chance of getting it published. If you wonder how to write a good proposal, I recommend the book Thinking Like Your Editor by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. The book even contains a sample proposal and a sample chapter. Don’t get discouraged when your proposal is rejected. Trinh T. Minh-ha’s book Women, Native, Other got rejected numerous times. She went on to become an internationally acclaimed cultural critic and filmmaker.

4. Find time to write. I was very impressed by how many books that Miguel De La Torre, Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Mark Jordan, and Daniel Harrington have produced. So I asked them what are their secrets. I found out that they write almost all the time and everyday, except for the weekends. De La Torre wakes up at 5 a.m. and reads and writes for 6 hours 3 to 4 days a week, with the goal of writing 10 pages per week. I must confess that I do not have that discipline.

For racial and ethnic minority scholars, finding time to write is such a luxury. Many of us do not teach in research universities and have a heavy teaching load. We are put on all the committees and we have communities of accountability outside the school.

But I have become convinced that only those of us who can wean ourselves from the electronic gadgets that constantly connect us with the outside world can write and get published. This may sound old-fashioned. But writing is a very lonely business and takes a lot of concentration. We need a stretch of time so that our ideas can simmer and our thoughts can develop.

We have to learn to protect our brain. In his book Crazy Busy, Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating ADD and has ADD himself, says that our culture is producing people with ADT (attention deficit trait). We can’t focus because there are so many attractions. Our attention span becomes short and we are so overwhelmed that we are about to snap. He said, “Being busy may very well keep you from doing what matters most, or it may lead you to do things you deem unwise.” In a very humorous way, he tells us how to address the problems from brain science and psychiatry and encourage us to find our solutions. He even includes a chapter on “Why women have it harder than men.”

5. Nurture Relationships. Here I mean both professional and personal relationships. If the editor has met you and talked with you, she or he will have a face to associate with when she or he is reading the book proposal. I encourage you to introduce yourself to the editors at the book exhibit and tell them the exciting projects you are working on. Get to know the senior scholars in the field so that when they are editing an anthology, they will think of including your work.

Many books begin with an acknowledgment thanking the spouses, partners, and children for their support. Writing may take you away from attending ball games, watching videos, or doing other fun things with family. But sometimes, these distractions keep you sane. Balancing all the demands is a fine art.

I am the advisor with Joerg Rieger to the Religion in Modern World Series of Rowman and Littlefield and co-editor with Ivan Petrella of the Reclaiming Liberation Theology Series of SCM. Religion in Modern World aims at the general audience and focuses on how modernity is reconciled within each religious tradition. Liberation Theology has been considered dead in some circles. SCM publishes works of liberation theology by a new generation of scholars who expand the problematique of liberation theology. I hope to hear from you.

*Presented at a panel on "Getting Published" at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, November 20, 2011.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tips for Presentation

Next weekend, I am going to present the Presidential Address at the American Academy of Religion, since I serve as the president of the organization for 2011. The title of my address will be “Empire and the Study of Religion.” I have already finished writing the paper, so I have time to think about how to present it.

Some time ago when I passed through a bookstore at an airport, I saw a book that analyzes why Steve Jobs’ keynotes to launch new Apple products were so great. I went to look for the book at a local bookstore. The title is The Presentation Secret of Steve Jobs.

I learned a lot from the book and from observing others making great speeches.

  • Look at the audience. Jobs seldom stood behind a lectern reading a text. He moved on the stage and established rapport with his audience. He used a lectern for his Stanford commencement address in 2005, but he looked at the crowd frequently. Body language matters and your face conveys as much as 20 percent of your message. Babies learn much by looking at your face.

  • Provide a road map. In his commencement address, he said, “Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life.” And he proceeded to tell them.

  • Tell the audience why they should care. Your audience has one question in mind, “Why should I care?” You have to answer this at the beginning of your talk to pique people’s interest.

  • Use a conversational tone. We know the ways that techies speak or write. Full of gibberish. We understand little and remember none. Use plain English and a conversational tune. Avoid unnecessary jargons.

  • Speak with passion. If you speak with confidence and passion, people will respond more to what you have to say. If you really don’t care what you are saying, why should other people care?

  • Use visuals wisely. Jobs used very simple slides. No bullet points and not more than a few words on each slide. People come to listen to you. They have not come to read texts on the slides.

