Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"The door of faith is always open" is the headline in the Catholic Times, using Pope Benedict's words, that introduces their cover story on the Year of Faith.

In recent years the Catholic Church of Korea became familiar with what is happening in the countries of the West, where Christianity has been the foundation of much of the culture and values of society, which is no longer the case. Korea has also not escaped the influence of secularism and relativism. From the years of great growth in the 70s and 80s to the 90s and beyond, Korea now faces the same problems of the West.

The journalist explains the phrase "Cafeteria Catholicism." The phrase appeared for the first time, he says, in 1986 when Catholics were deciding what teachings met their tastes and likes, what to accept and what to reject, and yet consider themselves Catholics.

In  preparation for the 13th Bishops Synod on the secularism of the culture, the following statement was submitted: "The values from materialism incline us toward ambition. These values  are prevalent and have influenced the secularizing of the culture so that the  individual's way of thinking and the  relationship to God is weakened, at times rejecting God and the role of religion in society. The role of religion in many cases is relegated to the internal and to a psychological feeling of peace and comfort."

This understanding of religion is even more  pronounced among the young. In one survey, 61.9 percent of the young  were looking for peace of mind.The problem with this thinking is that there is always the possibility of finding something else that will do a better job of giving them what they want.

Many separate their religion from life, which means their religion has little influence on the way they live. Religion for many is the time they go to church on Sunday, and what makes matters worse, he says, is that they have no problem with this understanding of religion.

There are certain Christians who say: "All religions are  going in the same direction, aren't they? It is not important what we believe as long as we do good and don't harm others; we will all get to heaven." Others say: "To claim that Christianity has the truth is being egotistical. Are we able to talk to other religions with this mentality?" These are some of the  ways relativism  is experienced in society. 

The Church of Korea, in preparing for the synod, has divided the problems we currently face into three categories: Globalization has brought us the bad effects of capitalism: materialism, fetishistic religions and hedonism. Secondly, seeing all religions as the same. And thirdly, our communities are large, lack intimacy, and strive to become middle class (no place for the poor), and have become increasingly secularized. The fellowship we need is missing.

The work required to change this tendency in Korea, because of globalization, is not much different from that of the West. Korea is probably at an advantage in being more homogeneous, well-organized and with less dissent, which hopefully means the efforts at the new evangelization will have a better chance of success.

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