I’ve had it. I know it won’t do any good, but the freaks in the Church across the way have finally gone too far. Holding freakish handful-of-people blathering-in-pretend-tongues while some authoritarian man screams at the top of his lungs OUT IN THE PARKING LOT is just too much. I know, I know, you could say to me, “But you’re living beside a Church, man. Of course you’re going to hear some weird sounds.”
The problem is, living beside a Church is the default state for almost everyone in Korea. There are as many (or in some areas, more) churches as there are corner stores, and far more churches than there are pharmacies. At least in Jeonju, it’s very hard to escape living beside a Church.
So I’m going to write a letter.
Here’s the letter I want to write, but can’t (or won’t):
Dear pathetic fanatical morons,
Do you really think Jesus wants you to wake me up at 10:30 on Sunday morning to the sound of you blathering like mental patients in the parking lot? And by the way, you do sound like mental patients. I know you don’t realize it, since you’ve never seen one, but you sound exactly like mental patients.
This God of yours is supposed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Therefore, YOU DON’T NEED TO SCREAM AND YELL TO BE HEARD. On top of that, I don’t recall anything in the teachings of Jesus that instructed you to be inconsiderate, offensive, or frightening.
It is inconsiderate of you to hold your masturbatory agitation ceremonies out in the parking lot. And yes, it is masturbatory, not sexually but certainly physically and most absolutely spiritually. If you study Christian history, you will find that the overwhelming majority of truly pious individuals were quieter in their approach to Yahweh. They did not buy into the excitation and thrill and tingle of standing in a circle holding hands with cohorts and shrieking and babbling. They simply prayed, quietly and continually, and (it is said) they thereby came closer to their God.
It is further quite fucking inconsiderate of you to shriek within your church at all hours of the day and night with the BLOODY WINDOWS OPEN. Listen, you wanna yell at God? Be my guest. But DON’T MAKE ME LISTEN TO IT, ASSHOLE.
Now, I understand that YOU think you’ve found the truth. Honestly, I’,happy for you; maybe it will steady you, have some kind of positive influence on you. Maybe you’ll abandon the obvious and rampant materialist/consumerist viewpoint your congregation obviously espouses from all the nice, expensive cars in the parking lot, the endless church-lot expansions, the refusal to pay your construction workers on time (culminating in their having to protest for their wages in front of your church on Christmas Eve, you loveless pitiless bastards). Or maybe your kids will finally learn some English from the ajummas who make them scream HELLO! week after week. Maybe your faith in God will actually tear you through the far side of your obsession with the worldly local church, local church community, with wearing the nicest clothes in the Church on any given Sunday, and with what is (according to your own religion) a sinfully judgmental attitude with regard to anyone who isn’t a member of your religious “club”.
But if you are imposing your singing of Halleluiahs one the neioghborhood, it is not only offensive, but counter-productive. Those of us who are not members see only your selfish willfulness, your tactless superiority complex, your inconsiderate attitude to all who surround you. I grew up singing the song, “They shall know we are Christians by our love,” but your neighbours know you by the annoying drone of your voices, by your distinct lack of love in terms of thinking of what others would have you do unto them.
Or perhaps you are really just stupid. Maybe you imagine we don’t mind hearing you sing, or that it will draw us into the fold to hear your joyful songs.
WE DON’T, AND IT WON’T.
No, the first association with your church that is felt by most of the people I know in this neighborhood is annoyance at your thoughtlessness. The first thought is, Oh, those Christians… they’re a selfish lot. They don’t care who has to hear their bloody singing. Or perhaps they’re a self-righteous pack of idiots who think we NEED to hear them sing. Don’t they realize forcing their howls and shrieks upon us will only drive people away? And thus you become the very last people anyone would ever want to join up with.
And a final reason you ought to close the windows when you shriek and scream at God, at why you ought top try to keep it indoors, is that it is downright frightening. I understand that within your organization, it is believed that people commune with God through speaking in tongues. Regardless of the fact that the Korean example of this behaviour has much more in common with older pagan Korean practices than with Christianity is of little issue, though you would probably be shocked to hear that most Christians in the Western world of a comparable wealth and social status to yours do not engage in such madness. (Usually it is poor, ignorant country people who do this. I imagine you think yourselves better than that, at least.)
