Monday, February 15, 2010

Influence of American Christianity on Korea

As a country the United States was just a few years older than the beginning of Catholicism in Korea. Catholicism started without missionaries, but later received the help from the French Church; some 100 years later, Americans brought Protestantism to Korea. The interest that Korea has today for the States and the reason for the large number of Koreans residing and studying in the States can be attributed partly to Protestantism.

The Schools and hospitals the Protestants built enabled them to have a great influence in Korea of the past hundred years. Catholics were here a hundred years before but because of the persecution did little but hide and try to maintain their identity. Consequently the relationship the Korean Protestants have with American is much closer than the relationship Catholicisms has with America. However, as American missioners in Korea, the news of State-side Catholicism in our papers is of great interest.

Maryknollers are sent to Korea by the American Catholic Church; there is a desire to hear good things of the American Catholic Church, however, clerical sex scandals, problems between "conservative "and "liberals", and Catholics in headlines advocating positions contrary to Catholic teaching do make the Korean papers and media and are depressing.

An article, I read, mentioned that there was a survey made in an American Catholic College, on the people the students reverenced the most; the persons listed were: Lincoln, Schweitzer, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Socrates--the name of Jesus came after these on the list.

The writer possibly understood that all the students were Christian which is far from the case in any Catholic College, but to have Jesus mentioned way down on the list was a shock to the writer and also to me. This apathy towards religion is also part of the Korean reality but not as obvious.

The writer mentioned that even in Scripture study when he asks for a favorite quote, few are able to give an answer. It does make one wonder how successful we are in answering the question that Jesus gave his disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" The question is an important one for any Christian, and takes time to give an answer that comes from the heart and not the head. When it is only the head and not the heart the faith life will be weak and lack enthusiasm.

Protestantism has about 18% of the population while the Catholics number about 10%. The knowledge each would have of their faith would probably be similar but the Catholics are required to go to a period of study before being baptized while the Protestants are less demanding of the study and stress the way of life more than the Catholics in the beginning. The part Christianity will play in the Korea of the future will depend on the maturity and depth of spirituality -- the catalyst that will also bring Protestants and Catholics closer together.

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