Faith and Ideology in Asian People's Life

Kim Yong-Bock

The issue of Faith and Ideology has been discussed in the history of the URM movement in Asia in the past decades, as it is fundamental to the life of the Asian Minjung people.

Ideologies have played important roles, both positive and negative, in the movements of Asian peoples at different times. On the positive side, ideological thinking for justice and liberation has been important in articulating the aspirations, hopes and visions of the Asian peoples in their struggles against oppressive powers. Peasant movements utilized the ideological thought of messianic hope and utopia, in both religious and secular languages, to struggle against the powers and structures that oppressed them. Asian people utilized the ideologies of self-determination and independence to struggle against the colonial powers. They have drawn ideological resources from their traditional religious and cultural wisdom as well as modern social philosophy and sciences. Socialist thought in various forms has often played an important role in national struggles for independence and justice.

Since the disintegration of the socialist regimes in central and eastern Europe, the socialist philosophy has lost its appeal. We may say there is a serious vacuum of ideological thinking and reflection today. It is difficult to speak about the issues of justice and liberation in ideological terms. This is partly due to the failures of socialist societies to realize justice for their people and also partly due to the worldwide permeation of the market ideology of capital, and its cultural hegemony over the world. This does not mean that we are living in a post- ideological situation. We very much need ideological analysis and reflection: it is an essential tool for the struggles of the people for justice, liberation, peace and life.

It is our task to affirm our faith in this ideological situation for the struggles of Asian Minjung peoples.

Idols in globalization

"Idols" means ideologies that serve the dominant powers and principalities. Ideology is justification and legitimization of the dominant power, be it economic, political, cultural or religious. It is an instrument of domination and therefore suppression of the people.

Often neo-liberalism is mentioned as an ideology in the current globalization process. Originally, liberalism refers to the liberal political ideology that has its philosophical origin in Thomas Hobbes and its political origin in England and America. Liberal democracy, which gives absolute value to the individual, is the most true and universal representation of the liberal ideology. Its concomitant political economy is regarded as capitalism.

What is new in neo-liberalism? It is an extreme form of liberalism which goes beyond all boundaries: geographical, political, economic or cultural. It absolutizes the arbitrary legal person in the form of the corporation. The corporate person as an individual has the supreme place in neo-liberalism. Transnational corporations are one example of an all-powerful agent in the global market place. Some call neo-liberalism "ultra-liberalism." Neo-liberalism is new in that it is a new form of liberalism in the context of globalization, which emphasizes the individual person, natural or arbitrary. The original form of liberalism gave emphasis to the natural person. But neo-liberalism gives precedence of the corporate person over the natural person.

Today's society worships the greed of corporate power in the form of the transnational corporations. The free market acts as the haven of the corporate powers. The freedom that is manifested by the corporate powers may be called the free market ideology. Financial capital thrives in this free market, being manifested in the form of speculative capital in the casino economy. It is widely known that more than 98% of all global transactions today are those made by speculative financial capital. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global regime of free trade, or the global free market. Here, money has absolute power; it cannot be controlled. The corporate powers seek to maximize their profit through the sacrifice and victimization of peoples, including the peoples of Asian countries, who have been subjected to this financial capital regime justifying itself by the ideology of the free market. We name this kind of money power as Mammonism.

Another closely related social ideology is what I will call "neo-social Darwinism." It is an ideology of competition that advocates the survival of the fittest and the strongest, declaring the winner in the infinite competition to be "the best." This victimizes the poor and weak, and the absolutization of competition brings violence to society, because winning requires the use of whatever means possible to achieve the objective.

The dominant neo-liberalist and free-market forces seek cultural hegemony in order to propagate their message, to dictate to the consciousness of the people--the taragets of the market. The resultant "imperial hegemony" over culture is a symbiosis of the Cartesian epistemology, the modern natural scientific method, and its technological and technetronic (cybernetic) manifestations along with hi-tech multimedia technology. This is driven by the market forces with the objective of dominating the minds, consciousness and perception of all human beings in and outside of the market. Its ultimate stage is "Technetronic Domination."

Technetronic domination is now being combined with "genetic imperialism," as the corporate powers dominate the world of genes. Genetic, eugenic, transgenic modification, manipulation and re-combination methods are used to dominate, control and arbitrate the gene-microcosm in the cosmos. These multifarious genetic modifications and manipulations are being used to maximize market profits on a global scale. (See Jeremy Rifkin, Biotech Century). Epistemological objectification, fragmentation and reductionism in modern science are underlying factors in this process of technological domination and control.

As a serious consequence of this cultural hegemony over the global market, many peoples are suffering the loss of cultural identity, humane values and aesthetic sensitivity.


  1. Globalization includes the interactions and interfaces of three dimensions of geo-politics. There has been a major shift in geo-politics, as cybernetic time and space vertically integrates natural and industrial geo-politics. This means that people must struggle in this shifted geo-politics.

  2. Globalization dominates the life of the people in the local, national, regional and global dimensions. This means that people must struggle in the context of local, national, regional and global networks and linkages of solidarity.

Ideology is a positive term in Asia. The negative meaning of ideology developed in the West as a theory of power, which justified colonial, imperial, autocratic or despotic domination. Generally, when the notion of ideology is applied to the struggles and movements of people for their liberation, it has positive meanings.

The first case is the affirmation that the people are Subjects--not subjects--of their life in history and in the cosmos, living together with all other living beings. This is an ideological statement for the direct participation of the people in the matter of their life and destiny.

