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?- Korea and Christianity
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OverLeft



Joined: 13 Jun 2003
Location: Listening to Radiohead "I might be wrong"

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:08 pm    Post subject: ?- Korea and Christianity Reply with quote

I was wondering about this myself and thought it'd be great to get a few opinions from everyone here...
-Why is the christian religion so pervasive in Korea?
-Aside from the fact that Korea has a history of christian missionary intrusion and American military influences; I think there might be other elements in Korean culture/history that allow christianity to invade, propagate and take hold so easily.
-I say aside from missions and US Military because most non-Western areas of the world have seen their share of these influences but in most instances christian ideology hasn't been embraced at a level it has in Korea.

So, these are just a few of my own thoughts to get things started:

-Confuscian philosophies supporting notions of hierachy and male dominance, mistreatment of women, etc. fit well with christian beliefs.

-Judeo-christian values of zenophobia and nationalism so often found in the Old Testament are also prevalent in Korean society.

-The plight of the Israelites - gods chosen people standing up against impossible odds fits well with a Korean historical context in which it has found itself surrounded by much larger, more powerful outside influences.


Last edited by OverLeft on Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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dogbert



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: Killbox 90210

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:14 pm    Post subject: Re: ?- Korea and Christianity Reply with quote

OverLeft wrote:
I was wondering about this myself and thought it'd be great to get a few opinions from everyone here...
-Why is the christian religion so pervasive in Korea?
-Aside from the fact that Korea has a history of christian missionary intrusion and American military influences; I think there might be other elements in Korean culture/history that allow christianity to invade, propagate and take hold so easily.
-I say aside from missions and US Military because most places in the world have seen their share of these influences but in most instances christian ideology hasn't been embraced at a level it has in Korea.

So, these are just a few of my own thoughts to get things started:

-Confuscian philosophies supporting notions of hierachy and male dominance, mistreatment of women, etc. fit well with christian beliefs.


On the other hand, perhaps this enabled Christianity to gain support among those who were oppressed by a Confucianistic society. Not to mention that many other Confucian practices do not fit well with Christian belief, such as ancestor worship. An article in today's Joongang Daily describes the state-sanctioned murder of Catholics in Korea in the 19th Century as being primarily driven by the Catholic Church's refusal to allow its adherents to perform Confucian ancestor worship rites.


Quote:
-Judeo-christian values of zenophobia and nationalism so often found in the Old Testament are also prevalent in Korean society.


That would explain why Judaism is so popular in Korea.

Christianity, of course, could not have initially spread the way it had had it been xenophobic and nationalistic.

The U.S. military's role in propagating Christianity was likely minimal, considering that Christianity's relative strength in Korea predates the arrival of the U.S. military by several decades.

Incidentally, that Christian intrusion was also responsible for allowing Korean women the ability to obtain higher education.
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OverLeft



Joined: 13 Jun 2003
Location: Listening to Radiohead "I might be wrong"

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:36 pm    Post subject: Re: ?- Korea and Christianity Reply with quote

[quote="dogbert"]many other Confucian practices do not fit well with Christian belief, such as ancestor worship. An article in today's Joongang Daily describes the state-sanctioned murder of Catholics in Korea in the 19th Century as being primarily driven by the Catholic Church's refusal to allow its adherents to perform Confucian ancestor rites.[/quote]

You said it. "Confucian ancestor rites". Christians have no problem with their own form of ancestor worship. Objective analysis finds the difference between Confucian ancestor worship and Christian worship, adulation, canonization of Jesus, Mary, saint etc to be largely semantic.

[quote="dogbert"]Christianity, of course, could not have initially spread the way it had had it been xenophobic and nationalistic. [/quote]

Why not? I didn't say christianity was racist. Christianity will accept anyone only so long as they become christians. Much the same as adoption/absorbtion into Stalinist USSR.

[quote="dogbert"]Incidentally, that Christian intrusion was also responsible for allowing Korean women the ability to obtain higher education.[/quote]

Well, I don't know about this.... the education of women was in large part necessitated by a capitalist economic system. Women are educated to the same level as men almost all over the world today, even in the most secularist and anti-christian areas, ie PRC, Saudi Arabia etc. The market needs educated female laborers.


