ICC Note: This is an interesting article on several fronts. The main point we wanted to touch on was the writers position that what is wrong in China is not Chinas repression of religious freedom, rather it is those darn foreigners and their unwillingness to be quiet and teach by example rather than by the word. Incredible. The same thinking was applied in regards to the Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan . The problem wasnt thugs who were willing to kill in the name of Allah. The problem was Koreans who intentionally walked into danger to show love to orphans and the sick.
Korean Holy Ghost descends on China
By Sunny Lee
China (Asia Times)- “Some of you here will speak in tongues, some will see visions, some will cry, some will sing, some will collapse, and some will just remain calm. The Holy Spirit will manifest itself in different forms. Just be natural and accept it in whatever forms it is revealed to you.”
Reverend Jiggu George Bogi was addressing a congregation of Christians last Friday at a Korean church in Beijing . The background hymn music in the room turned louder so that everyone would feel comfortable to pray aloud. The atmosphere was already highly charged after the charismatic Bogi had just delivered a powerful sermon on the Holy Spirit and Christian mission.
“The Holy Spirit that came upon the 120 disciples in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago will come to you tonight,” Bogi said.
Bogi walked to a woman in the second row and placed his hands on her head. The woman, looking in her mid-20s, soon collapsed. Bogi walked to the right to a lady in her 40s who was praying and crying. When Bogi laid his hands on her forehead, she began to pray more zealously. Less than a minute passed before she also fell down.
Three Korean pastors at the church assisted Bogi. They walked around the crowd and prayed for them. In various pockets of the crowd, many more people collapsed.
A girl, probably aged 7, lifted her two small hands high in the air as if to capture “the gift of God” that a pastor said Jesus had promised in the New Testament. She became visibly emotional and started to cry as if something made her very upset or sad.
A man in the corner started to speak in tongues. A woman next to him cried. Someone behind them began to clap his hands wildly. The room gradually became a whirlpool of surreal drama of wailing people. The loud gospel hymn music filled the whole room, packed with some 200 passionate believers, as if that were the source of magic that had put a secret spell on them.
To an uninitiated eye, watching these “spell-bound” people would be an uncanny, almost apocalyptic experience. But in the Korean experience of Christianity, a scene like this is a regular feature of religious life. Many Koreans regard speaking in tongues as proof of personal salvation. More importantly, the Pentecostal promise has always been a powerful driver for Korean Christians’ evangelical enthusiasm.
The Pentecostal promise of China
Among the many questions that arose during and in the aftermath of the six-week South Korean Christian hostage crisis in Afghanistan in August and September was why South Korea – a country with just over 100 years of Protestant Christian history – was so driven by the zeal of spreading Christian teachings abroad, including in a disputed war region far away from the home country.
It is known that the 23 South Korean Christian volunteers in Afghanistan – all from the same Saem-mul Church in Bundang just south of Seoul – wrote their wills before they boarded the airplane that took them to Kabul . That means they were actually mentally prepared for the possibility of dying in Afghanistan .
What has been missing in the discussion, however, is the lack of speculation of where a second Korean Christian incident could happen. China, officially an atheist nation but one that “guarantees” religious freedom in its constitution, only permits state-sanctioned, registered churches to operate and has a blanket ban on missionaries, is a likely site.
Religious freedom in China seems to vary largely according to the whims of local authorities and political and social currents. Municipalities such as Beijing , Shanghai and Shenzhen and others have state-sanctioned churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, for both foreign and Chinese believers. Rows between the Vatican-sanctioned Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and the mainland-sanctioned Catholic Church have erupted for at least a decade, usually over ordination issues.
Shenzhen, for example, has 26 state-sanctioned Chinese-speaking Protestant and Catholic places of worship, including an 8,400-square-meter, ark-shaped, four-story house of worship that can hold up to 2,000 believers with services in Korean, Chinese and English, according to Li Jianping, director-general of the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Religious Affairs. The congregation is part of an estimated 15 to 20 million “approved” believers nationwide, a figure that is said to be growing rapidly.
