Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Not Progressive or Conservative but Christian

Although recently it appears to have lessened, the division in society between the progressives and conservatives has often been violent. Since the church exists in the world, confrontations on many of the social issues are present in the church.

A seminary professor writes in the Catholic Times of this divide and asks the readers on what side are they on. Are you progressive or conservative, left or right? What side is the church on?

With these questions, many will select one of the two as the direction of the church. But is that the reality? Is the church progressive because it opposes the death penalty and conservative because it opposes abortion and contraception?

The church is evangelical only. It judges, chooses and acts on the basis of Jesus Christ and not according to the values of the world. It is neither conservative or liberal, socialist or democratic but on the side of Christ. 

Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil said: "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint when I ask why are they poor, they call me a socialist."

The world loves to give food to the poor but when you try to make a society without the poor you are condemned as a socialist. Pope Francis was acclaimed for the many things he did after becoming pope but also called a Marxist.

The church wants to follow gospel values. It's not against the death penalty because it's progressive but because it promotes the dignity of human life that God has created. It's not against abortion and artificial means of contraception because it's conservative but because of the dignity of the person.

Consequently, members of the church must inquire constantly about who is Jesus and how to follow him.We must question whether what we judge and pursue is truly in accord with gospel values. We can not be sure our thoughts and judgments are evangelical, but the more confident we become the stronger our voice. In prayer, we will find the answers on how to live as Christians.

Christians do not live in a progressive or conservative manner but according to the teaching of Jesus. We need to search for the answers continually. For we are weak human beings and yesterday's answers may not be today's answers. We find the answers in the encounter with God and through prayer.

"I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the superior advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Science and Religion

Richard Dawkins is a prominent scientist who wrote the book: Selfish Gene, a controversial book which changed the worldview of many who read it. The Catholic Peace Weekly reporter in the Word And Silence column gives us his reaction on reading the book.

Dawkins is provocative, intense, sharp and uncompromising. The reporter purchased a Korean translation some five years ago but was afraid that it would shake his weak faith and never read the book until recently.

In his book The God Delusion: Dawkins sees belief as a delusion, a meaningless, subjective belief. Medically a kind of mental disorder. For him, it is a mental virus and irrational and socially harmful.

After reading the book the aftertaste was not good. Do we have an opinion to refute Dawkins? and started to look.

We have the conflict model: science and religion are always in conflict. The independence model holds they explore separate domains and ask different questions. The dialogue model proposes a relationship between science and religion. There is a common ground in presuppositions, methods, and concepts. In any system that deals with dichotomy, we have blind spots. Almost all human societies have had religion in some form.

Religion exists in a community. The church is a community. The teachings of religion always aimed towards the good of the community and strongly supports the values necessary for the survival and prosperity of society. Religion is institutionalized morality and ethics. 

Religion is older than nations and more fundamental. Faith instinct is hidden deep inside the human being. Religion played its part when there were neither police, schools or judges. Early humans in a hunting-gathering society embodied strong social values through religion. All the societies that did not have such a center were eliminated and disappeared.

Today, religion seems to have lost its place at the center of society. Often swept away by power, material, money, and pleasure. However, the more confused the values, the more important is the role of religion that reflects man's historical wisdom and reflection. The value of the common good persists within the community. Love, mercy, spiritual poverty,  purity, repentance and fasting are the vitality of religion.

We are in the middle of Lent. A thick fog surrounds us. If faith is not a delusion, it's time for believers to cry together. We need to beat our breasts and repent. "My sacrifice is this broken spirit, you will not scorn this crushed and broken heart" (Psalm 51:17).

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Decreasing the Numbers of '#MeToo' Incidents.

A member of the bishops' committee for life matters, writes  for the  Catholic Peace Weekly on discernment and responsibility for sexual maturity. This week he tells the readers if we had the right understanding of sex we would not have the large numbers of  '#Me Too' incidents. He begins by mentioning a cartoon in a pornographic magazine where a woman who has been raped asks for an encore. This, he says, is the absurd kind of message spread by these magazines.

The problem is worldwide but Korea is the world leader in Internet connection speed and Wi-Fi is everywhere. 92 percent of the population are internet users. Pornography is illegal but easily accessed. Men see these kinds of videos repeatedly—what are the results?  Women are looking for this kind of violence even though unconsciously. Men can easily commit this kind of crime but what is worse they have no feelings of doing wrong. 'We both enjoyed it what's  wrong?' They are punished but their attitudes are not changed. Women become the plaything of their male friends and go along with the relationship.

10 years ago an interview with elementary school children on Korean news, the reporter was told by a fifth-grade girl student that  'yadong' (video porn) viewing was common among the students and they imitate what they see. Their actions are haughty, abusive and filled with foul language.