Last edited by OverLeft on Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:53 pm; edited 2 times in total
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Overleft: Christian values are at the root of western culture. How is it then that we are the most liberal, tolerant, and free? I don't think there is a single christian country which is an opressive regime.
I agree that some confucian ideas about a woman's place" are similar to Judeo- christian ideas. But I do think there is a lot more respect for women in Christianity. I can't imagine Confucious allowing a common prostitute to anoint his feet with oil and then hold her up as a good example to everyone.
Your language is very negative: Is christianity really the pervasive, spreading, invading weed that you portray???
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OverLeft



Joined: 13 Jun 2003
Location: Listening to Radiohead "I might be wrong"

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got to learn how to quote properly Confused ...

rapier, if you step back and take a look at christianity in context, historically over time in a diachronic manner. For most of it's history, christian influence has been repressive, cheauvanistic, and undeniably un-democratic.
Using the same word twice but oh well.... Objective.. analysis would show that the Enlightenment (viewed at the time and still to this day to be quite anti-christian) was largely responsible for many of the great western values you espouse to christianity.

To say that no christian regime today is repressive--- I'm not sure how I should respond to this statement other than by saying it is largely ignorant of present day world politics..

Just a few examples off the top of my head.. Venezuela, Brazil, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Ethiopia, Kenya,.. much of Eastern Europe, South America, and Africa, all strongholds of christianity in some form or another, and all very repressive places in which to live.

Past examples:
Apartheid South Africa,Namibia -christian
Nazi-Germany- christian..
Pinochets Chile- christian
European Colonialism- christian
US Slavery -christian
The Crusades- christian
The Papacy
All supported and carried out, either with the explicit support of the church (colonialism, slavery,crusades, papacy), or by christian leaders themselves..

Now, I expect your response will be "that wasn't actually christianity...etc.. ". One could make the same argument with, all other religious ideologies and the heinous crimes perpetrated under them.
About five minutes of actual research would show many more examples...


Last edited by OverLeft on Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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mokpochica



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are examples of opression in every religion. Is it the religion itself that is trying to opress people, or people using the religion as an excuse to opress others. I'm sure we can all think of examples in our own lives where the meaning of a religious text has been twisted to benefit the person quoting it, or even examples of a person out and out lying about the underlying purpose of a certain religion. I'm sure that Christianity is not perfect, but I'm also sure that it's not all you are making it out to be.

Why has Christianity taken such a strong hold in Korea? I believe that a large part of its initial grasp was because the Western missionaries brought both Western medicine and education to Korean people where it was needed. Western missionaries also supported the Korean people in their appeal and movement toward independence from the Japanese. Western Christian missionaries died alongside Koreans in their efforts to rebel against the Japanese occupation of Korea. You can see a larger discussion of this and other topics in this article written by Andrew E. Kim.

If you go into a Christian church in Korea or a Christian school, you will see that Confucian values and Christian values coexist in today's society. I don't know if that is something that was allowed to happen or intended by the first Christian missionaries, but it is a reality. Korean Christianity often does not have the appearance of Western Christianity at first glance and the Korean Protestant Church has grown at a phenomenal rate. The Presbyterian Church in Korea has become so big that it split off into different sects, many of which do not closely resemble the Presbyterian church in other countries.

It seems to me that anywhere a religion goes (imposed or not) it takes on a character that is unique to the culture it joins. Bringing Christianity to Korea has not made Korean people throw out all of their traditional values, but it has maybe caused them to reevaluate and think about some of them. The same thing is happening in the US and other Western countries where Eastern religions are being introduced.

Many churches and religions continue to grow these days. The Christian church is one of these and the Mormon church is probably the best example. How are they growing? They go out and do mission work, building houses, offering education, and helping where others do not. I'm sure that some do this for not wholly selfless reasons, but I personally do not really care. Isn't it better for those people who have nothing to receive help, even if it comes in a religious package?
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dogbert



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: Killbox 90210

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 9:25 pm    Post subject: Re: ?- Korea and Christianity Reply with quote

OverLeft wrote:
dogbert wrote:
many other Confucian practices do not fit well with Christian belief, such as ancestor worship. An article in today's Joongang Daily describes the state-sanctioned murder of Catholics in Korea in the 19th Century as being primarily driven by the Catholic Church's refusal to allow its adherents to perform Confucian ancestor rites.


