Saturday, July 8, 2017

Shamanism and Christianity in Korea

Yung Suk Kim

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 exclusive Christianity 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.

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?

Yonggi Cho's Speech: "My Life and Faith"

Yonggi Cho, Yoido Full Gospel Church, delivered this speech at the Buddhist Graduate School of Top Management, Dongguk University, Seoul, Korea, on May 18, 2004

Translated by Yung-Suk Kim

I am very glad to be here to speak to you. Actually, I was a bit hesitating with Dr. Han’s invitation because, as you know, I am not a professional executive or a trained scholar. As an ordinary pastor, I was not sure what I would have to say to the distinguished audience like you, but I made up my mind to come; I believe my speech would deepen our mutual understanding of different faiths. Often, debates aim at winning over the other party, but dialogue through a mutual recognition of differences serves as a good opportunity for a better understanding of each other. I believe that we can make a better society if we work together through reconciliation and cooperation among Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists.
I take this opportunity to share my theology based on the essence of Christianity. Presently, I am serving as a pastor of 750,000-members Yoido Full Gospel Church- a member church of a larger ecclesial body of Kidokkyo Daehan Hananim Sunghwe, which has 2,000 churches along with its 1.5 million members. Worldwide, we are part of 50 million members of the Assembly of God. Roughly, 200 million people worldwide share a similar faith with us.
Born into Buddhist culture, I did not grow up in a Christian atmosphere. It was not a coincidence that our house was surrounded by the Buddhist temples such as SunnamTemple to the north and Bulguk Temple down the road, and Tongdo Temple toward Busan. I went to bed listening to the bells in the temples and woke up with the same sound in the morning. My grandmother, as a devoted member of the Tongdo Temple, had Buddhist name heaven-flower and studied Zen Buddhism for her life. As the first son in my family, I used to have Buddhist meditations. Often, my father said to me, “heart is Buddha; Buddha is not somewhere else but in your heart; if you are enlightened in your heart, Buddha is there.” He also told me about “kae-you-bool-sung" which means that everything (all) has Buddhist mind." I grew up with this kind of Buddhist teaching.
Then at the age of 17 toward the end of the Korean War in 1953, I collapsed due to an aggravated lung disease. Terminally ill, I vomited a large amount of blood. Because of the Korean War, our people massively suffered from poverty and hunger; our family fled to Busan to seek a refuge, leaving behind the burnt house attacked by the communists. While in Busan, even with hard work, our daily condition did not improve at all. I came down with malnutrition with blood-vomiting continued. Later days at a hospital, I found the right side of my lung failed. Then a chief doctor told me that my life would soon end within 6 months. At that time a large scale surgery could be performed only in Norway, but I could not afford it. I felt much fear and hopelessness, with an understanding that my life soon dies out. I said to myself, “Hey, man! From a long-term perspective, what makes difference between dying at teens and dying at the nineties? Don’t worry about your death. It is eventually the same thing whether you die now or late.” I lied down on the floor of the rugged card-boarded house, and looked up the roof; I could not resist bitterness of my destiny, sadness, and hopelessness despite my own justification for an impending death. 

Deep down in my heart, however, I had a yearning for living longer even though I did not know what to do given my condition of rough breathing with blood vomiting. In this darkest moment of my life, my father came to pray for me in a Buddhist way: “being born-aging-sickening-dying is a matter of the heart. Transcend it.” At such a young age, however, I could not get over it despite my father's urge that I have Buddhist meditation. I cried one day, “I don’t care whoever will save me. It could be a Buddha, a Jesus or a Mary. If anyone makes me alive, I will dedicate my life to the Savior until I die. Help me to live. I do not want to die now at the age of 17. Please give me another chance.” I made a last desperate shout in the midst of the gravest suffering. 

A few days later, a friend of my sister's, a devoted Christian, visited my sick bed and asked me to have faith in Jesus Christ. With my father’s opposition to her visit, I received a Bible but did not feel good because I grew up with Buddhist way. Upon her request, I began to read the books of Matthew, Mark, and John and found that they were a very different kind of story books; until that time I read only Zen magazines for a long time that were published in Japan. In the Zen magazines, there is a vast amount of in-depth philosophy and logic - a level that defies our verbal expressions. I felt that this Bible seemed to lack philosophy, logic, and profundity of the story. 