  • Create an unexpected moment. Jobs’ presentations always had a WOW moment. In the launch of Macintosh, the computer spoke. To stress the thinness of Macbook Air, he casually pulled one out from within a manila envelope.

  • Obey the ten-minute rule. This is really hard for academics. According to numerous researches, people’s brains wonder and their attention span lasts for only 10-15 minutes. Jobs rarely made long speeches. His Stanford address was 14.11 minutes long. He would do a demo or invite others to share the stage. If you need to make a lecture of 40 minutes, good luck! You have to find ways to capture people’s attention.

  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Jobs made it look so easy, but he rehearsed the presentation for days. His attention to details was legendary. He asked the technician to change the lighting so that the iMac’s translucent color could be shown perfectly.

  • One more thing. Jobs often concluded his keynotes by saying “one more thing.” How do you want to conclude your talk? What do you want to leave on people’s mind?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Christianity in China

Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, China
How many people will come to listen to a lecture on “Women and Christianity in Chinain a small liberal arts college in the Midwest in the United States?

More than 500 showed up and some students had to sit on the floor. Was it about China? Was it about Christianity, since St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, is Catholic? Was it about me, the speaker?

It helped that some professors had assigned my articles for their classes and asked the students to attend the lecture. But still it was amazing to see so many faculty and students.

My lecture was part of St. Ambrose’s University’s China: The Awakening Dragon, a year-long exploration of China’s global impact.

Why the interest in China?

The President and some faculty of St. Ambrose will travel to China next year to explore possible partnerships. Next year 15 Chinese students will arrive on campus to begin a pilot project. With the economic boom in China, many parents want to send their children abroad to study and some of American colleges and universities are eager to court these international students.

I have not been invited to speak about China often because I have mainly spoken at seminaries, divinity schools, and departments of religious studies. These institutions have not awakened to the impact of China in the twenty-first century yet. Many are still very Eurocentric in their curriculum and outlook. Some have just caught up with the American century in the 20th century, and it will be some time before they will finally wake up to face the Pacific Century.

So what about Christianity in China?

We have heard about the shift of Christian demographic to the South, because of the growth of Catholicism and the Pentecostal movement in Africa. Yet China is poised to become the country with the largest number of Christians. And this is happening in a Communist country with a staunch atheist stance.

According to the official statistics from China Christian Council in 2010, there were 23 millions Protestant Christians in China, more than 30 times the figure for 1949 (about 700,000); 56,000 churches and meeting points; and 21 seminaries and Bible schools. But there are a few hundred thousand of house churches that are unregistered, with anywhere between 50-55 million adherents.

The Catholics are estimated to be more than 12 million, worshipping in 6,000 churches, and there are well over 3,000 priests and 5,000 religious sisters.

Relation between the Chinese Catholic Church and the Vatican has been strenuous because the Chinese Catholic Church selected their own bishops, who are not recognized by the Vatican. There are many Catholics who belong to the underground church, which remains loyal to the Pope.

I first visited the churches in China in the early 1980s. The churches were reopened after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the turbulent years when the Gang of Four ruled. All religious activities were suspended; pastors were denounced and sent to be reeducated and church properties confiscated.

When the churches reopened, they decided to stay together and form one post-denominational church. Most of the people who came to church in the 1980s were older people, who have been Christians. The pastors were middle-aged or older. I was impressed by their steadfast faith and perseverance during the Cultural Revolution.

In the fall of 2009, I visited the Chinese churches again and I was surprised by the phenomenal church growth. The priest at a church in Suzhou was only about 30 years old and the preacher was a young woman in her twenties! Some 2,000 people attended church that Sunday and the church could not accommodate all. Latecomers had to go to the conference rooms to participate in worship by watching close-circuit TV.

The largest church in China is Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, which can sit 5,000 people. It is located inside the city, surrounded by tall buildings. Dedicated in 2005, the Church has a nice choir and different programs for different age groups. Before the service, I went to the church’s bookstore to buy the Chinese hymnal, religious books, and CDs of sermons and hymns.