The reporter asked the children if they knew what 'yadong' is. Some children answer without hesitation: sexual relations are a fun game and cool. After seeing the sex act some want to do it. One of his older classmates did imitate what he saw. The reporter asks: how old? He was in the sixth grade.

The writer laments, if this was true 10 years ago, it is easy to imagine the situation today. Although illegal, Korea is a country with the easiest access, not permissible in countries where it's illegal; many regulations keep it from becoming part of the culture and easily accessed by children.

Pornography brings in money. Not only for the makers but for all the different operations that are dependent on making money from the game of sex: advertising, motels, contraception industry, the sex education industry and even the medical world.  Those combatting this understanding of sex as a commodity are few.

He goes on to mention the many aberrations that follow upon this thinking. Revenge porn (non-consensual sexual images of someone, distributed without their consent) Dating has lost its meaning and with your date, below the surface is the understanding, the sexual act will follow.

Sex is not a game. When it becomes so, we have  tragedy. Sex needs no rules as long as pregnancy is avoided, responsiblity and morality need not enter. Condoms given free is the thinking of many. The whole world is crying this out. Education and experience should make clear this is the voice of evil. When this is accepted and followed, at first pleasure but at the end comes misery; this is the reason and need for education on the meaning of sex.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Preparing for Challenges

Resolutions are easily made, ignored and forgotten. A professor writing for a diocesan bulletin gives the readers the 'challenge of twenty': selected are 20 small targets to accomplish. Examples: for three days they will not use any disposable cups; not use an elevator for a week; not use a handphone when talking to a friend. These are examples of the kind of resolutions that are goals for the '20'.

No big targets but done with great earnestness and sincerity. Accomplished with little effort but leaving one with a feeling of achievement. When the person finishes the 20, not only does he have confidence but in addition has the beginning of new habits.

A challenge usually is something not small and present but big and far away. The goal is beautiful and attractive but problems are the many obstacles between us and the goal. Problems are the weakness of our will and laziness. The small challenges we choose and accomplish will lead the way to the bigger ones in the future.

We are now in the season of Lent. Most of us have made resolutions and are trying to live the Paschal mystery. When we fail we blame ourselves. How about making the following some of the challenges for the last weeks of Lent. To pray for your neigbors  for three days; next time you go to Mass be the first one there and the last one to leave; learn the words of one hymn and their meaning....

Scientists can give us a slew of reasons for what happens to our brains physically when we have some small success. We have a feeling of pleasure, and a desire to see it continued. Many go through life without attaining any goals and miss out on the natural joy that should be a part of a normal life. Achieving small goals in the way our writer explained is a way to remain motivated; a God-given, very natural method of practicing the virtues with which we are familiar.

Virtue is a trait or quality that has become part of us, an habitual act. The Chinese character for virtue has an icon for body, mind, and heart that makes up the character: all areas we attempt to put under the control of the will. 'The challenge of 20' is a good way to prepare ourselves for the difficulties faced in life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Clericalism Within The Korean Church

A one-time editorial writer for a Korean daily newspaper writes in the Catholic Times on one of his encounters with clericalism. He recalls Cardinal Stephen Kim of the Seoul Diocese and remembers his death 9 years ago, missing him greatly. His words and actions come often to his mind. He was a pioneer in media and communication (dialogue and empathy).

The writer remembers the time the cardinal was the president for two years of the newspaper that later was to become the Catholic Peace Weekly—"It was the time with the clearest call to mission and the greatest joy of my priesthood...I worked with a passion even in difficult circumstances... I didn't even  take time to eat and  contemplated using vitamin tablets instead...." These are the words of Cardinal Kim looking over his life as a priest and leader in the church.

This enthusiasm and dedication came from the desire to bring to Korea the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The Council opened-up wide the windows of the church to identify and read the signs of the times: media and communication were established as a core element in the teachings on Social Communication from the Council. 

The Social Communication Committee was established in the Vatican, and in Korea the Catholic Journalism Council and the Mass-Communication Committee in 1967. As a bishop, he was appointed to head the committee.

Bishop Kim provided full support for the journalist club and invited a large number of lay members to join the committee. They worked together in harmony for half a century. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council prompted the Cardinal to have lay people participate in the discussions within the church especially with lay apostolate matters. Prior to this, all the activities were entrusted to the clergy.

Strange as it may sound, we have gone back to the time before the Council. The teaching of the Council is ignored.The committee in which the lay people where involved was dissolved and the lay people were excluded and reconstructed as a clerical committee from representative priests from the dioceses as a public relation committee.

He mentions an award ceremony it was not like in the past where you had a round table and an easy exchange between the laity and the clergy.  Everybody was comfortable and at ease with each other. 

This past year the writer mentions the atmosphere was different. A buffet-style meal, he was flabbergasted by the change. The first row was for priests and they were the only ones who were introduced, and gave the congratulatory addresses. Those of the laity who had labored for the church for years as journalists or active Catholic media leaders meant little in the atmosphere created.

