Sunday, September 6, 2020

Religion's Mission In the Corona Era

The current spread of Corona 19 in Korea is not so serious that the Korean Defense, for which we are proud becomes meaningless. Social distancing has been upgraded to the 2.5 stage, and if the situation worsens there is a concern that the quarantine stage will be upgraded to stage 3. The nationwide re-proliferation of Corona 19 is mostly caused by group infections that have continued since the beginning of August. Many media outlets are dealing with the fact that most of the origins are in Protestantism and Liberation Day rallies. So begins the column In the Eyes of the Believer of the Catholic Times by a pastor.

With 200 to 300 confirmed corona19 cases every day, the quarantine authorities imposed super-strong measures to restrict business operations: restaurants and cafes,  face-to-face worship, and meetings for Protestants, regular Masses for Catholics and Buddhist religious services. The Protestant side argued that stopping worship was religious oppression and violates religious freedom, and continued face-to-face worship even if they had to pay a fine. Of course, many Protestant churches practiced non-face-to-face worship, but many Protestant churches insisted on their regular worship, ignoring administrative orders from the quarantine authorities. Among  Protestant church members, some refused testing and did not cooperate with the authorities resulting in the spread of the coronavirus.

Recently heard in society: "religion is not concerned about society, but society needs to be concerned about religion." In the post-corona era, religion is seen as something that brings harm to society. A situation where citizens' anger and hatred against religions continue to this day due to the coronavirus outbreak from Shincheonji in Daegu and the initial spread thru the country. Some Protestant communities contrary to common sense, oppose the quarantine measures, a reason for a return of ill feelings towards religion. It is becoming the main culprit making social awareness of the situation more negative.

According to the results of a recent survey in June by the Pastoral Data Research Institute, Catholics and Buddhists have a predominantly positive image, within society such as 'gentle' and 'warm', but for Protestants, there is a more negative image.

However,  in the survey 72% of the respondents: "I honestly feel that religion has no role in the critical situation of the corona crisis." Catholicism and Buddhism also need to consider the role of religion in the post-corona era. We must carefully listen to what a scholar says: religion has been transformed not as a "subject of salvation," but rather as a "media of infection,"  not as a "healing space," but a "hotbed of infection".

If religion continues to exist in the post-corona era and wants to play a role of light and salt in the world, shouldn't religion become a community that recognizes the common good of society and work towards its realization? In a disaster situation, religion and citizenship, the individual and religious freedom and the civic good must harmonize and coexist. However, if the freedom of religion is used exclusively for organizational maintenance and expansion, belief propagation, and practice, it will eventually become the object of social criticism, and freedom will be limited.

For the church to exhibit the good of all, it is necessary to restore the social responsibility of the faith, thereby enabling a truly new evangelization. It is necessary to work for the common good in the larger society beyond the church fence.

Currently, there are too many neighbors suffering physical, economic, and psychological pain amid the chaos experienced by the entire human race due to the corona pandemic. The ecclesial community should feel social responsibility for the lives of the suffering neighbors, and witness to God's mercy.

If we properly fulfill the role of religion for the common good and to neighbors suffering from corona, we will not be neglected and coldly treated by citizens. In the post-corona era, one of the most effective ways for churches to practice social responsibility is to visit the suffering, help to heal their pain, share, and sustainably care for them. Now is the time to move from words to actions. "Children, let us not love with words and tongue, but in truth through deeds" (1 John 3:18).

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