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Date Posted: 12:31:04 06/07/04 Mon
Author: Chris
Subject: A Korean's opinion
In reply to: Tony Lang 's message, "Re: huge article about Christianity in Korea" on 08:32:50 06/07/04 Mon

Tony, in the last two years I had the opportunity to meet regularly with an ex UBF Korean who is about 50 years old and meanwhile a very good friend of mine. He had been a very authoritarian UBF hardliner, but repented. He studied Theology in Korea and knowns different Korean church very good. He is in contact with many Korean Christians and talks about their problems.

Believe me or not, he is now - after leaving UBF and studying these problems for some years - much more "anti-Korean" in his view than even Nick. Sometimes, when speaking with him, I have to come to the defense of Koreans and show that they have many good sides, too. He said he wanted to write a book for Korean Christians explaining their problems. And the deep problem is indeed disrespect for the truth, interest in "having face" more than "having faith" etc. I dont need to repeat it. It's a problem rooted in a culture where even the language is saturated with Confucianism. Logical conjunctions, declension of nouns or tense and conjucation of verbs is unincisive and considered less important than chosing the right honorific or level of politeness. Even you English gentlemen don't have 6 different levels of politness in your language, right?

The church in Korea indeed has a huge problem. Usually, pastors have a lot of power, receive a lot of money and honor, and often become corrupt, be it leaders of separate local churches or giant churches like Yonggi Choi which resemble a big group like Samsung.

I am not saying that Korean culture or Confucianism is worse than for instance the culture of my Germanic ancestors (if they had a culture at all). But the problem is that Confucianism is in some parts not compatible with the Gospel, and if Korean Christians don't disrobe these old traditions they get into big troubles as we see in UBF for instance. Even worse, some Koreans seem to be even unaware that "having face" ideology is incompatible with Christianity! Instead, I sometimes got the impression that they believe that Confucianism, added to Christianity, makes it better and superior to "standard Christianity," just like ice-cream plus whipped cream on top.

By the way, meanwhile, the Korean church has yet another problem which is increasing western hedonistic life style and liberalism and stagnating numbers. I am not saying this in order to belittle the great things that happened in Korea or in order to deny that many brave and true Christians exist in Korea, probably more much more than in Germany. The sentence that Korean Christians are Confucianists in Christian robes maybe sweeping, but if you want to pinpoint the problem of Korea's Christianity, it hits the bull's eye. It explains the problem in a nutshell and is therefore - even as a sweeping statement - helpful and legitimate. Even Jesus or Paul made sweeping statements to explain some crucial problems (as in Mt 23 or read Titus 1:12.13). I don't think we have to always immediately cry "generalization" if a statement is exaggerated, but hits the nail on the head or has at least a grain of truth. In this, you seem to be also very predictable, something you say you dislike. ;-)

Are we to asume that every part of confucianism was bad?

Just to make that very clear - of course not.

Some parts of Confucianism are even very similar to Christian ethics. For instance, honoring your parents and superiors is very Christian, to begin with. However, the problem comes when honoring superiors is considered to be a higher value than standing to the truth. Or when it is used in a way that generates pride or disdains or ignores and overrides "lower-ranking" people and their opinions.

We have the same problem with Humanism. The values of Humanism themselves are not bad, but the problem comes when they are elevated to a level higher than God. And that's exactly what often happens with Confucianism in Korean churches.

With such a history, it is not suprising that there remains confucian influence within the Korean Church. This has to be admitted.

Yes, in this you are completely right. And I think here is the problem - many Koreans have not only difficulties in admitting this, but even diffculties to understand that a big problem might result from this.

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