(Part VI of VII of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay to Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s Preparing for the Underground Church. To order a print or electronic copy of the bilingual Korean/English edition of Preparing for the Underground Church, including Pastor Foley’s introductory essay and a foreword by Voice of the Martyrs historian Merv Knight, visit Amazon or click here to visit the bookstore page on our website. For Part I of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay , click here.)
Why must Christians today prepare to go underground?
Because we are the impediment to the sexual revolution—those who, in the words of Ephesians 4:24 “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” rather than throwing that self off as so much repression. The sexual revolution is not the issue on which we choose to make our stand but rather the issue on which the governments and the people of the free world have chosen to make their stand against us.
As children of both the church and the free world, we are not accustomed to having to choose between the two. And we are certainly not accustomed to being portrayed as repressors of freedom. But Jesus does not give as the world gives, and when the world—even the free world—moves to buttress the freedom to sin by restricting the freedom not to sin, then the free world reveals itself to be simply one more guise of “the world,” which has always been hostile to the things of God.
Ultimately, traditional Christianity has become no more popular in South Korea than North Korea, because traditional Christianity challenges the foundational premises on which any society is built, including this one. The question is not where it is more pleasant for us to live (in a communist or capitalist society) but where it is more pleasant for God to live, where he finds himself welcomed. And it turns out that he is finding no more welcome in South Korea than in North Korea but is in both places equally reviled because he is no more the God of the sexual revolution than he is the God of the communist revolution. These revolutions are revealed to be two sides of the same coin, both minted by “the race of men inclined to will their absolute autonomy” in their conflict with a monotheistic God. The two revolutions share an identical root. When the two sides peer at each other across the DMZ, those long deceived by the one revolution are peering over at those newly deceived by the other revolution.
The South Korean government is not only party to the sexual revolution; it is among its most ardent promoters. In 2011—long before “Gangnam Style”—the annual revenue from its so-called “cultural content exports” KPOP and Korean drama was already estimated at $4 billion USD annually. It claims an asset value for these cultural properties of $83.2 billion USD. It earmarks 1% of the national budget “to nurture popular culture” and maintains a fund in excess of $1 billion USD to further this “nurture.” This means it spends taxpayer money to translate KPOP music videos into foreign languages and to ask the television networks of other countries to air their programs. It knows that when its stars get plastic surgery, or a new cell phone, or a new hairstyle, or use a particular makeup or handbag, that the Korean economy prospers from consumer emulation. Thus, the South Korean government is hardly value neutral. Compare a Korean drama or KPOP song today to ones from ten years ago. Note the growing edginess and embrace of more daring forms of sexuality. The South Korean government is acutely aware of global cultural developments. It regards reflecting these “changing values” in its cultural content as “the strongest tool to expand K-culture’s global distribution channels and the diversification of its consumers.”
The South Korean government not only nurtures its cultural properties for economic purposes, it also leverages them for ideological warfare as well, especially in its engagement with North Korea. It’s not political speeches it’s blasting across the border anymore. It’s KPOP. It’s not speeches on capitalism it flies in via MP3s and balloons and drones in an effort to open up its adversary. It’s Korean dramas.
Thus, we should not expect the South Korean government to be our ally in withstanding the sexual revolution. In fact, given Korean churches’ historically strong relationship with the Korean government, we can fully anticipate that the Korean government will expect us to be its ally in this matter, supporting what it believes will best advance Korea’s national interests.
Just such a situation exists in the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg is Professor of Law at Uppsala University in Sweden. She writes not from the Christian perspective but rather from the perspective of Scandanavian law in society about what Scandanavian governments expect from the church with regard to the sexual revolution. She writes very clearly, “The state may expect the churches—or at least its national Folks’ Church—to adjust to the new developments, even if it cannot rule on this.” She notes that the church has not disappointed the state on this issue:
What explains the Folks’ Churches’ adjustment to the legal formalization of same sex relationships, considering that all of them were initially opposed to registered partnerships, and later, to same sex marriage? A general explanation would appear to be these Churches’ historical role and position as national Folks’ Churches to which the great majority of each state’s population belongs. In order to be part of society at large, a national Folks’ Church cannot cherish values that deviate too much from the prevailing mainstream values in society, irrespective of weakened ties with the state. For instance, when a bishop of the Church of Finland made critical statements about same sex relationships in a published interview a few years ago, it drove thousands of members to leave the Church and made nationwide headlines in the Finnish media.
