Archive for the ‘Theology of Tears’ Category

Tears of Joy

Blessed are those who make others shed tears of joy; they will be pleased by God.


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Traditionally, God’s image was very diverse, such as Father, Mother, Judge, Shepherd, Sophia, Trinity, Black Christ, God of the Poor Minjung, Healer, Ultimate Reality, Love, and etc. For Plato, God is not a personal God but a Perfect Being or the Good, which is not related to the actual world but only to the soul’s immortality. For Aristotle, God is the Unmoved Mover, which means that God affects everything instead of being affected by anything. As I argued above, insofar as tears of all human beings, history, and nature do not perish in God, one can infer God’s tears from God’s images. God thoroughly responds to even our small moaning. In order for God to react to the tears of the world, God should be in relationship with human beings, their history, and their nature.

Whitehead criticizes the traditional images of God: as ‘the divine Caesars or the ruling Caesar (God in the image of an imperial ruler), the Hebrew prophets’ image as the ruthless moralist (God in the image of a personification of moral energy), and Aristotle’s image as the unmoved mover (God in the image of an ultimate philosophical principle).’ Instead, he insists that the Galilean (Jesus Christ) is the origin of Christianity and is totally different from these other concepts of God. Thus, for Whitehead, God’s image is not that of an absolute monarch but of a Galilean (Jesus Christ), with unlimited love, who thoroughly suffers because of the world. In other words, one can approach, through Jesus Christ who suffers and sheds tears in the world, God’s image. God’s love does not avoid the tears of the world “in the immediate present.” God is not a remote God beyond this world but a concrete God involved in our actual life with tender love.

Whitehead radically considers God as “a primordial creature” because God is also an actual entity, even though there is a difference between God and other actual entities: “God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles. He is their chief exemplification.” Unlike Whitehead, Philip Clayton insists and I agree, that, in the relationship between God and the world, God does not need to have the world as a partner but gives everything to the world by grace. Even though I do not agree with Whitehead regarding God’s necessity to the world, I do agree with him regarding God’s dipolarity: primordial nature and consequent nature. I will deal with God’s image in and through the relationship of God and the world in Whitehead’s metaphysics.

Whereas primordial nature is related to the non-temporal sphere of the eternal object, consequent nature is the “physical prehension,” which means that God prehends “the actualities of the evolving universe,” i.e., the actual world. God’s primordial nature in itself is abstract due to its lack of actuality. That is, it is “the unconditioned conceptual valuation of the entire multiplicity of eternal objects,” which means that, at this moment, God is not yet related to the world and exists as pure potentiality (an eternal object). However, this is not yet enough to explain God. This God looks like Plato’s God. Thus, this primordial nature needs consequent nature which relates to the world. Whitehead argues that God’s consequent nature is “his judgment on the world.” This consists of two kinds of judgments: one is “the judgment of a tenderness which loses nothing that can be saved;” the other is also “the judgment of wisdom which uses what in the temporal world is mere wreckage.” In a sense, the image of God’s dipolarity is like a spoon which has both a convex part and a concave part. If we see our face from a convex part, we see our face as in a mirror, but if we see from a concave part, we see our face upside down. Unlike other actual entities, God alone has this symmetrical structure.

For Whitehead, another image of God’s consequent nature is ‘the image of God’s infinite patience.’ The universe includes a threefold creative act: “(i) the one infinite conceptual realization, (ii) the multiple solidarity of free physical realization in the temporal world, (iii) the ultimate unity of the multiplicity of actual fact with the primordial conceptual fact.” Whitehead evinces that second term between the first term and the third term shows us “the patience of God” which finally saves the world. Whitehead thus shows the image of God’s nature as “the poet of the world” with infinite patience. In other words, God will overcome evil in God’s nature as well as in this world. The method is not coercive but persuasive with tender patience.

As far as I know, interestingly, I do not find Whitehead’s other mentions of tears except for the analysis of Wordworth’s poem. In Science and the Modern World, Whitehead talks about tears, analyzing Wordsworth’s poem: our life is in solido (in solidarity). We can grasp the “whole of nature” in the tonality of the particularity. That is why we can laugh with a flower and find in the joyful thoughts “too deep for tears.” A poet is the person who is sensitive to both history and the natural world and who can shed tears for others. Tears of the poet are beautiful tears. Isn’t this exactly the image of God?

