Crawl with God, Dance in the Spirit! Summary
by Jong Chun Park

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Crawl with God, Dance in the Spirit! Summary

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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The goal of Crawl with God, Dance in the Spirit by South Korean theologian Jong Chun Park is to propose a new theology of the Holy Spirit. This new theology is to move beyond the previous two Christian theological approaches that Park deems unfit for guiding Christians in the twenty-first century. According to Park, the first theology of the Christian church fathers encompasses a view of an absolute, omnipotent God that “does not resemble the God of the Bible and is not relevant to the modern person’s” life. He also states that the second theology, which emerged from the Reformation, is no longer appropriate. The second theology, Park says, focused on the subjective religious feelings of Christians and was promoted by nineteenth century theologians such as the German Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Park’s third theology emphasizes divine-human participation, with the two partners being almost equal. For this theology, Park draws heavily on the history of Christianity in Korea and also takes into account the pre-Christian Korean spiritual and historical experience. Park calls his endeavor an ecumenical enterprise that will bring the Korean Christian in closer communion with God. Central for the overall Korean spiritual experience, Park states, is the concept of the mountain of Arirang, a mythical mountain that is the subject of many popular folk songs. In the version referred to by Park, the Korean people symbolically crawl over Arirang to demonstrate resistance to injustice and suffering. Even though the righteous are executed at the top of Arirang by the minions of feudalism, there is triumph in their sacrifice. Park sees this as being like the experience of Christ at Golgotha.

Park grounds his theological view of divine-human participation as the next wave of Christian theology in his discussion of the history of the Christian church in Korea. According to Park, the Methodist missionaries of the late nineteenth century initiated a liberating wave during the Great Revival movement in Korea that lasted from 1907 to 1910. However, he faults Western missionaries for their “demonic endorsement” of the Japanese-American noninterference pact of 1905 that paved the way for Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. For the twenty-first century, Park exhorts Korean churches to “overcome a neocolonialist missiology which is coopted by the Korean capitalist system.” Instead, they should learn from the first Korean Christians and “work for cosmic and historical divine-human participation” that strongly centers on social action to create a more just world.

Unfortunately, some of Park’s most moving examples of the people’s embracing of the Holy Spirit to overcome memories of deep suffering are marred by his acceptance of a historical falsehood. Park writes about “the tragic massacre which took place in Cheju island on April 3 in 1948” and in which “South Korean soldiers killed several hundred thousand innocent people on Cheju island.” However, in reality, as Korean and American historians and eyewitnesses concur, on April 3, 1948, some rebellious villagers on Cheju, Korea’s southernmost island, killed some fifty police officers representing the nascent South Korean government that had oppressed the villagers. In retaliation, from 1948 to 1954, South Korean forces killed between 30,000 to 80,000 of Cheju’s roughly 240,000 inhabitants. Unfortunately, Park uses a historical falsehood when the facts already bespeak a great human tragedy.

Crawl with God, Dance in the Spirit gives a critical review of the history of Korean churches in the twentieth century. In opposition to the established churches, which Park blames for having an “intra-ecclesiastical structure of patriarchy and mammonism,” he sympathizes with “Minjung theology.” Unfortunately for non-Korean speakers, he never directly translates the term minjung. Instead, the author defines it by stating that it is synonymous with the Greek term ochlos, which he translates as “large crowd.” Another translation of minjung would be “masses,” a term often used in communist rhetoric. Clearly, minjung theology stands at the left side of the Korean religious spectrum, but to discover this requires a reader’s careful attention. Park also examines socially engaged South Korean religious readers, closely tying his reviews to his presentation of his Holy Spirit theology.

Park finishes his book by giving his own autobiography. Born in 1954 just after fighting ended in the Korean War, Park developed from a fanatical Christian who at age seventeen disturbed shamanistic rituals by throwing stones at a ceremonial pig’s head into a seminary student and assistant army chaplain by the end of the 1970’s. By the mid-1980’s, Park had aligned himself with the radical forces calling for greater democracy in South Korea. He recollects the division among minjung theologians and fanatical supporters of North Korea’s communist system. He acknowledges that in 1989, “the breakdown of the Eastern bloc became a major blow to most progressive theologians in Korea,” including himself.

Park closes by quoting the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, to stress the importance of Christian charity. For Park, key goals for Korean churches should be to promote peace and the reunification of Korea, just as Christians should work globally for peace and justice. In the end, humanity may be able to “reconcile heaven and earth” if the guidance of the Holy Spirit is accepted.

Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Buswell, Robert E., and Timothy S. Lee. Christianity in Korea. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005. Comprehensive, accessible, and balanced review of two centuries of Christianity in Korea. Provides background information on people, events, and theological and historical issues discussed by Park that put his views in broader perspective.

Kang, Wi Jo. Christ and Caesar in Modern Korea: A History of Christianity and Politics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. This concise, balanced discussion of how political and social events in Korea affected Christian movements there covers well the period discussed by Park and provides an excellent frame of reference.

Yu, Chai-shin, ed. Korea and Christianity. Fremont, Calif.: Asian Humanities Press, 2004. Seven essays cover the history of Christianity in Korea and are linked by preface and epilogue by the editor. A good look at issues important to Park’s theology such as the Christian response to Japanese colonialism and the history of the Protestant Church in Korea with discussion of its possible future.