This year’s Easter is over. Every year when I am on the Lenten Season, which is for a period of approximately six weeks leading up to Easter, I try to go through this period of time by thinking about Jesus and me more seriously than any time of the year. Why? Is it because I am a seriously pious Christian? Frankly speaking, not condescendingly speaking, I don’t think so. Then why? Am I rather expected to think about and focus on Jesus throughout the year, just not only for those six weeks? Particularly as the one who teaches the Hebrew Bible at school and ministers at church? Every time during the Lenten season, I am sad not just because of Jesus’ crucifixion two thousand something years ago, but because of the death of his presence right here in Korea.
The current Korean society in general has no respect or expectation for Christian churches at all. Rather, Christian churches and Christians are the subjects of derision and mockery. Korean churches, in retrospect, did influence Korean society strongly and positively. For instance, during the Japanese colonial period, sixteen out of thirty three prominent Koreans who prepared the Declaration of Independence on March 1, 1919 were Christians. Christians were actively involved with anti-colonial movements such as in “Encouragement of Home Production” and “Redemption of National Debts.” In addition to these anti-colonial activities, Christians served the society by providing educational and medical services. Ewha Womans University was a fruitful result of Christian educational ministries.
Why did then Korean Church lose their positive influential power? Social critics and theologians list many reasons, fingering at pastors, materialism, internal divisions, and so forth. The core reason is, I believe, we Christians have lost “Jesus” out of our mind and our practical life. I believe Christians should be different not because of their singing, praying, and preaching on the street, not because of their opposing against Lady Gaga, but because of their lives. Living according to Jesus’ teaching is not a one-time show, but a life-long struggling with oneself within the society and social values. Out of many reasons, I believe, Jesus was crucified, for his way of life was just against the religious leaders’ norms and against the social norms of his day. Jesus’ contemporaries were, like us, fettered by prejudice against different ethnic groups, (scandalous) women, and the disabled. To follow Jesus is not to guarantee you the blissful and blessed life, but to command you to go over boundaries and prejudices set by society. Easter is over. But Jesus is still here and everywhere, waiting for his being known in a right way. That is his command to “Go against the flow.”
* Professor Lee Yoon-kyung is a faculty member in the Department of Christian Studies. Professor Lee received her Ph.D from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley and M.A from Emory University. Her research interest is on the Hebrew Bible, currently working on the topics of war and rhetoric of violence and identity.