Friday, December 25, 2009

Smuggling Christmas into North Korea

Time has a moving Christmas story about the realities of faith in North Korea:

The piece begins:

"When North Korean authorities caught Jeong Young Sil helping Christians escape to China seven years ago, they did not take her transgression lightly. First, they pulled out her teeth and fingernails to get information about her underground church in the country's northeast. Then, they threw her in prison for four years. "They demanded to know who was helping me and where they were," says Jeong, an evangelist in her 50s now living in South Korea, who uses an alias to protect her family back home. Despite their efforts, the Northern officials could not stop her. After she fled two years ago, she secretly began sending Christmas gifts to her old church. "Christmas," Jeong says, "would otherwise be meaningless."

Teeth and fingernails.

How many times have I read American Catholic bloggers waxing eloquent about how this is the darkest era the Church has ever lived through? Do we feel social pressure to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"? I'm going to cry me a river. By world historical standards, western Christians today are staggeringly free, powerful, and wealthy.

Here's what the real thing looks like:

"As a result, the regime routinely imprisons and executes Christian religious leaders who teach their faith without state approval, according to a U.S. State department report. Official figures put the number of practicing Christians at 13,000 in 2001, but South Korean church groups estimate about 100,000 Christians practice in secret churches across the nation now. "We always met for prayer at peoples' homes, in groups of two to keep it private," Jeong says. "When we met in bigger groups, we went far away to the mountains where no one could find us."

For more, read my blog post of a couple years ago about the new Korean Underground Railway.

Don't get me wrong. I am enjoying and am intensely grateful today for my warm, cheery home with it's 8 foot Christmas tree, refrigerator stuffed with seasonal goodies, and the beautiful satellite radio Christmas concert I am listening to as I type this words on my MAC. The leisurely, free Skype holiday conversations with friends in other western countries. We can talk about faith or pray together - no worries at all.

Then there's the little GPS device that we got on sale (the Christmas gift!) which is useful precisely because I have the freedom to travel without hindrance anywhere in this country - for nearly any purpose - including openly religious ones.

But God forbid that we lose touch with the reality of what real persecution for our Lord's sake look like.


At December 25, 2009 9:39:00 PM MST , Blogger Sherry W said...

Well let's see - since I've been taking part in blogging conversations since 2003, I would say I've read statements like that dozen of times. Said with great passion and conviction.

In discussions on Mark Shea's blog, on Amy Welborn's various blogs, and numerous other places.

The thesis usually runs that since Vatican II have been the darkest days of the Church because of bad catechesis, wide spread dissent from the teaching of the Church, liturgical corruption, collapse of priestly and religious vocations, the rise of anti-religious secularism in the culture, etc.

This perspective took me by surprise, but it was the reason I originally started commenting on blogs. I thought that so many Catholics who seemed to be despairing just needed to hear about all the good things I was hearing as I traveled about the country and they'd be more hopeful.

I quickly found out after some very long, tortured conversations that it was much more complicated than that. Mark Shea's blog alone saw dozens of these conversations with hundreds of posts racked up very speedily. Mark would be the first to affirm this.

If you have not privy to such conversations - you've been blessed.

As to the the "constant" use of the strawmen of "Catholic bloggers" - hmmm.

For the sake of some objectivity, I did a search of the 2,579 posts on this blog to date for "Catholic bloggers" and found exactly 29 references in 3 years of posting. "Catholic blogger" brought up 53 posts. A search for "St. Blog's" came up with 49 posts.

There's some overlap between the three groups - but lets say maybe 120 posts which comes to about 4.6% of all the ID posts mentioning Catholic bloggers or blogging.

Perhaps "constant" was a bit of hyperbole?

I dipped into a number of the posts that came up to see what I wrote. Sometimes it was a very positive reference to other Catholic bloggers, sometimes a link to another blog, sometimes a response to a specific post, etc.

Sometimes I do specifically refer to views that I have seen expressed many times around St. Blog's without linking to a specific post because there have been so many such posts over the years.

You may certainly say that your experience around Catholic blogdom has been very different. That's fine. But I never say that I've encountered certain opinions among a number of Catholic bloggers if I haven't.

I'm not making this up. And it is important because many Catholics are getting their basic formation not from their bishops or pastors but by reading blogs!


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