Chinese Christians love to sing and many come to church an hour earlier to learn to sing Christian hymns. Since the reopening of the churches, many new hymns have been composed by Chinese musicians. I was delighted to see that a bilingual version (English and Chinese) of the hymnal was published. This was a labor of love of the late Dr. Wong Wing Hei, who supervised the project when he was in his late eighties.

I wish I would be invited to speak about Christianity in China in seminaries and divinity schools to a large audience, even though it may not be 500.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Boston and the Minjung

Yesterday I went to visit Occupy Boston in Dewy Square by South Station in downtown Boston. Occupy Boston began on September 30, inspired by the much larger Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

Occupy Boston is a tent city with 40-50 tents. It has its reception area, kitchen, portable toilets, and an elevated area used as the stage. Dewey Square is filled to capacity. The attempt to expand to a second camp met with strong resistance from the police. Nearly 150 were arrested on October 11.

One of my students has camped out at Dewey Park since the very beginning. He is an anarchist and has longed for participating in a movement to bring down capitalism for more than 10 years. He cannot believe that there are thousands of people like him who want to challenge corporate greed and the neo-liberal economy.

What is most exciting for him is the leaderless, horizontal organization that is developing. During the general assemblies when they gather for discussion and for decision-making, hand gestures are used to indicate “like,” “dislike,” “yes,” “no” and so forth. This is taking a page from the anarchist’s playbook.

The media at first did not pay much attention to the Occupy movement, describing it as a movement of privileged students. But the people at Occupy Boston are much more diverse: homeless people, older people, and members of the unions. Clergy have shown up and church members have visited the site. It is a coalition of many sectors of the community. Time magazine says it represents “the return of the silent majority.”

The movement declares, “We are the 99 percent.” In the U.S., the top 1 percent gets over 20 percent of the total income.

It was amazing to see that people in more than 950 cities worldwide have organized protests on the International Day of Solidarity with the Occupy Movement on October 15, 2011. In Hong Kong, around 500 protesters gathered outside the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Most of the participants were young and they also used the “We are the 99 percent” slogan.

Several years ago, I have read Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s book Multitude. Instead of class, they used the term multitude to denote the heterogeneous mass of people who will rise up against Empire. The multitude is linked by the Internet, the social media, and mobile devices. Since Empire is transnational, the multitude must also be a global force and represents a new form of politics.

I thought at the time the idea of the multitude is too abstract: who will organize them? And where do they come from? But we have seen the force of the multitude several times in the last decade: during the global demonstrations against the Iraq War and now the Occupy Movement.

Will the multitude have the sustaining power to effect structural changes? It might be too early to tell about the Occupy movement. But one thing I am certain: conversations have begun in the kitchens, classrooms, and living rooms. Our school had a teach-in session facilitated by our President and another professor, who are veterans of social movements.

The Bible has a word for the crowd of people following Jesus. They are called the ochlos (e.g Matt. 4:25; 8:1). In South Korea in the 1970s, minjung theologians used this term to describe the mass of people who are oppressed by society. Minjung comes from two Chinese characters 民众, which mean mass of people. Similar to Hardt and Negri, minjung theologians do not limit minjung to the working or lower class. Women are the minjung when they are oppressed by the patriarchal society. The colonized are minjung when they are dominated by the colonizers.

Minjung theologians say that for too long, the church only pays attention to the laos (laity), and leave out from its purview the ochlos.

Minjung theology was developed during the dictatorial regime of Park Chung-hee. Today South Korea has become much more democratic with significant economic growth. I am not sure that minjung theology is as popular as it once was. Furthermore, the tactics used by minjung theologians, focusing on national political struggle, may not be adequate to fight against Empire.

We will need a more globalized minjung theology, which can speak to the issues of our time. This minjung theology must be transnational, heterogeneous, fluid, and responsive to local needs and issues. This cannot be written by the elites alone, but must be a participatory theological movement from the bottom-up.

I wonder why did Jesus attract great crowds following him? What did they see in the promise of Jesus? Why do the churches not attracting the multitude today?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Theological Education and Interfaith Learning

The Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) has received a grant of $350,000 to support faculty development, curricular revision, and online continued educational programs on religious pluralism. The Luce Grant will enable EDS to offer courses on Islam. The Grant will also enable us to share what we are learning at EDS with the wider Episcopal Church and other faith communities.

