Christianity Made in Japan

Christianity Made in Japan: A Study of Indigenous Movements

Mark R. Mullins
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    Christianity Made in Japan
    Book Description:

    For centuries the accommodation between Japan and Christianity has been an uneasy one. Compared with others of its Asian neighbors, the churches in Japan have never counted more than a small minority of believers more or less resigned to patterns of ritual and belief transplanted from the West. But there is another side to the story, one little known and rarely told: the rise of indigenous movements aimed at a Christianity that is at once made in Japan and faithful to the scriptures and apostolic tradition. Christianity Made in Japan draws on extensive field research to give an intriguing and sympathetic look behind the scenes and into the lives of the leaders and followers of several indigenous movements in Japan. Focusing on the "native" response rather than Western missionary efforts and intentions, it presents varieties of new interpretations of the Christian tradition. It gives voice to the unheard perceptions and views of many Japanese Christians, while raising questions vital to the self-understanding of Christianity as a truly "world religion." This ground-breaking study makes a largely unknown religious world accessible to outsiders for the first time. Students and scholars alike will find it a valuable addition to the literature on Japanese religions and society and on the development of Christianity outside the West. By offering an alternative approach to the study and understanding of Christianity as a world religion and the complicated process of cross-cultural diffusion, it represents a landmark that will define future research in the field.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6190-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Christianity as World Religion and Vernacular Movement
    (pp. 1-10)

    In this book I am concerned with what happens to a world religion when it is transplanted from one culture to another. By “world religion” I mean those missionizing religions of the world, such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, that regard their religious teachings to be “truths” of ultimate significance for people of all times and places (truths, in other words, that transcend the boundaries of tribe, clan, and nation). For most of my adult life I have had a keen interest in the cross-cultural diffusion of these world religions. My interest is undoubtedly related to the fact that when...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Social Sources of Christianity in Japan
    (pp. 11-30)

    Christianity in contemporary Japan consists of diverse subcultures. It includes the many church traditions transplanted by Western missionaries, numerous indigenous movements (churches or sects organizationally independent of Western churches), as well as the personal belief systems of Japanese influenced by Christianity but unaffiliated with any of its organizational forms. It may sound rather strange—especially to those from countries where many “mainline” or established churches have dominated the religious landscape for centuries—to refer to Christian subcultures in this way, given that less than one percent of the Japanese population are affiliated with a Christian church of any kind. Nevertheless,...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Charisma, Minor Founders, and Indigenous Movements
    (pp. 31-53)

    Those of us familiar only with the world of established churches, denominational bureaucracies, and large Christian institutions tend to forget that Christianity began as a new religious movement with a leader who was known as a healer and exorcist. InJesus: A New Vision, Marcus J. Borg draws attention to the charismatic nature of the early Jesus movement and maintains that it is necessary for us to give serious attention to the “world of Spirit” in order to accurately understand the place of Jesus in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The world of Spirit, he explains, refers to

    another dimension or layer...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Fountainhead of Japanese Christianity Revisited
    (pp. 54-67)

    While one of the aims of this book is to give attention to a number of relatively unknown indigenous movements, the numerous references to the Nonchurch movement and quotations from Uchimura’s writings thus far show how impossible it is to entirely ignore this earliest expression of Japanese Christianity. Uchimura’s writings contained numerous strands of thought that were subsequently elaborated (and sometimes rejected) by other leaders and movements. In short, the Nonchurch movement is significant not only as an independent expression of Christianity but also for what it has given birth to throughout its history. Without a central authority or bureaucracy,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Christianity as a Path of Self-Cultivation
    (pp. 68-94)

    As we have seen, Uchimura Kanzō was the first Japanese leader to articulate a clear alternative to transplanted Christian churches. His call for the development of an independent and indigenous expression of the faith resonated with the deep aspirations of numerous other Japanese Christians. Many shared Uchimura’s independent spirit and sympathized with his break from mission churches, but some were not entirely satisfied with the alternative version of Christianity he created. Carlo Caldarola has referred to Uchimura’s Nonchurch movement as “Christianity the JapaneseWay,” implying that it was the only authentic Japanese expression of Christianity. The successive appearance of indigenous...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Japanese Versions of Apostolic Christianity
    (pp. 95-128)

    Christianity in Japan has long had the reputation of being a difficult and demanding religion, one primarily for intellectuals and the educated white-collar middle class. In stark contrast to the scores of other New Religions that have emerged in Japan’s modern century, Christianity has rarely been regarded as a viable alternative for the general population.¹ This image is no doubt related to the decision of the earliest Protestant missionaries to concentrate their attentions on Japanese from the samurai class, for whom popular folk religiosity was of little concern. In the Meiji period the samurai class, the most literate and intellectual...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Japanese Christians and the World of the Dead
    (pp. 129-155)

    The transplantation of Western Christianity to Japan over the past century has involved a fundamental clash between the missionary message and the religious consciousness and values of most Japanese. This is particularly apparent in relation to the indigenous beliefs and practices related to ancestors and the spirits of the dead. This area of difficulty is not unique to the missionary experience in Japan, but something missionaries have struggled with repeatedly throughout Asia and Africa. Some familiarity with these traditional beliefs and practices is required in order to appreciate the nature of the clash that has occurred in the Protestant missionary...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Comparative Patterns of Growth and Decline
    (pp. 156-182)

    As we have seen, since the reopening of Japan to the West in the late nineteenth century scores of denominations and sects have made their way from Europe and North America in an attempt to Christianize Japan, but institutionally affiliated Christians still amount to only about one percent of the population. When one considers the human and financial resources invested by both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as the efforts of indigenous Christian movements, it is hardly a picture of success. In a word, the story of Christianity in Japan is often portrayed as one of “failure” in...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Broader Context of Japanese Christianity
    (pp. 183-200)

    Since the initial transmission of Roman Catholicism to Japan in the sixteenth century, Christianity has generally been regarded as an intrusive force in Japanese society and often referred to as a “foreign” and “evil” religion. Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles—cultural discontinuity, social stigma, and, until fifty years ago, strict government control—numerous transplanted and independent churches have managed to establish an organizational presence in Japan. In this study I have tried to look at this process not through the eyes of the foreign missionaries but from the perspective of the Japanese, who were not mere passive recipients of transplanted...

  13. APPENDIX: Bibliographical Guide to Indigenous Christian Movements
    (pp. 201-216)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-260)
  15. General Bibliography
    (pp. 261-265)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 266-266)
  17. Index
    (pp. 267-277)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 278-278)