More Than ‘Another Kick At The Can’

Another attempt is being made to pass a law in South Korea which defines more specifically the parameters within which discrimination is unacceptable.

It was initially introduced by the Justice Party, a minority party in the National Assembly (NA), with sufficient support from other minority parties, as well as a few MNAs from the majority Democratic Party, to gain the numbers needed to officially introduce it in South Korea’s national parliament. The National Human Rights Council in Korea (NCHKR) is also on board with this effort, but they have asked that this prospective law be named ‘the Equality Bill’, to make it clear that his is an attempt to define and protect equality in South Korea[1].

The rub in this bill, as it has been in the previous times it has been proposed, is the inclusion of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender’ as categories of people for whom discrimination and harassment are outlawed. As before, the conservative Christian forces (CCFs) of Korea have spoken out against this, saying that this will impair the free exercise of religion and of the ability to express oneself in this nation.

What has been disappointing for many here is the silence of the President, Moon Jae-in, and the Democratic Party. During a presidential candidate debate in 2017, when directly questioned by a conservative candidate about homosexuality, Moon meekly said, ‘I oppose it.’[2] He has since tried to walk a fine line between his reputation as a human rights lawyer and a politician seeking to win over or keep ‘the Christian vote’ in South Korea, he has appealed to the need for ‘consensus’ on issues such as marriage equality, while also trying to stress to religious leaders the necessity of not tolerating discrimination in Korean society[3].

However, it appears as though the Democratic Party indicated, on July 8th, that they might introduce an anti-discrimination law in the National Assembly[4]. Therefore, we have a situation where the Presidential Office (Cheong Wa Dae, of ‘the Blue House’) has not taken an initiative on an issue, and rival proposals on it have been introduced in the country’s parliament, leading to a time of negotiation and, if necessary, horse-trading, until a version of a law sufficiently acceptable to all sides can be passed.

On first glance, one could look at this situation and say that the first stones have been paved on the path to deadlock and failure to pass an anti-discrimination law yet again.

And yet…

…it feels like this time, it is more than just ‘another kick at the can’. There are some significant differences. In the most recent National Assembly elections, the DP succeeded in gaining a clear majority of representatives, 180 seats out of 300. According to the Korean Constitution, this gives the DP the ability to introduce bills which do not require the consent of other parties. Moreover, the passage of the bills they introduce cannot be delayed through procedural strategies like filibustering.

In addition, there are additional MNAs from minority parties like the Justice Party, the Open Democratic Party, and the Basic Income Party, all of which have progressive policy platforms, and which have declared themselves in favor of enacting an anti-discrimination/equality law. The DP will be able to count on the support of these parties, even if there are individual MNAs within the DP who may try to resist a three-line whip,[5] should one be enforced.

The most significant difference this time, though, is that there appears to be a discernible shift in the mood of the Korean populace. A recent poll done by the Korean Women’s Development Institute in May has indicated that over 87% of those surveyed believe a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which includes gender and sexual orientation should be passed. This is a level of support higher than that found by the Institute for Religious Freedom in 2013 (59.8%) and by KBS in 2019 (64%)[6].

Thus, it appears as though the last remaining objection to passing a comprehensive law specifying gender and sexual orientation, the lack of social consensus, is crumbling. Now there has been some discussion in the Facebook groups I am part of as to whether trying to build social consensus is really a productive strategy. Some people I know have suggested that direct action, to the point of confronting political leaders, is the only strategy which will work. This is a strategy which has been employed in many struggles for civil rights and equality. We should perhaps remind ourselves of the words of Martin King: ‘We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.[7]’ There are those in this country who have done and do this demanding for justice regularly, even if it means being arrested for it[8].

At the same time, we also cannot deny the momentum which is created when groups representing the vast majority of society band together for change. Concerning the times when significant political change occurred in the Republic of Korea, ending the military government in 1987 and ending the presidency of Park Geun-hye in 2017, I think it is fair to ask, ‘Would change have come, or come as quickly, if there were not the level of mass demonstrations that there were?’ I believe that is a fair question.

Regardless, I believe it is clear that there has been majority support for a comprehensive anti-discrimination/equality law for a significant amount of time, and that this support is even more widespread now. The government of Moon Jae-in and the Democratic Party have the social consensus and the parliamentary mandate they need. It is time to pull their collective finger out and bloody well pass the law!

[1] Jung, D M (2020, 3 July) Anti-discrimination law back on table at National Assembly. The Korea Times [online]. Retrieved 15 July 202 from

[2] Ock, H J (2017, 26 April) LGBT groups blast Moon for anti-homosexuality remarks. The Korea Herald [online]. Retrieve 27 April 2017 from

[3] Shim, E (2019, Oct 21) Moon Jae-in: Anti-LGBT discrimination not acceptable in South Korea. UPI [online]. Retrieved 5 November 2019 from

[4] Amnesty International (2020, 16 July). South Korea: New anti-discrimination bill offers hope and safety to many. Amnesty International [online]. Retrieved 8 August 2020 from

[5] The convention from parliamentary procedure that, if a government requires support on a given motion or law, it will underline the motion three times to indicate that party leaders, cabinet ministers/committee leaders, and backbench/rank-and-file representatives are required to be present and vote in favor, thereby ensuring the government continues to have the support of the assembly.

[6] 박소영 (Park, So Young) (2020, 15 June) 국민 10명 중 9명 차별금지법 제정에 찬성 (9 out of 10 citizens in favor of enactment of anti-discrimination law. Hankook Ilbo [online]. Retrieved 8 August 2020 from

[7] King, M L (1963, 16 April). Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In Center for Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania [online]. Retrieved 8 August 2020 from

[8] Case in point, Ock (2017), in the article cited (see Footnote 2).