There are also an unknown number of “underground” or “house” churches, typically secretive worship sessions held in private apartments. The total number of underground and “approved” Christians isn’t known but some estimates, such as that of The World Christian Database, put the number as high as 111 million, of whom 90% are Protestant, mostly Pentecostals.
South Korea sends the world’s largest army of some 17,000 Christian evangelists abroad, only after the US . And currently, many, if not the majority, of them are in China . When you type “Christian mission in China ” into the Korean Google, it will retrieve a whopping 1.3 million results, showing the tremendous Korean Christians’ interest in China .
Just like many multinational companies see China as a big market with a huge potential that needs to be exploited, the army of Christians see China as a place where, they say, God wants to be manifested in the 21st century. Particularly, South Korean Christians see China as the “axis of world Christian mission”.
“There are one billion customers in China ; there are also one billion lost souls in China too,” a pastor said.
There is a palpable enthusiasm among Koreans for a Christian mission in China . “In a not too far into the future, China will respond to the call of God and will transform into an outpost for evangelizing the world. God loves China and has a great plan for it,” Kang Tae-kyu at Mokwon University wrote in his master’s thesis.
A prominent problem with South Korean missionaries’ work in China is that their activities are easily exposed to the Chinese authorities due to their aggressive and risk-taking evangelizing.
Some South Korean missionaries have been deported from the country. Several have also served time in or remain in Chinese prisons, accused of trying to convert North Korean refugees or for smuggling them to South Korea .
When a foreign missionary is caught proselytizing to Chinese nationals, he or she will be subject to an investigation, usually followed by deportation. Once deported, the missionary will not be allowed to enter China again for five to seven years.
According to the China Aid Association, in the one-year period as of May 2006, some 1,960 pastors in “underground” churches in China were arrested.
Given the huge presence and open tactics of South Korean missionaries in China , some worry that a version of what happened in Afghanistan could happen in China . The South Korean ambassador to China , Kim Ha-joong, himself a devout Christian, at one time was said to have appealed to the Korean Christians in China to “moderate” their enthusiasm.
Korean Christians call themselves “the second Israel “, meaning they have the spiritual responsibility for spreading the “Good News” to the rest of the world in the 21st century, just as Jerusalem was the origin of Christianity some 2,000 years ago. Many South Koreans strongly feel that Christianity is responsible for the nation’s economic and spiritual prosperity and feel obliged to take up the mission to share the “Good News” to other people.
That kind of determination was clearly felt after the Korean Christian hostages in Afghanistan returned home with two dead members. The church’s pastor created a controversy by saying that his church would continue to send its missionary team abroad. But as part of the deal to free the hostages, the South Korean government promised the Taliban that it would prevent missionaries from traveling to Afghanistan .
Some moderate Korean Christians say that missionaries often fail to understand and respect different religious and cultural backgrounds, including those in China . They argue for a more open and “legitimate” way of conducting missions in China that doesn’t violate the Chinese law. For example, they argue that Chinese businessmen and professionals would be more interested in Christianity if foreign Christians were better role models. They believe that showing by example is a more non-invasive, effective and safe way for Chinese people to take a positive view of Christianity.
Emboldened by the Holy Spirit
The time was now nearing midnight. The enthusiasm in the room, however, didn’t subside. Bogi emboldened the believers with biblical miracle stories such as “Daniel in the lion’s den”, and he emphasized the importance of “receiving the Holy Spirit” which can act as a protector.
“I believe that in seven or 10 years from now, God will work mightily in China ,” Bogi told the Korean congregation. “There is a reason why you are in China . God called you here. There is a mission. God has destined you to bless China .”
Sunny Lee is a writer/journalist based in Beijing , where he has lived for five years. A native of South Korea , Lee is a graduate of Harvard University and Beijing Foreign Studies University .