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The Pentecostal Shaman
It’s spring and some determined birds have been making a nest in the eaves of our house, right above our front door. Their droppings are everywhere around our front steps (and thanks to Stage Two water restrictions, now in force in Melbourne, we’re not allowed to wash paved areas around the home).
I mentioned all this at our weekly Bible study, and one of the Chinese ladies said: “Oh, that’s very good luck.” She quickly added: “If you’re superstitious.”
I wrote two weeks ago of conflicts that members of our Bible study group – all Asian except me – sometimes experience between their religious practice and the customs of their home countries.
This led the wise Welshman, Richard Hall, to comment: “I suspect that some teasing apart of what is ‘religious’ and what is ‘culture’ might be helpful”.
I often think that one of the reasons for the explosion in Christianity in post-war South Korea has been due to the Korean church’s appropriation of local culture.
When I visited David Yonggi Cho’s Full Gospel Church in Seoul – the biggest church in the world with around 750,000 members – an elder pointed to a large Korean magpie that had built its nest on top of the high church gateway. “That’s very good luck,” he told me.
In South Korea, it is common to seek out shamans for guidance about sickness, money, jobs and many other concerns. And in particular, for help in finding a husband or wife.
I attended three Full Gospel Church services, and after lengthy prayers at each, Dr Cho announced that particular people in the congregation had just been healed of various ailments. He has explained in one of his books how he teaches women to visualize exactly the sort of husband they want, in order to be successful.
Buddhism teaches the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Dr Cho’s church teaches the Fivefold Gospel and the Threefold Blessing.
There have been suggestions that Dr Cho is a Pentecostal Shaman. But I wonder, how much of our own Christian practice is shaped by the culture around us?
November 3rd, 2003