Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Relationship of State and Religion

The Catholic Peace Weekly reported on an Academic Meeting in which a professor from Hanshin University said that the influence of religion decreases in the degree that it is involved in politics. The professor mentioned the recent history and drew his conclusions. The Catholic Church has experienced this often in its history.

From 1940 to 1945 you had the Protestant conservative element that sided with the Japanese and a drop in the number of Protestants.

From the years 1955-62 during the presidency of Syngman Rhee when you had the ascendancy of the Protestants you had another drop . Many of the members of the Provisional Government were Protestants who had studied overseas and returned to Korea. Of the 50 Koreans who were involved in the government 35 were Protestants.

In the years 1995-2005 you had President Kim Young -sam an elder who was followed by Kim Dae- jung and Rho Moo-hyun. Both of their Sunshine policies- trying to break down the walls between the South and North was opposed by many of the Protestant conservatives- another drop in the number of Protestants.

The professor mentions two principles which he feels are necessary to successfully be involved in politics. You have to have the confidence of society, the society has to acknowledge the virtue of the leaders of the Church. Secondly you have to use the same words that society is using and there has to be a harmonious exchange of positions. If these conditions are not present the Church will be the loser.

He mentions that President Lee Myung-bak an elder of the Somang Church and many of the conservative Protestants in the government have given the impression that they are not interested in the common good as much as their own ends. This has divided the Protestant conservatives and progressives, caused strife between religions and divided groups in society.

The Buddhist are not known to take to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with what is happening but this did take place and for good reasons. They have been slighted and it was easily seen in the way the government was responding to them. Usually Korea is know as a country tolerant of the many different groups in the society.

President Lee has apologized to the Buddhists and recently in an attempt to reconcile attended a Buddhist Dharma Service the first of his presidency. There has been a change in the affronts to the non-Christian elements of the society which is a good sign for the future.

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