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An essay donated by Nicholas Nam

Toxic Faith: Stressors in the lives
of  young adult Korean-Americans


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Growing up within the Korean American community, I have seen that while most parents give freedom to choose a faith, some parents don't. According to Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton, the mentality of "always submitting to authority" signals an unhealthy religious lifestyle. The lack of freedom will eventually inhibit children from growing into individuals and critical thinkers.

Parents urge their children to attend church meetings. The same children watch their parents donate 10 percent of the families' income to the church and grow up to believe that material blessings signify spiritual strength. But to what extent does this upbringing affect these children? When parents teach that problems in an individual's life is a result of a particular sin, children become obsessed with do's and don'ts. By trying to abide by so many codes of ethics, the child is unable to think for himself.

We can find many similarities between the children who have grown up under a toxic faith environment and the prisoners of Plato's Cave. Imagine prisoners who have been chained since childhood deep inside a cave. Behind the prisoners stands an enormous fire and to pass time, the prisoners name the shadows created by the fire. Aside from the shadows, they only have a modicum of knowledge about the outside world. When the prisoners find a way of escape, they experience freedom of the outside world and refuse to go back to the cave.

What happens when these children leave for college? Two things are likely. In a study done by College Student Journal, professors observed that the average Korean American college student is unable to articulate his/her thoughts objectively. According to Korean Immigrants and the Challenge of Adjustment 2 by Moon H. Jo, a retired professor of sociology, the majority of Korean American children described their parents as "uncompromising, single-track minded, and authoritarian." Considered rude to talk back, Korean children seldom state their opinions. Also, many will abandon their faith. In a survey done by LifeWay Christian Resources, 70 percent of young adults between the ages of 23 to 30 stopped going to church. 3

One Korean college student, an ex-church member, described her choice "Once I went off to college, I left church. Though I respect the faith, it doesn't suit me." After exposure to the critical attitudes of professors and friends, she decided to try new options.

Many Korean American children living under a toxic faith environment highlight a confusing time, should find wisdom from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. "The key to every man is his thought." They need to find their inner voice instead of letting others think for them; it will allow them to truly regain the freedom that they have lost.

When parents strip their children of freedom, it is like putting them into Plato's Cave. Compared to the outside world, home is only a fraction of what society has to offer.

References used:

The following information sources was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton, "Toxic Faith," Shaw Books, (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. Moon H. Jo, "Korean Immigrants and the Challenge of Adjustment," Greenwood Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. "Why Young Adults Drop Out of Church and What We Can Do to Stem the Tide," LifeWay, undated, at: http://www.lifeway.com/

Original posting: 2008-OCT-17
Author: Nicholas Nam

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