However, the Bible's story touched my soul and body. Because I was a dying person with no hope of finding a cure by the contemporary medical advancement. I was indeed a person whom doctors and my family gave up. I needed a miracle. I needed this story of miracles because I searched for a person who would make me alive now here on earth, not a person who will lead me to the other world of the spirits after death. In the story books of the Bible, I found such a figure Jesus who expelled demons, healed the sick, erected dead persons, fed the five thousand people with the miracle of two fishes and five loaves of bread, and who himself arose from the grave three days after his death. From the eyes of Buddhism with logical thoughts, the biblical stories seemed very foolish and unpractical, but for me, they were much-needed stories in my hopeless situation. 

As a person of desperate hopelessness, I could not live by logic or theory but needed a supernatural miracle. My father’s teaching was a transcendence of the deadly situation; it is true that a living person dies; separation of life and death is evident. Nevertheless, in reality, I could not live with the transcendental spirit of Buddhism; rather, I was full of desires to live with. Such desires matched the Bible of Christ. Before this time, I never attended a church nor read the Bible. Then I thought to myself, “If Christ is alive today as in the Bible, I can live.” So I knelt down and prayed: “If you let me live, I would be a monk for you, Jesus. So let me live.” Fearing my father’s scolding or opposition, I prayed by myself without being noticed. I thought, my in-youn (Buddhist term, close to the meaning of karma or fate) was connected with Jesus. Before this prayer, fear and terror of death bombarded me like the spiraling whirlwind hitting my head, but after this prayer, peace of mind visited me. I got an unthinkable conviction that I can live; it is not a psychological peace. 

Though I vomited blood with coughing and received the doctor’s declaration of impending death, I could get the stronger belief that I could live. The Bible was accepted deep in my heart even though seemingly nonsensical through the mind’s eye. With this conviction that I do not die, I told my family members that I won't die because of my faith in Jesus. Then all my family members wept, thinking that my last day came near. In other words, they thought that I became confused or schizophrenic. My mother prayed (to Buddha) that in the next incarnation I would be born into a rich family with a happy life because in this life I suffered a lot. But I said, “don’t say that. I will live.” I wanted to sing songs even though I did not know any Christian songs; I felt peace and joy in the midst of hopelessness. Then I got up and sang a song “O, Night of Shilla, Hear the Bell of the Bulguk Temple” (note: this song is a popular folk song in Korea). My loud singing shook my house. 

Gradually, my fever and blood-vomiting disappeared. I began recovering taste of the food. In six months, my breathing became normal. Finally, I recovered completely in a year. What a great belief (conviction) – something that cannot be accomplished by humans – that changed me! A great peace came to me even when I could not see, hear and capture anything with my eyes, my ears, and with my hands, or when my way ahead was so dark like black. The heaven (the kingdom of God) came into my heart, as it is said in the Bible that the kingdom of God (or heaven) is in one’s heart, not here or there.

With my surprise, however, nobody came to my church. They did not listen to me and my efforts of evangelism failed. They were the people of the poorest, making a bare living day by day. With this absolute poverty, what abounds was alcoholics, the vulgarly or thieves. Then, a turning point came to my life. A couple with their nine sons moved from Bukcheong, North Korea. The husband had become an alcoholic for the past ten years, drinking from morning to evening. This father of nine sons would take out some money from his sons who brought it home by hard working at the shoe polishing shops and used to buy alcohols. The wife was very weak and had the heart and stomach diseases. I knocked on the door of this family. She asked, “Who are you?” I answered, “I am an evangelist working at a tent church up the village. Let us go to heaven by believing in Jesus.” Then, staring at me angrily, she said to me, “I won’t go to heaven. You all religionists are liars!” I answered, “I did not tell a lie.” The woman continued to say, “If at death such a beautiful heaven is given, why it is not possible to have a little bit of heaven here and now on earth? In our home heaven is not an expensive thing.” “Heaven at our home is like this: we need a piece of the blanket with which my kids can sleep; rice to eat day after day so that they might go to school; the cure of my husband from an alcoholic. How on heaven can God lie if he cannot make this kind of small things for us now? I do not need a beautiful heaven after death. You, religionists, are tricksters who make money by giving the poor a psychological relief.” 

This woman was a well-educated person from North Korea. I was shocked and dumbfounded. It was not I but she who evangelized me. She said: “Right? If there is a heaven up there, the place we go after death, why can you not show a little bit of such heaven here and now, and save us out of this miserable situation?” 

