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Shamanistic influences on Korean Christianity 
15th-Feb-2006 01:37 pm
I’ve been reading an article about Shamanistic influences in Korean Christianity at the Rick Ross website. (http://www.rickross.com/reference/yoidoyonggi/yoido3.html) I have seen this discussed on forums before, but I was able to connect some of the things that were said to my own experiences with UBF.

For example, the author of the article, Jeremy Reynalds, writes:
“One Korean scholar believes that Shamanism poses a very real danger to Biblical Christianity. He writes, "Korean Christianity faces imminent and dramatic confrontation with the power of Shamanism. If we overcome, we remain true to Jesus Christ. If we compromise, we are reduced to yet another form of Shamanism with Christian veneer" (Lee 1994:3-4). This same scholar says that "bok," or material blessing, lies at the heart of Shamanism. He says that among other (negative concepts) shamanism emphasizes material blessing and success in society without any accompanying concern for others. "It is individualistic, self-centered and possessed with selfism; a combination which results in divisiveness. Bok is not amenable to either individual or social ethics" (Lee 1994:4). With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that the concept of Biblical blessing eventually became distorted in the Korean church.”

I remember that after spending time with UBF members, I started to hear a lot about how God will "bless" us, not only with spiritual riches, but also materially (for example, when we got a large tax return, this was “God’s blessing” in our lives). Also, these blessings were connected with the things we would do in life; if we faithfully carried out the “ministry” God had for us (a UBF-based ministry), we would gain God’s blessing. I have no problem believing that God blesses us when we obey him (for example, He blessed Daniel when Daniel abstained from food forbidden by God). But I have also learned that sometimes, people who live godly lives have hard lives in this world, and sometimes those who live apart from God have comfortable lives in this world (for example, in the parable about the rich man and Lazarus, in which the sinful man is rich in this life, and godly Lazarus is a poor man). We had started to think we would be guaranteed “blessings” if we did the things UBF prescribed for us. When things in our lives started to get difficult, we thought we were doing something wrong, even though God often uses hard times to test and strengthen our faith. Another quote in the comments section...
16th-Feb-2006 01:15 pm (UTC) - Korean church and shamanism
When I read this post I was reminded of the South American Catholic church and the pagan influences that mix in with it, especially during religious holidays. I just wanted to make a comment.

My wife is Korean and Christian, and when we left UBF after approximately 15 years there, we attended a traditional Korean Presbyterian church for three years. I was the only non-Korean there, which didn't bother me since I have a functional knowledge of reading and writing the Korean language and had many Korean friends anyway. I became a deacon there, and was a choir member for those three years (my Korean pronunciation improved greatly by those years in the choir!)

I felt very comfortable in the fellowship there, since the Korean Presbyterian church follows essentially the same liturgy as the American one. I did notice a slight charismatic influence, and thought I detected some influence from past shamanism influences during certain prayers given by the pastor, but other than that I didn't see much different from a Western Presbyterian church. Any materialism there was reminiscent of my own parents' Presbyterian fellowship. I recommend Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic" if you want to read more about how "God's blessing = Material blessing" concepts can pervade churches, at least Protestant ones.

I've visited several other Korean churches of other denominations (Protestant) over the years, and, at least among the traditional ones (as opposed to the more modern, Christian contemporary services), it wasn't the shamanism influence that was strong, but conventional Korean authoritarian attitudes that rankle the American spirit (at least mine). As you may know, Korean society is quite stratified, and status is much more visibly important there than here, and determines pecking order among people quite strictly sometimes. I've often told my Korean friends jokingly that they really need to relax more, concerning this!

Eventually, it was not even the Korean authoritarianism for which my wife and I left the church, but simply the absence of good personal Bible study that was missing--a common problem with all churches, western or Asian.

Thanks for reading.

Ward Canfield
16th-Feb-2006 09:30 pm (UTC) - Re: Korean church and shamanism
That's good to hear. It would be sad it here would be *no* healthy Korean churches and I don't believe that either.

Probably the charismatic oriented Korean churches are more affected from that problem. An extreme example is the church of Yonggi Cho which is very large (they say it's the greatest in the world).

Seem's like where the American influence is stronger, i.e. where they follow the more "traditional" confessions, they are not as aberrant. But when they start to build their own denominations and movements (like UBF or Yonggi Cho) , it quickly becomes problematic.
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