Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

The Consultation on the Emperor Cult and Christianity

Rev. SHOJI Tsutomu

There were several reasons why this particular theme was chosen for the consultation held in Tokyo February 2125. The theological task of the church in Japan today is to overcome the Tenno system ideology. The post-war Tenno system has hardly been recognized in our daily lives. However, through participating in the movement against nationalization of the Yasukuni Shrine, taking part in the struggles of the Koreans in Japan, struggling for the liberation of the Buraku people, and becoming involved in various problems in Okinawa and in Asia, we have become keenly aware of the impact of the Tenno system. We could not confront the still alive Tenno System during or before the war. Ever since the war we have not really confronted the evil of Tenno worship. Now we have to question this issue as our own in order to open up our future, examining its impact upon our daily lives and existence. The present ruling class in Japan promotes militarization, wants to change the constitution and revive the role of the Tenno as the chief of state. This increases suppression and discrimination within the society and at the same time mounts a threat to other Asian peoples. It is an urgent task for the churches in Japan to establish solidarity among themselves in order to resist control by the Tenno system.

Theology Using the Inductive Approach - Theology of People

Some characteristics of this consultation can be summarized as follows:

1. The Tenno issue was taken up theologically in the light of the Bible. In other words we looked at the Tenno system ideology from the perspective of the Biblical message.

2. Theologians from Asia, especially from Taiwan and Korea which were once colonized by the Tenno system, took part in the discussion.

3. Not only theologians but many laypersons participated. Rather than abstract debate and criticism, discussions were based on the various experiences of struggling people.

4. The Koreans in Japan, Buraku people, Okinawans, and women who are suppressed by the Tenno System provided important input for the meeting.

5. After the discussions it became apparent that the task of theology is to listen to the message of the Bible together with people who are actually struggling in each situation and then to theorize their struggle as both concrete and universal understandings. Theologizing is a process that involves all these tasks.


The Ideology of the Ruling Class

The speakers were KIDA Kenichi and MOCHIZUKI Kenichiro on the theme of the Tenno System in relation to Asia, MURAI Yoshitaka on the Tenno System in relation to the economic structure, YAMAYA Shinko and TOMURA Masahiro on the Yasukuni Shrine Issue. These presentations provided basic knowledge for an understanding of the Tenno System ideology from various angles. At the same time these speakers made clear that it is necessary for us to have a clear-cut vision when we confront the emperor cult. In other words we must see that the Tenno System ideology is the ruling class ideology.

As we look at the Tenno System which continues from the past and still influences the Japanese culture and mentality today, it seems so difficult to overcome that we end up with only pessimism. If we take this point of view we will become resigned to living with it. However, if we understand the Tenno System as a ruling class ideology we can take a different approach. The emperor cult, though it is deeply connected with Shintoism and Japanese collectivity, is not a people's ideology in its origin. The Tenno System ideology was not even voluntarily accepted by the people. Rather, it was forced on them. In the wartime the people were manipulated as children of the emperor and used for the benefit of the ruler. After the war the ruling class rebuilt a hierarchical structure with the emperor at the top with the promise of "freedom and prosperity" for all the people. However in actuality it benefits only the rulers. Now in order to revive and justify remilitarization the ruling class are trying to change the emperor's status so that he can once again assume the status of chief of state.


Theology of the Crown of Thorns

The people who gave testimonies clearly showed us these aspects of the Tenno system ideology. NAKAYA Yasuko and SONG Pu-ja; IMAI Kazuichi of the Buraku Liberation Center; and IKENAGA Tomoaki, minister of Church of Christ in Japan (Reformed) in Okinawa, all explained their struggle under the oppression of the Tenno system with pain and anger. Through their testimonies we found the ground on which we can confront the Tenno System. When those who are oppressed and experience pain become aware of their own incomparable value, they reject being absorbed by the "grace" of the Tenno system (i.e. commemoration to Yasukuni, assimilation into Japanese society) and squire true identity and autonomy. This is the ground upon which we can confront this system.

Through this point of view, we can see clearly that the essence of the Tenno System ideology is power worship. It terrifies, fascinates and enslaves people with its power. In Tenno worship, people absolutize themselves by identifying with power, and hence violate the dignity of their neighbors.

If the symbol of the Tenno System is a chrysanthemum, then the people's struggle against the Tenno System can be symbolized by a crown of thorns, representing their pain and sorrow. The Buraku liberation movement has used the crown of thorns as their symbol for 60 years. This is, needless to say, a symbol for Jesus, who was with the people in their pain and sorrow; Jesus told them of the coming of the kingdom of God and for this reason he was persecuted and killed by the political and religious leaders of his time. Thus, his death was an act of love and his resurrection a victory.


A New Direction

If we follow this Christ we will be called to be "Hikokumin" (Anti-National) again as in wartime. But this name has a positive meaning. Christians can be independent from the Tenno ideology, that is, not people of the Tenno System, but rather people in Japan who live with the people of Asia. This will enable us to be with the oppressed minorities in Japan and worship the real Jesus who was crucified on the cross. It is necessary for us to regain the people's genuine culture in light of the Biblical message, and to rediscover the Biblical message in the context of people's culture. It is necessary for us to build fellowship with other Asian churches in the same manner.

One specific action we can participate in is the movement for withdrawing the names of Taiwanese and Korean soldiers who are enshrined at Yasukuni as a move to internationalize the Shrine protest movement.

Rev. SHOJI Tsutomu is General Secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan
Japan Christian Activity News 595, March 22, 1983

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