You said it. "Confucian ancestor rites". Christians have no problem with their own form of ancestor worship. Objective analysis finds the difference between Confucian ancestor worship and Christian worship, adulation, canonization of Jesus, Mary, saint etc to be largely semantic.

dogbert wrote:
Christianity, of course, could not have initially spread the way it had had it been xenophobic and nationalistic.


Why not? I didn't say christianity was racist. Christianity will accept anyone only so long as they become christians. Much the same as adoption/absorbtion into Stalinist USSR.

dogbert wrote:
Incidentally, that Christian intrusion was also responsible for allowing Korean women the ability to obtain higher education.


Well, I don't know about this.... the education of women was in large part necessitated by a capitalist economic system. Women are educated to the same level as men almost all over the world today, even in the most secularist and anti-christian areas, ie PRC, Saudi Arabia etc. The market needs educated female laborers.


It's obvious you have a serious problem with Christianity, which is fine. I do wonder what it is about Christianity in Korea that specifically offends you.

I'm also curious what objective evidence shows that there is no difference between Confucian ancestor worship and Christian worship. Even if that is true, the Korean rulers evidently did not believe it to be so, which, contrary to the theory posited, meant instead that any similarity between Christianity and Confucian philosophy hindered the acceptance of Christianity in Korea rather than aided it.

Christianity is not inherently xenophobic, as the earliest targets for evangelism/conversion were Greeks. Christianity was not nationalistic, as it had no nation.

Today women all over the world may have access to higher education; women living in Korea during the Chosun Dynasty did not. It is a fact that Christians founded universities in Korea and by doing so, provided access to higher education for women.

And how well are educated female laborers utilized today?

Anyway, if you're serious about the subject, books and treatises have been written about why and how Christianity came to develop in Korea the way it has.
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OverLeft



Joined: 13 Jun 2003
Location: Listening to Radiohead "I might be wrong"

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The subject has shifted away from what I had intended, into a largely emotive, argumentative, biased, circular discussion. I'm amoung the guilty, so I wouldn't be surprised or offended if this thread gets locked or pulled out of circulation altogethr.
Just a few last comments before I get back to work-
- rapier I'm not sure where you're from, but since most people in the English speaking world look toward the US(admittingly or not) and are quite familiar with it, I'll use an American example.
-If you look at US State politics, more specifically if you look at those states in which you find well developed understandings, and wide acceptance of enlightenment values like freedom, egalitarianism, democracy etc, these are the states(like California, New York, Massachusetts etc.) with effectively the most distinct separation of church and state. On the other hand if you take the extreme opposite side of the spectrum(at least as far as you can go under the constitution), you'll find the more conservative, chauvanist, repressive state govts. of places like Texas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, etc, these are often the states whose governments/decision makers are most strongly tied to religion.

From the responses so far, I doubt if most of this will ever (could ever) make any sense at all to most people here; since it does require one to stand back from the filter of ones own beliefs and look at things objectively.


- side note- I never said christianity was unique amoung major religions; all have negatives and positive aspects in equal proportion.....

- dogbert- Anthropologists- thosefolks who call themselves (are most widely recognized as) experts(I'm a cultural anthropologist myself) in this area of study, would say the two forms of ancestor worship(in a broad sense, the reification of the dead) are basically the same. Again, small differences could be argued to death(excuse the pun), but really in this case it's just semantic.
-christianity is not xenophobic? why do people have to convert to christianity then? I don't recall having met any practising muslims in the christian clergy, or athiest sunday school teachers. No doubt these people wouldn't want to be in these positions but neither would they be given the opportunity. That is at least not without the obligatory "conversion" or acceptance of christian tenents, canon, orthodoxy etc.
-in regards to nationalism I was refering to Jews in the old testament nationalism is a common theme; one which could resonate with koreans.
-sorry for all the wierd punctuation, parenthesis, etc, (bad grammer, spelling, hence all the editing)--- I'm a little preoccupied and in a bit of a rush.. spending way too much time here... got to go Smile


Last edited by OverLeft on Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:17 am; edited 4 times in total
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wormholes101



Joined: 11 Mar 2003

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe it's because the church is just big Noraebang
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Wombat



Joined: 28 May 2003
Location: slutville

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2003 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At last!! A religious discussion! Smile

It's curious. I often wonder why Buddhism made it big in Asia, whilst Hinduism (the mother of Buddhism), fell at the wayside. I'm not trying to divert the thread here, but are there any opinions on that one?

