The Korea Times 칼럼

'Church stay' for 'Koristians' (2011년 1월 29일)

divicom 2011. 1. 29. 09:02

Anyone reading the above headline may be tempted to Google for ``church stay” while suspecting typographical error of ``Koristians.” Googling it would be a waste of time, for there will be no reference to those terms in the entire, including my favorite Wikipedia, except for some Korean-language sites.

``Church stay” is in its nascent stage and it needs to be seen what it actually turns out to be. Still, it would be safe to say that it is the Christian version of ``temple stay,” the brief sojourn of Buddhists and non-believers in the daily routine of monks to achieve eternal freedom.

Koristian is a term my genius friend created by coining Korean and Christian. He is a native Korean from a Christian family. Well versed in Korea and Christianity, he says that Korean Christianity is so different from Christianity elsewhere that its followers deserve to get a special name of Koristian. It refers to Korean Protestants because Christianity means Protestantism in Korea. Catholicism is separately termed ``cheonju-gyo.”

To talk about church stay, first we have to understand its prototype the temple stay. Both Buddhists and non-believers could stay in Buddhist temples since the olden times. The temporary dwellers were truth seeking laymen, patients whose illnesses couldn’t be cured by medicine and people who wanted to concentrate on self-reflection or certain projects, such as writers working on novels.

As the number of foreigners visiting and residing in Korea increased, so did foreign visitors to Korean temples, particularly those in mountains and countryside. In 2002 when Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan, Buddhist temples emerged as popular places for sightseeing and a real-life experience of Korean ways for foreigners.

The government then offered the Buddhist community to expand temple stays as part of the nation’s cultural and tourist attractions, providing financial support. Temple stays have attracted more than a few foreigners and Koreans over the past several years.

Circumstances changed after President Lee Myung-bak, a presbyter at Somang Presbyterian Church in southern Seoul, took office in 2008. His policies and measures have been viewed as too Koristian-friendly. He has been also blamed for surrounding himself with ``Ko-So-Yeong” coteries. ``Ko” stands for Korea University, Lee’s alma mater; ``So,” Somang Church; ``Yeong,” Yeongnam region comprising of the Gyeongsang provinces, his powerbase.

In the latest and worst case of what Buddhists believe is belittling their credo, the government markedly cut the budget for temple stay and protection of cultural assets in temples in the 2011 budget. In the budget bill railroaded through the National Assembly by the government party in December, 12.25 billion won was earmarked for temple stay compared to 18.5 billion won of last year. Buddhist leaders have affirmed that they won’t accept any government money for temple stay.

While conflict between the government and Buddhists was intensifying, a senior pastor running for the chairmanship of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK), a powerful federation of conservative Protestant orders and organizations, added fuel to the fire by saying that he was discussing government support of 50 billion to 60 billion won for church stay with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Kiel Ja-yeon was elected CCK Chairman for the third time on Jan. 20. He served in that position in 2003 and 2004. After being elected and situation was further inflamed by his remarks, the 70-year-old pastor of Wangsung Church in southwestern Seoul denied his earlier statement, while reaffirming that he would go through with “church stay.”

The creativity or copycat capability of Kiel and his supporters to launch probably the first church stay programs in the world may be commendable, yet I have reservations about their plans, my fundamental question being if church stay is something as urgent as they think. Anyone recognizing the seriousness of religious conflict in Korea today may share my concern.

If I were a Koristian leader, I wouldn’t start any new projects that may disturb other religious groups. Instead, I would try to reform my own church and order. I would stop gathering tithe and the numerous kinds of ``heon-geum” or money donations from the faithful. I would encourage my congregation to pray in silence instead of singing hymns on the grounds of temples. My sermons would be focused on how to live like Jesus and not on how to become rich and successful. I would keep the doors of churches open 24 hours a day so that anyone could ``stay” when in need. Last but not least, I would demand the government give us pastors the right to pay taxes for the huge sum of church income.


지난 12월, 2011년 예산에서 템플 스테이 예산이 대폭 삭감되어 불교계의 심기가 매우 불편할 때, 한국기독교총연합회(한기총) 대표 선거에 출마한 길자연 목사가 문화체육관광부와 '처치 스테이(church stay)'를 위한 500억내지 600억원의 정부 지원에 대해 협의하고 있다고 하여 논란을 가중시켰습니다.


길 목사는 한기총 대표로 선출된 후엔 실제 협의했던 것은 아니라고 물러섰지만 '처치 스테이'는 강행하겠다고 했습니다. 서울 합정동에 있는 양화진 선교사묘지, 용인의 순교자묘지, 전국의 수백 개 기도원을 연결하여 '처치 스테이' 프로그램을 실시하겠다는 겁니다. 아직 실시 전이라 어떤 내용과 형식이 될지는 알 수 없지만 아이디어 자체를 템플 스테이에서 따온 것은 분명해보입니다.


템플 스테이라는 용어가 생긴 것은 몇 년 되지 않지만, 불교 신자든 아니든 고뇌에 사로잡힌 사람들이 절에 들어가 스님들의 일상을 흉내내며 마음의 평화를 얻고 자신을 돌아보는 일은 오래 전부터 있었습니다. 외국인들의 한국 방문이 늘면서 한국의 절을 방문하는 외국인도 점차 증가하자, 정부가 2002년 한일 월드컵 때 '템플 스테이'를 지원하기 시작했습니다.


그후 템플 스테이는 마음이 복잡한 한국인이나 한국적인 것을 경험헤보고 싶어하는 외국인들 사이에서  인기있는 프로그램이 되었습니다. 그러나 소망교회 장로인 이명박 대통령 정부가 들어서며 인사와 정책에 있어 기독교(개신교) 편향이 심해졌고, 한국사회가 현대사상 유례없는 종교갈등을 겪게 되면서 템플 스테이도 영향을 받게 되었습니다. 이런 상황에서 보수기독교단체들을 망라하는 한기총에서 세계 초유의 '처치 스테이'를 하겠다고 하니 치하하는 마음보다는 우려가 앞섭니다. 


제가 길 목사와 같은 지위에 있다면 '처치 스테이'와 같은 새로운 프로그램을 시작하여 타종교의 심기를 불편하게 하는 대신 한국 교회의 내부 개혁을 꾀하겠습니다. 십일조와 각종 헌금 거두는 것을 중단하고, 남의 종교 시설에 찾아가 찬송을 부르는 대신 침묵 속에 기도하는 묵도 운동을 벌이겠습니다. 설교를 할 때는 어떻게 해야 성공하고 부자가 될 수 있는가를 얘기하는 대신 어떻게 사는 것이 예수님처럼 사는 것인지 얘기하겠습니다. 모든 교회의 문은 하루 24시간 개방하여 누구나 필요할 때 교회에 들어와 '스테이'할 수 있게, 즉 머물 수 있게 하겠습니다. 마지막으로, 계속 늘어가는 수입에 대해 세금을 내게 해달라고 정부에 요구하겠습니다. 


*제목의 'Koristian'은 천재적인 제 친구가 만든 용어로 'Korean Christian'을 뜻합니다. 기독교 가정에서 성장한 한국인인 그 친구는 한국의 개신교는 다른 나라의 개신교와 너무도 달라 그 신자들을 다른 나라의 신자들과 마찬가지로 '크리스천(Christian)'이라고 부르는 것은 옳지 않다며 '코리스천(Koristian)'이라고 부릅니다.