But the noises that come out of your mouths are horrifying. They sound like symptoms of mental illness, even of outright insanity. They sound like the kinds of noises that would come from the mouths of people to be avoided, or to be exiled for the safety of the community. It is a noise that not only is likely to frighten and emotionally damage little children, but in fact disturbs many adults as well, even on repeated hearings. There is nothing to recommend this bizarre behaviour, really.
However, you are free to do as you like. The only thing I wish to point out to you is that for every time you impose it on others, you offend, annoy, and bring down their disfavour. You could do all your insane, bizarre rituals with the doors and windows closed, and nobody would think the lesser of you. But because you brashly, selfishly refuse to do so, you tarnish the name of Christianity, and even the name of Christ. Congratulations, you are achieving what millions of atheists and religious competitors around the world have long failed to do.
CLOSE YOUR FUCKING WINDOWS.
Of course, a letter like that won’t achieve much, though the writing of it did allow me to vent some steam. And hey, the windows did get closed during the course of the letter-writing, somehow… miraculously? Heh.
Here’s the letter I’ll be asking someone to help me translate, so I can post it to the church. (Or perhaps just drop off, or perhaps nail to the front door. Hahaha. Nah, they wouldn’t get the joke.)
Perhaps you are unaware of the level of noise which comes out from your windows during ceremonies and prayer services. People in the adjoining apartment can basically hear everything that is going on at any time within your church, when the windows are open. This includes singing and preaching during services, as well as prayer sessions and events during which individuals or groups of people “speak in tongues”.
While you were perhaps unaware of the amount of noise leakage before now, surely you are aware that many residents of the adjoining building are not members of your congregation. Although many people have complained that it is inconsiderate of you to leave your windows open, thereby forcing others to listen to every noise emanating from within, it was recently pointed out to me that perhaps it had never occurred to you that such noise leakage (a) might exist, or (b) might pose a disturbance to your neighbours. However, it has also occurred to some that there may be some evangelical motive in your leaving the windows open, conducting worhip proceedings in the parking lot, and so on.
I am certain that, as Christians, you understand Christ’s injunction to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Now, if you consider the situation in which you live, say, next to a Buddhist temple. While you may not agree with their religion, one would hope, loving your neighbour as yourself, you would recognize they have the freedom to seek truth as they see fit… just as you have a Constitutionally-enshrined freedom to do so in your Church. However, I am certain that if they started conducting noisy Buddhist ceremonies that infringed on your home life, or performed rituals in their parking lot, it would not only bother you, but turn you off.
I hope that by this (admittedly strange) example, you can see that publicizing your religious observances in this way cannot do anything but annoy and turn away people who might otherwise feel, at the very least, some sort of fellowship with you and your church. After all, I can understand that the evangelical impulse is strong, but Christ respected human choice even in children, saying, “Suffer them to come to me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven,” rather than, “Drag them to my feet kicking and screaming all the way.” If Christ respected the will and choice even of children, how much more did he respect the will and choice of adults to find him in their own way, in their own time?
While I was growing up, I was taught to sing, “They will know that we are Christians by our love.”But what is love? Just as it is not the shallow sentimentality expressed in contemporary films and television programs, it also is not simply praise and worship of your Creator. If you do not back up your love of God with manifest love of your neighboursexpressed through consideration, kindness, and helpthen your claim of love for God cannot be truthful or meaningful.
If you wish for people to know you by your love, it is best to make them feel more positive and respectful towards you… which they will only do if they feel respected by you. A good first step would be to practice consideration, and begin closing your windows during prayer and worship services, and especially when people are speaking in tongues. Know that if you do so, the neighborhood will welcome this change with new respect, and will thank you in their hearts. We could know in this that you are really Christians, by your love.
I seriously doubt that even this letter will make much difference, but in any case, I do want to make the attempt, if for no other reason than to give them a chance. If they ignore it, then I shall nevermore feel a twinge of guilt at my endless castigations of these people next door.