Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Father's Day 1915, Korea

"There are many ways in which a son is to serve his parents. If their bodies itch he is to scratch them" and other pearls of Filial Etiquette.

Ah, the challenge of celebrating Father's Day! When we want to honor dear old dad, is there something more substantial than buying him another tie? "Yes!," the color ads inform us - "Honor Dad Better" by giving him some store's gadgets.

Perhaps honoring one's father meant more in another time in another culture. Exodus 20:12 says, "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."

A century-old set of instructions called FILIAL ETIQUETTE: A KOREAN CONFUCIAN TRACT details the Korean past's propriety toward parents. This document was translated at the time by Rev. C. T. Collyer and published by "The Korea Mission Field" in 1915. It is presented unabridged without comment for your Father's Day pleasure:
                       *     *     * 

The Emperor U-Jai-sun (2255-2205) gathered his disciples together and as follows taught them the principles of Filial Etiquette.

Father and son must be on good terms. Sons must rise at cockcrow, bathe themselves, comb their hair, put on their kwans, dress themselves and put on their big belts. When properly dressed they must present themselves before their parents and inquire of them whether the room is warm and everything is to their comfort.

There are many ways in which a son is to serve his parents. If their bodies itch he is to scratch them. When they wash, to hold the bowl so that the parents may bathe in comfort and when ready for it to hand them the towel. To respectfully inquire what they will take to eat, and then with honor to serve the meal, to wait until a portion of the food is eaten so as to ascertain whether it is to their taste and then to retire. After the meal both son and daughter-in-law should go to the parents to learn from them whether there is anything they wish done or errand to run.

When nothing has been given them to do, to remain where the parents are so that they may receive their orders. When spoken to, always to reply in humility and never to "answer back." If sent on an errand to go quickly. In all matters to be obedient and faithful as well as respectful.

When parents desire to lie down, to prepare the place for them after inquiring in which direction they will lay their feet.

The young people are to receive their clothes and fold them, to place their shoes and walking-stick in such places as can easily be found, and where there is no danger of the old people stumbling over them.

There are a number of things that must not be done in the presence of a parent, - to yawn; to peep about; to blow the nose; if the body is cold not to don extra clothes before them; however ones body may itch, not to scratch it; and never to laugh at anything unless the parent laughs.

Nothing belonging to the parent to be taken or used without permission. If a neighbor comes to borrow anything, to ask permission to lend it before actually doing so.

Etiquette requires that a son shall neither sit on a higher level nor in front of a parent; that he shall not stand or walk immediately in front of them.

The daughter-in-law, because she is the son's wife, is to serve just the same as the son. She is to wrap her head in a black cloth and to wear a hair pin. She is to sleep in the house with her parents-in-law and be careful to make no noise. Always to be obedient to them. Frequently to ask after their comfort and their healthy, and in all respects to honor them.

It may be said that the reverence of parents is similar to the carrying of a bowl full of water, unless much care is exercised the water will be spilt. In like manner unless much care is taken in doing all things respectfully and correctly an offense against the parent is comitted [sic].

If told to do a thing that may seem imnpossible to perform, it is nevertheless necessary that the attempt should be made. "When there is no voice, not to listen, and when there is no presence not to look."

One must always be dignified and do all things in the spirit of respectfulness.

Confucius has said that during the lifetime of the parent the child should go no long distance away, and should never refuse to obey an oder, to which may be added, - "No matter how busy one may be or even if eating one's rice, the call of a parent is to be immediately responded to."

Chung-cha says, "do not forget to be happy if your parents love you, if your parents hate you do not complain. Even though your parents say that which is offensive to you, reply meekly."

-- Dave Hackett

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Frontier Mission Haiku

Frontier Mission Haiku
By Dave Hackett, 6/9/2004

Highest and Greatest
For God's highest praise:
An indigenous church
In each people group

* * *
For our greatest work,
For a Church's highest purpose:
A mission vision


Birth the life of faith
Into the mother culture:
Child birthing mother

I reach one person
And realize one immigrant
Gateways a culture


A church a beacon
Shining away unbelief
Through a whole culture

The first believer -
A modern day Lydia -
Takes a stance for God

One mission vision,
With God's help, launches movements
That touch entire cultures

It is no good gift
To deny Christ's good news
To a non-Christian.