She expresses the meeting point at which the church and the state have made their peace over the sexual revolution:
From the perspective of biblical theology, the love commandment is superior to all other commandments and prohibitions in the Bible. The decisive factor where forms of cohabitation are concerned is therefore not the individual Bible passages but what is to the benefit or harm of people. This means that when the Church is to form an opinion on marriage for same sex couples, the relevant question to ask is whether this harms or benefits people.
This definition of “love” completely negates the one that stands at the heart of the Christian tradition: Love as God’s gracious right ordering (and, by his grace, re-ordering) of the world, freeing us from sin through the crucifixion of our flesh. Christians who refuse to take the chisel to re-sculpt our tradition’s two millennia-old definition of love are thus increasingly cast as bigots, potentially dangerous, and in need of being watched, controlled, restrained, monitored, and, of course, mocked.
As Peter Leithart notes, this was predicted more than a generation ago by Augusto del Noce. Del Noce was a Christian philosopher roughly contemporary with Rev. Wurmbrand who lived through fascism and communism in Italy. Del Noce sensed that the church in the free world would soon face far greater challenges from the sexual revolution than it ever faced under communism. Leithart summarizes what Del Noce thought would happen to Christians who refuse to compromise their faith in the face of the sexual revolution :
The remaining believers in a transcendent authority of values will be marginalized and reduced to second-class citizens. They will be imprisoned, ultimately, in “moral” concentration camps. But nobody can seriously think that moral punishments will be less severe than physical punishments. At the end of the process lies the spiritual version of genocide.
It is not difficult to see why, given the events currently unfolding in the Nordic countries. As Leithart notes, “All theological opinions will be judged by whether they advance liberalism’s particular vision of freedom and fairness.” The only theological opinions that will be allowed to extend beyond the church’s doorstep are those that advance, not repress, the sexual revolution.
In this way, freedom of religion becomes reduced to freedom of worship for those who dissent from the state’s sexual orthodoxy. Freedom of worship means that we may say what we wish inside of our buildings provided that it does not impact anything we do outside of our buildings. That, sadly, is a bargain that many churches have historically been willing to accept.
Perhaps that is why the underground church is more often found in homes than in church buildings: the costs of maintaining the public church are just too high, and only a few of these costs are financial. The gospel of God is too great to be confined to moral ghettos. Thus, as the governments of the free world embrace the conviction that they must set boundaries for the church based on what those governments consider the preservation of liberty for all, we embrace our own conviction that Christian liberty requires our preparation for the underground church.
 John M. Rist, 2014. Augustine Deformed: Love, Sin, and Freedom in the Western Moral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 10.
 Melissa Leong, 2014. “How Korea became the world’s coolest brand.” Financial Post. http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/how-korea-became-the-worlds-coolest-brand.
 Chung Joo-won and Lee Eun-jung, 2016. “(News Focus) K-pop, K-dramas to embrace universal values to increase appeal.” Yonhap News Agency. http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/focus/2016/10/31/88/1700000000AEN20161031007600315F.html.
 Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, 2016. “A Scandanavian Perspective on Homosexuality, Equal Rights, and Freedom of Religion.” In Jack Friedman, Timothy Shaw, and Thomas Farr. Religious Freedom and Gay Rights: Emerging Conflicts in the United States and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Loc. 5595.
 Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, 2016, Loc. 5631.
 Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, 2016, Loc. 5667.
 Peter Leithart, 2016. “Referees, Players, and Religious Liberty.” First Things. https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2016/09/referees-players-and-religious-liberty