What Christianity Can Learn from Confucianism

6 06 2012

If one of my professors read the above title, I believe I would be in for a world of correction. Just to be clear, I do still affirm that all knowledge is borrowed knowledge from divine Triune revelation. Now moving from the philosophical to the practical, there is much Confucianism can teach Christianity. One such lesson is this: Youth can be absent-mindedly tyrannical.

For those who are unfamiliar with Confucianism, here is a crash course. Proper relationships and conduct between them leads to order and peace, the five main relationships being: Ruler-Ruled, Father-Son, Husband-Wife, Elder Brother-Younger Brother, and Friend-Friend. Within these relationships, there is a certain etiquette that is expected. One commonly known, and known with some-level of aversion by second-generation Asians, is respect for the elderly. There are instances that this ‘respect’ is abused between people who are merely a year or two apart, or the culture itself becomes oppressive to the younger, but I have noticed that a culture without this tradition, namely Western culture, can be oppressive to the elderly.

To illustrate, an anecdote from the soccer stadium. Few elderly people were sitting at the soccer stadium desiring to enjoy the game, but to their surprise, when the kick-off took place people in the rows in front of them watched the game on their feet. The elderly had to shout, “Let’s sit! Let’s sit and watch!” without wanting to acknowledge that his physique was unable to handle an entire game standing. The people in the front rows had no malice, but neither did they have any sense of relational consideration. The mindset of ‘I want to enjoy this game however I want to’ overpowered any thought of those behind them. This silent inconsiderate demeanor of individualism screamed to the elderly, “If you want to watch, you stand on  your feeble legs too!” It was tryannical.

This tyranny of youth also occurs in Christianity, particularly relevant to second generation Korean Christianity. Any potential wisdom of the first generation is foolishly declared parochial, oppressive, or irrelevant. There are youngsters seeking guidance and wisdom from those who have only live half a decade longer than themselves. There is a vast lack of experiential wisdom, a wisdom that has been exiled by Western Christian individualism. To be clear, this is not a vote to adopt Confucian views in Christianity, but rather, to realize some of the communal considerations that Christianity has lent to other perspectives. And to admit, first, that our individualism can be tyrannical to the weaker elderly, and second, that there is much to learn from the weak and old, if we would only be willing to listen.




4 responses

6 06 2012
Joe F Kim

Nice post.
I agree in principle. and I hope that this leads to a greater interest in reclaiming the Judeo-Christian concepts of Shalom, Wisdom. Like pyschology, christianity has a tendency to focus all of our time on what’s wrong. (Notice how psychology has all these labels for the mind gone wrong…depression, schizophrenia, co-dependency ect.) But what does it look like when it is all right?

That state of ‘rightness’ is Shalom. its when all parts and aspects and entities of creation are harmoniously networked in such a way that all those above parties cause mutual flourishing.

Wisdom, is knowing how to navigate life well, so as to create shalom everywhere you go.

I would argue that we lack the 1st part, BECAUSE we lack the 2nd part. And while I agree with you that the 1st generation has a lot of good wisdom to impart, it is also true that they also play a role in why this generation gap is there to begin with. its not entirely their fault, but consider this:

a korean kid grows up, and instead of any meaningful interaction, they enroll them in a school system that asks them to study from 4:30am until 12:00pm…’the notorious campaign for the stars’. Or worse, some parents ship their kids off to the United States.

Lets add the fact that Korea leads the world in many excesses, such as alchoholism. We are the leading country in child abuse studies because it happens so often in our homes.

Now, I bring this up not because i disagree with you. on the contrary, I strongly agree with what you are asking for. But I’m sure we all can see that the way to get this is not simply asking the younger generation to submit to their elders. Over the years, concepts of wisdom, maturity have disintegrated among the young. and this is in no small part due to the fact that it seems to be lost among the old.

By that I mean this: that wisdom involves creatively and cleverly solving problems that prevent you and those around you from living life well. The PERCEIVED failure of the previous generations (not just 1st gen, but parents, officials, elderly ect) to creatively solve these issues, coupled with their apparent inability to understand and acclimate to new technologies, has created a general and growing vote of ‘no confidence’ to foster among the young.

to reverse this trend, the older crowds will need to undergo a cultural change. respect can no longer be expected. it must be fostered. and while this is clearly a western idea, this is something that the confucian tradition might learn from the west. But unlike western respect, this fostering does not come through accomplishment. It comes through shalomic wisdom.

The difference between Korean wisdom and shalomic wisdom is as such: Korean traditional wisdom (apart from Biblical wisdom) seeks to conserve the face of the family and the traditional values of Korea. Shalomic wisdom on the other hand, seeks to promote Shalom for all parties involved, even at the expense of the shalom maker. What I’m asking for is a KOREAN SHALOMIC WISDOM…something that takes shalomic biblical wisdom and uses it to create better Koreans.

I’m sorry for the length. next time, I’ll just post this to my own blog!

6 06 2012
Paul P

Thanks for the lengthy comment! I agree with you that it is not only about the making the younger generation ‘respect’ the older. I was actually just trying to highlight the tyranny of youth upon the older more feeble generation, thus the soccer anecdote, I wasn’t trying to comment specifically on the generational gap and its implications, but I guess my post leads there =P.

11 06 2012

hyung-neem: this entry’s title is worded wrong.

12 06 2012
Paul P

ah-oo, what do you suggest?

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