Nevertheless, I still insisted, “you go to hell if you don’t believe.” Then, this woman, laughingly answered, “the hell? Wake up, man! Here is the hell we live now. We, eleven family members, live in the small square-feet room, and we are worse off than dogs or pigs. For the past ten years, we never have eaten white rice but flour. With no shoes, clothing, or hospitals to go, we have here a living hell, hotter than any other thing, no matter what you say about the hell. I have pains in my neck because of my nine sons. What can your religion provide for us?” I returned to my tent church without saying further. 

This woman’s saying sounded a bang to my ear: “If there is a heaven, we need a heaven now, not the one after death. Heaven now!” Then, my father’s Buddhist teaching also whispered to my ears: “Heart is thus a Buddha. Buddha is not only in the paradise but also in my heart.” Wherever Buddha is, there is a Christian heaven/paradise, or a Buddhist paradise. If one lives now the living hell and go to heaven only after death, can such a thing not be an actual lie? The heaven must come here as she insists. In fact, she lives now in hell. Then what should I say to her?

Therefore, the simple message is that whoever believes in him will receive the three-fold blessing: souls are well; all things go well; you can live a healthy life. That is why we call this holistic salvation, which is not just about the soul but also about the spirit (soul), the body (flesh) and the present life. Such a holistic message of salvation is central in our Christianity. Our Christianity sometimes teaches that we have to keep the commandments rather than to believe in Jesus. Though some churches incessantly teach that we have to keep the law and the commandments, I believe that by the simple faith and God’s grace we are forgiven from sin; being free from curses; receiving the blessings of God; healed from diseases; being saved.

Furthermore, a new house was built through the help of this church. This story appears to prove my preaching about the hopes. This woman, within three months of believing in Jesus, saw the manifestation of the Christian message such a way that “your soul is blessed with health, and everything works together.” I felt good about this message of great hope – the threefold blessing, and the holistic salvation. Through preaching about hopes, our church grew fast to the membership of 500 in three years since I worked in this village. With much enthusiasm of these newly hope-full members, through their prayers and dedication, our church grew faster and made another big move to Seodaemoon, Seoul in 1961. Many people laughed at me when I started a church there because there were already big established churches such as Independence Church, Ahyun Methodist Church, Jungdong Church, and Saemoonan Chruch in the region of our church. They had reasons to say that because I, a 26-year-old young person, entered that established region without fear.

They thought that I was crazy. But I knew one thing. In the 1960s, Korea began to take a process of modernization. President JungHee Park launched Saemaeul (New Village) Movement and ambitious economic development programs. As a result, many people from Jullado and Kyungsangdo came to Seoul to find a job and lived in the boarded house of the poor among the poor, on the top mountain of Ahyundong. They used charcoals for heating and cooking day and night, sometimes putting them inside a room. They were gassed. They were not allowed to take their lives in the midst of this suffering and miserable incidents. At times, the wind blew into the poor houses, with people half-killed. They survived only to suffer more.

I preached hopes to these people living on the margins. I did not teach the commandments or the law. I did not teach about religion. I did not preach about Christianity but about hopes through which one can get the holistic salvation in Jesus Christ. I continued to preach the message of hopes in spite of many accusations from every corner of other denominations and church leaders. However, in fact, so many people came to our church to find hopes and slept at our church to listen to the message of hopes.
People of our church were often blamed for praying aloud with unspeakable gestures or shouting. They say, “Church must be quiet, solemn, and holy. How come they are praying with noises, weeping, and clapping?” It is right that middle/upper-class people of intellectuals did not have to weep or clap. But these people had to cry because they didn’t have a background, education, family fame, money, and life. That’s why they cried aloud listening to the message of hope at the church. One has to cry to live in this situation. Otherwise, one cannot live due to the depression. I, therefore, told the members of my church to cry. They were told to feel like children who have a father and to pray aloud crying like kids. Our church was like a funeral house because of victims or the oppressed, all kinds of miserable people came to pray with shouts. After this crying and shouting, I asked them to sing aloud like children before their father to be rejoicing. Praying aloud in unison, and singing with hands, people experienced healing and spiritual salvation, with their stress washed away, and with their heart calmed down. With this faith and experience, they find God to help them. Moreover, they help each other. 

