The Letter I Want To Write, and the One I Will

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.


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.


A neighbour.

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.)

Dear neighbour,

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 neighbours—expressed through consideration, kindness, and help—then 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.

A Neighbour.

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.

10 thoughts on “The Letter I Want To Write, and the One I Will

  1. Not that it has much to do with the post itself, but…

    At the top you have “This weblog is under reconstruction. Be friendly. Or I’ll kill you.” Kind of reminds me of “Drive Friendly, Dammit!” :)

  2. Heh. “Or I’ll kill you,” is one of the phrases I tacked onto my course expectations on the first day when I was talking to new classes. It seems to have gotten the point across.

    “Do your homework, or I’ll kill you. Show up for class prepared, with homework finished and your new vocabulary in your mind… or I’ll kill you…” etc. The first time they laugh nervously, next they giggle, and by the second week they’re not taking it seriously… till I “kill someone”, which means sending them out of class, zero grade for participation, homework, and attendance that day.

    After the first example student is sent out, the worst of the slackers clear out for the “easy” classes and the kids who are craving a learning experience, or at least willing to do homework and prep for class, stay enrolled.

  3. oh what wonderful letters…how many times I have considered similar letters to the evangelical, money grabbing churches that I’ve lived next to. Seems that the old saying ” It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…” isn’t in their bibles ‘cos most of them are all hyper-capitalist, back-scratching, money-grubbing arseholes. But, here in Brazil it’s seems that every other Christian belongs to an evangelical church, so I keep my views to myself.

    As to threatening to kill students because of not taking a course seriously…even when I did shoot that bastard because he didn’t do the set homework, they still didn’t get the message and I got 3 years ( there were extenuating circumstances and the judge was lenient because he knew how hard it was to get students to study, but he warned me to be more careful next time. So now I just cut them up and flush them down the loo).

  4. Please do send a letter. The church woke me up at 5:00 am this morning with twenty old ladies caterwolling over at the constuction sight. I went to my window to in my tighty-whities to yell at them and shared and akward momment with my neighbor who was on his balcony in his banana benders yell also. I don’t wish to continue meeting my neighbors this way, something must be done about the noisy church.

  5. I remember being accosted in the subway quite a few years ago by a Korean proselytizer who hurried along after me as I was walking along. When I told him that I was a Christian, he said, “I’ve found that most Westerners say they are Christians when they are really not.” To this I replied, “I’ve found that most Korean subway missionaries are arrogant and judgmental, not to mention somewhat racist.”

    I’ve had other fanatics try to tell me that I’m not a Christian. I was once chased through the streets of Sinchon by a placard-bearing, scripture-spouting, hatchet-chopping band of street chanters who screamed at me that I was going to Hell, I guess because of the simple fact that I was in Sinchon and therefore must be the spawn of Satan. These people are so misguided it’s sad. They are modern-day Pharisees.

    Fortunately, this sort of thing hasn’t happened to me for many years. Maybe I look more pious now than I did back then. Heh.

  6. Shawn,

    Okay, I’ll try get it translated and mailed. I doubt it’ll make any difference, though. If it’s true that our building has had a petition passed around asking those people to be quieter, and they haven’t heeded it, I think it behooves us to invest in a stereo system, install it directly facing their windows and parking lot, and blast it.

    No, wait, that would mean blasting from my, Mike’s, and Allison’s windows, since we’re the ones facing the windows directly. No, that’s can’t be a good plan.

    I know! Proper crafted slingshots and eggs. Sound good?


    Ha, wow, asshole proselytizers who speak English? You’re living in a high class place, I guess. Here, they can’t speak English, they just come on into your flat anyway — or throw their Korean-language pamphlets in, and walk away.

    I once met a fanatic who spoke English, though, and when he asked me if I was a Christian, I asked him why it would be his business in the first place. “If I am not, you’re going to lecture me. If I am, you’ll think I’m lying, or the wrong kind of Christian, and lecture me. How do you know you’re so right?” He was horrified and tried to lecture me. I told him I’d see him again some day in the ring of hell where they keep arrogant self-righteous egoists. I think that was beyond his listening comprehension level, but he got the idea.

    I, too, don’t seem to get much pestering on the street—I think the cycling helps—but I still get these students in my classes who ask, “Do you believe in Jesus?” on the first day; that or, “Are you a Christian?” Even when I explain that’s not a polite question on the first day in my culture, and that in most English-speaking societies (with notable exceptions) one broaches such subjects carefully, they still insist on an answer, as if to have a measuring stick to check my worth as a teacher. Man does that crap piss me off. Judge me by my ability in Korean, okay; judge me by my qualifications, okay; judge me by my looks, even; but don’t judge me by some pathetic need for me to be the same religion as you.

  7. Gord,

    I’ve found that some subway missionaries speak rudimentary English, at least enough to be insulting. The horde in Sinchon was simply shouting at me in Korean, though. It was surreal. For some reason they singled me out as I walked by, and when I quickened my pace to get away from them, they started to follow me. I led them through several alleys before giving them the slip. Talk about weird.

    Anyway, I don’t think these proselytizers are representative of Korean Christianity at large. Not that Korean Christianity is perfect, of course, but still.

  8. Well, I guess sometimes it doesn’t take much to be insulting. As for pursuit… brrr, that’s just weird!

    I don’t think the evangelists in the street are representative, but at the same time, I have met a lot of pretty out-there Christians in Korea. Let me rephrase that: the majority of people who’ve brought up Christianity to me have usually done so in a somewhat weird and (at least) vaguely pushy way. Many have been outright pushy. And some have been pretty disturbing, like the girl who never did her homework and slept in all her classes because she went straight to church every night and then back to church at 6am before school, and spent all weekend… well, you can guess where. Or the woman who told me her ears weren’t pierced because “… the Bible says only slaves wear earrings.”

    Maybe I’m being unfair. Doubtless there are Protestant groups out there as calm, reasonable, and accepting of difference as the Catholics I’ve come to know; but from what I’ve seen, out here in Jeonbuk, I imagine them to be the minority rather than the majority. If it weren’t for the feedback of Korean friends on this subject, I’d think myself quite unfair, and accuse myself of only remembering the weirdoes; but most of my non-Protestant (ie. Catholic and atheist and Buddhist) acquaintances and friends have expressed views similar to mine.

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