Project Japan

 
Factors in the Japanese WorldviewWorldview.htmlWorldview.htmlWorldview.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2
Theological FactorsTheological.htmlTheological.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1
Missiological FactorsMissiological.htmlMissiological.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0shapeimage_4_link_1
Societal Factors
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Political Factors
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Christianity’s Contribution to Japanese Life
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Japan has a centuries long history of engagement with Christianity, so it cannot be argued that it is unknown there. If this were not so, Japan would not have had so many Christian novelists, writers whose books are read widely — by both Christians and non-Christians. Thus, the great majority of Japanese people know at least a little about Christianity, but for some reason they remain silent about it. Could it be that they do not see that Christian message as not being concordant with the historical atrocities that Western nations have committed in the world — at the same time as they are told that Japan ought to repent for her atrocities and are constantly reminded of them? Japanese culture is a culture of silence — a fact that is deserving of lengthy reflection. The individual is required to keep his or her own thoughts inside for the sake of the well-being of others.

    I would argue that Christianity has penetrated the Japanese consciousness more deeply than many of that Western people might think. Could it be that the Japanese think that Western Christians have historically not lived out the message of Christ? That they have not brought Christ’s initial intentions of peace, love and reconciliation to full realization? Japanese Christianity may indeed have greater depths than Westerners might think.

This brings me to the last point to be made here: what constitutes success when it comes to Christianity and evangelizing other nations?

    Western culture, especially the American capitalist society, has long influenced American Christianity. Some aspects of American Christianity have become thoroughly commercialized, and success in mission work has been reduced to announcing church membership figures, conducting televangelism, and even involvement with the allure of material gain and prosperity. Also, Western missionary endeavors are more often assessed primarily by means of statistical analysis. Such habits of thought have also been transferred to other non-Western lands where Christianity is rapidly growing (e.g., Africa, Latin America and some Asian countries). Some elite pastors and preachers travel to these areas by private jets and masses fill the stadiums at which they speak. Certainly Christianity is growing in those parts of the world — at least numerically. But, at the same time and in these same parts of the world, poverty, corruption, crime, and all kinds of other forms of societal malaise are also expanding. In fact, the majority of the nations which were formerly colonized and Christianized do not actually belong to the developed world — they are still struggling economically and politically.

If we look at growth merely in numerical terms and define success in statistical terms, Christianity has not yet been particularly successful in Japan. However, if we define success in terms of something more than numbers (e.g., in terms of influence), then I would claim that Christianity can be considered successful in the contexts in which it has exerted an influence.

    Christianity in Japan has produced for the world, especially the Christian world, great personalities like Uchimura Kanzo (1861–1930), Masahisa Uemura (1861–1925), Shusaku Endo (1923–1996), Ebina Danjo (1866–1937), Furuya Yasuo (1926–), Kosuke Koyama (1929–2009), Kitamori Kazoh (1916–) and

many more Christian thinkers and writers.14 It has contributed to art, education, and philosophy; many universities in Japan have their roots in Christianity; gender equality and labor rights movements trace some of their roots to it as well. Thus, it is reasonable to generalize that it has also contributed to Japan’s overall well-being. Indeed, I consider the combination of Japan and Christianity to be a tremendous gift to humanity as a whole and to the universal church in particular.

Lastly, it is important to mention that Japan has also influenced Christianity. While an evangelical focus on numerical growth and cultural influence is important, Christian virtues cultivated in the social context of Japanese minorities are also to be appreciated. Japanese culture shaped its Christian thinkers, who, for their part, inspired not only Christians in Japan but also elsewhere. The legacy of Christians like Uchimura Kanzo, Shusaku Endo, and many other Japanese Christians whose names have been mentioned here, persists. And, they are not only children of Christ, but also offspring of Japan.


 

Numbers or Influence? 

Christianity has contributed to art, education, and philosophy; many universities in Japan have their roots in Christianity; gender equality and labor rights movements trace some of their roots to it as well. Thus, it is reasonable to generalize that it has also contributed to Japan’s overall well-being. Indeed, I consider the combination of Japan and Christianity to be a tremendous gift to humanity as a whole and to the universal church in particular.

Shusaku Endo (1923-1996)