The spirit of the Council and what Cardinal Kim tried to do is fading. He finishes with a quote from Pope Francis about the evil of clericalism. The role of clerics, he said, is to “stand alongside our people, accompany them in their search and stimulate their imagination in responding to current problems. We are called to serve them, not use them.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

April 3, 1948 Jejudo Massacre

The Catholic Times has another article and editorial on the Jejudo April 3rd 1948(4-3) massacre that happened 70 years ago. At the end of last month, a symposium in Seoul reinterpreted the Jejudo 4-3 incident with Christian eyes.

Theodor Adorno a German philosopher, who experienced the two World Wars, said the German Nazi massacre of the Jews was something unthinkable beyond the unthinkable. Jeju 4-3 was a historical tragedy in which more than 10% of the population was indiscriminately massacred. It was called the Auschwitz after Auschwitz.

The difference between Auschwitz and Jejudo is that the former is remembered and helped humanity, hopefully, to grow in wisdom while the later remains a history to be erased from the mind.What are we being told about  Jeju-do?

Bishop Kang of Jeju-do gave the keynote speech at the symposium. He spoke about the meaning of the tragedy seeing it from a social and theological point of view—the biblical tradition. It is not simply an incident in Korean history nor do we need to identify social responsibility.

After the defeat of Japanese imperialism in the Second World War, many of the Koreans living in Japan within a short period of time returned to Jejudo. 70,000 returned, although others came from other countries most came from Japan.

These new members of Jejudo society had a stronger national consciousness than the ones who lived in Jejudo and a great desire for the restoration of their homeland. However, what awaited them was political, economic and social unrest stemming from the policies and mistakes of the US military government. One of the big issues was reinstating the police officers and personnel who had been leaders when they were under Japanese occupation.The residents felt betrayed that it was an extension of Japanese rule instead of hope for a new era.

The armed uprising that took place on April 3,1948 was the South Korean Worker's Party with many hundreds of members whose expectation were also the hope of all those on the island: freedom,  independence, resistance to the evil structures in society and corruption.

The bishop compared this to the salvation history of the Jewish people. The history of suffering the journey to seek dignity: the response of God in man. 4-3 was not an accident but a deliberate act in search of human liberation from all sorts of social evils and injustices. The insurrection was against efforts to hinder and stop this movement towards freedom and independence. 

Although efforts were made by the government to ascertain the truth and some compensations made, the causes of the ideological confrontation and conflict are still not healed. Forgiveness and tolerance are important. More important may be to reclaim the evangelical value of Jejudo 4-3 and sublimate it in a Christian life: What are you citizens of Jejudo to do?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Going Against the Flow

A Chinese Philosopher from the 4th century before Christ used the phrase: only a live fish goes against the current. A dead fish has no choice but to go with the current, true even of a dead whale. In an article in the Catholic Peace Weekly the writer gives us a mediation on the phrase. Going along with the current makes life easy but is not always the right thing to do.

Evil and good, depending on the situation in society can use the phrase to express their hopes which means we need wisdom to decide what needs to change and what doesn't: the cause of polarization in society.

At the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, the two Koreas were united briefly in a hockey game. Was it a gesture for survival to break through some very powerful international sanctions against the North? The leader of the North sent his younger sister along with elder statesmen to the South; an attitude different from that of the past. The writer hopes this will be a sign of a new future for the North-South relationship.

Another movement aganist the flow are the women seeking to abolish the criminality of abortion. A few years ago adultery was no longer considered a crime. Recently the 'me too' campaign against sexual violence is showing results. The writer understands the vitality of the women movement to fight against the remains of a patriarchal culture but abortion should not be part of that movement.

However, the issue of legalizing abortion can be seen in a different dimension to that of  going against the flow. The fetus breathing in the mother's womb is sending a message of life. In Korea, half of the babies are aborted, babies necessary if Korea is to sustain its numbers which is another going against the flow.

In 1960, 1 million babies were born, last year less than 400,000. All kinds of methods to increase the numbers have been tried and proved ineffective. Many young men are not interested in marriage and women don't want to have babies; the state needs to have a policy that goes against the thinking of many in our society otherwise we face a gloomy future. If our selfishness and easy life, stand in the way, we will even see a change in our faith life.  

Humanity, however, never loses hope for we can always go against the flow and overcome the most tragic of situations. He mentions an uprising of the people in China during the Qin Dynasty when a poor soldier Chen Sheng iniated an uprising of the people and for a brief time became the emperor of the country. Today it is the vitality of democracy and the people's power; even the biggest problems can be overcome with numbers going against the flow.

Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists trying to keep that law as it is, were able to garner over 1 million signatures.

Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) who showed us the energy of life. As long as we possess life than we always have the opportunity to overcome fixed ideas and stereotypes and false understandings. He hopes to see new ways of putting lives at the center and a pledge for the future.