Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede
War, prejudice and the church
Rev. KANZAKI Yuji,Japan Anglican Church
When there is any discussion of issues that surround the Emperor system of Japan, one always senses a heavy emotional atmosphere hanging over the group as if concealed in the background were dark gloomy shadows involving even some forms of hidden violence. At times this threat of violence tends to negate any criticism of the Emperor system leaving the church unable to deal with the issue.
We often feel that we are free of the curses associated with the Emperor system especially those seen in the past war, but there is still a great deal of hesitation and fear when the Emperor system becomes the focus of discussion. It is a common reality of mutual understanding that even those who take on the most responsible positions in society would rather not talk about the emperor system.
Even though we are fully aware of the fact that more than 20 million in Asia and the Pacific islands were killed in World War II as a direct result of social structures and thought forms surrounding the emperor system, we never give any thought to the war responsibility of the Emperor, still proffering respect to the Emperor. These sentiments can in no way be understood by other Asians whose families, relatives, and friends were tortured and murdered by the Japanese military machines. For these same people, it is very difficult to understand the Emperor as a symbol of the state, as defined in the present peace constitution.
In the materials that follow, I would like to offer two basic reasons as to why the Japanese church today cannot deal with the question of the Emperor's war responsibility.
1. The Emperor Cult Within Us
In spite of the fact that the Imperial System was demolished with Japan's defeat in World War II, a hierarchical system of social understanding support a latent emperor system that still exists in all political, economic, and educational systems. The understandings supporting this system are delineated in the following five points and related examples taken from church life situations.
(A) Shinto thought structures as invested in the emperor system, stress harmony and' unification within the. group as the ideal. This same phenomenon can be found in the church in which group action is determined not on the basis of sufficient discussion and mutual understanding, but on the basis of a prioritizing of group emotional harmony.
(B) The seniority system which maintains intact the hierarchy of relationships in which the younger generation must obey the older generation. In the church only the older people take positions of responsibility relative to church authority, rejecting any criticism.
(C) The family system which is a pillar of the Emperor system having a central ruling figure. The church is structured with the minister as the head personage and a group of elders all having the same view as the minister.
(D) The social ranking system that is determined on the basis of family membership and social status. This same idea can be seen in the importance attached to a Christian heritage and continuation of the Christian family.
(E) The self-perpetuating human relationship system that creates and maintains exclusive and closed human dynamics. This can be seen in the propensity of the church to set priorities that encourage primarily membership expansion and church centeredness without any real knowledge of the situations faced by churches in other parts of the world.
Examples of this kind are many in number and could be alluded to on many levels and in a diversity of situations. The few outlined here are merely to indicate how the church is infused with the Emperor system to the extent that any voiced criticism of the Emperor or related thought and social structures is received as a form of disloyalty.
2. A Mind Set Which Disallows Admission of Past Sins
There is a close relationship between one's personal guilt for the past war and the question of the responsibility of the Emperor for that same war. We are subconsciously predisposed toward not questioning our responsibility for the past war and without the expression of guilt we very easily and lightly claim that we remain on the side of the victims of war. Without true repentance for our sins, there is no reception of the blessings of Christ through whose resurrection justice is to be brought to the world. We continue to allow ourselves to live under the retribution of the emperor system.
The young people born after 1945 are still encumbered by this retribution for it is clear that the Emperor system is still a deeply infused component of the political and economic aspects of Japan's economic development vis-a-vis other Asian nations.
For a continuation of an excessive abundance in our lives, how much human suffering do we impose on others? In order to guard Japanese corporations in their bid for profits in other Asian nations, the military powers of other nations have been co-opted by Japan in the suppression of voices crying in the wilderness in opposition to the ecological rape going on in the name of "development." We must never forget that the material wealth in which we wallow is created out of the poverty of other Asian peoples and based on the dead bodies of those killed in defense of their human rights. If we are unable to receive the resurrected Jesus, who ate with the masses of suffering people, we will repeat the same mistakes that were committed by the church during the past war.
3. Reason for Hope
The Japan Anglican Church (Seikôkai) has a history of abject obedience to the state in times of war. At the same time we must recognize the fact that there were courageous acts of resistance resulting in imprisonment with these acts emanating out of the creed of the Anglican Church and the uniqueness of the church's orders. These acts of resistance were derived from an identification with the Anglican World Communion.
In order to overcome the emperor cult within ourselves, I would like to propose the following four actions to be taken by the Anglican Church in Japan.
(A) Eliminate the prayer for the Emperor in the Anglican Prayer Book.
(B) Evaluate the sins that we committed during the last war.
(C) Know more about Japan's economic invasion of other Asian nations and clarify the church's responsibility in our daily lives.
(D) Strengthen the Anglican Communion worldwide, and participate in the fellowship of ecumenicity in Japan and throughout the world.
(Translation/summary from the Seikôkai Shinbun, 4/20; Japan Christian Activity News 597, May 25, 1983)