The Blessed Ones
Blessed are the feet
Of those first bold believers
Who know Jesus' love

* * *
Blessed are the feet
Of those first bold proclaimers
Who cross culture's gaps

-- Dave Hackett

Monday, June 07, 2004

The four best prayers I know

Credit Anne Lamott with sparking good thoughts on prayer. In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Lamott writes that the two best prayers she knows are "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

My wife Sandy's church (Inglewood Presbyterian Church, Bothell, Wash.) is having fun with that prayer. Sandy quoted Lamott's two best prayers and added a third prayer that Lamott mentioned in a subsequent article: "Wow!" - the prayer of awe. It's the prayer of praise, to use a more traditional term.

When I preached there recently - on mission, of course - I suggested a fourth basic prayer that Christians pray: "Yes" - the yes to God that says we will be his witnesses when and where he calls us and as we go about our daily lives. It's the yes that says we will use our resources, energy, time and relationships to follow his will. We say yes to God until he increases and we decrease.

So let me commend this simple set of basic prayers to you:

Dear Lord:
Help me, help me, help me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

-- Dave Hackett


Friday, June 04, 2004

One step removed: Loving the people or loving the culture?

In a two-part report for NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show aired June 3, producer Roy Hurst explored the legacy of blackface minstrelry. (Available only in audio format.) Ironically, Hurst says, as racist as blackface was, it may have reflected a kind of admiration of African Americans - a loving appreciation for the African American culture. A blackface performance by Entertainer Al Jolson (a Jewish Lithuanian US immigrant) was even chosen as the first movie to feature sound.

But Hurst finds a crucial difference as explained by cultural historian Kelly Madison. She asks, "Is the love in the context of domination?" Her thoughts are crystalized with this keeper of a phrase: "There's a difference between loving the people and loving the culture of the people."

This insight is one we Presbyterians would do well to mull over as we engage in cross-cultural mission.

Madison explains further: "I mean, love implies oneness. People didn't want to really embrace African American people, because if you are one with the subordinated group then you are subject to violation just like they are. But at the same time the African American cultural expression is so compelling that people are wanting to be a part of it but it has to be done in one step removed because it's a love relationship in a context of domination. For decades that step removed was represented by the blackface minstrel's mask."

We could talk more about blackface minstrelry, but I want to extend her insight to our field of Christian mission. As Presbyterian congregations catch the frontier mission vision and directly find their role with a church-planting focus among a given unreached people group, how are we doing on Madison's question? Are we loving the actual people or only the more abstract culture of the people?

This hits me close to home. I consider myself a student of other cultures. I love to encounter them, learn about them, and even be challenged by them. I've also been frustrated by other cultures and exhausted by their ways, a sign of more deeply encountering them beyond experiencing them as a tourist. But I too need to hear Madison's question ringing in my ear, calling me to love the people and not just their culture.

Put another way, tourists love cultures, too. They typically experience a culture "one step removed" by dipping only one toe, figuratively, into the culture. A tourist's love relationship with a people group may well be a relationship in a context of separation, represented so well by the gleaming air-conditioned tour bus that whisks tourists away from the deeper realities of a people and its culture. Call it Encounter Lite.

Ok, so away with masks. Away with separation. What helps us get beyond the one-step-removed position of loving the culture of the people and on into the Real Thing, loving the people?

There are many ways, but let me point out one. Carol Johnson, ministry coordinator of University Presbyterian Church (Seattle)'s Language Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, once told me that the greatest gift we English speakers can give to a non-English speaker is to learn their language. English is at the top of the world's heap of languages, so we don't have much incentive to learn other languages, while speakers of other languages have many incentives to learn ours. Love for a people is a great incentive to learn their language.

I once visited a Presbyterian church that was hoping to have some impact on the Kyrgyz culture for the cause of Christ. The church so far had not even met one Kyrgyz person. But already several of their members were taking classes in the Kyrgyz language at the local university. "That's so, when we finally do meet someone from Kyrgyzstan, we can greet them in their own language!," gushed a Presbyterian woman enthusiastically. This, I would suggest, is an example of gearing up in mission to love the people and not just the culture.

If we love the people we want to interact with them - on their terms, in their culture, minimizing separation and masks. I don't promise it will be easy. But it will be servantlike, Christlike. And that's better by far.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross." (Phil 2.5-8 NRSV)

Links listed:

-- Dave Hackett