Serene Jones during her installation in 2008 as the President of Union Theological Seminary in New York announced that preparing students to minister and work in a religiously pluralistic society would be one of her major strategic initiatives. Paul F. Knitter of the Seminary has been a pioneer in interfaith dialogue and John Thatamanil, a new faculty member, has done innovative work on comparative theology.

Last May, Claremont School of Theology received $50 million from David and Joan Lincoln to establish the Claremont Lincoln University to educate Muslim, Jewish, and Christian spiritual leaders. David Lincoln said, “We believe the outcome of this kind of education will be tolerance and respect among religions and the ability to better address global problems where religious cooperation and cooperating are needed to reach solutions and repair the world.”

Harvard Divinity School

I welcome and salute these various initiatives and innovations to enhance interfaith learning. As a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, I have been exposed to very rich and lively discussions of different religious traditions. Though Wilfred Cantwell Smith had retired from Harvard when I entered as a student, he had come back to lecture and his influences were clearly felt. His book The Meaning and End of Religion, published almost five decades ago, remains a classic in the field.

Center for the Study of World Religions

During 1986-87, I had the fortune of living at the Center for the Study of World Religions opposite the Divinity School. John Carman, a well-known scholar on Hindu culture and religion, was the Center’s director. Riffat Hassan, a leading Muslim feminist scholar, and Kurt Rudolph, who studied the Gnostic tradition, lived on the same floor. My five-year-old daughter became close friends with the children of a Sikh and Jewish couple and the young children of a Buddhist priest from Japan. The Center organized different seminars and talks, and I still remember Carol P. Christ came to speak about the Goddess tradition.

In addition to the events of the Center, I benefited from meeting the research associates of Women’s Studies in Religion Program and other women visiting professors from around the world. Mercy Oduyoye taught a course at the Divinity School during my first year there in 1984. She was working on Hearing and Knowing and began to develop an African feminist theology paying close attention to the indigenous African traditions. Mieke Bal spent a year as research associate, and her lecture on the Book of Judges was just brilliant. I also remember listening to Sylvia Marcos, an anthropologist and a pioneer in studying women in Mesoamerican religions.
Harvard-Yenching Library

This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and multireligious learning has played a critical role in my development as a scholar and teacher. They have nurtured my interest in many fields: biblical studies, the study of religion and culture, and Christian theology.

The Divinity School and the Harvard-Yenching Institute, in close proximity to each other, were my intellectual homes. I had the privilege of studying with some of the most renowned philosophers and historians in Chinese studies. The late Benjamin Schwartz, author of the award-winning The World of Thought in Ancient China, guided my independent study on women and feminism in China. He jokingly said that he was a mild feminist.

One of the world’s leading Confucian scholars Tu Weiming taught me the Confucian and Daoist traditions and served on my dissertation committee. I was very grateful to Paul A. Cohen, a professor at Wellesley College and an authority on Christianity in modern China, who kindly agreed to co-direct my thesis. All these scholars have immense knowledge of philosophy, history, and historiography in the East and the West. They have always encouraged me not to be satisfied with ready-made answers and to search in the gray, in-between areas.

I will be able to share what I have learned about China, the study of religion, and Christianity in the EDS travel seminar to China next summer. My colleague Patrick Cheng will be the co-leader of the seminar and we plan to visit churches, seminaries, Christian organizations, as well as Buddhist temples, a Confucian temple, and the mosque in Xian. I am committed to helping my students to learn about China, a country that is so important for USA and the world in this century. The travel seminar will offer opportunities to learn about different concepts and functions of religion and interactions among different religious traditions in this ancient country.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Steve Jobs May Have Something to Teach Us about Theology

My first computer was an Apple Macintosh. It is still in my attic.

The year was 1985, and I needed a computer for my graduate work, one that was simple and easy to learn. People around me told me to get a Mac. Before coming to the U.S., I took several classes about using a PC, and that was the age when you had to memorize what F7 or F10 stood for. When I heard that the Mac could do everything simply by clicking a little mouse, I was sold.

I liked my Mac so much that when I returned to Hong Kong, I brought it with me. In an age with the laptop and iPad, one possibly can’t imagine how much trouble that would take. I bought a blue canvas bag that was large enough to pack the whole computer. I had to turn the computer on at the security to show that it was really a computer and not something else. I was traveling with my seven-year-old daughter and I put the bag under the seat in front of her as we flew across the Pacific. She loved it because she could put her feet on top of it.