Positive, creative thinking and attitude change their life. If one has a negative, hopeless, destructive and pessimistic attitude of life, it does harm to the self and the others as well. Norman Vincent Bill, a famous American, wrote a best seller book Positive Thinking. One day a shabby person, visited Dr. Bill and said, “Dr. Bill, I am broke, and I am nothing. Do I have any hope? If I don’t find hope after listening to you, I am going to die” Bill then asked this poor man to write on the blank sheets of paper, “write down what I asked you to write”: “First of all, do you have a wife? Yes, I have. Even though I am not good enough, she is still with me. Second, do you have children? Yes, I have. Though I do not educate them well, they are good.

Third, do you have friends? Yes, I have some good friends. Fourth, do you have tastes? Yes, I have. I can eat well if any. You can eat whatever you wish whereas a sick millionaire cannot eat at all. Fifth, do you have good sleep? Yes, I sleep well though I don’t make good money. You are blessed because famous persons have a hard time to sleep. And are you healthy now? Yes, I am.” Then this poor man read what he wrote: I have my wife, children, friends, tastes, good sleep, and health. Dr. Bill said, “Why did you tell a lie? Entering my office, you told me you don’t have anything with you. See how much you have. Why do you see what you don’t have without seeing what you have? This man nodded and said, “I didn’t know that I had this much. I thought I didn’t have anything when I came to you. But now I see I have many.” This man, changing his attitude for life, went out with confidence and got a job. I feel my job is to give hopes and dreams to the people who need them. If one has hopes and dreams, one can go anywhere. I have traveled the entire globe as much of 80 rounds of the earth and wherever I went, Africa, North America, Europe, and South America, I found a common want of people: they search for the hopes and the dreams. One and half million people gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I told them to find a hope and a dream in Christ. 

We work throughout the world to give hopes and dreams. We founded Hansedae, Gukminilbo, Ellim (social agency) to train the unfortunate young, Bethesda College in the USA, and Good Samaritans and others in Africa and Asia and North Korea. For me what matters in life is to find hopes and dreams by believing in Jesus Christ. Buddhism, Christianity, and Muslim are equal as religion. I, as a pastor who grew up in a Buddhist home, find much commonness between Christianity and Zen Buddhism: “Buddha is in your heart” is similar to Jesus’ saying that the kingdom of heaven (or God) is not said to be here or there; Jesus is in your heart. “Buddhist paradise is accomplished here in your heart, not after death.” Likewise, Jesus’ teaching goes hand in hand with a Buddhist teaching; the kingdom of heaven must be here in your heart. Don’t look forward to the heaven after death. Law and commandments reveal your sins but faith in Jesus and salvific life automatically bring forth energy or capacity with which to keep the law or the commandments. That is why I like the thought of Wonhyo, a Buddhist monk, who emphasized simple salvation that can be available to all through reciting the four letters of na-moo-ami-tabul. Then people are able to keep the rules. All these parallel teachings show the common character of faith in both religions.

