Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shamanism, Exclusivism, and Christianity in Korea

"Shamanism and exclusivism" represent a typical form of conservative, fundamentalist Christianity in Korea. Yonggi Cho, founding pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church and now retired, along with fundamental pastors, stands out in this direction. He delivered a rare speech at the Buddhist Graduate School of Dongguk University, Seoul, Korea. As I hear him, his story begins and ends with a form of shamanism. After his speech, he said that each religion matters and functions on its own with a message of salvation. But later, he reversed his statement because of the pressures coming from his church.

I translated Cho's speech and interview (Q & A) because it gives us an opportunity to examine shamanism and exclusivism in Korea. His speech centered on his conversion experience and the history of his church planting. After the speech, he had a time of Q & A. Someone asked: "Do you believe that Jesus or Christianity is the only way to salvation, and that other religions are not true?" His answer was shocking to his fellow conservative Christians since he said Buddhism has its own message of salvation. Furthermore, he said, "We (Christians and Buddhists) need to coexist." Soon I heard that he corrected his position because of the pressures from his church.

Tips for Group Discussion

1) Cho's distinct theology of the threefold blessing was well marked in his lecture. As you might understand, his theology is just like saying like this: "hope, hope! blessing and blessing! now and tomorrow!" Otherwise, there is no mention of the gospel of justice or the cost of discipleship. It is a typical example of charismatic/shamanistically driven faith. But his message appealed to many poor. He told a story about one woman who says: "Here is a hell already I live now. Show me a little bit of heaven now..."

2) He also made bold statements about other religions in his lecture, especially during the interview after the lecture. He said, religion is equal and Buddhism has its own concept of salvation and therefore it should be properly recognized.

Discussion questions

Where is his theology rooted? What are some socio-political implications of his theology? Is he a shaman? How is his theology different from Shamanism? How does a shaman play in the contemporary religion or culture? Is Jesus a shaman for him?