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August 16, 2015, 10:29:08 AM
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Offline Peter

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2000 Conference Paper: JMS & Yoido Full Gospel Church
« on: August 16, 2015, 10:29:08 AM »
I had this link up on my old site, but for some reason neglected to repost it here. In 2000, French sociologist Nathalie Luca, who wrote a book about JMS, delivered a paper comparing the JMS cult with Yoido Full Gospel Church at St Petersburg State University. When I first began my site, an excerpt was posted online at the now defunct Faculty of Oriental and African Studies of Saint-Petersburg State University website. That posted excerpt is available here on The Internet Archive, and I might as well copy and paste it...

Luca N.
(France, Centre d'etudes interdisciplinaires des Faits Religieux)
The Relation between the Development of Korean Cultrs (which have an international success) and the Intercivilisation Contacts

The study of the Socio-Religious history of Korea shows that there exists a narrow relation between the adoption, on a national level, of different religious models (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity) and the political orientation of the country. The Koreans easily change their religion according to the evolution of their needs and their religious adhesion depends on a demand of pragmatism and efficiency. This demand reveals the persistence of Shamanistic practices in the history of Korea. These practices have facilitated the Koreanisation of imported religions. After the penetration of Christianity into the peninsula, their influence showed in the formation of New Religious Movements which, whilst inspiring Western forms of Christianity, claimed their profound Korean roots. It is this exotic enrichment that makes these models, particularly two typical movements: the Pentecostal Full Gospel Church and the Messianic Unification Church, attractive for certain Westerners. It seems today that they become attractive for East Europe too.

What Type of transformation have these already-moving forms of Christianity undergone in Korea to enable them to obtain a relative International success? The studies I did in Seoul on The full Gospel Church and on the Providence Church (a young messianic movement issue of the Unification Church) showed that the "Korean version" of Christianity is the bearer, on the psychological ground, of elements of adaptation to modernity which complete the emotional, pragmatical and opportunist aspects of Pentecostalism, which is the most popular Christian form in the world today. It would seem that the capacity of these new Christian Movements to develop on a double register (subjective and emotional during the cult; rational and segmentary on the socio-economical ground within which these movements propose that the individual opens out) meets the Western religious interest, and more largely those of modernized or modernizing countries.

The implication on economic and political strategies of these movements can be seen in different ways. The central church of the Full Gospel Church stands in front of the general assembly building which is in the same architectural style - an unusual style in Korea - on the island Yoiudo, considered one of the political and economic centers of Seoul. This church is enormous and benefits from modern technology. Next to it, a "worldwide mission center" has been build, where the offices of different missions are found, organized according to corporation, firm, social category, or country. The members can progress through the subgroups of the Church, which corresponds to a step in their social journey. The Full Gospel Church is thus rationalizing because it favors the differentiation of different social and intellectual spheres, giving them autonomy.

However, these different spheres disintegrate when the members visit the " mountain of prayers " situated outside Seoul. In this place, there is no effort to reproduce social structures. On the contrary, it is meant to be an universal, international place without barriers, where one communicates with God, a place even visited by Christians who do not belong to the Full Gospel Church. As it is isolated from all towns, it can function in a way that is opposed to the dominant social organization, without damaging the social mechanisms. On returning to the city, everyone returns to his or her sphere. Through the dual aspect of the different locations, the Full Gospel Church manages to offer the desired universal while conserving the useful division, the magic filled with emotions and the calculating rationalism.

The Providence Church also uses the duality of location, but with a different strategy which mixes the magical places, the emotional and the rational even more. The Church addresses students and works within this social sector directly, in the universities. The cult practices take place on the football fields of university campuses and use a sport that students play for pleasure. In this way, the cult corresponds perfectly to the autonomy of different social spheres, even granting itself its own religious system to such a point that one may ask, how, at that level of assimilation, does the religious movement keep from merging with the social sphere. How does a "lay" game differ from a "religious" game? In fact, the football games may seem like a structural equivalent to the Catholic Eucharist. For the initiated, the games express the battle for the reestablishment of the kingdom of God on earth and its victory, while for the other players, it is simply a game. Through these games, the Providence Church assigns a central position to the rite, and from the rite springs magic, from magic, emotion. All of this does not shock, bother, or threaten the social sphere, as the ritual and the magic are only perceived by the initiated. On the other hand, the emotion that results from the ritual is similar to any football game.