I like a Buddhist TV channel. I benefit from this channel, and feel the peace of my mind when I watch and listen to the lecture of this TV program; I feel at home with Buddhism. So I listened to the whole series of lecture by Professor Byungjo Jung. I find, however, others’ lectures hard to follow because of their complex, philosophical contents. I consumed his TV lecture series and books as well. I like him because his lecture is easy to understand. Why do I listen to Buddhist lectures often? Because of those lectures, I was able to deepen my faith of Christianity. In that respect, I realize the necessity of inter-religious dialogue.
I went to a foreign missionary because I swore that I would live for Jesus as a monk if I were recovered. With the guidance of that missionary, I came to Seoul, and studied theology and graduated in 1958. I bought a piece of 24-persons-tent at the Namdaemoon market and pitched it as a church at one of the poorest villages in Seoul. Many poor people coming from Kyungsangdo and Jellado lived on the top of the mountain at Bulkwang village and temporarily built boarded houses. I had my tent pitched there to evangelize people. I said, “Go to heaven with faith in Jesus and if you don’t, you will go to hell. Repent by believing in Jesus.”
Christianity considers it important to give hopes to the needy. How is Christianity the religion of hope? In the doctrine of Christianity, God created heaven and earth and made the Garden of Eden in which God put Adam and Eve to live joyfully. But they rebelled against God and fell into sin. As a result, three disasters were brought in. The first disaster is this: humans became slaves of the devil after sinning. All kinds of injustice, evil, and corruption took place. The second disaster: Because of the curse of the environment, earth produced thorns and thistles, and humans had to work hard with sweats to live. The third one: Humans become old, sick, die and return to earth. All humankind from their birth lives in these three disasters, sinning, becoming slaves of the devil, living and dying with the suffering of hunger, sickness, and poverty. Christ came to save us from these three disasters. Christ came not to teach ethics or religion. He is the Lord who came to redeem us. Such is the principle truth taught by the Bible.
Doctrines or commandments come after Jesus Christ, who came to rescue us from his death and who took all our burdens of sins, curses, sickness, and death. Therefore, whoever believes in Jesus, male or female, young or old, poor or rich, is saved. I was reminded of my father’s teaching of WonHyo, a great Buddhist monk in Korean history. WonHyo says: “There are too many commandments, but a person can be saved not by keeping all of them but by reciting ‘namooami-tabul.’ Likewise, Jesus Christ, with the blood on the cross, atoned for our sins and took instead of us the curses, death, and infirmities. 
I have been connected with Jesus Christ because of this hope. Out of the complete hopelessness, I read the Bible and found a great pillar of the fire of hope. I realized that what this woman needs are hopes, not heaven or hell that people go after death, or by keeping the law. So I went to see that lady again. She said, “Why did you come back? I don’t have anything to give you.” Then, I replied, “No, won’t you change your destiny?” This lady retorted back, “What can you do to change my life?” “I know a person who will change your lot. If you turn to him, you will have your husband back with no more alcohol addiction, have food to eat, have free education for your children, and have a good house with sanitary facilities,” I said. This woman asked, “Who is he? Where?” I said, “Follow me and I will let you meet him.” She followed me with sandals on her feet. This was a surprise to me. She did not listen to me when I tried to win her through the law and the commandments of the gospel. In fact, she resisted my efforts of evangelization. But now she follows me when I talk about hopes.
Arriving at my tent church on the field, where the floor was covered with straw mattresses, she asked, “Where is your church?” I said, “Here is my church.” Looking around the tent church, she roared with a big laughter, pulling her stomach, “What are you talking about? You and I have the same lot of poverty.” I said, “You are right. The life of you and me is equally poor, but we are hopeful in Jesus Christ. Let us believe in him so that we are spiritually saved, materialistically blessed, freed from curses, lived healthily, cured of sickness, and we gain an everlasting life of resurrection.” She was not angry about my talks about hope. She began to come to my tent church and did almost every day. We talked about hopes and prayed together. Amazing things happened. This woman, with this kind of hope, began to rejoice, smile, sing praises, and finally, her psychologically driven diseases (related to the stomach or heart diseases) were cured. Then after three months of prayer for her husband, her husband began to attend our church after stopping alcohols. With the help of North Korea Refugees Association, this family managed to live with rice and got a job. Gradually, the nerves of this broken family began to move toward normality. Kids could go to school. Thank you.

Q & A follows:

Q: What is your hope now? Do not take it too seriously.

Cho: Religion is a foundation to intellectual, cultural life. As an understanding of Christianity is essential to know the West, so to know Korea it is also essential to understand about Buddhism and Confucianism. But now Korean situation is chaotic because there is no central, dominating religion to put order; Young people are very confused because of the existence of communists, pleasure-seeking practice.
I think we can solve this problem by creating a dominating religion under which ethical, moral, practical, philosophical worldview and life will be established. Therefore, Buddhism or Christianity should be stronger in this country. Because there is no such powerful dominating religion, even excellent government policies will not be implemented or accepted to the public. 
For this reason, I hope that Buddhism/Christianity would be flourishing and also that Buddhist-Christian dialogue would take place. If I live a longer life, I would like to go overseas to preach the gospel and also to contribute to making a space for dialogical culture, because I believe that through the recognition of mutual differences and dialogue we will have an opportunity to work together aiming at reconciliation. I am considering inviting Dr. Han to a Christian meeting. For example, the mercy of Buddha or the love of God is not different from each other as seen from its practice. I like to spend more time working on this business of mutual cooperation.

Q: About twenty years ago, one student insisted that there is no salvation except through Jesus. I told him/her to check with his/her pastor and come back to me. However, he/she repeats the same answer.
Cho: That is right. Buddhism is an elder religion as a religion of Korea for a long time. What if Buddhism goes to exclude all other religions without recognizing differences? Because pastors think exclusively repeating the absoluteness of Christianity, not recognizing the differences and distinctiveness of other religions, there might be a danger of conflicts. After retiring, I think I need to work on this reconciliation through dialogue. Religions are equal.

Q: I know there is no other way of salvation except through Christ. Based on your sayings today, may I think that there are other ways of salvation than Christianity, Jesus or God?

