Friday, December 09, 2005

Exultate Justi: Christianity in The Swamp

Jared Keller talks about Christianity in Japan -- from 1549 (when the Jesuit Francis Xavier established a mission) -- and goes on to discuss his work with a ministry that seeks, among other things, to follow writer Shusaku Endo's advice to change strategy when it comes to dealing with Japan:

It is Endo who - in Silence - describes Christianity's initial failure in the "swamp" of Japan - a nation that, in Endo's conception, takes in everything, and inevitably changes it to suit itself. Nothing that enters Japanese culture can be completely successful in altering it. Instead, that which would create change is nearly always, itself, changed. Thus, a Western Christianity was ill-equipped to survive in this "swamp", and was quickly choked out.

Endo constantly called for a change in strategy for Christianity in Japan. He never once called for a watering down, or a change in theology, soteriology, or eschatology, despite what some would seek to believe. Instead, he was an early proponent of a Christianity that effectively handled the Apostle Paul's admonition that believers should become "all things to all people" in order to reach the lost in every culture. So long as the church insists on communicating the message of the Gospel with methods and emphases that fit the Western mindset to the exclusion of that found in places like Japan, Jesus will alway be seen as somehow foreign, and distant.

The skeleton crew at JCFN [Japanese Christian Fellowship Network] knows this, and is becoming amazingly adept at presenting a Gospel that is wholly within the pale of orthodoxy, and yet ultimately relevant to modern-day Japan...

Full Keller post

Mark Mossa wrote about Endo's Silence in October, specifically about the possibility that it might be made into a movie. I linked to his post here. (Or go directly to his post here.)

Note: Endo's first name is spelled varying ways: Shusaku, Shasaku being the most common, as far as I've noticed. This is fairly common with Japanese names, which don't always slide easily across into English.

For that matter, you should have heard my name as put into Japanese when I was over there. My two-syllable maiden name became about three-and-a-half syllables, and ended in a "u" instead of a consonant. My first name, for that matter, required a huddle of my hostesses before they agreed on what to do with it...

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