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Gender, Generation and Church Politics: Café Religiosity as an Answer to Disillusionment with Megachurches in South Korea

Joseph Owiti | Academy of Korean Studies

Does it yield the tangibility of real material benefits and spiritual comfort in the ‘now’ rather than mere hopes for everlasting life in the hereafter? Then it sounds like an ideal church to most Korean Christians, argues Dave Hazzan (“Christianity and Korea: How did the religion become so apparently prevalent in South Korea?” The Diplomat, April 7, 2016). Younger adherents are especially losing trust in the capacity of the popular megachurches to facilitate the attainment of happiness and material success. This research identifies the causes of this conflict, central of which are perceived over-institutionalization or strict hierarchy in the church, and mega corruption scandals involving church leaders, for example, the Yeouido Full Gospel Church (Hedges, 2014: 255) and by extension, accomplices in the government. Next, it examines reactions by defectors to smaller churches. Specifically, it highlights the concept of ‘Café Churches’ as a sanctuary where the defecting worshipers enjoy coffee, prayer, popular culture and company. Finally, it presents the impact of defections both on megachurches and on perceived reclamation of the pursuit of happiness. For instance, scientific polls show a decline in the growth of megachurch memberships.