Not many people used the Mac at the time in Hong Kong. I finally had to give it up because the cost of repair was too high.

I didn’t know that iPod would start a cultural revolution when it debuted in 2001. Since then you could see the ubiquitous white earplugs in people’s ears. The little white gadget looks like “some sort of magical water-washed river stone that you just had to have.” Who dreamed of such a design?

I first saw the iPhone in 2007 in my friend Serene’s living room. It had a red cover and looked smooth and cute. I could still remember Serene’s excitement about how this mobile unit could do all the wonders for her.

I don’t know why you need an iPad when you have a Netbook already. I bought a Netbook before my trip to China because it was less than 3 lbs. But boy, the iPad weighs about half of it and runs much faster. I touched an iPad for the first time when the faculty and students of my school were traveling on a bus to Ian Douglas’s installation as a bishop. We passed the iPad around, giggling like kids sharing a new toy.

The Mac was my only rendezvous with Apple. I don’t have a smart phone and still have not been persuaded that I need a tablet, from Steve Jobs or from Moses. But in the past few days, I was fascinated by reactions from Apple employees, tech geeks, and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak to Jobs’ resignation as Apple’s CEO. The Mac was my first love. You remember your first romance long afterward.

Steve Jobs, a Zen Buddhist who had gone to India to find a guru, may have a lesson or two for theologians. The genius behind Apple insists that function and form must go together. Every commentator speaks about the aesthetics and minimalism of Apple’s design. When Jobs dropped out from Reed College, he went back to audit a calligraphy course and it had forever changed his sensibility. He introduced the different typefaces in the Mac and firmly believes that technology must have a strong aesthetic component.

I wish theologians have a better aesthetic sense when we create our theological systems. Aquinas’ theology has a cathedral-like design, with transepts and side-chapels, flying arches and vaults. Paul Tillich pictured his systematic theology as a mountain, and drew a detailed sketch of the various sections of the work.

Jobs wants us to forget about the technology when we use Apple products. He makes them so intuitive that you can figure out by playing with them. When you see the clock icon on your iPhone, you know what it stands for.

Technology should not stand between you and life, he says. Theology should be like that too. Yet so much theology has been written to make you feel so stupid that you wonder what it is about. This ensures that there are always the theo-novices to depend on the theo-geeks.

But Jobs’ greatest legacy is in the Apple’s slogan—think different. When no one thought that there would be a market for personal computers, he and Wozniak created one from scratch in his garage. When computers were in black and beige colors, the iMac came out in astonishingly bondi blue, bright orange, and lime green.

Think different. God is still waiting to come out from the little boxes we have created. Who will write the first iTheology to start a game change?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

World Competition in Sport Metaphors

With China’s growing economic clout and political stature, Beijing has been talking about China’s “peaceful rise” to great-power status for several years. As China is preparing for leadership change in the fall of 2012, the world is watching whether Xi Jinping, who will most likely replace President Hu Jintao, will bring any policy changes.

Since China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy last year, economists and China-watchers have been debating when China would overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy. Some have coined the term “Chinamerica” to highlight the close interactions and interdependency between China and the US. Commentators use the term “Beijing Consensus” to describe an alternative model of economic development to the Washington Consensus of market-friendly policies.

Within China, intellectuals and writers from many sectors have debated rigorously the implications of China’s “peaceful rise.” One of the interesting books I have come across is the best-seller 中国梦:后美国时代的大国思维与战略定位(China Dream: Post-American Age’s Mindset for a Big Country and Strategic Positioning).

The author 刘明福 (Liu Mingfu) is a professor of National Security University and Director of the Research Center for Military Construction at the University. Liu, who joined the Chinese army in 1969, argues that China’s dream to be a powerful country has had a long history.

The Chinese monarchy was overthrown in 1911 and the Chinese Republic was established. Even though China was dirt poor at the time, Sun Yat Sen, the father of the Chinese Republic, exhorted his Chinese compatriots to build China to be “the world’s most prosperous and powerful country.” Then in 1955, Mao Zedong has famously said that China has to surpass Britain and catch up with the US. But the Great Leap Forward resulted in famine and disaster.

