Monday, March 22, 2004

Tonight one of my students was talking about a well-known Japanese Christian who he deeply respected, Uchimura Kanzo. So I googled him and, well, looks like he might be my kinda guy:

He became concerned for the poor and handicapped, concerns which would stick with him through life. Back in Japan, he shied away from formal church settings, preferring what he called the "non-church." Believers need each other, yes, but not necessarily in the context of a brick or wood sanctuary.

Uchimura's confession of Christ cost him several jobs that he took rather than accept mission funds. He edited a Christian magazine of Bible studies, took a pacifist stand in the Japanese war with Russia, outraging his homeland. For years he preached to 500 or more people in a rented hall. His endeavors in behalf of the poor the suffering, and small nations won him worldwide recognition. Among his many books was How I Became a Christian. As a teacher, he influenced an entire generation of Japanese intellectuals, some of whom became Bible readers if not Christians.

He sounds a bit like a Japanese Kirkegaard...

Another renowned Japanese Christian I have come across, Kagawa Toyohiko, had some very similar elements in his biography. If these are the heroes of Japanese Christianity, Lord, I think you sent me to the right place.

For Kagawa, the cross symbolized the power of the love of Christ and the power of suffering for righteousness' sake. That is why he chose Japan's worst slums as his field of labor and lived among those he sought to help. Kagawa was not highly regarded in theological circles in Japan. Here is his own explanation. "There are theologians, preachers and religious leaders, not a few, who think that the essential thing about Christianity is to clothe Christ with forms and formulas. They look with disdain upon those who actually follow Christ and toil and moil, motivated by brotherly love and passion to serve. . .They conceive pulpit religion to be much more refined than movements for the actual realizations of brotherly love among men. . .The religion Jesus taught was diametrically the opposite of this. He set up no definitions about God, but taught the actual practical practice of love."

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