A Book Review: Worship as Community Drama, by Pierre Hegy

(NB: I have agreed to act as a reviewer for the Speakeasy website ( Hence, I received the book I am reviewing free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the US Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes within this book review are taken from:

Hegy, Pierrre. (2019) Worship as Community Drama. Eugene OR, USA: Wipf and Stock.

In this book, Pierre Hegy, a retired professor of Sociology at Adelphi University on Long Island, New York, USA, does a comparative case study of how worship comes to life in different Christian communities. The communities chosen are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, but a Pentecostal church with many marks of being or becoming a ‘megachurch’, is provided for purposes of contrast. While he refers to a number of different theories and models for worship and faith development, which can sometimes be confusing, his main referent is an adaptation of the social interaction model of sociologist Randall Collins as developed in his work Interaction Ritual Chains.

While it is good to have a model to refer to for a comparative case study, I find his adaptation of Collins’ model problematic. In a description of Collins’ model (Wellman et al 2014: 652f.), there are four conditions in ritual interaction which can help to generate four outcomes. They are indicated in the table below:

Conditions in Ritual InteractionOutcomes from Ritual Interaction
– The assembly of participants
– Barriers excluding outsiders
– A mutual focus of attention

– A shared emotional mood

– Emotional energy
– Membership feelings/group
– Symbols that represent the group
– Feelings of morality (idenitfying
with the group and its symbols,
being willing to defend them against

Hegy adapts the model using the following designations, as presented by him (Hegy 2019: 17-22)

Processes of Ritual Action for
a Church Worship Context:
Interaction Outcomes for a
Church Worship Context:
– Basic information
– Description of the ritual
– Attitudes and emotions
– Closeness to others and to God
– What we learned: Leadership
and Growth
– Patterns of Relationship
– Moral Consensus
– Spiritual and Emotional

I have found it difficult, in spite of Hegy’s explanations, to find the parallels between Collins’ original model and Hegy’s adaptation. For one thing, I am unable to see how ‘basic information’, from Hegy’s ‘description’ corresponds to ‘the assembly of participants’ in Collins’ original conditions. For another, I do not see how one can measure an extremely subjective variable like ‘closeness to God’ in any meaningful way from observation. This is a basic error in methodical design, even from a qualitative viewpoint, and needs to be made more precise. As if these were not enough, I am confused about what the first element of Hegy’s analysis, ‘What We Learned: Leadership and Growth’, corresponds to in Collins’ original list of outcomes. The result? I believe it becomes reasonably clear throughout the remainder of this volume. Hegy’s model is, in and of itself, insufficient to provide adequate description and analysis of the dynamics of interaction in the churches and worship contexts about which he writes.

There is, without a doubt, a fascinating array of contexts: TV masses on Catholic television networks; pontifical masses from St Peter’s Basilica, and celebrations from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; four differing Catholic parishes in the US, of which one relies on lay leadership, and another has transformed its worship life by adapting and using elements from the African-American worship experience; and the archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Republic of Congo, which alone has an official, Vatican-approved, adaptation of the Roman Missal to incorporate African traditions, popularly known as the ‘Zairean Rite’. Hegy has certainly gathered sufficient ‘raw data’ to clearly describe elements of the worship experiences in these contexts, and makes some cogent comments concerning emerging issues in these contexts. However, when he needs to supplement his model with the survey work of the Willow Creek church; the dimensions of religiosity identified by Stark and Glock in their work American Piety: The Nature of Religious Commitment; James Fowler’s work in Stages of Faith; and finally, the contrast between the work of Aidan Kavanagh and the pronouncements of Pope Pius XII, it is clear that Hegy’s adaptation of Collins’ Interaction Ritual Model is clearly insufficient for the kind of analysis he believes he is doing.

In fact, the title of the book itself set up certain expectations in my mind of what it was going to be about, which were unfulfilled. Worship as Community Drama suggested that this would be a discussion of how the worship of a community could be an expression of drama, both the drama of Gospel played out in Word and Table, and of how the community’s situation in life (sitz-im-Leben) both could inform and be transformed by the liturgical experience. There are hints of this analysis in Hegy’s work, but only hints.

This is a pity, because it is obvious to me that he has gathered an impressive amount of data which would provide for good scholarly work. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Pierre Hegy had taken a grounded theory approach (akin to Glaser and Strauss 1967) to his data. He could look at common patterns in his data which would lead to the emergence of categories, first substantive and then formal; he has a sufficient range of communities to satisfy the need for site spreading and to engage in constant comparison; following the development of a theory, the literature relating to ritual interaction, liturgical theology, and faith development would have informed his work, and he would know where his theoretical model would fit in sociology and theology.

As it is, this is a book which has interesting descriptions of the dimensions of Christian worship in different contexts, but is hampered by an ill-fitting theoretical model which itself is an inadequate adaptation of another theoretical model, and which needs to be supplemented by other models, because it is simply not up to the task for which the author wants to use it. As I’ve suggested, perhaps a researcher could start with the gathering of data and develop a theory from there. Now that would be interesting!

Works Cited

Glaser, B and Strauss, A (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory. New Brunswick NJ, USA/London: AldineTransaction.

Hegy, Pierrre. (2019) Worship as Community Drama. Eugene OR, USA: Wipf and Stock.

Wellman, J K, Jr., Corcoran, K E, and Stockly-Meyerdirk, K (2014, September). “God Is Like a Drug. . .”: Explaining Interaction Ritual Chains
in American Megachurches. Sociological Forum 29/3: 650-672.