Lauren In Tokyo

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Religious attitudes

I was reading a blog elsewhere here at written by a Christian missionary from Canada doing work here in Japan. Something about his attitude towards Japanese temples and shrines seemed quite absurd. His attitude towards them is fairly typical for Westerners visiting here, actually.

He seems to look upon temples and shrines as manifestations of cultural superstitions. To him, the shrine built at the base of a waterfall which flows only in the spring that signals the coming of warm weather or other good fortune is only "built in reverence of a rock or something " (paraphrased). Temples are magnificent works of architecture built around the worship of statues or housing the purported bones of the Buddha. They may be solemn, serious places which are conducive to self-reflection, but as far as 'true' spirituality goes it's all tatemae with no honne.

The thing that I thought absurd was that the same attitude that he sports towards Japanese religious culture is almost identical to the attitude that a Japanese person would have towards Western churches. Not being able to see that your own culture is viewed as nothing more than quaint homages to native superstitions by outsiders, and then intending to convert those outsiders to your own superstitions is the height of arrogance.

Just as Japanese temples and shrines are for sightseeing, so too are Christian churches.


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