Whitehead derives God’s beauty from God as the poet of the world. Just as a poet is not the person who is stuck in a conceptual frame, so God as the poet of the world is not constrained in conceptual frame but open. I do not agree with Whitehead that God and the world have a symmetrical structure, since he draws the relationship into extremely too far. However, there is no reason I should not accept a symmetrical structure between God and the world in tears, if he says: It is as true to say that God shed tears in the world, as that the world sheds tears in God. As an expression of confession in this world, tears must affect God most powerfully. Even a drop of tear can move God’s heart. That is, tears have the strength of vulnerability. God’s tear as the response to a tear of the world is the most concrete expression of God’s powerless power. However, this must be the highest paradox in the world.

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There are two kinds of tears: tears of suffering and tears of joy. Tears are the structure both through which suffering occurs and through which joy occurs. How can tears of suffering be transformed into tears of joy? Given Whitehead’s philosophy, inasmuch as there is no negative prehension in God who is everlastingly one, it must be true that God accepts all tears without any exception. God cannot and will not neglect the tears of the world, but will incorporate them into God-self. In this sense, tears of suffering are objectively immortal in a finite world but are subjectively immortal in God. All tears of experience are in the tears of God. Insofar as all our tears are in God, this makes the way for a new subjective immediacy.

After God accepts all our tears through God’s consequent nature into primordial nature, God wipes them away and transforms them. God then offers them back to the world with the possibilities for transformation, i.e., joy to the world. God then gives the world new creativity. This is God’s moment of “ingression” into the world. The world of receiving God’s new creativity functions for the next occasion. This is the possibility of transformation of the world. This transformation is built upon the assumption that God has a power for redemption of history’s sorrows. In other words, when the end of evil is achieved in God, the tears of sorrow must be transformed into the tears of joy. This is based on God’s ultimate power.

Thus, it is true to say that the world affects God and God also affects the world. However, at the end, they are transformed into the tears of joy in the world as well as in God. The Bible tells us the relationship between God and the world, especially the possibility that the world’s immediacy affects God: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19).

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Tears follow metaphysical structure which unites elements of experience with a coherent system. First, tears have the element of concrete experiences. This perspective has two aspects: existential structure and relational structure. Human beings are the vehicle of the very existence of tears. People announce their existence to the world by crying when they are born and they finish their lives by making others shed tears. This could be the existential structure whose form is, ‘I cry therefore I am.’ This existential structure of tears cannot be abstracted from the being containing them. Thus, tears and a being cannot be separated.

Furthermore, what can we do in the face of suffering, in the world, such as famines in Africa and South Asia, terrors or wars, or our neighbor’s tears? What we can do is to shed tears with them. Even though some may think that this is very superficial or unrealistic, is it not really concrete? The purpose of tears is just to fall before God and the world. The motto of this relational structure is, ‘I cry because you cry.’ I would like to explain this category through “the theory of feelings” in Whitehead. Whitehead explains the process that an actual entity (A) feels other actual entities (B, C, D). A does not have a direct relationship to C and D. A feels C through B and feels D through C. That is, B and C relate A to D. In this sense, if we ceaselessly extend this process to far countries, we can reach infinitely remote actual entities. Thus we can answer the question: ‘What have my tears to do with the tears of the African and the tears of the American?’ Although there may seem to be no relationship between A and Z, if we trace the series of medium between A and Z, we can see the relationship. Thus, my tears cannot be separated from your tears. Here your tears include not only the tears of suffering neighbors, but also the tears of suffering history and suffering nature. Thus, ‘I cry because you cry.’

Second, tears have a coherent and logical system. This system attempts to establish both a rational and an intuitional structure with which every experience of tears can be interpreted. I will deal with how tears function within Whitehead’s process categories. For Whitehead, the actual entity is the most basic unit comprising the world. Tears are also “the final real thing of which the world is made up.” One does not need to go behind tears to find anything more real because tears are the most basic unit.

Whitehead figuratively explains that “actual entities are drops of experience, complex, and interdependent.” Interestingly, tears are drops of experience both peculiar and universal. On the side of peculiarity, if I paraphrase Whitehead’s expression, no two tears originate from an identical universe. That is, each tear in the universe of a given concrescence can be implicated in only one mode. In this sense, one can say that no tear is shed for the same reason as any other and no tear is experienced twice. On the side of universal, even though all tears have their own particularity, the mode of expression of such particularity is universally tears. Tears have among themselves differentiations and diversities of expression according to each individual existence and its nature and history; yet all are called tears. Universality of tears can be summarized as: no tears, then no life. Any one tear involves the other tears among its components. In this sense it can be called ‘solidarity of the tears.’