Liu’s book uses three interesting metaphors to describe the competition among world powers.

· Dueling: No world power would willingly give up its dominance without resorting to violence and war. Different world powers have risen to prominence in modern history: Portugal in 16th century, the Netherlands in 17th, Britain in 19th and 20th, and the USA in the latter part of the 20th century. The replacement of the old world power by the new has often been accompanied by war. The USA became a world power as a result of the two world wars. Dueling is a very cruel form of competition.

· Boxing: The Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the US can be compared to boxing. The Cold War was more “civil” than the world wars: the arms race did not lead to direct military confrontations between the superpowers. In boxing, each party wants to win, but one does not need to kill or eliminate the opponent.

· Track and Field: The competition between China and the US in the 21st century is more like challenges in track and field, instead of dueling or boxing. The motto of the Olympic games is “faster, higher, and stronger.” The rise of China is not to create another superpower, but to help build a peaceful, open, and harmonious world. The development of China will contribute to the economy of the US and benefit the world.

Each of these sports has its own rules; the key question will be who will be setting the rules for world competition in the 21st century? How will the smaller and weaker nations have a say in determining the criteria for an open and harmonious world? What kind of global structures would need to be created to arbitrate the “world games”?

Since China lost the Opium War to Britain in 1842, China has been forced to sign numerous unequal and humiliating treaties. Deng Xiaoping’s socialism with Chinese characteristics has awakened the sleeping giant in the East. His open policies have radically changed the economic and social contours of the most populous country on earth. With economic growth, many Chinese have regained confidence in their country. Books like China Can Say No have become very popular.

Liu’s book plays into the rising nationalistic sentiments of the Chinese. He states that in order to become a world power, China must compete with the US in terms of military power and capability. His hawkish position has been criticized because this will lead to a new round of arms race and the increase of nuclear arsenals.

Nationalism runs very deep in China today. On Chinese web sites, many Chinese bloggers and commentators rush to defend China whenever China is criticized, especially by Western media. A strong China dream has the danger of romanticizing the nation, the people, or the state. It can lead to blind trust and uncritical support of the nation. When this happens, China dream could become nightmare for other countries and peoples.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hope Abundant Received an Award

About two and a half years ago I met Susan Perry of Orbis Books at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. I told Sue that the book With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology, one of the first anthologies on Third World women’s theology, was out of date. Since the book’s publication by Orbis Books in 1988, the world has changed so much.

Sue said that she had thought of bringing out a sequel. Unfortunately the original editors Virginia Fabella and Mercy Amba Oduyoye were not able to do so.

I told Sue that I have been teaching a course on Third World feminist theology regularly, and we needed a newer text. Sue asked me if I would be willing to bring out a new volume. I was happy to edit a volume to showcase the works of a newer generation of women theologians from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania.

I also wanted to include indigenous women’s voices, since their contributions to the global chorus of feminist theology have often been neglected.

With Passion and Compassion was based on the first intercontinental conference of the women theologians of the Third World in the city of Oaxtepec, Mexico, in 1986. I was away in the United States doing graduate studies and did not attend the meeting. María Pilar Aquino was kind enough to send me some of the photos she took at the meeting, while I was working on Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology. Pilar, Mercy, Virginia, and the other participants looked much younger then.

Third World and indigenous women theologians have published a lot since their initial meeting in Mexico. Mercy Amba Oduyoye was instrumental in forming the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians in 1989. The Circle became the primary forum for African women theologians to exchange ideas. One of the aims of the Circle was to encourage the publication of theological works by African women.

In 1988, the Asian Women’s Resource Centre for Culture and Theology was formed in Hong Kong. The late Rev. Sun Ai Lee Park from South Korea played a leadership role in the early years of the Centre. The Centre published the journal In God’s Image and many other books on Asian women’s theology. It is now located in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The Con-spirando Collective in Santiago, Chile, formed in 1991, provided an avenue for Latin American women to work together and they have devoted their energy to ecofeminist issues. The Collective published a journal Con-spirando.

During my travels in Asia and in the ecumenical circles, I have gathered a lot of materials from Third World women. It was more demanding to find materials from Latin America since the works needed to have been translated. I was fortunate to be able to rely on colleagues such as María Pilar Aquino and Nancy Bedford for suggestions.