Wombat
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sparkx



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: thekimchipot.com

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

simply put - Koreans love clubs.
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dogbert



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: Killbox 90210

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OverLeft wrote:
The subject has shifted away from what I had intended, into a largely emotive, argumentative, biased, circular discussion. I'm amoung the guilty, so I wouldn't be surprised or offended if this thread gets locked or pulled out of circulation altogethr.


Your original post was baited (i.e., emotive and argumentative and biased), so how has the ensuing discussion shifted away?


Quote:
- dogbert- Anthropologists- thosefolks who call themselves (are most widely recognized as) experts(I'm a cultural anthropologist myself) in this area of study, would say the two forms of ancestor worship(in a broad sense, the reification of the dead) are basically the same. Again, small differences could be argued to death(excuse the pun), but really in this case it's just semantic.


I don't believe that Confucian ancestral rites contain a component of reification of the dead in the way Christianity does, but I could be wrong. In any event, my point was that any similarity between the two did not seem to aid the spread of Christianity in Korea, but instead hindered it, at least initially.


Quote:
-christianity is not xenophobic? why do people have to convert to christianity then?


I think of it like this: Korea tends to be xenophobic. It and its people have done their best to avoid foreign influences. Traditionally they have not embarked on conquest, nor have they sought to evangelize "Koreanism" among the non-Koreans.

Christianity, on the other hand, is an evangelistic religion. This means that it does not shy away from contact with "foreigners" (I suppose, in this context, non-Christians), but actively seeks it. This is not xenophobic behavior.

The fact that one cannot be a Muslim and a Christian simultaneously does not mean that either religion is xenophobic.


Quote:
-in regards to nationalism I was refering to Jews in the old testament nationalism is a common theme; one which could resonate with koreans.


I'm not the expert in this field (my doctorate is not in cultural anthropology, at any rate), yet even I can see that Christianity and the Judaism of the Old Testament are not comparable in this regard and certainly not relevant to the question of the spread of Christianity (and not Judaism) in Korea.
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Starperson



Joined: 23 Mar 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Overleft, I would suggest that the oppressions and invasions that you mention would often be more influenced by concepts such as social Darwinism, rather than 'Christianity'. For example, European colonialism, US slavery, oppression of indigneous populations. I'd suggest that the umbrella term 'Christian invasion' is a bit simplistic.

In a discussion such as this, isn't it important to have clear definitions?

Crusades
Nazi Germany
South African Apartheid

= Christianity?

The intricacies of social/religious/ideological relationships are ignored when Christianity is blamed for everything.
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

overleft- your point about conversion: Of course, if you want to work in the church, or in a church- organised hogwon or whatever, they want to be sure that you're christian. makes sense to me. I wouldn't expect to score a job in the vatican if I was a wicca member or get a job in the mosque if I was a practising jew.
Nobody is forced to convert. Its a free choice. Those leaflet- dispensing people on the street aren't shoving guns in your face.
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Alias



Joined: 24 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2003 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think when it comes down to it, Christianity took root here because of the success of the Christian missionaries a century ago.

As for xenophobia, I find that Christian Koreans are our biggest supporters here. Remember all the protests against the US last year? Well the Christian community held counter-demonstrations in support of the US. They seem to be more open to foreigners (well English speaking white people) than other Koreans. I do not know nearly enough about Confucism here to make any comment about how xenophobic its dogma is.

I work at a "secular" Hogwan but I have noticed that all the Korean staff is Christian. Plus, a large portion of the kids seem to come from Christian families. Perhaps Chrisitans here are more eager to learn the "language of the west" more so than other Koreans. Just a thought.

It does annoy me a bit that Koreans tend to assume that I am Christian just because I am white. I also seem to be an inviting target for conversion efforts by Korean evangelicals on the street. No Buddhist or Confucist has evey tried to convert me.

By the way, does anyone happen to have any statistics on the reilgious make up of South Korea?
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