Cho: There are differences with each other. Buddhism has its own message of salvation. Likewise, Christianity has its own message of salvation. No one religion can transcend the limit of each; that is why I suggested a mutual dialogue with the recognition of the mutual differences. We can not criticize what Buddhism says. We don’t have such rights to do so. We have to respect each religion as they are formulating salvation. My point is that we should live together with the common ground of religion, that is to say, with respect for the differences. Within my family side and relatives, there are still Buddhists, but I don’t feel any resistance from them because we recognize mutual differences. My brother is confident about his salvation through Buddhism and I acknowledge it. Though I am a Christian pastor, I cannot insist that only Christianity is true and that salvation is possible only through it. We cannot gain a principle of mutual living if one thinks, “I have to kill you and I would live.” That is not something that Buddha or Jesus wants. It is a violation of the principle of the mercy (of Buddha) or the love (of God).

Q: You are leading the biggest church in Korea. You said that the smallest unit of the Church is a 15-member church, in which sense you said, “I am a pastor of the smallest church.” What do you mean by it?

Cho: I once fainted during the sermon because of over-work in 1964. My doctor at the hospital recommended me to stop working as pastor of four or five thousand members’ church because my body and mind were so much ruined. I got stuck in my hospital bed for a while. So I could not continue to preach, counsel, or visit members and I realized this: Why should only pastor work in ministry? I could train lay persons, who can take a responsibility of five or ten homes for this each trained lay leader. They could counsel, visit with comfort; then I could save my burden. I, therefore, began to train lay persons. The five-homes-bound unit functioned like a church where they study the Bible, pray together, and evangelize people. As a result, the church membership grew to like the snowball. We have about 50,000 unit leaders now. By this unit organization, we certainly have an advantage that more genuine and comfortable fellowship is taking place in the homes where they meet. This way our total members of 700,000 are being cared of. I cannot take care of all these people. We also use the internet as an important tool for our ministry efficiency. 700,000 listen to my preaching every Sunday and 5000,000 people get access to the internet preaching of mine. These days’ young people do not attend the church services. They have internet service at home and send offerings via the internet too. Each cell leader or members send questions via the internet and I answer them through the internet. Now is a time of dialogue, and I cannot deliver sermon unilaterally. Sunday preaching must be careful because people ask preachers through online, which is a great contrast to the old way of preaching, one-way delivery. The church can make use of this internet for its benefits. In a cyberspace, people gather, pray, worship and send questions to me and I send back my own answers to them. This is how our church functions with 700,000 members.
Q: In modern medicine, mind/heart is reacted or caused by the play of the brain. Do you think that heart/mind is in the area of the brain or outside of it? You said, “let us find Christ in the heart.” Is heart within or without?
Cho: According to a materialistic or evolutionary view, humans are mere materials. But I am sure that from a religious point of view heart resides in our brain. And the brain is a tool for the heart. In my ministry experiences, I used to observe persons who had mysterious experiences. A staff pastor in our church died from the heart attack. A death certificate was issued and in three days a corpse was put in a coffin. Then suddenly he arose and lived. He told us his spiritual journey after death. It is sure evidence that body and spirit were separated. In our religious life with deep meditation, we often experience an enormous journey into our heart without going through the brain. I also through meditation experience such mysterious feelings, whose world transcends time and space, and it is an eternal world of peace. This kind of mysterious experience cannot be made by the brain only. Heart resides in me and myself is the heart. In other words, my heart owns my flesh.
Q: The ultimate hope is to overcome death in Christianity, and thus resurrection is at the center of the Christian message. We are going to ask you about this next semester. This age is at danger of the environmental crisis. Arnold Toynbee suggested that the root cause of this ecological crisis lies in Christian thought. What do you think about this? Based on Genesis 1:27, 29.  

Cho: A materialistic perspective poses human-centered dominance of nature, resulting in the destruction of the environment. Taking care of nature has nothing to do with its merciless destruction. From another angle, divinity resides in everything in the creation of God; God created all. Therefore, if there is divinity in all things, we should rule all things with God’s presence, not for our own selfish purposes. Like Buddhist teaching, one cannot kill even a small insect because Buddha is kind and merciful. God in Christianity care about all things and resides in all, and at the same time going beyond them. God resides in all creation and therefore in grass and insects as well. Therefore, we cannot do harm to nature. Ecology is important from God’s perspective.

No comments: