It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the United States of America. Here in Korea, you wouldn’t know it from any other day (unless, of course, you’re on a U.S. military installation). But with the benefit of the Internet, there’s no escaping it…though personally I wouldn’t want to. I celebrate with millions of other Americans our hard-won independence from Great Britain 240 years ago.
Much of what I’m seeing in my Facebook feed, however, is not a positive response to it being the 4th of July. I’m not judging, but from where I sit, many of those posters seem to be speaking from their holier-than-thou ivory towers to us lowly patriotic souls who are in need of their superior spiritual insight and understanding of the mind of God. Let me explain:
First, they condemn our fight for independence as contrary to the scriptural mandate to be obedient to the powers in place over us as being instituted by God. They view the situation on the American continent of the 18th century through 21st century glasses, presuming to understand the situation our political forefathers and mothers experienced better than those who were living it.
Wherever a chaplain is assigned, in addition to his/her assigned duties, they are expected to also be involved in religious support to the garrison where they’re located. Often this means being part of one of the on-post worship services. This has been the case for me while in Yongsan, South Korea. I have been the pastor of the Traditional Protestant Congregation who worshiped at Memorial Chapel on Main Post, for the year that I’ve been in Korea.
I’ve mentioned before about the movement of U.S. forces from all over Korea to USAG Humphreys near Pyeongtek. This is beginning to impact religious support at USGA Yongsan as there are fewer chaplains to support the multiple worship services. Today (26 June 2016), this impact became real for the congregation I have been pastoring as we celebrated the final service of this congregation which has been active in Yongsan for over 25 years. Beginning next week, the attendees will begin attending one of the other remaining services on post.
Here are a few pictures of the final service and the fellowship brunch we enjoyed together at Greenstreet at Dragon Hill Lodge following the service.
After the service we went to one of the restaurants at the Dragon Hill Lodge on post (Greenstreet) and enjoyed the Brunch Buffet:
Here are some other pictures of Memorial Chapel where the Traditional Protestant Congregation has worshiped for over 25 years:
Here’s a short video showing the sanctuary changing from Catholic to Protestant worship
Out walking the other day, I passed a curious statute that I had to return to with my camera. What it turned out to be was part of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as its name prior to 1994 when Rev. Sun Myung Moon consolidated his several organizations, Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity or the Unification Church. Many non-Unificationists (as they prefer to be called) may know them best as “Moonies” though this is viewed as a derogatory term by adherents.
The founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. Moon was raised a Presybeterian, but according to Moon, on Easter when he was 15, Jesus appeared to him commissioning him to complete the work that Jesus had started. In the 1950s, after being excommunicated from the Presbetyerian Church for his unorthodox beliefs, Moon founded his church which today boasts several hundred thousand adherents around the world.
Interestingly, Moon has had quite a bit of trouble with the law both in South Korea and the United States where he spent 13 months in prison for tax evasion.
The Unification Church views the apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity, who codified the teachings of Jesus into a formal religion. Hell is accepted as being present on Earth now, but in time will become Heaven on Earth. They also view Communism as an expression of Satan and link it with Cain, while viewing Democracy as the expression of God and link it with Abel.
They also believe that Eve had a sexual affair with Lucifer which caused the spiritual fall of humankind. Before she was married to Adam, she also had premarital sexual relations with him, causing the physical fall of humankind. Their marriage produced an imperfect family allowing Satan to have control of the world.
The remedy to this problem was for Jesus (the 2nd “Adam”) to form the perfect marriage to redeem humankind, but he was crucified before he could complete his mission. His spiritual resurrection did secure spiritual salvation for humankind, but because Jesus wasn’t able to complete his mission, physical salvation is not possible in this lifetime. Therefore, a third “Adam” is needed to provide complete salvation for humankind. According to the Resurrection Church, this 3rd Adam was born in Korea between 1917 and 1930 and his appearance will be recognized as the 2nd coming of Christ. This 3rd Adam will marry, producing the perfect family, enabling complete salvation for those who choose it. Many Unificationists had viewed Rev. Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han (his 2nd) as this perfect family, the “true spiritual parents of humankind” but he died in 2012, having appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, his successor in 2008.
The Unification Church is known for their mass weddings. Many times, the couples do not know who they will marry until a month before the ceremony, sometimes not meeting them until that day. They can, however, not participate in the wedding without shame. The newlyweds do not consumate their marriage for 40 days, representing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The church emphasizes the importance of the family and encourages times of family study and devotion.
Exact membership numbers are hard to determine but are said to be in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, with about 5,000 in the U.S. It appears that membership in South Korea is not significant enough to appear anywhere but in the “others” column of religious adherents.
Here are some pictures I took of Cheon Bok Gung Church of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Seoul:
A brochure with the order of worship for the Cheon Bok Gung Church
All photos were taken by the author. Information for this post was gathered from the following sites:
Hail and Farewell gatherings are a long-standing tradition in the military to welcome Soldiers just coming into the unit and say “farewell” to those who are leaving. The Army doesn’t have a prescribed ceremony or format for Hail and Farewells, it is up to each unit to decide how often to have them and what they will be composed of.
The brigade I am leaving tried to have them every other month or so, so there was never too many being hailed or farewelled. Coming up on PCS season, however, there are a lot more changes, so they started farewelling people farther away from their actual departure than normally would be done. I was farewelled a full three months before I was scheduled to leave!
This Hail and Farewell was held at a massive buffet that had a variety of Korean, Chinese, Western and all sorts of types of food to include breads, fruits and desserts. There was too much to chose from, but it all looked good. Of course, one of the criteria for picking the location is that they have a meeting room so that we can be separated from the rest of the restaurant guests.
One of the things that I find most interesting when I visit other countries is the differences that exist between my culture and theirs. Often times what a Westerner thinks is odd or peculiar in another culture is completely normal or natural for them. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through the minds of visitors to the United States when they see some of the things unique to us.
Since this interests me so much, I take a lot of pictures of those things that turn my head. Most just wind up in a file on my computer, but some of the most unusual ones I like to share. Understand that in posting these pictures I’m not making fun of, or ridiculing, Koreans in any way. Like I said, what seems odd to a Westerner is often very normal for them. I post them here just to show what I find to be unusual, through my Western eyes and the differences that exist between our cultures.
By the way, if you find this post interesting, keep coming back. I’ll add the odd and unusual here as I encounter it, acknowledging the fact that admitting what I view as “odd and unusual” may label me as “odd and unusual”!
In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!
Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.
Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.
At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.
During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.
As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.
South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).
Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.
Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.
Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.
A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
The Buddha at a Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.
Some other information came from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.