The Korea Times 칼럼

Calling Jesus in Buddha's garden (2010년 11월 6일)

divicom 2010. 11. 6. 13:43

If I were a bird, I would fly to Beopju-sa Temple at dawn at least three times a week. I would sit on the branch of one of the two bo trees in front of the main hall and watch a monk in a gray habit leave orderly stripes on the earth by sweeping the grounds with a long bamboo broom.

Since I don’t have wings, I can’t fly to Beopju-sa. To go there and take some time off and then come back by car, I need at least two days as the 1457-year-old Buddhist temple is nestled in the fragrant colony of trees at the mouth of Mt. Songni in North Chungcheong Province. Thank goodness I have another place to forgo my body and that is Baekryun-sa or the ``temple of 100 lotuses” in my neighborhood.

Founded in 747 during the Silla Kingdom period like Beopju-sa,, Baekryeon-sa was burnt down during Japan’s invasion of Korea in 1592 and was rebuilt in 1662. It has been expanded several times since, yet it still is a modest collection of traditional Korean houses. I like to go there on rainy days. For some inexplicable reason, I am overpowered with a sense of peaceful fulfillment as I sit inside or outside the buildings and watch the drizzle soak into the grass or wash the dust away from the dark roofs. At such moments, everything becomes so clear.

The best thing about temples is they are open to anyone regardless of religious or any other affiliation. You may see a few monks but they don’t bother to ask if you are a Buddhist. It is nice to be in a place of silent acceptance in this era of noisy intolerance.

There were times when I could go through the open doors of Christian churches as freely as I strolled on the Buddhist grounds. There are more churches than ever before, yet access to them is extremely limited unless you are a regular member or yearning to be one. Recently, one of my Christian friends lamented that Jesus, if resurrected here today, wouldn’t be able to go into the houses of worship for him, because all of them are locked.

In Korea, ``Christianity” means Protestantism. ``Catholicism” is viewed as separate from ``Christianity.” Protestants and Catholics often come out at odds against each other over socio-political-religious issues. Catholicism was introduced into Korea in the latter half of the 18th century and Protestantism followed about a century later. Until recently, the nation saw a peaceful coexistence of religions even though Protestants increased markedly. For all its diverse credos, Korea never worried about the possibility of religious conflict.

Since his inauguration in 2008 of the incumbent president whose being a Christian presbyter was widely advertised before and after his election, the time-honored equilibrium began to be disturbed as his fellow believers stopped respecting other religions. In the worst case of misconduct, some Christians trespassed on the grounds of Bongeun-sa in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, and a few other famous temples across the country. They even sang their hymns and held rituals there.

Bongeun-sa has emerged as the most conspicuous target of physical and verbal harassment by Christians and sympathizers as it is located across from COEX, the venue of the G20 Seoul Summit. on Oct. 29, Lee Sang-hoon, a former defense minister who was indicted for corruption in 1993, argued in a public rally of government supporters that Bongeun-sa is the headquarters of 81 left-leaning organizations.

Despite all the malicious effort to defame the 1,216-year-old temple, I believe it will serve as the best getaway for the summit participants to cool off the heat of diplomatic wrangling. I recommend taking a walk around the grounds in the early morning hours.

On Monday, hundreds of Christians gathered in central Seoul to promote the launching of a Christian bank and pray for the success of the G20 meeting. Organizers reportedly said that the real estate value of Protestant churches amounted to 80 trillion won and the yearly contribution of believers topped 4.8 trillion won. They said they would take over an existing bank or establish one with a capital of 1.5 trillion won.

Pastor Ohm Shin-hyung told the congregation that God gave an ``economy President, presbyter President” to Korea, because he had ``special” love for the nation. ``God decided to make this nation into a great economic power and thus made it chair G20 summit. Now, he will do his work of giving to each one of you through the banking world.”

In a country where large religious institutions have become large corporations that don’t pay taxes, it may be only natural that they have come up with an idea of setting up a bank to utilize the huge sums they have amassed. I don’t care if the banking business will please God or not. All I care about is if Buddhists and other religious people will be infected by the Christian rudeness and business mind and begin to lock their doors. If so, where should I go on rainy drizzly days?


개신교 유명인사들이 지난 월요일 '역사적인' 은행 설립을 추진하기 위해 모였다고 합니다. 한국 교회의 부동산 가치만 해도 80조원, 연간 헌금 총액만도 4조8천억원이라, 기존 은행을 인수하거나 새 은행을 설립하여 자본금 1조5천억원 규모의 제1금융권 기독교은행을 설립할 거라고 합니다.


한국기독교총연합회 명예회장 엄신형 목사는 이 자리에서 "하나님께서 우리 대한민국을 특별히 사랑해 경제대통령, 장로대통령을 세우셨다... 하나님께서 이 나라를 경제대국으로 만드시고자 작정하고 G20 정상회의 의장국을 맡게 하셨고, 이제 금융계를 통해 여러분께 하나하나 넘겨주시는 역사를 일으키실 것"이라고 말했다고 합니다.


돈이 많으면 무례해지는 걸까요? 최근 기독교도들이 서울의 봉은사를 비롯해 몇몇 절에 들어가 찬송을 부르고 소위 '땅 밟기'를 하는 일이 있었습니다. 이러다가 절들마저 교회처럼 문을 닫아 거는 것은 아닐까, 혹시라도 미워하며 배우지나 않을까 마음이 쓰입니다. 종교의 지향이 돈이 아니고 사랑이라고 생각하는 사람은 아주 뒤떨어진 사람일까요?


참, 위 글에 '백련사'의 '백련'이 '백 송이 연꽃 (100 lotuses)'을 뜻한다고 쓴 것은 잘못입니다. '흰 연꽃'인데, 제가 '백(白)'자를 잘못 보아 이런 실수를 저질렀습니다. 죄송합니다.