In addition, what the Providence Church develops outside of the universities at the birthplace of the founder, in the heart of a mountain valley situated in the center of South Korea, is not entirely unrelated to economic issues. The Providence Church is currently creating a sports and leisure center there, which it hopes to make international. Although one talks about building a church, priority is given to the construction of the sports complex.

The Providence Church's emphasis on sport is not accidental. The Church appeared in the 1980's and was created after a remarkable economic boom, which occurred in South Korea during the thirty years following the Korean War (1950-1953). The Church's orientation towards sport is perfectly aligned with governmental issues of the 1980's. At that time, preparations for the 1988 Olympic Games were underway. Since then, international recognition of South Korea has been achieved through, among other things, their sporting performances. Mobilizing students around sports is a way of participating in the social mobilization for the development of South Korea and a way of giving a religious meaning to Korea's success itself. Thus, believing that the Messiah is in South Korea leads to the belief that the " chosen country " is South Korea. If, as Weber says, in Calvinism, social success is a way for the individual to verify his election, in Korean Messianism, South Korea's success offers the proof that it is the " chosen country ". With this objective in mind, its historical course is reinvented so it can be included in the lineage of the chosen people.

Through the reinterpretation of its hardships (colonization, division of the country, poverty, which the young followers didn't personally experience and which they are not victims of) and by the evaluation of the analogies which exist between the Korean situation and Israel's (as it is described in the Old Testament), South Korea becomes the Second Israel. For the Full Gospel Church of the 1950's, the suffering endured was a " pariah people's " suffering which announced the arrival of a better time. For the Providence Church of the 1980's, that better time is arrived. It is the time of retributions, when God raises his people to a position of "masters of the world". The followers can attest to the "election" of South Korea through the comparison offered by North Korea. Thanks to its socio-economic success, the South has managed to gain a position on the international scene, but the North has failed to. The country's division takes on a deeper meaning than the result of an international political conflict that has the advantage of giving to South Korea the right to be happy even if they believe that Northern brothers are not.

The study of these new Korean Christian movements shows that in order to last, they must find the best way to be economically efficient. This imperative favors a competition between them, which justifies the importance given to visibility (vector of conversions) and the ostentatious exploitation/highlighting of the results obtained by each Church. The fact that the Church makes use of the most developed, cutting-edge technology, or that its members look like they have walked off the cover of a fashion magazine, as is the case in the Providence Church, or even that the founder drives the only turquoise blue Mercedes in Korea, shows the "efficiency" of the Church, and at the same time, the Church's thinking encourages the followers to progress on an economical level. But the competition between the two movements is also the result of their ability to enchant the world, to make it magic, to ritualize it, to make it subjective, and consequently to give the world a sense that reaches beyond it, relating it to another time, another country, another "chosen people", led by different prophets.

In this context, the charisma of the founder takes on an understandable importance. In fact, both Cho Yonggi, founder of the Full Gospel Church, and Jong Myong-Sok (JMS, for Jesus Morning Star) founder of the Providence Church exhibit the characteristics of all charismatic leaders. Their former weaknesses; illnesses and isolation are emphasised to give their current fulfillment as principal proof of their exceptional nature. Their physical metamorphoses testify to their exceptional nature. In addition, their cult gives them the opportunity to show their extraordinary gifts every Sunday. They heal, announce their reevaluations, or influence the weather, thus confirming their divine election. They are recognized as prophets or messiahs because they possess the same characteristics that the Bible attributes to prophets and Messiah. In this way, their demonstrations of "spiritual kinship" link the present experience of power to a tradition and this link is a medium of emotion. It permits the creation of an emotional community, which in turn, is situated in the lineage of elected people who surround prophets or the Messiah.

The community inherits their spiritual ancestors' experiences, as they are told in the Bible and further explained by the revelations of the founder. Thus, the community gains a better understanding than their ancestors of the laws that govern natural and social events. In the Providence Church, it is believed that access to the knowledge helps avoid past errors and allows them to surpass the situation in which their ancestors left the "history of God". The history can thus progress and because it advances, the coming of the kingdom of God on Earth approaches. The tradition proposed by the Providence Church is a tradition in a progression, that is the continuation of rules and actions in the service of a new way of being, which harmonizes with a society in movement. The Messianic Reign is not seen as a consequence of an eschatological rupture but as the result of a progression. For this reason, it can adapt to modernity and even enrich it by participating in it.

