Monday, October 23, 2006


Another trip down to City Hall today found us on the Busan underground again. We hadn't been on the train long when a Korean in a stockbroker suit standing over me suddenly said "Where are you from?" There followed the briefest of answers on this and how long I'd been in Korea before I was asked if I 'knew' Chesusu Kuriishta. I had to ask him to repeat that one a couple of times. Once I realised he wasn't gauging my interest in some exotic diary produce or obscure place in Eastern Europe I quickly told him I was a Christian, which I sometimes am, but more to the point is the way lapsed Catholics like myself like to give 'born-agains' the finger so that they leave us alone. He shook my hand like I was confirmed as part of some secret brotherhood. How little he knew. To me, religion is a very personal thing, and a vast majority of the world's problems these days are caused by intellectual fascists who think they have to ram their brand of religion down everyone else's throats and make everyone believe what they do. Certainly, it's not about evangelising to a trapped audience in a subway carriage, which is what my new acquaintance then proceeded to suddenly do.

While this briefly made an amusing departure from the wallet and chewing-gum salesmen, it rapidly lost its humour value as he continued to stand next to me while making sure everyone in the carriage heard his message in a way only religious fervour can do, and then to my irritation, started pointing at me as I obviously became some kind of unwilling collaborator in his attempts to convert people to what he in turn had been programmed with. After obviously deliberately ignoring him for a bit by talking to my girlfriend, we both then went for the always-popular Korean-sleeping-on-a-train approach, which I abandoned shortly afterwards when it occurred to me that I might look like I was praying. But it was all over as quickly as it began as our Christian propaganda machine dashed off the train suddenly, presumably because he was late for work at Herod's Temple.

A few stops later a woman sitting next to me, who'd entered the train after the first evangelical incident, suddenly engaged her neighbour - also a new entrant - in conversation when she saw him sneaking a peek at what she was reading, which was clearly evangelical material of some sort. Not only was he bored, but he was a lamb to the slaughter of the programming system. Where was he going? The hospital. What ails you? God can help you. Within five minutes she had the guy's name, address and two telephone numbers (just in case they had difficulty reaching him on the first). And don't believe the information was given willingly, because it clearly wasn't, but he was weak enough to feel it was rude not to give the details (even though he kept saying, "I'm not sure about telling you"), and like all of us, he needed a little hope in his life.

Once he'd handed over his details and thus ensured there was no escape from the professional conversion squad that would continue to harass him until he gave in to their way of thinking, he continued to relate his problems to the woman who was barely interested now that she had the down-payment on his soul she'd required. But her God rescued her when he dashed off the train having realised that he'd missed his stop. Still, now that he's found God perhaps he won't need his missed hospital appointment. How I wished I could have shouted after him "You see what this has brought you? Beware of false prophets!" but it would have been lost on him. Bet that's the last time he lets his boredom or nosiness get the better of him though!

Maybe it's just that wearing expensive suits and not caring about people once you've got what you wanted from them isn't what I believe in.

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