  1. People yearn for peace in the midst of omnicidal wars, for life against death.

  2. People aspire for economic justice that upholds life.

  3. People strive for direct and global participation to be the political and civil subjects of their own life.

  4. People want human and social security and solidarity for life-community that is based upon social justice and harmony.

  5. People hope for festive life, with cultural and ethnic identity, humane values, and sensory perception of beauty.

  6. People struggle for life in their bodies, in their their households and their natural habitats.

  7. People believe in the spiritual life of eternal bliss, for which they seek their religious way of life.

These goals of people's life are closely interconnected and integrated through their inner center of being and through their style of life. The ideology of the people must serve these causes for their full and blissful life. Here, people's ideological reflection is necessary, enabling them to discern the current reality in which they live, to articulate and concretize the interconnected goals of their life, and to forge ways and means to realize these goals. But above all, ideological reflection must help the people to overcome their helplessness, despair and weakness through the practice of hope for life. Ideological reflection is visionary and imaginative, so it generates hope and energizes them for the struggle for life.

The Paradigm of Life

It is my belief that our faiths affirm life, basically and nobly. Our faiths are often the sources of our vision, hope and passion for the struggle. I propose a "multi-faith ecumenism for life" as the basic framework for our ideological reflection. Asian faiths, in contrast to the tendencies of religious communities, which have been reactionary or even fundamentalist, are sources of visions for liberation. "Faith" includes what one might call secular thoughts and convictions, without a religious facade.

Refusal to be fragmented: the multi-dimensional integration for Life is a liberated life.

Refusal to be condemned to exclusion: local, national, regional and global linkages and networks of solidarity to struggle for Life are the main way to advance the causes of the people in Asia.

Liberation Ecumenism for the Life of the peoples in Asia would be the mark of ideological reflection of the people's movement in Asia. There should be inter-linkages among liberation theologies: Liberation theologies are deeply rooted in the experiences of the people who are alienated, excluded, suppressed and exploited. Theologies of economic, political and social liberation should be linked together, for they are after all theologies of life. Theologies of racial justice and liberation, of feminist/womanist liberation and inclusion, theologies of ethnic and aboriginal peoples' liberation should be linked among themselves and with other liberation theologies. This is to say that liberation ecumenism should be forged across the globe. Dalit and Minjung theologies are integral parts of this ecumenism. Theologies of liberation do not compete among themselves. Rather, in liberation ecumenism theologies of liberation are not only inter-linked, but also they become truly liberational in ever-inclusive ways.

In our ideological reflection and praxis we should consider several dimensions:

The social biography of the Mining's life (inclusive of the Minjung life as Life) in terms of their victimization and suffering on the one hand, and the aspirations, hopes and struggles on the other, should be the primary focal point, enabling the true vision of their full life to be born in the most concrete form.

Asian ideological reflection must revisit the traditional religious cultural resources from the Minjung people's perspective. The Minjung movements in Asia have neglected the traditional sources of wisdom, recognizing that those traditional religions and philosophies have in the past served the powerful. Or these sources have been used in reacting to the challenges of external powers and civilizations without being able to overcome the problems. Ideological reflection among Asian peoples' movements must reinterpret and retrieve the traditional wisdom for a liberational perspective and reconnect them to the present struggles of the Asian people.

Asian ideological reflection should include local, national, regional and global analysis of powers, their structures and relations, in support of the Minjung people's movements. The primacy of the locality is still valid, but now it has to be connected with the national, Asian and global realities as they impinge upon the life of the people. This can be done through the sharing of the Minjung's stories horizontally on different levels.

Asian ideological reflection must take the geopolitical shifts and contours seriously. Asian peoples are living and struggling in the complex vortex of the three geo-political dimensions as well as in the context of three levels of social geography.

Asian ideological reflection energizes hopes and passions for the struggle. It is not merely an intellectual exercise. It should consist of cultural imagination and visionary projects that are being born in the suffering and struggle of the Minjung people.

Asian ideological reflection needs to establish clearly the selfhood of the Minjung people in terms of local communities and local organizations, and at the same time in terms of local, national, regional and global solidarity networks.

Having looked at a general outline of Asian ideological reflection, we now can affirm some experiences of our Asian URM Movement. We have been radically people-oriented. We have been radically local and grass-roots oriented. We have been ecumenical in the context of people's organizations and movements. We have been action-oriented in the sense of praxis. We have taken documentation and information very seriously. We have always approached issues from the bottom up. We have believed in the Minjung people as the Subjects of their struggle.

We believe that these URM movement wisdoms are still valid; and they needed to be put to use in our ideological reflection in the midst of the Minjung people's movement in the new context of GLOBALIZATION.

Christian Faith to Serve the People for Their Fullness of Life in Asia

Christian faith has to have positive relations with Asian faiths, both religious and secular.

This means a radical openness of Christian faith: it must be radically inclusive: biologically, economically, politically, socially, culturally, and religiously. This is the nature of a radically open spirituality of Christian faith.

The sole criterion of this positive relationship with Asian faiths or Asianized faiths is the unconditional and inclusive love of the people. Christian faith serves Asian Minjung peoples through its positive participation in the ideological reflection process in Asia based on the criterion of love of the people, for God is love, Christ is love and the Spirit is love. The Christian faith is the religion and ideology of love of the people and life.

The seven focal points of ideological reflection in Asia, mentioned, are orchestrated and fused in the life of the peoples in Asia. That life is love. Love is the core and center of life. Life in the messianic feast is nothing but the festival of love. This is pervasive in the universe--the womb of life. The womb of life sustains and fulfills the whole of life in its all dimensions, with love. Therefore, love is cosmic as well.