According to the Providence Church, participation in the coming of the Kingdom requires the capacity to go forward and a reforming spirit. For this reason, the Church's followers are not the marginalised of the urban world, but the younger generations who have been raised in the midst of it. The Church affects a certain age group rather than the whole society. It can be positioned within the movements that develop where modernization is most advanced and which respond to the desires of the younger generation, reconciling spiritualism and rationalism, combining produced order and transmitted order to enchant what modernity disenchants. In reality, the movement is anchored in society through its participation in disenchantment and rationalization while its power to enchant permits a subjective interpretation of the social. The two aspects are not only unopposed, this way of conceiving religious is in direct affinity with the secularism of modern societies. Everyone has his or her private way of interpreting collective and social activities, which everyone can participate in (which is the case with the Providence Church's use of football).

These new Korean Christian movements - among which cults develop - clearly distance themselves considerably from Protestantism as far as they re-mystify the rite, (giving it the power to influence the state of the individual) and when they sanctify the officiant of the cults, the founder, considered an extraordinary person who has received personal divine revelations which the doctrine is based on and which justifies the duty to be faithful to the pastors. The pastors can only servilely reproduce the sacred tradition inherited from the founder. They thus accept a position in the hierarchy, a sign of the re-clericalization of the Church. From these transformations (both cultural and doctrinal), stems the capacity of these movements to attract certain individuals from the Occident, who find it difficult to "construct themselves in modernity".

August 21, 2015, 10:41:51 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: 2000 Conference Paper: JMS & Yoido Full Gospel Church
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2015, 10:41:51 PM »
Quote
The cult practices take place on the football fields of university campuses and use a sport that students play for pleasure. In this way, the cult corresponds perfectly to the autonomy of different social spheres, even granting itself its own religious system to such a point that one may ask, how, at that level of assimilation, does the religious movement keep from merging with the social sphere. How does a "lay" game differ from a "religious" game? In fact, the football games may seem like a structural equivalent to the Catholic Eucharist. For the initiated, the games express the battle for the re-establishment of the kingdom of God on earth and its victory, while for the other players, it is simply a game. Through these games, the Providence Church assigns a central position to the rite, and from the rite springs magic, from magic, emotion. All of this does not shock, bother, or threaten the social sphere, as the ritual and the magic are only perceived by the initiated. On the other hand, the emotion that results from the ritual is similar to any football game.
The cult's use of soccer is highlighted in this more recent cult-produced piece. I also recall reading a testimony from a fringe member who witnessed Jeong playing soccer. He scored dozens of goals because the opposition team (cult members) wouldn't try to stop him. I'll try dig up that testimony. It's a keeper^
August 4, 2014: The Birth of Providence Soccer and God's Blessing Given Through Sports (God21)
Quote
... After President Jung Myeong Seok recovered his health through soccer, he played soccer together with his disciples for five to seven hours a day. One day, he thought, ‘I came here to deliver the Word but am I playing soccer too much?’ and felt sorry to God and the Holy Son. At that time, the Lord made him realize, ‘Soccer is also displaying faith in God and giving glory to God.’ He received so much grace thinking, ‘This is the Lord’s grace,’ and was able to keep playing soccer.

President Jung Myeong Seok told his disciples not only to play soccer but also to evangelize many people for God with their healthy bodies as they played soccer. Therefore, he evangelized people who came to the soccer field to watch the game and led them to believe in and love God. He testified that through soccer, God made him realize how to lead Providence history, and through spreading the gospel, to love and to overcome the temptations of the world.

Moreover, while playing soccer President Jung Myeong Seok did not consider the opposing team to be [his] enemies but his lovers, learned ‘Peace Soccer’ from the Lord, and taught it to people. That is why in Providence soccer is not only [played] for health but also to praise God, take action upon the Lord’s love, spread the gospel and fulfill peace in the world. ...


The photo bears a Mannam Daehwa logo. Googling it leads to the rather obvious conclusion it is part of the JMS cult
The "images" tab is full of JMS photos.