The most important thing in the process of the becoming of tears, if I paraphrase “the categories of explanation” in Whitehead, is that ‘how a drop of tear becomes constitutes what a tear is,’ since ‘what a tear is’ means the conceptual definition of tears and static question. Thus, how a tear becomes defines what the tear is and its ‘being’ is formed by its ‘becoming,’ which is ‘the principle of tears.’ In the process of the becoming of tears, a tear results from the potential unity of many tears in disjunctive diversity. In this moment, tears have two positions: “objectification” and “self-creative.” Objectification of tears means that the functioning of one tear in the self-creation of another tear is the objectification of the former for the latter tear. Self-creation of tears means that the tear plays “diverse roles in self-formation without losing its self-identity.”

In the light of Marjorie Suchocki’s subjective immortality, when a tear is objectified by a next actual entity, there is no reason for a previous tear to perish. If I paraphrase her sentence: “A [tear] concresces, enjoys its unity of satisfaction, and becomes superjectively immortal: objectively in finite occasions, and subjectively in God.” A tear is twice-born: “first through its own self-creation, and
second through God’s total prehension of this self-creation.” Thus tears are “reborn to subjective immortality.” God does not neglect tears of the world as well as the voice of the world. That is the subjective immortality of tears.

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The first moment that made me shed a tear for others arose in fifth-grade. One day, while I took a walk after dinner, I saw two strange sisters, seemingly in second or third-grade, playing with an elastic string. I wondered who they were and why they were playing so late. After a couple of days, I played a baseball game with friends of mine on the empty ground where a milk factory once stood. I heard voices from a ramshackle house beside the ground. Through a broken window, I saw the two sisters whom I saw a couple of days ago. They lived in the house. I could say nothing at that moment. After I arrived at home, my mother asked me “why are you crying?” I explained the situation. My mother and I went to their house with some rice. Their mother had run away and their father had not come home for almost one week. After some days, I saw they moved to another district with their father. For me, this Ur-experience of tears for others from that day to until even now not only influenced me on an existential level but also caused me to ask anthropological and theological questions: Why should they live in such suffering? Why do I/we shed tear from such tragedy? O, Lord, come quickly to help them.

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Jan 20, 2009. African-American president was born for the first time in the history of America.
8 years ago, 400,000 people gathered at the last inaugural ceremony, but, this time, almost 2,000,000 gathered at the Capitol Hill. What does it mean? Isn’t this a kind of probably the expression of the mind of American people to really hope change or alteration?

While watching this president inaugural ceremony, I watched several time the tears of America. What are these tears? Even though the most of those who cried were African-American, I obviously saw many tears of white people. They must not simple tears. For African-American, tears were that of remembrance of suffering, that of joy in which some parts of suffering were cleansed, and that of excitement, even then, they could not believe. For white people, tears would be that of repentance of the past and that of realization in which all people are created equal.

This ceremony reminded me of Marthin Luther King Jr. We cannot forget his monumental address: “I have a dream.”
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:” We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
”I have a dream that one day on the hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaver-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Who could imagine this day? However, this dream has come true in part.
“Yes we can.” “Yes we did.”

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When God made Human beings, what did God make as the last? Isn’t it lachrymal glands? In order to flow outside all suffering, sights, or even joy within human beings, did God not put tiny little points in two eyes? This is God’s grace.
One of famous Korean poets, Do-Hyun An, writes a poem, “Ashes of Briquette.” Roughly translated: “Don’t kick thoughtlessly even the ashes of briquette. Are you such a warm person to others?” We have to have a compassionate mind toward others. Can we mock other’s tears? Human beings become thoughtful in front of the tears of others because tears are a sacred thing. If God did not have a compassionate heart or shed tears, even when God’s son Jesus Christ was on the cross, God could not be the real Father. If any doctrine of God ignores this suffering or compassionate God, it is not a proper doctrine of God at least in theology of tears, or at most a kind of evangelical docetism, since God’s tears are God’s heart.
The world and the haven have a reciprocal relationship, insofar as “what is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world.” By the same token, a tear in the world passes into a tear in heaven, and “floods back again into the world” with tears of God. In this sense, Whitehead exactly understands tears of God: “God is the great companion—the fellow-sufferer who understands.” Psalms 30: 10-12 confesses this God, “‘Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.’ You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.”
Nonetheless, will tears of joy also disappear even after all tears of suffering in the world are transformed into the tears of joy? Unlike tears of suffering, tears of joy will not disappear even in the bosom of God, since tears of true life on the earth are like air in the real presence of the Spirit of God.

Psalms 152: God as the tears of the world

You, Human Beings, shed tears,
Your tears are not yours alone
They are mine
I’ll be with your tears

You, Human History, shed tears,
Your tears are not yours alone
They are mine
I’ll be with your tears

You, Nature, shed tears,
Your tears are not yours alone
They are mine
I’ll be with your tears

You, those who shed tears
Don’t you see my tears?
Don’t you see my tears?
They are all my tears for you

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