I gathered indigenous and tribal women’s theology from India, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Palestine, and the United States, though not all pieces went into the book because of limited space. I hope that more work from indigenous women will be available in the future.

Earlier today I was so happy to receive the news that Hope Abundant was awarded second place in the category of Gender Issues by the Catholic Press Association. These awards are presented each year at the Association’s annual convention.

The citation reads: “This is an important book that gathers a new generation of women theologians from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America into the global theological conversation. Filled with powerful, moving insights from both Protestant and Catholic perspectives, the eighteen contributors explore everything from why the exodus story is a story of liberation for some and a story that justifies occupation and genocide for others to how Catholic women in the Philippines are using women’s mystical tradition and new liturgies and symbols to sustain their work for justice. These are faith-filled theological reflections that offer abundant hope in the midst of poverty, violence, oppression, and war.”

I am very grateful for the recognition and I hope that the award will bring wider publicity for the volume. Proceeds from the book will be used to support the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological College in Accra, Ghana, founded by Mercy for training African women leaders. I urge you to support their work by buying a copy of this very exciting volume and please visit the Web site for the book at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Song of Songs in Three Languages

The Song of Songs is considered one of the most beautiful love poems of all time. For centuries, it has inspired painters, composers, singers, and writers because of its expansive imageries and its dramatic glorification of carnal love. Yet, in Christian worship, we have seldom been exposed to the love poetry of the Bible.

In the past several days, I have had very moving and captivating experience with the Song of Songs. Last week, in my course on Eros, Sexuality, and the Spirit, I introduced the Song of Songs and talked about the interlace between sacred and carnal desire and longing.

The word "poetry" comes from Greek term poiesis, which means forming or making. It is an art form in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities.

For love is as strong as death,
jealousy is cruel as hell;
the lights thereof are lights of fire and flames (8:6)

The sound and cadence of a poem are as important as the meaning of it. To help students appreciate the Song of Songs in Hebrew, I asked the students to listen to Roy White’s recitation of the Song in Sephardic Cantillation manner on YouTube.

Then I asked a male and a female student to recite part of the Song from Marcia Falk’s translation. A poet and a painter, Falk has worked on the Song for many years and her translation combines rigorous scholarship with poetic sensibilities. She tries to capture the full force of female eroticism in this only book in the Bible in which women speak more than half the lines.

“The song expresses mutuality and balances between the sexes, along with an absence of stereotyped notions of masculine and feminine behavior and characteristics,” Falk writes.

Last Saturday, some of my students and I attended the Boston Pride Interfaith Service. The reading from Tanach was taken from Song of Songs 8:1-7. It was first read in Hebrew and then in English. The Rev. Liz Walker, an award-winning television journalist and anchor, spoke of the excessiveness of love in her sermon.

My feast of the Song of Songs continued on, when I went to the Jordan Hall in Boston to listen to Les Voix Baroques from Montreal singing Canticum Canticorum (The Song of Songs) in Latin. I have almost missed this if not for a student telling me that the Boston Early Music Festival is taking place this week.

The program included songs by Roland de Lassus (ca 1532-1594), Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), and Marin Marais (1656-1728). The music captured the different kinds of voices in the Song: female, male, and a group. Director Stephen Stubbs played the lute and it was wonderful to see his body expand and contract as he played the instrument. I had the feeling that his body was a part of the music. Anyone who has watched Yo-Yo Ma play understands what this feeling is like.

The Jewish people began to interpret Song as a symbolic text describing the love between Yahweh and the people of Israel from the first centuries of our era. Around 400, when St. Jerome translated the text into Latin, Christians had taken the Song to mean the love between Christ and the Church, following the allegorical method.

In “Dialogo della cantica” by Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665), Song 1:13 was rendered as

Fasciculus myrrhae dilectus meus Christus est,
Inter ubera mea commorabitum.

(A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved Christ unto me,
He shall lie betwixt my breasts.)

The Hebrew Song does not mention God or religion, and of course nowhere does it refer to Christ!

The evening concluded with an English song, “My beloved spake,” by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), a baroque composer, considered to be one of the greatest English composers.

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear upon the earth;
And the time of the singing of birds is come,
Alleluia. (2:10-12)